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Communication Graduate Student Receives Research Award in Glacier National Park

Blake Harms

Blake Harms, a first year masters student in the Department of Communication and Media, has received the Jerry O’Neal Fellowship for Research in Glacier National Park, Montana. The fellowship provides educational assistance for students “seeking to understand natural and cultural resource issues and how these intersect with human values.”

Harms will conduct research he hopes will support Park Superintendent Jeff Mow’s goal to create an “all hands on deck,” or collaborative, mentality. This will enlist park leadership, volunteers, staffers and visitors to preserve the park’s resources in the face of increased visitation, threats of wildfires, climate change and more.

Over the course of six weeks this summer, Harms will study how stakeholders interact, build relationships with one another – or fail to. He will use his research to consult stakeholders on ways to improve dialogue in their everyday communication. There is some urgency, said Harms. Glacier had more visitors last August than any other national park in the U.S. He relishes the opportunity to do research, then apply it in a real-world scenario.

“Beneath all of the world’s environmental problems is that humans and their interactions are preventing us from taking action. It’s inherently a communication problem,” Harms said. “And why not start trying to solve that problem in one of the most vulnerable places in the world, national parks?”

This project is part of the Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit network of federal agencies and research partners. Pei-Lin Yu, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, is the Boise State representative. Harms is the first student from Boise State to win this competitive fellowship, said Yu.

Harms came to Boise State from the Salt Lake City area. In addition to his masters program, he teaches communication 101.