The Tribal ecoAmbassadors Program has enabled six tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) to collect important environmental research data and has provided hands-on field experience to TCU students. Now in its fifth year, the program is the result of a successful partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC).
This project year, Haskell Indian Nations University has implemented a food waste reduction program on campus and is heavily involved in wetlands restoration tasks in response to a local road construction project. Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (KBOCC) is monitoring trends and collecting data on the cold-water fish habitats of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, including brook trout and lake sturgeon. Salish Kootenai College continues research on the arsenic levels in private drinking wells across Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal lands. Turtle Mountain Community College is researching the presence of abnormal leech and contamination levels in recreational bodies of water located on the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians’ reservation. Further still, the Institute of American Indian Arts continues work on projects that are using art and permaculture to enhance public spaces, while Northwest Indian College is building upon previous efforts to expand and enhance facilities, materials, and instruction concerning the interrelation of people, plants, and wellness.
In the summer of 2016, members from the fifth cohort of the Tribal ecoAmbassador Program presented their respective research at the annual International Symposium for Society and Resource Management conference held at Michigan Technical University. Following the presentation, Tribal ecoAmbassadors toured sites and facilities in the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Indian Community, including the tribal fish hatchery and local restoration sites. In addition, Tribal ecoAmbassador representatives from Haskell and KBOCC traveled to the EPA’s headquarters in Washington, DC to meet with representatives and discuss their projects for the EPA’s tribal science webinar. Approximately 200 individuals from organizations and institutions across the country registered for this webinar. As the program enters its sixth year, Tribal ecoAmbassadors will continue to offer hands-on field experience to TCU students, while contributing important environmental data for American Indian communities.