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Our Impact

Teresa Cavazos Cohn, Ph.D.

How you address the issue and results: Indigenous waters often involve many governing entities linked by the fluid nature of water itself. Moreover, resulting governance networks may include power asymmetries; ontological pluralism; and both political colonial and decolonization processes. Examining fundamental conceptions of water quality among governing entities, such as those involving space and time, may help illustrate the complex dynamics and power asymmetries, of governance networks.

Impact: A spatio-temporal lens may facilitate more holistic governance practices that recognize hydrosocial variability and tribal self-determination in Indigenous water quality governance.

Teresa Cavazos Cohn, Ph.D.

How you address the issue and results: Impasses in environmental communication may more effectively be addressed through 1) a clearer understanding of the intense emotions and prevalent stories surrounding contested issues, 2) efforts to improve communication and empathy across ideological, political, and disciplinary divides, and 3) engagement in transdisciplinary, community-based and creative responses.

Impact: Improved communication across the ideological, political and disciplinary divides of rural Idaho communities will lead to more effective solutions to environmental problems.

Jan Eitel, Ph.D.

U of I investigators: Jan Eitel, Lee Vierling, Andrew Maguire, Arjan Meddens, and Jyoti Jennewein

Funding Source: NASA

Summary: The Arctic-Boreal Zone (ABZ) is warming at an accelerated rate when compared to the rest of the globe. My research group focuses on developing and using remote sensing approaches for the scientific community to monitor and study climate change effects over the vast and largely inaccessible ABZ. The peer-reviewed work resulting from this research effort starts to be used by other researchers as indicated by citation metrics.

Situation: The Arctic-Boreal Zone (ABZ) is warming at an accelerated rate when compared to the rest of the globe. This warming has a strong effect on ecosystem structure and function with potentially important consequences for socio-ecological systems in the ABZ and beyond.

Response: Much of the current work of my research group focuses on developing and using remote sensing approaches for the scientific community to monitor and study climate change effects over the vast and largely inaccessible ABZ. As part of this work, we developed and published a remote sensing-based approach that may enable obtaining canopy height information across the ABZ which is valuable information needed by many researchers for studying climate change effects on the ABZ. We further published work that provides novel insights on the effects of snowpack properties on mountain sheep movement. Finally, to make the public more aware of climate change effects on the ABZ, we were involved in several local outreach events, including a presentation at a local library and work with local high school students.

Impact: The remote sensing-based approach we developed may enable obtaining canopy height information across the ABZ. This information could then be used by a wide range of other researchers for studying climate change effects on the ABZ. As of early 2019, this 2018 publication has been cited 4 times, read by 18 readers, and tweeted 6 times. Similarly, our work on snowpack properties on mountain sheep provides novel insights for researchers on the use of remote sensing and modeling approaches for studying how variability in snowpack properties might affect wildlife. As of January 2019, this 2018 article has been cited 1 time, read 16 times, and tweeted by 5. Because of our local outreach efforts, I was recently invited by a local group to be part of a well-attended (100 people) panel discussion on climate change effects on the greater McCall area.

Karla Eitel, Ph.D.

Investigators: Karla Eitel, Teresa Cohn, Jan Eitel, Lee Vierling, Kay Seven

Funding Sources: National Science Foundation Award #1513349. $1,101,523.

Summary: We created a two-week dual enrollment Indigenous Environmental Science course for 50 Native and non-Native students to explore concepts related to natural resources, and environmental science through an approach that integrated Western and Traditional knowledge systems, values and approaches to inquiry. Through this work students came to understand how their cultural and scientific identities are connected and came to value the legacy of knowledge of the land that they are connected to.

Situation: There is a growing interest in the culture of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning and the processes by which students from non-dominant cultural groups make sense of the scientific enterprise. In 2010, Bang and Medin pointed out that while efforts have been made to increase the diversity of those participating in STEM learning and STEM careers, much of those efforts, until recently, have assumed that learning itself is acultural. Bang and Medin assert that “central to the future of science and science education is to understand, support, and leverage the ways in which diversity – of people, practices, languages, meaning, knowing, epistemologies, goals, values, and the like… in learning environments and professional practice are an asset and expand the possibilities for human knowing and meaning” (p. 3).

Additionally, the practice of science itself is embedded in a cultural context that for the most part, in Western science settings, is imbued with overtones of the dominant “white” and “male” culture. Increasingly, there is an awareness that student persistence in STEM, and even in any post-secondary program, can be increased by creating learning and research environments that are not only inclusive but are taught from a standpoint that legitimizes Indigenous epistemologies (Abrams, Taylor & Guo, 2013; Bang, & Medin, 2010).

Response: In response to the need to create learning environments that integrate science and cultural identities, we created an Indigenous Environmental Science course for Native and non-Native youth. Cultural and Indigenous ways of knowing were seen as foundational to the program design and not “add ons” or “alternative” approaches to the “norm” of Western science. This approach integrates science and cultural identity. An objective of our work was to increase student competence, performance and sense of recognition of these students as “science people” within both Western STEM and Native STEM contexts.

Our research is investigating how UAVs and remote sensing technologies— embedded in appropriate cultural contexts—help Native students to develop culturally-connected science identities. A collaborative team of Nez Perce students, educators, and cultural experts; social science and remote sensing scholars; and Nez Perce scientists developed the research design and methods for data generation. Students were seen as research partners more than “participants” in the work, collaborating with the program planners to provide meaningful feedback on the way that the experience shaped their conceptions of science and their relationship to the scientific enterprise.

Impact:

  1. Developed skills profiles for Natural Resources and Fisheries programs of the Tribe that can guide new course development.
  2. Increased social ties and social capital: The work on this project has brought together a team of education, natural resources, fisheries, and cultural resources professionals from the Nez Perce Tribe with University faculty and students and high school teachers and students to work together. These relationships have afforded new opportunities to support priorities within the College of Natural Resources.
  3. Culturally-connected Science Identities: Student participants expressed an integration between cultural values and their work in science. After working with the elders, some students expressed a new sense of responsibility and the importance of their work and the ways that the land, their language and stories can support their future:

    Cultural science … has really helped me understand not only the pressure but also the responsibility the elders have for the younger generation. Our land is very sacred, as are the stories, the language, everything. It really shows me how much responsibility I have as the younger generation to take care of the land and the people, the language. I have a lot more responsibility than I thought.

Another participant expressed how the importance of young people going into natural resources and science work:

Science plays an important part in [passing on our culture]. We need young people in natural resources or cultural resources to protect our sacred foods or places. If these things are not protected or taken care of then not only would they be gone, next generations would not be able to learn.

Contact Us

Natural Resources and Society

Physical Address:
975 W. 6th Street
Moscow, Idaho

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1139
Moscow, ID 83844-1139

Phone: 208-885-7911

Fax: 208-885-4674

Email: nrs@uidaho.edu

Web: College of Natural Resources

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