The woman opened the door and welcomed me inside. We stood and talked nearly an hour and she had read my columns and quoted one of them to me. It is really an honor to have the opportunity to share thoughts, experiences and really to be allowed to know someone new.
A professor of Geology and her colleague from Emporia State University were bringing two students to recreate a USGS study completed in 2008 by William Andrews. He had been interested in learning more about the historic metal loading of the stream banks along Tar Creek. They hoped to learn what had happened in the ten years since his study was completed and with her permission the academic team would be able to walk to the creek on her property to collect samples and she agreed.
But she wanted to know more about the Man on the Log who had been in a previous column and where his place was and looking out the window getting my bearings, he was really only a few blocks from her home. I told her she needed to have a log, too. Imagine all the folks along the creek could become Tar Creek Watchers! She like many of us feed the birds, but birds can be an indicator species, like the "canaries in the coal mines" of old. Two recent studies of the birds of Tar Creek will be discussed at this year's conference on the 2nd day and our pollution can harm our birds, come find out how.
The researchers came that day and were working the other side of the creek when the 3 volunteers and I found them. Dr. Schulmeister began immediately teaching about soil and the metals they would find just as my phone rang, there in the wilderness along the creek. It was Sharon Learner who is a journalist researching the connection between exposure to lead and criminal behavior. I stepped away to talk with her, found a big rock and checked for snakes before sitting on it. The soil lesson was continuing, everyone engaged either teaching or learning, just as the frog leaped by 3 feet high and reaching wayout with his frog arms after each jump. She was jumping for her life because a SNAKE was pursuing her aggressively with his head extended a foot off the ground, LIKE A COBRA. I hollered "SNAKE" because the frog was leaping toward the soil lesson. It took two more "SNAKES!" before they heard me and scattered, with allowed the frog to get away and the snake to give up.
Dr. Schulmeister will be speaking at our conference next Tuesday as one of the educators who have been using the Tar Creek Superfund site as her outdoor classroom for years. Sharon Learner will be in the audience and is interested in meeting people who have or have relatives who want to help her better understand the relationship between lead and criminal or aggressive behavior. Ms Learner has met numerous death row inmates who had nothing else in common but the fact they grew up in places near Superfund Sites, like ours that had lead as the "contaminate of concern" EPA had identified for cleanup.
Community Science is a new term, replacing Citizen Science and Luz Guel, the Community Engagement coordinator at the Mount Sinai Transdisciplinary Center on Early Environmental Exposures in New York City will be addressing us Wednesday right before noon. We are all about collaborating with health professionals who know how to get a message out there so people find it interesting and act on it. This type of help is welcome from all sources.
Each year we wonder what will be on the cover of the Tar Creek Conference Program. This year both the front and the back images are woodcut prints from Dawn Hill's Miami High School art students, Trinity Smith's Stinky Fish and Fish Surviving by Tashauna Miles.
We think of the cover as our Winter Count image, the event each year that marks it in our collective memory of the "thing" that happened that year. We believe these young people nailed it, with the dead fish we saw in Tar Creek last summer and the image on the back: our hope for healthy fish in the future.
You can get your copy at the 20th National Environmental Conference at Tar Creek next week September 25-26 at NEO in the Ballroom. Pick it up, stay and learn, become engaged or enraged, have some time with infamous people, state officials and activists. For more information and a schedule of events check www.leadagency.org.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim