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Final Progress Reports: Oregon State University: Community Engagement Core

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Molly L. Kile
Co-Investigator: Jamie Donatuto (Swinomish Indian Tribal Community)
Grant Number: P42ES016465
Funding Period: 2009-2025
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Final Progress Reports

Year:   2019  2012 

Activities in the fourth year of the Community Engagement Core have focused on completing the community-based participatory research activities with their tribal partner, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), engaging in capacity building with partners and disseminating OSU SRP work. They have also been engaged in conversations with Tribal partners to figure out the most culturally appropriate manner to discuss the research findings with the broader Tribal community.


Studies and Results


Annual Meeting with Interdisciplinary Tribal Advisory Committee

OSU SRP convened their annual Tribal Advisory Committee of 10 members which included: two staff from the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center (including the Chief Operating Officer), three CTUIR tribal members, two Native American faculty members, one Environmental Specialist from another Northwest Tribe, and two other faculty members (from OSU and Oregon Health & Sciences University) who conduct research with tribal or indigenous populations. The Advisory Committee has been helpful in providing guidance on renewal plans and in giving suggestions on how to interpret the research findings from the various food smoking projects within the tribal context.

Developing Tribal Scientific Capacity

In 2010, Tribal scientists, Simonich project investigators, and Community Engagement Core personnel installed ambient PAH monitors on the CTUIR Reservation. This monitoring program successfully collected ambient air samples from March 2010 to December 2011. Simonich project investigators trained a Tribal Air Quality Technician to collect PAH filters and maintain the station. They have transferred the responsibility for the air sampling technology for gas- and particle-phase PAHs to the CTUIR. Additionally, EPA has granted the CTUIR Treatment as a State status for air rules. CTUIR is implementing the Federal Air Rules for Indian Reservations Ongoing ambient air monitoring of PAHs continues on the Reservation. Tribal scientists continue to collect the particle filters from the ambient air station and send back to OSU for analysis.

Personal Air monitoring of Tribal Members Smoking Salmon

In May 2011, the core facilitated the collection of personal air sampling data during the traditional smoking of salmon, the first study of its kind conducted with tribal members. The core produced training videos to demonstrate how to use personal air samplers and passive sampling devices (; Simonich project developed the personal air sampling and urine sampling protocols. Trained participants wore personal air samplers during the entire smoking event. Simonich project investigators and graduate students collected urine samples before, during, and after the event to study personal exposure. The Analytical Chemistry Core analyzed these samples for 33 different hydroxy-PAH. Preliminary analysis shows high levels of PAHs in the personal air and urine of the members smoking salmon in both the smoke shed and tipi.

Analysis of Traditionally Smoked Salmon

Members of the Community Engagement Core and the Analytical Chemistry Core collected smoked salmon samples that had been smoked in two types of structures (wood shed and tipi) and using two different woods (apple and alder). Tribal participants were trained in the proper methods of sampling and data collection using training videos designed for this purpose. Samples were analyzed for 33 different PAHS by the SRP Chemistry Core.

Researchers found that the concentrations of PAHs in traditional smoked salmon exceed the concentrations in commercial salmon by factors of 40 to 400. No significant differences were found between structures or wood type. They communicated this important information to the Advisory Committee and to the CTUIR through the tribal co-investigators. The Research Translation Core and the Community Engagement Core continue to work with CTUIR to figure out the best way to communicate these findings to craft a message that provides accurate but not alarming information about eating traditionally smoked salmon. The results of this study have been published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry (Forsberg et al. 2012). This study was featured as a plenary presentation at the 2012 Annual SRP Meeting in Raleigh, NC, with Norman Forsberg, SRP Trainee and Anna Harding (Community Engagement Core Leader) as invited speakers.

Passive Air Sampling Devices in Traditional Smoking Structures

Anderson project investigators installed passive sampling devices in the smoking structures to monitor PAHs in the ambient air in the smokeshed and tipi during the traditional smoking of salmon. Preliminary results suggested that the PAH signatures in the air and in the smoked salmon were similar. This triggered an additional research project by Lane Tidwell, an SRP trainee in the Anderson project, to install passive sampling devices in a second salmon smoking experiment to determine if the results were replicated.

Focus Group Research with Tribal Members

In November/December 2011 the Community Engagement Core engaged 27 Tribal members in three 90-minute focus group sessions to elicit feedback about tribal indicators of health, environmental health concerns, and the importance of smoked food as a cultural tradition. A systematic text analysis approach was used to derive themes across focus groups.

The core found that individuals view health in a holistic and dynamic manner that includes physical, mental, spiritual, and social components. These components were seen to be inter-related with each other and with the health of the natural environment, particularly as it relates to traditional foods that come from the environment. This discussion will help the community members interpret the findings from the food smoking projects within a larger vision of Tribal efforts to regain healthy cultures, diets, and lifestyles. The core is currently writing up the results to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal this spring.

CTUIR Field Station

In 2012, CTUIR built a field station with US Department of Energy (DoE) funding to gain the capacity to perform chemical analysis and conduct research. OSU researchers have supported CTUIR's efforts to secure funding for the field station. During fall 2012, CTUIR hosted an open house for DoE officials, and the Community Engagement Core supplied posters for display in the new facility to showcase the joint OSU-CTUIR research.

Cultural Capacity Building for SRP Researchers and Trainees

The Community Engagement Core has provided a unique opportunity for cultural capacity building for SRP researchers, SRP trainees, and other graduate students. OSU participants have gained experience and insights about doing research with a tribal sovereign nation. At least four SRP trainees, five Masters and Ph.D. students in Public Health, and other research assistants have participated over the past four years in activities occurring in the Community Engagement Core.

Dissemination of Work

Members of the Community Engagement Core produced four publications in peer-reviewed journals in 2012, and presented at eight regional and national conferences. They had invited presentations at both the annual SRP meeting and for a panel presentation at the American Public Health Association Meeting.

In addition, the Community Engagement Core's research on PAH exposures during traditional smoking of salmon with the CTUIR was featured in the NIEHS publication, Celebrating 25 Years of the Superfund Research Program.

The Engagement Core website is continually updated to highlight recent activities and accomplishments:

Additional Spin-Off Activities

Louisiana State University and Oregon State University Superfund Research Programs teamed up to sponsor a symposium on the LSU campus on January 29, 2012. The title of the symposium was Response, Recovery, and Resilience to Oil Spills and Environmental Disasters: Engaging Experts and Communities. The purpose of the workshop was to enhance communication between experts and citizens to encourage better monitoring and sharing of information concerning local environmental conditions. Co-leaders of the symposium are Kim Anderson and Anna Harding (OSU) and Margaret Reams (LSU).




The CTUIR and many other U.S. Tribes are engaged in traditional and cultural practices that may result in increased risk of disease due to the cumulative PAH exposures from traditionally-smoked foods, air exposure from traditional smoking of foods, and ambient air pollution. The combined findings will contribute to a better understanding of PAH exposures for tribal members who may be exposed to PAHs from Superfund sites and who are also engaged in similar cultural and traditional activities. The activities of the core have also contributed to building scientific capacity within the CTUIR, and building cultural capacity within the SRP investigators and students, and they have begun to disseminate a model for community-based participatory research with Tribal partners. They will share this with tribal leaders, relevant regulatory agencies, SRP programs, and others who are working with tribal populations living on or near contaminated lands. The core builds on strengths and resources within the Tribal community and has developed a collaborative, equitable partnership in all phases of this community-based participatory project.

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