Haskell receives $20 million National Science Foundation award to fund Indigenous science hub on climate change

Haskell receives $20 million National Science Foundation award to fund Indigenous science hub on climate change

photo by: Conrad Swanson/Journal-World File Photo

Haskell Indian Nations University has received the largest National Science Foundation award ever granted to a tribal college or university, a $20 million award to fund an Indigenous science hub project.


The five-year award is funded under the American Rescue Plan Act and was announced Wednesday by Bryan Newland, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs. The project will create a hub called “Rising Voices, Changing Coasts: The National Indigenous and Earth Sciences Convergence Hub.”

“The ‘Rising Voices, Changing Coasts’ hub to be located at Haskell Indian Nations University is a tremendous step forward in supporting tribal communities as they address challenges from a rapidly changing climate,” Newland said in a press release. “This is an exciting and much-needed opportunity for scientists and Indigenous knowledge keepers to collaborate on how Indigenous people in coastal areas can build resiliency to the dynamic forces resulting from climate change.”

The space is aimed at addressing coastal hazards resulting from climate change through the combined efforts of Indigenous scientists, students and scholars. The hub will focus on place-based research in four regions: the Alaskan Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana, the Pacific Islands in Hawaii and Puerto Rico’s Caribbean Islands.

Longtime Haskell professor Daniel Wildcat is set to serve as the hub’s lead investigator. In addition to Haskell as the lead institution, the hub will also include the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group as partners, along with community partners in the four targeted regions.

In a phone call early Wednesday evening, Wildcat told the Journal-World he isn’t taking his new role lightly.

“It’s clearly the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in my career, but I’m approaching this as when you’ve been involved in education, teaching, research, writing as long as I have, I guess you consider yourself lucky when you get a chance like this to play such an important role in a large project like this,” Wildcat said.

Wildcat said that the hope is that the hub will eventually be located in a renovated Hiawatha Hall, but that the hub would probably be mostly virtual for the first year. He said some of the foundation staff would be housed in Parker Hall to start, once that hall is open following some ongoing renovations.

Wildcat said hiring staff like a grant coordinator and others who will help manage the grant is built into the funding. The first meetings with principal players and partners for the hub will take place at Haskell Sept. 12 and 13, Wildcat said, during which they’ll lay out their plans for the first year.

Wildcat said there are also plans to offer research internships during the academic year and undergraduate research experiences during summers at one of the four principal research sites.

“I kind of see it, in the big picture, as we’re trying to train the next generation of leaders, policymakers and scientists to help us deal with, in my mind, the most pressing problem we’re facing on the planet today — climate change,” Wildcat said.

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