Welcome to the archive of Kansas NSF EPSCoR (KNE) news and announcements blog. Stay up-to-date with all the happenings, discoveries, events and funding opportunities associated with KNE by visiting https://nsfepscor.ku.edu./

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

HERS student explores "Fire Sovereignty: Using Prescribed Burns to Conserve Tallgrass Prairies on Tribal Lands"

Kynser Wahwahsuck presenting
her research at the 2018 UCAR conference
   Kynser Wahwahsuck participated in the 2018 Haskell Environmental Research Studies (HERS) Summer Program after she received her BS in Environmental Science from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS. https://www.haskell.edu/sponsored-programs/hers/ The HERS program is one of the educational outreach initiatives proposed in the Kansas NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006 titled: Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant, and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS). The HERS program provides a platform for various stages of student support as they research topics that are of particular interest to American Indian/Alaska native communities. The program allows students to conduct independent research and present their findings at a national convention. HERS students from past years have focused their research on exploring “the effects of climate change on indigenous communities; the interconnectedness between wetlands resources, specifically soils, vegetation and water and the disruption to those ecosystems; and the significance of sustainable gardening practices.”  
    Being a member of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, Kynser was interested in studying the effectiveness of the Kickapoo Tribe’s “mitigation of invasive woody species on tallgrass prairie utilizing indigenous burning practices.” She titled her project Fire Sovereignty: Using Prescribed Burns to Conserve Tallgrass Prairies on Tribal Lands and she explained her research as follows: “Before colonization, Indigenous people used fire as a method to burn grasslands to clear large areas of land in order to lure game for hunting. In addition, fire management was crucial in maintaining a healthy ecosystem for tallgrass prairies that became overgrown with invasive woody species. With changes in climate in the Midwest, these woody species are more abundant today due to the increasing warm weather and decreasing precipitation. In this research, I wanted to know how Tribal lands were managing their tallgrass prairies. I visited the Kansas Kickapoo Tribe Environmental Office and they showed me their practices for conserving the prairies on the reservation. I discovered how little of the prairie is left and how fire is managed differently now in present time. Based on my findings, I concluded the use of prescribed burns should be conducted once a year on the Kickapoo Reservation to suppress the woody material encroaching on the abandoned hay field and to restore the native prairie.” This past summer, Kynser presented her research during a poster session at the University Corporation ofAtmospheric Research (UCAR) 2018 Conference held in Boulder, CO.   
     Part of the HERS program involved visiting MAPS researchers' labs and that was when Kynser met Dr. Amy Burgin, co-team leader for the Aquatic MAPS research, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) at the University of Kansas (KU), and Associate Scientist for the Kansas Biological Survey (KBS). Once Kynser began working with Dr. Burgin, her research interests changed to aquatic ecology, and this is how she enthusiastically described what she is now doing with this new research focus, “I have gotten dirty helping with water sampling at Milford Lake! Currently, I am measuring phosphorus concentrations in Milford Lake where Cyanobacteria reoccurs.” 
     As for her next steps, Kynser said, “I will be starting my Master’s with Dr. Amy Burgin this summer and will be measuring stream nitrogen cycling processes across Kansas in the EPSCOR MAPS project.” In addition, and because of the HERS experience as well as the encouragement and support of Dr. Burgin, Kynser wants to mentor future indigenous undergraduate students.

Kynser is from the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas located in Brown County. While attending Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS, she was a member of the Student Ambassadors, the Haskell Tribal Eco-Ambassadors, Gamma Delta Pi Sorority, and served as a Student Senate Representative and Treasurer as a freshman. This summer, she will attend the University of Kansas and pursue a Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with Dr. Amy Burgin.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.