CORVALLIS - Kim Anderson, an assistant professor in Oregon State University's Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, has received an Early Career Award for applied ecological research from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
The prestigious honor includes a $100,000 cash award.
Anderson was honored for her research on contaminants in the city of Portland's harbor and at the mouth of the Willamette River. She received the award at the society's annual meeting in Baltimore, Md.
The award is sponsored by the American Chemistry Council and is intended to encourage scientists at the beginning of their professional careers to conduct research on topics related to ecosystems, the environment and ecological risk assessment and management.
Anderson plans to use the award funds to continue her research in the Portland harbor over the next three years.
"Winning this award is a major accomplishment," said Larry Curtis, head of the OSU Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology. "The funds that come with it will allow Anderson to significantly expand her research on an important problem in Oregon."
Anderson came to OSU in 1999 and began conducting studies of contaminants in Portland's harbor that year. She completed a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1989 at Washington State University.
The harbor area was listed as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in December of 2000 because of high concentrations of contaminants that had built up over the past several decades. The listing requires the EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to jointly mount an effort to clean up the harbor.
Anderson's research program includes two major components. She is studying how major water runoff events caused by rainstorms affect contaminant levels in the Portland harbor. In addition, she is studying the ability of contaminants to be absorbed by wildlife (or bio-availability). "Most major cities don't treat storm water runoff," said Anderson. "When water from major weather events washes through a large urban area, it carries many kinds of chemicals with it that end up draining into nearby streams and rivers."
Anderson refers to major storms as pulse events, or times when an extensive amount of precipitation falls and creates a larger-than-normal amount of water runoff.
"The effect of these pulse events in terms of the amount of contaminants they wash into the harbor area has not received much study," said Anderson. "The purpose of my research is to find out when pulse events occur, measure the amounts of contaminants they bring into the harbor and assess the impacts of these contaminants."
The chemical contaminants Anderson is concentrating on include Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, which are generated from combustion of organic materials including petroleum.
Understanding the bio-availability of the various contaminants is important, according to Anderson, because it isn't enough just to know that various chemicals are present in the harbor.
"Different forms of chemical compounds vary in how bio-available they are," Anderson said. "A major goal of this research is to identify the contaminants with high bio-availability that are more likely to impact species in and around the harbor."