NASA EPSCoR Planning Grant

Social Dimensions Team Report
By: Bruce Berdanier and Lee Vierling


The South Dakota Space Grant Consortium (SDSGC) is in the process of strategic planning to develop a research initiative that addresses long-term environmental and economic sustainability in the "Prairie Pothole" region of northeast South Dakota. SDSGC initiated a planning methodology on July 9, 1999. Representatives from the SDSGC schools formed teams based on possible thematic components of the proposed research. Over the past two months, each team has started investigating the scope of their thematic component. This paper presents an update of the progress made by the Social Dimensions team in defining the extent of socio-economic considerations that should be included in the NASA EPSCoR application. Further, consideration will be given to established groups and experts that can assist our research formulation or have a stake in its outcome. This presentation will also delineate how these concepts integrate into the proposed research.

Socio-Economic Needs

The research group should define socio-economic impacts in the region that are caused or altered by the changing water levels and atmospheric interactions that we wish to study, define, or quantify. The most obvious impact is the alteration in the types of possible land uses caused by the sustained rising water levels and soil moisture conditions. If the water levels have risen or will rise to a level, which will be established as a new long-term steady state, various historical land use practices need to be evaluated for future viability. Additionally, previously impossible land-uses may be viable and economically attractive. Therefore, as part of the socio-economic component, the research project should seek to gather and synthesize data, which develops the long-term statistical probability of the establishment of a new water level steady state.

                    1.    Changing Local/Regional Land Uses for Economic Development.

Data should be acquired and synthesized to build a decision tree analysis. This product could be used as a tool to evaluate the long-term probability of economic success in changing established land use patterns and of initiating new local and regional land use plans. The following are suggested as possible land use change evaluations:

Summary. The research project will not make recommendations for short-term changes in land use patterns. Rather, we anticipate that the research project could produce a database, which allows analysis to determine the probable success of long-term changes in land use. We suggest continued interaction with NECOG to assure experimental data gathered will provide a database that they can use as a future tool.

2.  Changing Product within Agricultural Operations for Economic Viability.

In addition to evaluating changes in local/regional land use that could respond to changing water levels and atmospheric conditions, the research should evaluate the long-term probability of economic success in continued agricultural operations. This component would gather identified physical, chemical, and biological parameters to build a scientific data- base to evaluate the economic viability of changing currently accepted agricultural strategies. These data gathering activities would be ongoing in parallel with basic data gathering for atmospheric interaction changes caused by crop changes. Once the statistical probability for a new steady state in water levels is established, agricultural alternative to current cropping and livestock use patterns should also be evaluated. It is suggested that several test plots be developed to evaluate the economic viability of rice and tree crops at a minimum. These plots should be instrumented to monitor their interaction and impact on the atmospheric/soil conditions.

Summary. We suggest continued interaction with identified agricultural groups be a priority to develop sufficient data to evaluate long-term statistical probability of economic feasibility of changing future cropping operations. Further, we believe that we need increased involvement and direction from agricultural experts (perhaps at SDSU) in the specification of the experimental design and types of crop alternative, which should be evaluated, and which will be required to meet their needs.

3.  Educational Outreach.

The third component that is recommended by the social dimensions team is development of an educational outreach program to regional stakeholders. The incarnation of this component would be a two-pronged effort. The first prong would be to develop field research participation programs for students in regional tribal colleges participating in the SDSGC. This program would provide undergraduate research opportunities for the tribal college students. Also, tribal college faculty and students would have new and expanded opportunities to work with the faculty and in the facilities of the four-year SDSGC universities. This program is envisioned as tribal college students and faculty actually participating in scientific and socio-economic data gathering, geographically referenced data base development, and data analysis in support of the overall scientific research program and specifically the proposed socio-economic components.

The second prong of the proposed educational outreach component will be development of field experiences for regional high schools. This program is envisioned as establishment of small monitoring stations at cooperating high schools in the area, which mimic or model the ongoing field research program. This model field research program will introduce high school students to the regional research program while contributing to the development of the state’s high school faculty research abilities.

Summary. Educational outreach is a necessity for this project as required by NASA objectives and to meet the needs of the region's inhabitants. We suggest continuation and expansion of the initial contacts that have been made by SDSGC the past few years. Specifically, we need to develop a coordinated program that integrates the tribal college students and faculty in the research program. Additionally, model research projects should be developed in conjunction with public, private and tribal high schools in the region.

Program Contacts Identified to be Researched for Possible Development


The Social Dimensions team has identified three main social dimension areas that could be addressed by the proposed research project as follows:

Each of these activities is in alignment with stated NASA priorities for research projects. Further, these activities are aligned with strategic plans developed for Northeast South Dakota by NECOG. Also, we believe a case can be made for universal implications of the relationships that can be developed in these areas for the NE South Dakota region.

Recommended Actions for Social Dimensions Activities

  1. Continue initial contact of relevant organizations identified above,
  2. Clarify Northeast South Dakota socio-economic needs by December 1,
  3. Report clarification and focus to SDSGC by January 1,
  4. Establish NASA contacts,
  5. Establish NCAR contact.


Return to "Info on Oct. 7, 1999 SD NASA EPSCoR Meeting" website