Native Americans have a long history of being under-represented in higher education. Currently, only 5% of Native American high school graduates go directly into a four-year college and a small percentage of those major in STEM-related degrees. In an effort to increase participation of Native American students in college programs, and introduce them to biomedical sciences, Oregon State Superfund Research Center holds several activities to bring Native Youth to campus to increase their awareness of opportunities in College and scientific careers.

On May 20, over 20 tribal youth and chaperones came to Oregon State University for a campus tour, student panel and the 41st annual Klatowa Eena Powwow. (Klatowa Eena is Chinook Wawa for ‘Go Beavers.’) SRP trainee Sydelle Harrison, who is part of the Community Engagement Core (CEC), worked with the Research Translation Core, the Training Core and SRP Administration to procure funding and organize the daylong event. For the second year in a row, Sydelle worked with youth organizations to bring students from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

The 20+ students started at Callahan Hall, where SRP trainee Amelia Allee, (CEC), and University Housing and Dining Services staff took the students through the freshman dormitory, highlighting the shared lounges and kitchenettes, and showing the students a dorm room.

Following the dorm tour, Athletics staff took students on a tour of Reser stadium, including a tour of President Ed Ray’s box, and provided them an opportunity to run on the field. Up next, was the OSU Basketball Center where the students (and chaperones) took to the court. After working up an appetite, the dining halls were next, followed by the Powwow. To finish off the day, SRP trainees hosted a pizza dinner. Here, students had the opportunity to ask trainees questions about college, graduate school and SRP research. Two tribal elders attended, giving the youth their perspective regarding the importance of college. SRP trainees and faculty answered questions about the value of community college, the typical length of a college degree as well as opportunities for distance learning at the OSU satellite campuses. Many thanks to Sydelle Harrison; without her these tours would not be possible. In addition, many thanks to Amber Kramer, Carolyn Poutasse, Alix Robel, Amelia Allee and Drs. Molly Kile, Diana Rohlman, Craig Marcus and Robert Tanguay for their help.

FullSizeRenderSydelle Harrison was awarded an SRP Externship to work with the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation). The clinic is celebrating 20 years of self-governance this month and preparing to move into a new state of the art facility next year.

Sydelle is working on various special projects to support the Public Health Accreditation process. Her duties include outreach related to the community health assessment. She is also collecting feedback regarding the community health improvement plan.

As a Tribal member and SRP trainee, Sydelle is also working on the clinic’s new strategic plan. She aims to promote integration of environmental health back into the organization as they expand services. This has also proven to be a focal point for many Tribal members in her presentations as they ask what the people and first foods are being exposed to. Between her externship and her role as an SRP trainee, Sydelle is helping connect SRP researchers and tribal commission members and community members to expand capacity environmental health research.

Blair with clam
Blair Paulik out in the field with the butter clams.

The Samish Indian Nation invited Blair Paulik (OSU SRP Project 4 Trainee) and Diana Rohlman (OSU SRP CEC Coordinator) to the 3rd annual Fidalgo Bay Science Conference on October 23, 2014.

Our SRP presented a poster highlighting the recent butter clam sampling performed with the Samish and Swinomish tribal communities. In addition, governmental agencies, university researchers, citizen scientists and Tribal scientists presented on restoration projects (Custom Plywood Mill), the surf smelt spawning study (Salish Sea Stewards) and the Samish Natural Resources Program projects (Current Projects).

Two Samish Tribal members opened the Fidalgo Bay Science Conference floor with song and traditional stories to explain the importance of a healthy environment.

Tribal events such as this give our SRP Trainees valuable professional development experiences, exposing them to the history and culture of our Tribal partners and ways to work successfully with them.

 

Poster Presentation:

Paulik LB, Rohlman D, Donatuto J, Woodward C, Kile M, Anderson KA, Harding A. Improving techniques for estimating butter clam (Saxidomus gigantean) contamination in the Salish Sea. Poster presented at: Fidalgo Bay Science Conference, hosted by the Samish Indian Nation; 2014 October 23; Anacortes, WA.

Butter Clam Sampling Process
Butter Clam Sampling Process

See the story “Tribes partner with OSU to study clam contamination” on the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission web site.

Assessing Contaminants in Subsistence-Harvested Shellfish
with the Swinomish and Samish Indian Tribes

By Blair Paulik (Project 4 Trainee) and Diana Rohlman (CEC Program Coordinator)

On August 20, 2014, Researchers from the Oregon State University (OSU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) have collaborated with two northwestern Tribes, the Swinomish and the Samish, to analyze environmental samples for contaminants. The team worked with Dr. Jamie Donatuto, the Environmental Health Analyst for the Swinomish Tribe, and Christine Woodward, the Director of the Department of Natural Resources for the Samish Tribe, to identify Tribal concerns regarding pollution of butter clams (Saxidomus gigantean).

Shellfish beds in Fidalgo Bay are underused, given concerns regarding contamination from the two nearby oil refineries. The last sampling event in 2002 identified increased levels of toxics in butter clams at sites within Fidalgo Bay.

(August 10-12, 2014) OSU SRP researchers meet with Bill Bailey (far left) and Rosie James (second from left, front) of the Samish Indian Tribe to collect butter clams and place passive pore-water samplers.
(August 10-12, 2014) OSU SRP researchers meet with Bill Bailey (far left) and Rosie James (second from left, front) of the Samish Indian Tribe to collect butter clams and place passive pore-water samplers.

To continue this research, SRP visited four sites on Swinomish and Samish beaches within the Fidalgo and Similk Bay areas, collecting butter clams and deploying passive pore-water samplers in the sediment.

In addition to identifying what contaminants may be present in the butter clams, the research team also aims to identify a new testing method to reduce the amount of resident shellfish that are collected when environmental sampling is needed. The goal is to predict clam contamination using passive pore-water samplers.

If successful, this would enable researchers to determine shellfish contamination by putting out passive samplers instead of collecting clams. Using passive samplers is cheaper, faster, and less harmful to the local ecosystem than collecting resident organisms.

This work aims to provide important information regarding risk from consumption of butter clams, new methods for monitoring baselines trends of contaminants, and may inform novel sampling methods useful to Tribes and Superfund researchers around the country.

 

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(Above) A butter clam (Saxidomus gigantea) collected by the research team. At each site researchers collected five clams.

Where each clam was found, a passive pore-water sampler was placed (below).

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After four weeks, the samplers will be retrieved and analyzed. The chemical profile from the butter clam will be compared to the chemical profile of the passive sampler.

This work was conducted under Material and Data Sharing Agreements with both the Swinomish and Samish Tribes. All data generated from this study belongs to the Tribes. The Tribes must approve any use of the data or samples.

For more information:

[The post is adapted from a story in the October 2014 issue of NIEHS Environmental Factor – written by Sara Mishamandani, research and communication specialist for MDB Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Superfund Research Program and Division of Extramural Research and Training]

A tool to educate K-8 students about mercury in the environment and its effects on human health is now online, thanks to a collaboration between the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) at Oregon State University (OSU), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the London School in Cottage Grove, Oregon.MercuryLogoUpdated

The cooperative project was the first pilot for the Partners in Technical Assistance Program (PTAP), launched with the London School, located near the Black Butte Mine Superfund site in rural Cottage Grove, about 70 miles south of the university. The EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation initiated the technical assistanceprogram in 2013 to help communities affected by Superfund sites understand technical information and to enable meaningful community involvement in the Superfund decision-making process.

During a Black Butte Mine community information session, London School principal Laurie Briggs requested that EPA create materials to teach students about the nearby abandoned mine, where mercury and other contamination from mine waste affect creeks that flow into the nearby Cottage Grove Lake and the Coast Fork Willamette River.  Listen to Laurie share about the project.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 3.15.07 PMPutting environmental health into context

The educational package Mercury, the Community, and Me is available online as modules for K-8 teachers. The activities help connect students to the environment by defining environmental health, providing an overview of mercury and how it enters the environment and the food chain, and delivering information about mercury and human health. The resources include background information, presentations, worksheets, videos, games, and team assignments.

Two videos are also part of the curriculum. One provides more information about the Black Butte Mine Superfund site, including its historical background. The other introduces students to careers in science, highlighting scientists from the university and EPA. View the videos.

Fostering collaboration and engaging stakeholders

“EPA has a strong commitment to ensure that communities living near Superfund sites are informed and have opportunities to meaningfully engage in EPA actions to protect human health and the environment. This is a model educational project and partnership with OSU, London School, and EPA that brings together environmental health science, local history, and a Superfund site.”
~ Alanna Conley, EPA Region 10 Superfund Community Involvement Coordinator

“The excellent work done by the OSU SRP in collaboration with EPA and the London School in Cottage Grove demonstrates how the pilot PTAP can bring expertise and resources into communities near Superfund sites to meet technical assistance needs and enhance overall community restoration and cleanup.”
~ Melissa Dreyfus, lead for the EPA Headquarters PTAP Pilot

“The PTAP project provided a structure to build relationships with EPA Region 10 and impact a community living near a Superfund site. The final products also included contributions from our SRP trainees. We hope the educational resources are models for other schools and future partnerships.”  
~ Naomi Hirsch, OSU SRP Research Translation Core coordinator

The project has been well received, featured and shared widely on EPA social media platforms. In addition, the project was presented via a webinar to EPA Region 10 personnel.

Project Team from left Diana Rohlman (OSU SRP CEC), Alanna Conley (EPA, Region 10), Dan Sudakin (OSU SRP RTC), Laura Briggs (London School Principle), Naomi Hirsch (SRP RTC OSU). Not pictured: Corey Fisher (OSU SRP CEC), Melissa Dreyfus (EPA Headquarters Superfund Community Involvement Program), Kira Lynch, (EPA Region 10, Science and Tech Liaison), and Richard Muza (Region 10 - Black Butte Mine, Project Manager)
The Project Team from left Diana Rohlman (OSU SRP CEC), Alanna Conley (EPA, Region 10), Dan Sudakin (OSU SRP RTC), Laura Briggs (London School Principal), Naomi Hirsch (OSU SRP RTC). Not pictured: Corey Fisher and Molly Kile (OSU SRP CEC), Melissa Dreyfus (EPA Headquarters Superfund Community Involvement Program), Kira Lynch, (EPA Region 10, Science and Tech Liaison), and Richard Muza (Region 10 – Black Butte Mine, Project Manager)