Future Rivers now accepting applications for 2021/22 cohort

There is an urgent need for scientists from a range of disciplines to work together in innovative ways to solve problems. The Future Rivers Initiative, an organization in EarthLab, aims to build a culturally-aware STEM workforce fluent in state-of-the-art quantitative approaches that will be necessary for sustaining food-energy-water (FEW) services in large river ecosystems.

Applications can be submitted anytime; however, to be considered for funding, please submit by January 22, 2021.

Apply Now

Announcing the 2020 Bullitt Environmental Fellowship

The Bullitt Foundation seeks graduate students in British Columbia, Washington State, and Oregon interested in applying for the 2020 Bullitt Environmental Fellowship.

The Foundation awards this two-year, $100,000 Fellowship annually to one graduate student who has overcome adversity, demonstrates strong leadership potential, and is focused on work to safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Emerald Corridor, stretching from Vancouver, BC to Portland, OR.

Eligible candidates will have a strong academic record and a university faculty member who will nominate and recommend them. Students of color are highly encouraged to apply.

Qualified candidates must apply by April 1, 2020. Visit www.bullitt.org for more information.

Announcement provided by the Bullitt Foundation.

EarthLab 2020: From vision to impact

Ben Packard, Harriet Bullitt Endowed Executive Director, EarthLab

Some say you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. For EarthLab, that means looking back to 2008, when the University of Washington Board of Regents voted unanimously to establish the College of the Environment, and within it, a central institute that would address large-scale environmental challenges. This organization would be radical in that it would represent the entire university, cross disciplinary boundaries and work in partnership with non-academic communities to create a future where people and planet thrive.

When I joined the institute now known as EarthLab at the end of 2017, I was humbled by the opportunity to turn this groundbreaking vision into action. I’m proud to share that in this past year, with help from partners from across and outside of the university, we hit our stride: We hired our core team, added a new member organization (with more on the way, stay tuned), and we initiated the second round of Innovation Grants to support new partnerships that are led by and with those most impacted by environmental challenges. 

We’ve also launched new events to inspire and engage UW faculty, students, staff and community partners. Our monthly lunch and learn series, Collaborating Across Difference, celebrates transdisciplinary work and provides a space to learn more about the skills needed to work together across diverse fields and communities. Our planned quarterly lecture series, EarthLab Salon 2020, is now accepting proposals to answer the question: What does it mean to center equity and justice in environmental work? 

Our progress couldn’t come at a better time. While the voices of marginalized communities, including Indigenous groups, have for years pointed to the warning signs, new scientific reports such as the IPCC Special Report have finally awoken many to the climate crisis and the devastating cost of inaction.  

While grief and despair are valid responses, I believe there’s cause for hope, too. Many now understand that the days of conceptualizing our response to climate change are gone and that NOW is the time to act and address these critical problems. A recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly makes an unequivocal statement that ESG (environmental, social and governance) concerns are inextricably linked to business performance. People around the world, from student-led activist groups to the Business Roundtable of CEOs, are proclaiming their desire to act on these issues and commit to saving this one planet we call home.

Our new team heads optimistically into 2020 with a rock-star Advisory Council and an outstanding Faculty Steering Committee in place. With first-order start-up issues resolved, one of our priorities this year is to update our strategic plan. We are challenging ourselves and inviting others to help us think bigger and more broadly about how and what we do, whose voices we are listening to, how we focus our activity and how we measure success going forward. 

Looking back at the bold vision that the Board of Regents saw for EarthLab back in 2008 inspires us to build on our initial progress and accelerate our efforts to realize the potential for impact. There is a great deal of work ahead but we are growing our community and we are up for the challenge. Thank you for engaging in the belief that multiple disciplines at the UW working with a variety of sectors have a unique and critical role to play in solving the greatest challenges of our lifetime. We couldn’t do this without you.


Ben Packard
Harriet Bullitt Endowed Executive Director

Join our team as Assistant to the Director!

EarthLab has an outstanding opportunity to join our growing team. Be part of a new initiative at the University of Washington seeking to link and apply the amazing environmental research happening at the UW with decision makers working on solutions to environmental challenges.

The Assistant to the Director role will provide professional executive-level support to the Executive Director of EarthLab. With minimal supervision, this person will exercise independent judgment and decision-making in the management of daily operations of the EarthLab Executive Director’s office and calendar. The EA will serve as the gatekeeper and logistician for the Director’s Office and serves as the liaison to upper-level UW and College-wide leadership and donors, EarthLab Advisory Council and Executive Steering committee members, as well as leadership from state agencies, the Governor’s Office, Federal agencies, non-profits, and the private sector.

Learn more and apply here

Announcing a new Lunch & Learn series

Come grab some lunch and partake in an interesting conversation with others from various disciplines! The EarthLab Lunch & Learn series provides a space to learn more about the skills needed to collaborate across diverse fields and communities.

Every month, two or more individuals from different disciplines are invited to share lessons from their efforts to collaborate with each other. Such partnerships might include artists collaborating with scientists, researchers collaborating with community members, academics collaborating with practitioners, and researchers collaborating across wide disciplinary divides (e.g. sciences and humanities). The discussion will include reflection on challenges and opportunities they encounter, the specific awareness and skills they have developed in order to collaborate, and recommendations for others attempting similar feats. 

Each event will last two hours. The first hour will consist of a 20-30 minute panel followed by discussion with a general audience and socializing. The second hour will be an opportunity for students to meet with the panelists, and learn from those who are a few steps ahead about how to become collaborative boundary-crossers.

Learn more here

Thank you to our co-sponsors:



2020 – 2021 Innovation Grants: Now accepting proposals

EarthLab is pleased to announce the second round of funding with the 2020 – 2021 Innovation Grants program! The Innovation Grants is an exciting opportunity to make an innovative idea or project come to fruition. Funding is intended to support new partnerships that address pressing environmental challenges and that are led by and with those most impacted by a particular environmental challenge. Those most impacted may refer to the people, communities, municipalities (e.g., a city planning for sea level rise), industries (e.g., agricultural industry facing increased flooding or drought), or other entities directly affected by an environmental challenge.

Any community partnerships with interdisciplinary academic teams are encouraged to apply!

Learn more

EarthLab Salon 2020: Propose a talk

EarthLab’s mission is to work in partnership with others to accelerate and focus UW expertise to address large-scale environmental challenges, making a positive impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. Underpinning this mission is a commitment to put equity and justice at the core of our work. We recognize that addressing complex environmental challenges requires an understanding of how inequities and injustices are both causes and consequences of such issues. Furthermore, we must redress inequities and injustices in how we bring people and knowledge together in our work and workplaces to make decisions and co-create solutions.

We are only beginning to fully explore what our commitment to equity and justice means. It is not always obvious how equity and justice relate to environmental issues. Yet we know there is considerable experience on this subject across the University of Washington. By providing a venue to share your insight with a broad audience, we hope to start a much-needed cross-disciplinary conversation on the question of “What does it mean to center equity and justice in environmental work?”


The EarthLab Salon is a 3-part quarterly public lecture and workshop series designed to highlight expertise and leadership on this subject in the UW-wide community, especially among students, and build a foundation of shared understanding, values and language among participants. In doing so, we hope to foster opportunities for a new cross-cutting community to connect and collaborate on shared interests. We plan to take lessons learned into our work at EarthLab.

We invite proposals from pairs of presenters from two distinct fields, who will work collaboratively and present contrasting or complementary perspectives on a theme. Joint talks will take place that centers around the question: What does it mean to center equity and justice in environmental work?  We encourage presenters to seek new colleagues from across units, professions, and positions, and to integrate creative modes such as dance, spoken word, or music, into presentations that enable multiple perspectives to be expressed.

Presenters will be invited to deliver a 35-minute evening public lecture or performance followed by a Q&A and social hour at one of UW’s three campuses (Seattle, Tacoma, or Bothell). We will also invite presenters to share advanced readings, videos or other related resources and join a subsequent lunch and workshop with the EarthLab community to discuss their work in a more informal setting. All presentations will be live-streamed and curated in a UW Libraries digital publication. An honorarium of $200 will be available for community partners.

Any member of the UW community is eligible to submit a proposal, including students, staff, faculty, post-docs, visiting scholars, and more. One of the pair may be from outside UW, such as a community partner. Student-only pairs must designate a faculty or staff contact.

Selection Process

Proposals will be evaluated by a committee composed of a mix of students, faculty and staff from across the UW community representing different units and disciplines, according to the following criteria:


-Addresses goals of the salon series with a clear, focused rationale
-Expresses perspectives not often heard in the environmental field


-Design/format makes sense given the content that is presented
-Communicated in a clear way that reaches a diverse audience

Quality of collaboration

-Each member contributes in a clear and valuable way to the project
-Innovative pairing of disciplines, units, professions, or etc.

Inter/transdisciplinary perspective

-Integrates concepts, methods and resources from 2 or more relevant disciplines
-The inter- or transdisciplinary integration results in novel or unexpected insights


Applications Due *Extended to January 13, 2020
Selection Process January 14, 2020 – January 17, 2020
Selections Announced January 20, 2020
First Lecture Early spring, 2020
Second Lecture Late spring, 2020
Third Lecture Fall, 2020

Presentation ideas are due January 13, 2020

To Apply

Write a proposal of up to 500 words that describes how you will answer the question, “What does it mean to center equity and justice in environmental work?” Include a description of your chosen topic (250 words), a description of your joint presentation format (100 words) and a brief biography of each presenter that illustrates why this topic is important to you (75 words each). For questions, contact sarajo@uw.edu.

Submit Your Talk

Co-sponsored by EarthLab; the College of the Environment Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and the Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity

Thanks to the UW Diversity Seed Grant Award for inspiring this series and making it possible

New student program focuses on sustaining freshwater services

From large lakes where fish populations thrive to running rivers that generate electricity, freshwater ecosystems supply our world with critical food, water, and power. With a changing climate and projected environmental changes, little is known about the potential impacts these changes may bring to communities. Enhancing the sustainability of these essential freshwater resources by developing a dynamic workforce is necessary in the face of change.

There is an urgent need for scientists from a range of disciplines to work together in innovative ways to solve problems. The Future Rivers Initiative, a new organization in EarthLab, aims to build a culturally-aware STEM workforce fluent in state-of-the-art quantitative approaches that will be necessary for sustaining food-energy-water (FEW) services in large river ecosystems. The Future Rivers training program will support up to 60 trainees as they prepare to effectively safeguard freshwater ecosystem services for a growing world population.

Graduate training that breaks down barriers

“How do we take the perspectives of all of these complementary but different disciplines here at the University of Washington?” asked Gordon Holtgrieve, associate professor for the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “We have engineering, forest science, fisheries, landscape architecture, geosciences, and more. How do we take those disciplines and use each of their strengths to solve problems around freshwater sustainability?”

To address this question, Holtgrieve recruited faculty from across the University to create Future Rivers. This National Science Foundation supported graduate training program at the University of Washington focuses on building collaborative bridges between disciplines to think outside-the-box when it comes to building a foundation of freshwater sustainability.

“The students here at the university really made this happen. Our students voiced that they want to gain skills around data science while connecting with people outside of their discipline,” says Holtgrieve. “These students want to learn more about communication and issues of inclusivity and culture in STEM. Future Rivers was designed and pursued in order to meet this request.”

Building a workforce of the future

Students accepted into the program will get to experience data science courses, science communication trainings, STEM inclusivity workshops, and social gatherings along with professional networking.

As an EarthLab initiative, students will learn to work in applied ways within career fields outside of academia. Future Rivers is creating a solid foundation that connects academic government and industry partners when addressing freshwater issues.

“Enduring solutions to complex environmental challenges usually come from multiple disciplines and sectors cooperating and using actionable science,” explains Ben Packard, EarthLab’s executive director. “EarthLab is thrilled to welcome Future Rivers and to help build the workforce of the future, competent in transdisciplinary work and prepared for careers in a variety of roles.”

As the program moves forward and prepares for its first cohort of students in Fall 2020, the team hopes this program will equip students with the skills and experiences needed to conduct science in an innovative way.

“The metric of success is coming up with new and interesting ways to do science with an interdisciplinary approach,” explains Holtgrieve. “This is the goal for each of our students to achieve and take with them throughout their careers.”

Application and program details

Graduate students interested in the Future Rivers program are encouraged to apply in January 2020. For more Future Rivers program details, please visit earthlab.uw.edu/program-details.

Learn more

EarthLab announces John and Gail Eyler 2019 matching gift challenge

EarthLab has announced a new matching gift challenge through the end of 2019. College of the Environment Advisory Board Member John Eyler and his wife, Gail, have established a generous 1:1 challenge match for EarthLab supporters. They will match gifts of $5,000 or more, up to a total of $100,000, in support of the EarthLab Innovation Fund.

John and Gail Eyler
John and Gail Eyler

“We are so pleased to offer our support to the EarthLab Innovation Fund because of EarthLab’s deep commitment to environmental justice and actionable science,” said John Eyler. “We challenge anyone who is serious about solving our climate problems to join us in supporting EarthLab this year.”

EarthLab catalyzes new partnerships between the University of Washington and civic and community organizations to co-produce meaningful, science-based solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Already this year, EarthLab welcomed a new Advisory Council, led by former Interior Secretary and REI CEO Sally Jewell, and funded its first round of Innovation Grants to six new community research projects that showed high potential for real impact and change. The 2019 matching gift challenge will help EarthLab continue its momentum into 2020 and beyond. 

“We couldn’t be more grateful to the Eylers for their generous matching challenge. We’ve made significant headway this year, and we have big plans for the future of this program,” said EarthLab Executive Director Ben Packard. “The complex environmental challenges we face require unprecedented urgency and collaborative action. This support to catalyze additional collaborations is crucial.”

Interested in doubling your impact to EarthLab? Contact Kathleen Phan at katphan@uw.edu or make a gift below.

Make a Gift

New Day NW shares the couch with EarthLab

EarthLab’s Sally Jewell and Ben Packard sat down with host Margaret Larson to discuss how we are committed to using UW’s research science to help businesses and society prepare for the environmental challenges of the future.

EarthLab's Sally Jewell and Ben Packard sat down with New Day NW's host Margaret Larson.
EarthLab’s Sally Jewell and Ben Packard sat down with New Day NW’s host Margaret Larson.