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NSF-funded sensor project will promote resilience in Native American communities

By Kim Delker, UNM Newsroom

Wildfire is an essential driver of hydrological and geomorphological change in the landscapes of the western United States. The changes catalyzed by wildfire affect the hydrology of landscape and can result in catastrophic flooding.

According to the New Mexico Forestry Division, during the 2020 fire season, 44,933 acres of land were burned due to wildfire. Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires in New Mexico. This creates a need to develop proactive measures to prepare and respond to wildfires and post-wildfire flooding. In addition, headwater systems in New Mexico are highly vulnerable to wildfire. Many Tribal communities are located within the headwaters and this places them in a unique position to be the leaders in developing responses to wildfire.

Now, a group of researchers at The University of New Mexico are recognizing the potential for Tribes to develop innovate adaptive solutions and they chose to focus on building partnerships with local Tribes. This project will use Tribal place-based knowledge to inform the co-development of low-cost sensor technologies.

Co-principal investigators on the grant include a cross-disciplinary group from UNM: Mark Stone, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering; Carolyn Hushman, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Sciences; Su Zhang, assistant research professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and a senior research engineer at the Earth Data Analysis Center; and Yolanda Lin, assistant professor of geography and environmental studies.

Read the full article in the UNM Newsroom.

Dr. Carolyn Hushman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Individual, Family, and Community Education