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EarthLab + Population Health Grant

Since 2019, EarthLab has partnered with the UW Population Health Initiative to offer a jointly-funded population health pilot research grant that seeks to improve an issue of environmental resilience. The application process and timelines for this award are separate from our Innovation Grants program. Learn more on the Population Health website.

Sierra National Forest fire

2021-22 Project

Characterizing Risk Communication Around Smoke Exposure in Rural and Tribal Communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area

Wildfires across the western United States are increasing in frequency and severity. To lessen the negative impacts of high severity wildfires on both human and forest health, fuel management strategies such as prescribed fires (Rx fires) are being utilized. Use of Rx fires results in less severe wildfires and thus less severe smoke events. However, managing fire with fire increases the frequency of smoke exposure in rural communities outside of fire season.

To address this balance, we must start with effective risk communication for potentially affected populations. The goal of this project is to describe how tribal and non-tribal communities in the Okanogan River Airshed Emphasis Area (ORAEA) receive and communicate information about smoke exposure.

Through key informant interviews and focus groups, we aim to identify the community and cultural perceptions of smoke exposure and describe its impact on the community. We will partner with representatives from the Natural Resource Division for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CNRD), the Colville Environmental Trust Air Quality Program (CETAQP), and Washington Prescribed Fire Council (WPFC) to reach communities on and off the Colville reservation.

By working with these partners, we will describe perceived risk of smoke exposure, improve real-time culturally responsive risk communication, as well as advance and evaluate each community’s outreach goals. This work will set the stage for new and continued community-academic partnerships to develop effective and relevant resources and risk communication to enhance the resilience to, and reduce the disproportionate health risks of, smoke exposure.

Ernesto Alvarado, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Savannah D’Evelyn, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (postdoctoral scholar)
Nicole Errett, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Cody Desautel, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

In the news:
Population health grants boost wildfire and climate research

EarthLab and Population Health co-fund pilot grant to improve communication around smoke exposure in rural and tribal communities

a shrimp in a tank

2020-21 Project

Environmental and Human Health Impacts of a New Invasive Species in Madagascar

In 2005, the marbled crayfish (Procambarus virginalis) appeared for the first time in lakes, ponds, and streams of Madagascar. Once limited to the area around the capital, the crayfish’s range now encompasses an area of 100,000 km. The project team is interested in the multifarious environmental and human health impacts of this new invasion.

On one hand, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot with a diverse, endemic freshwater fauna that could be affected by this invasive species, and with a large population of rural, poor people whose diet staple is rice, an agricultural product that might be endangered by non-native crayfish. On the other hand, the rapidly reproducing marbled crayfish is a voracious predator of freshwater snails that transmit the disease schistosomiasis to people, so it is possible that the invasion could have beneficial effects on infectious disease burden. In addition, the marbled crayfish itself could represent an important food in where it is established, providing a rapidly renewable protein source in a country where ~50% of children experience stunted growth due to malnourishment.

We propose to address this problem with a new interdisciplinary collaboration, including two Malagasy partners: RISEAL and Madagascar’s Ministry of Health. The proposed pilot project would facilitate a larger funded project, where our goal would be to arm the Malagasy government with the information it needs to appropriately manage the marbled crayfish in ways that minimize impacts on local biodiversity while maximizing benefits to public health.

Chelsea Wood, UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Peter Rabinowitz, UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Services
Luciano Andriamaro, Réseau International Schistosomiase Environnement Amenagement et Lutte
Susanne Sokolow, Stanford University
Giulio DeLeo, Stanford University
Julia PG Jones, Bangor University

In the news:
Initiative announces award of 2020 pilot research grants

EarthLab and Population Health co-award grant to study new invasive species in Madagascar

a forest with hills in the background

2019-20 Project

Ethnoforestry: Applying Traditional Ecological Knowledge for Ecosystem Sustainability on the Olympic Peninsula

Across the Olympic Peninsula, widespread changes in forest management policy have altered rural communities over the last several decades. Many rural communities were hit hard by a decrease in available jobs due to a decline in timber supply from over-harvesting and spotted owl protections as well as mill modernization. Tribes have since suffered from a decline of some cultural keystone species adapted to early seral conditions precluded by efficient tree regeneration and late-seral reserves. In the aftermath of this, rural communities are left to rebuild with their primary sources of work and culture degraded.

We believe a key way to build community resilience and health is through ethnoforestry: using traditional ecological knowledge of local people and applying it to forest management on public lands. Applied ethnoforestry can put the space in between regenerating conifers over the first 15 years after harvest to work. Species that are culturally valuable to nearby communities will be planted, tended, and then harvested for personal or semi-commercial use. If successful, ethnoforestry will add new small businesses and jobs and boost the local economy.

Through this grant, we will work will tribal and non-tribal communities on the Washington Coast to determine what plant species they would like to see us bring back in nearby ecosystems. We will develop a research proposal to test the growth and success of these species in permanent plots. This interdisciplinary approach will not only enhance the resilience and health of the local community, it will also benefit the local ecosystem.

Bernard Bormann, Environmental and Forest Sciences
Marc Miller, Marine and Environmental Affairs
Courtney Bobsin, Environmental and Forest Sciences

In the news:
Initiative announces award of 2019 pilot research grants