UA SRP Trainee Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne Receives Prestigious UNESCO Graduate Assistantship

Oct. 27, 2016

Congratulations to University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) trainee, Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne (doctoral student at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health), received the 2016-2017 UA United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair Graduate Assistantship. This award for provides support for doctoral students conducting research in the area of indigenous water issues. It offers financial support as well as mentoring from Dr. David Pietz (UNESCO Chair in Environmental History). “We are absolutely delighted to support Yoshi’s research on the Gold King Mine Spill. Her work critically engages issues of indigenous communities and water resources that UNESCO is so keenly interested in supporting”, stated Dr. Pietz.

Ornelas Van Horne will conduct research focused on the Gold King Mine Spill Project that is being led by Dr. Paloma Beamer (UA SRP collaborator) and Dr. Karletta Chief (UA SRP Community Engagement Core). Ornelas Van Horne will focus on understanding how the spill has affected the daily activities of the community members and the quality of the San Juan River, as well as investigate health risks pre- and post- the Gold King Mine spill. Ornelas Van Horne explains: “Since the spill occurred community members have mentioned that multiple farmers in the area have chosen not to irrigate their crops with the river water. This has primarily occurred due to fear of contaminating their native seeds passed down for generations with arsenic and lead present in the San Juan River from the Spill. We need to be able to address the communities concerns and to do that we need to develop a risk assessment model that can incorporate all the community-specific routes of exposure”. She has been assisting with community household sampling, laboratory analysis, and has helped train multiple students as part of the Gold King Mine Spill Project. Dr. Chief said, “The international recognition that Yoshi is receiving highlights the need to answer some of the questions that the Navajo People have about the spill and we are honored that UNESCO chose one of our students to support."

For more information and the latest updates on the project please visit the Gold King Mine Spill Project Facebook page  or the UA SRP page.

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