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Kauneckis accompanies students to Native Water on Arid Lands Summit

M.C. Tilton
December 3, 2015

A professor and two graduate students from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs were among those participating in the first major national meeting on water management and climate impacts for sovereign tribal territories in the western United States.

Environmental Studies Professor Derek Kauneckis and students Anna Palmer and Courtney Carrino, both candidates in the master of environmental science program, recently returned from the Native Water on Arid Lands Summit held in Las Vegas, Nev. Representatives from more than a dozen tribal groups attended the event, which featured a variety of topics that included climatic change in the Southwest through time, water quality in Arizona, traditional ecological knowledge and agricultural practices.

“The conference was unique in that it focused on activities at the nexus of water technology, traditional knowledge systems and policy that can be used to increase the resilience of native agricultural economies,” Kauneckis said.

Palmer, a native of New York City, is researching ways to develop community vulnerability measures that can accurately represent tribal communities’ inherent resilience yet identify potential threats to well-being. She is examining how to utilize climate resiliency indicators developed for urban areas and states in the tribal sovereign territories. Carrino, a member of the Cherokee Nation from Tahlequah, Okla., is working closely with tribal communities on understand how to better incorporate traditional ecological knowledge into climate change resiliency planning.

“The most pivotal point of this summit was that Indian leaders and various tribal members were directly involved in the decisions on how to move forward with the research and their opinions were taken with sincere consideration,” Carrino said. “I am profoundly proud to have had the chance to network with leaders from within the tribe and from leading national companies. In constant collaboration, all are leading with a similar mission to increase tribal resilience and sustainable practices, while also respecting the spirituality and cultural richness of Native people.”

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs continues its tradition of engaging climate change policy research as a national priority and is working on this project in collaboration with the University of Nevada-Reno, Desert Research Institute, University of Arizona, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, United States Geological Survey and the First Americans Land-Grant Consortium.