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The North Central CASC’s Tribal Climate Leaders Program supports Indigenous students as they design and conduct climate research that can be useful in their home communities. 

In 2020, the North Central CASC piloted the Tribal Climate Leaders Program (TCLP) with partners at the University of Colorado Boulder to support Indigenous students in integrating their knowledge and experiences into research that benefits their communities.  


Since then, the TCLP has supported four students, including Shelby Ross of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. While working for her Tribe’s natural resource department, Ross noticed that their climate adaptation plan was missing information about how climate impacts community health. Discovering this knowledge gap inspired her PhD research examining how extreme weather associated with climate change (hailstorms, high winds, and blizzards) impacts type 2 diabetes of Tribe members and their access to food and healthcare. Ross credits the TCLP and great advisors for helping her shape her research ideas into useful information for her tribe. Two other TCLP-supported students, William Crawford and Ida Clarke, both earned their master’s degrees in 2022. Crawford, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, blended science and cultural knowledge in his work researching a threatened, culturally important plant, ṫípsiŋna (prairie turnip). Clarke (Oglala Lakota) studied the effects of climate change on wastewater treatment and drinking water, and the fourth TCLP-supported student, Violet Eagle (Sicangu Lakota), is now pursuing a master’s degree in soil sciences at North Dakota State University.  


“It was really important for us to create a program that would give students the flexibility to design their own research projects so that the research would be useful in the students’ home communities,” says Heather Yocum, Lead Social Scientist at the North Central CASC and TCLP program coordinator. Yocum is currently working with partners to support future cohorts of Native American students through this program.  


The TCLP is a partnership between the North Central CASC and multiple colleges, departments, and programs at the University of Colorado Boulder.  

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