Dine College

News Release

September 30, 2015

Diné College Completes Climate Change Study


TSAILE, Ariz. — Diné College finalized a project to investigate springs, watershed health and climate change impacts in the Whiskey Creek Watershed in the Chuska Mountains. The project, involving tribal college students, was funded by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and and headed by Margaret Mayer and Dr. Karletta Chief, Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona.

The short-term project was intended to be an experimental outdoor lab training for environmental science Diné College students. The project began in August during the first month of "Environmental Science Lab" at the College. The group completed compiling and analyzing data at the end of September and submitted the final report to AIHEC on September 30.

Dr. Karletta Chief collecting UA on soil profile

The AIHEC grant enabled two interns to be hired as leaders in the watershed monitoring conducted by students. Also involved was one Independent Study student enrolled in the "Sampling & Monitoring" class.

Students learning about bulk density from Dr. Karletta Chief

The study also included analysis of aspen defoliation due to the web caterpillar in the Chuskas, since this just occurred this summer and aspen are part of the watersheds of the Chuskas. The equipment purchased for the study is a long-term investment for the College. It will be used to teach future students how to conduct data collection and long-term monitoring of Whiskey Creek in order to understand the impacts of climate change in the region.

The project evolved from a number of discussions and brainstorming sessions between Mayer and Dr. Chief surrounding watersheds, climate change, outdoor environmental labs, and prior instrumentation of the watershed. The duo applied for the funding earlier in the year with hopes of creating a experimental lab for students.

According to the Mayer, the "field training and use of the Whiskey Creek Experimental Wateshed as an outdoor teaching lab was successful. The students were able to apply classroom lectures to the field and to develop field skills that motivated them to advance their environmental science education at Dine' College and consider pursuing four year degrees."

Mayer and Dr. Chief plan to work together on future projects that include Diné College students.