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Grassy ridge, Pisgah and Cherokee National Forest

Tribal Partners

The Southeast is home to several federally recognized Tribal Nations as well as many state-recognized Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities.

Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities steward natural resources to sustain environmental and human health, traditional ways of life, and cultural identities. This important relationship with both land and water ecosystems makes Tribal Nation governments, agencies, and communities particularly concerned with the impacts of climate change, which can include drought, increased wildfires and extreme weather, sea-level rise and melting glaciers.

The National Climate Adaptation Science Center (NCASC) and the USGS Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs) are working with Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities to identify specific current and potential climate change impacts to Tribal natural and cultural resources and to produce information that can be utilized in Tribal-led climate change adaptation planning. This work is conducted through research projects, outreach events, training workshops, stakeholder meetings, youth internships, and other coordination activities.

Federally Recognized Tribal Nations in the Southeastern U.S. Map for download

Tribal Climate Liaisons

The Tribal Climate Science Liaison for the Southeast and Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Centers is Casey Thornbrugh. View Casey’s staff profile here. Assistant Tribal Climate Liaison for the Southeast is Steph Courtney. View Steph’s staff profile here.

Direct input from and engagement with Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities is crucial for the NCASC and CASCs to provide the appropriate science needed by these partners. Input is also important so that, when appropriate and acceptable, researchers can understand and consider Traditional Knowledges. Input is, in part, gathered through participation from these communities in the regional CASC Advisory Committees.

Tribal Climate Science Liaisons at the CASCs help identify climate information and research priorities of Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities and work with federal partners to address these priorities. The Tribal Climate Science Liaisons serve as a technical experts on climate change issues, resource vulnerability, and climate adaptation actions to Tribal Nations across the Climate Adaptation Science Center regions.

Casey Thornbrugh, Tribal Climate Science Liaison for the Southeast and Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Centers, acts as the liaison between Tribal Nations in the Northeast and the Southeast, the United South and Eastern Tribes Inc. (USET), the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and climate science researchers. Based out of the Northeast CASC at UMass-Amherst, he provides current climate science information to Tribal Nations on the East Coast and in Gulf Coast states, as well as identifies climate research needs and priorities, and provides climate adaptation planning support for the Tribal Nations. Steph Courtney is the Assistant Tribal Climate Science Liaison with USET, with a particular focus on the Tribal Nations in the footprint of the Southeast CASC. They participate in a network of Tribal climate science liaisons within the Climate Adaptation Science Center network, and a national workgroup of Tribal organizations, Tribal colleges, and other partners to address policy and resource issues associated with Tribal climate resilience.