Supporting Equitable Climate Change Decisions in Rural Contexts: Engaging with local data through data science practices and critical data literacies to co-design an online educational resource
Heather Killen

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Maryland, College Park

Primary Discipline

Science Education
I work to support rural communities to make equitable and just decisions about climate change challenges. My dissertation explores how learning might be supported by first expanding the notions of what local climate data can be, and second by using technology to make this kind of data more visible. Applying the practices and perspectives of critical data science, I partnered with community members to challenge assumptions about what valuable data is and who gets to hold, use, and produce valuable data. Through asset-based design thinking and co-design we produced an online, map-based educational resource that placed locally-focused scientific climate data alongside locally-held climate knowledge in a way that reflected community values and interests. My dissertation investigates how building this kind of resource might support climate learning and how highlighting local voices telling local data stories might contribute to a more robust community evidence base that can be used in civic decision making. In an increasingly datafied world it is essential that all people have a voice in the data-heavy, technical decisions that face their communities. It is also important that non-dominant ways of knowing, rich with community knowledge and data that is personally held, used and produced, are valued alongside dominant knowledge and institutionally-held data. My work is relevant to researchers working in climate change and data science education and also practitioners supporting rural communities as they face the societal and cultural challenges of a changing world.
About Heather Killen
Heather Killen is a Ph.D. Candidate in Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership with a specialization in Technology, Learning, and Leadership within the College of Education at the University of Maryland. Heather?s scholarship is grounded in her experience growing up and living within rural communities and her work as an ecologist, where she witnessed how academic ways of knowing could overlook community-held scientific knowledge. Through her research, Heather hopes to generate principles, especially around personally-held data, that expand ideas of what data is valuable, who holds, uses, and produces valuable data, and how to best teach people to critically engage with data to make informed decisions. Her dissertation explores how technology can make expanded notions of local data more visible for rural communities and the ways these communities might be supported to use local data to make equitable, just decisions when meeting the challenges of climate change. Heather has a Master?s Degree in Biology from Boston University and Bachelors of Arts in Biology, Chemistry and Asian studies from Linfield College in Oregon. She has worked as an ecologist for federal, state and tribal governments, served as a faculty member in the Biology Department at Mohave Community College in Arizona, and led the citizen science and curriculum development portions of the Fossil Atmospheres Project, housed within the Paleobiology Department of the Smithsonian?s National Museum of Natural History. She has also lived and taught abroad, primarily in Japan, and spent time living and working at the U.S. research station McMurdo in Antarctica.

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