"Climate Change and Health: The Threat of Harmful Algal Blooms to Tribes and Communities"

Event Date

1115 11th Street, Sacramento and by Zoom webinar

Talk by Dr. Gina Solomon from UC San Francisco and Ms. Sarah Ryan, Big Valley Rancheria Environmental Protection Agency.

Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California, has been repeatedly impacted by harmful algal blooms, with toxin concentrations in parts of the lake well above the California recreational “Danger” level many months of the year. Thousands of tribal citizens from seven federally recognized tribes live in the area and use the lake. The region has among the highest poverty rates in California, and the lake is an important economic, cultural, fishing, and recreational resource.

The California Water: Assessment of Toxins for Community Health (Cal-WATCH) project is a partnership between a local tribe, two state agencies, and a non-profit public health organization. Cal-WATCH gathered information from residents to assess local awareness, offered free water testing to residents who rely on lake intakes for drinking water, and is working across agencies to address health risks to local residents. As harmful algal blooms affect more freshwater and saltwater resources in California, broad and effective strategies will be needed to identify and confirm hazards, inform the public, and reduce risk.

Dr. Gina Solomon, M.D., M.P.H., is the Chief of the Division of Occupational, Environmental, & Climate Medicine at UCSF, where she oversees clinical occupational health activities at three hospital sites, leads research efforts in environmental health, and directs the Occupational and Environmental  residency program. Previously, Dr. Solomon was a program director at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, where she established and led the Achieving Resilient Communities project to identify, test, and expand interventions to reduce climate change impacts in farmworker communities. From 2012-2018, she served as the Deputy Secretary for Science and Health at the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Ms. Sarah Ryan works for the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians, where she has brought Tribal data to bear on policy development and natural resource management since 2001. As Environmental Director for the Big Valley EPA and co-developer of the Clear Lake Cyanotoxin Monitoring Program, she is engaged in algal toxin testing and cell identification on California’s largest freshwater lake and local creeks. As a representative of the tribe, Ms. Ryan works closely with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board and U.S. EPA on water quality and natural resource protection issues. Ms. Ryan also  co-chairs the California Cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Bloom Network.

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