For seven years, the Healthy Gulf, Healthy Communities project helped Florida and Alabama residents recover from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and provided research opportunities for faculty members with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and collaborating institutions.
Now, Healthy Gulf, Healthy Communities has been honored with a prestigious W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which recognizes collaborative efforts between university personnel and members of individual communities.
The award was presented Sunday, Nov. 11 in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, a non-profit organization that advances the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
This is the first time a UF-led project has been honored by the Kellogg awards program, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“We’re absolutely thrilled, because community engagement is something we’ve been emphasizing more and more at UF and within UF/IFAS particularly,” Payne said. “It’s gratifying to receive acknowledgment of our efforts and this honor will inspire our faculty and staff to work even harder to engage the residents of our state.”
A Kellogg award was presented to each of four teams, representing the major U.S. geographic regions APLU serves. The Healthy Gulf, Healthy Communities team represented the Southern Region, and projects based at Virginia Tech and Texas Tech universities received Kellogg awards for the Northeast and Western regions, respectively. A team based at Ball State University represented the North Central Region and received not only a Kellogg award but also an overall national award, the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award.
Payne noted that many faculty members from the Healthy Gulf, Healthy Communities project team were unable to attend the APLU meeting and enjoy their moment in the spotlight because they were busy assisting with relief efforts necessitated by Hurricane Michael, which struck Florida’s Panhandle Oct. 10.
“Perhaps that’s the greatest testament to the Healthy Gulf, Healthy Communities project – it worked so well that the project team members are in high demand whenever disasters strike Florida,” Payne said.
Known colloquially as HGHC, the project existed from July 2011 to April 2017 and was supported by a $6.5 million federal grant and funding from UF/IFAS. It encompassed three research studies, concerning psychological effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, community resilience in the wake of the disaster, and the safety of locally harvested seafood. The project included an outreach team responsible for disseminating research results, interfacing with residents, and providing referrals to needed services and resources.
The HGHC project team was led by Dr. J. Glenn Morris, a UF professor of medicine and director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute, and included four principal investigators. Lynn Grattan, a professor with the University of Maryland School of Medicine neurology department, was principal investigator (PI) for mental health investigations; Tracy Irani, a professor and chair of the UF/IFAS family, youth and community sciences department, was PI for community outreach; Andrew Kane, an associate professor with the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ environmental and global health department, was PI for seafood safety investigations; Brian Mayer, an associate professor with the University of Arizona College of Social & Behavioral Sciences’ School of Sociology, was PI for community resilience investigations.
Overall, HGHC was active in six Gulf Coast communities in Florida and Alabama. Participants included community residents, volunteers and an academic team with faculty, staff and students from UF/IFAS, the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, the University of Arizona, University of Maryland, University of New Orleans and University of West Florida.