NCEAS Postdoc Jennifer Balch reaches out to the Navajo Nation

Dr. Jennifer Balch, Postdoctoral Associate at NCEAS, recently taught a module on the relationship between fire and an invasive grass at Diné College, a public institution chartered by the Navajo Nation. Dr. Balch and Prof. Marnie Carroll at Diné College designed this module as part of the working group "Engaging Undergraduate Students In Ecological Investigations Using Large, Public Datasets." Fifteen sophomores from the Navajo Nation participated in the course where they learned how to manipulate NASA satellite data on fire to explore how cheatgrass increases burned area in the Great Basin.

A class of Navajo undergraduate students poses with their teacher            Photo of Navajo students concentrating on assignments at their desks

The module was well-received by the students, who provided useful, candid and insightful feedback on what they learned. Following are some of their comments:

  • “More hands on would be nice, do some burning!”
  • “Everything I learned today was new to me.”
  • "Cheatgrass sucks!"
  • “Thanks for being patient with us. I enjoyed your excellent tutelage.”
  • “Thanks for coming by, I learned a lot today! You’re a very great teacher!”
  • “I learned that invasive plants have different fire behavior than native plants.”
  • “I like that I found a website showing the fires around the world.”
  • “Today I was surprised to learn that cheatgrass is an invasive species and had made such a significant impact on the environment. I learned the burn cycles that the cheatgrass influences. The difference that the cheatgrass makes could really alter future ecosystems. It was really very interesting to learn about the problem of cheatgrass.”


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Posted on August 23, 2011