Excerpted from a March 2011 TOCC Press Release:
Sells, AZ—Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC) has entered into a partnership that will provide its students and faculty with opportunities to conduct scientific research during the academic year and in summer internships. Through a cooperative agreement funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), TOCC is joining with Haskell Indian Nations University, White Earth Tribal and Community College, and Kiksapa Consulting LLC to implement education and research efforts to address climate change impacts in Indian country. This is the first time NASA has funded a cooperative agreement focusing on solutions to climate change in Native lands. The success of a student-faculty research project last summer led to TOCC being chosen as a partner for this project.
In July 2011, Mr. Ben Jose of North Santa Rosa walked along Arizona Highway 86 counting plants. On the one hand, it was a difficult and unexpected way to spend this hot summer day; on the other hand, it made perfect sense. Ben, a second-year student at TOCC, was involved in a scientific study of buffelgrass, a plant native to Africa and Asia that has invaded the Tohono O’odham Nation since its introduction to this area in the 1970s as forage for cattle. Ben researched the conditions that have contributed to the proliferation of buffelgrass in the Sells area of the Tohono O’odham Nation. His count of the number of buffelgrass plants in a 200-foot by 200-foot sector of land along Highway 86 was one small part of his summer-long internship sponsored by NASA.
For the internship, Ben worked with his professor Jorge Guarin, Mathematics Instructor at TOCC. At the beginning of the summer, the two of them attended a NASA-sponsored workshop at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. The workshop covered NASA’s focus on studying regional geographic issues with tribal colleges and included intensive training on Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS) units, and ArcMap software. After the three weeks of training in Kansas, Mr. Jose and Professor Guarin returned to Arizona to study a local situation. Ben chose the buffelgrass problem, determining to find out how Sonoran Desert conditions of extreme temperatures, drought, occasional precipitation, and wildfires affect buffelgrass proliferation. In August, he turned in a written presentation to his research team, which was well received. Ben will present his results at the American Indian Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group Meeting that TOCC is hosting on April 23-24, 2012.
TOCC’s President Jim Vander Hooven, Ed.D., talked about how the College works to create internships and other research or work/study positions that will help students in their future careers. Through the NASA link, he said, “students gain experience working on real-world problems using the scientific method. They make valuable contacts and contribute to global solutions by sharing the Tohono O’odham perspective on climate change and other environmental conditions.”
In March 2012, Dr. Bull Bennett, NASA Project Principle Investigator and President of Kiksapa Consulting, shared his thoughts. “Ben’s and Jorge’s enthusiasm and work ethic set the bar for the Summer REU Workshop at Haskell,” Dr. Bennett said. “They spent long hours during the workshop learning geospatial applications and climate change, and spent their evenings going back over the materials they had learned. They demonstrated uncommon dedication to the training and developing the Buffelgrass research project. The results of their hard work showed in the quality of their research..
“Two TOCC students, Novia James and Marcus Lee, will be attending Haskell for the 2012 Summer REU and following the path that Ben has forged. We are excited to have them aboard and are looking forward to working with TOCC to expand their NASA research work.”
+ NASA-Funded Partnership Bringing Internship and Research Opportunities to TOCC Students