Native American Science and Technology
I know of no other program in the United States that specifically targets developing relationships with Indian tribes and training future stewards of tribal properties.
Student Profile: Eduardo Muller
Eduardo Muller took a lot of computer science classes in high school, but came to RIT unsure how he wanted to use that technical background. Then he met Dr. Paul Shipman—and within weeks found himself out in the woods flipping logs to find amphibians. Eduardo did the fieldwork portion of an ecoinformatics research project. While fellow students set up remote sensors to study forest wildlife, he did the hands-on work to compare sensor findings with conventional collection results.
“I’ve always been a nature person,” Eduardo says. “Looking for amphibians and reptiles—that’s the most fun thing I do all year.”
Eduardo isn’t just a computer engineer and field researcher. He’s also an accomplished musician, who played percussion with his award-winning high school concert band. But what he’s looking forward to most these days is getting back into the field—and more involved with the Native American Science and Technology program. “They teach you values,” he says, “and how to be stewards of the land.”
Native American tribes are one of the largest owners of property in North America, including every type of environment from desert to wetland. They also engage in diverse economic activities, from casino operations to farming. RIT’s Native American Science and Technology program is designed to help future stewards of Native American lands make sound management decisions using advanced technology tools in the service of traditional and contemporary tribal values.
Developing Breakthrough Technology: Eyes in the Forest: NAST organizers today are working on an “Eyes in the Forest” pilot study to deploy wireless cameras and other remote-sensing devices in the Oregon forests of the Coquille Indian Tribe. Home to old-growth timber, endangered species and precious cultural artifacts, these Coquille properties are scattered in small tracts across five Oregon counties. Eyes in the Forest will take images from the Coquille lands and transmit them to the tribe’s own Internet company, where land stewards can monitor human activities and wildlife behavior patterns. It’s all about watching over the forest, using technology as an extension of the human eye.
“This is cutting edge,” says Dr. Jason Younker, a founder of the NAST program and a member of the Coquille tribe. “There’s no other system like it out there.”
Who Should Consider NAST? Native American Science and Technology is designed for both Native American and non-native students. Since each tribe is unique, a practicum is highly recommended to gain first-hand knowledge of a particular tribe’s concerns and perspectives. The program may be taken as a concentration within Environmental Science. Graduates will be prepared to serve as consultants to tribal councils.
Behind the Scenes: RIT’s Native American Science and Technologies program is the brainchild of Professors Jason Younker and Paul Shipman. In fact, they’ve been talking about the idea since they were graduate students working on their PhD theses--Dr. Shipman at Oklahoma State University and Dr. Younker at the University of Oregon. Dr. Shipman, a member of the Cherokee Nation, saw plenty of Native American Studies programs teaching history, but no program to give Native Americans practical tools for putting traditional values into contemporary practice. Dr. Younker, a member of the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon, was especially interested in protection of natural and cultural resources. Together at RIT, the two have created the United States’ first university program designed to train students to support tribal council resource management decisions.