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Thursday, October 8, 2015

KU Geography PhD Candidate and HERS Alum featured in the Spring 2015 Edition of "Winds of Change"

Winds of Change Spring 2015
     David Ward published an article in the spring 2015 issue of the  Winds of Change titled “Doing Something About The Weather: The forecast is calling for growth in climate-related careers.”  In the article, he discussed the surge of public awareness regarding climate change and the career opportunities it is producing. Ward also highlighted several students' learning experiences within these new interdisciplinary climate change academic programs that are developing at universities across the United States. Ward found most programs were very receptive to collaborating with other disciplines and concluded this cross curricular approach was better preparing students to enter the climate change workforce.  In addition, he discovered a growing trend that many of these climate-related programs were very interested in working directly with tribal communities or with Native American students researching how changing weather patterns are impacting Indian Country.
Winds of Change, Spring 2015
      Paulette Blanchard, Absentee Shawnee and alum of the Kansas EPSCoR educational collaboration with the Haskell Environmental Research Studies initiative (HERS), was one of the students featured in the article. She credits her interest in climate change and the environment to the HERS summer internship experience she had while attending Haskell Indian Nation University as an undergraduate.
      Following her undergraduate career, Blanchard completed a master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma studying at the South Central Climate Science Center. Her research focused on how climate and geography were impacting tribes across several states.  She found that tribes were aware of climate change because it impacted them personally, socially and economically.  However, she was not sure if they were trying to combat it as much as trying to survive it.  She commented that the “challenge was there were 63 tribes in the area and three fourths of them are…not situated in areas that can provide economic stability.” Furthermore, she mentioned that many of the communities were struggling to find sources of quality water, to build energy-efficient homes or invest solar powered systems.
     Blanchard supports the interdisciplinary approach to a climate change education because it addresses the many aspects of the tribal communities' concerns and prepares students to work with them.  She recognized the importance for any one working with these communities to understand the social and cultural dynamics, the history, the economics and the politics of the community that is being supported and that “cultural competency was a must.”

Paulette is currently pursuing her PhD in the Department of Geography at the University of Kansas.  

HERS provides the platform for various stages of support for programs of interest to American Indian/Alaska native communities, most recently focused on the effects of climate change on indigenous communities.