AIHEC Builds Climate Resilience Network

Volume 28, No. 1 - Fall 2016
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The Native Climate Resilience Network seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change through community planning and adaptation. Photo by Tomas Castelazo

The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) is working with tribal colleges and universities to establish the Native Climate Resilience Network (NCRN) with funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The project is a multi-community effort designed for tribal college faculty and students to work with community members on how to anticipate and respond adaptively to emerging threats from climate change.

NCRN implements a citizen science framework, working within the existing institutions and organizations of American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The project seeks to encourage tribal community engagement and problem solving, as community teams identify local climate change issues that form the basis of collaborative adaptation/planning projects. Another goal is to facilitate sustained interaction among tribal communities facing similar issues and with the larger climate change response community, in particular the USDA Climate Hubs and U.S. Geological Service Climate Science Centers. Finally, NCRN hopes to bring together the human and technological resources needed to facilitate tribal community-based climate change adaptive responses, providing opportunities for concerned community members to become meaningfully engaged in outreach, education, research, and planning activities.

The project is being piloted in partnership with AmeriCorps VISTA and Conservation Legacy at College of Menominee Nation, Salish Kootenai College, Sitting Bull College, and United Tribes Technical College. VISTA volunteers will be tasked to work with tribal college faculty, students, and local community members to identify current and anticipated climate change vulnerabilities, and to develop climate change response plans based on local priorities. Each VISTA placement runs for a three-year period; Conservation Legacy and AIHEC will manage and support the volunteers. AIHEC and AmeriCorps VISTA hope to eventually identify resources to support VISTA volunteers who will establish local NCRN sites at all 37 AIHEC-affiliated tribal colleges.