About Melinda's Work

Melinda belongs to the N’dee, San Carlos Apache Tribe and is from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She holds her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Haskell Indian Nations University (one of the thirty-seven Tribal Colleges located across the United States), her Master of Science in Ecology and Environmental Science from Purdue University, her Master of Arts in Native American Studies from UC Davis, and received her PhD in the Department of Native American Studies at the University of California Davis.

Her research focuses on the revitalization of cultural burns, small area prescribed fires conducted using Traditional Ecological Knowledge, in collaboration with Tribal Nations in Northern California. She currently examines plant and soil bio-chemical responses to cultural fire including culturally significant plant yield, soil carbon storage, nutrient cycling, and water holding capacity. This work is rooted in the Traditional Ecological Knowledge and cultural stories of her Indigenous cultural fire practitioner-partners. Broader implications of this research include deploying cultural fire as a climate adaptation strategy while mitigating the frequency and intensity of catastrophic wildfire in the West. Her overall research interests cut across the fields of environmental science, environmental policy, and are rooted in Native American Studies and Native ways of knowing and being.

Melinda is a former Tribal College professor/Chair of the Environmental Science Department at Haskell Indian Nations University and director of the Haskell Environmental Research Studies (HERS) Institute. Here, she developed curriculum weaving together Indigenous Knowledge with western sciences while mentoring/ instructing Native students representing over 130 different Tribal Nations from across the country.

Melinda’s intellectual capacity is shaped by her commitment to socio-cultural-ecological research performed with, by, and for underrepresented groups. Her unique background in STEM and the humanities positions her to develop multiple cross-disciplinary partnerships and research collaboration within and outside the academy. 

Check out this Estuary News podcast interview with Adams, “Fighting Fire with Cultural Fire.” 

Check out Adams’ UCD Humanities Institute Mellon Public Scholars Research project, “Digital Storytelling through Fire: The Revitalization of Northern California Cultural Fire.”