New Publication on Tribal Mobility and COVID-19

Our team recently had a paper titled “Tribal Mobility and COVID-19: An Urban-Rural Analysis in New Mexico” accepted into ACM HotMobile’21. Through a partnership with Skyhook, which provided us with extensive cellular device mobility data, we examined COVID-19 case growth in proximity to significant tribal presence by providing a novel quantification of human mobility patterns across tribal boundaries and between urban and rural regions at the geographical resolution of census block groups. In the paper, we use New Mexico as a case study due to its severe case infection rates; however, our methodologies generalize to other states. Results show that tribal mobility is uniquely high relative to baseline in counties with significant case counts. Furthermore, mobility patterns in tribal regions correlate more highly than any other region with case growth patterns in the surrounding county 13–16 days later. Our initial results present a quantification scheme for the underlying differences in human mobility between tribal/non-tribal and rural/urban regions with the goal of informing public health policy that meets the differing needs of these communities.

How Our PuebloConnect Team is Addressing COVID-19

In March of 2020, like many people around the world, our team began making major life adjustments in response to COVID-19. Our universities deterred travel, and many tribes enforced closures, turning away all people who do not live or work on the reservation. By late March, our friends and family in reservation communities began using social media to post sad news about relatives who were gravely ill or who had passed on. By April and May, each member of our team began relying on their social and professional networks to address various related needs in Indian Country. Supporting medical professionals In late March of 2020, Dr. Lance Whitehair, a physician at Navajo Nation Medical Center in Shiprock, reached out to team member Dr. Marisa Duarte to help raise awareness of an impending series of outbreaks. Duarte contacted several professionals for assistance, including Native public health consultants, tribal government liaisons, and Native information scientists. Dr. Miranda Belarde-Lewis (Zuni/Tlingit), Dr. Sandy Littletree (Navajo/Eastern Band Shoshone), Dr. Doreen Bird (Santa Domingo Pueblo) and Dr. Morgan Vigil-Hayes had an initial conversation with Dr. Whitehair about what they could do to raise regional public awareness of the outbreaks. Over several months, Dr. Whitehair sent bimonthly updates about changing supply needs at the Navajo Nation Medical Center and the known state of the epidemic through the Four Corners region as well as related parts of Indian Country and the affected states. Dr. Vigil-Hayes developed a program to scrape relevant up-to-date epidemiological statistics from the Web so that Dr. Whitehair could more easily construct his weekly analysis of the spread of COVID-19. The  research team disseminated the information through their social networks, and also assisted Dr. Whitehair in crafting a letter to New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan, indicating need for supplies, training, and improved rural Internet infrastructure toward telemedicine. Team member Jennifer Case Nevarez mobilized formal and informal community networks to collect and distribute and donate PPE to health professionals and medical facilities in the region.  Supporting communities Nevarez also coordinated donations of over 275,000 PPE and supplies to various organizations and groups in need, including to every pueblo and tribe within New Mexico. During the spring and summer, families, students, teachers, and schools serving large numbers of rural students began to realize how significantly the lack of Internet infrastructure was impeding distance learning. To help address connectivity, Nevarez Read more…

Presentation for UCSB Carsey-Wolf Center

On February 18, 2021, project Co-PI Marisa Duarte spoke speak on a panel along with Shannon Mattern and Rahul Mukherjee for Roundtable: The New Ethereality ( on the topic of wireless infrastructures—from TVWS technologies to 5G investments–and social imagination in diverse contexts. The event was hosted by the UCSB Carsey-Wolf Center.

PuebloConnect team speaks at NSF Workshop on Overcoming Measurement Barriers to Internet Research (WOMBIR)’21

Ph.D. student Beatriz Palacios Abad (Georgia Tech), together with PuebloConnect PIs Belding, Vigil-Hayes and Zegura, had her paper “Measuring and Improving Underserved Community Access” accepted for presentation at the NSF WOMBIR’21 workshop. The goals of the workshop were to identify critical research questions that require network measurement, and to identify barriers to and facilitators of that network research. The first portion of the workshop was held in January 2021. The second part is upcoming in April 2021.

UAV Measurements

Notes from the Field: Wardriving and Warflying: Collecting Accurate Spectrum and Coverage Data in Indian Country

Recently, our team has been working with the IT directors and network administrators for four sovereign Native nations and one rural county in northern New Mexico to try to extend middle-mile infrastructure across and through political jurisdictions. One challenge that our team has encountered pertains to the difficulty in locating and acquiring adequate spectrum licensing for TV white space base stations to serve locations in scenarios where fiber-to-the-home is not an immediate possibility. Our team has had to work through numerous challenges to accomplish what we initially thought would be a relatively procedural task. Contemplating the challenges helps us to discern the broader social, political, and technological implications for national misrepresentation of coverage and connectivity data, particularly in light of the social distancing requirements for preventing COVID-19 outbreaks. A blog piece on our work was published to the Network Sovereignty Blog of the The Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab

TV White Space Installation in Santa Clara Pueblo

To expand Internet access on the Santa Clara pueblo, our team has installed a 6Harmonics TVWS base station. First trialed as a stationary link, the team is now working on installing a TVWS receiver on a truck to provide a mobile WiFi hotspot to reservation residents. This is in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, where shelter-in-place orders have amplified the need for Internet access so successfully navigate remote learning, work at home, telehealth, and other critical applications. Our team is monitoring performance and usage of the TVWS link to better ready this technology for more widescale usage across rural regions. Images are of the installation of the TVWS base station at Santa Clara pueblo.

University of Arizona

“Wireless 101” Talk

In January 2020, team member Prof. Morgan Vigil-Hayes presented a “Wireless 101” talk at the NSF Technical Workshop titled “Wireless and Network Performance Measurement, Protocol Tuning, and Design Improvement for Small Campuses / Tribal Colleges / Universities / Community Colleges” at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

CSCW 2019

CSCW 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Award

Our publication titled Complex, Contemporary, and Unconventional: Characterizing the Tweets of the #NativeVote Movement and Native American Candidates through the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections has received the CSCW 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Award. This paper is authored by Morgan Vigil-Hayes, Nicholet Deschine Parkhurst and Marisa Elena Duarte, and was published in the Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction (3), November 2019.