The University of Florida Healthy Gulf, Healthy Communities (HGHC) team was awarded the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which recognizes colleges and universities that redesign learning, discovery, and engagement missions to become more involved in their communities.
HGHC worked to address the human health effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Gulf Coast communities throughout Alabama and Florida. Under the leadership of Dr. Glenn Morris, the project combined community-based research, laboratory research, and community outreach efforts.
Dr. Andy Kane, a professor with the Department of Environmental and Global Health, was one of the three principal investigators supported by the NIEHS from 2010-2017.
“This was a multi-institutional, transdisciplinary effort to support Gulf coast communities,” Kane said. “We had Dr. Brian Mayer from the University of Arizona working on social networks and community resilience, and Dr. Lynn Grattan from the University of Maryland focusing on mental health. My project focused on the safety of inshore-harvested seafood after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Commercial fishers were very concerned about the safety of their catch.”
Dr. Kane and his team at UF included Dr. Steve Roberts and Dr. Leah Stuchal with the UF Center for Human and Environmental Toxicology, Dr. Anne Mathews from Food Science and Human Nutrition/IFAS, Ross Brooks, and then EGH doctoral student, Makyba Charles. The team tested more than 900 individual samples of finfish and shellfish, conducted seafood intake surveys, and developed risk-assessment specific to Gulf coast communities.
Through outreach and environmental literacy programs, Dr. Kane demonstrated that the seafood was safe, which was an enormous relief for many families. “If seafood was not safe to eat, as a public health practitioner it’d be my job to tell them,” Dr. Kane said.
Ultimately, Kane’s work as part of the DWH consortium team helped coastal communities to be more resilient post-Deepwater, and better prepared for future disasters like Hurricane Michael.
Dr. Kane’s HGHC efforts continue to support community-based projects in Gulf Coast communities, with support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Sea Grant, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, and the National Academies Gulf Research Program through his community partner network.