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Duke Superfund Research Program

In This Issue

Investigators and Staff of the SRC

Keep Up With Us


Duke University Superfund Research Center Newsletter

Investigators and Staff of the SRC

Research Updates, Honors, and Awards

Investigator Highlights

SRP Selects Duke Research as March 2017 Current Research Brief

A photomicrograph from the study showing cell nuclei (blue dots), glia (red), and neurons (red) and the projections they use to communicate during development.  (Photo courtesy of Theodore Slotkin, PhD)
Research by Duke Superfund Research Center Investigators Theodore Slotkin, PhD, and Frederic J. Seidler, PhD, as well as the Center's Director, Richard Di Giulio, PhD, on differential developmental neurotoxicity effects of complex PAH mixtures was featured as this month’s Superfund Research Program (SRP) Current Research Brief

Read more about their work here.

Foam Project Featured in Consumer Reports

Heather Stapleton, PhD, and her research on flame retardants (FRs) in polyurethane foam were the topic of a February 2017 Consumer Reports article,  "Flame Retardant Chemicals Found in More People." The article highlights a recent paper by Stapleton and her colleagues published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters (Hoffman et al., 2017) that showed increasing levels of organophosphate FRs in people over time.

In related activities, the RTC joined the Gymnast Flame Retardant Collaborative led by Harvard researcher Courtney Carignan, PhD, to raise awareness and provide support for gym owners concerned about FR chemicals in gymnastics equipment, especially pit foam cubes.
Members of the public can continue to send in 5 samples per household to the Duke Superfund Research Center to be tested for the presence of 7 common FRs, free of charge. Visit for more information.

Neural and Behavioral Toxicity Assessment Core Reviews the Developmental Neurotoxicity of Insecticides

Dr. Edward Levin and Yael Abreu-Villaca, PhD, of the Neural and Behavioral Toxicity Assessment Core published a review article in Environment International in February 2017 that outlines the comparative developmental neurotoxicity of insecticides developed over the past 70 years, including organochlorines, organophosphates, pyrethroids, carbamates, and neonicotinoids. The researchers offer advice in the paper on creating new insecticides that will reduce the neurotoxicity of these compounds.
See more publications by our Investigators and Trainees below under Recent Publications.

Trainee Highlights

Window into the World of A Duke Superfund Trainee

The Research Translation Core of the Duke University Superfund Research Center created a short original video that explores the work of Trainee Nishad Jayasundara, PhD, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Richard Di Giulio's lab (Project 3). Jayasundara’s research focuses on the evolution and fitness costs of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) for the Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus). He received the Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award from NIEHS in 2015.

This is the first in a series of videos featuring Duke Superfund Research Center Trainees. The videos will be shared with the public and other stakeholders to conduct research translation and community engagement activities, to recruit graduate and postdoctoral researchers to the program, and to introduce the Duke Superfund Research Center to potential undergraduate students who may be interested in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer research experience with a Superfund Investigator. The video was featured in the March edition of the SRP e-news newsletter.

Trainee Anthony Luz Recognized at SOT Platform Poster Session

The Scientific Program Committee of the Society of Toxicology selected ten high-quality abstracts authored by students or postdocs and featured them at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting in order to spotlight talented early-career toxicologists. An abstract by Trainee Anthony Luz, Deficiencies in Mitochondrial Fission and Fusion Sensitize C. elegans to Arsenite-Induced Mitochondrial Dysfunction, was selected as one of the featured abstracts. Representatives of the Duke SRC's Project 2, Project 3, and the Neural and Behavioral Toxicity Assessment Core also attended the 2017 SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. See the Events section below for further details on the SOT Annual Meeting.

Lauren Redfern presents KC Donnelly Externship Award Lecture at 2016 Superfund Program Annual Meeting

Trainee Lauren Redfern (Project 4) gave an oral presentation entitled "Monitoring catabolic gene transfer during genetic bioaugmentation in mixed contaminant hazardous waste sites" at the 2016 Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting. The SRP Annual Meeting was incorporated into a larger week of events for the NIEHS Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) FEST. See below for a recap of the 2016 SRP Annual Meeting and EHS FEST.

Current Projects

The Duke Superfund Research Center includes four research projects and five support cores. The overarching goal of the Center is to foster the further development of synergistic interactions among Investigators, their laboratories and students, and the diverse fields they represent. The SRC also places a heavy emphasis on the successful translation of research to communities and policy makers.

In humans and other vertebrates, early life development is a time of rapid growth and complex cellular differentiation and migration that is inherently sensitive to environmental influences. Thus, the Duke Superfund Research Center focuses on how early life exposure to Superfund toxic chemicals impacts development and later-life health.

Our current projects are listed below.

Project 1: Developmental Neurotoxicants: Sensitization, Consequences, and Mechanisms
Lead Investigator: Theodore Slotkin, PhD

Project 2: Thyroid Metabolism Disruption in Toxicant-Induced Developmental Impairment
Lead Investigator: Heather Stapleton, PhD; Co-Investigator: Lee Ferguson, PhD

Project 3: Developmental PAH Exposures in Fish: Mechanisms of Toxicity, Adaptation, and Later Life Consequences
Lead Investigator: Richard Di Giulio, PhD; Co-Investigators: David Hinton, PhD, and Joel Meyer, PhD

Project 4: Metal-based Nanoparticles for Groundwater and Surface Water Remediation: Limitations, Concerns, Synergies, and Antagonistic Effects in Bioremediation
Lead Investigator: Mark Wiesner, PhD, Co-Investigators: Claudia Gunsch, PhD, and Helen Hsu-Kim, PhD

Recent Publications

Abreu-Villaça Y and ED Levin. Developmental neurotoxicity of succeeding generations of insecticides. Environment International. 2017 Feb; 99:55-77. PMCID: PMC5285268
Lindberg CD, Jayasundara N, Kozal JS, Leuthner T, Di Giulio RT. Resistance to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon toxicity and associated bioenergetic consequences in a population of Fundulus heteroclitus. Ecotoxicology. 2017 Feb. 17. PMCID: In Process.

Massarksy A,  Kozal JS, Di Giulio RT. Glutathione and zebrafish: old assays to address a current issue. Chemosphere. Pub 2016 Nov. 9; 168:707-715. PMCID: PMC5182135 [Available on 2018-02-01].

Raftery TD, Jayasundara N, and Di Giulio RT. A bioenergetics assay for studying the effects of environmental stressors on mitochondrial function in vivo in zebrafish larvae. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part C: Toxicology and Pharmacology. 2017; 192:23-32. PMCID: PMC Journal – In Process.

Slotkin RA, Skavicus S, Card J, Di Giulio RT, and Seidler FJ. In vitro models reveal differences in the developmental neurotoxicity of an environmental polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon mixture compared to benzo[a]pyrene: neuronotypic PC12 cells and embryonic neural stem cells. 2017; Toxicology 377:49–56. PMCID: PMC5250555.

Slotkin RA, Skavicus S, Seidler FJ. Diazinon And Parathion Diverge In Their Effects On Development Of Noradrenergic Systems. 2017 Feb. Brain Res. Bull. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2017.02.004. [ePub ahead of print]. PMCID: In Process.

See a full list and stay up to date with our recent publications on the Duke University Superfund Center website.


Duke SRC Participates in 56th Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting and ToxExpo

Dr. Edward Levin of the SRC's Neural and Behavioral Toxicity Assessment Core and Training Core presents a poster at the 2017 SOT annual meeting and ToxExpo.
The 56th Annual Meeting for the Society of Toxicology and ToxExpo was held on March 12-16 in Baltimore Maryland, with many representatives from the Duke Superfund Research Center in attendance. Principal Investigators and Trainees presented in multiple platform sessions and poster presentations throughout the conference. Trainee Anthony Luz was recognized in the "Highlighting Emerging Scientists" platform session and investigator Heather Stapleton, PhD, was a presenter in a workshop session on flame retardants held on Wednesday, March 15. Dr. Edward Levin, Lilah Glazer, PhD, and Joel Meyer, PhD, presented posters, and Center Director Richard Di Giulio, PhD, also attended the conference.

2016 NIEHS Environmental Health Science (EHS) FEST and Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting

On December 5-8, 2016, the Duke Superfund Research Center participated in the Superfund Research Program Annual Meeting and the NIEHS Environmental Health Science (EHS) FEST, at the Durham Convention Center in downtown Durham, NC. 
(Photo by Steven R. McCaw, NIEHS/Image Associates)
The Research Translation Core also participated in the Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative meeting at the NC Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park, NC, from December 8-9, 2016. Read a recap of these events on our blog. (Photo by Steven R. McCaw, NIEHS/Image Associates.)

Research Translation Core Presents Angler Study Findings to the Elizabeth River Project Sediment Remediation Partnership (ERPSRP)

Research Translation Core (RTC) Senior Program Coordinator Bryan Luukinen traveled to Portsmouth, Virginia, on February 9, 2017, to present the results of an RTC study on angler fishing behaviors and angler awareness of fish consumption advisories to the Elizabeth River Project Sediment Remediation Partnership (ERPSRP). ERPSRP stakeholders include the Navy, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the US EPA, and private industries.

American Chemical Society National Meeting

Members of the Duke SRC are scheduled to attend and present at the 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting on April 2-6 in San Francisco. Investigators Helen Hsu-Kim, PhD (Project 4), Lee Ferguson, PhD (Analytical Chemistry Core), and Mark Wiesner, PhD (Project 4), will present their research. Trainee Lauren Redfern (Project 4, Gunsch lab) will give a presentation entitled "Enhanced bioremediation of PAH contaminated soils: Combining novel molecular techniques with targeted bioaugmentation strategies."

Duke University Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program Symposium and Spring Seminar Series

Throughout the year, the Duke Superfund Research Center co-sponsors a seminar series hosted by the Duke University Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program (ITEHP) that is free and open to the public. ITEHP seminars include presentations from Superfund researchers and other experts on topics relevant to the SRP. Past speakers include the SRC’s Research Translation Core, as well as speakers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NIEHS, EPA, and others. Seminars take place every Friday at noon in Field Auditorium inside Environmental Hall on Duke University's west campus.

See the spring ITEHP seminar schedule here.

The ITEHP Spring Symposium,  "Environmental Developmental Neurotoxicity: Sex differences in toxic effects and toxic effects on sex differences," will be held on March 24, 2017, in Field Auditorium at the Nicholas School of the Environment. The event is open to members of the public. RSVP for the March 24 Spring Symposium by clicking here.

RTC Hosts Second "Science Pub” With Former Trainees to Discuss Careers Beyond Academia

The Research Translation Core and the Integrated Toxicology & Environmental Health Program (ITEHP) invited Duke Superfund alumnae Gretchen Gehrke and Alexis Wells Carpenter to speak to current trainees for networking and a discussion on  "Careers Beyond Academia” on Wednesday, March 1. Meeting in an informal setting, Alexis and Gretchen shared thoughts on how to translate skills they gained from the Superfund training program at Duke into their current professional roles. You can read more about Alexis' research on nanotechnology by visiting our blog.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

March 21: Environmental Risks for Psychiatric Disorders (NIEHS, Research Triangle Park, NC)

March 24: Duke University Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program Symposium Environmental Developmental Neurotoxicity: Sex differences in toxic effects and toxic effects on sex differences (Durham, NC)

March 27-30: National Association of Environmental Professionals Annual Conference (Durham, NC)

April 2-6: American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition (San Francisco, CA)

April 5-7: Children's Environmental Health Translational Research Conference (Arlington, VA)

Research Translation and Community Engagement News

Helping North Carolina Community Gardeners Understand and Reduce Exposure to Potential Soil Contaminants

MEM students working in local community gardens.
The Research Translation Core is continuing to engage community gardeners in North Carolina to help them understand and reduce exposures to potential contaminants present in soils. The goal is to help gardeners to make informed decisions about how they can reduce the risk of exposure to contaminants like lead, arsenic, PAHs, and pesticides. In coordination with the RTC, three Master’s students from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment have been gathering data through focus groups, interviews, observations, and material culture analysis on gardener behaviors and management choices that may lead to exposure risks at potentially contaminated garden sites. This data will be used to create a social marketing campaign to promote gardener behavior change. Read more about the project on the blog.

Fishing for Environmental Justice in the Northeast Cape Fear River

Speckled Trout. Illustration courtesy of USFWS/Duane Raver.

Last year, the Research Translation Core of the Duke Superfund Research Center became a partner in a consortium of community-based groups conducting a research study supported by an EPA Environmental Justice grant, “Identifying populations at risk: Fish consumption on the Northeast Cape Fear River.”  The goal of the study is to collect area-specific data on consumption patterns that could help to improve fish consumption advisories in eastern North Carolina. The RTC’s work on this project aligns with the Duke Superfund Center’s goal of promoting research translation and community engagement. The project will incorporate research findings from the labs of Duke Superfund Investigators Helen Hsu-Kim, PhD, and Richard Di Giulio, PhD.

Read more about the project on our blog.

Staff Updates

Meet Our Student Communications Assistant

Gina Daniel began working with the Research Translation Core in September of 2016 as a Science Communication Assistant. Gina is a first year Master of Environmental Management (MEM) student at the Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment studying Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health. Gina has been responsible for assisting with the creation of informational documents, fact sheets, blogs, newsletter content, and social media campaigns. 

Trainee Tara Raftery Catron Transitions to EPA

Tara Raftery Catron, PhD, a former Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Di Giulio laboratory, moved on from the Superfund training program in December of 2016 to become an ORISE Postdoctoral Fellow at the US EPA Research Triangle Park (RTP) offices.
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