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.

blair teaching mcnary 2
Blair Paulik discussing toxicology in the classroom

Blair Paulik and Jamie Minick, both SRP Trainees working on their PhDs in Dr. Kim Anderson’s lab (Project 4), traveled to McNary High School in the Salem, OR area on April 10th to teach students about environmental pollution.

This opportunity was initiated when a teacher from McNary contacted the Community Outreach & Engagement Core of the Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC). The opportunity was then given to the Department of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology’s graduate student organization, TEAM Tox. This is a great way for grad students to get out into classrooms.

Blair and Jamie’s interactive presentation highlighted where environmental pollution comes from, why environmental pollution is of concern, how humans are exposed to pollutants, and how scientists at Oregon State University are studying pollutants in the environment.

Jamie Minick presenting on environmental pollutants.
Jamie Minick presenting on environmental pollutants.

Throughout the day, Blair and Jamie taught 129 high school students from six different classes including chemistry, biology, and environmental science. The students showed genuine interest in the subject matter, asking questions about specific environmental pollutants and about science and college in general.

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.

[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)
OHSU Students getting ready to paddle.
OHSU students join Oregon Health Authority and Oregon DEQ as they get ready to paddle

Dr. Dave Stone, co-leader of the Research Translation Core, paddled in the Portland Harbor Superfund Site as part of an innovative educational event designed for Preventative Medicine students at Oregon Health and Science University.

Approximately fifteen MD/MPH and Medical Toxicology students attended the tour in which Dr. Stone and representatives from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, discussed issues related to Portland Harbor and environmental health. Dr. Stone highlighted risks associated with PAHs in the sediment, as well as persistent pollutants in fish tissue.

The tour began at the iconic St. John’s Bridge and continued to some of the most PAH polluted PAH  in the Harbor.  Dr. Stone discussed the on-going research and activities of OSU’s Superfund Research Program and how it relates to Portland Harbor and public health.

Paddling in the Harbor
Paddling in the harbor
St. John's Bridge canoes
St. John’s Bridge canoes
FishAdv_2014
Fish advisory at the site