Small Grant Program

Researchers from biosolarization team posing in front of a bio-solarized plot of land

The Small Grant Program provides small grants to graduate student and faculty researchers for research taking place across the region, including in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada. The primary goal of the WCAHS Small Grant Program is to encourage the development of creative research and intervention projects while nurturing researchers - particularly junior researchers - interested in agricultural health and safety research. An annual call for proposals is released each October and following a competitive review process, selected projects are funded. 

Small Grant Program Objectives

  • Fund short-term research projects to support the collection of preliminary data
  • Attract new investigators to work with the Center in the field of agricultural health and safety
  • Facilitate the exploration of innovative research
  • Engage and mentor graduate students across multiple disciplines

See the 2018-2019 Call for Proposals

 

Current Projects

 

Organizational Risk Factors for Sexual Harassment and the Consequences for Agricultural Work Teams

Monica Cooper, DPM - UCCE Napa

Female farm workers in the US are at risk of sexual harassment; workers witnessing sexual harassment are also affected, contributing to dysfunctional work teams. Subsequently, poorly functioning teams pose other safety risks in agricultural workplaces where hazardous materials and machinery are used. Using vineyard companies as a model, this project examines sexual harassment risk factors, with an emphasis on organizational structure, and the consequences for all vineyard crew member teams. We intend to develop predictive measures identifying when workers are at greatest risk of sexual harassment, and investigate its potential role on wider health and safety issues. From these models we intend to provide agricultural companies with information to proactively structure their organization to foster a work environment that reduces the probability of sexual harassment and benefits wider health and safety issues.

 

The Correlation of Metal-Specific Dusts to Lung Pathology in California Agricultural Workers

Katie Edwards, Graduate Student – Forensic Science, UC Davis

Agricultural workers in the Central Valley are exposed to a wide variety of airborne toxicants that place these workers at increased risk for respiratory disease compared to the general population. This research will examine whether metals present in the dust inhaled by farmworkers contributes to the observed lung damage.

 

Farm-Incubator Agricultural Safety Training Program

Nathan Harkleroad, MS - Agriculture and Land-based Training Association

The Agriculture and Land-based Training Association’s project will provide agricultural safety education to 60 participants, the majority of whom are immigrant farmworkers. Project materials, including new tools, newsletter articles, webpage, and social media, will reach an additional 300 farmers in a tri-county area, as well as a network of farm educators nationally. We aim to provide a series of 10 worker-safety workshops; technical assistance to 30 individual farmers on worker-safety compliance; knowledge to 60 aspiring farmers; implementation of new worker-safety practices by 30 farmers; establishment or update of worker-safety compliance plan by 25 farmers; and the creation of a bilingual worker safety resource page on ALBA’s website.

 

Developing and Implementing an Outreach Program to Improve Cannabis Worker Safety and Health in California

Farzaneh Khorsandi, PhD – UC Davis

Cannabis in California is a rapidly growing industry and will continue to expand with the 2018 legalization of recreational use and issuance of commercial cannabis producer licenses. The increase in cannabis employees and the demand for worker-training intensifies the need for an assessment to detect safety hazards of working in the industry and for the development of a health and safety outreach program. We aim to conduct such an assessment an develop an outreach program to educate workers and supervisors about the potential hazards and accidents in this field, and the appropriate prevention methods and protection equipment.

 

Leptospirosis Among California Agricultural Workers: A Silent Epidemic?

Alvaro Medel-Herrero, PhD, MBA - UC Davis

Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that affects humans and animals, is primarily an occupational disease, disproportionally affecting farmers. Leptospirosis is a reemerging infection in California and a serious threat to farmwokers. No studies on Leptospira seroprevalence have been conducted in California agriculture workers. The goal of this proposal is to estimate the prevalence of leptospirosis among agriculture workers in the Central Valley of California and its relation to main exposure factors. We plan to use a questionnaire to collect information on exposure factors. To estimate leptospirosis prevalence, biological samples will be collected. We expect to find a relatively high prevalence and close relationships between leptospirosis and occupation, environment and poverty.Results are expected to fill knowledge gaps and contribute to a better understanding of leptospirosis epidemiology and occupational exposure risks in California. Ultimately, we hope that our scientific findings will be translated to educational and outreach programs, as well as new health policies to prevent and control leptospirosis reemergence in the US.

 

A Water Quality Assessment in a Farm Worker Community

Marc Verhougstraete, PhD - University of Arizona

The community of Winchester Heights, Arizona is a nearly 600-resident community is made up of farm workers. Additionally, water in the community is suspected to be contaminated from decades of extensive agriculture in the watershed. Thus, this project proposes to understand Winchester Heights community member’s risk perception of their local water and quantify bacteria and heavy metal concentrations in household drinking waters by using a community-based participatory approach. This method involves training community health workers to collect, analyze, and interpret bacteria and trace metals from water then present the results to their community. We intend to establish a strategic action plan with input from the community residents and community stakeholders focused on improving water quality.

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2016 - 2017 Projects

Arizona’s Pesticide Use Registry and Vital Statistics Birth Certificates: A Rich Potential Resource for Studies of Associations Between Pesticides and Health Outcomes Among Farmworkers

PIs:  Paloma Beamer, PhD and Melissa Furlong, PhD, University of Arizona

Prenatal levels of organophosphorus pesticides (OPs) have been associated with a wide range of adverse childhood outcomes, though studies are sparse and many suffer from inherent limitations of OP biomarkers. Geospatial based exposure assessment of pesticides may overcome such limitations, but such studies are limited to California. Exposure assessment may additionally be enhanced by incorporating farmworker occupation, as this group is at higher risk of pesticide-associated health outcomes, but farmworkers are difficult to identify. We propose to prepare Arizona’s Pesticide Use Registry and birth certificate data as a resource for future studies of exposure to pesticides and childhood health outcomes, and to incorporate birth certificate-reported farmworker occupation into analyses. We will examine associations between prenatal exposure to OPs and several birth outcomes, and will pilot test our hypothesis that incorporating farmworker occupation from birth certificate reports can improve exposure assignments relative to geospatial measures alone.

 

Legal Status and the Health of US Farm Workers

PIs: Erin Hamilton, PhD and Jo Mhairi Hale, PhD, UC Davis

More than half of U.S. farm workers are unauthorized immigrants. The health hazards of farm work are well known, but it is not clear how farm worker health varies by immigrant legal status. While research suggests unauthorized immigrants are extremely vulnerable, unauthorized immigrants may nevertheless be healthier for reasons related to the migration process. Research has been limited by the health measures available in the primary national source of data on U.S. farm workers, the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS). Specifically, lifetime diagnoses of health conditions may be an invalid measure of health for unauthorized immigrants, who have less access to health care than the authorized and thus may be under-diagnosed. We propose to use several techniques, including analysis of new health measures in the NAWS, to examine legal status disparities in health. Our results will provide information about the health of an essential but highly vulnerable group.

 

A Contextual Study of the Health and Safety of Indigenous Mexican Farmworker Youth

PI: Seth Holmes, MD, PhD, UC Berkeley

While the health and safety of immigrant farmworkers in California is increasingly addressed in academic literature and policy initiatives, there is little exploration of the experiences of second‐generation farmworker youth. To be successful, initiatives aimed at the health and safety of farmworkers must take into account the needs of second‐generation adolescent farmworkers, who face social, cultural, linguistic, and economic challenges distinct from those faced by their parents. In order to explore these factors affecting this understudied population, this project proposes in‐depth ethnographic research that includes participant observation, semi‐structured interviews, and family life histories of indigenous Mexican youth as they navigate multiple sites—residential, educational, employment, and health care—within California as well as during brief trips to their home villages in the Mexican State of Oaxaca. The insights gained from this innovative, multi‐sited, and mixed‐method approach will result in policy‐relevant recommendations to best address the unique health and safety needs of this important structurally vulnerable population of farmworker youth.

 

Arizona Dairy Farm Worker Zoonotic Exposure Assessment

PI: Gerardo Lopez, PhD, University of Arizona

The dairy industry, like many other agricultural industries in the United States, is dependent on the labor that migrant and seasonal farm workers (MSFW) provide. Dairy production, a major part of Arizona’s agricultural industry, places workers at risk for many hazards, including infections that can be transferred from cattle to humans. This project will assess whether Arizona dairy workers are leaving the dairy farm with four commonly found microorganisms at the end of the workday. This will be done by asking workers questions about their work practices and by collecting samples from the workers’ skin, clothes, and shoes and analyzing for Salmonella, E. coli, Clostridium, and Cryptosporidium. The study will be divided into two stages: Part 1 will include Salmonella and Cryptosporidium analysis, and Part 2 will include E. coli and Clostridium if additional funds are obtained. At the end of the project, the workers will be presented with their individual results and will receive reading and training materials to protect themselves and their families from this type of infection.

 

Characterizing the Agricultural Workforce in Hawai`i

PI: Lynette Landry, PhD, Hawaii Pacific University

Little is known about the agricultural workforce in Hawai`i. Survey data published by governmental agencies include general information such as numbers of paid and unpaid workers, mean salary, and rates of injury in mining, forestry and farming. To effectively improve worker safety and health more information about the workforce is needed. Both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders will be identified. Key informant interviews and nominal groups will provide data, that once validated, will be used to develop geographical information system (GIS) maps. Aggregate workforce and job characteristics will be overlaid existing GIS crop data maps. The GIS maps will be used to more fully describe the agricultural workforce. Study results will be used to identify agricultural workers who may be at the highest risk of injury for further assessment and intervention studies to reduce risk. Through the interview and nominal group process potential collaborators for future research will be identified.

 

Past Small Grant Program Projects:

2015 - 2016 Projects

Biosolarization is a Fumigation Alternative for Controlling Soil Pests

PI: Christopher Simmons, PhD, UC Davis

This project examined the potential for biosolarization as an alternative to using toxic fumigants to control soil pests. Biosolarization is safer for worker health.

Examining Primary Exposure Risks of Zoonotic Enteric Pathogens Occurring in Large Commercial Dairies within California

PI: Robert Atwill, DVM, MPVM, PhD, UC Davis

The study developed methods to quatify four major zoonotic enteric bacterial pathogens that are endemic in dairy cattle populations and are distributed throughout the dairy environment, posing a constant threat to human and animal health.

Exploring the Role of Depression as a Moderator of a Workplace Obesity Intervention for Latino Immigrant Farmworkers

PI: Jessie Pintor, PhD, UC Davis

The potential risk of depression was examined in terms of the success of a 10 week workplace obesity intervention for Latino immigrant farmworkers.

Heat Illness and Kidney Function in California's Agricultural Workers

PI: Sally Moyce, RN, PhD, UC Davis

Research was presented to the Second International Research Workshop on Mesoamerican Nephropathy on the cumulative incidence of acute kidney injury (AKI) over one work shift and the estimated associations of heat exposure and volume depletion on incident AKI in a study with 295 California agricultural worker participants.

Impact of California Drought on Community Health: The Water Quality Side

PI: Swee Teh, PhD, UC Davis

This project sampled water quality from the California Central Valley, where some rural towns suffer from unsafe water, especially in areas that have agricultural runoff and are dependent on well water.

Investigating the Links Between Chemical Exposures and Toxicological Responses for Air Pollutants Using a Novel Aerosol Mass Spectrometry Method

PI: Qi Zhang, PhD, UC Davis

The connections between the chemical properties of particulate matter (PM) and adverse health effects, such as cardiopulmonary disease, remain poorly understood. PM2.5 (particles with diameters less than 2.5 micrometer) samples collected during winter from the City of Sacramento located in the Central Valley of California and the City of Taiyuan in northern China were analyzed for chemical composition and toxicological responses.

Joint Funding for Agricultural Health and Safety Projects in Developing Countries in Conjunction with the Blum Center for Developing Economies

PI: UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students

WCAHS partnered with the UC Davis Blum Center for Developing Economies to help impoverished communities around the world improve their agricultural health and safety. WCAHS and the Blum Center jointly funded three UC Davis students to conduct agricultural health and safety related projects both in the U.S. and abroad in conjunction with a local non-profit or agency.

Online Certificate Program for Promotores on Agricultural Health and Accident Prevention

PI: Xochitl Castañeda, PhD, UC Berkeley

The goal of this project was to build a healthier and better-informed agricultural worker community by creating a promotores certificate program (first in the nation) focused on the occupational health and safety of agricultural workers.  Six modules for the online certificate program were completed.

Sexual Harassment and Latino Immigrant Farmworkers

PI: Kim Prado, Graduate Student, UC Davis

This project characterized attitudes, beliefs, and experience relevant to workplace sexual harassment among men and women farm workers in California and Mexico to inform subsequent development of effective educational materials and policy recommendations for agricultural employees, employers, and governmental agencies.

2014 - 2015 Projects

Assessing Clothing as a Preventative Method for Heat Illness in California's Agricultural Workers

PI: Alondra Vega, Graduate student, UC Davis

The purpose of this project was to determine the optimal clothing scheme for agricultural workers when working in varying conditions of extreme heat. It was found that one layer of clothing was best rather than layers.

Heat Exposure, Dehydration, and Kidney Function in California's Agricultural Workers

PI: Sally Moyce, RN, PhD, UC Davis

The project focused on understanding the magnitude of occupational heat-related kidney dysfunction in agricultural workers to inform early detection measures and to plan occupational interventions for its prevention. In a sample of 295 CA farmworkers, acute kidney injury was found in nearly 12% of the workers after a single day in the field.

Joint Funding for Agricultural Health and Safety Projects in Developing Countries in Conjunction with the Blum Center for Developing Economies

PI: UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students

WCAHS partnered with the UC Davis Blum Center for Developing Economies to help impoverished communities around the world improve their agricultural health and safety. WCAHS and the Blum Center jointly funded 14 UC Davis students to conduct agricultural health and safety related projects both in the U.S. and abroad in conjunction with a local non-profit or agency.

Joint Funding for National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Projects

Core Center for Environmental Health Sciences, UC Davis

WCAHS partnered with the NIEHS Core Center for Environmental Health Sciences at UC Davis to fund pilot projects for junior investigators. The Pilot Project Program supports short-term one-year projects to provide preliminary data for new extramural grant submissions in the area of environmental health sciences research.

National Hmong American Farmers

Conference, Fresno, CA

WCAHS helped sponsor the 2015 National Hmong American Farmers conference held in Fresno, CA. This is an annual event that brings useful information to the farmers, especially small growers, on economic, regulatory and other agricultural related issues. The WCAHS Education and Outreach Specialist attended and presented on worker rights and heat illness prevention.

Online Certificate Program for Promotores on Agricultural Health and Accident Prevention

PI: Xochitl Castañeda, PhD, UC Berkeley

The goal of this project was to build a healthier and better-informed agricultural worker community by creating a promotores certificate program (first in the nation) focused on the occupational health and safety of agricultural workers.  Three of the six modules for the online certificate program were completed.

¡Que Viva la Vida!

Women's farmworker educational conference, Esparto, CA

WCAHS sponsored the ¡Que Viva la Vida! conference in Esparto, CA in March 2015. WCAHS Education and Outreach Specialist as well as other presenters spoke about the tremendous importance of working towards and maintaining good health in order to better provide for one's family. Information was presented on physical health and nutrition, domestic violence, and education.

The Effects of Agricultural Particles on Pulmonary Allergic Responses: A Focus on Dendritic Cells

PI: Alejandro Castañeda, Graduate Student, UC Davis

The purpose of this study was to better understand how agricultural particulate matter exacerbates asthma. The results showed that exposure to particulate matter during allergic sensitization exacerbates the inflammatory response in the lung when allergen is subsequently encountered.

2013 - 2014 Projects

2013-14

Assessing Clothing as a Preventative Method for Heat Illness in California's Agricultural Workers

PI: Alondra Vega, Graduate Student, UC Davis

Funds were used to support the preparations and data collection in the Summer of 2014 to achieve project aims:  1)  Determine the optimal clothing scheme for agricultural laborers when working in varying conditions of extreme heat; 2) Validate methods in agricultural laborers working in the fields; and 3) Determine the effects of wearing multiple layers of clothing when working in varying conditions of extreme heat.

Assessment of Arizona Agriculture Health Data

PI: Philip Harber, MD, University of Arizona

The purpose of this project was to develop an overview of agricultural health in Arizona, which has several unique aspects, including diverse animal and crop work, a significant proportion of workers are difficult to identify, and considerable bidirectional travel across the Arizona-Mexico border.   

Developing the Next Generation of Ag Safety and Health Leaders

PI: Benjamin Swan, PhD, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

This study looked specifically at secondary agriculture teachers in the San Joaquin Region to see what extent they were trained to teach safety and health topics and to what extent they train their students in those same safety and health topics.

Evaluating Inhalation Exposure of Biochar Particulate Matter and Bound Contaminants from Agricultural Associated Dust

PI: Sanjai J. Parikh, PhD, UC Davis

The work assessed the occupational hazards associated with biochar particulate matter (PM) inhalation by farmworkers and local residents. Simulated dust generation experiments were conducted to evaluate the potential for transfer of toxic chemicals from biochar to humans via a series of with both chemical and biological analysis of collected dust fractions.

Heat Exposure, Dehydration, and Kidney Function in California's Agricultural Workers

PI: Sally Moyce, RN, PhD, UC Davis

Small grant funds were used to fund a field staff worker to collect data on kidney function and diabetes in California's agricultural workers from July to October. Data were collected from 149 male participants working in conditions of high ambient temperatures throughout the Central Valley.

Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Education for Latino Immigrants

PI: Xochitl Castañeda, PhD, UC Berkeley

The goal of this project was to build a healthier and better-informed agricultural worker community by creating a promotores certificate program (first in the nation) focused on the occupational health and safety of agricultural workers.  Work began on the modules for the online certificate program.

The Effects of Agricultural Particles on Pulmonary Allergic Responses: A Focus on Dendritic Cells

PI: Alejandro Castañeda, Graduate Student, UC Davis

The San Joaquin Valley has one of the highest incidences of asthma in the country, a phenomenon that is related to the high levels of ambient particulate matter generated through anthropogenic processes such as agriculture farming and vehicular transportation emissions. The purpose of the study was to understand how agricultural particulate matter exacerbates asthma through the use of an animal model.

2012 - 2013 Projects

2012 - 2013
Development and Field Evaluation of Summer Garments for California agricultural Workers

PIs: Gang Sun, PhD, UC Davis and Uwe Reischel, PhD, Boise State, Idaho

This project focused on the particular circumstance of summer weather in California and developing smart textile materials to properly respond to external and internal heat while working outside.

Immune-Mediated Mechanisms of Agricultural Particle-Induced Lung Inflammation and Injury

PI: Alexa Pham, Graduate Student, UC Davis

Occupational dust exposure among California farmers has been associated with respiratory symptoms. Mechanisms by which agricultural particulate matter (PM) causes lung injury that is further exacerbated by endotoxin, an allergen commonly found in agricultural settings, were characterized.

Respirator Training Module for Pesticide Handlers and Applicators

PIs: Joyce Strand, PhD, and Lisa Blecker, MS, University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program

A hands-on respirator training module in English and Spanish was designed for California pesticide applicators and handlers.

Valley Fever: The Farmworker Perspective

PI: Carol Sipan, PhD, UC Merced

The goal of the work was to determine if farmworkers are at increased risk for contracting Valley fever, which has dramatically increased in the western US. A study of  patients at a lung nodule clinic operated by UCSF-Fresno was developed that compared agricultural workers to non-agricultural workers.