Research Program Award | Trainee Profile | Community Partners | UW SRP Collaborations
Welcome to Issue 9 of the University of Washington's Superfund Research Program (UW-SRP) e*bulletin! In this edition we share exciting news about our program; introduce you to one of our new trainees; present a profile on the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps; and look back on some of the 10 year history of UW-SRP collaborations with the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition.
Our Principal Investigator, Dr. Evan Gallagher, along with Research Translation Core Director Dr. Tom Burbacher, invite you to please read and enjoy the stories that catch your interest.
UW SRP Granted Award
The University of Washington Superfund Research Program (UW SRP) received funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for our interdisciplinary program titled Effects-Related Biomarkers of Environmental Neurotoxic Exposures. Principal investigator, Dr. Evan Gallagher, oversees the four research projects and five support cores. Program research is directed at mechanisms and ramifications of metal neurotoxicity in humans and aquatic species. Cadmium, arsenic and manganese are heavy metals common to Superfund waste sites. The UW SRP has a long-standing and successful history in the development and innovative use of biomarkers that can be predictive of exposures to neurotoxic agents. These biomarkers are used as early indicators of neurotoxic injury and as genetic determinants of unusual susceptibilities to environmental hazards. The program has four projects and five cores. The projects include:
Project #1: Biochemical Mechanisms of Olfactory Injury in Salmon. Dr. Evan Gallagher will continue investigating how metal exposures impact fish olfaction. His research targets contaminants of concern at Superfund sites like the Lower Duwamish Waterway in Seattle where environmental exposures to cadmium can influence overall fish survival.
Project #2: Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Cadmium Neurotoxicity. Dr. Zhengui Xia is a new SRP investigator. Her biomedical study explores the molecular and cellular effects of cadmium on both olfaction and cognition, focusing on adult neurogenesis and signaling pathways critical for hippocampus-dependent memory.
Project #3: Role of Paraoxonases (PONs) in Modulating Cadmium, Manganese and Organophosphate Neurotoxicity. Drs. Clement Furlong and Lucio Costa will continue to investigate the basis for individual differences in how chemicals are processed, making some people more susceptible than others to the toxic effects of chemical exposure.
Project #5: Arsenic in Shallow Unstratified and Seasonally Stratified Urban Lakes: Mobility, Bioaccumulation and Ecological Toxicity. Dr. Rebecca Neumann and her colleague Dr. James Gawel are also new SRP investigators. Their project investigates the mechanisms of arsenic mobilization within freshwater aquatic environments, linking arsenic biogeochemistry with bioavailability. Their studies will provide information important to establishing water-quality guidelines and regulating total arsenic concentrations to adequately protect human health and aquatic ecosystems.
The UW SRP Support Cores include the:
Administrative Core led by Dr. Evan Gallagher with co-director, Dr. Tom Burbacher. The Core is responsible for the financial and resource management of the SRP It initiates external advisory participation and works with the projects and other cores to foster opportunities for investigators to share research broadly and to expand partner networks with peer SRPs and provide NIEHS with the latest updates on research and outreach activities.
Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics Laboratory Core directed by Dr. Theo Bammler. The Core enables our investigators to utilize a wide range of molecular biology and bioinformatic-related methodologies suited to perform mechanistic studies and to identify markers of exposure to toxicants, impaired physiologic and neurologic function, and susceptibility to neurotoxicity induced by environmental toxicants.
Training Core co-directed by Dr. Gallagher and Dr. Xia. The Core supports students and fellows who work closely with research project investigators, engage in professional development, and interface with agency and community partners.
Research Translation Core (RTC) directed by Dr. Tom Burbacher and managed by Katie Frevert. RTC staff assist investigators in sharing their respective projects findings, lead trainee activities and help guide the project investigators’ with commercialization and patents.
Community Engagement Core (CEC) also directed by Dr Burbacher and managed by Ms. Frevert. The CEC has benefited from having developed collaborative and effective relationships with several community organizations, community advisory, technical advisory groups in EPA Region 10. The CEC also creates opportunities for SRP students to share information about their research and work with a variety of community partners.
Trainee Profile: Hao Wang
Hao Wang received his Master’s Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the School of Medicine at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. There his research explored the mechanisms and signal pathways associated with one kind of toxin from algae, Microcystin. Our Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences was lucky to have Hao join the Toxicology Program as a doctoral student in 2012, with Dr. Zhengui Xia. Today, Hao has joined her SRP team addressing “Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Cadmium Neurotoxicity.”
In recent decades brain research has made enormous advances in our understanding of adult neurogenesis (the development of new nerve cells from a stem cell population in the brain) in both animals and in humans. The project that Xia and Wang are working on sheds light upon critical signaling mechanisms that underlie cadmium neurotoxicity. Hao is participating in the SRP Annual Meeting this November where he will share novel research findings on the adverse effect of cadmium on adult neurogenesis. The data gathered in this groundbreaking research suggest that cadmium exposure can impair adult neurogenesis and hippocampus-dependent cognitive function. Hao Wang recognizes the importance of this work that helps us to better understand the neurotoxicity of cadmium. Ultimately, this knowledge will inform safety regulations that protect us from environmental and occupational exposures of cadmium.
Duwamish Valley Youth Corps: Making a Difference
The Duwamish Valley Youth Corps (DVYC) is a program shepherded by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (Technical Advisory Group for the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund site). The DVYC engages youth in education and community service, offering them paid training and meaningful work experience. Youth participating in the DVYC are all residents of the South Park and Georgetown communities in Seattle. These two neighborhoods sit within the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund site and are among the oldest neighborhoods in Seattle. Participants in the program meet three times a week over a period of twelve weeks. The current participants range in ages from 13-18 years old. The Youth Corps educational activities include a cumulative health impacts educational mapping activity and other social and environmental justice curriculum. Their effort is making a difference.
Carmen Martinez, the leader of the DVYC says, “A central focus of their work is on storm water pollution and learning about a range of solutions”. Some of the education and community actions of the youth are: creating rain gardens, composting soils, tree planting, encouraging native habitat and purging non-native plant species.” The students receive a stipend upon completion. The DVYC is funded through 2016 by support from the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, the US Forest Service, City of Seattle and the Russell Family Foundation.
Supporting community education has been a foundational component of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition since 2003. The University of Washington Superfund Research Program invited the students to campus, where they visited the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health. In past years the youth cohort assisted in river sediment sampling, laboratory titrations and viewing the automated chemical analyzer in process. Perhaps most importantly, students learned from researchers how to interpret results and understand the important role this plays in the context of a long-term waste site cleanup plan.
This fall Community Engagement Core staff is working with Carmen Martinez to engage the DVYC in an upcoming UW Sustainability event focusing on research along the Duwamish River. The event has a poster session that will include a summary of SRP research and SRP CEC collaborations with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition.
NTCC: 10 Years of Collaboration
This month marks a decade since a cadre of community groups met in Seattle in 2005 to hold its first regional summit planting the seeds of the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition. The initial meeting was led by members of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and other groups that included environmental and social justice organizations. Their unique vision was to create a forum where local organizations would be able to share directly with one another their acquired knowledge and experiences. Participants understood as well as anyone that the process for a successful hazardous waste site cleanup can be decades long - from site identification to site cleanup completion. The 2005 summit organizers engaged university participation from the outset, working closely with Antioch University’s Center for Creative Change and Whole Systems Design programs in planning the session and inviting the Superfund Research Program’s Community Engagement Core director, Dr. Tom Burbacher. The first meeting included community organizations, Region 10 EPA staff and Antioch and University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences faculty. Roundtable discussions were focused on coalition building, engaging diverse communities and forging partnerships between universities and communities. In the time since, annual summits have consistently included discussion sessions with local, regional and federal agencies that oversee hazardous waste cleanup. The Coalition has also been involved at a regional level as cohost and organizer with Region 10 EPA in a community workshop on outdoor air quality. The UW SRP continues to provide communication support and a venue for annual summits of the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition. The Coalition is planning its next summit for April 2016. Today the Coalition is comprised of over 20 community organizations, each focusing on a local pollution or waste site concern in the Northwest.