Assessing Current and Future Research Needs Among Frontline Communities in Wyoming

Start Date

Research Theme
Primary Investigators

Geographic Region

Carbon-dependent communities are facing increasing economic pressures as fossil fuel industries decline, creating a major societal stressor in these communities. At the same time, they also face worsening climate impacts and other hazards, which can cause increasing vulnerabilities concurrent with decreasing adaptive capacity. This project focuses on small rural communities and tribes in Wyoming, addresses our understanding of adaptation needs in carbon-dependent communities, and explores opportunities for building resilience to compound hazards in our region. This project prioritizes the needs and perspectives of rural and tribal communities to support long-term resilience and build networks for future engagement and planning.

In Phase I (2021-2022), we will assess existing research efforts around climate change impacts and compound hazards in the state, including interviews with long-term researchers, managers, government officials, and NGOs, and a thorough literature review to highlight the status of existing work in order to provide a baseline of state-wide efforts. In a recent planning activity for the University of Wyoming, climate change and its impacts were highlighted as some of the Grand Challenges facing the state (University of Wyoming 2019), but there has been a lack of research in this arena and no synthesis of prior efforts in the state. We will also conduct qualitative, semi-structured interviews with key individuals (including natural resource managers, community leaders, and tribal leaders) across the state to understand how Wyoming residents experience and perceive compound hazards, and how they would like to address them. Prior internal assessments have identified small rural communities and tribes as important and underserved stakeholders in the state (Torrens 2020, Petersen 2020), and pointed to the role of rural conservation districts, extension agents, emergency management, and key partners and stakeholders on the Wind River Indian Reservation (home to Eastern Arapaho and Northern Shoshone tribes) in understanding and supporting the needs of local communities. Throughout the process, we will solicit feedback from participants and stakeholders on their experience. Phase 1 will result in a more robust understanding of current research gaps and priority areas in Wyoming (including in a peer-reviewed synthesis paper); a list of potential stakeholders and actors across the state who are interested in compound hazards; and increased understanding of the utility and limitations of this method for identifying community needs. These results will serve as the basis for outreach related to the call for supplemental small-grant funding for planning and implementation efforts across the state. Over the next five years, we hope to go from assessment and synthesis of existing efforts to co-production of tangible and actionable projects to allow rural communities to plan to address compound hazards and tribal communities to implement adaptation actions. 

In Phase II (2022-2023), we will execute the small grants program based on Phase I findings. 

Phase III (2024-2026) will be an effort to identify an identified issue related to compound hazards in the state where Western Water Assessment could bring together stakeholders and researchers to coproduce a research proposal. We will host a 2-day workshop with the goal of strengthening, building, and expanding networks to meet tangible and identified needs and crafting the structure for a proposal to fund these efforts. The goal will be to emerge with a draft funding proposal that we will pursue to meet community-identified needs. Results from this project will inform activities in other projects to build regional community resilience.

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