University of New Mexico Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences Professors Laura Crossey and Karl Karlstrom have received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for Developing Partnerships Among Tribes, Geoscientists, and the National Park Service to Advance Informal Geoscience Learning at Grand Canyon.

This planning grant is from the Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL) Division at NSF, whose mission includes promoting innovative research, development, and evaluation of learning and teaching across all STEM disciplines by advancing cutting-edge knowledge and practices in both formal and informal learning settings. The 18-month, $147,758 grant is divided among partner institutions Arizona State University and the University of Arizona.

KK along BA Trail
Karl Karlstrom along the BA Trail

UNM’s Professor Laura Crossey & Karl Karlstrom will be instrumental in building these connections among Tribes, geoscientists, and National Park Services to advance the learning at the Grand Canyon. They will partner with Professor Steve Semken from Arizona State University, Professors Karletta Chief and Cherie Devore at the University of Arizona. Semken previously partnered with Karlstrom and Crossey around a decade ago on designing and building the Trail of Time, a large geoscience exhibit at Grand Canyon National Park’s south rim. Devore is a UNM alum (from BS in EPS to Ph.D. in Env. Engineering).

“The time is right to provide a more welcoming and inclusive geoscience interpretation program in the National Park Service that incorporates a long tradition of indigenous land/resource use. Grand Canyon is a great place to start. Our team includes indigenous geoscientists, Grand Canyon geologists, and experts on place-based learning. Our first steps are to listen and work with numerous tribal groups to raise Native voices about indigenous geoscience,” said Karlstrom.

The purpose of the planning grant is to form partnerships with interested parties from the 11 associated tribes of the Grand Canyon to “indigenize” the geoscience interpretation within the park. Letters of support from Ed Keable, the Superintendent of GRCA as well as leaders from several tribes indicate positive steps and interest in providing more inclusive content that references traditional ecological knowledge approved for sharing with the visitors to Grand Canyon (over 6 million visitors per year).

Cherie and Karletta
Karletta Cheif and Cherie Devore, University of Arizona PI’s

The goal of Crossey and Karlstrom’s National Science Foundation planning proposal is to build partnerships to help shape a more equitable and inclusive place-based informal geoscience learning plan for Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon region is the homeland of numerous Indigenous nations, the Traditionally Associated Tribes of Grand Canyon, who hold sovereignty over the land and who possess rich land-based expert knowledge of Earth processes and features here. Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919 and has become a globally renowned geoheritage site, within which resources and programs for informal geoscience education (interpretation) such as the successful Trail of Time Geoscience Exhibition and Yavapai Geology Museum help millions of Park visitors each year to explore landscapes and rocks to grasp the immensity of geologic time and the geologic history of Grand Canyon. However, the Indigenous knowledge of the Traditionally Associated Tribes have historically been excluded from geoscience interpretation at the park. 

Laura J. Crossey professor, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences

“We will foster a respectful, reciprocal, and lasting partnership at Grand Canyon among members of the Traditionally Associated Tribes, the Grand Canyon Trust, Interpretive Park Rangers, and Grand Canyon geoscientists, to jointly develop a culturally equitable and inclusive (Indigenized) plan for place-based informal geoscience education at Grand Canyon,” said Laura Crossey.

Semken at ToT
Steve Semken, ASU PI

The partnership builds on continued efforts at Grand Canyon National Park to incorporate more input from regional tribes and will form and carry out its work through in-person meetings in the Park and at culturally and scientifically important places in and around Grand Canyon, in Tribal communities if requested, and virtually. To ensure that the partnership remains mutually beneficial and fully accountable, it will center the principles of reciprocity, relevance, respect, and responsibility and will be carried out according to a widely used Indigenous model of critical thinking, planning, implementation, and reflection and iteration. The partnership will produce written documents including a summary of common goals, specific recommendations to the National Park, and detailed action plans for Indigenizing future informal geoscience education at the Park, in which Tribes will have greater input and oversight.

This grant is in collaboration with Arizona State University, and University of Arizona. Supporting organizations include Grand Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Navajo Nation, and the Hualapai Tribal Council.