Superfund Research Program

September 2021

NIEHS-funded Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center researchers and Narragansett Tribal leaders, long-time partners in community activities, joined forces again. Through their collaboration, they are educating and empowering Tribal members to address their environmental health concerns in a way that connects cultural and scientific knowledge.

two women toting a large bucket
Through community volunteering days, Brown SRP researchers hope to spur new collaboration between their partners. (Photo courtesy of the Brown SRP Center)

The Brown SRP Center Community Engagement Core (CEC) organized a series of volunteering days at the Narragansett Tribal Farm. Participants, including Tribal members, local youth, and Brown SRP members, cleared land, installed fences, and picked up trash on the farm.

Attendees also helped install a native pollinator garden and beehives at the farm. The garden is divided into four areas. Paying homage to the traditional Native American four directions, the four areas represent the Tribe’s relationship with spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health.

In collaboration with the Southside Community Land Trust, the team organized other volunteer opportunities on the farm. These included a three-day event with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and another farm cleanup day with Brown University medical students.

group of youth leaning over buckets of catch
Tribal youth inspect their catch from the Ninigret salt pond, including fish, shrimp, crabs, and jellyfish. (Photo courtesy of the Brown SRP Center)

The CEC also partnered with the Mystic Aquarium, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Society, and the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Together, they hosted an environmental field day, August 10, at Ninigret Pond. The largest saltwater pond in Southern Rhode Island, Ninigret was once the primary location where Narragansett Tribe members fished and hunted. Consumption of fish and wildlife from the pond is now restricted due to high levels of contaminants.

As part of an environmental study, Tribal youth worked with Brown SRP scientists and trainees to safely collect water samples and fish from Ninigret. Through nature hikes and hearing from Tribal leaders and researchers, they also learned about the geology, plants, animals, and environmental challenges on Narragansett lands. The CEC and Mystic Aquarium plan to expand the events involving Tribal youth in other environmental studies.