Superfund Research Program
UA SRP Forms Collaboration with Bolivian Mining Group
To establish a collaboration focused on best mining practices, a group from Summit Mining and the San Cristóbal Mine in Potosí, Bolivia, visited the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) in March 2015. Participants in the day-and-a-half-long meeting discussed a wide range of issues at the San Cristóbal Mine as well as UA SRP research in areas of interest to the mining industry.
In semiarid environments such as the Southwestern United States, mining operations are an important source of airborne metal contaminants. Trace metals can be mobilized through dispersal of dust particles emitted from mine waste as well as in fumes. At UA SRP, researchers are characterizing dust from mine waste and other mining operations. They are also experimenting with using plants to stabilize contaminants from mine waste so they remain in the ground, preventing transport to nearby communities. In addition to the research projects, they are reaching out and creating educational materials to inform nearby communities of potential risks from mine waste.
Because sustainable management of mining wastes is a global challenge facing the mining industry, partners from Summit Mining and the San Cristóbal Mine discussed research at UA SRP related to understanding and reducing health effects from mine waste. Following the meeting, the visitors toured four mine sites where UA SRP is currently working.
As the next step in this collaboration, UA SRP researchers were invited to visit their colleagues in Bolivia. There, they will tour the San Cristóbal Mine, discuss potential collaborative research projects in more detail, and develop a mechanism for Bolivian students from Tomás Frías Autonomous University to visit UA for specialized training.
Former SRP Grantee Named Provost of Rice University
Marie Lynn Miranda, Ph.D., the Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan, has been named provost of Rice University.
Prior to joining the University of Michigan, Miranda led both the Outreach and Research Translation Cores of the Duke University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center. Miranda was part of the Duke SRP Center for 11 years, since its formation in 2000. As a member of the Center, she used geographical models to compare where children live with where contaminants are found. She also led outreach and education activities for communities in North Carolina and nationally and helped promote and improve the use of SRP science to enhance public health.
Miranda is also the founding director of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, a research, education, and outreach program committed to fostering environments where all people can prosper.
For more information about Miranda and her new appointment, visit the Rice University website.
SRP Alumnus Awarded Prestigious NIEHS Grant
Former Superfund Research Program (SRP) trainee Neel Aluru, Ph.D., is one of six early-career scientists who received a 2015 NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) award. The NIEHS created the highly competitive ONES award to encourage emerging researchers who want to discover how our environment influences human health.
Aluru is an Assistant Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, under the guidance of Mark Hahn, a Boston University SRP Center grantee and senior scientist at WHOI. Hahn’s SRP project focuses on how certain fish have evolved to resist dioxins, a common Superfund contaminant, and the mechanisms and effects of this resistance.
The ONES award will allow Aluru to set up his own lab and become an independent researcher at WHOI. He will use zebrafish to study how early-life exposures to toxic chemicals may lead to developmental disabilities.
“The ONES funding comes at a critical time in a research career when someone is trying to set up their own lab to pursue their unique ideas,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., NIEHS director. “These early-career scientists are so innovative and they inspire the entire research community. I believe this program will spur new biomedical research and lead to important medical breakthroughs.”
See the Environmental Factor for more information on the ONES award and the other awardees.
Dartmouth SRP Citizen Science Project Receives Local Attention
Northeast news sources recently featured an ongoing Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (Dartmouth SRP) citizen science project with high school science classes in New Hampshire and Vermont. Articles in the Valley News and Berlin Daily Sun, New Hampshire newspapers, and on WCAX, a local Vermont news source, covered the work from high school classes around the region.
A partnership with the Schoodic Education and Research Center in Maine, the project introduces high school students to environmental health concepts and provides a real-world example of how science works by sampling dragonfly larvae for mercury. Dartmouth SRP has been running the project for three years, and it has become virtually self-sustaining.
This year, Dartmouth SRP trainee Kate Buckman presented to all the science classes and led the project in each of the high school classes. Students learned that when dragonflies hatch, they spend a few years in water searching for food and can build up mercury content from the food, making them good indicators of mercury levels in the water.
The students collected dragonfly larvae samples and sent them to the Dartmouth SRP Trace Metals Core to measure mercury content. They also came up with a hypothesis to help better understand mercury. For example, one student used weather data to see if mercury levels in one area were linked to humidity. At the end of the fall semester, students had the opportunity to present their research at Dartmouth College.
SRP Research Shines at Battelle Conference
Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff and grantees were well represented at the Eighth International Conference on Remediation and Management of Contaminated Sediments, January 12-15, 2015, organized and presented by Battelle and other sponsors.
More than 900 scientists, engineers, regulators, remediation site owners, constructors, and other environmental professionals convened to share research results, practical experiences, and opportunities for cleaning up sediments in aquatic environments.
Heather Henry, Ph.D., a SRP health scientist administrator, gave a presentation about new tools and approaches from the SRP for site monitoring and exposure measurement in contaminated sediments, particularly simple-to-use and economical passive sampling devices that can monitor sediment cleanup sites. She highlighted SRP-funded tools capable of measuring more than one chemical at a time and ongoing work to validate tools for monitoring changes during site remediation. She also explained how the tools can be integrated into health research by assessing a variety of exposures to humans.
SRP grantee Damian Shea, Ph.D., a professor at North Carolina State University, chaired a session on innovative characterization of assessment tools. Shea is developing a universal passive sampling device to measure a wide-range of chemicals in water, sediment, and soil (learn more on the University of North Carolina SRP Center website).
SRP grantee Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country, gave a presentation about his innovative cleanup project that uses activated carbon technology and passive samplers to monitor the effectiveness of the remediation technology (read more in the Environmental Factor).
The conference provided opportunity for SRP staff members Alicia Lawson and Henry to meet with SRP grantees and provide guidance on continuing efforts related to measuring contaminants in sediment.