NICC students studying impacts of climate change

Nov 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: 23-2: Climate Commitment, Tribal College News
By Mark Gordon

The signals of climate change are all around us. An unmistakable sign of long-term change within weather patterns was seen last spring and summer in the flooding along the mighty Missouri River. It was called a 500-year flood.

Recently, students of Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC, Macy, NB) participated in learning these signals to better attune to our environmental future in Indian Country.

The project, titled “Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Geospatial Technology and Climate Change,” was provided at the Goddard Space Flight Center at Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU, Lawrence, KS). Funded by NASA and facilitated by Kiksapa Consulting, the program provided educational research training for students to learn research methods, analyze data, and understand geospatial technology for the purpose of addressing climate impacts on tribal lands.

Our effort, led by a lifelong environmentalist and NICC Science Chair Hank Miller, examined our impact on our environment. Students who participated in the research training included Troy Munhofen, Jeremy Key, and Kari Ann Denney. They studied signals here at home by collecting data on temperature, rainfall, water, and the flow of the Niobrara River.

The Niobrara River is 568 miles long and is fed by the Ogallala Aquifer as well as snowmelt from Wyoming. Over the last several decades, sediment buildup at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers has presented challenges for Native communities. Flooding, heavy river currents, along with low water tables are powerful signals and potential indicators of climate change.

By understanding our environment and how small changes today can signal the large-scale changes of tomorrow, we believe we can minimize our impact on our lands.

Dawn Hair, NICC botanist, instructs our Native Gardening classes and works to mediate climate change and address a variety of other issues, such as food quality, food independence, and food security. She utilizes the “Three Sisters” approach, which differs from modern methods of farming that rely heavily on pesticides and herbicides.

Instead, this approach uses traditional Native gardening methods and grows squash, maize, and climbing beans in such a way that soil is replenished and weeds are reduced. To support healthy foods, Jim Hallum, our cooperative extension program manager, provides free tilling for our community gardens. He tilled over 30 plots of land this year, funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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