EarthLab Presents: The Intersectional Environmentalist Event Recording

On May 5, 2022, EarthLab had a virtual conversation with Leah Thomas, founder of the Intersectional Environmentalist organization. This event recording features Leah reading an excerpt from her new book, “The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet,” and her answering questions from the audience. You can watch the full recorded event here.

Future Rivers Presents: The Revolution Generation

2022 Innovation Grants Announced

UW EarthLab selects six community-led teams to solve complex challenges at the intersection of climate change & social justice that will make a positive impact on people’s lives and livelihoods

Today EarthLab announced that six transdisciplinary teams have been selected for the 2022-2023 Innovation Grants program. This signature initiative provides essential funding to newly formed applied research teams that are led by and with community partners. Now in its third iteration, this year’s Innovation Grants request for proposals looked for research at the intersection of climate change and social justice. Each team will receive up to $75,000 to generate equitable and actionable science and knowledge that make a positive impact on people and communities. The award period lasts 16 months and final products are due by September 30, 2023. 

Interest in the Innovation Grants program has continued to grow since its inaugural funding round in 2019. This year, for the first time ever, EarthLab was able to expand its Innovation Grants funding from $300,000 to $450,000. In this year’s application cycle, 33 teams submitted letters of intent to apply to the RFP, of which 15 were invited to submit a full proposal. Proposals were evaluated by an 11-member review committee that included faculty and staff from several disciplines and a community member from outside UW. 

“I have loved being involved with EarthLab’s Innovation Grants for the past three years,” shared Kristi Straus, Chair of the Innovation Grants Program Review Committee and Associate Teaching Professor through UW’s Program on the Environment. “EarthLab continues to optimize their approach to applied environmental research funding with this year’s focus on projects that center social justice and climate change. It was exciting to read the grant proposals and learn about so many transdisciplinary research teams and creative research approaches. Many of these projects are collaboratively designed by and with communities most impacted by climate change, which I think speaks to our collective desire to address human-environment mitigation and adaptation to climate change through both an intersectional and interdisciplinary lens.”

Project teams included faculty from a range of disciplines at the University of Washington, including public health, environmental and occupational health sciences, anthropology, civil & environmental engineering, law, marine sciences, landscape architecture, humanities, and more. Community partners include Tribal leaders, public agencies, community organizers and other universities.

In addition to the funds awarded, Innovation Grant recipients receive administrative and communications support throughout the award period. Teams connect as a cohort at workshop-style meetings which are designed to share resources on interdisciplinary and community-engaged research, create the opportunity for co-learning and networking, and to provide a structured space to work collaboratively on their projects.

“This year’s innovation grants catalyze community-led teams working with UW researchers and students on game-changing environmental research,” said Ben Packard, EarthLab Executive Director. “We’re thrilled to support the work being done by these six fascinating cross-disciplinary teams who are all generating critical, scalable solutions in the community.”

EarthLab is an initiative of the UW College of the Environment to solve the biggest problem of our lifetime – our changing environment. EarthLab works across the university to accelerate and focus UW’s broad expertise across multiple fields, amplify engagement between private, public, non-profit and community leaders, and spur the development of co-created, meaningful, science-based solutions to improve people’s lives and livelihoods. The Innovation Grants program is an annual initiative supported by newly raised funds. 

Learn more about the Innovation Grants program here and check back often for news regarding the 2019-20202020-2021 funded projects.

Funded Projects

Boeing funds stormwater mitigation project led by UW researchers and The Nature Conservancy to address health inequities in the Seattle area

If you were to picture what makes Seattle such a special place to be, what might you imagine? Whether your response summons the lush evergreen trees, fresh seafood, beautiful Puget Sound views, infamously misty days, or something entirely different, there’s a good chance that your answer connects back in some way to our region’s rainy climate. Unfortunately, due to increasing climate change and urban development pressures, the quality and quantity of the water that we depend on has been drastically impacted by stormwater runoff.

When rain and snow melt over the Puget Sound region, this picks up pollution (like oil, fertilizers, dust from tires, copper, zinc, pesticides and trash) as it washes off buildings, streets and highways before flowing directly into our streams, lakes and marine waters. Just as the rain has a way of reaching through even the most durable rain coats if our exposure to the elements is long enough, so too do the effects of stormwater runoff have a way of touching all of the fibers weaving our community’s health and wellbeing together. 

Ericka Hegeman
Ericka Hegeman, GIS Analyst

“Stormwater is the single biggest source of pollution across aquatic environments in the Puget Sound and in Lake Washington,” shared Ericka Hegeman, GIS Research Scientist at UW EarthLab. In fact, just one acre of pavement can put a million gallons of polluted runoff into the Puget Sound annually. “We know it’s a huge problem for fish in particular, but stormwater runoff impacts everyone in the food chain from primary producers like algae and plants to the whales who feed on local salmon and to humans in the area.” 

As our region continues to expand in both population (including cars on our roads) and industry, this problem will only magnify. In order to create lasting mitigation strategies to ease the burden of stormwater runoff on our health and environment, we first have to ask: where are our most polluted areas and how do we better prioritize our mitigation efforts?

The Role of Redlining in Community Pollution

Although the negative impacts of stormwater pollution touch us all, they don’t impact us equally. Ericka is part of UW Professor of Practice and Lead Scientist for the Nature Conservancy Phil Levin’s research team that is currently at work on a stormwater mitigation project. This team is mapping Seattle’s areas of high pollution alongside regional health data provided by the Washington State Department of Health Environmental Health Disparities Map to learn more about where improved environmental health will have the greatest impact.

“We know that the Seattle areas most impacted by pollution are often BIPOC communities,” said Ericka. “In fact, communities of color are at a disproportionate risk from experiencing stormwater pollution in comparison to white communities.”

For example, the 98188 zip code is one of the most diverse areas in the country, and it also experiences disproportionately higher levels of pollution compared to zip codes dominated by white residents.

Phil Levin
Phil Levin, UW Professor of Practice and Lead Scientist for the Nature Conservancy

Despite changing demographics, historically redlined areas from the early 20th century onwards continue to have a significantly hazardous impact on the animals, humans and the natural environment, which speaks to the need to target mitigation efforts first and foremost in these communities. 

“By linking the pollution loading in certain locations with the potential for stormwater solutions to mitigate specific pollutants, we’re hoping to help reduce overall environmental health disparities currently faced in the area,” shared Phil.

A new model to better map stormwater mitigation plans

The framework that Phil and Ericka’s team are developing ultimately aims to provide a systematic approach to improve community health through multiple levers of impact.

This project was partially inspired by The Nature Conservancy’s Water 100 Project, which identified the top 100 most substantive solutions to create a cleaner and more resilient Puget Sound. These foundational mitigation strategies built a movement for the current GIS mapping model to help address dynamic solutions across a variety of environmental and human health indicators.

“Part of what makes this project unique is that we are focused on the many benefits of potential solutions rather than the isolated benefits from a singular approach to improving water quality,” We are seeking solutions that are good for nature and people,” said Phil. Mapping data from this project can help provide information on the critical areas for infrastructure improvements. For instance, investing in green infrastructure (such as planting more trees, building swales – shallow channels made to collect and slowly release water – and creating home rainwater-harvest systems) can improve water quality by removing pollutants from the air naturally before they can transform into toxic stormwater runoff. In this case, water quality is improved, while simultaneously alleviating health disparities resulting from better air quality, such as asthma or even heart disease.

As Ericka explained, “Green stormwater infrastructure is about making the urban landscape better by improving people’s lives and the environment at the same time.” 

By examining the impacts of physical, mental and environmental health disparities alongside stormwater mitigation solutions, researchers are able to exact and scale new data that provides insights into where our city infrastructure investments are needed most– for both our environment and the people living within it.

This project has been generously funded by Boeing. To learn more about this area of work, please visit Phil Levin’s lab website.

Husky Giving Day 2022: CHanGE Feature Member Juliette Randazza

New collaboration between UW and Seattle clean energy leaders seeks to increase diversity in the renewable energy industry through paid summer internship program

EarthLab and the Clean Energy Institute (CEI), two University of Washington (UW) environmental institutes, have announced a new partnership with LevelTen Energy, EnergyGPS, Google, and Steelhead Americas to bring more talented and diverse young professionals into the renewable energy industry by launching the Energy Scholars Mentorship Program. Undergraduate students are encouraged to apply by 5 p.m. PT on April 15, 2022.

Over eight weeks between June and August 2022, undergraduate students from across the country will come together for a work experience and cohort curriculum specifically designed to equip them with the resources needed to enter and flourish in the clean energy industry. For participating students, this comprehensive program includes mentorship and networking opportunities with leaders in the renewable energy sphere, as well as a paid monthly stipend, travel and free accommodation at UW.

“Investing in clean energy is a crucial step in addressing climate change– for the wellbeing of our economy and our communities,” shared Ben Packard, EarthLab Executive Director. “However, we know that not everyone has equal access to the mentorship, training and professional networks that so often open the doors for successful careers in this booming field. We’re thrilled to be part of an innovative collective that’s actively trying to reduce barriers to opportunity in order to nurture skilled and passionate young professionals into sustainable industries that will be necessary in order for everyone to thrive in the long-term.”

The goal of the Energy Scholars Mentorship Program is to provide students with a thorough understanding of wholesale energy markets and renewable energy technology through hands-on projects, as well as essential foundations in analytical techniques and business writing. By developing real-world experience, participating scholars will be able to build the skills and establish the professional network needed to succeed in the renewable energy sector upon graduation.

“CEI looks forwarding to sharing groundbreaking clean energy research and technology with these future leaders and helping them prepare for their careers in this critical field,” said Clean Energy Institute Director Dan Schwartz. “We’re eager to bring our experience running hands-on summer programs for undergraduate students looking to make an impact in clean energy science and engineering, as well as our work with industry at the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, to this unique internship program.”

Contact with any questions.

About EarthLab

EarthLab envisions a world where nature and people thrive. Part research engine and part community catalyst, EarthLab engages public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors in a shared and ongoing conversation that converts knowledge to action. Together, we identify the places where life on our planet is at greatest risk and co-create solutions that make a real impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

About Clean Energy Institute

The Clean Energy Institute (CEI) at the University of Washington was founded in 2013 with funds from the state of Washington. Our mission is to accelerate the adoption of a scalable clean energy future that will improve the health and economy of our state, nation, and world. To accomplish this, CEI supports the advancement of next-generation solar energy and battery materials and devices, as well as their integration with systems and the grid. The Institute creates the ideas and educates the people needed to generate these innovations, while facilitating the pathways to bring them to market.

Intentional hope found through a global climate perspective: The 2021 APRU Student Global Climate Change Simulation

By Allie Long

Prior to the start of her master’s program last fall, Carole Green was excited to be one of nine University of Washington students selected by faculty and staff from the Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) and the College of the Environment to participate in the 2021 APRU Student Global Climate Change Simulation. “I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of human health and climate change, which is why I decided to pursue an MPH at UW and have been thrilled to learn from the experts at CHanGE,” shared Carole. 

Although the APRU simulation was specifically focused on climate change, students came from a variety of backgrounds. Take Siddharth Sheth, for example. A second year graduate student at UW for computer science, his personal interest in climate change fueled an opportunity to participate and build professional growth related to integrating environmentalism into his future work.

“No one’s really talking about the environmental impacts of the computer science industry, even though data centers rely on electricity to keep us all connected to complex virtual worlds,” explained Siddharth. “It might seem like an indirect relationship, but that’s exactly why awareness is key. This experience was an engaging way to learn more about clean energy policy, which I want to scale in actionable ways within my field once I graduate this December.”

Interdisciplinary teamwork

Carole and Siddharth were two of the 120 students from 13 universities across 10 countries who virtually attended the APRU Simulation. 

Hosted by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) between August 11th and September 2nd 2021, the simulation held mock negotiations for students across the globe to play the role of delegates to the UN Climate Change Negotiations. Students were placed into multidisciplinary teams to represent one of six regions, which included the U.S., China, India, the EU, “Other Developed Countries” and “Other Developing Countries.”

“During the simulation, I was part of the Green China group, where we focused on how land use changes, the Paris agreement and greenhouse gas emissions have historically impacted this country,” shared Siddharth. “It was really fun to learn how to communicate about a different country’s environmental representation on a global scale. It gave me a new perspective on why universal environmental guidelines can’t always apply to every country because of the different local implementations and regulations based on your assigned country.”

Global connection & mentorship

The simulation was created in tandem with climate policy simulation models including EN-ROADS and World Climate Interactive that were initially developed by MIT. The program included ten plenary speakers from organizations such as the UN Habitat Programme, Adidas and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, among others.

Over the course of three sessions, students also participated in interactive breakout sessions led by 16 international climate science experts. 

“The climate change simulation was an excellent opportunity for students to understand some of the complexities of negotiating across countries, realizing the challenges with reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to less than 2.0C above preindustrial,” said Kristie Ebi, CHanGE founder and professor, who was one of the participating APRU experts.

The scope and magnitude of the simulation gave way to a lot of shared moments for the students that highlighted how important and complex it can be to come to global agreements within climate change policy. 

“We are thrilled to support global programming that connects UW students with their international peers and equips them with practical skills in a global context,” shared Office of Global Affairs Vice Provost Jeffrey Riedinger. This office was a co-funder for the selected UW students to attend the global simulation as part of their passion for fostering cross-disciplinary and intercultural learning opportunities. “The APRU Global Climate Change Simulation creates an innovative learning environment, focused on finding solutions for some of the most pressing challenges facing our shared world,” said Jeffrey.

Simulation takeaways

For Carole, the simulation’s takeaways included a surprising feeling: hope. “What the public so often hears about climate change is how we’re all going to go up in flames, and it makes people shut down. I didn’t anticipate how hopeful climate experts actually are. There is a way for us to solve this problem. It’s challenging to recognize its grandiosity, but so many people care. We just have to be very intentional in the ways that we tackle this together.”

This simulation was co-organized by University of Oregon and University of Southern California, and it included students from Monash University, Nanyang Technological University, Peking University, Tecnológico de Monterrey, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, The University of Auckland, The University of Melbourne, Tohoku University, Universidad San Francisco De Quito, Universiti Malaya and University of Washington.

Special thanks to EarthLab and the UW Office of Global Affairs for funding the UW students who were able to attend.

Interested in applying to this year’s 2022 Student Global Climate Change Simulation?

Submit your application by April 15, 2022!

Pacific herring, an important food source for salmon, show sensitivity to marine heatwaves

Now Hiring: DDCSP Program Assistant

EarthLab at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, invites applications for the temporarypart-time position of Program Assistant to the UW Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program (DDCSP@UW). This 3-month position is based in Seattle and will run from May 2, 2022 until August 13, 2022. The pay range for this position is $17.45 – $23.16/Hour, depending upon experience.

The program assistant position is an exciting opportunity to support an innovative fellowship program for undergraduates from any major that aims to transform conservation practice and inclusiveness on a national scale. DDCSP@UW is a 15-month program composed of a first-summer undergraduate immersion learning experience in the Pacific Northwest, a second-summer internship with a regional organization, and distance learning and support through the academic year between summers.

This position will provide communication and activity support for the first and second summer immersion program elements, and the 40 scholars who will travel to Washington state to participate in the program. The program assistant will assist the program coordinator in the arrangement of travel, housing, lodging, financial, and communication logistics for the scholars. The program assistant will be responsible for pre-summer communication, establishing and maintaining scholar records, and participant onboarding. This role will also help coordinate activities and field trips for the first and second summer immersion program elements.  The program assistant will assist the program coordinator with the yearly Conservation Summit, including planning, communication, and budget maintenance. The position may be conducted remotely until May 30th, at which point in-person work will be required.

DDCSP@UW seeks to support students from underrepresented and minoritized communities in conservation; our ultimate goal is to support scholars in finding a conservation practice and career path that is right for them. The program immerses scholars in biocultural conservation and sustainable management of species, lands and waters, in both urban and rural contexts, and promotes the use of a broad range of disciplines, knowledge and practices. We explore regional challenges and on-the-ground conservation efforts throughout Western Washington, in partnership with researchers, community-based organizations, NGOs, local, state and federal agencies, and Tribal nations. DDCSP@UW centers equity and justice and explores the intersections of biodiversity conservation and environmental justice through critical analysis of human interactions with each other and the rest of the natural world.

DDCSP@UW is committed to shifting the demographic landscape at resource agencies and conservation institutions to more accurately reflect the multitude and multiethnic society of today and tomorrow, and strongly encourages applications from candidates who will enrich that mission. (See and

View the full job description and apply now

Now Hiring: Ocean Nexus Grants and Operations Specialist