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Call for Applications - NPS Epidemiologist-in-Residence Program Chickasaw National Recreational Area (CHIC)
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Background: Each year, dozens of infectious disease case reports and outbreaks are reported among visitors and staff from 392 National Park Service (NPS) units in the United States. Several factors encourage disease transmission at National Parks (NP), including large numbers of visitors, close person-to-person contact, and exposure to wildlife and disease vectors.

Although the NPS Office of Public Health is responsible for Service-wide disease surveillance and response efforts, only one epidemiologist is currently on staff. The placement of additional epidemiologists, particularly at large parks, would augment local public health capacity and improve disease prevention and control activities.

In 2009, the NPS Office of Public Health initiated the volunteer Epidemiologist-in-Residence (EIR) program at two inaugural parks - Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. This year, the EIR program will be hosted at Glacier NP in Montana and Mammoth Cave NP in Kentucky.

Program Objectives:
  • Provide a park-based volunteer opportunity for an epidemiologist
  • Encourage the development and implementation of innovative public health projects at National Parks
  • Enhance the capacity of the NPS Office of Public Health
Program Description: A popular activity at Chickasaw National Recreational Area (CHIC) in the summer season is swimming at various locations along Travertine and Rock Creeks. The waterways are routinely sampled by CHIC to monitor the levels of E. coli. The creeks eventually flow into the Lake of Arbuckles which is used for various recreational activities (fishing and swimming) as well as a source for drinking water. The lake is not routinely sampled but no problems have been identified and the density of swimmers is much less than in Travertine and Rock Creeks.

The levels of E. coli found in the creeks frequently exceed the recreational water standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Park Service (NPS). Per NPS guidelines, warning signs are posted when the readings exceed recommended levels. Unfortunately, this occurs frequently during the summer months. No source of contamination has been identified, however the city of Sulphur is immediately adjacent to CHIC with significant development within the watershed, and a major wastewater collection line and treatment plant is located within CHIC.

The current practice is to conduct weekly routine sampling for E. coli at various locations. Notification is placed on the web site and individual sampling locations are posted when the guidelines are exceeded. The locations are not closed – the posting is only an advisory.
The primary project objectives are two-fold but can be expanded or modified depending on interest:

  1. Evaluating how the risk of becoming ill is communicated to recreational bathers and how communication can be improved
  2. Reviewing historical sampling data and recommending improvements to the current sampling plan and how to quantify risk of acquiring illness among recreational swimmers
Job Requirements: The EIR will be expected to provide a personal vehicle and laptop computer for use during the assignment and should plan to work at least 30 hours per week for a minimum of 3 months (maximum 6 months). Depending on park needs, work hours may be bundled in order to allow for extended recreational time and field trips. It is preferable, but not required, that the EIR own or have access to a personal RV since this may increase the likelihood of securing appropriate park housing. A close-out meeting will be conducted at the end of the assignment to allow for feedback/evaluation.

Benefits and Stipend: The EIR will receive no salary but will be provided with appropriate housing (e.g. RV site, furnished room, apartment/house) in or near the park for the duration of the assignment. One other person (e.g. spouse, domestic partner, other) may accompany the EIR while on assignment. The EIR will have access to a workspace, phone/fax line, printer, e-mail account with internet access, and office supplies. In addition, the EIR will receive a small stipend ($200/month) for food and living expenses, and all work-related gasoline expenses will be reimbursed at 14 cents/mile (the maximum allowable for a volunteer). Mileage to and from the assigned park will also be reimbursed.

Eligibility: Epidemiologists with 15+ years of experience at the state, local, and/or federal levels are eligible to apply.

Timeline for Assignment:; May 1, 2011-October 1, 2011 (minimum 2 months)

Application Process:
Interested individuals should e-mail a completed application, cover letter, and CV to amy_chanlongbutra@nps.gov by COB, April 8, 2011. Finalists will be interviewed by phone and decisions will be made no later than COB, April 25, 2011.

Successful applicants will:
  • Be highly motivated
  • Have a strong background in applied public health in field settings
  • Possess excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Demonstrate the ability to work cooperatively with others
  • Be able to work independently while also demonstrating flexibility and willingness to work on various projects as needed
Other considerations may include logistical factors, such as dates of availability and type of housing requested.

Contact Information:
LCDR Amy Chanlongbutra
Deputy Branch Chief, Epidemiology Branch
NPS Office of Public Health
1201 Eye Street, NW, 11th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
david_wong@nps.gov
Ph: (202) 513-7097

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