Letter from the Dean

Earth Day, April 22, marks a time for the world to celebrate and demonstrate support for a healthy environment. In appreciation for nature and its importance for our own health and well-being, people all over the world come together to plant trees, coordinate recycling drives, and share the most equitable and sustainable ways to steward our environment.

From my point of view, at the College of the Environment, every day is Earth Day! A hallmark of our research is that we think of the Earth as an integrated system where the atmosphere, oceans, land and humans are inextricably linked. And, just as Earth Day gatherings often invite us to “think globally, act locally,” our researchers think across scales from local to global, studying the soils, plants, animals, water and air, in order to understand the Earth as a dynamic, connected, and living system. We call this integrated approach Earth system science.

As you might suspect, Earth system science is a highly collaborative endeavor. Our scientists are particularly adept at crossing disciplinary boundaries to create new and useful knowledge. Examples are numerous and range from studying the effects of climate variability on salmon populations, the relationship between air pollution in the Northern Hemisphere and drought in Africa, to the ways in which changing atmospheric and oceanic chemistry affect biology and food webs.

calanus and oithona

Large, nutrient-rich zooplankton often do better in colder oceans, whereas smaller zooplankton are favored in warmer conditions. This has direct effects on other species in the food web, like fish. (photo: C Ashjian, WHOI)

The work of Neil Banas, a research scientist at the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Oceans, exemplifies the latest generation of Earth system science scholars. As Neil puts it, he studies how climate influences fish food. He is particularly interested in how the highest quality fish food, i.e., fat-rich zooplankton, might change in abundance as sea ice melts and ocean waters warm in the Bering Sea. Neil’s models help us understand what factors govern the high year-to-year variability of the commercially important pollock fishery. In the long-term, the work of Neil and his colleagues do is critical to forecasting how climate change will affect the marine food web in the Arctic.

Abby Swann, an assistant professor in both Atmospheric Sciences and Biology, also takes a cross-scale and networked view of the Earth. I was recently able to sit down with Abby and learn how she parses out the influences of atmospheric dynamics on the form and function of our forests. Importantly she is asking the converse as well—how do plants themselves influence large-scale patterns of atmospheric circulation? The results can be surprising. In a recent paper, Abby and her co-authors demonstrate how, 6,000 years ago, the changing forest patterns in Europe affected atmospheric circulation such that precipitation in the Sahara desert increased enough to support a savanna ecosystem complete with elephants, giraffes and flowing rivers teaming with fish.

Luca Galuzzi

Rock carving of elephants in Tadrart Acacus region of Libya reflecting the dramatic climatic changes in the area. (photo: Luca Galuzzi)

Research like Neil’s and Abby’s exemplifies the culture of Earth system science: bringing together teams of people with different disciplinary expertise in order to understand how landscapes, waters and atmosphere interact. Through such work we can knit together a more complete picture of the intricacies of our planet, and develop tools and insights to better steward our natural resources. Celebrating these connections is what Earth Day is all about, and the College of the Environment advances our knowledge of these connections every day.

Puget Sound’s rich waters supplied by deep, turbulent canyon

Juan De Fuca Canyon

Google

The headwaters for Puget Sound’s famously rich waters lie far below the surface, in a submarine canyon that draws nutrient-rich water up from the deep ocean. New measurements may explain how the Pacific Northwest’s inland waters are able to support so many shellfish, salmon runs and even the occasional pod of whales.University of Washington oceanographers made the first detailed measurements at the headwater’s source, a submarine canyon offshore from the strait that separates the U.S. and Canada. Observations show water surging up through the canyon and mixing at surprisingly high rates, according to a paper published in March in Geophysical Research Letters.

Read more on UW Today, or watch a video on KING5.

College Advisory Board member Denis Hayes in Northwest Prime Time

Denis Hayes

Robert Stone

The College of the Environment is fortunate to have a tremendously talented group of individuals that make up our Advisory Board–and Denis Hayes is one of them. He is the President of the Bullitt Foundation, an organization whose mission is to safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. Notably, the Bullitt Foundation’s headquarters are housed in the brand new Bullitt Center, billed as the greenest commercial building in the world.

Read more about Denis in Northwest Prime Time.

Philanthropy: making a difference

Private gifts and grants have an enormous impact on the lives of our students, faculty and programs.  We thank every one of our supporters, be they individuals, corporations, private foundations, organizations or community partners. You help ensure that the College of the Environment and all of its exceptional schools, departments, centers, programs and people, remain and grow as national and global leaders in education, research and outreach across a broad array of environmental fields.

For more information on ways to make a gift, or programs you can support, please contact Marilyn Montgomery, Associate Dean for Advancement, at 206-221-0906 or mmmontg@uw.edu.

New Support for Seattle MESA Students

We are grateful to announce a new fund of support for Seattle MESA’s students, established through a grant from The Russell Family Foundation. The monies will fund scholarships for Seattle MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) students, who are part of the program now housed in the College of the Environment. Seattle MESA provides middle and high school students, many from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, with innovative, hands-on opportunities in STEM fields. We are excited that these new funds will offer monetary assistance to Seattle MESA students to continue their educations at two and four-year colleges and universities, with the ultimate aim of enhancing a vibrant, inclusive STEM community of career professionals in the greater Seattle area. We thank The Russell Family Foundation for their support.  If you would like to make your own gift to the fund, please visit the UW Foundation webpage.

THIS MONTH’S HIGHLIGHTED FUNDS

Please consider making a gift to any of the funds below, or to the fund of your choice via the UW Foundation.

  • Oceanography Undergraduate Scholars Fund:  supports undergraduate education in the School of Oceanography
  • Friends of Atmospheric Sciences Fund:  provides the department chair with unrestricted support targeted for high priority opportunities advancing faculty research and student learning
  • Friday Harbor Labs Adopt-A-Student Program Fund:  supports Friday Harbor Lab students with tuition, housing, food and travel costs.

Private funding opportunities

Seeking private funding for your project or program? Below are recent corporate and foundation opportunities. If your project fits the criteria or you have other thoughts on how to engage corporate and foundation funders please contact Chris Thompson, Director for Corporate and Foundation Relations, at 206-221-6372 or csthomp@uw.edu or Lauren Honaker, Associate Director for Corporate and Foundation Relations at 206-685-4423 or lhonaker@uw.edu.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Grand Challenges Explorations

Award amount: Initial grants will be US $100,000 each, and projects showing promise will have the opportunity to receive additional funding of up to US $1 million.

Deadline:  May 16, 2014

Description: Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to encourage innovative and unconventional global health and development solutions, is now accepting grant proposals for its latest application round. Applicants can be at any experience level; in any discipline; and from any organization, including colleges and universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-profit organizations and for-profit companies. Proposals are being accepted on the following topics:

  • New Ways of Working Together: Integrating Community-Based Interventions
  • Explore New Ways to Measure Fetal and Infant Brain Development
  • Innovations in Feedback & Accountability Systems for Agricultural Development
  • Inciting Healthy Behaviors: nudge, leapfrog, disrupt, reach
  • Novel Enabling Tools and Models Supporting the Development of Interventions for Severe Diarrhea and Enteric Dysfunction

For more information or to apply: www.grandchallenges.org/explorations

 

AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science

Award amount: $4,000.

Deadline:  October 15

Description: he AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science, established in 2010, recognizes early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities. A monetary prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting, and reimbursement for reasonable hotel and travel expenses to attend the AAAS Annual Meeting to receive the prize are given to the recipient.

For more information or to apply: http://www.aaas.org/page/aaas-early-career-award-public-engagement-science

 

National Geographic: Expeditions Council Grant Application

Award amount: $15,000–$35,000

Deadline:  Please submit your pre-application at least six (6) months before anticipated project dates.

Description: The Expeditions Council is an editorially driven grant program that supports exploration and adventure worldwide.  Proposed projects must have the potential to yield compelling stories and images. Applications are also judged on the qualifications of applicants and their teams, and on the project’s merit, uniqueness and safety protocols. The Council consists of representatives of National Geographic editorial divisions (magazines, television, books, website, and so on) who review and vote on grant applications, as well as an advisory board of external consultants. While the Expeditions Council funds a broad range of exploration and adventure, if a project is based on scientific inquiry, applicants must provide detailed methodology.  In addition, all projects must adhere to applicable scientific or professional ethical standards, which are outlined in the grant application and are subject to scientific review.

For more information or to apply: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/grants-programs/ec-apply/

 

Singing for Change Accepting Letters of Interest for Social and Environmental Problems

Award amount: Up to $10,000.

Deadline:  Open

Description: Singing for Change was created by Jimmy Buffett in 1995 and initially funded with contributions from his summer concert tour. Since then, SFC has offered competitive grants to progressive, nonprofit organizations working to address the root causes of social or environmental problems. Priority will be given to organizations that keep their overhead low, include community members in planning, and collaborate with other groups to find innovative ways of solving common problems. SFC aims to advance the common good by empowering people to thrive and to strengthen and sustain vibrant, diverse communities. Letters of interest may be submitted at any time and are reviewed on an ongoing basis.

For more information or to apply: http://www.singingforchange.org/grant_information.html

Future of Ice Speaker Series shines light on polar issues

2013 College Slideshow FUTURE OF ICEThe Future of Ice Speaker Series highlighted the complex issues connected to our planet’s polar environments, becoming a tremendously successful quarter-long event on the University of Washington Seattle campus. The subject matter proved a good fit for the middle of winter, providing a platform to highlight a diverse group of speakers and their perspectives related to the Arctic and Antarctic environments. Our speakers—James Balog, Tony Penikett, Jody Deming, Paul Nicklen, Dee Boersma and Sheila Watt-Cloutier—took us on a remarkable journey by sharing their experiences and expertise through scientific research, stunning imagery, and stories of the cultures and ecology that depend on the ice.

The University of Washington has built a leadership position in polar research over the past 40 years and already has unparalleled programs in the natural science, social science and policy of the polar regions. In an effort to better understand the changing systems of our planet’s high latitudes, the College of the Environment and other a number of UW units are investing in current and expanded polar research, educational resources to develop future leaders in science and policy, and outreach activities that bring the story of the poles to our doorsteps.

Read more about this initiative on the Future of Ice website, and watch a video of Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s talk.

Professor partners with Microsoft Research to visualize ocean investigations

Parker MacCready, professor at the School of Oceanography, finished up a stint as a Visiting Researcher at Microsoft Research last fall, utilizing the newest technology to advance the study of ocean acidification and other ocean sciences. Microsoft Research has the express goal of collaborating “with the world’s top researchers to develop technologies that help solve global challenges.” Ocean acidification is a phenomenon that will adversely affect the Puget Sound region, thus Parker spent four months partnering with the Earth, Energy, and Environment section of Microsoft Research Connections. Their goal: to improve the visualization and analysis of ocean acidification modeling. He was able to explore and use cutting edge new software like WorldWide Telescope and Azure, a cloud computing resource, for his new Ocean Acidification Forecast Model, which is called LiveOcean. Parker and his mentor at Microsoft, Rob Fatland, are presenting their findings at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference at the end of April.

Visit Parker’s website to see an image of water parcels crossing the continental shelf in the Juan de Fuca Canyon, and learn more about his research.