National & International Field Research

Climate change is both a local and global phenomenon with consequences for natural and human populations and landscapes around the world.  To explore some of these varied climate change research sites, trainees will have the opportunity to conduct field research in the US Great Plains, Mexico, and Greenland. Climate change is both a local and global phenomenon with consequences for natural and human populations and landscapes around the world.  To explore some of these varied climate change research sites, trainees will have the opportunity to conduct field research in the US, Mexico, and Greenland. 

Energy, Ecology & Community in Kansas

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar examines the role of climate in shaping energy, ecology, and community in Kansas from geoscience, bioscience, social science, and engineering perspectives.  The class will combine lectures, group projects, and field research to understand the ways that climate change and energy production are reshaping the human and natural systems in Kansas and the Great Plains.  The course is team-taught by faculty from geoscience, bioscience, social science, engineering, and/or humanities, and will include faculty guest speakers from KU and off-campus.  Students will identify and design a service learning project that combines issues of climate, energy, and community, and will use a variety of interdisciplinary tools including modeling, remote sensing, and scaling to complete their project and present their findings to local stakeholders. 

Climate Change in Indigenous Communities

This is a collaborative education and research program at Haskell Indian Nations University (Haskell) and the University of Kansas (KU). The Haskell Environmental Research Studies (HERS) Institute operates in the summers 2009-2014 and integrates Haskell and tribal college undergraduate Environmental Studies and American Indian Studies programs with KU faculty research and graduate student training in climate change. This program is a response to the environmental challenges facing many Indigenous communities and extends the work of the American Indian/Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group (AI/ANCCWG) established at Haskell Indian Nations University in 2006 to establish a communication and collaboration network of climate studies researchers in tribal colleges and federal and state agencies to identify a research agenda for assessing climate-related changes in Indigenous communities and train Native students in science and technology studies. The HERS Institute brings together KU and Haskell scientific facilities, students, and faculty in a summer training program that combines classroom instruction on the Haskell campus and field research projects in Indigenous communities around the US. The HERS Institute operates in collaboration with KU’s NSF IGERT program: C-CHANGE (Climate Change, Humans, and Nature in the Global Environment) so that IGERT trainees participate with and serve as mentors to Haskell REU students in classes and field research projects.  

Climates and Borders, 2011 - The Effects of Sea Level Rise on the Human and Natural Systems of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar examines the mangrove swamps/forests on the western coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, with the goal of understanding the ecological, geographic, social, and political policy factors that impact their distribution, and the effects of changes in these natural and human systems in the face of a potential sea-level rise of one or more meters, as suggested by some global climate models.  Students will have the opportunity to work for short or extended periods with natural and social scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, EcoSur Campeche, and the University of Kansas on a linked series of analyses: developing future shoreline scenarios, tracking mangrove shifts resulting from the shoreline changes, characterizing how fish populations respond to the mangrove shifts, and evaluating how all of the above could affect local human communities.

 

Climates & Borders, 2009 - Monarch Butterflies & Local Economies in Mexico

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar examines the cross-border migration between the US and Mexico of Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and other species with the goal of understanding the ecological, geographic, social, and political policy factors that shape the migration in the United States and Mexico.  Students will have the opportunity to work for short or extended periods with natural and social scientists from National Autonomous University of Mexico and the University of Kansas on a series of field projects:  spatially interpolating local weather station data across the overwintering area at daily to weekly intervals from November through March 1960-present, in order to assess variations in microclimatic conditions and their correlation to spatio-temporal changes in monarch distribution; interpreting interpolated temperature and precipitation maps into hypothermia risk maps for monarchs for the same days for which weather data are gathered in the previous component; mapping monarch distributions on site to compare actual monarch distribution and behavior with spatial patterns of risk; exploring proximate and underlying political, economic, cultural, and social forces affecting and responding to changing monarch distributions and population status through review of Mexico’s biodiversity policies, analysis of economic development and tourism data, and interviews with policymakers and indigenous community leaders.

Climate Change in Greenland and the Arctic

 This field research course examines how the Greenland ice sheets have responded to climate change since the last glacial maximum, introduces trainees to the tools and techniques used to reconstruct the chronology of past ice margin locations, and provides an overview of how climate and ice sheet models used to reconstruct the past can enable us to predict future changes.  The classroom component of the course is taught by a faculty team that includes a glaciologist, atmospheric scientist, ecologist and biogeochemist, cultural geographer, whose specialties cover environmental, social, and demographic history, remote sensing, modeling, scaling, and science policy.  During the semester trainees will have access to a variety of data sets (radar ice soundings, sediment cores, meteorological records, stream flow data, historical and demographic data) to analyze and synthesize.  At the end of the semester, the faculty and students will travel to Greenland to conduct the field research projects and gain experience in collecting data. Two of the faculty involved in this course have previously conducted research in Greenland, and are very familiar with the area—a pristine paleoglaciological and biogeochemical laboratory for studying the ice sheet retreat.