The Geoscience Alliance–past work
The GA was formed in 2007 through the efforts of the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics. Key partners from Salish Kootenai College, Purdue University, the GLOBE Program, University Consortium for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and others joined and helped to bring about the first Geoscience Alliance meetings, which were held in conjunction with other conferences, such as the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) national meetings.
In 2010, we hosted the first Geoscience Alliance conference. This conference brought together over 100 individuals from tribal and other institutions, over half of them students, to discuss barriers to broadening participation and ways to overcome them. In addition, students had the opportunity to meet with program directors and hear about research opportunities in the Geosciences. This led to many good outcomes, including students participating in research programs, new research and education collaborations formed, and a dissertation published on the topic of broadening participation of Native Americans in the geosciences (Bueno Watts, 2011).
This dissertation and the report that came out of the GA meeting talking circles highlighted several barriers to participation and opportunities for new approaches for overcoming these barriers. Most significantly, the GA sustainability committee highlighted the importance of increasing dialog between the GA membership and the broader scientific community by recruiting more research scientists into the GA. This would serve to address several barriers, such as:
• Lack of information about opportunities for participation in ongoing cutting-edge research projects that impact the Earth, and our local communities;
• Lack of information about the sophisticated tools and technologies which have been developed for answering questions pertinent to Native communities on the themes of climate change mitigation and adaptability, environmental pollutants, water resources, invasive species, etc;
• Lack of understanding of the relevance of these tools and technologies for Native communities and insufficient training in their use;
• Insufficient time and opportunity for learning about these products at tribal colleges;
• Importance of weaving traditional knowledge and culture into science learning to enhance participation and to transform understanding; and
• Importance of creating research and education projects that focus on specific local areas in response to recent research on the value of place-based education for Native American students and the affirmation of that research at the last GA conference.