Outstanding Seniors in the College of Science: Starlivia Kaska

Dec. 4, 2023
Starlivia Kaska

This fall, departments in the University of Arizona's College of Science nominated an outstanding senior who went above and beyond during their time as a Wildcat. We are pleased to share their stories as they reflect on their time at UArizona. First up in the senior spotlight series is Starlivia Kaska in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. 

Starlivia Kaska

Hometown: Supai, Arizona

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Hydrology & Water Resources

College of Science: Why did you choose your area of study? 

Kaska: For that question, I have a complicated answer. It wasn’t something I decided to do one day out of the blue or something that someone pushed me to do. There are three main reasons I decided on hydrology. The first is that about a year after high school I came to the University of Arizona and did a water technician training program for Native American students. Through this program I became an intern at the Grand Canyon Water Utilities department and had a lot of fun collecting water samples, doing field measurements, and working around the lab. The second is that I spent time working with the Havasupai Tribe as the secretary to the Chairman and I learned a lot about our tribe’s water issues. I learned that the scientific evidence we needed to back up our issues weren’t where they should be and I realized I didn’t know anything about water science. Finally, I was told when I was in the water technician program that the University of Arizona had the number one hydrology program in the United States. So, I wanted to learn everything about water, I knew where I should go to learn it, and I knew that working with water was something that I enjoyed doing. That in a nutshell is why I chose to study hydrology here at the University of Arizona. 

COS: Tell us about a class or research project you really enjoyed.

Kaska: I conducted research at the Landscape Evolution Observatory at Biosphere2 in Oracle, Arizona. I really enjoyed the research I did here because it was the first time I had worked with Hydrologists before. I also got to experience what happens at a large research facility. How the projects get started and how water information is analyzed. I had to download large datasets and use a lot of python coding. At the time, I only had moderate experience with coding and was frustrated at times reading hundreds of lines of code. However, I am happy I was able to gain that experience. In the project, we used sensor data, hydrological equations, and coding to estimate the amount of water in these three massive lab landscapes in various ways. I enjoyed it because I could use what I learned in my hydrology courses to do my research. I came to appreciate real life applications during my time there. 

COS: What is one specific memory from your time at UA that you'll cherish forever? 

Kaska: In the last year of my undergraduate degree, I spent some time in a study group which consisted of three other seniors majoring in hydrology. We’ve taken several courses together over the years, but this semester we got to know each other a little more. Dallin, Eden, and Jonathan make me laugh. One of them convinced me that two-cubed was equal to six, two of them have a pretty good British accent , one of them keeps telling me to just go to the rodeo, and now they all know what I think is hotter than 1032 Kelvin. We had a lot of good laughs, so laughing in our study sessions is what I will remember the most. 

COS: What is next for you after graduation? 

Kaska: I was recently accepted into an Accelerated Master’s program with the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. I plan on starting my master’s degree within the next two semesters. On a topic related to my tribe’s water issues or doing a project that will help me gain the knowledge I need to do this type of work on my own. I am also passionate about animal husbandry; therefore, I would like to spend a little time on that before I return for my graduate degree. During this time, I also want to help the kids in my community with their education in any way I can. I really want to support them in their understanding of mathematics. So, if my tribe is willing to support this effort, I would like to spend some time teaching math or doing some high school and college advising for the Havasupai community. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that I get a start on all these things as I get ready for my graduate degree.