Monica Ramirez-Andreotta, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of soil, water, and environmental science at the University of Arizona (UA), is the winner of the 2019 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science, presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Ramirez-Andreotta is the leader of the UA Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center Research Translation Core and Training Core.
Ramirez-Andreotta, who studies soil and food quality, is being recognized for involving communities most affected by pollution, poor water quality, and food insecurity in the scientific process. Ramirez-Andreotta has headed several collaborative research projects that create science learning opportunities and engage community members in data collection, interpretation, and translation of results into action.
As part of the UA SRP Center, she launched Gardenroots in 2008, a citizen science project geared toward community members living near a hazardous mining waste site in Arizona. Ramirez-Andreotta and nearly 100 trained participants collected soil, water, and plant samples. Their work revealed that the public utility’s drinking water contained arsenic levels above the drinking water standard, a finding that resulted in the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issuing a violation to the water supplier. Gardenroots worked with local water authorities and the owners of affected households to provide information about water treatment technologies designed to reduce arsenic concentrations in drinking water. The Gardenroots program has since grown into a nationwide initiative.
Ramirez-Andreotta also leads Project Harvest, a citizen science project that engages community health workers and more than 150 families living near sources of pollution in monitoring harvested rainwater, soil, and plants. To make the project accessible to community members, all materials are available in both English and Spanish. In addition to these large-scale projects, Ramirez-Andreotta conducts free screenings of soil for urban gardeners and organizes science events for children and families.
The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science was established in 2010 to recognize early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities. The award consists of a $5,000 honorarium, a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration and travel to the AAAS Annual Meeting.