UMaine Ph.D. candidate awarded Fulbright to Canada

Kimberley Rain Miner, a second-year Ph.D. candidate in Earth and climate sciences at the University of Maine, has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to Canada in geosciences from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Miner, who is from Los Angeles, will be conducting research at University of Ottawa as part of a project to determine risk of legacy glacial contaminants to downstream populations.

She is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and provide expertise abroad for the 2016–17 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

Miner’s research focuses on developing a risk assessment model for release of legacy pollutants in glacial outflows. Pollutants released by industrialized nations between 1960 and 2004 have been transported northward through atmospheric processes and deposited into glaciated alpine ecosystems. Many of these chemicals retain their original structure and are absorbed into the biota thousands of miles away from where they were originally utilized. With a warming climate increasing the melt of alpine glaciers, these glaciers 05 be introducing growing amounts of toxins into the watershed.

While studies have demonstrated the existence of resident pollutants within glaciated ecosystems, no one has used standard toxicological testing methods to assess the risk posed by these compounds when released in glacial outflows.

The goal of Miner’s study is to develop a framework to assess the conditions under which glacial release of persistent organic pollutants are a risk to the health of downstream communities. In order to get an understanding of the potential risks, multiple disciplines must be integrated to set a baseline for the current state of the problem and test future risks based upon modeled scenarios.

Combining toxicology, hydrology, glaciology and climate models, her study seeks to understand chemical movement through the glacial watersheds and potential human impacts, and the risk that varying rates of increased melting will pose. Ultimately, a better understanding of the potential for release of stored toxins in glacier watersheds will allow development of relevant management strategies.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to build relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges. Fulbright participants address critical global challenges — from sustainable energy and climate change to public health and food security — in all areas, while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States and the world.

More information about the Fulbright Program, now in its 70th year, is online.