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.

[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
Fish advisory at the site
Credit: NIEHS
PEPH Annual Meeting: Communication Research in Environmental Health Sciences – Environmental Health Literacy, September 22-24, 2014,  NIEHS, Research Triangle Park, NC … Graphic Credit: NIEHS

This year the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is focusing the PEPH meeting on Environmental Health Literacy (EHL).

An added feature this year are Watch Parties, so those not attending the meeting in person can gather with others, watch the meeting presentations, and have discussions. Our SRP will be hosting some Watch Parties for the live streaming (we are unable to watch other presentations live due to the time difference).  All are welcome!

Use or follow hashtag #EHL2014

Recordings are available for viewing between September 25 and September 30. Please contact Naomi Hirsch if you are interested in viewing a recording and the time you are available.  Choose from any of the presentations listed below. 

Watch Party Schedule

Monday, Sept 22nd in ALS Building room 1019

8:10 a.m. – 9:30 am
Culturally Appropriate Communication: Development of Indigenous Health Indicators
Jamie Donatuto and Larry Campbell, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (via video)
Followed by our group discussion

Tuesday, Sept 23rd in ALS Building room 1019

10 :00 am
A Communication Science Approach to Developing and Evaluating Environmental Health Messages
Kami Silk, Michigan State University
10:30 am.
Importance of EHL to NIEHS Mission: New Partners for Research
Gwen Collman, NIEHS

Recorded Sessions

Welcome Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS
Defining EHL in Context of NIEHS’ Commitment to Community Engagement
Liam O’Fallon, NIEHS
Scope of Current NIH Research and Resources
Bill Elwood, NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research
Outside Influences on EHL: What the Public Already Understands about Environmental Risks
Symma Finn, NIEHS
Defining Environmental Health Literacy Together
Marti Lindsey, University of Arizona
Influence of the Media on Understanding of Environmental Health
Katherine Rowan, George Mason University
The Pediatric Environmental Health Toolkit (PEHT) and the Role of Prevention in the Clinical Setting
Mark Miller, University of California San Francisco Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit
Community Engagement through Enhanced Environmental Health Literacy
Neasha Graves, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
Development and Implementation of Occupational Health and Environmental Literacy Training for Various Audiences
Mitch Rosen, Rutgers University
Use of Mapping, GIS, and Spatial Statistics to Increase Environmental Health Literacy in Community Settings
Paul English, California Department of Public Health
New Tools for Measuring and Communicating Environmental Exposures and Risks
Sara Wylie, Northeastern University
Deborah Thomas, Shale Test
Breast cancer communication & Photovoice: Increasing EHL in Youth
Alexandra Anderson, Zero Breast Cancer