For centuries, Native Americans, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and other indigenous peoples and communities have relied on natural resources to sustain their families, communities, traditional ways of life, and cultural identities. This important relationship with both land and water ecosystems makes indigenous people and cultures particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which can include drought, increased wildfires and extreme weather, sea-level rise and melting glaciers. Read more
Many communities are already facing problems such as loss of important freshwater resources and agricultural lands due to ocean inundation in the Pacific Islands, the decimation of an important food source, potentially related to climate change in Alaska, and vulnerability to extreme weather events in the South Central U.S.
The National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and the DOI Climate Science Centers (CSCs) are working with tribes and indigenous communities to better understand their specific vulnerabilities to climate change and to help them adapt to these impacts. This work is conducted through research projects, outreach events, training workshops, stakeholder meetings, youth internships, and other coordination activities.
Input & Engagement
Direct input from and engagement with tribal and indigenous communities is crucial for the NCCWSC and CSCs to provide the appropriate science needed by these communities. Input is also important so that, when appropriate and acceptable, researchers can understand and consider Traditional Knowledge. Input is, in part, gathered through participation from these communities in the regional CSC Stakeholder Advisory Committees and the national Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science. CSCs have also engaged with native communities through efforts such as inter-tribal workshops and climate related training classes in the South Central U.S., education and networking meetings in the Northeast, and interviews with tribal elders in the Northwest.
Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges (TKs) in Climate Change Initiatives is an informational resource for tribes, agencies, and organizations across the United States interested in understanding TKs in the context of climate change.
The Department of the Interior is placing Tribal Climate Science Liaisons at several of the CSCs to help identify climate information and research needs of tribes and indigenous communities and work with federal partners to address those needs. The Tribal Climate Science Liaisons will serve as a technical experts on climate change issues, resource vulnerability, and climate adaptation actions to Tribal nations across the Department of Interior’s Climate Science Center regions.
The Tribal Climate Science Liaison for the Southeast and Northeast Climate Science Centers is Casey Thornbrugh.
Casey acts as the liaison between Tribes in the Northeast and the Southeast, the United South and Eastern Tribes Inc. (USET), the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and climate science researchers. Based out of the Northeast CSC at UMass-Amherst, he will provide current climate science information to Tribal Nations on the East Coast and in Gulf Coast states, as well as identify climate research needs and priorities, and provide climate adaptation planning support for the Tribes. Casey participates in a network of Tribal climate science liaisons within the Climate Science Center network, and a national workgroup of Tribal organizations, Tribal colleges, and other partners to address policy and resource issues associated with Tribal climate resilience.
View his staff profile page, including contact information, here.