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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.
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.
Putting 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.
This year the EPA Partners in Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) Pilot has launched the first project with a school located near the Black Butte Mine Superfund Site in rural Cottage Grove, Oregon.
“The overall objective of PTAP is to expand opportunities for cooperation between EPA and colleges, universities or nonprofits with the shared goal of assessing and addressing the unmet technical assistance needs of impacted communities. Through PTAP, colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations cooperate with EPA and voluntarily commit to assist communities with their unaddressed technical assistance needs. At this time, PTAP is in the pilot phase, working with NIEHS Superfund Research Program grantees as PTAP pilot partners. Following this pilot phase, the intention is to expand this project so that any interested colleges, universities or nonprofits may also join the PTAP.”
OSU Superfund Research Program has begun a partnership with EPA through this Pilot to help them expand upon their community outreach capabilities surrounding the Black Butte site.
On December 18, 2013, we met with Laurie Briggs, the Principal of the London School, because she had a strong desire to give her students and their families’ science and environmental health knowledge. About 100 rural K – 8th grade students go to London school.
Our visit included getting to know one another, listening to the needs of the school, and a school tour. We were impressed with the beauty and organization. The school built and maintains a 1/4-acre organic garden, and has a trail to a river flowing behind the property. 72% of the students qualify for free/reduced lunch, and delicious healthy meals are cooked on site.
For this project, we plan to:
1) Maintain communication through monthly meetings, and share notes and project milestones on our web site. [Our next meeting is January 30th, 2014 at OSU.]
2) Address community and educational needs.
Create a hands-on, project-based integrated curriculum related to the science of the Superfund site and mercury contamination that can serve as a model for other rural, small schools.
Discuss ways to educate the students and community and expand and build a sustainable partnership.
3) Provide training opportunities for SRP Trainees wanting outreach experience.
4) Help students understand career opportunities in environmental and life sciences.
The recently produced CTUIR – OSU 2012-2013 Newsletter shares the background, summary, and findings of a collaborative research project to understand polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure related to smoked salmon.
Salmon, a first food, is important to the subsistence of Native Americans living in the Pacific Northwest. Smoking salmon is one of the traditional ways to preserve this seasonally abundant food and make it available year round.
People can be exposed to PAHs from breathing contaminated air or eating smoked foods although many other exposure pathways exist.
Each volunteer wore air sampling equipment and turned it on every time they went into the smoking structures.
The data showed the air in the tipi and the smoke shed contained PAHs.
Pictured above from left: Traditional tipi, volunteer tending the fire in the tipi wearing an air sampler in black bag on his hip, traditional smoke shed.
Indigenous cultures perceive the natural environment as an essential link between traditional cultural practices, social connectedness, identity, and health. Many tribal communities face substantial health disparities related to exposure to environmental hazards. We asked 27 volunteers who were members of the CTUIR their opinions on meanings of health and how their environment interacts with their health.
The findings from the focus group discussions were published in the journal Environmental Justice.
The Superfund Research Program is federally funded and administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS grant #P42 ES016465), an institute of the National Institutes of Health.