Paula Smith - From EPSCoR to IGERT
Paula Smith is a graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University and a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Nation in South Dakota. Paula began graduate studies in Geography at the University of Kansas in 2009, and was awarded a two-year Kansas NSF ESPCoR graduate research assistantship to assist in coordinating the Haskell Environmental Research Studies (HERS) summer internship program for tribal college undergraduates: Climate Change in Indigenous Communities. With Kansas NSF EPSCoR support, in March 2011, Paula traveled to Norway to study Sami reindeer herders’ adaptation to Arctic climate change; she spent two months participating in the Sami spring migration tradition of reindeer herding on the tundra. This research on Indigenous responses to climate change is the focus of her Master’s thesis. In fall 2011, Paula will become an IGERT Trainee in the NSF C-CHANGE (Climate Change, Humans, and Nature in the Global Environment) program at the University of Kansas as she pursues a PhD in Geography at Kansas.
Paula’s academic trajectory is exactly what the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Climate Change in Indigenous Communities research and workforce development program is intended to do. By supporting her early in her graduate studies through funding and mentorship (her mentoring tribal college undergraduates and Haskell and KU faculty mentoring her), she is leading the way for future students coming from our undergraduate internship program into STEM graduate studies. As part of the Native community, Paula is from a group that is underrepresented in the scientific workforce. Since research on Indigenous communities at home and abroad requires the participation of Indigenous peoples, Paula’s work will be an important contribution to a broader conversation about traditional knowledge and scientific research on human responses to climate change.