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  • Writer's pictureConfluence Lab

Lab Member Spotlight: Kayla Bordelon

Kayla Bordelon is a Ph.D. candidate in the interdisciplinary Environmental Science program at the University of Idaho. She found her “intellectual home” in the Confluence Lab when it was first launched in 2019.

"Working in the boundary spaces between the humanities, social and natural sciences suits my inclination towards the ambiguous, the complex and the critical."

Kayla’s trajectory to graduate school inhabits those tendencies. After earning a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts, Kayla spent her twenties exploring the human-environment relationship and social justice. She has worked as a backcountry wilderness ranger in the North Cascades, a trail crew leader along the US-Mexico border, an environmental educator in the “Victorian Alps” of Australia, an international service trip coordinator and guide in Central America, an interpretive ranger for the National Park Service, and a program coordinator for multiple nonprofit organizations working on social and environmental justice in the Pacific Northwest and Central America. These experiences shaped her sense of the world as entirely relational, “what we do for and to the earth, we likewise do for and to each other.”

Storytelling in Climate Communication

Kayla came to her Ph.D. work and the Confluence Lab with a curiosity about the value of storytelling to ground communication about the environment in lived-experiences. She notes how her own sense of self was cultivated through the stories told around the dinner table. “My dad is an amazing storyteller. His stories are mostly hunting, fishing and firefighting adventures, and that lore really got into my bones. I saw us as a family with sand under our fingernails and smelling a bit like fish guts.”

While serving for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Panamanian highlands, Kayla recognized stories as a vessel for ecological knowing. “I spent countless evenings shucking beans and drinking sweet coffee, listening to my neighbors described the rich ecological history of their community, all tangled up in personal loves and losses. Story taught me that place through their eyes.”

Confluence Lab Work & Beyond

In the Confluence Lab, Kayla feels fortunate to be able to draw on the narrative expertise of humanities scholars to explore how stories are connected to our identities, place relationships, and the larger socio-ecological context. She is a collaborator on multiple projects that incorporate storytelling and science communication around issues related to climate change.

Kayla Bordelon facilitating participant storytelling
Kayla Bordelon facilitating participant storytelling in a conference session on the Communicating Fire project.

Her dissertation is based on research within the NSF funded Communicating Fire project, exploring narrative to improve communication about the changing nature of wildfire in Idaho. She also serves as a Research Assistant on this project.

In the Our Changing Climate project, Bordelon and Jennifer Ladino facilitate community climate dialogues utilizing climate change fiction as a jumping off point for discussion about the socio ecological impacts of climate change in Idaho.

Constructing fire board models of wildfire scenarios with students in the Communicating Fire project.
Constructing fire board models of wildfire scenarios with students in the Communicating Fire project.

Bordelon is also the Confluence Lab lead on the NASA sponsored Earth to Sky – Idaho Regional Hub (ETS-Idaho), a partnership for advancing evidence-based climate communication. The group hosts professional development workshops for environmental educators to help improve climate communication, utilizing a network of NASA earth scientists and National Park Service communication strategies to do so.

Kayla Bordelon and colleague at ETS Outreach Event
Kayla Bordelon (left) and colleague at the ETS Outreach booth



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