A6: Converging Transdisciplinary Science Response to Environmental Health Challenges

Advancing environmental health in our society entails extensive interdisciplinary interactions, expertise, and collaborations between the traditional health, engineering, social, and earth sciences communities. Efforts to advance our understanding of adverse effects and illness associated with environmental factors requires not only a refined understanding of the biological mechanisms and pathways (e.g., inflammation, epigenetic changes, oxidative stress, mutagenesis, etc.) related to function and disease, but also the incredibly broad and complex environmental exposures, geochemical/hydrological/ecological processes, compromised building and infrastructure, and social systems that influence these interactions and outcomes. Further complicating efforts to understand such interactions is the need to take into account individual susceptibility to disease across the human life span. While it is clear that environmental exposures can be readily linked to disease in individuals and to disproportionate health disparities in populations, the underlying risk factors for such findings are often elusive. Environmental researchers have a long tradition of crossing their scientific divides to work together on a wide range of problems and issues, including our changing climate and disasters. Emergency situations, such as oil spills, hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes demand the collective expertise of the “environmental health sciences enterprise” to protect the public’s health, facilitate recovery, and improve future preparedness. Furthermore, such high visibility efforts stand as a clear example of what a converging research community can accomplish when transformative interdisciplinary approaches and a diverse well-trained cadre of scientists working together.


  • Aubrey Miller, Senior Medical Advisor, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences 
  • Geoffrey Plumlee, Associate Director for Environmental Health, U.S. Geological Survey 
  • Andrew Persily, Chief, Energy & Environment Division, National Institutes of Standards and Technology 
  • Juli Trtanj, One Health and Integrated Climate & Weather Extremes Research Lead, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration