Former Students

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Katie McDonald

Hello.  My name is Katie McDonald.  I am from the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwest Montana.  My family is enrolled in and from the Flathead Reservation (Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai & Pend d’Oreille Tribes).  I graduated from Salish Kootenai College in 2010 with a B.S. in Terrestrial Sciences – Fisheries & Wildlife prior to attending the University of Washington School of Public Health to complete my Master’s degree in Environmental Toxicology.  Currently I work as the Tributary Habitat Research, Monitoring & Evaluation Lead in one of the world’s largest fish and wildlife mitigation programs at the Bonneville Power Administration located in Portland, OR.

As a student at Salish Kootenai College I was fortunate enough to be able to work in a multitude of community-based participatory research (CBPR) projects completed in a number of the analytical science labs on SKC’s campus.  While I worked in the Environmental Chemistry Lab under Dr. Doug Stevens, I participated in three CBPR projects that examined the effects of heavy metals and PBDE’s in culturally-relevant local raptor populations, in a project examining the safety of lake trout for human consumption (especially in sensitive subpopulations such as children), and examining the exposure routes of reservation residents to methylmercury in fish and their knowledge regarding methylmercury risks.

Each of these CBPR projects was significant to me in that I was able to work with the group of people, my Tribe, that was impacted by the environmental issues at hand, whether those were regarding heavy metals impacting human health or persistent organic pollutants affecting cultural keystone species.  By having a personal connection to the people affected by the environmental issue as well as a social connection to that group, my desire to complete the research and implement recommendations based on our findings was that much stronger and more successful.  As Native people, ensuring the health and safety of coming generations along with the well-being and proliferation of the earth and our resources is incredibly important.  Community-based participatory research projects have been a very valuable experience and tool for me in linking environmental issues with those concerns that Tribal people have for future generations and natural resource health.

As a professional, I now work to ensure that habitat restoration projects implemented across the Columbia River Basin tributary river systems have positive impacts on ESA-listed and culturally significant fish populations (salmon and others) for Columbia River Tribes (including my own Tribe), that have been affected by federal hydropower operations.  Understanding the cultural and intrinsic value of science that can be applied to community issues has absolutely benefited me in my current job where on a daily basis, I help to produce and translate fisheries science to make local decisions that help to ensure fish exist for future treaty-right harvests.

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Amy Stiffarm

Naha! (hello) My name is Amy (Stiffarm) Tall Bull. I am an enrolled member of the Aaniiih (Whiteclay) Tribe of the Fort Belknap Indian Community in north-central Montana. When I first began my educational journey at Salish Kootenai College I wasn’t sure what degree to pursue or what career I wanted. I did have an interest in health and helping my Native American population.

I enrolled first in the SKC Pre-Nursing Program, but later transferred to the SKC Life Sciences program, as it met many of the requirements for a wide range of various graduate programs I was interested in. I graduated with my B.S. in June of 2012 as the first graduate of the program.

I was very grateful for the research component of the Life Sciences Program and enjoyed my time working on various projects as an intern in the undergraduate research labs. This work allowed me the opportunities to travel all across the U.S. to present my research work at several different national science meetings. It felt great to know that the research and techniques we did at SKC was on the same level as much larger schools. This helped build my confidence in the work I was doing.

One of my projects was to work with Dr. Doug Stevens on his community-based research pilot study with tribes in Maine.  I am very grateful for this opportunity to travel to Maine along with 3 other students to meet and work with the Micmac tribe. This project helped me experience community-based participatory research (CBPR) first hand. I was able to witness the importance of building relationships with the communities we work with. Even though we were all from different western tribes, I felt we were enthusiastically welcomed by the Micmac community and were able to quickly make a connection with them.

This experience helped shape my goal to pursue a Masters Degree in Public Health. With this degree I plan to work with the Native American population in Montana in the area of Maternal and Child health. Interestingly, I have found that in almost every class I’ve taken thus far in the program, the topic of CBPR comes up. Having had this opportunity prepared me for those conversations and allowed me to give input based on personal, real life experience.  It has also reinforced my belief that one person can make a difference!

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Trey Saddler

My name is Trey Saddler and I am an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree tribe of Montana. I graduated from Salish Kootenai College in June 2015 with my B.S. of Life Science and a focus in environmental health. I worked in the SKC Environmental Chemistry Lab under Dr. Stevens at SKC while I was a student along with completing internships at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I also finished an internship at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and am currently doing a post-baccalaureate program at NIEHS in North Carolina. My work at NIEHS is focused on flame retardants that we use in everyday products and the effects they have on humans, mainly uterine cancer.

The community-based participatory research that I was involved in while at SKC influenced my decision to come to North Carolina and continue doing research. I realized that I wanted to be more involved in the decisions that tribes make regarding the chemicals that they are exposed to. In order to make informed decisions, we must know what chemicals we are being exposed to, their concentrations, and the effects these chemicals might have on us. When I saw how engaged tribes can be regarding their health and the health of the environment which are connected, I knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in Environmental Toxicology in order to help tribes manage their exposure to dangerous compounds in the environment.