Navajo researcher shares passion for delicate plant resources

Having lived a fence line away from the Navajo Nation reservation located around the four corners, senior Reagan Wytsalucy had the idea to bring educational and agriculture opportunities to her community long before she became an undergraduate researcher at Utah State University.

As a member of the Navajo tribe herself, Wytsalucy was well aware of the limited resources available to the Navajo community. This personal relationship motivated her to become a plant science major at USU. After sharing her hope to reintroduce agricultural practices given up by the Navajo in the 80’s with an advising professor, Wytsalucy created a research project that identified areas within the Navajo reservation that would be viable locations to bring back native crops. This ultimately led Wytsalucy to be one of 25 students representing Utah State University at Utah’s Research on Capitol Hill on January 29th.

Each year undergraduate researchers from Utah’s two public research universities, Utah State and the University of Utah, gather at the Rotunda of the State Capitol to share the results of their studies with state legislators. The event is designed to highlight Utah’s top undergraduate researchers while demonstrating the return in knowledge gained by state funds allocated to research initiatives.

In a two-hour poster session, students can not only communicate their findings, but also create relationships with members of Utah’s state government. It is here where Wytsalucy sees great opportunity.

“I want to take advantage of any opportunity I have in getting my research out.” Wytsalucy said. “It’s important that the non-native community know about what I’m doing and the struggles of my people.”

Just as the student work featured at Research on Capitol Hill exemplifies that investments often multiply, Wytsalucy explains that her project has been more than just research but what she wants to do professionally.

“The research itself has made me grow and learn by forcing me to think on my own and consider the best options not only to conduct the research, but for my people,” she stated. “My biggest success, however, has been to not only get the communities participation, but to be on the same page with them.”

Emily James | Project Management and Communications | Office of Research and Graduate Studies | emily.james@usu.edu