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i-NATURE Indigenous Ecological Education at Heritage University Partners




Dr. Alexander Alexiades

i-NATURE Principal Investigator

Dr. Alex Alexiades studied Biology with a focus in Fish and Wildlife Management at Montana State University, Bozeman where he graduated magna cum laude in 2003. After graduating, he pursued his passion for teaching and climbing around the world for four years, living and working in 5 different countries on three continents. He returned to the USA in 2007 to work as an ice climbing and glacier guide in Alaska, before he began a M.S. program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno. While in Reno, Alex was awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Partners Fellow, enabling him to assist local high school AP Biology courses with their lab programs. In 2011, he began his PhD in Ecosystem Biology at Cornell University with dissertation research focusing on fisheries and aquatic ecology, water resource issues, statistical and spatial modeling and mapping, and stream biogeochemistry. Alex spent the 2014-2015 academic year living in Ecuador as Fulbright Fellow where he conducted research on the flow-ecology and effects of water withdrawals on the aquatic fauna in Napo River Basin. Alex completed his PhD in 2015 then spent the summer as an invited faculty instructor at the Central South University of Forestry and Technology in Changsha, China. He started at Heritage University as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science in Fall 2015. Since arriving at Heritage, Dr. Alexiades has published several peer-reviewed science articles and serves as the PI for the NSF i-NATURE and First Nations MESA programs to increase STEM opportunities for Native American students. He has a passion for social justice and creating pathways to higher education for underrepresented minorities. Apart from his academic pursuits, Alex is also a competitive ultra-endurance mountain bike racer for Chumba Cycles USA and Wanderlust Gear and a Contributing Editor at Bikepacker Magazine.


Dr. Maxine Janis

Maxine Janis, Associate Professor and President’s Liaison for Native American Affairs at Heritage University. She is an enrolled member of the Lakota (Sioux) Tribe. Dr. Janis’s goals are to establish an independent research career dedicated to understanding and addressing social inequities and health disparities among indigenous populations. She mentors indigenous students interested in the health professions pathway. Her experience as a public health practitioner draws on observing the many lived experiences of indigenous people and using these experiences as a professional to integrate knowledge of traditional Native health and healing practices to advocate and advance health care standards, policies, and practices. 

Dr. Janis’s focus is to effect a positive transformation of attitudes and beliefs, which have traditionally clashed in our indigenous health care delivery system.  She seeks to create a transformation that might enable health care delivery systems, agencies, and professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations critical to bring about change. Dr. Janis’s continues to promote health while working with tribal communities, lay health persons, and leaders, as well as state and federal legislatures to advocate for policies on behalf of the underserved in our society. Currently, Dr. Janis is the PI for a Suicide Prevention grant and an NIH Summer Science Internship grant for American Indian/Alaska Natives high school students at Heritage University. She was involved Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) and as part of the research team in Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) working on the Toddler Obesity Tooth Decay Study (TOTS) with tribes in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, have provided her vast insights into many of the challenges experienced by American Indians in acquiring oral health care. She sits on the Institutional Review Board (e.g. human subject’s protections) for the NPAIHB. 

She also has traveled internationally to Australia, Guatemala, New Zealand, and worked with Tibetan people of India. These endeavors clearly demonstrate Dr. Janis’s commitment to research relevant to addressing health disparities in indigenous populations. Additionally, these experiences have provided her with an understanding of the need for culturally sensitive health interventions to address and ameliorate disparities in oral health experienced indigenous peoples.


Dr. Jessica Black

i-NATURE Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Jessica Black is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Director of the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture and the Environment at Heritage University. She holds a Ph.D. in geological sciences from the University of Colorado. At Heritage University, Dr. Black has helped organize several successful major research projects conducted by students. She also organizes the annual environmental science course every summer known as “People of the Big River,” an intense, two week, hands-on 1,500 mile class trip which combines Western science with Native American Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). 

Her latest project involved helping Native American students find success in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. She helped Heritage University form an alliance with five other Northwest universities called the Pacific Northwest Circle of Success for Mentoring Opportunities in STEM. This alliance will share a four-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation.


Dr. Kazu Sonoda

i-NATURE Co-Principal Investigator

I started my academic career as a marine biologist studying natural products and chemical ecology at University of Guam. Over the years, my academic interests have shifted from basic marine biology to environmental sciences. My current research interests include hydrology, water quality, and environmental justice issues. Currently I hold a position of Dean of Arts and Sciences at Heritage University. As a Dean my primary focus is to provide the best higher education experience to many of underrepresented students we serve.  My experience working with underrepresented students started with Pacific Islanders while I was at University of Guam. At Heritage University, I work daily with Hispanic and Native American students. I also served as a Director of the TRiO McNair Program which helps underrepresented students to pursue doctoral degrees. I also served as a board member of Association of Environmental Sciences and Studies (AESS). As a board member of AESS, I advocated for enhancing diversity among environmental sciences and studies professionals.



Dr. Michelle Jacob

i-NATURE Co-Principal Investigator

Michelle M. Jacob, PhD, is Professor of Indigenous Studies and Director of the Sapsik’ʷałá (Teacher) Education Program in the Department of Education Studies at the University of Oregon. Her research areas of interest include: Indigenous educational frameworks, Indigenous research methodologies, health, Native feminisms, and decolonization. Her first book, Yakama Rising: Indigenous Cultural Revitalization, Activism, and Healing, published by the University of Arizona Press in 2013, analyzes the ways in which Yakama peoples resist the ongoing effects of colonialism through reclaiming cultural traditions. Dr. Jacob’s second book, Indian Pilgrims: Indigenous Journeys of Activism and Healing with Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, published by the University of Arizona Press in 2016, examines how Indigenous activism advances our understanding of community-building, environmentalism, and spirituality. Prior to joining the University of Oregon, Michelle served as Founding Director of the Center for Native Health & Culture at Heritage University on the Yakama Reservation, and as Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of San Diego. Michelle is a member of the Yakama Nation.


Dr. Sarah Stapleton

Sarah Stapleton is an Assistant Professor of Science Education in the UO Education Studies department. Before earning her doctorate, she taught middle and high school environmental science, physical science, chemistry, and general science at public schools in California and as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Gambia, West Africa. Sarah is credentialed by the state of California to teach chemical and biological sciences. Sarah’s research explores the social contexts around science and environmental education with a focus on social and environmental inequities. At the UO, Sarah currently works with pre-service teachers in the UO Teach masters program and doctoral students in the Critical and Sociocultural Studies in Education program.

Sarah uses critical and participatory methodologies to investigate social and environmental inequities. She is particularly interested in food and agriculture as learning contexts for science and environmental education. Sarah’s dissertation work used participatory action research with four veteran teachers to explore food issues in a low-income urban school district. In this work, the teachers explored food insecurity in schools, school gardens as a path for STEM learning, and food as an integrating curricular topic for culture, identity, and justice. Having lived in nine US states and four countries, Sarah is also attentive to place and its impact on her research contexts. Her work spans both urban and rural places and considers the impacts of global education on environmental learning.   


Guillermo Roberto Giannico

Based at the OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Dr. Giannico is a fisheries specialist focusing on salmonid ecology and watershed management. He holds degrees in biology, resource management and environmental studies. His primary Sea Grant responsibilities include providing information, educational material and professional assistance to Extension faculty, government agency personnel, watershed councils, and the public in salmonid ecology and behavior, fish habitat, aquatic ecology, and watershed management-related issues in support of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds.

Research interests include salmonid behavior, fish distribution and habitat selection in freshwater and estuarine systems, salmonid habitat restoration, the influence of riparian vegetation and land use activities on fish habitat, integrated waatershed management, fish passage and fish in agricultural landscapes. His teaching assignments include classes in integrated watershed management, stream restoration planning and implementation.


Tana Atchley

Tana Atchley is a citizen of the Klamath Tribes and is of Modoc, Paiute, and Karuk descent. She was raised on the Former Klamath Indian Reservation in Southern Oregon. As a first generation college graduate, helping Native students get into and be successful in college has been a core component of her professional career. She has worked primarily in higher education at colleges and universities throughout Oregon. Tana works for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) as the Tribal Workforce Development & Outreach Coordinator where she assists CRITFC member tribes in increasing the number of tribal members who pursue careers in protecting their cultural and natural resources. She manages internship programs and the Tribal Salmon Camp. Tana graduated with an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon and attended graduate school at Oregon State University where she studied in College Student Services & Administration. Tana currently serves as the acting President for the Oregon Indian Education Association, and is a Board Member of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and the University of Oregon Alumni Association.


Dr. Ed Galindo

Dr. Galindo (Yaqui, American Indian) is a faculty member at the University of Idaho, Associate Director for Education and Diversity for the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium, Affiliate faculty member at Idaho State University (Biology Department) and Affiliate faculty member at Utah State University (Physics Department). Dr. Galindo has extensive education and research in working with Native American students. While serving as chairman of the science department on the Shoshone-Bannock Indian Reservation, he was twice elected as the National Indian Teacher of the Year, awarded by the National Indian School Board Association. Dr. Galindo describes himself as “round and brown”, full of curiosity for life and learning. He finds humor in most things on this planet, including himself.

Ed is very proud to currently be serving as a board member with the Barry M Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Most recently, Ed was honored to be inducted as a lifetime (Sequoyah Fellow) member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) for research and educational outreach in the American Indian communities. The Native American Research and Education Foundation was a host of an honoring dinner held at Las Vegas Nevada in April (2016).


Dr. Lori Lambert

On her mother’s side, Dr. Lambert comes from the Deer Clan of the Abenaki Nation and the Mi’kmaq from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. On her father’s side, she is from the Cord Clan of the Huron on Isle d’Orleans, Quebec.

She is the recipient of numerous honours and awards including the Gladys Pearlstein Humanitarian Award, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) College Faculty of the Year, the 2011 Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Research Fellowship from the American Indian College Fund, and the 2001 Excellence in Online Teaching Award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Lambert founded the American Indigenous Research Association in 2012, and has been the conference chair for the past three years. She initiated the Indigenous Research certification at Salish Kootenai College and has developed numerous courses in Indigenous research. She has presented ideas on Indigenous research locally and internationally, with invited presentations in Australia, Finland, Norway, Canada, and the United States, She is the author of 6 books and many articles.

Her doctorate is in Medical Ecology/Medical Anthropology: Arctic Studies and a post doctorate from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She has been mentoring tribal college students in research for 20 years and has 30 years experience in higher education.


Stephany Johnson

Stephany RunningHawk Johnson is currently pursuing a PhD in Critical and SocioCultural Studies at the University of Oregon. Her grandfather is a member of the Oglala Sioux nation. Stephany earned a BS in Natural Resources from Oregon State University in 2003, an MEd from UO in 2008 as part of the Sapsikw’ala program, taught secondary math and science from 2008-2013, and was a Professional Advisor for Earth and Environmental Sciences students at OSU from 2013-2016. Her research interests revolve around Indigenous students going to university in science fields, and how the philosophy behind the way science is taught creates access or barriers to science courses.


Winona Wynn

Winona Wynn, an enrolled member of the Assiniboine/Sioux Tribe, is a Professor of Humanities and Indigenous Studies at Heritage University, a small liberal arts university located in Eastern Washington State on the Yakama Indian Reservation. She earned her PhD in American Studies in May 2009 from Washington State University. Her area of specialization is cultural identity and education, with an emphasis on indigenous community research methodologies. She works extensively with various Yakama Nation Programs including the tribal courts, foster care, the cultural museum and the Yakama Nation Reservation Coalition which maintains a focus on wellness and prevention. Related to this work, she served as Project Director for several grants including a two-year curriculum development project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, titled, Somos Indios (WE are Indian), and a Department of Education five-year grant, titled, Indigenous Identity Empowerment through Community-Based Participatory Action Research. She also directed or co-facilitated three consecutive Gates Foundation grants supporting work ranging from environmental sustainability and the empowerment of traditional ecosystem knowledge to a cultural museum project, titled, The Yakama Nation Cultural Museum and Intergenerational Storytelling. She currently focuses on developing science-based undergraduate research internships through her position as the Institutional and Summer Coordinator of The Leadership Alliance. Additionally, she is the Coordinator for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship at Heritage University which focuses on Humanities internships. These opportunities have facilitated academic partnerships with Research I institutions throughout the United States. For the past three years at the University of Capetown and the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, Wynn has directed groups in community-research methodology and has supervised community-based experiential research projects with both South African and United States based undergraduate students. Her current work also includes a documentary project, focusing on indigenous kinship caregivers, grandmothers caring for relatives on the Yakama Indian Reservation and women in the township of Khayelitsha in the western cape of South Africa, who are caring for their relatives who are “AIDS Orphans.” The focus of this project is the exploration of intergenerational identity constructs and socially constructed gender roles. 


Dr. Melissa Haeffner

Melissa Haeffner, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Science and Management department at Portland State University. Her research unifies several research domains that contribute to the knowledge of local politics in watersheds and how they shape urban water infrastructure development in the past, in the present, and under future predictions. Her ongoing research and teaching commitments investigate water insecurity and justice within municipal water systems and the links between multi-scale policies, infrastructural and environmental conditions, and household behavior. Her work focuses on “just water” and how social, political, and biophysical factors structure access to water, using the concept of environmental justice to draw attention to issues of fairness and equality in the ways different social groups gain access to natural resources.

Dr. Haeffner received a BA/MA in Sociology from DePaul University and a Masters in Science through the Department of Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her PhD from Colorado State University (CSU) in the Graduate Degree Program of Ecology, with a specialization in human-environment interactions. Her dissertation was titled "Vulnerability to drought in the La Paz, Mexico watershed." She has earned certificates from the Consensus Building Institute at MIT and from the Scenario Building Institute at CSU. She is the author of the book Water Walkers: portraits of Ghana's street vendors, based on qualitative fieldwork, and several scientific papers.


Dr. Melinda Howard

Melinda (Mindy) Howard recently received her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction-Science Education from the University of Idaho. Her research focuses on the participation and retention of historically underrepresented minorities in the STEM pipeline, particularly Native Americans, as well as identifying and implementing culturally sustaining educational practices. She also holds a master’s degree in Biology from Eastern Washington University with interests in vertebrate and aquatic ecology.

Dr. Howard has been involved in science education and science outreach for the past 15 years, including K-12 and undergraduate education, pre-service teacher education, and in-service teacher professional development. Her most recent project engaged youth from tribal communities in the Pacific Northwest in a series of culturally-relevant, place-based summer STEM camps. This experience allowed 4th-8th grade students opportunities to explore fisheries and watershed science while engaging in hands-on science and engineering practices in their communities. Her desire, through projects such as this, is to increase science learning opportunities that enhance equitable access to science, enlighten culturally-sustaining educational practices, improve scientific literacy, and encourage youth pursuit in the STEM pipeline.


Dr. Marco Hatch

Marco Hatch is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Western Washington University and is a member of the Samish Indian Nation. As a marine ecologist, he helps Native American students gain greater access to STEM opportunities while respecting coast Salish tribal people, landscapes, and seascapes. Dr. Hatch’s work includes helping Native American students make the transition to graduate school in the geosciences, specifically connecting Northwest Indian College students to Western’s Huxley College of the Environment. His work focuses on a partnership between NWIC and Western called Partnerships in Geoscience Education, funded by a five-year $1.65 million National Science Foundation grant. This partnership also provides funding for NWIC graduates to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Science.

At WWU he has created a wonderfully diverse lab charged with preparing the next generation of environmental scientists and leaders through fostering respect for Indigenous knowledge and providing students with a solid background in scientific methods. His research focuses on the nexus of people and marine ecology, centered on Indigenous marine management.

Dr. Hatch is also involved in a developmental model called the Coastal Almanac that will put in place a structure for Pacific Northwest coastal communities and tribal nations to collect, analyze, and archive data to help answer scientific questions important to them. Dr. Hatch is also a mentor for the SACNAS club at Western as well as a mentor for NASU (Native American Student Union). Prior to his work at Western Washington University, Dr. Hatch served as the Director of the Salish Sea Research Center at Northwest Indian College.


Dr. Cleo Woelfle-Erskine

Dr. Cleo Woelfle-Erskine’s research focuses on ecological and social dimensions of human relations to rivers and their multi-species inhabitants. Trained in ecology, hydrology, geomorphology, critical social science, and feminist science and technology studies, he facilitates collaborative research in partnership with tribes, agencies, citizen scientists, and local community members. His PhD work in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley involved a collaborative of scientists and local residents who are experimenting with storing winter rain to increase summer streamflow. He is developing research projects on hydro-ecological and social effects of beaver relocation in eastern Washington, and environmental justice dimensions of fishing and shellfishing in urban Puget Sound. As a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz, he explored queer, transgender, and decolonial possibilities for ecological science. His manuscript in progress, Underflow: Transfiguring riverine relations, imagining queer-trans ecologies considers the lingering presences of Manifest Destiny (ecological, socio-scientific, and psychological) and the ways that this injurious “destiny” can be transfigured and overturned to renew human-water-fish relations.