Student Projects

2012 Student Presentations and Posters

Natasha Steinmann – Indigenous Ecological Knowledge: Collaborative Land Management and Climate Change Adaptation (An Australian Case Study) Natasha Steinmann is an Environmental Studies student at the U of O.  In the future, she hopes to be able to work together with indigenous  communities to communicate ideas and strategies for climate  adaptation, mitigation, and land management.

The effects of climate change are altering lifestyles across the globe, particularly those of indigenous communities. Due to the intimate relationship with the land that such communities have, these effects (such as changing river flows, dry-land salinity, and increased frequency in devastating bush fires) are increasing the already existing vulnerability that many indigenous communities face. One tool to address this increasing vulnerability is to modify land and resource management in response to these new issues.  Historically, Australian land management has been built upon Western values and ideas about ‘management’ and ‘environment’. However, with the recognition that local knowledge is critical for accurate and appropriate management plans, it makes sense that indigenous Australians (with their deep attachment to place, thorough knowledge of the land, and high stake in the productivity and survival of the ecosystem they live in) should be included in the development and implementation of such plans. This research describes how the integration of different knowledge systems (indigenous and Western) can be used as a tool for improving adaptability to climate change impacts in indigenous Australian communities through innovative land and resource management strategies.

Mary Kennedy, Northwest Indian College – Weaving Traditional Ecological Knowledge through Tsimshian StoriesMary Haldane Kennedy di waayuu, Metlakatla, Alaska dii wilt waatgu ada Tsimshianu ada Pteex Laxsgiik, ada waalp Txatkwatk.  My name is Mary Haldane Kennedy of Metlakatla Alaska, I am Tsimshian Eagle and my house if the Glassy hour or misty house. For nearly 40 years, Tsimshian culture was very important and I have learned about our Traditional ecological knowledge from my elders of the Git lax liikstaa dancers. My educational background is that I received a bachelors of science in Native Environmnental. My research interests are to find out how “storytelling” was used to teach about living in balance with our eco-system-The Tsimshian, Haida and Tlingit people of Southeast not merely survived but thrived in a very challenging setting. Mary is currently an environmental planner with the Craig Tribal Association in Alaska.

Throughout history, Tsimshian stories were an important element about how to live in balance within our environment. There are elders who tell me that those stories changed as our environment changes. During a weaver’s conference in Ketchikan, Alaska, a discussed took place about the importance of the materials that are used in gathering. In this paper, I discover the importance that “storytelling” plays in sharing our knowledge about our plants, fishing, hunting and not merely surviving- but how this was much more than entertainment but it was a method used to teach important information on living in balance in our eco-system. There are two stories shared in this that many Tsimshian communities shared and demonstrated the ability to “adapt.” This includes the Prince and the Salmon people and the Spider and the princess. Each community shared stories to demonstrate adaptation to global warming and other issues.

Elise Downing – Nature-Culture Dualism in US Climate Change DiscussionElise Downing is a junior Environmental Studies major, Political Science minor, and in the Honors College. She is also a community organizer and environmental educator.

The purpose or expectation of this research is to explore how perceptions of climate are related to the common understanding of the human-nature relationship in the USA. Research methods include surveying the scholarship on the human-nature relationship and evaluating popular dialogue and scientific research on climate change to test if there is evidence of dualistic divide between people and nature, via news sources and the IPCC, etc. The line of reasoning or structure for this project will begin with a discussion of the scholarship on human-nature relationship. The academic discourse on the more general relationship between people and the environment reveals a deeply entrenched nature-culture dualism that defines humans, and the things they create, as different from the rest of the natural world. Popular discussion and understanding of climate and climate change occurs within this socially constructed and reinforced dualism between nature and culture. When the discussion of any issue is restricted to a certain framing or understanding, the responses or actions that result from than discussion are also restricted. This confined discussion of climate issues could ultimately define “realistic” solutions for the industrialized West as only those that align with the dualistic human-nature relationship, thereby excluding other options for climate change mitigation and adaptation that result from alternate understandings of how people ought to relate to nature.

Carson Viles – Climate Change Impacts on First Foods and Culture in the Northwest. Carson Viles is a fourth year Environmental Studies student at the University of Oregon and member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

This research focuses on first foods, food security and climate change in the Pacific Northwest. Traditional foods of indigenous populations, more commonly known as first foods, are being affected by climate change in varied ways. Key issues to first foods caused by climate change in the Northwest include access to salmon and health of salmon populations, shellfish harvesting, threats to estuary ecosystems, changing species distribution of berries and roots, changes in growing seasons for plant-foods, issues of access caused by distribution changes, amongst others. Because of the central role of first foods to native cultures in the Pacific Northwest, threats to these foods also represent a dire threat to the health of indigenous culture.  As climate change has intensified and created what has been described as “climate chaos,” i.e., less predictable weather and the social complications that come with it, native people in the Northwest have responded in a variety of ways. This research investigates how indigenous Northwest peoples are affected by climate change through first foods, how they are working to mitigate the effects of climate change on first foods, and how they are maintaining their relationships with these foods in the midst of a rapidly changing climate.

Forrest Callaghan, Northwest Indian College – Northwest Indian College Carbon Footprint: Baseline Data for Raising Consciousness Among Indians. Forrest Callaghan an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and  a descendent of the Nez Perce and Spokane Tribes.  I am currently going into my senior year at Northwest Indian College.  My major is Native Environmental Science with a course study deal with climate change in the Northwest  and ways of mitigating the effects of climate change through living a more conscious and responsible way. I currently volunteering my time with  Transition Port Gardener in Everett Washington that grows organic food for local food banks and teaches people how to grow their own food.  With this group we instill the ideas of growing and buying locally and what our impact is on the environment. I have two children, a son 16 and a daughter 6.  They have been a great inspiration for me at going back to school and doing something dealing not only with our Native culture but also helping with the environment. I am the Mountain/Pacific Regional Representative for American Indian Higher Education  Consortium.  As a representative it is part of my job to keep the funding for tribal colleges and universities by talking to members of congress about the importance of Indian Education at the college level.

Northwest tribes are based on a culture of harvest from the sea. Salmon are the center of religious ceremonies, economics, and the physical health of tribes. Northwest tribes additionally depend upon shellfish harvests. Greenhouse gases are an issue for Northwest tribal life for a number of reasons. Rising levels of greenhouse gases lead to ocean acidification which can affect calcium levels in the sea and prevent krill, shrimp, shellfish, abalone and other organisms from properly forming their shells. This is particularly problematic for the tribes because populations of these culturally and dietarily important organisms can then decline. As important, some of these organisms are part of the diet of salmon, the most significant of species to Northwest tribes. In this study, we used the Clean Air Cool Planets Green House Gas (GHG) Inventory Calculator (Carbon Calculator) to determine the amount of greenhouse gas produced by Northwest Indian College’s Lummi Campus. Data were taken for two different years, from July 2009 to June 2010 and from July 2010 to June 2011. The GHG calculator takes input data from five major areas: electricity, garbage, air travel, propane gas and travel of supplies, e.g. paper. Our effort to document the NWIC Lummi Campus carbon footprint is part of a larger effort toward greater sustainability including green-buildings, recycling and composting. Our eventual hope is to use the data we gather to help move the college toward becoming an official part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. This should help students become more conscious of carbon footprints in a way that will allow them to pass on their knowledge to others, including their families and their tribes.

Lehua Kaʻuhane, University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa Environmental Law Program: Solutions or Just More Problems?: A Call for True Climate Justice for Kanaka Maoli. Lehua Kaʻuhane comes from Hawaiʻi Island and is recent graduate of William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai’i.  Motivated by the relationship between community, culture, and the environment, Lehua obtained Environmental and Native Hawaiian Law Certificates and is completing a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.  As a second year law student doing research for a seminar paper, Lehua began to learn about the impacts of climate change on native cultures and communities.  This inherent justice issue inspired her to want to learn more about climate change, and in particular, issues of climate justice.  Seeing the tensions surrounding large-scale renewable energy development in Hawai’i she discovered that justice issues lie not only in the problem, but in proposed solutions.  Lehua’s current interest is exploring ways for climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies to incorporate the perspectives of indigenous peoples, and other communities who possess knowledge that is critical to formulating real solutions, but whose voices are often left out of policy circles.

Hawaiʻiʻs dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic, social, and cultural wellbeing as oil prices continue to rise and the consequences of climate change become more apparent. Imported oil accounts for 90% of Hawaiʻi’s energy needs, Hawaiʻi consumers pay the highest electricity prices in the United States, and over $7 billion a year goes outside Hawaiʻi to meet our energy consumption.  In 2008, the Hawaiʻi Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) was launched to provide a framework for “[c]lean, locally developed, renewable energy [that] will in the long run boost Hawaiʻi’s economy because the land, the sea, the sun, and the wind are all capable of producing limitless amounts of indigenous energy- forever.”  Building on the HCEI, current state law requires that by 2030 seventy percent of Hawai’i’s energy be “clean energy,” coming from a combination of efficiency measures and renewable energy sources.  The input of Native Hawaiians, Hawaiʻi’s indigenous people, however, has by in large been minimal in formulating a policy to achieve this transition.  Where the voices of Native Hawaiians have been most clearly heard, is at the implementation phase, and in opposition to clean energy initiatives, such as geothermal development on Hawaiʻi Island and big wind energy projects on Lānaʻi and Molokaʻi.  The disconnect between the development of energy policy, and the communities most affected by the construction of renewable projects, is unfortunate because there is one common goal- for Hawaiʻi to move towards energy independence.  Yet the question remains, how can we move towards greater energy self-sufficiency for all of Hawaiʻi’s people, while respecting the rights of the Native Hawaiian communities whose beliefs and lands have been most greatly impacted by large scale development of renewable energy?  This paper offers one suggestion, which is to look at the ways in which international climate change mitigation efforts are increasingly incorporating the recommendations of indigenous peoples in order to implement more effective and just solutions.

Christa Linz – Preparing Students for Climate Change: A Critical Look At Climate Change Educational ProgramsChrista Linz left Ohio to pursue Environmental Studies at UO and has since developed a love for tall trees and wide mountains. 

Although there is a general sentiment that “America will only be as strong in this century as the education that we provide our students” (Obama, 2010), there is little focus on climate change in public school curricula. With the urgency of climate change, we need to begin developing creative solutions to deal with this complex problem, and the education system has the power to build up an awareness and an ability to respond to climate change in the coming generation of students. The standards by which we must evaluate climate change educational programs include the development of knowledge, the encouragement of creativity, the connection to culture, the skills of collaboration, and the ability to participate in positive action. However, the major climate change programs in the United States focus on only a couple of these criteria for a successful curriculum – particularly, knowledge. While the science of climate change is critical for understanding how to react to it, we need a more holistic understanding of the social causes and ways to develop solutions that transcend the purely scientific truth of climate change. By comparing the aforementioned standards of educational programs to the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) standards for environmental education and the curricula of major climate change programs, we can develop a greater understanding of what type of curricular reforms are necessary to develop a generation of people able to tackle the issue of climate change.

Kelsey Stilson – Humans and the North American Pleistocene Megafaunal ExtinctionKelsey Stilson is a Geology Major with an emphasis in Paleontology. She works in the UO Hopkins Lab and is currently in the process of completing her Senior Thesis on Rhino Arthritis (ask her about it). Kelsey has presented at the Annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Conference and the Annual Paleopathology Conference. She enjoys coffee, field work, and visiting museum collections.

The Pliestocene Megafaunal Extinction (PME) culled two-thirds of the world’s megafauna (mammal species with an average mass of >44 kg) over the relatively short period of 50,000 to 3,000 years ago. Megafauna are usually the first animals to become extinct in a weakened ecosystem. Human impact and climate change are considered the two main catalysts of the PME. This study looks at this global event from a North American lens, where extant species have been shown to have been genetically altered by the N. American PME and a Bison trans-continental migration has been shown to have a higher correlation with the PME in N. America than human impact or climate change. The ‘overkill’ or ‘blitzkrieg’ model concerning human impact is overturned in favor of a more moderate approach considering the available data. The PME must be thought of on both a local and global scale, where global events greatly increase the likelihood of extinction, but local variation is the ultimate determinate in megafaunal survival, much like the endangered megafauna today. 

Madeline Culhane – Climate Change in the Maldives: A Rising Tide That Cannot Be Ignored

The Maldives is a nation composed of a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean known for its tourism industry and white sand beaches. But it is also a modern example of a nation that must grapple with the immediate effects of climate change, as their homeland is being threatened by rising sea levels that may entirely swallow the entire country. Higher ocean temperatures in the late 1990s heavily damaged a lot of the coral reef surrounding and protecting the islands. Former President Nasheed has rallied the rest of the world to join their endeavors in trying to get the Maldives to become carbon neutral as one way to counter the threats of climate change. Nasheed has introduced plans to use wind energy to provide power for everything from buildings to cars and boats as means to achieve this goal. Nasheed is also soliciting advice from other nations, asking for help and ideas, as well as solidarity, from other countries. However, the effects of years of pollution and human interaction from billions of people across the globe will present an incredibly steep challenge for the country of nearly 400,000 people. While addressing these issues is literally a matter of life and death for their homeland, the practical costs are high for a vulnerable and developing nation. The Maldives will serve as an example for the rest of the world in upcoming years, as a case study for the effects of climate change and how we as a world choose to deal with it

Hillary Boost – Effects of Global Climate Change on the Psychology of Children and Adolescents.  Hillary Boost is a senior majoring in Family and Human Services. She plans to pursue a Master’s degree in social work after graduation.

This is an evaluation of the psychological impacts of global climate change on children and adolescents.  It is hypothesized that global climate change has effects on the psychological wellbeing of children and adolescents, including increased rates of depression, insecurity, anxiety, and suicide rates.  This paper analyzes existing county, state, and country documents detailing rates of the issues listed above as well as research articles examining the ways in which climate and psychological wellbeing interact to determine the relationship between global climate change and increased rates of psychological concerns for children and adolescents, particularly in western society. Given the gradual and cumulative nature of climate change and its psychological effects, studying its impact on child and adolescent psychological wellbeing may provide new insight into the vast repercussions of global climate change.

Frances Bursch – Sustainable Development and Climate Change Policy: Cooperation for the Mitigation of Climate Change Impacts on CommunitiesFrances Bursch is a sophomore in the international studies department with a concentration in international development.

Climate change and sustainable development are hot topics today as a consequence of increasing rates of climate change, the continued global disparity in wealth and resources, and the imminent exhaustion of non-renewable resources. However, climate change and sustainable development knowledge exist in unique fields and often don’t speak the same language. Integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts with sustainable development policy and practice helps communities achieve development goals such as adequate availability of food, water, and energy, and the augmentation of a diverse economy. Objectives of the collaboration between climate change and sustainable development knowledge are to reduce the climate related vulnerability and improve the adaptive capacity of climate-affected communities. As humans continue to be impacted by climate change it is important to understand the relationship between people and environment and to restructure policy and practice as climate changes.

Weston Cooper

Sports and sustainability have a natural bond. From the beginning, sport was developed in the outdoors and made use of the natural resources available. Without available fresh air, land, and water athletic achievement would be severely diminished. The Olympic committee has recognized this connection and made the environment one of the three Olympic pillars. The United Nations also recognized this connection by organizing the World Conferences on Sport and the Environment through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). This emphasis had its first affect on a local level, driving athletic events to pursue low waste solutions. However, climate change has now evolved to the central issue. As best illustrated in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, the air quality was so poor some athletes contemplated skipping the games all together, and climate change was thrust to the forefront of the media and public’s attention. From this experience the culture surrounding large scale sporting events has forever changed. China has taken steps to launch a comprehensive cleaning of the air quality that has echoed through the World Exposition in Shanghai. The following Olympic games in 2010 had the most environmentally friendly venues ever and achieved Platinum LEED certifications. Now, all large cities that are seriously considering an Olympic bid must first consult a sustainability expert. But, is this because event organizers are truly concerned about the long-term environmental impacts of the games? I believe so, but the economic and status benefits are equally important.

Shannon Ferry – An Earth That Speaks and Those Who Listen: Climate Change in Inuit Oral Tradition

Climate change in North America is a topic often shrouded by misconception, politics and strong opinions. One means of better understanding climate change in North America is determining useful methods of detection of climate change-related events and the attribution of said events. While Western society often uses purely scientific methods for the detection and attribution of climate change-related events, there is great worth in the detection and attribution used within many indigenous cultures through means of oral traditions and stories. Specifically, this essay will examine the oral stories of Inuit tribes in Canada and Alaska that attempt to explain and address the changing climate around them. These oral traditions will be analyzed in conjunction with scientific studies in an attempt to synthesize the climate changes of the last two hundred years with the changing oral traditions of tribes over time. While the Western methodology of detection and attribution has proven useful in some instances, the valuable knowledge that can be found within these oral traditions cannot be discarded. With a synthesis of tradition and science, it is hoped that a more complete picture of climate change in Canada and Alaska over the last two hundred years, and subsequently a more complete idea of addressing climate-related issues in this region, will be obtained.

Ethyn Kelley – Whooping Cranes and Texans: a Plan for Water, Survival, and CoexistenceEthyn Kelley is a sophomore majoring in Journalism at the University of Oregon.

In the Guadalupe river basin of Texas, a low lying stretch of coastal marshes and grasslands, human development and weather alterations are beginning to cause problems for whooping cranes and humans alike. There is not enough water there to support both humans and animals, especially in times of drought. Whooping Cranes have never lived easy. Ignoring difficulties with migration from Alberta, Canada to Texas each year, a combination of human interference and habitat loss has now brought their shrinking populations even closer to extinction. Losing a species from our planet is a tragedy in itself, but even more frightening is the idea that humans are also struggling with an increasingly stressed water management system in Texas, along with the cranes. In the foreseeable future, we may watch the existence of the whooping crane come to an end, but what about humans living in this area? The effect of human development needs to be weighed more accurately with water availability and climate changes in the Guadalupe river basin. Water marketing should reflect the shortages occurring and that will occur to a greater degree in times of drought, and should also succumb to enhanced water conservation solutions. Lastly, laws regarding habitat protection and wildlife preservation need to support the climate in Texas more than they support development and economical gains.

Kylie Loutit – Maori Traditional Knowledge and Climate ChangeKylie Loutit is an Environmental Science major with a minor in Chemistry.

The Maori, the native population of New Zealand, are gradually becoming an imperative part of understanding climate and environmental events and changes in New Zealand.  Maori Environmental Knowledge (MEK) has been recognized as a useful source of knowledge about climate change that cannot be accessed from standard “westernized” scientific data.  Many Maori strive to live at one with nature and view it as an extension of themselves. Their stories, songs and narratives provide mechanisms to inform people of danger, as well as provide details that lead up to catastrophic events and the falling out of such happenings.  The Maori are a minority in their own land; however, the reemergence of their culture coincides with the acknowledgement of the usefulness of MEK toward climate change, and is furthering their revival in New Zealand.  MEK is context-dependent, making it difficult for scientists to easily incorporate it into reports.  However, despite its challenges, MEK is a unique and valuable source of information that can greatly contribute toward the understanding of and response to climate change by expanding the limits of westernized science.

Paul Metzler – Agricultural Diversification in the Face of Climate Change.  Paul Metzler is an environmental studies student at the University of Oregon concerned about the environmental and cultural impacts of the global food system.

Indigenous cultures are often the stewards of areas with the most biologically diverse food crops. Diversity is essential to maintaining food security in the face of changing climates, and yet, indigenous cultures are often the most adversely affected by this change. This paper analyzes the struggles and successes of indigenous cultures in the Americas to maintain food sovereignty in the face of climate change and the influences of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) on more mainstream food systems. By examining existing literature, it is clear that many cultures struggle with food security as a direct cause of climate change. However, many indigenous people have made remarkable adaptations, recently and in the past. These cultures also cultivate underutilized crops which could hold the answers to the nutritional problems many communities experience. Furthermore, TEK gained from indigenous cultures can provide insight global adaptations to climate change.

Mia Schauffler – Climate Change Adaptation and Pacific Salmon.  Mia Schauffler is a journalism major and potential Political Science minor. She is interested in the local impacts of climate change and using media to explore these issues.

Pacific salmon populations are currently in decline. Due to a history of exploitation of their environment, certain types of salmon are at risk of extinction. Along with overfishing and fishery practices, climate change is considered a large factor in the depletion of salmon. Although the destruction of salmon affects all types of cultures, many indigenous cultures depend heavily on salmon for sustenance and as part of their culture. A study on the St’át’imc tribe provided a number of adaptation strategies such as alternative sources of protein like deer or the more abundant pink salmon. Salmon hold an integral place in native communities and the adaptation strategies to maintain salmon are explored and initiated. These communities had traditional ways of maintaining salmon populations before the exploitation of their ecosystems disturbed the species. A combination of these traditional strategies and innovative adaptation techniques must be considered in order to maintain the diversity and quantity of pacific salmon.

Benjamin Stone – Varying Portrayals of Climate Change and Water Stress in Bolivia, Seen Through Science and Journalism.  Ben Stone is majoring in journalism and minoring in Russian.  He is from Kalispell, Montana.

In many ways, populations in developing countries are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than those in wealthier, industrialized cultures. And in the Andes of South America, this vulnerability can be seen particularly clearly in the poor nation of Bolivia. As the effects of climate change become increasingly destructive to the water supply and traditional ways of life in Bolivia, and as Bolivian president Evo Morales becomes more vocal and impassioned at international climate change conferences, the literature analyzing Bolivia’s problem is increasing. The current array of scholarly literature about climate change in Bolivia details the climate-related processes behind the water stress, focusing on ways for Bolivian cultures to adapt to climate change. Contemporary journalistic literature on the subject, however, focuses primarily on portraying current conditions for people in Bolivia who are being affected by climate change, particularly indigenous Bolivians. Through the study of these two bodies of literature, this analysis aims to show the lack of the valuable social context within the technical climate change reports that influence national policies within Bolivia, a country that will feel climate change’s effects much sooner and much more intensely than most.

Inga Suneson: Malaria Policy and Climate Change

Malaria’s dependence on specific atmospheric conditions such as an abundance of precipitation and warm temperatures makes it susceptible  to climate change. A slight change in temperature, precipitation, or seasons can result in exponential changes an area’s malarial infection  rate. The trend in warming weather patterns presents a potential threat by providing a more hospitable climate for malaria in places  such as Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. These potential hazards caused by changing weather patterns will largely be places  where malaria has not previously been a problem. The changing range of malaria could impact new populations, without medical infrastructure  to fight it. By monitoring locations of malarial infections along with  climate patterns, potential epidemics could be averted.

Laura Vigeland – Coffee Farmers and Climate: Adapting to a Changing EnvironmentLaura Vigeland is a junior in the Clark Honors College majoring in Communication Disorders and Sciences.

Coffee is one of the most widely traded commodities in the world, with Central and South America producing the majority of this product.  This study explores the effects of climate change on coffee production in these regions and the implications this has for people whose livelihood depends on this commodity. Furthermore, it examines the potential benefits of Fair Trade farming practices for both coffee yield and coffee farm workers experiencing climate change.   Large coffee plantations often exploit workers, paying them salaries below subsistence level.  Climate change raises concerns about people who work on these plantations, for if increased temperatures adversely affect coffee production, their wages may diminish even further.    This study analyzes research articles and secondary sources about climate change and coffee production, treatment of plantation workers, and the environmental and economic aspects of Fair Trade practices.  Results indicate that increased temperatures due to climate change decrease coffee production, which leads to lower wages for plantation workers.  Research also shows that Fair Trade farming practices mitigate the effects of climate change on coffee yield, and that Fair Trade economic policies ensure that workers earn adequate salaries.  While climate change may negatively affect coffee production and farmers, Fair Trade practices combat these issues.  These findings indicate that small coffee farms that use sustainable methods will cope with climate change better than large plantations.


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