Home from Medora

The end has finally come, and I’m back home in Fort Collins.  I had an amazing time this summer working at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in ND, on the wild horse fertility control study.  Many great friendships were made, and I was able to experience real ranch living.  I’m very thankful for being given this unique summer research opportunity, and can’t think of a better way I could have spent my summer.  Now I’m off to Georgia next week to present on the project!  As always, I’ll finish my post with some pictures from my last week in Medora.

Have a great summer everyone!



Moving a Mountain in Moab

Entrance Sign

It is about a 2 hour drive to Moab from Grand Junction.  Mark, one of the feds organized this trip for the interns and one of the new site managers on board.  (She spent many many years with the Yucca Mountain project, but we all know how that ended…).  We had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Don Metzler, a Level 4 Federal Project Director (there aren’t very many of those).  He oversees the billion dollar Moab UMTRA site.  The basic gist is that there is a 16 million ton pile of legacy uranium mill tailings sitting next to the Colorado River in Moab, UT.  Because of political factors and public concern it is being moved 30 miles north to Crescent Junction to be laid to rest in a disposal cell.   There is actually another USDOE office here in downtown Grand Junction, which I didn’t know about.  That is where Don sits with his staff; he is part of the Office of Environmental Management, not LM. Don is a very charismatic man and we were able to sit with him in the conference trailer in Moab and listen to the story of how this project manifested itself.  The public relations officer was also there to answer questions.  After hearing the story of the Moab UMTRA site, we hopped into an SUV and toured the site.  It was an amazing operation! Continue reading

Food Handlers Training

This morning I had my first chance to give a food handlers training. It is required to attend the training to learn about food safety and pass a food handlers test in order to sell on tribal lands, so we get a lot of requests for these trainings. The training is about an hour and a half long – the longest presentation I’ve ever had to give. The presentation went well and all ten people passed the test, so I was happy about that!

Earlier in the week, my coworkers and I were able to meet with a pubic health nurse and discuss collaborating on piloting an asthma program in one or two of the pueblos we serve. It was really interesting to hear her perspectives, and get an idea of what role public health nurses play in the community. I’ve also been working on a lot of food survey reports and I’m getting to know the FDA food code quite intimately. As my internship end day approaches – only 3 more weeks! – I’m starting to wrap up a lot of projects and I’m definitely keeping busy. This weekend I’m looking forward to swimming at Nambe Falls and watching the chicken pull at Santo Domingo Pueblo!

Presentation and More Pesticides!

This week I was able to finish up my PowerPoint and present all of the information that I collected to my branch.  Overall my presentation went very well and I think everyone that I presented to learned a lot about pesticides in our food supply.  The federal government is really lacking on how much of our food they inspect and what they test for.  I found out that the USDA has 7,500 inspectors for 6,500 food plants while the FDA has 650 inspectors for 57,000 plants.  The FDA also inspects 80% of food so the resources are not allocated properly.  I recommend that there be a shift in resources from the USDA to the FDA.  I think we could improve public health by monitoring more closely what types of foods are coming into the country and what types of pesticide residues are being detected.  This would decrease exposure to harmful chemicals found in pesticides.

My next project that I am going to be working on for the next few weeks also has to do with pesticides.  Since the branch I am working with deals with the destruction of the chemical weapons stores around the country I am going to look at them possibly helping destroy banned pesticides from pesticide tombs in the former USSR.  In the Kyrgyz Republic, which is located in the former USSR there are pesticide tombs filled with thousands of containers of banned pesticides.  These pesticides include Aldrin and DDT.  The people in these countries are living right on top of these tombs where the soil and water is contaminated.  Also these tombs are being dug up to collect the containers for sale on the black market.  There are many people suffering due to health problems caused by the exposure to these pesticides.  I am going to come up with a proposal stating how the Chemicals Weapons Elimination Branch here at the CDC would be able to become involved in the destruction of these pesticides.

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Little Beaver Celebration

What a weekend! I was a little closer to home this weekend – staying in Pagosa Springs, CO and working in Dulce, NM at the Little Beaver Celebration hosted by the Jicarilla Apache. My fellow intern and I were responsible for surveying all the temporary food vendors at the celebration on our own. This ended up being quite the undertaking as there were about 35 food vendors scattered near the parade route, pow wow grounds, rodeo arena, and carnival. We split up the work, each surveying about half of the vendors. It was exciting to take on such a big responsibility, and I enjoyed talking with the vendors – I think the fact that the IHS is non-regulatory always puts the vendors a little more at ease. When we came back on Sunday morning after a relaxing night enjoying the hot springs, much of the food vendors had left. This was probably a good thing since the only local supermarket had run out of ice and it would have been difficult for many of the vendors to keep their raw foods cold enough to prevent bacterial growth! After our work was done we were able to admire the dancing and all the regalia worn be the dancers. I learned that any eagle feathers worn must be ordered from the federal government, sent on dry ice, and they typically take years to come in.

Continue reading

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This past week I travelled to the Navajo Nation with senior scientist Jody Waugh and my fellow intern.  Our two destination sites were Shiprock, NM and Monument Valley, AZ.  The first day was a travel day from Grand Junction, CO to Cortez, CO.  We drove through some beautiful mountains and even had a chance to check out Telluride.  The next morning we headed out bright and early.  It gets pretty hot during the day and that day was no exception.  The mercury hovered around 100 degrees.  There is a contaminant plume around the disposal cell in Shiprock and DOE and its contractors want to find out what portion can be attributed to the cell and to natural background levels.  Dr. Waugh is a rangeland ecologist and has proposed looking at dendrochronology of surrounding tamarisk trees to find some answers.  He can also look at the chemistry of specific rings in order to map yearly contaminant levels.  This means we had to do some reconnaissance to tag viable trees. Continue reading

Pesticides and Organic Food!

This week marks the halfway point of my internship here at the CDC.  Next week I am going to be making my official presentation on pesticides in the food supply.  I have found some great research articles on pesticides in our food supply and the many different chemicals we are being exposed to.  I also looked into the concept of eating organic food rather than purchasing conventionally grown food items.  From all of the research that I have done, I concluded that it would definitely benefit our health to buy and consume organic food products.  Many of the studies show that are fruits and vegetables that are conventionally grown are contaminated with many pesticides some of which are illegal in the UNited States.  The CDC is looking at ways to reduce the amount of chemicals that the public is exposed to.  I think that creating a program to promote organic food would be a great start to reducing the ingestion of these harmful pesticides.  I also found out that we import 50% of our fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico.  Throughout Mexico, they are still using pesticides that have been banned in the U.S. such as DDT and Chlordane.  The Mexican government is attempting to phase out the use of these chemicals but they just do not have the resources.  Also, I found that there are many gaps in the system that the FDA uses to inspect our food and that is why people end up consuming fruits and vegetables that have large amounts of pesticide residues some of which are illegal.

I was also able to attend the CDC Grand Rounds which is a seminar that includes speakers from several different backgrounds speaking on many topics.  This week they focused on global health.  I did not realize how much the CDC is working on global health issues such as accessibility to vaccinations and childhood mortality.  There are many programs that are being implemented to reduce childhood deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia.   One of the speakers was from UNICEF and she explained how their organization is working with the CDC to deal with global health issues.  So far I have gotten to see many aspects of the CDC and I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks will bring.