2016 Annual Meeting of the Superfund Research Program
Held in conjunction with EHS FEST, the Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting on Dec. 5, or "SRP Monday," highlighted trainee research and awards and provided grantees with the opportunity to collaborate and discuss their work.
Undertaking the Challenge of Data Sharing
A data science panel discussion explored data sharing opportunities and challenges. Boston University SRP Center Director David Sherr, Ph.D., kicked off the session with a presentation on how data sharing can foster research potential in the environmental health sciences. He discussed why data sharing is critical in today’s data-rich world and discussed challenges intrinsic to databases. University of California, San Diego researcher Ilya Zaslavsky, Ph.D., then discussed data integration in the geosciences, including motivations, important considerations that need to be met in order to share data, and burdens. The panel also included Dartmouth College SRP researcher Mary Lou Guerinot, Ph.D., who spoke to sharing data related to plant biology, and Allen Dearry, Ph.D., the Senior Advisor for Data Science Technology and Sustainability at NIH, who provided feedback from the NIH perspective.
After the short presentations, a lively discussion ensued about the challenges of working with databases, quality control, and integration across several disciplines. Despite these challenges, the panelists and participants highlighted the value of data sharing and emphasized the need to overcome data sharing barriers.
An Emphasis on Community Engagement
On August 5, 2015, 3 million gallons of acid mine drainage was released from the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado, eventually reaching the San Juan River – the lifeblood of the Navajo Nation. In an SRP Monday presentation, Karletta Chief, Ph.D., the University of Arizona Community Engagement Core leader, described her work to assist the Navajo people through partnerships with Navajo communities after the catastrophic mine spill. They have learned how the Navajo people have been affected by the spill and are working with communities to understand their exposure and risk perception, to improve awareness of the situation, and to help them build capacity to protect the river for future generations.
Wetterhahn Award: Elizabeth Martin
The SRP selected Elizabeth Martin of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) as the 19th recipient of the annual Wetterhahn Memorial Award. At SRP Monday, Martin, who is pursuing her Ph.D. under UNC SRP Center Director Rebecca Fry, discussed her cutting-edge research on epigenetic mechanisms associated with health effects from exposure to metals. Epigenetic changes affect the function of DNA without altering the original sequence of amino acids. Read more about Martin and her research in the NIEHS Environmental Factor.
KC Donnelly Award Talks
SRP Monday included talks from seven KC Donnelly Externship Award winners, who described their experiences and results from an SRP-funded externship at another SRP Center or at a federal or state agency. The trainees described interesting and innovative research they were able to perform as a result of the award.
- Kate Buckman, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College, measured a behavioral endpoint during her externship at the Narragansett EPA laboratory to examine the effects of maternal transfer of mercury on larval fish movement.
- Marvic Carmona De Jesus, a graduate student at the University of Puerto Rico, conducted his externship at the Oregon State University SRP Center to research the use of passive samplers so he could deploy those samplers in the northern Karst aquifer of Puerto Rico.
- Zhilin Guo, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, spent her externship at the UC Davis SRP Center, where she conducted a case study using a stochastic method to simulate contaminant transport in groundwater.
- Erika Holland, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis, traveled to the Boston University SRP Center to investigate using killifish as a model to better understand non-dioxin-like PCB toxicity.
- Miao Li, a graduate student at the University of Iowa, applied stable isotope labeling and protein profiling methods to identify protein adducts of PCB metabolites during his externship at the UC Berkeley SRP Center.
- Lauren Redfern, a graduate student at Duke University, traveled to the UC Berkeley SRP Center to develop a novel molecular tool to monitor the biodegradation of co-contaminants 1,4-dioxane and PAHs.
- Lisandra Santiago Delgado, a graduate student at Oregon State University who studies the formation of oxy- and hydroxyl-PANs during laboratory-scale thermal remediation of Superfund soils, conducted her externship at an EPA research laboratory in Ada, Oklahoma.
For more information about each winner, visit the 2015 KC Donnelly Winners webpage.
A Time for Discussion and Collaboration
The broad range of environmental health research, community engagement, and training funded by the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) was reflected in the program, including a wealth of cross-disciplinary activities. Throughout the week, speakers were enthusiastic about the energy and scientific exchange fostered by the gathering. In addition to NIEHS-funded grantees and partners, representatives from federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry, also participated.
Other breakout meetings and Landmark Program grantee meetings were held throughout the week. A satellite meeting for SRP Center Administrators on Monday enabled them to get to know one another and NIEHS staff and to learn about new NIEHS guidelines.