Noel White Running Water was born and raised on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. She is a second generation college student and earned an Associate of Science degree in General Science: Applied Mathematics and Business Management from Blackfeet Community College. After successfully transferring to Salish Kootenai College (SKC), she became the first female to receive the Bachelors of Science degree from their Hydrology Program.
Her interest in research began when she was a student intern with SKC’s Computer Engineering Program in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) designing and constructing the Bison Sat, a satellite built to take aerial images of the earth’s surface for remotely sensed research.
After launching in October 2015, it was the first satellite put into orbit by a tribal college. “The mentors at SKC definitely strengthened my understanding of how to become a better scientist, to skillfully use technical instruments, and to conduct research” Noel said.
Over her schooling career at SKC she has participated in multiple NASA internships offered by SKC and through partner programs including: 1) Up-linking commands and analyzing data from the Curiosity Rover that landed on Mars in 2012 (a partnership with SKC and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California); 2) Precipitation data assimilation and analysis from the Global Precipitation Measurement Satellite (a partnership with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Green Belt, Maryland, the Tribal College and University (TCU), and SKC; 3) Studying the growth of culturally important plants on the Flathead Indian Reservation (a partnership with the Montana Space Grant Consortium (MSGC), NASA, and SKC).
“All of the great opportunities I was able to be a part of while attending SKC provided a competitive edge and a drive to achieve my higher education goals. After going through some very difficult times and the various struggles of life, SKC believed in me, and I never gave up until I had my diploma in my hand!”
She is now pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Systems Ecology where her research is based on validating L4_C products from the Soil Moisture Active / Passive Measurement (SMAP) satellite over agricultural areas. This is being done with a Graduate Research Assistantship.
Matthew Weingart is a member of Oregon’s Klamath Tribe and is a Pend d’Oreille descendent. He is a first generation college student at Salish Kootenai College (SKC) and is a double major in the Hydrology and Forestry programs.
His interest in research began to germinate after being involved with his first summer internship through SKC (an EPSCoR Large River Ecosystems partnership). That involved learning to survey stream channels and to take measurements of groundwater, to monitor changes in the water levels of the Jocko River Watershed, on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Matthew said, “Being out in the field with nature doing science was my ultimate dream job and I’m just glad I decided to go back to school.”
Since then, Matthew has participated in many internships offered by SKC or through partner programs including:
1) studying ancient vegetation patterns using pollen grains in lake sediment (a partnership with the University of Minnesota’s LacCore, The National Center for Earth Surface Dynamics, and Fond Du Lac Natural Resources Department);
2) analyzing satellite images to track forest regeneration rates after the 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park (a partnership with Kiksapa Consulting LLC and NASA);
3) quantifying rainforest expansion rates and collecting data on how carbon levels fluctuate within Australian and New Zealand forests (a partnership with the WildFIRE Partnerships In Research and Education (PIRE) program).
He also did volunteer work with a graduate student from the University of Montana using the SKC ground-penetrating radar to map bedrock in the Lubrecht Experimental Forest, and conducted White Pine blister rust surveys in Glacier National Park with Montana State University’s Ecology Department.
“There are so many opportunities for a student in this day and they are just waiting to be applied for. I was timid at first, but I just kept going to school, because I wanted to get an education in a STEM field. I wanted to show my family and myself, that I could get an education and I continue to encourage aspiring Native students getting degrees in the STEM fields.”
His research with WildFIRE PIRE became his senior thesis project and involved looking at how wildfire activity and vegetation communities in northern Yellowstone National Park changed over the last 13,000 years. He is continuing to seek his Masters and PhD degrees in the Earth Sciences.
“As I grow into a scientist, I continue to be inspired by all the research that has been done in the past, and I have a new respect for the people who stuck it out and have made their dreams come true.”