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2020 Project Proposals

Due to the travel and health restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the research has been delayed. The project proposals for the 2020 cohort are included below and we look forward to sharing updates on project outcomes in early 2022.

urban roadways from above

Does Vegetation Help Mitigate Roadway and Aircraft-Related Air Pollution in Seattle? A Community-Engaged Study Using Drones For 3D Air Quality Measurements

Recent UW research that has identified high concentrations of ultrafine particle air pollution in some Seattle/King County communities has created an urgent need to evaluate the potential efficacy of community-scale air pollution mitigations, including the role that vegetation may play in reducing air pollution. Few studies have considered how trees and shrubs affect ultrafine air pollution, and most have focused on reductions in particles in the horizontal direction to the side of freeways from roadway traffic particle sources, rather than the distributions of particles in vertical and horizontal directions relevant to both roadway and aircraft-sourced particles. We have formed an interdisciplinary team of UW investigators, which includes expertise from Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Atmospheric Sciences to tackle this challenge and to fill this important knowledge gap for our local communities.  

In partnership with various air quality, health, and community stakeholders, we propose to conduct a study that will utilize an unoccupied aerial vehicle (UAV)  – a drone instrumented with high-end air quality sensors, which will allow for efficient measurements at varying altitudes at sites identified by our partners that differ in vegetation density and type and proximity to ultrafine particle sources. Findings from this study will provide local and highly relevant evidence on the effectiveness of urban planning initiatives that may utilize greenery as an approach to address particulate air pollution. Additionally, the results would potentially inform future intervention studies that monitor air pollution changes that occur as a result of planting vegetation, which are starting to occur in cities across the country.

Research Team:
Principal Investigator: Edmund Seto, UW Department of Environment and Occupational Health Sciences
Community Partner: Estela Ortega, El Centro de la Raza
Co-Investigators: 
Timothy Larson, UW Civil & Environmental Engineering
David Shean, UW Civil & Environmental Engineering
Joel Thornton, UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences


two people standing near a house in a mountainous region

Lessons from Urban Indigenous Immigrants: Integrated Social & Ecological Dynamics of Informal Communities

Increased resource extraction, changing climates, and socio-political pressures are causing global ecological decline, forcing mass migration of indigenous peoples to urbanized areas all around the world. Many find themselves living in informal urban slum settlements and facing health issues alongside discrimination towards their indigenous identities. The struggle of urban assimilation often results in the fading of traditional practices and knowledge, and their associated health supporting human-nature connections. However, the most neglected informal indigenous immigrant communities, left to their own self-management, often find ways to continue traditional lifestyles that provide valuable ecosystem services to urban areas and creative adaptation strategies to urban and ecological forces such as increased flooding caused by climate change. 

This project will study and compare an informal self-managed indigenous immigrant community still adopting traditional practices in Iquitos, Peru to a similar indigenous immigrant community nearby that developed with social and political pressures to colonially urbanize and leave traditional practices behind. We use an innovative, mixed-methods approach by combining indigenous knowledge, science and art to document environmental conditions, ecosystem health, traditional knowledge practices, and human-nature connections in each community. We adopt a co-created cross-epistemological community science program, with reciprocal training between university and community scientists, resulting in a series of illustrative advocacy tools to provide urban planning guidance to the local government in Iquitos while advocating for indigenous immigrant communities wishing to continue traditional practices all around the world. 

Research Team:
Leann Andrews, PhD, RLA, Affiliate Assistant Professor, UW Department of Landscape Architecture 
Gemina Garland-Lewis, Socio-Environmental Photographer, UW Center for One Health Research 
Ursula Valdez, PhD, Lecturer and Tropical Avian Ecologist, UW Bothell School of Interdisciplinary Arts + Sciences 
Kathleen Wolf, PhD, Research Social Scientist, UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Juan Noa Tunama, Community Leader, informal community of Claverito
Carlo Tapia del Aguila, Herpetologist, Centro de Investigaciones, Technologicas, Biomedicas y Medioambientales 
Susana Cubas Poclin, Ornithologist, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana
Christian Ampudia Gatty, Entomologist, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana
Coco Alarcon, PhD Student in Implementation Science, UW School of Public Health


houses and sheds in feet of snow

Polar Science at a Human Scale: Knowledge Co-production for Hazard Planning, Food Sovereignty, and Climate Adaptation in the Alaskan Arctic

This co-designed and co-managed project will bring together an interdisciplinary team of polar researchers from the University of Washington to work with Kivalina Volunteer Search and Rescue (KVL-SAR) and the City of Kivalina to support the organization’s goals and priorities while establishing a model of community-driven polar research for the coproduction of knowledge and action. Kivalina is a 500-person Iñupiaq community in Northwest Alaska, located 80 miles above the Arctic Circle on a barrier island along the Chukchi Sea. Over the last two decades the territory around Kivalina has undergone a dramatic decrease in sea-ice cover, decreased reliability of river ice, and shifts in the timing of freeze up and critical animal migrations. These changes have created new challenges including amplified coastal erosion during seasonal storms; increased frequency of hunter, fisher, and traveler distress calls and rescue incidents; and a reduction in access to culturally significant foods. KVL-SAR is a voluntary association of hunters and first responders that works with the City of Kivalina to play a vital role in public safety, resilience, and hunter support, while also planning for and responding to climate challenges already taking place. 

Bridging the social and physical sciences, this project addresses core themes in the human dimensions of Arctic change, while also directly contributing to KVL-SAR’s self-identified priorities. First, the project will support KVL-SAR capacity building through an analysis of the organization’s contributions to community safety, resilience, and food sovereignty, while piloting and evaluating the use of two new digital tools. Second, we will produce a community hazards and needs assessment to integrate the knowledge, expertise, and priorities of KVL-SAR with contributions from UW polar scientists. Third, we will develop new methods in community-relevant sea ice forecasting to support local planning and decision making. Fourth, we will document our methods in order to develop a model of collaboration that can be shared with additional communities and contribute to the literature on best-practices through peer-reviewed publications. Finally, this project will identify strategic opportunities for new research funding, generate data to be used in future KVL-SAR grant proposals, and create the relational infrastructure for long-term collaboration.

Research Team:
Principal Investigator, Project Co-Director: P. Joshua Griffin, UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and UW American Indian Studies
Community Partner, Project Co-Director: Replogle Swan, Kivalina Volunteer Search and Rescue
Polar Science Co-Lead: Cecilia Bitz, Professor and Chair, UW Department of Atmospheric Science 
Polar Science Co-Lead: Ed Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, Research Assistant Professor, UW Department of Atmospheric Science


a view of a beach in coastal oregon

Píkyav on the Mid-Klamath River: Peeshkêesh Yáv Umúsaheesh ‘The River Will Look Good

Our team addresses the challenge of convening Karuk-centric science and governance mechanisms to restore eco-cultural integrity to a crucial, yet degraded section of the mid-Klamath River. With an eye to the 2022 removal of four hydroelectric dams upstream, the Karuk Tribe considers this research both critical and timely. Klamath River communities face an urgent need to innovate governance so that it centers land-based communities’ livelihoods and understandings of environmental processes, politics, and histories. Consultation and community planning have only marginally integrated community perspectives into large-scale governance. These processes lack the adaptable tools necessary to address the complex ecological realities of mine remediation, fire suppression and dam removal. 

Our project addresses this urgent need by piloting a river restoration process that centers tribal sovereignty by spanning scales – from the river reach to basin – using a river model of justice. In this model, stories and spatial data on a river’s movement through time diffract, prompting our collective consideration of what justice means for specific peoples in relation with species, lands, and river processes. The Karuk title of our project translates as “the river will look good”; deeper than its English reading, “looking good” goes far below the surface to include function, connection, and ceremonial renewal. In an intergenerational, field-based River School, we work with Karuk youth and cultural practitioners to bring together historical maps, stories, and spatial data on Karuk uses of floodplain ecosystems. Working iteratively with Karuk Department of Natural Resources collaborators, we propose to develop models and plans for floodplain restoration at Tishániik. Future work building from this pilot will transfer plans and a Karuk-centric restoration practice to a multi-agency river governance group, and evaluate science and governance innovations that result; an NSF proposal to support this future work is pending.

Research Team:
Principal Investigator: Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, Assistant Professor of Equity and Environmental Justice, UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs 
Co-Principal Investigator: July Hazard, Lecturer, UW Comparative History of Ideas and UW Program on the Environment
Shawn Bourque, Environmental Higher Education and Research Coordinator for the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources
Karuk Tribe staff, including: Heather Rickard, Environmental, K-12 Education Coordinator; Aja Conrad, Environmental Workforce Development & Internships Coordinator; Bari Talley, Sípnuuk Division Coordinator
Kimberly Yazzie, Diné/Navajo, PhD Student, UW School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences