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Monday, September 10, 2018

HERS student examines wetland viability

Tasha Chenot presenting her research at UCAR, 
Boulder, CO.
     As a recent Environmental Science graduate from Haskell Indian Nations University, Natasha (Tasha) Chenot saw the Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS)  partnership with the Haskell Environmental Research Summer Internship (HERS) program as an opportunity to pursue her research interests associated with climate change and the resiliency of Indigenous communities. Specifically, she was interested in investigating the "interplays between culture, identity, and the environment" as it related to Indigenous geographies, environmental policy, and environmental stewardship. As an undergraduate, these interests led her to join the Haskell Indian Nations University Tribal Eco-Ambassadors Program sponsored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  While serving as a Tribal Eco-Ambassador, Tasha organized several Haskell Wetland Clean-Up events and recognized that there were only a limited number of studies related to the impacts of road construction on wetlands.  Consequently, when it came time to select a research topic for the HERS program, she decided to explore the impact of highway construction and use on the Wakarusa Wetlands, located in Lawrence, Kansas.  She titled her project, The Effects of Highway Construction and Use on the Water Chemistry of Adjacent Wetlands and explained the rationale and results of her research as follows: “Wetlands are highly sensitive to disturbances associated with highway construction and use. However, few studies have examined the during-and-after effects of highway construction on wetland viability. At the Wakarusa Wetlands, located in Lawrence, Kansas, a four-lane highway was built from May 2014 to June 2016 across the northern part of the landscape. In the summer of 2018, I worked with data collected during two time periods to assess the during-and-after effects of highway construction on the water chemistry of the Wakarusa Wetlands. Although the data was discontinuous, immediate results from water quality tests suggested that disturbance from highway construction to date has increased turbidity and decreased DO content and conductivity in the wetlands. Future research activities may include establishing a long-term, continuous monitoring system in order to further investigate changes in wetland water quality.” Tasha presented her research findings at the University Corporation of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) 2018 Conference held in Boulder, CO this past July.
     Tasha is a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and is originally from Oklahoma City, OK; however, she grew up in Lawrence, KS. Her favorite part of the HERS internship was “learning about other interns’ research projects. Everyone’s project spoke to issues that they felt passionate about and centered on the cultural survival of their (and others’) community. I truly learned so much.” In addition, she said that through this internship experience, “I learned several writing and data management skills that will undoubtedly help me in my future studies.”
     Currently, Tasha is a graduate student at the University of Kansas working on a master’s degree in Geography.  Her long term goal is to move to Alaska after graduation and work as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Environmental Consultant for the many Alaska Native corporations located throughout the state.

Workforce Development, Education and Outreach funding for the HERS program is provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas. The award's workforce development and educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of aquatic, plant and soil microbiome environments and ecological systems.