Meet NW CASC’s 2020-21 Research Fellows!

The NW CASC is excited to welcome our 2020-2021 Research Fellows as they kick off their Fellowship activities this fall. These 13 Fellows represent each of our consortium universities across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Throughout the Fellowship year, each Fellow will conduct research in close collaboration with regional natural resource managers and decision-makers to produce relevant science on climate change impacts and adaptation actions, while receiving training in the principles of actionable science. Through their innovative research, which includes investigating how receding glaciers are affecting fish habitat, exploring how local knowledge of rangelands can inform flexible management, and identifying forest management actions that enhance habitat and biodiversity while buffering climate impacts, these Fellows will help advance the mission of the NW CASC in delivering science to help fish, wildlife, water, land and people adapt to a changing climate.

Meet the Fellows and Learn About Their Research

This was originally published on the NWCASC news webpage.

Phil Rigdon Joins EarthLab Advisory Council

Phil Rigdon is the superintendent of the Yakama Nation’s Department of Natural Resources

Phil Rigdon, superintendent of Yakama Nation’s Natural Resources Department, has joined the EarthLab Advisory Council. Chaired by former Interior Secretary and REI CEO Sally Jewell, the council guides and advises the EarthLab executive director on strategic objectives and connects EarthLab with organizations, people, resources and ideas outside of the university.

Rigdon is an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation and grew up on the Yakama Reservation in south central Washington state. In his current role, he co-manages and protects the Yakama Nation’s ancestral, cultural, and treaty natural resources. He represents the Yakama Nation on many regional environmental committees and groups, including the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan Executive Committee, Yakima River Basin Watershed Enhancement Project Workgroup & Conservation Advisory Group, the Washington State’s Columbia River Policy Advisory Group, Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, and the Hanford Natural Resource Trustee Council. 

Phil’s decades of experience bringing tribal, state and federal agencies together for the betterment of natural resources brings an important perspective to the EarthLab Advisory Council. Many of EarthLab member organizations and Innovation Grant teams work with Tribal Nations on a variety of complex and urgent projects. Tribal communities have deep connections to the land and environment and are on the front lines of climate change, meaning they often feel the impacts the earliest and most severely.

“We’re very fortunate that Phil has accepted our invitation to join our stellar group of business, environment and social justice leaders who volunteer their time to support our mission,” said Ben Packard, executive director of EarthLab. “We are committed to learning from and respectfully engaging with Indigenous leaders in our quest to convert knowledge to action to solve our thorniest environmental problems. Phil’s appointment is just one of the ways we are delivering on that commitment.”

EarthLab Welcomes Program on Climate Change to EarthLab Affiliates

EarthLab announced today that the Program on Climate Change (PCC) has become an EarthLab Affiliate Organization. EarthLab Affiliates are University of Washington-based organizations that are similarly seeking to address critical and complex environmental issues. EarthLab and Affiliates support each others’ programs by sharing information, ideas and networks in order to catalyze new relationships and research projects.

The PCC was founded in 2001 to further research and education in climate science through a framework of intense cross-disciplinary collaboration. Steeped in the belief that together, we are greater than the sum of our parts, the PCC is home to an engaged community of graduate students, research scientists and faculty from across the UW, including in the College of the Environment, the College of Engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Global Health, the Evans School of Public Policy, and beyond.

Becky Alexander is the director of the Program on Climate Change (PCC)

“EarthLab has become both a home and a resource for faculty and students who are working on environmental issues and want to build connections outside of the UW community,” said Becky Alexander, director of the PCC. “This stronger connection between PCC and EarthLab will help us broaden the opportunities we can provide to our students as we continue to nurture their education and their careers.”

Members of EarthLab and the Program on Climate Change will meet regularly to share ideas and opportunities. One key goal for PCC is to expand its reach to support graduate student interest in developing small, applied research projects with community partners. For EarthLab, the opportunity to share more climate knowledge to different communities is a benefit.

“We hope that by working closer together we will build broader connections for the PCC participants and community organizations seeking to engage on the increasingly important issues surrounding climate change,” said Ben Packard, EarthLab executive director. “PCC has a sterling reputation for their commitment to collaboration, community and student training, and we believe that there is an opportunity to share this knowledge and resource more broadly throughout our community.”

For more information about the Program on Climate Change, click here

New “Blue Paper” highlights “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to transform our relationship with the ocean

Download ‘The Human Relationship with Our Ocean Planet’

The relationships between human societies and oceans are diverse and complex. Stand on any coastline in the world and stare out at the waters; listen to the crashing waves, smell the salty air, and revel in a sense of place and health. Observe teams of people cooperating to bring in a day’s harvest or talk to a Tribal member about the history of the ocean sustaining their community. These are only some of the intangible “ocean values” that have contributed to human well-being for millennia. And it turns out, the future of human welfare depends on maintaining this rich diversity of relationships and values with the oceans.

That’s the finding of a new research paper published today entitled, “The Human Relationship with Our Ocean Planet.” Written by a multidisciplinary team of fifteen researchers from around the world, including four from the Ocean Nexus Center, the paper argues that this is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to pause and carefully consider our complex relationship with the ocean,” and to “rethink it and reshape it while ensuring that future generations can meet the challenges they will face.”

“There are many what we call ‘blue relationships,’ or relationships with the oceans, that are intense and varied,” said Eddie Allison, one of three co-lead authors for the paper, the research director for Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center, and the research chair for equity and justice in the Blue Economy for WorldFish. “For example, some ‘ocean citizens’ such as coastal and maritime Indigenous Peoples and small-scale fishers rely on oceans for their livelihoods and cultural identity. Other citizens, such as recreational sailors and surfers, depend on oceans for personal well-being. Either way, we must foster a sense of participatory democracy and include ocean citizens’ perspectives in ocean policy dialogues.”

The paper outlines five strategies to assist states and international organizations in supporting and improving humanity’s diverse relationships with the oceans, which in turn will help us meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These strategies include:

  1. humanize the new ocean narrative by focusing economic development on the objective of increasing human well-being; 
  2. foster diversity and inclusion in the sustainable ocean economy; 
  3. engage in partnerships with a broad constituency of “ocean supporters,” identified in the paper as environmental NGOs, philanthropists, academics, etc., and “ocean citizens,” such as small-scale fisherfolk, community elders and Indigenous Peoples, and women who work in the maritime economy and who steward marine environments; 
  4. build the capacity of meso-level institutions– those above the level of the individual citizen-consumer but below the Nation state, International NGO or multinational corporation, such as a city council, community organization or local trade union; and
  5. ensure that responses to COVID-19 consider the well-being of ocean-dependent people and economic sectors.

“Policies and practices that nurture the inherent worth of human life can enable human behavior in the marine arena that nurtures the inherent value of marine life,” said Yoshitaka Ota, director of the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center and another co-lead author of the paper. “We need to compose the vision of the future inclusively representing the values of oceans.”

Both Ota and Allison are in the leadership of the Ocean Nexus Center that promotes equity and justice in ocean governance.

This paper is one in a series commissioned by The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel). Established in September 2018, the Ocean Panel is a unique initiative by 14 world leaders who are building momentum for a sustainable ocean economy in which effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand in hand. In the spirit of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement, the Ocean Panel commissioned a series of 16 Blue Papers and various Special Reports— this paper is number 14 in the comprehensive assessment of ocean science and knowledge. 

Read the full paper here

Salish Sea Equity & Justice Symposium Final Report Available

The 2019 Salish Sea Equity and Justice Symposium was created to amplify voices of historically underrepresented and marginalized groups within the environmental field in the Salish Sea and Pacific Northwest Coast region. During this two-day event, leaders from all types of environmental professional backgrounds convened to discuss how to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout their operations and environmental work.

Follow the links below to view the symposium final report and summary.

SSEJ Symposium Full Report 

SSEJ Symposium 2-page summary 


Inaugural Future Rivers Cohort Announced

Future Rivers is proud to announce and welcome their first cohort of students for the 2020-2021 academic year. Six master’s and six doctoral students from fisheries, forestry, landscape architecture, public health, and civil and environmental engineering will join the program this fall. From Massachusetts to Bangladesh, these students bring with them a wide-range of multi-disciplinary experience and a passion for transforming freshwater science:

Hannah Besso, PhD, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering – College of Engineering Andy Oppliger, MS, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences – College of the Environment
Sofi Courtney, MS, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences – College of the Environment Claire Schollaert, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences – School of Public Health
Jessica Diallo , MS, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences – College of the Environment Sabikunnahar Shorna, PhD, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences – College of the Environment
Liz Elmstrom, PhD, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences – College of the Environment Carina Thompson, PhD, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering – College of Engineering
Sara Faiad, PhD, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences – College of the Environment Gabriel Wisswaesser, MS, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences – College of the Environment
Rachel Fricke, MS, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences – College of the Environment Erynne van Zee, MS, Department of Landscape Architecture – College of Built Environments

With a changing climate and environment, little is known about potential impacts on communities and freshwater ecosystems that supply our world with critical food, water, and power. There is an urgent need for scientists from a range of disciplines to work together in innovative ways to solve this problem and enhance sustainability of these vital freshwater ecosystems. The Future Rivers program is here to build a dynamic workforce to meet this need – starting with this first cohort. 

As an EarthLab initiative, these students will learn to work in applied ways within career fields outside of academia through an inclusivity and equity lens. Throughout the 18-month program, they will deepen their learning and ability to translate science into actionable results through a graduate seminar, speaker series, science communication and filmmaking workshops, a week-long Summer Institute, and trainings on inclusivity and equity. 

The cohort is starting the program by reading The River That Made Seattle: A Human and Natural History of the Duwamish over the summer.  This core reading will provide a foundation for common language around the intersection of people and the planet, and the importance of Indigenous voices in conservation. 

As the first cohort begins their journey, Athena Bertolino, the Future Rivers Program Specialist, says she is most looking forward to “seeing the exciting conversations and research that develop through such a diverse and interdisciplinary group of students that will become exemplary leaders in the world of freshwater ecosystems and the communities they support.”

The Future Rivers program will begin recruiting for its 2021-2022 cohort this fall, with applications opening in mid-November. Students in all disciplines are encouraged to apply. For further information on any aspect of the Future Rivers program from a public, faculty, or student perspective, please contact

UW EarthLab and The Nippon Foundation launch Ocean Nexus Research Center

The University of Washington and The Nippon Foundation today announced the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center, an interdisciplinary research group that studies changes, responses and solutions to societal issues that emerge in relationship with the oceans. The Center will bring uncompromised critical voices to policy and public conversations to enable research and studies equating to $32.5 million spread across 10 years.

“The sustenance of humanity depends on our mother ocean,” said Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of The Nippon Foundation. “And so today, I am happy to announce this new partnership with the University of Washington to embark on a long-term commitment to ensure our ocean’s health, 10,000 years into the future. As an NGO that brings together diverse stakeholders to address the complex challenges facing our oceans, we felt that partnering with the University of Washington, a world leader in not only the ocean and environment, but in multidisciplinary collaboration and research, was a perfect fit. I am excited that the next generation of thought leaders will be emerging from this center to share their research findings to guide the world toward ocean sustainability.”

Based on the philosophy of passing on sustainable oceans to future generations, The Nippon Foundation has been working for over three decades, with governments, international organizations, NGOs, and research institutions to foster 1430 ocean professionals from 150 countries. The Ocean Nexus Center will be housed in UW EarthLab, an institute established in 2015 to connect UW research with community partners to discover equitable solutions to our most complex environmental challenges.

“Ocean Nexus exists to bridge the gap between decision makers, policy makers and the communities most affected and dependent on the oceans,” said Yoshitaka Ota, the Center’s director and an assistant professor in UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. “This is a chance to do something bold and really push the boundaries of understanding our relationship with oceans, and that’s what I’m excited to do.”

The Center aims to build the next generation of ocean thought leadership by offering opportunities, networks and training for early-career interdisciplinary scholars. The research is global and seeks to embrace cultural diversity and community sovereignty. Current UW partners include the School of Public Health, The Information School and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance.

“Without EarthLab we couldn’t have done this,” Ota said.

“Without EarthLab we couldn’t have done this,” Ota said. “This is a very complex operation. We’re taking a quite unorthodox approach to environmental issues. But that’s why this is a perfect fit for EarthLab, because they’re lightning focused on collaborations that can lead to equitable change.”

“We know that the world’s oceans are in trouble and that the communities that rely on oceans the most for life and livelihood are more likely to suffer and need to be engaged,” said Ben Packard, EarthLab executive director. “We are thrilled to partner with The Nippon Foundation to support the Ocean Nexus Center to build capacity for transdisciplinary research and bring an equity and justice lens to ocean governance.”

Researchers already know that environmental changes, such as pollution and ocean acidification, can cause health and economic impacts on communities.  But scientists and decision makers still do not have all of the information to implement solutions that take into account those most in need.

The Center will leverage the natural science-oriented network created through the Nippon Foundation Nereus Program, an international initiative comprising an interdisciplinary team of 20 institutes. To date, researchers from 13 other universities from around the world, in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Malaysia and more, have already signed on to new interdisciplinary projects with Ocean Nexus. Topics cover a range of issues including ocean acidification adaptation, sustainable development of oceans, equitable allocation of transboundary fisheries, and gender in ocean governance, to name a few.

As the policy director of the Nereus Program, Ota brings more than a decade of experience exploring ways to take a human-centered approach to resolving ocean issues. Unfortunately, class and power determine who benefits from the ocean and who does not, he said.

“What’s the gap?” he asked. “With the right evidence and policies, we can bridge that gap equitably and create shared and classless oceans for all.”

This article was originally published on UW News.

Join our team as a Research Scientist!

The Climate Impacts Group (CIG) is hiring an entry-level research scientist to provide social science/policy research support and logistical project management support to their team. They are seeking a candidate with a social science or policy background and project management experience who can add breadth to their work and support CIG’s senior researchers on climate change adaptation projects with their federal, tribal, state and local partners. Core job responsibilities will include:

  • Research Support:  This position will be responsible for thinking critically about, and doing research to support, the application of a social science or policy lens to projects led by the CIG’s senior research scientists. There may be opportunities to work independently on social science or policy projects; and
  • Project Management:  This position will be responsible for acting as project manager, or providing other logistical support, for a variety of projects led by the CIG’s senior research scientists.

The minimum qualifications are a bachelor’s degree in public policy, psychology, sociology, economics, or a related field with a minimum of 2 years of experience. While educational attainment is valued, we also encourage applications from practitioners who have worked in government, non-profits, and consulting who can bring a practical social science orientation to the team.


Join our team as a Data Scientist!

UW EarthLab has an outstanding opportunity for a Data Scientist for research on outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism. The employee will join a team of researchers and practitioners who develop novel methods and information to inform public land management and improve opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The successful candidate will advance methods that mix traditional survey methods with data from citizen science and social media to more effectively measure park use and generate fine-scale maps of where and how people recreate. The Data Scientist will be responsible for developing, improving, and maintaining existing workflows for managing these various data streams. They will also be involved in many aspects of data management, analysis, and visualization.

The successful candidate will be an organized, friendly, self-directed individual who is passionate about working on collaborative projects for social good.

Apply Here

Webinar: Opportunities for UW research & collaboration in corporate climate commitments


Over the past year, the corporate sector has become a bright spot in the fight against climate change, setting increasingly ambitious goals. The movement couldn’t come too soon as a January 2020 report from McKinsey reveals the physical and socioeconomic effects of climate change on individuals and communities.

Companies from a variety of industries across the world, including local leaders such as MicrosoftCostco and Starbucks, have stepped forward with an unprecedented level of commitment to voluntarily mitigate their own contributions to climate change and to make investments helping communities adapt to climate impacts.

EarthLab Distinguished Fellow Josh Henretig will present his findings on the scope and impact of corporate climate commitments, what companies are committing to actually do, and what these commitments may mean for applied research and other collaboration at the University of Washington.


Where: Online – RSVP to receive the Zoom link

When: Tuesday, June 9, 2020 | 2:00 – 3:30 pm PST


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