Sierra Gladfelter
Grant Category: Fulbright-Nehru Student Research Program
Project Title: Situated Survival: Documenting Local Strategies for Living with Disasters in Uttarakhand and Ladakh
Field of Study: Geography
Home Institution: University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
Host Institution: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Delhi  
Grant Start Month: August, 2017
Duration of Grant: Nine months

Sierra Gladfelter
Brief Bio:

Ms. Sierra Gladfelter has a master’s degree in geography and a certificate in development studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests include the politics of knowledge, vulnerability, and social justice that surround climate adaptation and disaster mitigation programs across the developing world. Particularly drawn to South Asia and the Himalayan region since studying abroad with the School for International Training in Kathmandu, Nepal, Ms. Gladfelter examined a set of interventions to mitigate the impacts of flooding in island communities along the Karnali River in southwestern Nepal for her master’s thesis in 2011. As a Fulbright-Nehru student researcher in India, she is continuing her work both critically and productively engaging development and humanitarian interventions to assist communities in coping with chronic floods and droughts in order to more actively integrate local knowledge and priorities into the design and implementation of such solutions. She has also applied experience outside of academia studying climate change, resilience, and the uneven process of recovery from climate-induced disasters along rivers in Zambia and the United States with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-International.

After completing her BA degree in anthropology at Temple University, Ms. Gladfelter worked for several years at Schuylkill Headwaters Association, a small watershed nonprofit organization serving communities impacted by abandoned mine drainage in Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains. It was this experience working closely with rural communities in the heart of coal country that led her to pursue a career engaged in applied research and tangible work guided by local visions and communities’ active participation.

Ms. Gladfelter’s Fulbright project examines opportunities for traditional adaptive strategies and technocratic interventions led by the Indian government to collaboratively address the impacts of climate-induced disasters in Uttarakhand and Ladakh. Specifically, she is investigating how rural communities have historically coped with disasters and mitigated their effects locally, and what current barriers and opportunities exist for the continued use of these technologies alongside state-led interventions. Collaborating closely with Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Disaster Research Programme and India’s National Institute of Disaster Management, she hopes her research may enable government-led efforts to combat climate-induced disasters to complement, rather than displace, local knowledge and practices.