Ph.D. Student | UNM Department of Geography & Environmental Studies
Trainee | UNM METALS Superfund Research Program
Data Manager | UNM Community Environmental Health Program (CEHP)
I am a Ph.D. student at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Geography & Environmental Studies. Under the guidance of my advisor, Dr. Yan Lin, I am studying the ways that we can leverage GIScience and spatial statistics to better understand how social dimensions of health and environmental exposures are deeply interconnected. The majority of our work is centered on the legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation, and the associated health outcomes that are compunded by parallel histories of disparity, disposession, and culture. Because my work is centered on Indigenous lands and cultures, I acknowledge and respect Indigenous People as traditional stewards of the land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous People and their traditional territories.

Please explore my research activities below!

email: darbeene@salud.unm.edu

Modeling Potential Environmental
Contamination from Abandoned
Uranium Mines

There are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) on the Navajo Nation. The reclamation status of many of these mines varies; so too does the extent of contamination. As part of a NIH P-50 award, we developed a proximity based-model of AUM contaminant transport that accounts for mobility due to the movement and deposition of mine waste due to wind and water. The final model utilizes fuzzy classifiers and a weighted linear combination of multiple environmental factors: proximity to AUMs, roads, and downslope drainages, vegetative robustness, landform classification, a prevailing wind index, and topographic wind exposure. A paper detailing this work can be found here.

Cove, AZ, Navajo Nation
Livestock Study

Cove is a small community and chapter of the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona. Livestock in many parts of the Nation are traditionally shepherded in areas that may be downstream from abandoned uranium mines (AUMs). The mountains surrounding Cove are home to many of these sites and the residents of that community are interested in the associated potential risks with consuming meat from livestock. As part of a team consisting of community members and researchers at Dine' College, Northern Arizona University, Montana State University - Billings, and UNM, we have developed methods to relate grazing activity with potential exposures from plants and water. Biological samples from these livestock are currently being examined at NAU.

Hydrologic Modeling of Sediment
Deposition and Uranium Mobility
in Cove, AZ, Navajo Nation

Seeking to refine our GIS-MCDA model of potential environmental contamination from abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) on the Navajo Nation, I have began to explore ways to more accurately model the processes of sediment deposition across a distributed watershed. Leveraging the Soil-Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and the SWAT Calibration & Uncertainty Programs (SWAT-CUP), I have been able to predict total sediment moved in tons/hectare from one hydrologic response unit (HRU) to others downstream. The second part of this model is currently underway and uses topological relationships to estimate the relationship between magnitude of past mining activity and uranium mobility through surface water and sediment.

Modeling Agrarian Change
In the Lower Rio Grande
Valley, NM

Ongoing water rights adjudicaiton in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico has pitted water users, farmers, and states against each other. I argue here that the adjudicaiton process has also incentivized a widespread agricultural transiton to pecan orchards from other crops that potentially require less water. Using a sequential exploratory research design, I explore how water governance has precipitated ecological change and the loss of cultural knowledge, political change and the exacerbation of inequalities, and legal conflict leading to political battles downstream of Elephant Butte Dam. Results of this work can be found in a chapter co-authored with Dr. Maria Lane and in my Master's Thesis.

More Research Descriptions to Come

More Research Descriptions to Come

Copyright 2020, Daniel Beene | darbeene@salud.unm.edu