Environmental Health: Issues, Conundrums, Solutions

Environmental health is a contemporary discipline that addresses the impact of the natural and built environment on human health.

Implicit in this field is the understanding of the interconnectedness of all things: water, air, soil, climate, nonhuman organisms as well as human. How does the disturbance of one system influence the well-being of another? How do we address agricultural practices, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, and industrial practices that lower our wellness? How do we measure wellness? Is it acceptable for members of a society to be a little bit sick from something in the environment? Or does a pollutant need to cause immediate death to be taken seriously? From an ethical standpoint, what are the beliefs and values that guide individuals, advocacy groups, churches, corporations, and governments, in decisions that impact environmental health? Are these values similar across cultures?

I am an Associate Professor in Biology with expertise in molecular cell biology and animal development, and am keenly interested in the effects of pesticides on animal health. I have collaborated with numerous undergraduates in laboratory research, which focused on the response of frog oocytes exposed to several herbicides including 2,4-D and dicamba.

I am now collaborating with Joyce Millen, an associate professor in Anthropology, who specializes in medical anthropology and public health. She brings expertise and passion to the understanding human relationships surrounding environmental health issues. (See Joyce's summary for more details.)

We are looking for students with a broad interest in environmental health who would like to develop a deeper understanding of any relevant topic through discussion, reading and writing. Students will begin by developing a hypothesis-driven question or problem. Using available databases, archives, published literature, students will gather and interpret information that will result in a final written paper and oral presentation, and are encouraged to be creative. Students will also be encouraged to establish contacts with experts and scholars in their area of interest to gain an understanding of the importance of networking. Students will be expected to use their research to propose a solution to a contemporary problem in environmental health. These may be in a wide range of forms, including but not limited to technological, educational, political, economic, social, and behavioral. These student-driven research projects will be valuable resources in the development of an interdisciplinary environmental health seminar.
Willamette University

Liberal Arts Research Collaborative

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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