Louisiana State University Superfund Research Center (LSU SRP) gets “LOST” Trackin’ Toxins with Louisiana 4-H!

LOST Camp 2016 macros6

Trackin Toxins participants identifying aquatic macroinvertebrates they collected at Camp Grant Walker.

Members of the LSU SRP Research Translation Core (RTC) spent July 31 – August 3 at Louisiana Outdoor Science and Technology (LOST) Camp at Camp Grant Walker in Pollock, Louisiana.  LOST Camp is a special week of 4-H camp with a focus on science, engineering, and technology (SET) in addition to the more traditional camp tracks like Outdoor Adventures and Water Safety.  One of the goals behind offering these special sessions to 7th and 8th graders is to increase the number of students pursuing undergraduate degrees in SET areas.

combo 3

Left: LSU SRP undergraduate trainee Grace LeBlanc helps Trackin Toxins participants add “mystery” compounds to their model systems. Right: Campers measure the dose response of the mystery compounds on yeast.

The LSU SRP RTC developed the “Trackin’ Toxins” activities to introduce participants to the different disciplines of science that are involved in studying and developing solutions to complex environmental health problems, such as the Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals (EPFRs) our Center studies.  The track activities also provide an engaging way for kids to learn about environmental issues and how to avoid personal exposure to some common environmental toxins.  Our track covered topics including biomagnification of toxins through food webs, exposure to heavy metals such as lead, toxicity testing and dose response curves, assessing air and water pollution through biologic indicators, and the chemistry and health effects of air pollution.  Instead of sitting in a classroom and reading about these topics, our LOST campers were immersed in hands-on science activities:  collecting aquatic macroinvertebrates, using yeast as a model system to test the toxicity of “mystery” compounds, searching for pollution sensitive lichens, and trying to avoid polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in a simulated food web game.

biomag combo

Left: LSU SRP undergraduate trainee Grace LeBlanc explaining the rules of the biomagnification game. Right: “Zooplankton” feeding on sediments contaminated with PCBs in the biomagnification game.

This is the second outreach activity that the LSU SRP has done in partnership with Louisiana 4-H this year.  One of the reasons Louisiana 4-H’s goal of exposing students to careers in SET is such a good fit with the LSU SRP RTC’s mission is that research at the LSU SRP truly reflects the interdisciplinary nature of environmental health science.    The LSU SRP brings together researchers from chemistry, pharmacology, environmental sciences, political science, and physics.  To learn about our research, our interdisciplinary team, and careers in environmental health science visit the LSU SRP website or click here.

lichen lead combo

Left: Trackin Toxins participants conducting a simulated blood lead test. Right: LSU SRP RTC coordinator Jen Irving explaining that certain types of lichens don’t like pollution.

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