My name is Anna Bushong and I am from Jacksonville, Florida. I am a rising senior attending Centre College and I am double majoring in Biology & Environmental Studies. This summer I worked with Dr. Field to investigate the public health implications of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania.
What is your summer research project?
My summer research project focused on investigating the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and asthma using only publicly available data. My project consisted of two main components: (1) replicating a study that used private patient data to establish a correlation between asthma exacerbation and hydraulic fracturing using only publicly available, and (2) designing a study that would best address this research question using the available public data. I conducted statistical analysis, predominantly multiple linear regression, to evaluate whether there was a significant association between asthma hospitalization and hydraulic fracturing. I also used R studio to create maps pertinent to fracking in Pennsylvania.
What are the implications of your research?
If passed, the EPA’s proposed ‘secret science’ rule would strictly limit the use of studies that rely on private data to inform environmental regulatory action. This could have major implications on the strength of future environmental regulations since a vast number of high-quality environmental health studies depend upon private patient information. Therefore, more scientific research focused on using public data is vital not only to examine the reproducibility of the results of literature based on private data, but to ensure there is a body of quality scientific work using public data that illustrates correlations informing of potential environmental health risks. If this ‘secret science’ rule were to pass, not having readily permissible environmental health studies on fracking to inform ongoing discussions surrounding regulatory action could leave vulnerable Pennsylvanians at risk.
What new skills have you gained through your research?
Through engaged mentorship offered by the STEER program, I have had the opportunity to gain valuable research skills. This summer has been my first in-depth research experience, so I have gained experience in how to formulate and persistently tackle a research question and, specifically, design a study using public data. Through this project, I have also had the opportunity to significantly improve my skills in applied statistics. I have built upon my programming knowledge in R, experience in data analysis, and gained exposure to data visualization techniques in QGIS and R. Additionally, because the 2020 STEER program took place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the opportunity to learn how to effectively collaborate, give formal presentations, and develop professional interpersonal relationships completely through a virtual format.