SIU student Amina Naliaka awarded for her environmental research


Subash Kharel | Subash Kharel | @pics.leaks

Amina Naliaka from Kenya, SIU Doctoral student in Environmental Resources and Policy shares her experience about her research and future plans Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, at SIU in Carbondale, Ill. “My concentration is in water resources, specifically groundwater. The consumption of water is increasing at an alarming rate compared to its management. My research is basically based on social and ecological factors. I am taking different climatic data and seeing how it impacts climate change,” Naliaka said.

Amina Naliaka, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU) doctoral student in the Environment and Policy program recently won a grant and received an internship for her research in groundwater sustainability and geography studies.

Naliaka is an international student from Kenya who’s been in the doctoral program at SIU since 2018.

She was recently awarded a grant from the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NC-SARE) to fund her project focused on groundwater sustainability.


Naliaka received a summer internship for graduate students from the American Association of Geographers (AAG). The internship will consist of various virtual workshops and seminars to network with fellow geography students.

Naliaka said she found out about the NC-SARE grant by keeping track of news with newsletter subscriptions and other students’ studies.

“I came across a student’s research and I saw that she was funded by that organization, so I got interested [and] I explored it further,” Naliaka said. “It looked like it was right up my alley, [and] I decided to just send in an email to inquire for more information. And after that, everything else fell into place.”

Naliaka’s project focuses on supporting groundwater sustainability in many areas hurting from the overuse of groundwater reservoirs, known as aquifers, and will be done in Nebraska, she said.

“With this heavy reliance on groundwater, obviously, that problem is set to get worse, especially with [the] increasing population that needs more agricultural products,” Naliaka said. “Through this project, I hope to provide an understanding of the groundwater system and how it interacts with groundwater users while at the same time accounting for climate change because climate change, of course, impacts water availability.”

Aquifers provide the largest portion of fresh water in the U.S., so taking out more than people put in causes serious danger to the environment, Naliaka said.

“We have to keep track of how it’s being used, so my project is aimed at doing that,” Naliaka said. “[We’re] giving visuals using models of how different decisions made by farmers impact backwater availability.”


She’ll also use climate data to model environmental scenarios and illustrations of how groundwater is impacted, Naliaka said.

Naliaka’s groundwater sustainability study isn’t the only thing she’s passionate about with the AAG internship helping get further into the geography field.

The AAG summer internship is the first of its kind, and Naliaka will be acting in a supporting role in instructive technology and outreach, she said.

With this internship being virtual it gives Naliaka and the people involved a more holistic expansion on their education within the internship, she said.

“I’ve taught online since we had this pandemic, but participating in the AAG internship will now expose me… to this online learning and how to facilitate it better,” Naliaka said. “I look forward to expand[ing] my experience further, and working at a greater scale, and also interacting with diverse people that are seeing what everybody’s doing, and see how I can contribute, and learn from the opportunity.”

Naliaka said she found her passion for geography in high school.

“I got into geographic information systems during my undergrad [education], then I did a postgraduate diploma in the same,” Naliaka said. “After that I came to the U.S. for my master’s and that’s when I ventured into environmental science.”

Naliaka said she found SIU while looking for programs that connected to her interest in environmental safety. SIU’s Environmental Resources and Policy program is interdisciplinary, giving her a lot of experience from different schools like sociology and psychology.

“I owe a lot to SIU. Since I got here, I’ve grown so much, I can’t believe it. I’m not the same person [I was when I] got here in 2018,” Naliaka said. “I’ve expanded my experience. I’ve expanded my education. And I owe it all to the faculty and the students.”

Naliaka said she’s unsure when her time at SIU will end and it depends on her progress in her research. She said she plans to stay in the education field.

“I would like to stick to academia…After my undergrad I taught high school for a while and then college for a short while and then that’s when I opted to advance my education,” Naliaka said. “But I love teaching [and] I thought for sure I’d love to continue.”

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.