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Community Engagement Core

The Community Engagement Core (CEC) of the UNM METALS Center links the Pueblo of Laguna and two Navajo communities burdened by uranium wastes with UNM scientists examining ways to mitigate contaminant migration and understand how multiple-pathway exposures affect health, from the population level down to the cell where toxicity is manifest. 

Each of the communities is impacted by abandoned mines that represent the wide range of AUMs in the West -- from the relatively small mines on steep terrain in the mountainous Blue Gap-Tachee community of the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, to the No. 1 and No. 3 highest-priority AUMs on the Navajo Nation near Gallup, NM, to the massive waste piles and pits at Jackpile- Paguate Mine, once the world’s largest open-pit mine, in west-central New Mexico. 

The Native people who live in close proximity to each of these sites have faced generations of chronic exposures but are unable to move away because, as one Navajo woman said, “We are culturally tied to the land.” The CEC has forged long-standing, respectful relationships with these communities, and together the researchers have made tangible gains in risk-awareness, risk-reduction, and policy changes that have elevated the mine sites and the impacted communities on tribal and federal remediation priority lists. The CEC is responding to the additional needs of the communities by: 

  1. Developing a common language and understanding of environmental health and traditional ecological knowledge among community members and researchers through joint CEC-Training Core training programs; and
  2. Using community-based listening sessions to document community health concerns and research needs to direct prevention/intervention strategies that reduce exposures and mitigate or prevent toxicity. 

UNM METALS research results will not only improve Superfund remedial decision-making, but will also raise the validity of indigenous perspectives on health in regulatory frameworks. The research has wide applicability to similar problems in other tribal communities in the West. 

For more information, contact Chris Shuey at

Research Translation Core

The Research Translation Core (RTC) utilizes a unique network to facilitate the multidirectional translation of information among their researchers and trainees and to impacted Native American communities; local, regional, and national governmental partners, other Superfund Research Program researchers, and important end-users to address real and immediate concerns related to mixed metals exposures from abandoned uranium mining sites. 

The unique perspective of the Research Translation Core leadership on translating findings to indigenous communities and perspectives of tribes to relay to regulators, clinicians and scientists influences the way research is designed and conducted with Native communities. It also fulfills the need for data on exposures and health impacts of abandoned uranium mines on indigenous communities.   

For more information, contact Melissa Gonzales at

Training Core

The UNM METALS Training Core provides its trainees an integrated and comprehensive research training experience that integrates indigenous culture and learning styles into effective bidirectional research activities that are respectful and responsive to community needs. 

This core supports the next generation of leaders in environmental and environmental health science. The researchers help trainees to achieve:

  • Research excellence
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Professional development
  • Team research skills
  • Incorporation of culture and community into research plans

The Indigenous Education Institute provides formal training and consultations on working with the Native American communities served by the UNM METALS Center. Training also includes a wide range of research and career development activities and opportunities to develop effective communication skills with diverse audiences. There is an emphasis on team and transdisciplinary activities and research, and substantive community outreach experiences. Close associations with the Community Engagement Core and Research Translation Core ensure continuation of the established bi-directional relationships with the Native communities. Trainees are an integrating force for collaboration and communication across the transdisciplinary research projects and with their academic, government, and community partners.  

For more information, contact Matt Campen at