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Cultivating a Climate Science Learning Community Amongst Tribal Water Managers

A South Central CSC FY 2017 Funding Opportunity Project
Principal Investigator
Molly Yunker


Start Date
End Date
Release Date


In previous climate trainings conducted for tribes and pueblos in Oklahoma and New Mexico, impacts to water resources have emerged as a priority concern. Building on the success of past South Central CSC trainings such as Climate 101, this project will provide opportunities for water managers from 20 tribes to exchange knowledge in a series of workshops. These workshops, some virtual and some face-to-face, will allow water management professionals to discuss emerging issues with climate scientists, cultivate a community of practice, and increase their capacity for successful climate adaptation. Through the workshops, water resource professionals will collaborate to understand the latest developments in climate science. Additionally, [...]

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“Turner Falls, OK; Credit: USGS”
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This project will promote sustained and purposeful communication and collaboration with Tribal Water Managers from about 20 Tribal Nations in New Mexico and Oklahoma. We will provide opportunities for the Water Managers to meet one another, and engage in meaningful discussions about their professional practice during a series of face-to-face and virtual workshops. Through sustained interaction with other members of the established learning community, as well as experts in climate science and related fields, these individuals will build capacity within their own Tribal Nations. One goal of this project is to provide opportunities for water resource professionals to work together to understand the latest developments in climate science. A second goal is to develop an understanding of effective ways to cultivate a community of learning professionals, with an awareness of best practices of other Nations. This project will include the development of two communities in parallel – one in New Mexico and one in Oklahoma – providing a rich opportunity to compare, and immediately apply lessons learned throughout the two-year project. A third goal of this project is to apply our findings from this project to other communities, both Tribal and non-Tribal. Finally, the overarching goal of this work is to increase capacity within Tribes, by providing structured opportunities for Tribal natural resource professionals to learn from one another through sustained interaction. The Native American Nations – with people vulnerable to climate change, and governments that can greatly empower regional adaptation efforts – will benefit from the establishment of a learning community. The project participants, future Tribal Water Managers, and their Tribes can more effectively help the region seek sustainable solutions as a cohesive group of Tribal professionals.

Project Extension

typeTechnical Summary
valueAlthough many Tribes and Pueblos in the south-central U.S. have 1-2 Tribal Water Managers, these professionals rarely interact with one another across the region. We have identified a significant, untapped potential for Tribal Water Managers to establish a learning community of practitioners working on similar resource management issues impacted by climate variability and change. Providing opportunities for water resource managers to share experiences, innovate, solve problems, develop new knowledge structures, and learn from others working on similar issues in different Tribal Nations and Pueblos would ultimately build capacity and climate science literacy within all participating Nations in the region. We will use project funding to launch, establish, and build the proposed Tribal Water Manager learning community. We will study our process of establishing this unique learning community with attention to the particular needs of the Tribal members, using mixed-methodology (qualitative and quantitative data sources) to contribute to the general understanding of the educational research knowledge. As the project organizers, we will explore our own practice, as well as conduct interviews with select participants, including both singular and paired discussions. We will collect quantitative survey data to better understand how participation in the learning community influences each individual, and the group as a whole. Our project team includes one education researcher (PI Yunker), a sustainability scientist and Tribal Liaison affiliated with the SC CSC (co-PI Taylor), an environmental protection specialist in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (co-PI Merryman), a professor in Geography and Environmental Sustainability (co-PI McPherson), and the executive director of the Flower Hill Institute (co-PI Fragua). We will also partner with ~20 Tribes and Pueblos in New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Budget Extension


Turner Falls, OK; Credit: USGS
Turner Falls, OK; Credit: USGS


Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS


  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers
  • South Central CASC



Additional Information


Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC a5a5a554-f142-4253-bada-10254ea40073
StampID NCCWSC SC17-YM0972

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