ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Decades of uranium mining brought economic development to rural New Mexico, but it also left a legacy of toxic heavy metals in some communities. Now, researchers from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and Navajo Technical University are looking at new ways to help communities detect those heavy metals.

With a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, UNM professors Gabriel López, Nick Carroll, Matthew Lakin, and Navajo Technical University professor Abraham Meles are researching ways to detect heavy metals. The professors will also use the funds to help train Native and disadvantaged peoples to use the technology in the field.

The work builds on 30 years of previous research, identifying DNA sequences that can selectively bind to toxic metals. The researchers are looking to turn those DNA sequences into easy-to-use tests for local communities, but the full scope of the research is estimated to go until 2028.