On November 4, 2016, University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) Trainees Kimberly Danny and Lydia Jennings participated in Baboquivari High School’s Environmental Health Youth Forum in Topawa, Arizona on the Tohono O’odham Nation. This event was organized by the UA Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and Toxicology Program. Workshops at the forum focused on environmental justice, climate change and health, college preparation, and career options in environmental protection.
Danny was invited to provide a presentation on mining reclamation in Arizona as well as a “Muffin Mining” hands-on activity. Jennings accompanied Danny and offered a unique perspective discussing reclamation strategies currently used by mining companies she is working with as part of her dissertation project. Her research focuses on the reclamation of a mine tailings site on Tohono O’odham Nation land that is part of the ASARCO Mission Mine and how tribal community involvement in the reclamation process has made the site a global example of effective and cost efficient reclamation.
Together, the duo highlighted the importance of tribal member involvement as well as training in the sciences to safeguard their community. Danny stated, “the Muffin Mining activity helps students identify the costs associated with mining and mining reclamation and it also provides an insight as to how mining decisions can impact the land.” Lydia Jennings added, “I’m thankful for these opportunities to talk with community youth about using science as a tool for empowerment regarding environmental issues impacting the Tohono O’odham Nation.”
The day of workshops had students cycling in and out of a variety of different sessions. One of the most poignant comments that a student made upon leaving the environmental justice session was that they felt angry when they learned about the environmental injustices that have occurred in the Tohono O’odham Nation. This provided our SRP trainees, who are both indigenous scholars, an opportunity to discuss how they have channeled their frustration into the pursuit of higher education and learning how to utilize science for the betterment of Native American communities.
The Muffin Mining activity was also a component of Danny’s MS thesis which focused on the developing a “Mining and Waste Material Reclamation” educational module. This module is one of four the UA SRP Community Engagement Core is developing that targets both Tribal Community College students and community members impacted by mining. Look for it on our website soon. Please join the UA SRP in congratulating Danny who just completed her MS and will be continuing on with PhD studies.