UO undergraduate to present at national research conference

The University of Oregon’s Charlotte Rheingold has been invited to present her research paper at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) on April 16-18 on the campus of Eastern Washington University. Sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research, NCUR is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity in all fields of study by sponsoring an annual conference for students. Rheingold’s abstract was selected from more than 3,700 submissions.

Rheingold’s research explores the politics of translation that surround climate change research.  When researchers engage with indigenous populations to learn about how their culture connects to their climate, the translation methods that researchers use can affect how English-speaking audiences perceive indigenous peoples.

“Since indigenous groups face some of the most dramatic effects of climate change, they strongly want their voices to be included in discussion for adaptation strategies, but in a way that respects their cultural identity,” Rheingold said. “My research probes the lack of sensitivity to the politics of translation with regard to climate change research and recommends that researchers devote more attention to developing their approaches to translation.”

Rheingold is a comparative literature major and Clark Honors College (CHC) student. The idea for her project came about during a CHC upper-division course on “Climate and Culture in the Americas,” taught by Rheingold’s faculty mentor on the project, Mark Carey, associate professor of history and associate dean of Clark Honors College. The course focused on the human dimensions of climate change impacts, responses, perceptions, traditional knowledge, and science, particularly for indigenous peoples.

“I noticed during class that many of the studies being examined relied on translation to communicate with indigenous groups, but that they did not discuss the translation techniques that were used,” Rheingold said.

Finding this odd, since translation can be done through a variety of techniques with some more sensitive than others to the values of the original language and its culture, Rheingold developed a line of inquiry that spanned climate change, politics, communication, and language translation.

“Charlotte not only did excellent research on the topic of translation and indigenous rights amidst climate change impacts, but she also tackled a new angle of analysis and linked normally disparate fields,” Carey said. “I have not seen these fields linked; nor have I seen this kind of analysis of indigenous information tied together with tight prose and a compelling argument.”

As Rheingold’s faculty mentor, Carey worked with her on every stage of the project, from the proposal, to the literature review, outline, rough draft, oral presentation, and the final paper. He views the mentoring of undergraduate students in research as mutually beneficial.

“Research is one of the most important aspects of an undergraduate education,” he said. “Conceptualizing, researching, analyzing, organizing, writing, presenting, and completing a research project teaches terrific time management skills and empowers students to be independent, confident, and productive.”

Carey’s own research examines glaciology and the intersection of science, nature and society. He has received a series of National Science Foundation grants, including a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. He includes substantial funds in his research grants to involve undergraduates in his projects.

“This has been extremely rewarding for me, not to mention productive,” Carey said. “I have taken students to Peru, published with them as co-authors, utilized their research contributions, and directed their undergraduate theses.”