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eNews June 2020

Meet the Researcher, Lani Tsinnajinnie, Assistant Professor, The University of New Mexico

By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator

Lani Tsinnajinnie is an assistant professor for both the Community and Regional Planning department, as well as the School of Architecture and Planning unit at The University of New Mexico (UNM) located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to Lani, she believes that performing research that directly supports and assists communities in understanding their own water resources is a vital practice.  She also stresses the significance of providing guidance for students who are interested in social justice, community-engaged research, and water issues.

Tsinnajinnie received her BA and BS degrees from UNM in 2007 specializing in Native American Studies, and Environmental Science.  In 2011, she earned her Master of Water Resources degree from UNM, with her final project entitled, An analysis of Navajo nation snow courses and snowpack data in the Chuska Mountains, under the supervision of David S. Gutzler. She went on to acquire her PhD in Earth and Environmental Science with a dissertation in hydrology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT) in Socorro, New Mexico (2019). Her dissertation was advised by John L. Wilson and Marty D. Frisbee, and was entitled, Do groundwater-surface water interactions increase resilience of mountainous watersheds to impacts of climate change?

At present, Lani is working on two projects with one examining groundwater-surface water interactions in perennial watersheds located on the Navajo Nation in the Chuska Mountains, and the other looking at relationships between streamflow in mountainous watersheds with a focus on snowpack, snowmelt and other climate indicators. Her research is being funded by the UNM Center for Water and Environment, UNM’S Grand Challenges-Water Resources Seed Grant, and the UNM Advance Women in STEM award. To date, Lani has been awarded 16 unique research grants and honors for her work in water resources.

Tsinnajinnie is currently on the water conference advisory board for the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI), and assists with reviewing student research grant proposals.  She has most recently served on the working group for the 64th Annual New Mexico Water Conference, where she provided essential information and direction on the tribal perspectives of water issues in New Mexico.  Lani plans to apply for a faculty research grant with NM WRRI in the future, and is hopeful that she will have the opportunity to assist in collaborating with other water researchers from New Mexico State University, NMT, and a few of New Mexico’s tribal colleges in the pursuit of developing water-related projects.

In addition to being on the NM WRRI advisory board, Tsinnajinnie actively participates as a member in eight different committees, societies and councils. Her most recent memberships include the UNM Native American Faculty Senate as a committee member (March 2020), and the American Indian Studies Association as a council member (February 2020).  Her longest affiliation is with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, where she has been a member since 2006.

Tsinnajinnie is the author of four refereed publications, and one government publication. Her most recent studies are set to be released later in 2020, and are still in the revision process for the Journal of Hydrology and Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies.  These articles are entitled, Groundwater from perennial springs provide refuge from wildlife impacts in mountainous semiarid watershed, and Hydrostatigraphic and structural controls on streamflow generation in the Chuska Mountains, Navajo Nation, AZ/NM, USA, respectively. Lani has presented her studies at 19 conferences and panels, with her latest presentations taking place in January and February of this year centering around Native American hydrology research. She has additionally participated in ten poster sessions at various annual meetings, and conference workshops.

When asked about her long-term research goals, Lani stated that she would like to become more involved in collaboration efforts with rural and Indigenous communities to assist them in water resources planning efforts via watershed research.  She equally aspires to help in the development of STEM programs to further support Native American students and other underserved minorities.