Karletta Chief

Karletta Chief
Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist
Shantz Building, 517

Department of Soil Water and Environmental Science
The University of Arizona
P.O. Box 210038
Tucson, Arizona 85721-0038

Office Phone: 
(520) 222-9801
Lab Phone: 
(520) 621-9493
(520) 306-4960
Karletta Chief CV .pdf206.26 KB

Ph.D. 2007 Univ. of Arizona Hydrology and Water Resources
(Vadose Zone Hydrology) Minor in Soil, Water, and Environmental Sciences
M.S. 2000 Stanford Univ. Civil and Environmental Engineering
B.S. 1998 Stanford Univ. Civil and Environmental Engineering

Soil Science Society of America

American Geophysical Union

American Water Resources Association 

University Council of Water Resources (UCOWR) 

Association of Natural Resources Extension Professionals 

American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)

University of Arizona Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) 

Indigenous Women Science Network (IWSN) 

W-3188 Multistate Research Project 

Southwest Tribal Climate Change Network 

Arizona Agriculture Extension Association (AAEA)


2010 American Indian Science and Engineering Society “Most Promising Engineer/Scientist of the Year”

2007 Univ. of Arizona School of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Assistant

2007 Department of Hydrology & Water Resources Student Interface Award

2006 Univ. of Arizona Marshall Foundation Dissertation Fellow

2006 John Rainer American Indian Leadership Award

2005 Univ. of Arizona Computer Science, Engineering, & Mathematics Scholar

2004 Stanford Univ. Minority Alumni Task Force Featured Alumni

2003 Univ. of Arizona Centennial Award for Doctoral Students

2003 Arizona Hydrological Society Scholar

2003 American Indian Science and Engineering Society EPA Tribal Lands Scholar

8/2011. Assistant Professor, University of Arizona, Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Sciences, Tucson, AZ

2007-201.1 Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Desert Research Institute (DRI), Division of Hydrologic Sciences (DHS), Nevada System of Higher Education

2007. Hydrologist, Brown and Caldwell Consulting, Division of Water Resources, Tucson, Arizona

2003-2007. Graduate Research Assistant, Univ. of Arizona, Department of Hydrology and Water Resources

2002. Graduate Assistant, Univ. of Arizona Sustainability of Semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHRA).

2002. Research Intern, Navajo Nation, Department of Water Resources

1999. Environmental Engineering Intern, Environmental Protection Agency, Washington D.C.

1998-2000. Research Assistant, Stanford Univ., Civil and Environmental Engineering

1998. Environmental Engineering Intern, HDR Engineering, Phoenix, AZ

1997-1998. Stanford Undergraduate Research Fellow, Stanford Univ., Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr. Karletta Chief is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Specialist in the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Sciences at the Dr. Karletta Chief is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Specialist in the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. As an assistant professor, the goal of her research is to improve our understanding, tools, and predictions of watershed hydrology, unsaturated flow in arid environments, and how natural and human disturbances affect soil hydrology through the use of physically based methods. Dr. Chief research also focuses on how indigenous communities will be affected by climate change and collaborated in an interdisciplinary group of scientists including hydrologists, system dynamic modelers, and social scientists to determine how hydrological models can be improved to identify and mitigate risks to these vulnerable populations (nativeadaptation.arizona.edu). As an extension specialist, she works to bring relevant science to Native American communities in a culturally sensitive manner by providing hydrology expertise, transferring knowledge, assessing information needs, and developing applied science projects. Dr. Chief is a member of a national network of indigenous and non-indigenous scientists focusing on climate change impacts to indigenous peoples and co-authored several publications in the Special Issue of Climatic Change entitled “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences, and Actions” and Forest Conservation in the Anthroprocene. Dr. Chief is a member of the Indigenous People Climate Change Working Group, Rising Voices, and Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup with a focus on climate impacts to tribal waters. She co-authored a tribes chapter in the Southwest Climate Assessment Report (swcarr.arizona.edu) and provisional guidelines for considering traditional knowledges in climate change initiatives (climatetkw.wordpress.com). Dr. Chief worked with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe since 2009 focusing on collaborative water management planning under climatic and non-climatic stressors (link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-013-0737-0) and is a member of the Groundwater, Climate And Stakeholder Engagement Project employing a novel modeling framework and extensive stakeholder interactions to look at adapting water planning and management to future climate uncertainties (sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022169414009846). With her students, Dr. Chief developed educational learning modules for tribal colleges on the environmental impacts of mining (superfund.pharmacy.arizona.edu/learning-modules/tribal-modules). Dr. Chief supervises and advises the research of 11 students, 10 of which are Native American working on topics related to tribal environmental issues. She is also the faculty advisor to the UA American Indian Science and Engineering Chapter (AISES) (arizonaaises.weebly.com/index.html). Dr. Chief is Diné originally from Black Mesa, AZ and received a B.S. and M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 1998 and 2000. As a National Science Foundation Doctoral Fellow, Dr. Chief received her Ph.D. in Hydrology and Water Resources in the School of Engineering at the University of Arizona (UA) in 2007. She completed her post-doctorate at Desert Research Institute in the Division of Hydrologic Sciences in Las Vegas, NV where she worked on large weighing lysimeters at the Scaling Environmental Processes in Heterogeneous Arid Soils (SEPHAS) Project in Boulder City (sephas.dri.edu). In 2011, Dr. Chief was named AISES Most Promising Scientist or Scholar and in 2013 she received the Stanford University Distinguished Alumni Scholar award. 

July 2010  Co- Instructor, University of Nevada Reno, Reno, NV,“Interdisciplinary Modeling: Water-Related Issues” Short Course

July 2009  Co-Organizer and Instructor, Diné Tribal College, Navajo Nation Navajo, Shiprock, NM, “Watershed Hydrology and Restoration” Short Course

2009  Co-Lecturer, Univ. of Nevada Las Vegas, Geosciences Department, Graduate Course, GEOL 719 “Vadose Zone Hydrology”

2002-2007  Graduate Teaching Assistant, Univ. of Arizona, Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, Undergraduate Courses, HWR 201: “Water Science and the Environment” and HWR 202: “The Water Cycle”

1998  Teacher, Stanford Univ., School of Engineering, Pre-College Math Institute, “Algebra & Trigonometry”

1995  Teacher, Stanford Univ., American Indian Program Office, American Indian Summer Immersion Program, “Calculus I”


  1. *Chief, K., T.P.A. Ferré, and B. Nijssen. 2006. Field testing of a soil corer air permeameter (SCAP) in desert soils. Vadose Zone J.  5:1257-1263.
  2. *Chief, K., T.P.A. Ferré, and A. C. Hinnell. 2008a. The effects of anisotropy on in situ air permeability measurements. Vadose Zone J. 7:1-7
  3. *Chief, K., T.P.A. Ferré, and B. Nijssen. 2008b. Examination of correlation between air permeability and saturated hydraulic conductivity in unburned and burned desert soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 72:1-9
  4. Chief, K., M.H. Young, and D. Shafer. 2012. Low-Intensity, fire-induced changes of soil structure, physical and hydraulic properties. Soil Science Society of America J. 10.2136/sssaj2011.0072
  5. Gautam, M., K. Chief, and W.J. Smith Jr. 2013. Climate change in arid lands and Native American socioeconomic vulnerability:  The case of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. In “Facing climate change: The experiences of and impacts on U.S. tribal communities, indigenous people, and native lands and resources.” Climatic Change: Volume 120, Issue 3 (2013), Page 585-599. DOI # 10.1007/s10584-013-0737-0
  6. Cozzetto K., K. Chief, K. Dittmer, M. Brubaker, R. Gough, K. Souza, F. Ettawageshik, S. Wotkyns, S. Opitz-Stapleton, S. Duren, and P. Chavan. 2013. Climate change impacts on the water resources of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S. Climatic Change.  DOI# 10.1007/s10584-013-0852-y.
  7. Chen, L., M. Berli, and K. Chief. 2013. Examining modeling approaches for a fire affected rainfall-runoff process. J. American Water Resources Association. 49:851-866. DOI: 10.1111/jawr.12043
  8. Smith Jr., W.J, Z. Liu, A.S. Safi, and K. Chief. 2014. Climate change perception, observation and policy support in rural Nevada: A comparative analysis of Native Americans, non-native ranchers and farmers and mainstream America. Environmental Science & Policy: 42:101-122
  9. Shamir, E., S.B. Megdal, C. Carrillo, C.L. Castro, H.I. Chang, K. Chief, F.E. Corkhill, S. Eden, K.P. Georgakakos, K.M. Nelson, and J. Prietto. 2015. Climate change and water resources management in the Upper Santa Cruz River, Arizona. J. Hydrology. 521:18-33. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.11.062

Other Outreach/Extension Publications:

  1. Chief, K., C.L. Koch, R. Maier, S. Rader, and T. Maracle. 2014. Mining and Environmental Educational Modules for Tribal Community Colleges and Universities. Proceedings of The Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME) Annual Meeting & Exhibit “Leadership in Uncertain Times”, February 23 - 26, 2014, Salt Lake City, UT.
  2. Chief, K., J.J. Daigle, K. Lynn, and K.P. Whyte. Indigenous Experiences in the U.S. with Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship in the Anthropocene in Sample, V. Alaric and Bixler, R. Patrick (eds.). 2014. Forest Conservation and Management in the Anthropocene: Conference Proceedings. Proceedings. RMRS-P-71. Fort Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station. 494 p.
  3. Chief, K., A.M. Chischilly, P. Cochran, M. Durglo, P. Hardison, J. Hostler, K. Lynn, G. Morishima, D. Motanic, J. St. Arnold, C. Viles, G. Voggesser, K. Powys Whyte, D. Wildcat, S. Wotkyns. 2014. Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives Version 1.0, September 2014, Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup (CTKW), https://climatetkw.wordpress.com