My name is Samara Pyfrom, and I am a rising junior and Meyerhoff Scholar at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s of science degree in Environmental Science and Geography. Being a native Marylander, my appreciation for nature stemmed from my experiences on and around the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. This appreciation quickly became a full commitment to conservation. In addition to conservation to the natural environment, my other passions include Environmental Justice, especially as it pertains to health outcomes.
This summer, under the mentorship of Dr. Marilyn Howarth, a champion for Environmental Justice, I investigated the role legacy pollutants play in soil lead levels in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a highly industrious city with significant historical use of lead in these. The outcomes of this research can have serious health implications for Philadelphia residents, especially children. I am grateful to the STEER program for allowing me to participate in this important research. Knowing that my research can be used to inform the public about potential environmental health risks is encouraging.
What is your summer research project?
This summer, I researched legacy pollution in Philadelphia and its potential effects on soil lead levels today. I wished to understand how the two could be linked, and what the current risk is for high-risk populations, like children. For this project I first researched historical lead industry in the city. Using this information, I found points throughout the city where lead was once used industrially. I then travelled to and collected soil samples at these locations. I also collected samples at local parks and schools were children are more likely to be exposed. I then tested the soil lead levels. Because of the negative health
impacts of lead, I wanted to understand how even historical sources might impact health today.
What are the implications of your research?
My research can be used for local Philadelphia residents to have a more informed understanding of their potential lead exposure. Lead in soil is just one part of lead exposure. The implications of my research might suggest the risk that historical pollutants might raise, even today. It reminds us that our current environment may not be reflective of potential hazards that still pose a risk.
What new skills have you gained through your research?
This research project has challenged me to work independently, and think critically about what my results might suggest. I have strengthened my skills working in ArcGIS, using databases, doing research in the field, and data analysis. These skills are preparing me further in my career as a research scientist.