2012 Conference

 2012 Geoscience Alliance Conference

Home Places, Local Landscapes, Traditional Knowledge, and Modern Technologies

17-18 March, 2012

Salish Kootenai College

Pablo, MT

Continuing Education Credits were available at the conference

Native Americans continue to be underrepresented in the Geosciences, despite ongoing efforts to provide pathways into geoscience careers for Native students. These students have a leading role to play in the future management of our nation’s land and water resources, both on the reservation and across the country. Vast resources have been poured into creating technologies that help us understand and respond to the challenges that face the Earth, but these technologies are underutilized, particularly by Native communities. Despite recent investments, there continues to be a technology gap in reservation communities. And even in cases where computers and internet are present, there is still an information and imagination gap—the potential for these sophisticated tools to solve local problems is not realized by the potential user community. We know the same problem exists within the education community. NASA, for example, has developed a vast collection of products and tools for education on climate change, but these resources continue to be underutilized in tribal colleges and tribal K-12 schools.

The under-representation of Native Americans in the geosciences is detrimental to the quality and relevance of the geosciences. Without Native participation in geoscience, it is difficult to develop a geoscience research agenda that is responsive to the unique priorities and values of indigenous communities. This means that indigenous communities have to recast research results or inform geoscientists of their practices and values in order to incorporate expertise from the geosciences into their planning and governance. If there were more geoscientists from Native communities, they could include indigenous priorities, values, and perspectives in setting a new research agenda, and tribes would have a higher chance of finding tribal members who could contribute geoscience knowledge and perspectives to community issues. Rather than challenging tribal sovereignty and identity and forcing tribes to rely on outsiders, geoscience would strengthen tribal communities from within.

We highlighted several of these sophisticated research techniques, and data management and visualization tools at the 2012 Geoscience Alliance conference. Keeping in mind the Circle of Learning principles that guide the Geoscience Alliance (i.e., everyone teaches and everyone learns), the workshops were structured as a dialog with positive feedback loops—participants not only explore the technologies, and bring them to the Native communities, but also engage in helping the institutions who provide these tools to better understand and meet the real needs of Native communities. The overarching theme of the workshops was “Speaking from the head—Where does/did your water go?—and we challenged the workshop leaders to address, from a local Montana perspective, two important, and connected, water-related topics (water quality/water scarcity) as part of their workshop.

The following institutions offered workshops at the 2012 GA conference:

NASA – The NASA Innovations In Climate Change (NICE) program offered two workshops— a) one aimed at educators and students, highlighting NASA online resources for accessing data and visualizations related to climate change, and b) a presentation of Space Grant and NASA opportunities for Tribal Colleges.

GLOBE—The GLOBE Program offered all participants training in GLOBE protocols, in order to highlight to teachers and faculty the value of participation in the GLOBE program, and to offer students a taste of hands-on research. Scientists were encouraged to consider proposing future GLOBE projects.

EarthScope—The EarthScope Program offered a workshop to enable formal and informal educators, students, and the interested public to locate and use current geoscientific findings and data from EarthScope’s ongoing decade-long project: to study the crust and mantle beneath the entire United States in detail, and to better understand earthquakes, volcanoes, and the origins of continents and mountains. Participants learned how to use EarthScope resources to enhance place-based, locally situated teaching.

CUAHSI—The Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Sciences, Inc. offered a workshop highlighting their Hydro Desktop, CUAHSI’s open-source hydrologic data tools. They showed how researchers, students, and educators can join CUAHSI, access and submit data, and create education programs with these systems.

LacCore—The National Lacustrine Core Facility (LacCore), University of Minnesota, offered a hands-on workshop for students, faculty, and researchers highlighting the opportunities for gaining knowledge from lake sediment core samples. LacCore scientists gave examples of ongoing research by students on the reservation of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in northern Minnesota.

WEN—The Watershed Education Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering knowledge, appreciation, and awareness of watershed health through science and outreach. WEN collaborated with faculty from Salish Kootenai College to offer a field trip and hands-on science activities.

UCAR: The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research’s Education group led a discussion to learn the key issues that tribes in the US face, and explore the connection of these issues to atmospheric sciences. From this, they worked with GA members to articulate a research and education agenda that could address these issues, and broker partnerships between communities, NCAR researchers, and UCAR programs that might address these issues.

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