Haskell

March Madness and Dancing… Did you know……?

By Jim Callier

The NCAA basketball tournaments just concluded.  None of our local schools made it very far in the “big” dance, although a shout-out does need to go to the Central Missouri State University Mules men’s team for winning the NCAA Division II Championship.  In this spirit, I want to pose a couple of interesting intercollegiate sports questions to introduce one of our Region’s noteworthy institutions.  Below are three questions relevant to the geographic area of EPA Region 7.

1) Player and Coach, Chauncey E.  Archiquette, is credited by Dr. James A. Naismith, originator of basketball, for introducing the zone defense into the game.  Can you tell me the school associated with Mr. Archiquette?

2) Milton P. Allen, the son of Forrest C. (Phog) Allen, famous University of Kansas basketball coach, coached basketball at what school in EPA Region 7?

3) Can you name the school whose gridiron team lost only 3 homes games in a 34 year period of time? (Hint:  approximately 1898 to 1932).

So, how did you do with these three questions?  The answer to the questions is “Haskell”, currently referred to as “Haskell Indian Nations University.”

EPA and Haskell have a special relationship dating back a number of years.

Since its inception, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mission has been focused on the protection of human health and the environment.  The EPA Region 7 (EPA R7) recognizes that participation from all citizens is essential to support effective environmental policies, problem solving, and sustainable practices. In an effort to encourage student participation and study in the field of environmental science, a partnership was established, in the form of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between EPA R7 and Haskell.  The purpose of this MOA is to formalize and strengthen the relationship between EPA and Haskell while enhancing their educational programs/activities and increasing their institutional awareness of the environment through training and consultation.  Through this partnership, students from Haskell have worked at EPA R7 as part of the intern program, and many of these students have gone on to become employees of the agency after graduation.

Last year, Amber Tucker blogged twice about a special environmental conference at Haskell focused on mercury deposition and mercury in fish tissue, where students and scientists learned about these issues facing their communities.

For more than 130 years, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been sending their children to Haskell, and Haskell has responded by offering innovative curricula oriented toward Native American cultures.  Today, Haskell has an average enrollment of over 1000 students each semester, with multi-tribal student representation from rural, reservation, ranchero, village, pueblo, and urban settings.  The Haskell campus spans over 320 acres in Southeast Lawrence, KS, and is home to 12 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Haskell Memorial Football Stadium.  Haskell offers baccalaureate degrees in Indigenous and American Indian Studies, Business Administration, Elementary Education and Environmental Science.

We feel that minority colleges serve an integral part to their specific cultures and communities. They fulfill a vital role in maintaining and preserving irreplaceable languages and cultural traditions, in offering a high-quality college education to younger students, and in providing job training and other career-building programs to adults and senior citizens. Haskell clearly offers a rich resource to provide the required institutional framework to address the problem of under representation of American Indians/Alaska Natives in science, technologies, engineering and mathematics fields. Additionally, it provides a platform for EPA to aid in the development of an environmentally-conscious campus through direct consultation and training.

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Haskell University, Lawrence, KS

 

Jim Callier is Chief of the Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Section at EPA in Kansas City and has thirty years of experience working at EPA, primarily in Region 7. Jim has both working and management experience in many of EPA’s programs including hazardous and solid waste, brownfields, and pollution prevention. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Rolla with a B.S. Degree in Geological Engineering and is a Registered Professional Geologist in the State of Missouri.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Mercury Rising 2: Electric Boogaloo

By Amber Tucker

Last week I briefly gave an introduction about mercury in the environment, and let you know that I would follow it up with  details from the September 12th, Mercury in the Environment Symposium held at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS.   Hosted by Haskell, with support from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), US EPA Region 7, and the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the symposium served as a gathering of minds from Tribal, Federal, and undergrad Haskell students, all ready to learn and discuss the effects of mercurial deposition and monitoring in our environment.

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Haskell University, Lawrence, KS

We heard from David Gay, coordinator for the NADP, about the efforts of his agency to provide measurements of both depositional and atmospheric mercury across the country.  Their two programs, the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN), and the Atmospheric Mercury Network (AMNet), collaborate with several partners from federal and state agencies, Tribal Nations, universities and research institutions as well as private organizations and businesses, to monitor and collect data and provide high quality measurements to support an array of objectives.  This national monitoring network measures total mercury in one-week precipitation samples at 80 sites across the United States. The objective of the MDN is to develop a national database of weekly concentrations of total mercury in precipitation and the seasonal and annual flux of total mercury in wet deposition. The data will be used to develop information on spatial and seasonal trends in mercury deposited to surface waters, forested watersheds, and other sensitive receptors.

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is one of NADP’s members, and currently operates monitoring stations for the MDN.  Wet deposition uses air monitoring stations to collect data using weekly samples or samples collected daily within 24 hours of the start of precipitation.  All MDN samples are sent to the Mercury Analytical Laboratory (HAL), which analyzes all forms of mercury in a single measurement and reports this as total mercury concentrations.  They also operate stations to catch and measure litterfall.  The litterfall monitoring initiative offers a way for a NADP site sponsor to get measurements to approximate a large part of the mercury dry deposition in a forest landscape. These samples are analyzed for the presence and concentration of mercury and methylmercury.

We heard from EPA R7 staff on additional monitoring methods, one of which is the Regional Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) Program.  Many of the Region 7 Tribes use data from fish tissue samples to determine the mercury content in their local waterways.  This is valuable information not only from an environmentally conscious standpoint, but this data also allows them to determine whether or not fish consumption advisories need to be in effect.

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Stan Holder of EPA Region 7 discussing the RAFT program

As part of the symposium, Tej Atili from the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas Environmental Department hosted a fish tissue sampling demonstration.  Literally hands-on, this demo allowed attendees to go through the process of clearing a small area in the dorsal area of scales, extracting samples using an 8 millimeter biopsy punch, and inserting the sample into a sterile scintillation vial.   While our tissue donor was of the frozen fillet variety, Tej walked us through what the “live” process entails and the importance of following proper procedures and protocol in sampling.  He also sprung a surprise math lesson on us; how to calculate the appropriate daily consumption rate of fish based on body weight.  While my calculations were all wrong (math is NOT a strong suit of mine), the equation that goes into it is actually quite interesting.  If I’m ever in a bind and need to know how much tuna I can eat though, I’m going to need some help; surely there’s an app for that!

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Tej Atili of the Kickapoo of Kansas demonstrating how to obtain a fish biopsy

Spending a day at my alma mater learning about mercury and sampling methods was a blast, and based on the turnout and positive feedback on this symposium, I hope they continue to hold it in the future, and maybe expand it.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about mercury monitoring and effects,  you can let your fingers do the walking and head over to EPA’s Mercury Page.  Also see NADP’s Mercury Deposition Network Page.   Until next time, I bid you adieu and wish you better fish-consumption calculation skills than I possess.  Seriously though, there’s gotta be an app for that!

Amber Tucker is an Environmental Scientist who serves as a NEPA reviewer for EPA Region 7.  She is a graduate of Haskell University and serves as Region 7′s Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native American Employment Programs.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Mercury Rising (Bruce Willis Not Included)

By Amber Tucker

On September 12th, staff from EPA visited Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS, not in an attempt to crack a top secret code (see “Mercury Rising” on IMDB), but rather to convene in an effort to learn about another kind of rising mercury. Hosted by Haskell, with support from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), US EPA Region 7, and the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the “Mercury in the Environment” Symposium served as a gathering of minds from Tribal, Federal, and undergrad Haskell students, all ready to learn and discuss the effects of mercurial deposition and monitoring in our environment.  Over the next two blog posts I hope to share with you information about mercury in the environment, and how EPA and Tribal Nations in the Region are studying its presence in the environment

Mercury is a naturally occurring element (Hg on the periodic table) that is found in air, water and soil. It is an element in the earth’s crust, which humans cannot create or destroy. Contrary to what some Queen fans may tell you, “Freddie” is not an officially-recognized form of mercury. Pure mercury is a liquid metal, sometimes referred to as quicksilver that volatizes readily. It has traditionally been used to make products like thermometers, switches, and some light bulbs. It exists in several forms: elemental or metallic mercury, inorganic mercury compounds, and organic mercury compounds. Elemental or metallic mercury is a shiny, silver-white metal and is liquid at room temperature. If heated, it is a colorless, odorless gas.

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Many of us might recall mercury being in thermometers, some older generations may even recall taking those little balls of that silver stuff out of said thermometers and playing with those mystical little balls of silver that weren’t quite liquid but not quite a solid either. My dad recalled rolling it around in his hands and watching it disappear. With the knowledge we have today, it goes without saying that that’s a really bad idea.
Mercury is found in many rocks, including coal. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the environment. Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 50 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions (Source: 2005 National Emissions Inventory). EPA has estimated that about one quarter of U.S. emissions from coal-burning power plants are deposited within the contiguous U.S. and the remainder enters the global cycle. Burning hazardous wastes, producing chlorine, breaking mercury products, and spilling mercury, as well as the improper treatment and disposal of products or wastes containing mercury, can also release it into the environment. Current estimates are that less than half of all mercury deposition within the U.S. comes from U.S. sources.

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Mercury in the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change it into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans. Methylmercury builds up more in some types of fish and shellfish than others. The levels of methylmercury in fish and shellfish depend on what they eat, how long they live and how high they are in the food chain. Birds and mammals that eat fish are more exposed to mercury than other animals in water ecosystems. Similarly, predators that eat fish-eating animals may be highly exposed. At high levels of exposure, methylmercury’s harmful effects on these animals include death, reduced reproduction, slower growth and development, and abnormal behavior.

Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. Research shows that most people’s fish consumption does not cause a health concern. However, it has been demonstrated that high levels of methylmercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, making the child less able to think and learn. Methylmercury is a deceptive little bugger when it comes to cell recognition; it’s completely absorbed in the human GI tract, where its half life in the blood stream is 50 days.  Its chemical structure is very similar to that of the essential amino acid methianine, which allows it to sneak past the bouncers at the front door of our cells, but when it gets in the door and incorporates into proteins, it wreaks havoc and results in abnormal cellular structure and function; a case of mistaken identity that wreaks havoc on those with developing systems.  For additional info on the health effects of mercury, click here.

EPA works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and with states and tribes to issue advice to women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and parents of young children about how often they should eat certain types of commercially-caught fish and shellfish. Fish advisories are also issued for men, women, and children of all ages when appropriate. In addition, EPA releases an annual summary of information on locally-issued fish advisories and safe-eating guidelines to the public. Fish is a beneficial part of the diet, so EPA & FDA encourage people to continue to eat fish that are low in methylmercury. For more information, please click here .

In my next blog post, I will discuss what was covered in the Symposium and how we can see the Mercury Fall, not just as temperatures cool as we enter Autumn, but as we move forward as partners.

Amber Tucker is an Environmental Scientist who serves as a NEPA reviewer for EPA Region 7.  She is a graduate of Haskell University and serves as Region 7′s Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native American Employment Programs.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.