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Featured Faculty: Kathy Lynn

Kathy Lynn is an adjunct faculty researcher in the University of Oregon’s Environmental Studies Program, where she coordinates the Tribal Climate Change Project, a collaboration with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Detailing the importance of the project, Lynn explains, “For indigenous peoples, the environmental impacts of climate change and some of the proposed solutions threaten cultural survival and ways of life, including subsistence and financial resources.” This project builds an understanding of the needs, lessons learned, and opportunities American Indians and Alaska Natives have in planning for the physical effects of climate change. Findings from this research are intended to inform resource management decision-making.

“Our current research is focused on examining how climate change will impact tribal culture, sovereignty and resilience. Specifically, we seek to understand how tribal rights, including access to, use and management of resources on- and off-reservation will be affected by climate change,” Lynn says. And furthermore, “We are also developing profiles of tribes engaged in innovative efforts to address climate change through the development of adaptation plans, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and through collaboration with other tribal entities and public and private organizations,” Lynn points out.

From the profile on the Swinomish Climate Change Initiative.

Given the breadth and significance of the project, Lynn can’t do it alone. On her team are three student researchers: Carson Viles, an undergraduate student in the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program and the Clark Honors College; Kirsten Vinyeta, a graduate student from the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program; and Yochanan Zakai, a law student, situated in the University of Oregon School of Law.

Viles writes, “Working for the Tribal Climate Change Project has been a rare opportunity for me. My interest as an Environmental studies student is in indigenous advocacy, and this project allows me to narrow my focus while getting an inside view of what is going on in many native communities today. Also, I am getting the chance to see how professionals are collaborating and networking to solve complex problems in Native America. Helping with this project, I feel as if I am actually doing something meaningful!”

Lynn adds, “We are also examining the role of traditional knowledge in understanding climate change impacts and identifying culturally appropriate strategies to address climate change. Our hope is that this research will contribute to an understanding of these issues among policy makers, agencies and researchers, while also assisting tribes to plan for climate change and better engage with public agencies addressing climate change.”

Through this project, Lynn facilitates the Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Network, which includes over 75 individuals representing American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, intertribal organizations, public agencies and non-governmental organizations that work directly with tribes. She has also had the opportunity to contribute findings from the project to regional and national audiences, including the National Congress of American Indians, the National Climate Assessment and the Northwest Climate Science Center.

More information on the project can be found at:

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.