Current Work

Our current work addresses four cross-cutting themes:

TECHNOLOGY & CONSERVATION  |  HEALTH & NATURE  |  PEOPLE & PLACEARTS & CHANGE

Technology & Conservation

Digital technology is the defining feature of our time, yet remains untapped for its potential to support conservation and sustainability. Our Technology & Conservation projects harness the computing as well as cultural potency of video games, apps, and geolocated social media data to better understand and motivate solutions to environmental problems.

EarthGames

EarthGames is an award-winning program at UW that is developing video games and apps that teach environmental awareness and motivate sustainable choices. It consists of a studio class at UW, associated teachers’ guides, curated reviews of environmental games, an annual professional networking event, occasional game jams, and a growing community. EarthGames started in 2015 as a dynamic group of students and faculty at UW, who in their first year won 1st place in the National Climate Game Jam for “Climate Quest” and 3rd place for “AdaptNation.” The next year they went on to capture 1st place and 2nd place in the Climate Game Jam for “Water Ways” and “Drop.” In 2017 the Center for Creative Conservation helped grow the community, and the concept, with EarthGames on Tap, a fun and inspiring evening bringing together game, environmental, and education professionals to meet and catalyze new games that are good for people and the planet. To receive an invitation to our next event, email earthgamesUW@gmail.com and request to join the mailing list, and join our Facebook group to stay in touch and help grow our new community. Project leads: Dargan Frierson (UW Atmospheric Sciences), Joshua Lawler (UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences), Sara Breslow (UW Center for Creative Conservation).

NaureCollections

We are collaborating on NatureCollections, a new mobile app that encourages elementary school children to go outside and explore the natural world. Kids love to collect things (stickers, baseball cards, shells, etc.), and NatureCollections Beta helps kids take pictures of nature, identify the species in their photos, and share and curate their photos in categories such as plants, birds, and landscapes. They can also complete photo challenges or photo scavenger hunts. The app is nearing beta phase and will be tested this summer and fall. We are currently fundraising to release the app to the public—and we are always looking for kids to help with testing! Project leads: Joshua Lawler (UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences) and Katie Davis (UW iSchool).

Mapping recreational use with social media data

Public land managers face a thorny problem: how to provide sufficient and equitable recreation opportunities based on tangible data about local visitors. In response, a team of scientists and practitioners including Spencer Wood (C3) and partners from the US Forest Service, US Park Service, and Washington Trails Association has begun using social media as a source of data on park visitor quantity, distribution, behavior, and preference—information that has been notoriously difficult to collect with traditional methods. Postings to online platforms such as Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram are used to map the amount and quality of recreational use, as well as visitors’ preferences for characteristics of public lands—such as vistas, lakes, trail access, or parking. The results are then factored into predictions of how alternative management decisions will influence recreation on public lands. Contact Spencer Wood (spwood@uw.edu) for more information on big data for recreation planning and ongoing projects in Washington and New Mexico.

Health & Nature

Nature is good for people not only as food, medicine, and materials, but also as an experience: simply being in natural places – from gardens to wildlands – improves our physical, mental, and social health. Our Health & Nature projects focus on the health benefits of being in nature, and implications for designing cities, parks, and infrastructure to ensure these benefits are accessible to all.

The Northwest Nature & Health Symposium

This annual one-day symposium, held in the fall, brings together professionals and community leaders in the fields of health, conservation, design and planning, and education to learn from each other and explore common goals and collective strategies related to the human health benefits of being in nature, from gardens to wildlands. Visit last year’s archive to view presentations, photos and quotes from the day.

Nature Contact & Human Health Working Group

The Nature & Health Working Group is a growing community of doctors, scientists, educators, landscape architects, recreation advocates, and others interested in exploring how experiences in nature benefit human health and well-being. We are building a community of practice across disciplines and sectors, scoping a research agenda (now published!), developing a policy and action blueprint, and defining and incubating fundable initiatives and research projects. Our goals are to stimulate awareness of the health benefits of nature, and implement findings that benefit both people and the environment. Project leads: Howard Frumkin (UW School of Public Health), Joshua Lawler (UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences)

Latino Connections with Nature

In partnership with Vive | NW we are studying how contact with nature improves cognitive, emotional, and physical health, and exploring the specific barriers and facilitators that shape the ability of Latino communities to access nature and enjoy these benefits. Our results will provide educators, urban planners, and environmental organizations with a detailed understanding of what they can do to support Latino communities’ positive connections with the natural world. Project leads: Julian Olden (UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences) and Pooja Tandon (UW School of Medicine, Seattle Children’s).

People & Place

Conservation too often divides the world into “nature” and “culture,” and yet the landscapes we care about are both. Our People & Place projects study the co-evolution of cultural practices and ecosystems, and promote the integration of humanistic, social and biophysical knowledge in order to adapt to the increasingly complex changes in our social-ecological systems.

Story Map of Climate Change

This project is developing online interactive story maps designed to provide information about the consequences of climate change to scientists, resource managers, and stakeholders. The climate science is framed within stories about Northwest residents who are taking steps to mitigate or adapt to the consequences of climate change, specifically, sea level rise and drought. A goal is to build empathy and mutual understanding among stakeholder groups, and thus foster constructive negotiations, shared purpose, and long-term policy solutions. Project leads: Lisa Hayward Watts (UW Northwest Climate Science Center) and Josh Nowlis (ECS Federal in support of NOAA)

Camas Prairie Cultural Ecosystems

Common camas (Camassia quamash) was one of the most important cultural foods in Coast Salish territory and continues to play a key ecological role. Over the past 200 years these ecosystems and the cultural practices that maintained them have been severely disrupted. This project is developing an education and research program with the goal of revitalizing cultural practices by educating younger generations and engaging tribal and non-tribal members in conservation and restoration of these critical habitats. Project leads: Joyce LeCompte (UW Program on the Environment) and Sarah Hamman (Center for Natural Lands Management)

Social Science for the Salish Sea

Ecosystem recovery depends on understanding the diverse people and social systems in the region.​ ​The “Social Science for the Salish Sea Incubator” is outlining a research agenda for environmental social science that serves the ecosystem recovery needs of the transboundary waters shared by Washington State and British Columbia. Co-authored by researchers and practitioners, the paper will include a literature review, annotated list of research questions, roadmap for implementing this research plan, and summary of best practice​s​ for studying the human dimensions of ecosystem recovery. Project leads: Sara Breslow (UW Center for Creative Conservation), Leah Kintner (Puget Sound Partnership).

Arts & Change

More than any discipline, art can mix diverse ideas, methods, and emotions in pieces and performances that provoke us to see the world for what it is, and reimagine what is possible. We support projects integrating research with art to inspire social and environmental change, including change in the environmental field itself.

Surge Exhibition Partnership: Imagining Climate Futures

Philip Govedare, UW Professor of Art and a member of our steering committee, is collaborating with Phil Levin, UW Professor of Practice and Lead Scientist with The Nature Conservancy Washington Office, to prepare a contribution to the third Surge exhibition, which will be held in the fall of 2018 at the Museum of Northwest Art in LaConner, Washington. Surge encourages artists and scientists to learn from each other and share diverse perspectives on how climate change is affecting communities in the Northwest. In conversation with Levin, Govedare plans to create 2-3 aerial landscape paintings that are inspired by environmental science and evoke the visible and invisible effects of of human activities on the planet. The paintings will go beyond realism to imagine a future that is different, and elicit questions about our role as humans in the natural world.

A Mind’s Meadow: Beauty Beyond Suppression

Our most recent intern, Tyler Ung, will be conducting first-hand observations into how environmental priorities, perceptions and concerns differ in Seattle, Beijing, and Bangalore, and exploring, through his own photography and line drawings, how environmental art can play a role in promoting an environmental consciousness.

Conservation Solutions for People and Elephants

Our second intern, Ava Holmes, video-recorded interviews with researchers and conservationists to explore the social complexities of why elephant poaching continues, challenge popular media assumptions about elephant conservation, and showcase solutions that enable humans and African elephants to co-exist.

Change from Within: Diversifying the Environmental Movement

Our first intern, Jasmmine Ramgotra, conducted research and choreography for Change from Within, a cross-disciplinary, interview-based dance performance and discussion exploring the lack of diversity in the environmental field and solutions for improvement. Performances have been held at UW and the Seattle Art Museum.