Although toxic substances in the Great Lakes have been reduced in recent decades, enough of them remain to pose a risk to people who eat Great Lakes fish. All Great Lakes states use fish consumption advisories as a way to inform the public about the risks and benefits of fish consumption. These advisories are designed to allow people to get health benefits from eating fish while lowering their exposure to contaminants. However, these advisories are only partially successful in achieving these goals, with some people avoiding eating fish altogether and others eating too much contaminated fish. More research is needed to establish which advisory approaches and messages are most likely to get people to follow advisories.
Field testing advisory materials can play a critical role in risk communication. Through this project, we are conducting two large-scale experiments to determine the relative effectiveness of different types of advisories at encouraging healthy fish consumption patterns in at-risk groups. We recruited 2,000 women of childbearing age and 2,000 urban anglers in the Great Lakes region to participate in a two-year study of fish consumption. During the summer of 2014, we collected detailed information about the fish they ate. We worked with the Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories to develop different versions of advisory materials that were suitable for these audiences. In the spring of 2015, we randomly assigned our study participants to receive different versions of the advisories (or none at all). In the summer of 2015, we again collected detailed information about fish consumption to determine whether and how fish consumption has changed. This study will allow us to determine how well advisory materials encourage healthy fish consumption patterns in women of childbearing age and urban anglers.
Regional Impacts of Energy Development on the Social, Economic & Ecological Well-Being of Rural Communities in the Northeast—An Evaluation of Gas Lease Terms
This study, which is funded by Federal Formula monies, examines how lease agreements between landowners and energy companies shape the process and outcomes related to unconventional (shale) oil and gas development (UOGD). Leases are contractual agreements between landowners and oil and gas companies interested in exploiting the mineral rights associated with that property, i.e. oil and gas underneath the property surface. Leases include financial and environmental considerations; outline how disagreements will be resolved; and specify the rights and responsibilities of each party. They also determine the length of time that the lease will be in effect; determine when and where pipelines are constructed; and can include agreements about numerous topics of concern to the involved parties. They articulate how the ‘rubber meets the road’ regarding the actual practices and impacts of UOGD. Leases are an integral part of UOGD, yet their influence has been largely ignored by social scientists.
We are currently evaluating the leasing process in four counties: Tompkins and Broome counties in New York, and Bradford and Susquehanna counties in Pennsylvania. We have coded the contents of leases in Tompkins and Broome counties to examine the distribution and language of specific clauses. In Pennsylvania, we are using a large sample of leases to identifying landowners for a subsequent telephone survey. We will use the survey to evaluate how respondents negotiated lease terms; what information sources they relied upon when deciding whether or not to lease as well as what to include in their lease; and what effects the leasing process had on the well-being of their household. We plan to interview a subsample of survey participants to delve deeper into their experience with the leasing process. In collaboration with cooperative extension, we will use our findings to work with landowners in the future to promote a fair and equitable leasing process.