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


The University of Washington is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation contact the Disability Services Office at least ten days in advance at: 206.543.6450/V, 206.543.6452/TTY, 206.685.7264 (FAX), or e-mail at


Join our team as EarthLab Climate Minute Program Assistant!

With public interest and concern about climate change and the environment rising, there is a demand for accurate and timely information about the implications of climate change in our region. People from a diversity of communities are increasingly concerned about what they can do to mitigate climate change, adapt to a changing climate and learn how to ensure the safety and security of their communities. We are collaborating with King 5 News on a series of climate stories tentatively called “King 5 EarthLab Climate Minute” to pursue that aim. To support this program, we are seeking to hire a graduate student (hourly) as a program assistant for this collaboration. The EarthLab Climate Minute program assistant is expected to work approximately 5 hours per week over about a 3-month period.

Primary duties include:

• researching and fact checking stories with speed and accuracy using sources from across the university
• engaging UW faculty and students who are working to solve complex environmental issues
• pitching stories that use UW science and will resonate with the King 5 audience
• managing a flexible editorial calendar of timely news stories regarding regional environmental issues, including new scientific reporting
• ability to be nimble and responsive in rapidly changing news environment
• attending and contributing in regular team meetings

Apply Here 

For questions regarding this position, please contact us at

University of Washington is an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, age, protected veteran or disabled status, or genetic information.

2020 Innovation Grants Announced

UW EarthLab selects four community-led research teams to solve complex environmental challenges and make a positive impact on people’s lives and livelihoods

Today EarthLab announced that four transdisciplinary teams have been selected for the 2020-2021 Innovation Grants program. This signature initiative provides essential funding to newly formed applied research teams that are led by and with community partners who are impacted by a complex environmental problem. Each team will receive up to $75,000 to research the issue and develop science that can be acted upon to make a positive impact on people and communities. The award period lasts 16 months and final products are due by September 30, 2021. 

EarthLab co-funded a fifth project earlier this year in collaboration with the UW Population Health Initiative. In total, EarthLab has awarded $325,000 in research grants in 2020.

Interest in the Innovation Grants program has rapidly grown since its inaugural funding round last year. This year, 43 teams submitted letters of intent to apply to the RFP, of which 18 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 of the university. 

“EarthLab’s Innovation Grants program is unique in that it inspires brand new, interdisciplinary teams to come together to not only identify an environmental challenge but to work together to develop ways to solve problems,” said Rob Wood, chair of the Innovation Grants review committee. “The large number of thoughtful and creative submissions tells me that the opportunity strikes a chord with UW faculty and community members. It was extremely difficult to turn down so many teams but I am really excited to watch the awarded projects develop over the next year.”

Project teams included faculty from a range of disciplines at the University of Washington, including public health, environmental and occupational health sciences, civil & environmental engineering, atmospheric sciences, marine sciences, landscape architecture, humanities, American Indian Studies and more. Partners from beyond the university include Tribal leaders and communities, city governments, community organizers and other universities.

In addition to the funds awarded, Innovation Grant recipients receive administrative and communications support throughout the award period. All teams are invited to meet 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 funding is a crucial part of what we do at Earthlab, and I’m proud of the approach we take to support our grantee teams,” said Anastasia Ramey, grants program lead at EarthLab. “Our goal is not only to fund interesting and impactful research, but to create opportunities for connection and shared learning.”

EarthLab is an initiative launched out of the UW College of the Environment to solve the biggest problem of our lifetime – our changing environment. EarthLab works across the entire 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 and 2020 funded projects.

Funded Projects

EarthLab welcomes new distinguished fellow Josh Henretig to study corporate climate commitments and opportunities for UW collaboration

Josh Henretig

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 Microsoft, Costco 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.

What is the scope and impact of corporate climate commitments? What are companies actually committed to doing? What do they mean for applied research opportunities at the University of Washington? This spring quarter, EarthLab brought on Josh Henretig as its first ever distinguished fellow to illuminate these commitments and start a conversation across campus to explore what they mean for UW research and engagement.

“There’s no question that the corporate sector will continue to play an important role in the effort to mitigate and prepare for a changing climate,” said Ben Packard, EarthLab’s executive director. “Josh’s 17 years of experience at Microsoft offers the UW community unique access into this critical lever for climate action. The conversations we will host are just the beginning of a journey as we seek to apply the incredible resources UW has on this most complex challenge facing society.” 

From April through June, Josh will establish a comparative framework that evaluates the climate-related commitments made by businesses and what kinds of activities they anticipate pursuing to fulfill them. He will assess the largest commitments globally, those made by the largest companies in the Pacific Northwest, and will look specifically at commitments in the technology, consumer goods and aerospace/aviation sectors. 

“I was drawn to this work because of EarthLab’s innovative approach at connecting the world class scholarship and research capabilities of the University of Washington with outside partners,” said Josh. “From my experience in corporate sustainability, I know that there’s a big demand for science-backed support to make these bold climate goals a reality.”

Save the Date: Josh will present his findings in a virtual webinar on Tuesday, June 9 at 2:00pm. Stay tuned for more details.

Changing the narrative on fisheries subsidies reform: Enabling transitions to achieve SDG 14.6 and beyond

Researchers at the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center at EarthLab have published a new report in ScienceDirect. Changing the narrative on fisheries subsidies reform: Enabling transitions to achieve SDG 14.6 and beyond provides evidence-based options for reform that highlight equity needs while reducing environmental harm.


The World Trade Organization (WTO) is in the final stages of negotiating an agreement to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies, thereby achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6. An effective agreement should be viewed as an opportunity for nations to proactively transition towards sustainable and equitable fisheries and pave the path for other SDGs. Supporting fishers does not require harmful subsidies, and we provide evidence-based options for reform that highlight equity needs while reducing environmental harm. Subsidy reforms need clear goals, co-design, transparency, and fair implementation. An agreement on SDG 14.6 could be a turning point for the oceans and for the well-being of those that depend on the oceans for livelihoods and nutrition. Responsible seafood production will require international cooperation not only at WTO, but among governments, fisher organizations, civil society, and the wider public.

Download the full report

New NW CASC Synthesis Explores the Effects of Climate Change on Invasive Species in the Northwest

This article was originally published by NW CASC.

National Forest Service
The North Coast-Cascades Network Invasive Plant Management Team and Olympic National Park staff travel into the backcountry at Olympic National Park’s Elwha River.

There is growing concern that changing climate conditions will amplify the negative impacts of non-native invasive species and facilitate their expansion. Despite the potential ecological and economic impacts of invasive species expansions in the Northwest, there has been no comprehensive synthesis on climate change effects on invasive species – until now. NW CASC-funded researchers Jennifer Gervais (Oregon Wildlife Institute), Clint Muhlfeld (U.S. Geological Survey) and colleagues conducted an extensive literature analysis to determine the current state of knowledge about climate change effects on non-native invasive species in the Northwest.

This analysis focused on studies describing how climate change has already influenced, or is projected to influence, the demography, range, spread or impact of almost 400 non-native invasive species. These include both terrestrial and aquatic species that have either been documented in the Northwest or whose future invasion of the Northwest is considered inevitable.

Findings: This study highlights how little we know about how climate change has or will affect aquatic and terrestrial species in the Northwest, especially at the fine geographic scales needed to manage them. The few retrospective studies describing connections between climate change and terrestrial non-native invasive species were consistent in suggesting that environmental changes associated with climate change have already contributed to the expansion of non-native mammals, insects and plants. In aquatic environments, researchers have similarly demonstrated relationships between conditions associated with climate change and the expansion of non-native fish species (check out related NW CASC-funded research on the hybridization between introduced rainbow trout and native westslope cutthroat trout).

Compared to the number of retrospective studies, there were more studies projecting future dynamics of non-native invasive species relevant to Northwest ecosystems, the majority of which focused on plant taxa. Regardless, both the retrospective and forward-looking studies suggest that while climate change may often benefit aquatic non-native invasive species, it will have more complex and context-specific effects on terrestrial non-native species.

This literature review highlights our limited understanding and ability to predict how non-native invasive species in the Northwest will respond to climate change. Although our understanding of how climate change may interact with non-native invasive species is notably lacking, some evidence suggests that climate-induced non-native invasive species expansions are already underway in the Northwest, particularly in aquatic ecosystems, and will be exacerbated by future changes in temperature and precipitation regimes. Since existing studies suggest that invasives will have varying impacts on native species depending on context, this study also highlights the need for research at the regional and local scale where management actions are taken.

Authors Jennifer Gervais and Clint Muhlfeld urge collaboration among managers, biologists and researchers to develop “a more coordinated and integrated research and monitoring approach,” which will be critical for understanding the environmental conditions that facilitate the spread of invasive species, as well as which habitats and native species might be most vulnerable to their future spread in the Northwest. This understanding can help inform climate adaptation strategies aimed at reducing the impacts of non-native invasive species on Northwest aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Read the synthesis