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Brian Congiu '08 and Lisa Romas '08 in Alaska in July, 2006.

A team of three faculty members and two students from St. Lawrence University are among the researchers studying the environmental impact of a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) in a remote area of Alaska called, fittingly enough, St. Lawrence Island.

Associate Professor of Geology Jeffrey Chiarenzelli '81 and colleagues from Clarkson University and SUNY Albany have been studying the area, with other researchers, and have been awarded National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Environmental Justice grant funding. He traveled to the area in the summer of 2006, along with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Jon Rosales (whose wife, Matilda, is half Yu'pik and has family in the region); Associate Professor of Geology Cathy Shrady; Brian Congiu '08, of Bayonne, NJ; and Lisa Romas '08, of Fayetteville, NY. Romas was awarded a University Fellowship for the research, and others are being assisted by the University, in part through the Center for International and Intercultural Studies.

Congiu and Romas are the only undergraduates who were part of the field research team, from any institution.

Researchers are gathering information on St. Lawrence Island and other communities in the Norton Sound region of Alaska, populated mostly by Yu'pik and Inupiat native peoples. The project involves environmental sampling at FUDS that were used throughout World War II and into the 1950's. The residents have asked for assistance as they are concerned that contaminants left at these sites may be affecting their health and their food supply; air, water, soil and other environmental samples were collected for study. Other researchers are working with residents to collect tissue samples.

Romas and Congiu assisted with sampling, and will continue on the project, developing the research into independent projects and senior theses. They are working on Geographic Information System(GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) databases of information collected.

More information: Alaska Native Heritage Web Site

Posted: October 18, 2006

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