Jessica L. Black, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Heritage University and also serves as the Director for the Center for Indigenous Health, Culture & the Environment (CIHCE). Dr. Black earned her BA in Geology at Wellesley College and a BS in Geography at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. She then completed her Master’s degree in Quaternary Science at the University of Maine in Orono followed by her PhD in Geological Sciences (specializing in paleoclimate reconstruction) at the University of Colorado in Boulder. During her postdoctoral research positions at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the Centre d’études nordiques/Département de Géographie, Université Laval in Quebec, and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement – Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement des Géosciences de l’Environnement in Aix-en-Provence, France, she focused her research on using diatoms as tools for reconstructing past environments in lakes. Her most recent projects involve researching sustainable agricultural practices for water stressed agricultural regions in the Pacific Northwest. She is also active in studying the nitrate contamination of the groundwater in the Lower Yakima Valley.
In her professional career, Dr. Black has focused her efforts towards the overall goal of supporting diverse undergraduate students in STEM to completion of their degrees so they can transition to graduate programs, ultimately diversifying the professoriate and strengthening tribal natural resource departments with skilled indigenous candidates. Dr. Black is the Program Director of Heritage University Chapter of EnvironMentors Program (NCSE sponsored afterschool intensive high school environmental science research mentorship program) at White Swan High School (>50% Native American and >25% Hispanic student body), and the Yakama Nation Tribal School. Dr. Black is the Project Director of USDA NIFA HSI Education Grant to increase diversity in students pursuing agriculturally-related fields in undergraduate degree programs. She is also a key participant in NSF supported initiatives for undergraduate and graduate American Indian/Alaska Native student: Management Team member of NSF AGEP-T grant for increasing number of American Indian/Alaskan Native students into the professoriate (PNW-COSMOS) and director of Heritage University Chapter of NSF Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LS-AMP) program under All Nations LS-AMP centered at Salish Kootenai College. Dr. Black has brought 19 students to present their research over the past four years to the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and SACNAS national meetings which have resulted in two students being awarded the CHS Foundation Special Award for Undergraduate Research for agricultural-related research. Dr. Black initiated the restructuring of the B.S. Environmental Science and B.A. Environmental Studies degree program curricula at Heritage University to incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge, intergenerational learning, and experiential learning tailored to needs of diverse student population. This includes development of ‘People of the Big River Field Class’.
Dr. Black works to provide HU STEM students with international opportunities for global indigenous exchanges, developing multi-institutional alliances with the goal of working with our indigenous partners, the Ngäbe-Bugle, in Panama and Costa Rica to develop natural resource management plans. As outside pressures on lands increase, balancing management of natural resources and protection of those resources by indigenous groups around the world has become of great importance.