National Drought Mitigation Center


Varisco joins NDMC as social scientist

March 7, 2024

Kelsey Varisco started the role of NDMC social scientist in February 2024.

By Emily Case-Buskirk, Communications Specialist

Kelsey Varisco is the newest member of the National Drought Mitigation Center team. As a social scientist, she will be engaging with local communities and collaborating with climate experts on drought resilience projects. 

“At the NDMC, there’s social science meeting hard science,” she said. “I’ll be able to continue learning, while also bringing my unique experiences and skills.” 

Varisco has a bachelor’s in Spanish and International Studies and a master’s in Latin American Studies, Environmental Governance and Resilience, both from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She brings nearly a decade of Spanish speaking experience to the role. 

At the NDMC, she'll be involved in Integrated Midwest Partnerships for Actionable Climate Tools and Training (IMPACT^2) and Indigenous Climate Smart Ag, among other projects. 

IMPACT^2 is a $1.5 million partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University to help farmers and landowners in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa adapt to the effects of climate change. She will help create a tabletop exercise enabling stakeholders to engage in climate-related scenarios, in addition to helping the team connect with diverse groups of farmers and related organizations. 

The goal of Indigenous Climate Smart Ag is knowledge co-production with tribal communities to enhance agricultural drought and climate adaptation. Her role within the project will include facilitating community planning through focus groups and interviews and contributing to educational workshops.  

"I enjoy learning about the impacts and effects of climate change,” she said. “But to actually engage with someone is most meaningful to me, because it is an opportunity to learn from their wisdom and experience and connect.” 

She considers one of her greatest achievements to be living for one year in Buenos Aires, one of the biggest cities in the world, at only 19 years old.

“It was such an opportunity for growth!” she said. "My dad is from Argentina, but I didn’t learn Spanish growing up. When I lived in Argentina, I got to know family I didn’t previously have a relationship with, and learn more about culture, history and family.” 

Varisco has lived in Lincoln previously. As she resettles into the community with her partner, she enjoys going on walks with her dog, cooking healthy and colorful meals, and working on art practices such as watercolor painting and silversmithing.