The Community Engagement Core is collaborating with Dr. Staci Simonich (Core D) and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to begin an ambient air sampling project.

April 2016 Update

Dr. Simonich and three trainees, Drs. Cleo Davie-Martin, Courtney Roper (Training grant) and Amber Kramer returned to La Conner with Dr. Rohlman (CEC) to meet again with Mr. Larry Campbell for a second cultural tour. Following the tour, SRP researchers met with Swinomish staff to deploy two high-volume air quality monitors. The deployment included hands-on training. The training was recorded for incoming Swinomish technicians that will be collaborating on the project. Sampling will continue over the course of this year.

January 2016 Update

Drs. Simonich, Rohlman and Harding, along with SRP trainees Dr. Cleo Davie-Martin and Amber Kramer met with Dr. Tony Basabe (Air Quality Analyst) at the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to evaluate two sites that would hold high-volume air samplers. These samplers would collect particulate matter (PM2.5) and the particulate matter can also be assessed for the types of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). See our video here about PAHs. The community is concerned about air quality as a result of their proximity to two oil refineries. Our collaborators at Swinomish were familiar with the study performed with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (Lafontaine et al. 2015). One sampler will be placed at the Northwest Indian College site within the reservation, and a second one will be placed on the grounds of the Swinomish Indian Casino and Lodge. During their visit, co-investigator and Historical Preservation Officer, Larry Campbell gave them a cultural tour of the Swinomish reservation including a brief history of tribe, their land, their culture and their beliefs. The air quality monitors will be placed in April 2016 and sampling will continue over the course of this year.

IMG_20160121_141805916(From left to right) Dr. Basabe shows the site where a air sampler will be placed at the Northwest Indian College to Dr. Simonich (Core D) and her post-doc, Dr. Cleo Davie-Martin and Dr. Harding (Core E).




Lafontaine S, Schrlau J, Butler J, Jia Y, Harper B, Harris S, et al. 2015. Relative influence of trans-pacific and regional atmospheric transport of pahs in the pacific northwest, u.S. Environmental science & technology.

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:

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!

Diana Rohlman, CEC Program Coordinator, presented at the Contemporary Northwest Tribal Health Conference. The conference was hosted at the World Trade Center in Portland, Oregon on March 28-29, 2014.

View Presentation

Evolution of a Robust Tribal-University Research Partnership to Investigate Tribal Exposures and Build Scientific Capacity 

The Northwest Portland Area Indian Board posted all of the Conference Presentations.

The overall theme of the conference was around community-driven or community-based participatory research to advance the area of health research within Tribal communities.There were some fantastic ‘big-data’ presentations by the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) looking at intake and outtake data from federally funded clinics.  ~Diana Rohlman, Presenter, Contemporary Northwest Tribal Health Conference

Shared Highlights

The Community Engagement Core (CEC) takes OSU SRP Center expertise on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and applies it to the needs of community partners.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) has been a key partner for CEC.

CTUIR is located in Eastern Oregon, so one of the limitations to overcome is distance. One reason the partnership has thrived is because the CTUIR has scientific capacity and resources, which is unique amongst Tribal nations. Both partners are bringing scientific expertise to the table.

Graduate students gain knowledge and experience with Tribes by participating in the CEC research projects.
Graduate students gain knowledge and experience with Tribes by participating in the CEC research projects.

Five Key Features of the OSU SRP Tribal-University Partnership

  1. Utilizes Community-based Participatory Research
  2. Builds scientific and cultural capacity between CTUIR and OSU researchers
  3. Utilizes data sharing agreements to protect Tribal rights
  4. Develops culturally appropriate risk reduction strategies with CTUIR
  5. Disseminates knowledge through journals, newsletters and community meetings to provide Tribal perspectives on research practices. (See the OSU SRP web site for extensive resources that include collaborative publications and presentations.)