By Gina Daniel and Catherine Kastleman
On November 20, representatives from the Duke Superfund Center traveled to Paradise Creek Nature Park in Portsmouth, VA to participate in “RiverFest,” an annual community event hosted by the not-for-profit Elizabeth River Project with the goal of working towards a “thriving urban river.” The Duke Superfund Center has a history of engagement with the Atlantic Wood Superfund site on the Elizabeth River and has partnered with the Elizabeth River Project to accomplish the goals of Project 3 on developmental PAH exposures in fish. Most recently, the Research Translation Core partnered with the Elizabeth River Project on a survey with anglers and attended the Elizabeth River Project Soil Remediation Partnership Meeting (ERPSRP).
Trainee Casey Lindberg, who works on Project 3 in Dr. Di Giulio’s lab, joined Research Translation Core Program Coordinator Catherine Kastleman to conduct outreach in the “Science Dome” at River Fest. Casey led an activity for youth that she designed along with another trainee to illustrate one of the main concepts behind her research at the SRC. The game demonstrated for children how pollution exposure to fish can have negative impacts on their fitness. The children learned that fish have to spend energy to fight pollution, which reduces their capability to perform other important life functions. The outreach table also included a microscope with zebrafish embryos, an aquarium full of killifish, and a core sample taken by the Elizabeth River Project. The core sample visually represented the impacts of a recent dredging project intended to contain pollution at the bottom of the river.
Community members were eager to talk to Casey and Catherine about a variety of issues pertaining to the Elizabeth River. Many were curious about a poster outlining some of the issues related to PCBs in locally-caught fish that was created jointly by the Duke SRC and the Elizabeth River Project. to know more about the results of the Duke SRC’s angler survey in 2014-2015 and also wanted to get advice on with fish were less safe to eat due to PCB contamination in the area. Overall, the community appeared to be highly engaged and concerned about the river’s health. Research Translation Core staff and SRC trainees hope to return for another successful community engagement event next year.