Taos Pow Wow

This weekend I got to go to the Taos Pow Wow! The Pow Wow was held on the Taos Pueblo, with a grassy area for dancing surrounded by towering mountains. There were tribal members from across the United States and Canada that traveled to participate in the celebration. It truly was a celebration, with elaborate costumes, beautiful dances, people selling handcrafted goods, and food vendors – which is why I got to go. This was my first time surveying temporary food vendors. Although there are definitely different challenges with temporary food vendors versus permanent vendors, the food safety concepts we focused on were the same – employee hygiene, cooking and holding temperatures, and cross contamination issues. I was able to take the lead on the surveys and talk to the vendors to understand their processes, take temperatures, look around their stands, and make recommendations while my supervisor looked on and helped me when I had questions. The Pow Wow was a great learning opportunity, and after all the work was done I had the chance to walk around looking at booths and watch the dances, which were truly spectacular. Since my parents were down in New Mexico visiting me for the weekend, I also got to walk around the city of Taos, drive out to see the Rio Grande Gorge, and visit the Puye Cliffs with them. New Mexico is such a beautiful state, with so much to see and do!

Unfortunately, I didn’t buy a photo permit at the Pow Wow, but I did take some non-work related pictures of the Rio Grand Gorge and Puye Cliffs.

Today was a little less exciting but I got some good feedback on what I’ve been working on. Chelsey (my fellow EH intern) and I have been developing educational materials on asthma for the community and a survey to gage how people understand the burden of asthma in the pueblos. Hopefully before the summer ends (only a month left!) we’ll get to administer the surveys and test out the effectiveness of our educational materials.

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Things Are Getting Fishy Around Here!

We wrapped up our training on aquatic invertebrates last week.  We visited a coral hatchery, performed core samples on marine sediment, and used seines to collect shrimp and horseshoe crabs.  Admittedly, many of the terminologies, anatomies, and concepts are new to me.  I’ve learned a lot about the complexity of aquatic ecosystems, but I don’t think a career on the sea is in my future.  We also visited a landfill and wastewater treatment facility.  This kind of stuff is more in my niche, as human waste production has a direct impact on environmental health and, in turn, public health.  We also collected water samples from two different sites and tested for pH, salinity, and dissolved oxgen.  I was excited to dust off my environmental health cap and use these skills again!

Sifting through core samples of benthic sediment in Taylor Creek, HBOI

  This week we transitioned to vertebrates, mainly fishes.  Yes, more than one species of fish is appropriately referred to as “fishes.”  We got our water shoes wet and did a fish collection lab this morning.  We used bag seines and recovered hundreds of animals ranging from bait fish to blue crabs and even a sting ray!   
  We placed the desirable animals in aerated tubs and brought them back to the laboratory for gill/fin biopsies, skin scrapes, and physical exams. 

Venipuncture technique on a sedated fish
  In the afternoon we toured an aquaculture facility on the grounds of Florida Atlantic Universiy.  Because they are a research facility, this facility does not sell fish for the food market; rather, they are studying how to raise new fish species (i.e. the Florida Pompano) in a more cost-effective and sustainable manner. 
Aquaculture facility at FAU
  After our tour we got into a really good discussion about aquaculture (fish farming) versus marine capture (wild).  As far as sustainability, farm-raised seafood is the best choice.  Oceans, in general, are overharvested, leaving scarce populations of popular fish such as tuna, Atlantic salmon, and Chilean seabass.  However, the public is recognizing the health benefits of wild-caught seafood (such as Wild Alaskan salmon) due to its rich Omega-3 fatty acid content.  Wild, ocean fish are high in fatty acids because of their diets.  They are carnivorous, meaning they eat other small fishes such as herring.  While this is desirable for human health, these carnivorous fish are resource hogs!  It is difficult to farm carnivorous fish because it is not cost-effective.  Their diet alone will account for up to 70% of expenses.  Not to mention, it is difficult and expensive to maintain saltwater production tanks.  Farm-raised fish are often fed alternative protein sources, reducing their Omega-3 content. 
  Seafood is a bit of a conundrum in the “healthy living” schematic.  Generally, what is good for the environment is good for the body.  For example, organic food with its basis in pesticide-free production is beneficial not only for human health but also for environmental health.  So what do we do in the case of fish?  If farm-raising fish is a more sustainable practice, do we sacrifice the health benefit of wild-caught seafood?  Well, the answer is simple – educated consumerism!  Buy and eat fish from well-managed marine and freshwater environments.  Eat seafood that is abundant in the wild such as catfish, mackerel, cobia, crab (Dungeness, stone, Alaska snow), and mussels.  Consume farm-raised seafood such as tilapia, a herbivorous, freshwater fish that is nutritious, delicious, cost-efficient to raise, and sustainable.
  Being a conscious consumer is difficult, even for a group of conservationists, veterinarians, and ecologists.  Consider your footprint – the future depends on all of us…
Taking a break from “saving the world” to have some fun with a tree swing into the water

The Uravan Mineral Belt: A Piece of Nuclear History

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Wow, what a trip!  My fellow intern and I accompanied Ed C. and Sandy B. to visit uranium leasing tracts held by DOE in southwestern Colorado.  Our purpose was to review sites that had been reclaimed and verify that they met NEPA requirements.  First of all I didn’t know that this beautiful part of Colorado existed, why didn’t anyone ever tell me?!  Second of all, I didn’t know that DOE had a uranium leasing program, so this was all new to me.  The only downsides to the trip were the skeeters, gnats, lack of toilets (I think one must get used to this when traveling to remote locations) and the 12th hour in the GSA (government vehicle).

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My Project!

Well I feel like I finally have a focus for my research project.  I am going to be researching pesticides in the food supply.  I am going to focus primarily on the deliberate contamination of the food supply that would cause harm to people and the economy.  I am also going to be reviewing cases from the past where there has been contamination of the food supply by pesticides.  I have already found several instances where people have been sickened by pesticides in their food.  I cannot believe what some people have done to intentionally harm others by poisoning their food.  This was an interesting case if you want to read about it: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5218a3.htm .  I am going to be researching mostly organophosphates because many of the chemicals weapons that my division deals with are derived from these pesticides.  The staff that I am working with are interested in the subject of food security because they believe that in the future it is going to be an issue for our country.  Some of the research that I am doing over the summer is going to help them develop a document that they are going to present to The Department of Homeland Security because the CDC wants to start becoming more involved in our food security around the county.   There are many ways that our food supply could become compromised because of the many processes our food goes through from the farm to table.

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Lead and Other Fun Stuff

After a very relaxing holiday weekend back in Colorado, I drove the 6 hours down to Santa Fe to get back to my internship. Yesterday, Chelsey (my fellow EH intern/roommate) and I finished up the preliminary draft of the document that will be used in the Albuquerque Area IHS communities for people to easily identify and learn what to do with products that have been recalled due to lead contamination. It was very gratifying to finish the draft of such a huge document – over 100 pages long!

Today I was able to go on my third food survey, a convience store/cafe. The last time this particular establishment had been surveyed, they had had many problems with food safety – improper storage, improper cooling procedures, lack of sanitization, etc. – but when we went today the situation was much improved and there were very few problems. Having such responsiveness and improvement over a year’s time was really encouraging to see. I also sat in on a conference call with people from the Albuquerque Area in which new research/ relevant information to the IHS EH program was discussed. One thing that was brought up and I thought was particularly interesting was that there was a study done in Oklahoma that was able to determine the source of lead (paint, ceramics, etc) in blood by looking at the different lead isotopes present. There is always so much new information in the environmental health field to learn about!

Below I finally got around to posting some pictures taken during rabies vaccination clinics that I’ve worked at a couple of different pueblos over the past few weeks.

Nearing the end of the summer in ND…

Only a week left!  It’s unbelievable that I’ll soon be headed back to Fort Collins, to continue with the daily grind.  Lindsey is headed out on Friday, so I’ll be on my own at the cabin for a few days, before my parents arrive for a quick tour of Medora and Theodore Roosevelt park.  Sometimes, riding the range is required every week to find all the horses participating in the fertility control study.  This last week I’ve gone out with some fellow researchers, Al and his wife Jennifer.  It’s been a blast to be riding again, and Lindsey has loaned me her horse Colonel a few times as well!  Riding through the park can be a great way to cover a lot of ground quickly, although the wild bands definitely take more notice of riders on horses.  Once a band is sighted, it’s often necessary to hobble the riding horses and proceed on foot to get closer to the feral horses.  In August, I’ll be presenting on part of the project at the Merck/Merial veterinary scholars symposium in Georgia, so I’m starting to work on getting the materials for my poster together in between searching for bands in the park.  I’ll be sure to post once more before I leave Medora!

Happy 4th!

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July!  My long weekend with my
parents was fabulous.  We saw a concert at the local botanical gardens,
went to Colorado National Monument, saw fireworks and a parade. Alas,
work has to begin again.   I rode my bike to work today and it felt good
to leave the car at home.  For being an Environmental Health major,
sometimes I feel like I don’t live up to the name.

I am trying my best to reduce the amount of energy I use!
I worked more on my paper which seems to be coming along nicely.  I just
hope that I don’t run out of time to write it.  I spent a good portion
of the day executing plans for later this week and next.  Coordination
takes time!  We are expecting the internship coordinator from the United
Negro College Fund Special Programs to visit on Thursday from Virginia.
I booked a conference room on site and prepared a short Powerpoint that
Cherylin and I can show to him.  we’ll give him a tour of the compound
and show him our progress on the projects.  Tomorrow we are going to
visit Uranium Leasing Program sites with a few contractors.  Our day
will start at 6:30 tomorrow morning.  Yippee!  Next week we are supposed
to visit Shiprock and Monument Valley in New Mexico.  For fun, my roomie
and I are also going rock hounding this weekend!  I haven’t done that
before, but I hope I find something neat.