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Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES)

Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES) is a research consortium representing West Virginia University, Marshall University, University of Kentucky, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of Virginia, Wise, St. Francis University (PA) and consultants in Epidemiology and Occupational Health (which includes faculty from Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington University). It also includes researchers from Virginia Tech and is managed at the Commonwealth of Virginia legislated Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research.

Research Areas

These research areas were addressed by 30 different departments with more than 60 academic researchers and 70 student researchers, which produced nearly 100 peer-reviewed research publications. As a result, ARIES represents the most comprehensive, multi-disciplinary research initiative for energy production environmental considerations in the Appalachian region.
Impacts on Ecosystems

Impacts on Ecosystems

Changes to habitat, water chemistry, and other environmental variables from human development have direct implications for upland and aquatic ecosystems. ARIES researchers evaluated the impacts, if any, of mining activity and possible means for mitigating any negative effects.

Waste and Water Management

Concerns have been raised about the impact of mining operations on the chemistry of surface and ground water, especially implications for aquatic ecosystems and human health. The waste treatment methodology, placement of waste materials, and wastewater flow paths has been shown to affect impacts on surface and ground water. ARIES researchers expanded the current state of waste and water management methodologies by improving management principles and developing new water treatment methodologies and technologies. Additionally, ARIES researchers also addressed issues related to the prediction, impacts, and treatment of water chemistry concerns.
Waste and Water Management

Environmentally ResponsibleMiningTechnology

Environmentally Responsible Mining Technology

Mining activities, similarly to any large industrial or commercial project, generally result in significant disturbance of existing natural features. ARIES researchers investigated techniques and technologies that would allow mining activities to be conducted in a manner that minimize effects on air, water, and ecosystems.

Health, Social and Economic Impacts

Among the most controversial issues related to coal mining in Appalachia are the alleged impacts on community health in the context of both economic and human health. In terms of the economy, allegations have long existed regarding the “resource curse” that accompanies mining, which states that mining perpetuates poverty. For human health, mining operations have recently been identified as possible causes for a range of diseases from birth defects to cancer. To address these concerns, ARIES researchers evaluated the impacts of coal mining on the Appalachian community. A variety of research approaches were applied including standard epidemiologic, pathway analysis, and factor association techniques to determine specific causes, if any, for these issues.

ARIES Reports

ARIES Executive Summary

The following document contains an executive summary of key findings from the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES). Further details for these findings may be found in the referenced peer-reviewed publications and project reports. The ARIES body of work was developed from 2011 to 2016. Thus, published ARIES results will not reflect any evolutions in policy and research that occurred after this timeframe. Although some issues may be different today, the breakthrough research conducted by the ARIES community continues to provide invaluable insights into these areas of interest.

ARIES Final Report

In the mid-2000s, concerns were raised about the impact of Appalachian coal mining and especially mountaintop mining. These concerns were prompted by various research studies that alleged a direct link between coal mining and various negatively trending aspects of community health. Some studies related coal mining to higher rates of cancer and infant mortality. Other investigations claimed that coal mining perpetuated poverty and harms community character. These alarming reports prompted a significant public outcry that resulted in litigation and regulatory attention toward the coal industry.

In response, a number of meetings and strategic sessions were held in 2009 and 2010 to address these concerns. Major Appalachian coal producers, coal associations, and essential coal infrastructure companies participated in these conferences. After rigorous debate, the participants decided to form an independent research program designed to address community concerns through objective, focused research. This program was designated the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES). ARIES would be a research consortium designed to elicit the participation of major research universities across the U.S. The primary objective of this research collaboration would be to investigate the impacts of coal mining and energy production on Appalachian communities. To support this goal, ARIES adopted a research paradigm that delivered objective, robust, and transparent results though the support of industry. This paradigm was composed of four core principles:

1. Independent research conducted at universities
2. Wide dissemination of results through peer-reviewed publications
3. Realistic timeframes for research and reporting
4. Applying sound scientific principles

Research Integrity

While ARIES is funded by affiliates, the research is independent of the interests of its affiliates. ARIES draws its main researchers for its Researcher Cadre from the following universities. The researchers follow the statements of research integrity of their respective home institution.

Statements of Research Integrity

Virginia Tech
West Virginia University
Ohio State University
Pennsylvania State University
University of Kentucky
University of Pittsburgh
Marshall University
Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine


The Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES) is supported through an affiliates program.
Affiliates become members, demonstrating their commitment to science in Appalachia investigation environmental considerations in energy production.
ARIES manages these funds and oversees research projects. Researchers participating in ARIES abide by the Research Integrity standards of their home institutions and their ARIES-sponsored research remains their independently produced research.

ARIES thanks its partners and affiliates: