Superfund Research Program
- Schlenk Presents in Duke University Seminar Series
- SRP Investigator Elected to National Academy of Sciences
- Duke SRP Center Visits ATSDR
- Northeastern SRP Center Trainee Engages Stakeholders
- Ghosh Awarded Prestigious Environmental Engineering and Science Awards
- A Community Garden as a Living Laboratory
Schlenk Presents in Duke University Seminar Series
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Daniel Schlenk, Ph.D, presented work related to aquatic ecotoxicology as part of the Duke University SRP seminar series on May 7. A professor at the University of California, Riverside, Schlenk’s research focuses on understanding the biochemical factors that influence susceptibility to environmental and natural chemicals. During his presentation, he discussed his work on the critical windows of susceptibility and mechanisms of selenium toxicity in fish.
Selenium is an essential micronutrient that can cause embryo toxicity at levels 7 to 30 times above essential concentrations. Schlenk and his research team are working to better understand the effects of selenium during critical windows of development and how other factor, such as salinity, affect developmental toxicity of selenium.
Schlenk also co-leads Exploring the Importance of Aging in Contaminant Bioavailability and Remediation, an SRP-funded individual research project. An often-neglected fact is that contamination at most Superfund sites is a result of historical events, and that contaminants at these sites have resided in the same media for many years or decades, a biogeochemical process loosely termed aging. As part of his SRP-funded grant, Schlenk and Jay Gan are developing a simple method for measuring and accounting for contaminant aging in risk assessments and remediation. They will apply the method to sediment samples collected from the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site off the Los Angeles coast. Sediments at this site contain high levels (up to 200 mg/kg) of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) deposited from as far back as 60 years ago.
SRP Investigator Elected to National Academy of Sciences
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to research, Julian Schroeder, Ph.D., was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in April 2015. The NAS is a private, nonprofit organization comprising prominent scientists and engineers within the United States, and it provides the nation with unbiased scientific and technological advice.
Schroeder, a pioneer of ion channel characterization in higher plants, focuses on identifying the molecular mechanisms that enable plants to respond to -- and resist -- stress originating from the surrounding environment. As an investigator in the University of California, San Diego Superfund Research Program (UCSD SRP), Schroeder's research sheds light on the potential and innovative use of genetically engineered plant models for detoxification of soils and waters contaminated with heavy metals.
Schroeder's expertise is also recognized by various faculty appointments, memberships in professional societies, and awards. He directs UCSD's Plant Systems Biology Graduate Training Program and co-directs the Center for Food and Fuel for the 21st Century. He is president of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) and currently holds the Novartis Chair in Plant Sciences. Schroeder has received several commendations, including the ASPB's Charles Albert Shull Award and the National Science Foundation's Young Investigator Award.
Duke SRP Center Visits ATSDR
On April 23, Duke University Superfund Research Program (Duke SRP) Center researcher Joel Meyer, Ph.D., and Duke SRP Research Translation Core coordinator Gretchen Kroeger took a trip down to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) campus outside of Atlanta to provide information about Duke SRP Center research and foster collaborations between Duke SRP and ATSDR.
Meyer, whose research at Duke University focuses on the role of mitochondria as a target of toxicity for a variety of contaminants, gave a presentation highlighting Duke SRP Center work with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) along Virginia’s Elizabeth River. He discussed his research related to mitochondrial DNA damage and the later life effects of environmental exposures.
After the presentation, Meyer and Kroeger met with several groups of ATSDR scientists to discuss their research and community-engaged work with exposed populations. Meyer and Kroeger returned to Duke with a better understanding of the great work being done at ATSDR, as well as an assortment of research ideas, connections, and hope for future collaborations with the Agency.
Northeastern SRP Center Trainee Engages Stakeholders
Northeastern University Superfund Research Program (Northeastern SRP) Center trainee Kelly Ferguson, Ph.D., is going beyond her research by bringing her work to stakeholders and learning about environmental decision making. Ferguson, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, focuses on exposure assessment and molecular epidemiology with the Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) Program.
On April 29, Ferguson gave a talk at the 8th Copenhagen Workshop on Endocrine Disrupters. Her talk, “Developmental effects of phthalates: what are the mechanisms?,” introduced the PROTECT cohort and summarized preliminary findings on the relationship between maternal phthalate exposure during pregnancy and changes in hormone, inflammation, and oxidative stress levels.
This past year, Ferguson participated in the Reach the Decision Makers Fellowship, part of the University of California, San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. This fellowship trains scientists, community members, clinicians, and public health professionals to effectively promote science and health-based policies at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
As the culmination of this fellowship, Ferguson and the Detroit Reproductive Advocacy Matters (DREAM) team traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with key policy makers at the EPA. Following the release of the proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards rule on ozone, the group submitted comments advocating for the inclusion of pregnant women and communities with multiple risk factors as vulnerable populations. While in D.C., the group met with Janet McCabe, J.D., acting assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, and Thomas Burke, Ph.D., deputy assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Research and Development, to discuss these comments and push for inclusion of these populations in future risk assessment processes.
Ghosh Awarded Prestigious Environmental Engineering and Science Awards
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., and his research team received two 2015 Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science awards for the development and application of innovative remediation technologies. Ghosh, a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was recognized by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists at its conference on April 23.
Ghosh received the 2015 Honor Award – University Research for developing a method for in situ remediation of contaminated sediments with activated carbon, and translating that method into practice. This work was part of Ghosh’s previous SRP Individual Research Project, which led to the technology transfer efforts. Hilda Khoei and Eli Patmont, graduate students working with Ghosh, were also recognized for their efforts as part of the project.
According to the award profile, Ghosh’s research has been successful in transitioning fundamental understanding of pollutant bioavailability into an innovative application for sediment remediation. In situ remediation with activated carbon amendment provides several advantages over traditional remediation methods, including less disruption to habitats in sensitive rivers and wetlands, amenability to shallow or constricted locations, and potential for much lower cost.
Ghosh also collaborated on a project to remediate Mirror Lake in Delaware using activated carbon, which won a 2015 Honor Award – Small Projects. Richard Greene, Ph.D., an environmental engineer with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, worked with Ghosh to use activated carbon to sequester contaminants in the lake sediments, thereby interrupting the transfer of PCBs from the sediments to the water column and fish.
A Community Garden as a Living Laboratory
On March 24, Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff members visited the Ocean View Community Garden in San Diego. SRP scientists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), are working with local residents to transform a vacant lot into a community garden. Since the garden is on a brownfields site, the scientists are testing the fruits and vegetables grown on the site to make sure they are safe before they are eaten, and working closely with the community to communicate the results.
A brownfields site is an abandoned or underused piece of land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes that may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution. UCSD SRP researchers, including doctoral student Andrew Cooper, are analyzing plant tissues from the community garden and monitoring any heavy metal accumulation over time that may be taking place in these plants. They are also determining how stormwater retention structures at the community garden may affect the fate and transport of toxicants, and reduce potential for contamination in the fruits and vegetables, by measuring how soil contaminants change within the context of storm water management.
SRP staff Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., Heather Henry, Ph.D., and Bill Suk, Ph.D. recently toured the site to learn more about the innovative urban garden. Keith Pezzoli, Ph.D., the UCSD SRP Center Research Translation Core leader, gave an overview of the initiatives being conducted at the site.
Formerly a food desert — a city area that lacks supermarkets or farmers markets — the Ocean View Community Garden offers a gathering place for people to grow food, socialize with their neighbors and hold events, and provides an opportunity to learn about urban agriculture.