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Classifying livestock grazing behavior and GIS-modeling potential for exposure to Abandoned Uranium Mine Waste in the Cove Wash Watershed, Arizona, USA

Authors: Zhuoming Liu*, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of New Mexico, Yan Lin, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of New Mexico, Joseph Hoover, Department of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, Montana State University Billings, Daniel Beene, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of New Mexico
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Animal Geographies
Keywords: GPS, domesticated livestock, multi-criteria decision analysis, uncertainty, fuzzy logic
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) are sources of metals and radioactive substances that are harmful to human health. There are 50 AUMs in the Cove Wash Watershed; as a result, community members are concerned that when livestock graze on or near these features they are exposed to harmful substances. Sheep in particular are culturally important and consumption of meat and organs may result in human exposure and potential health impacts. As part of a larger ongoing research project, this thesis examines the geospatial and temporal grazing patterns of domesticated livestock to use GIS to model potential for AUM waste exposure at the level of individual animals. In partnership with the Navajo Tribal College, chapter officials, and individual livestock owners, we used Lotek GPS animal collars to collect location, elevation, and temperature at a 20-minute interval for 12 animals. Depending on the flock, tracking time was a little as 10 days to as much four months. Using the collected GPS data, we aim to: 1) analyze the GPS data patterns based on environmental factors; 2) classify animal behavior; 3) use GIS-modeling to estimate the potential environmental exposure for each animal, informed by behavior patterns; and 4) quantify the uncertainty of both the livestock behavior classification and modeled potential for environmental exposure. Results from this thesis will be integrated with results from study partners to evaluate the primary community concern motivating the larger study - potential for human health risk from consuming meat and organs from livestock grazing in the Cove Wash watershed.

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