Tracing Health Drivers Through the Web of Life

lake Powell

Low water levels in Lake Powell may be increasing environmental toxins.

Recognizing that the well-being of people, animals and the environment is linked, the University of Arizona is uniting expertise from across disciplines in the One Health Research Initiative (OHRI).

Using AI to help analyze complex data sets, researchers aim to ensure safe food and water and advance global health security for more than 2 billion people in expanding arid regions around the world. Heat and drought make Arizona a valuable test case, says Frank von Hippel, OHRI lead and a professor at the Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Collaborating with CNRS, the National Centre for Scientific Research in France and the largest fundamental science agency in Europe, UArizona scientists are learning how climate change impacts
air and water pollution. Drought has made Lake Powell a prime target for such research. The reservoir spans Arizona and Utah, is a freshwater resource for multiple states and recently reached an historic low – just 40% of capacity.

As its water diminishes, compounds considered safe when well diluted become increasingly concentrated. Sediment no longer underwater exposes materials that can become airborne pollutants. Further, as supplies dry up, potential limits on water use in agriculture raises troubling questions for food security.

The research team will use advanced sensors to track the dispersion of pollutants and contaminants in air, water and food systems across the region, and will use AI to analyze the complex data sets that result.

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