Gulf Research of the National Academies awards Hahn $76K grant

by Catalina Myers  |   

Micah Hahn, assistant professor of environmental health in UAA’s Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies, was one of seven recipients awarded an Early-Career Research Fellowship from the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

 Micah Hahn, assistant professor of environmental health in UAA’s Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies, was recently one of seven recipients awarded a $76,000 Early-Career Research Fellowship from the Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies

The seven fellows were selected for the Human and Community Resiliency Track, one of three new tracks GRP launched earlier this year. They will spend the next two years pursuing research contributing to advancing health equity and examining the social determinants of health in the Gulf States of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Texas and Alaska. 

According to GRP, for decades, the Gulf States have faced monumental challenges from climate disasters like hurricanes and floods, which have directly affected the health and well-being of people in those communities. GRP research has shown that there tends to be a higher prevalence of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and asthma in Gulf State communities. Also, environmental contamination due to human-caused events like the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and offshore accidents tends to increase. According to GRP, low-income families and communities of color tend to be disproportionately affected by these human-led environmental disasters.

For Hahn, the GRP grant is right up her alley, with recent projects like the Southcentral Wildfire Study, examining the mental health impacts of wildfire season in Alaska, or collaborating with the Municipality of Anchorage on the city’s Climate Action Plan. In addition to researching health impacts, Hahn has also investigated the possible detrimental effects on the state’s moose population of ticks migrating further north. 

Hahn said she is excited to join her fellow Gulf State researchers and belong to the 2021 GRP Cohort. According to Hahn, in the world of research, GRP’s grant is unique. Typically, when applying for grant funding, researchers pitch grantors their specific projects when applying for funds. The grant money they receive is designated only for their particular project. With GRP’s funding, fellows are allowed to allocate their funding however they see fit, which means Hahn could fund multiple projects.  

“This type of grant is awesome because it’s really hard to get that kind of funding,” said Hahn. She has a few ideas of what projects she’d like to appropriate her funds to but has not entirely decided yet.

She said she’s continuing her wildfire research in Alaska and, this time, is focusing on how birth outcomes are affected. She said she has applied for a grant to conduct this research, but the GRP funding would allow her to expand her research and perhaps even bring staff onto the project.

Hahn has also been working with a group of representatives from municipalities across Alaska interested in doing climate work in their communities. She has helped facilitate group meetings and noted that the GRP grant money could help formalize this group, pay for her services and hire additional staff to continue the work.

Since the GRP’s grants do not require fellows to use their funds toward a specific project, fellows have the opportunity to explore many research pathways related to climate impacts in the Gulf States. Hahn said she is honored to be a member of this year’s cohort and is excited to pursue her own projects and learn about what research her colleagues are conducting in the Lower 48.

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