Climate Change and Native Cultures

Students learning about augmented reality at one of the Ilisavigk classes

Students learning about augmented reality technology  at one of the Ilisavigk classes.

I-CHASS has collaborated with American Indian and Native Alaskan organizations to develop educational and research programs that explore the impacts of climate change from the perspective of native ways of knowing.  Working with Ilisagvik College in Barrow Alaska, the National Museum of the American Indian of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and scientists from the University of Illinois and other institutions, I-CHASS has helped to design and present a 2 week summer STEM program at the Ilisagvik College for 12 high school aged Alaska Native youth.

During this program, the participants discover, investigate, and analyze the Barrow, Alaska permafrost.  Students learn about the science underlying permafrost and how it is changing due to climate change.  They have an opportunity to learn about remote observations, such as satellites, and how they are used in research and weather forecasting. For example, they learn about NOAA’s Barrow Observatory and how the observatory measures: 1) quantities of greenhouse gases, ozone depletion, and other important atmospheric trace gases; 2) direct sunlight, diffuse sunlight, global sunlight, and albedo sunlight; and, 3) pollution and dust.  I-CHASS’s Alan Craig and Kate Cooper were among the instructors in the class, emphasizing data visualization and preparation of scientific presentations.

Information gained from this experience will help students to develop and enhance their personal understanding of the permafrost’s significant relationship and impact on their local villages/communities. Additionally, they learn how share their insights on a broader national/international platform though the use of technological tools such as the iPod touch, websites, webcasting, and social media applications.  Results of student projects have been featured on the website of the National Museum of the American Indian.

This project has been supported by the Arctic Slope Community Foundation, Ilisagvik College, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

For more information, contact Alan Craig (acraig@ncsa.uiuc.edu)