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 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.



(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).

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:

Greta Frey,  MPH student in Environmental and Occupation Health and Safety,   OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences
Greta Frey, MPH student in Environmental and Occupation Health and Safety,
OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences

My name is Greta Frey. I grew up in Boise, Idaho and completed my undergraduate work at OSU in Public Health. I am a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz of Siletz, Oregon and the Aleut Corporation of Anchorage, Alaska. I was the Diabetes Program Assistant for the Siletz Community Health Clinic.

I had the opportunity to do research at the University of Utah through the National Institute of Health’s Native American Research Internship. I was the research assistant for the Lung Health Research Center where we were investigating the immediate relationship of ambient air quality and signs of inflammation and oxidative stress in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Environmental health research in a clinical setting (University of Utah) truly changed my perspective of public health.

I am interested in the relationship between air quality, the health of our environment and what preventative efforts can be contributed to remain a vital and healthy community.

I love to mountain bike, backpack, explore new places, and whitewater kayak. I look forward to meeting you.

The OSU SRP – DOSE partnership in 2011 in front of a traditional smoking tipi includes SRP trainees Andres Cardenas and Oleksii Motorykin, and CEC Co-leaders Dr. Barbara Harper and Stuart Harris.

The Department of Science and Engineering (DOSE) of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) is a partner with our Superfund Research Program (SRP) Community Engagement Core (Core E).

In June 2014, DOSE recruited nine Tribal members to help with a study that would measure how people metabolize and eliminate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that can attach to food when it is smoked.

PAHs are produced by burning wood and other materials. Salmon, a first food, is important to the subsistence of Native Americans living in the Pacific Northwest. The salmon run in spring and fall. Smoking salmon is one of the traditional ways to preserve this seasonally abundant food and make it available year round.

The study team first conducted a community educational forum for study volunteers that described the purpose of the study and get informed consent. Each participant was asked to refrain from eating any foods containing PAHs for two days. Then they were asked to eat a small serving of traditionally smoked salmon.  After eating the salmon they provided urine samples to help researchers understand how the PAH residues produced during smoking events are processed by the body.

SRP Trainee Oleksii Motorykin (Project 5) is involved in this study and is working with CORE E and DOSE Scientists to interpret the data.

The Community Engagement Core has a wealth of resources shared on the web site related to working with Tribes. Be sure to check it out!