These Four Students Get Creative to Communicate Science

April 22, 2020

For the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we celebrate four of our students putting research into action through illustrations and community engagement to film-making and cooking expertise.

Supported by the Environment & Society Graduate Fellowship through the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) and University of Arizona Office of Research, Innovation and Impact (RII), four environmental science graduate students crafted projects that creatively incorporated personal interests and passions with scientific expertise.

For Earth Day we celebrate our environment, and all students in our department who are innovating the way we study our air, water and soil every day.

Explore their projects below!

2019 Fellows

Illustrating with Next Generation

Norma Villagómez-Márquez (she/her)

"As a CLIMAS fellow, practicing use-inspired research was both a new and refreshing undertaking.

My discrete 1-year project focused on asking children to illustrate their understanding of rainwater quality, contamination, and collection.

Use-inspired questions posed to the children were critical in creating the material that generated comprehensive responses. Witnessing the illustrations was illuminating and heartwarming!"

Blog Excerpt: 

As I stand motionless under the umbrella I see the raindrops fall vertically, yet I remain dry and I think of rainwater quality. As an engineer, I wonder how raindrops form. As a chemist, I ponder what chemicals exist peacefully almost unnoticeable within a raindrop?  Water is an interconnected system. What is poured on the ground today can end up in our drinking water years later. If we plan to use roof-harvested rainwater for food production and possibly drinking, perhaps an important query is what is the quality of a raindrop? Sir Isaac Newton once said, 'What we know is a drop, what we do not know is an ocean.' sy

Norma's Final report.

Collaborating with the Community

Alma Anides Morales (she/her)

"I enjoyed having the opportunity to work alongside a local government agency and school to address an environmental issue that had been of concern in the community for many years.

This forces you to look beyond experimental data and consider other factors such as stakeholders involved, community input, and risk perception.

Knowing your work will help inform decisions and efforts in improving overall environmental quality and health is very motivating."

Blog Excerpt: 

Naco, Arizona is a small border community that has been on the radar of environmental and health service agencies due to historic transnational sanitary sewage overflows near residential areas. The Naco Elementary School community has expressed concern and we have been working with them and the Cochise Health and Social Services to test for residual microbial contamination. It is also important for Naco Elementary students to be aware of such events and be critical of the quality of the environment that surrounds them. We all have a right to a safe place to live and play.

Alma's final report.

2020 Fellows

Filming for Perspective

JoRee LaFrance (she/her)

"I am mostly looking forward to creating the hydrologic cycle from an Apsáalooke perspective.

This will afford me the opportunity to visit with knowledge-holders and collaborate with an Apsáalooke artist to work on a scientific aspect that directly informs my research. My goal is to make these visuals available for our classrooms back home."

Blog Excerpt: 

I aim to understand the impact on contaminant behaviors from the various water flows within the Little Bighorn River. The changing water flow occurs as a result of the changing seasons such as high flows in June when the snow is melted in the mountains, or the lowest flow of water in the winter when water is being stored in the ground and in snow-packs. I am working to identify contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and perfluoroalkyl substances better known as PFAS. These contaminants come from a variety of sources such as natural elements, mining activities, intense agricultural development, water treatment discharge points, and man-made products.

I have taken it upon myself to determine what contaminants are elevated in the Little Bighorn River to have a better understanding of its long-lasting impacts. I want to ensure that my people will always have access to clean, healthy water systems and that Bimmuummaalakoolé/water beings are always protected and respected. 

Stay tuned!

Community, Cooking & Climate Change

Kunal Palawat (they/them)

"I have always loved and connected to the world through food; making a cookbook has been a dream of mine since I was a kid! 

Now, through the CLIMAS fellowship, I have the opportunity to explore how food and cooking uplift and build community resilience in the face of environmental hardship and climate change.

Blog Excerpt: 

I want you to take five minutes and deeply think about the question. What are your favorite recipes? What part of the world do they come from; who grows and harvests the ingredients? Is it easy to find where you currently live? Is it expensive? Do you know how to cook it or is it a dish that only your grandparent can create and that you dream of? Is it harder to find because of drought? Have climate change exacerbated wildfires made it difficult to share this meal with loved ones? How have histories and realities of imperialism, colonialism, and slavery impacted this dish and your connection to it?

Food is inextricably linked to nature, culture, and community; and all three of those things have the incredible potential to feed us and to harm us. Through the Environment and Society Fellowship, I have the opportunity to explore these ideas with four environmental justice communities in Arizona and develop a cookbook to highlight how food and sense of place feed communities and build resiliency in the face of pollution, climate change, and injustice.

Stay tuned for the cookbook in later 2020!

Learn more about the CLIMAS Environment & Society Graduate Fellows Program

Learn more