Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Diverse Knowledge Systems for Climate Adaptation Fellowship

The Diverse Knowledge Systems in Climate Adaptation Fellowship supports graduate students as they use their diverse experiences, viewpoints, value systems, and cultural knowledge to strengthen their climate adaptation efforts.

Current Opportunities

The application period for the 2024 Fellowship opportunity runs from December 1, 2023 through January 18, 2024. Starting December 1, you can submit your Statement of Interest here>> 

Register for our informational webinar on December 7 @ 4pm ET here>>

About the Fellowship

The Diverse Knowledge Systems for Climate Adaptation (DKS) Fellowship was developed to: 

  • Foreground diverse knowledge systems, including how disciplines of scientific, practitioner, local, and Indigenous knowledge contribute to understandings the drivers of and solutions to climate impacts on fish, wildlife, and their habitats. 

  • Introduce graduate students to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) through the USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs), whose mission is to provide scientific information, tools, and techniques to help natural and cultural resource managers anticipate and adapt to the impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife, and ecosystems.  

  • Support graduate students in developing appropriate product(s) related to the impacts of and adaptation strategies for climate change on fish, wildlife, their habitats, and users informed by diverse knowledge systems, world views, and epistemologies. This work should respectfully promote the multiple contributions of Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) in the CASC activities. It may be related to the graduate student’s own research, and if so, may present a unique opportunity to share research with a broader community of knowledge-holders and stakeholders.  

  • Provide underrepresented students the opportunity to interact with the USGS community and others outside of academia and advance the CASC culture of improving diversity, inclusion, and empowerment for traditionally underrepresented communities. 

During the fellowship year and beyond, Fellows benefit from collaborations with university and USGS mentors, from interactions with other colleagues and partners of USGS, and from exposure to high priority, real-world challenges in the natural resources policy arena. 


Eligibility: The CASC culture is to advance diversity, inclusion, and empowerment for traditionally underrepresented communities. This opportunity is open to graduate students at Climate Adaptation Science Center Consortium Institutions (see map) and minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal College and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions. Applicants must be registered students for the entire fellowship year (justified exceptions will be considered in special cases).

Financial Award: Up to two Fellows will be selected, annually, to receive a financial award of $10,000 each. The financial award is intended to support the additional efforts undertaken by Fellows for their DKS project, not as a graduate stipend, tuition, or other university funding. The award may not be used by the academic institution to substitute a graduate stipend, pay tuition, or used in lieu of other university funding appropriated to the Fellow. This award is to be used at the discretion of the Fellow. Typically, Fellows use their funding for travel and lodging associated with their DKS projects. Fellows may, but are not required to, use their funds for additional research purposes related to their DKS projects. Fellows are individually responsible for all taxes associated with this award.

Mentoring Experience: Each Fellow will work closely with his/her/their university mentor (typically, the applicant’s graduate program advisor) and a mentor from the CASCs (matched to applicants by the CASCs after the Statement of Interest (SOI) stage; see below for more).  

Fellowship Duration and Location: The fellowship experience will last one year (start date is flexible within funded year, starting May at the earliest). During this time, the Fellow will be expected to work at a CASC with a CASC mentor for two months (typically summer; specific dates are flexible; virtual options considered as appropriate) but may remain at his/her/their host institution for the rest of the term.  


Fellowship Requirements

  1. Update Meetings: The Fellow, the Fellow’s Mentors, and the Review Committee will participate in three virtual meetings spaced throughout the fellowship year. For example, if a fellowship year starts in the spring, one meeting would be held in the spring, as the student is beginning the fellowship and planning for the summer, one in the summer while the student is working at a CASC, and one in the fall as the fellowship is nearing completion. The Fellow will be responsible for scheduling meetings, developing an agenda, and providing a short (1 page maximum) progress report to all attendees for each meeting.

  2. Formal Presentations: The Fellow must present a National CASC webinar at the end of the fellowship and is encouraged to present the project results at their home institution and in other formal venues. 

  3. Blog post: The Fellow will be required to work with the NCASC Communications Team to write a blog post for the NCASC website, which could include a description of the fellowship project, description of the Fellow’s experience as a Fellow, lessons learned, and advice for future fellows.

  4. Final Report by the Fellow: The Fellow will be required to submit a formal project report within three months of completing the fellowship to USGS and Morgan State University. The final report should include:  

    1. A description of the fellowship project in detail, description of the Fellow’s experience as a Fellow, lessons learned, and advice for future fellows. 

    2. A section written by the University and CASC mentors briefly describing the mentoring experience and provide advice for future mentors.


Application Process 

Application Overview

The DKS Fellowship application process is divided into two stages.

First, applicants will submit a Statements of Interest to express interest in the fellowship and to help the review panel pair applicants with potential CASC mentors. The Statement of Interest includes a one-page cover letter, one-page pre-proposal, and a CV.

Should an applicant be selected to advance to the full proposal stage, the CASCs will match the applicant to a potential mentor based on the proposed project and appropriate CASC expertise. The applicant is then invited to work with their mentor to submit a Full Proposal, consisting of a revised one-page cover letter, a revised CV, a full project proposal, and letters of recommendation from each of the applicant's mentors. 

For full description of application materials and evaluation criteria, view the 2024 Fellowship Application Requirements>>


Application Timeline (subject to annual appropriations): 

SOIs are now being accepted through the NCASC online proposal management system. Please upload all components as one PDF, if possible. Applicants are not responsible for identifying a potential CASC mentor at this stage.

Invited formal applications will be accepted through the NCASC online proposal management system beginning February 23rd, 2024 (subject to annual appropriations). Full proposals MUST be submitted to the same submission record used at the SOI stage. Please upload all components of the formal application as ONE PDF, as possible.

Application Stage Date

Statement of Interest (SOI) Due 

Thursday, January 18, 2024, 11:59pm ET

Decision on SOI and Notification to Applicant 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Formal Application Due (If SOI is selected) 

Thursday, March 28, 2024, 11:59pm ET 

Decision on Formal Application and Notification to Applicant 

Friday, April 26, 2024 

If you have any questions regarding the SOI process, please contact Abigail Lynch, USGS NCASC ( If you have any issues specifically with the online management system, please visit our Help site or contact (  


Current Fellows

A woman with blonde hair wearing a green shirt and white shorts stands on a beach, smiling for her picture.
2023 Diverse Knowledge Systems Fellow, Danielle Bartz 

Danielle Bartz, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Fellowship Year: 2023 

CASC Mentor: Mari-Vaughn Johnson

Connecting Community: Assessing Patterns in Climate Change, Fish Abundance, and Shark Parturition Phenology in a Hawaiian Fishery through Local Ecological Knowledge

The deleterious effects of climate change impact marine ecosystems on every trophic level from apex predators to microplankton. Rising temperatures and increased flood and drought events are anticipated to occur in Hawai’i with altered frequency due to projected climate change. It is unclear how these climatic factors, often exacerbated by other anthropogenic stressors, may influence population dynamics and declines in marine faunal populations. This project proposes to document and analyze local ecological and indigenous knowledge from community members of various diverse backgrounds in Hilo, Hawai’i. Knowledge data focused on trends in climate change, juvenile shark abundance and reproductive patterns, fish populations, fishery needs, community resilience, indigenous perspectives, and recommendations will be coalesced into a usable format in collaboration with local resource management agencies interested in the development of such a tool. Suggested conservation efforts will be guided by local resource users and backed by scientific data from climate models and local ecological knowledge. Products of this research include a foundational two-way stream of wisdom exchange between community members and resource managers, educational outreach with a focus on community resiliency and empowerment, and media productions to showcase and highlight the study’s participants and the natural and cultural significance of the resource.


A woman in shorts and a jacket wears a backpack while standing next to a rushing river.
Profile picture of 2023 Diverse Knowledge Systems Fellow, Helina Alvarez. 

Helina Alvarez, Boise State University, Fellowship Year: 2023

CASC Mentors: Aparna Bamzai-Dodson and Brian Miller

Exploring the Intersection of Settler Colonialism and Climate Change on the Fort Hall Bottoms

This fellowship project aims to explore the impacts of colonial settlement and climate change on water quality and quantity in the Fort Hall Bottoms, which is a vital resource for the Shoshone-Bannock/Newe people. By weaving together Indigenous knowledge with Western scientific knowledge, this project aims to provide a needed understanding of these impacts and how the natural resource managers of the Shoshone-Bannock/Newe people are responding. The project will be conducted through a decolonized approach that respects and values Indigenous knowledge and expertise. Study findings will be relevant for the Shoshone-Bannock/Newe people and their livelihoods, as well as for other Indigenous communities facing similar challenges. This project will contribute to existing Indigenous climate change adaptation strategies that braid together Indigenous knowledge systems with Western knowledge systems and foster ethical research practices that prioritize respectful, reciprocal, and responsible relationship-building with Indigenous communities. Additionally, the project’s approach aligns with the larger movement towards decolonizing research and uplifting Indigenous knowledge in academia and society as a whole.


Past Fellows

A woman with dark hair stands smiling in a forest clearing.
2022 Diverse Knowledge Systems Fellow Cielo Angelica Sharkus

Cielo Angelica Sharkus, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Fellowship Year: 2022

CASC Mentor: Holly Embke

Diverse Knowledge Systems in the Northeast United States Drive Dynamic Adaptation

Increases in extreme precipitation are expected to worsen flooding impacts across the Northeastern United States. Flooding has detrimental consequences beyond damage to infrastructure, as it may induce the spread of invisible contaminants and sediment to fisheries, wildlife, and farmland. This project examines diverse knowledge systems and adaptation to flooding in a case study community in the Connecticut River Basin. The Connecticut River Basin is the largest river system in New England and contains one of the largest Puerto Rican settlement areas in the United States after Hurricane Maria. This project provides an opportunity to understand how adaptation strategies of Puerto Rican community members evolve and change under regional climate variation and estimated flood hazards. We use thematic analysis and semi-structured interviews to understand local knowledge systems and drivers of climate adaptation. We then use a hydrologic model (HEC-HMS) coupled with a sediment transport model (HEC-Ras) to evaluate changes in sediment load and river habitats under several climate scenarios. We employ computational geospatial analysis and science communication to synthesize scientific, practitioner, and local knowledge systems into a coordinated flood risk and adaptation assessment tool that may be used in policy development and participatory action research. 


A smiling man in a wide brimmed-hat and a blue shirt stands in a flooded forest.
2022 Diverse Knowledge Systems Fellow Race Stryker

Race Stryker, University of the Virgin Islands, Fellowship Year: 2022

CASC Mentor: Mitch Eaton

Including Traditional Knowledge to Design Reef-Safe Landscapes in the US Virgin Islands 

The degradation of coral reefs is a global issue that tends to attract global attention. Global action is required to reduce some of the biggest threats to coral reefs, like ocean acidification and ocean warming, but global action cannot overshadow the importance of local action to reduce local threats to coral reefs such as terrestrial runoff. Heavy rains can transport sediment and pollutants into coastal waters where they can smother corals and reduce the productivity of local fisheries. The impacts of sedimentation are exacerbated by increasing development, land-use change, and climate-modified precipitation patterns. There is a pressing need for local solutions to match the scale of the threats from localized terrestrial runoff. Fortunately, the negative impacts of runoff can be reduced by local initiatives. This project aims to collaborate with prominent community members in the USVI to incorporate diverse ways of knowing into the design and testing of different vegetated buffer strips to promote reef-safe landscapes and the restoration of culturally significant landscapes in the US Virgin Islands. 

<< Back to the Climate Adaptation Science Centers