87th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 16 January 2007: 4:00 PM
Native American Representation in Weather-Related Fields…An Opportunity for Science Program and Policy Success
209 (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
Suzanne Van Cooten, NOAA/NSSL, Norman, OK
Examination of the products produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center and numerous regional and state organizations illustrate the severe drought that is affecting large portions of the western and central United States through the summer of 2006. The high-resolution in-situ monitoring of Temperature, Soil Moisture, Wind, and Precipitation required to monitor drought, is hampered by a number of factors including the complex topographic regions of the intermountain west and access to land for installation and maintenance of monitoring platforms. The lack of a comprehensive, sustainable hydrometeorological observing network has been examined by many federal agencies and regional consortiums. However, in addition to dedicating the funding for this large-scale monitoring program there must be the vision that it will be sustainable and its life span must be long enough to offer a historical context to weather events which affect the region. From the nation's call for active drought monitoring, a unique and tremendous opportunity exists for the weather community to actively engage one of its most under-represented population segments, Native Americans, into the workforce and leadership of our nation's hydrometeorological programs. Their ownership of tribal lands and mineral rights, accessibility to large land tracts, ability to adapt and thrive in extreme climates, and their knowledge of long-term weather and water patterns, are critical to historical climatologies, our future hydrometeorological monitoring programs, and hazard mitigation planning. Furthermore, Indian tribes are realizing the value of educating their citizens and attracting high-technology jobs to their regional areas through their tribal businesses. Native American tribes, such as the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, are now fully funding their citizens to attend colleges or vocational programs. Why are we not seeing more Native American students enrolling in weather related fields when these economic barriers are being eliminated? The idea of having tribal members become community activists and scientific leaders has been successful in the national model of recruiting and retaining Native Americans in health-related careers. These programs have Native Americans bringing medical services and information back to tribal communities by funding medical school and allied-heath scholarship and work programs. This model can serve as a template to address the urgent need for marketing weather-related education and career opportunities to Native Americans. Ultimately, the weather community must establish a climate of support to Native American students and tribal businesses in order to engage the Native American communities and their citizens in the nation's weather enterprise. It is hoped this presentation will provide a foundation for discussion and a catalyst for the weather community, tribal leaders, and education experts to develop a feasible strategic plan to create a pathway for young Native American students to become interested in weather within their communities and at the same time create a sustainable network of educators and mentors which enables tribal citizens to become future scientific leaders within their tribes and the nation.

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