Special Edition, Trainee-Written Highlight

SRP Community Engagement Core continues to strengthen ties with Navajo Nation and Dine College  
By Kimberly Danny

As many students enjoyed a vacation during their spring break or spent another week chipping away at their research, University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) Community Engagement Core (CEC) members, Dr. Karletta Chief (CEC Principle Investigator and Extension Specialist), Denise Moreno Ramírez (CEC Coordinator), and Kimberly Danny (SRP Trainee) enjoyed a scenic and productive trip to Shiprock, New Mexico (NM) and Tsaile, Arizona.

On March 12, 2016, representatives from the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University (NAU), Fort Lewis College, and the Tó Bei Nihi Dziil community group held a teach-in at the Shiprock Youth Complex to inform community members and answer questions about an upcoming exposure and risk perception study on the Gold King Mine Spill (GKMS). This teach-in led to passionate discussion about the GKMS, potential research studies, and the citizen science collaborations currently being conducted in the area. 

On March 13, 2016, UA and NAU professors, staff, and students began a week-long field sampling trip as a part of the GKMS exposure and risk perception study.  Water and soil samples were taken from the San Juan River, river sediments, irrigation canals, and agricultural fields around the impacted Upper Fruitland and Shiprock communities. These samples will provide much-needed water and soil quality data to determine the risk to impacted communities who use San Juan River for their crops, cattle, and livelihoods.

On March 14, 2016, Denise and Kimberly piloted an SRP mining educational module in two introductory chemistry classes and one historical geology class at Dine College in Tsaile, Arizona. They piloted the “Chemistry of Copper Electrolysis” hands-on activity, which is available to the public on the UA SRP website (http://superfund.pharmacy.arizona.edu/learning-modules/tribal-modules/copper). Kimberly enjoyed moderating the activity at Dine College, stating that, “The students and instructors were highly engaged in the activity and asked a lot of questions about mining and UA programs”. For example, Dr. Donald Robinson helped his students relate the copper electrolysis process to what they've learned in class by calculating the weight difference of the penny and dime before and after the experiment. Students in Dr. Francis Burns’s chemistry class were also active in the experiment. In the historical geology class taught by Ms. Margaret Mayer, the activity was broadcast to satellite Dine College New Mexico campuses in Shiprock and Crownpoint, therby extending the outreach and education efforts. By piloting these modules tribal college classrooms, the CEC can inform tribal communities about mining processes and impacts as well as provide a path for students interested in studying at the UA.

Overall, it was a productive week for the CEC as they continued to strengthen relationships with the Navajo Nation community and Dine College professors and students.