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UO researchers and Coquille Tribe team up against climate change

Coquille Tribal members paddle through the Ni-les’tun Marsh in a ceremonial canoe.
Roy W. Lowe
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Pacific
Coquille Tribal members paddle through the Ni-les’tun Marsh in a ceremonial canoe.

The University of Oregon and the Coquille Indian Tribe are partnering up on research to reduce carbon emissions.

The UO has a five-year, $3 million grant to study ways to cut climate-changing carbon. It’ll incorporate environmental findings, artificial intelligence and Indigenous knowledge to help address challenges to the environment.

Jason Younkers is Chief of the Coquille Tribe, as well as UO assistant vice president and an advisor on government-to -government relations for the administration. He told KLCC that it’s important for traditional ecological knowledge to be included.

“Our whole world is warming up. That’s affecting the water, it’s affecting the salmon, it’s affecting everything,” said Younkers. “And what can a small little tribe on the southern Oregon coast do to help be an example for other people?”

University of Oregon sign outside the west half of the campus.
Brian Bull
University of Oregon sign outside the west half of the campus.

The National Science Foundation-funded study aims to involve more Indigenous perspectives, and offer a range of carbon-cutting actions that communities can choose to carry out. The overall goal is to work in ways that develop trust with historically marginalized groups, which also include rural communities.

In a release, the UO says Lucas Silva, a professor of environmental studies and biology, will lead the team. Other environmental studies professors Ashley Cordes and Lillian Aoki, data science research professor Jake Searcy, and biology professor Brendan Bohannan are signed on.

The UO study is called Convergence to Accelerate Research on Biological Sequestration (CARBS), and will also use what’s known as environmental DNA, “or large-scale DNA from organisms found in the environment, to guide carbon capture research and implementation.”

Younkers also added, “Our hope, through this grant, is to find better ways to counteract destructive actions and do our part in combating the devastating impacts of human influence.”

Other partners in the research project include Oregon State University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, The Nature Conservancy, and EWEB. The NSF recently announced more than $27 million in funding for 12 projects, including the one at the UO.

In its release, the UO says its team of researchers will devise and test new ways of reducing atmospheric carbon — through new and “rediscovered” Indigenous technologies that could improve land management, ecosystem restoration and conservation — in ways that engage diverse communities and can be presented as a range of options rather than a single, mandatory path.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.