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Helping STEM Take Root: EM Tribal Partnership Looks To the Future of Science Education

November 1, 2012 - 12:00pm

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Umatilla Tribes Department of Science and Engineering Director Stuart Harris, far right, explains the purpose of the Tribes’ greenhouses to Senior Advisor for Environmental Management David Huizenga, center, and Richland Operations Office Manager Matt McCormick.

Umatilla Tribes Department of Science and Engineering Director Stuart Harris, far right, explains the purpose of the Tribes’ greenhouses to Senior Advisor for Environmental Management David Huizenga, center, and Richland Operations Office Manager Matt McCormick.

EM and Tribal leaders join in the celebration of the opening of the Umatilla Tribes' new field station and greenhouses funded in part by EM.

EM and Tribal leaders join in the celebration of the opening of the Umatilla Tribes' new field station and greenhouses funded in part by EM.

Umatilla Tribes Department of Science and Engineering Director Stuart Harris, far right, explains the purpose of the Tribes’ greenhouses to Senior Advisor for Environmental Management David Huizenga, center, and Richland Operations Office Manager Matt McCormick.
EM and Tribal leaders join in the celebration of the opening of the Umatilla Tribes' new field station and greenhouses funded in part by EM.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the United States can provide a path forward for national defense, economic prosperity and international competitiveness. Looking toward the future, the Office of Environmental Management (EM) is partnering with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) to help STEM education take root in the Pacific Northwest.

The Tribes’ landmark field station is unique among DOE’s Native American partners, and it will support Hanford’s cleanup mission and the long-term stewardship of historic tribal lands. CTUIR researchers will engage in a range of important scientific research and conservation. Their work will include monitoring the impact of organic and inorganic contamination on local species and the environment, reestablishing native plant species, tissue culture and non-radioactive chemical analysis and training the next generation of the STEM workforce.

EM Senior Advisor David Huizenga and CTUIR leaders recently took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new field station on tribal land in Oregon. This groundbreaking research facility contains biology and analytical chemistry laboratories, an area for biofuels production and two sizeable greenhouses. Biologists will grow tens of thousands of seedlings in the greenhouses, including threatened and endangered species. Protecting these local plants helps protect natural and cultural resources and wildlife and provides vegetation that can be replanted at the Hanford site as cleanup progresses.

Tribal and other students will work with experienced scientists and receive training in STEM disciplines at the field station. Students will be able to experience what it is like to work in a university or federal laboratory. Those future scientists, researchers and engineers will also develop skills to protect local resources and enter the workforce in critical areas of technical need. EM, which also promotes science, technology, engineering and math education, contributed to the cost of the Umatilla’s field station.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation includes the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla people. Historically, they have lived on the Columbia River Plateau, an area incorporating northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. The Tribal group works in partnership with the Hanford Site on restoration and the protection of natural and historical resources.
 

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