An Interdisciplinary Framework to Address Complex Water Quality Issues: A Collaboration with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe


Torso, Kathleen. (2020-08). An Interdisciplinary Framework to Address Complex Water Quality Issues: A Collaboration with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. Theses and Dissertations Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Collections.

An Interdisciplinary Framework to Address Complex Water Quality Issues: A Collaboration with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe
Torso, Kathleen
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Community-university partnership Interdisciplinary Mining Native American Tribe Water quality
Water Resources
Subject Category:
Environmental science; Aquatic sciences; Education

The leaching of toxic metals (i.e., Pb, Cd, As) from historical mining activities has caused extensive environmental and public health disparities among Native American communities across the United States. In response to this issue from a water resources context, I pursued an interdisciplinary dissertation in collaboration with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe of northern Idaho, USA to address complex water quality issues resulting from legacy mining contamination in the Coeur d’Alene Basin. Guided by expertise provided by aquatic ecologists and educators employed by the Tribe, we developed an interdisciplinary research framework drawing from disciplinary approaches in community engagement, aquatic ecology, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The framework informed the establishment of the community-university partnership and associated limnological study and culturally-relevant STEM education program for Coeur d’Alene Tribal youth. Collectively, these outcomes are intended to support the Tribal community’s capacity to mitigate water quality issues caused by toxic metal contamination resulting from historical mining activities through ethical collaboration, increased access and availability of scientific data, and community youth interest and leadership in STEM.

Acknowledging approaches in community-engagement, Chapter 2 assesses the benefit of applying participatory research methodologies when conducting research in complex human-water systems through a comparison of two community-university partnerships within the Coeur d’Alene Basin. The first partnership reflects the collaboration described in this dissertation and the second partnership involved non-Indigenous, rural communities and University of Idaho researchers. Informed by fundamental principles of aquatic ecology, Chapter 3 discusses a limnological study that examined the phenology of submerged aquatic macrophytes in three temperate lakes. The results from this study are intended to inform future study on the role of macrophyte in metals and nutrient dynamics in lake ecosystems. Guided by culturally responsive pedagogy and informal educational methods, Chapter 4 reflects a two-year STEM education program and affiliated study. This study examined the impact of the culturally-relevant STEM education program on Native American high school youth understanding of water quality issues impacting their local environment and interest in the STEM fields. Chapter 5 synthesizes the interdisciplinary studies by discussing the role of each disciplinary approach in supporting the Tribal community capacity in mitigating their contaminated waters. Each approach and affiliated study are appraised in relation to the Coeur d’Alene Tribe Five Pillars to Strengthen Heart and Mind. Together, the studies included in this dissertation explore how an interdisciplinary research framework can support Native American communities address complex water quality issues resulting from historical mining contamination.

doctoral, Ph.D., Water Resources -- University of Idaho - College of Graduate Studies, 2020-08
Major Professor:
Kern, Anne L
Chess, Dale W; Wilhelm, Frank M; Link, Tim E; Meyer, Chris
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