Interview: Can ’Silicon Valley North’ change the way we think about Salish Sea recovery?

South Lake Union Streetcar, August 2017. Photo: SDOT (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdot_photos/36924152151/

South Lake Union Streetcar, August 2017. Photo: SDOT (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdot_photos/36924152151/

A strong economy driven by a world-leading technology industry is expected to draw millions of new residents to the Salish Sea region within decades. This changing population brings with it new strains on the environment but also new perspectives. Incoming residents may not see Puget Sound the same way as previous generations. Many will have different relationships to the natural world or come from other cultural backgrounds and traditions.

Technology will also play a role, not just as an economic driver, but as an influence on the way that people receive and share information. Our smartphones and digital lifestyles will have their own geography, and some say we will have to navigate and understand that virtual world as surely as we understand the bays and inlets of Puget Sound. Given this changing landscape, can Puget Sound recovery efforts adapt and keep pace? Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel member Robert Ewing says it’s absolutely critical.

Ewing is currently a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources and is actively involved with strategic training for members of Seattle’s technology industry through the organization Pathwise, where he is Director of the group’s Fellows Program. He will be co-chairing a special panel with PSI at next year’s Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference titled “Can ‘Silicon Valley North’ change the way we think about Salish Sea recovery?” PSI spoke with Ewing earlier this year and asked him how he thinks the Puget Sound science community can reach the region’s changing population — particularly its technology sector — and why it matters.

PSI: In the broadest sense, who do we need to bring to the table?

Robert Ewing (RE): I think everybody who lives in the region is a potential constituent as well as visitors and others. I think we ought to be able to articulate the region’s importance in terms of the quality of life here, the reason that businesses locate here — the [conditions] that allow us to live in a healthy, natural environment. All those things are part of what we’re trying to accomplish and should have resonance for everybody in a sort of a civic, nonpolitical frame of mind.

PSI: How important do you think the technology sector and its economic engine are to the equation?

RE: If you really were doing some business model development and you looked at the distribution of brainpower and wealth in Puget Sound, you would quickly come to a conclusion that those are the people you should be talking to. And the management council for the [Puget Sound] Partnership is part of that community — Bill Ruckelshaus certainly was — so it’s not like there hasn’t been contact or thinking there. But if you were an objective observer looking at who lives in the Puget Sound region, you’d want to know how to deal with all those people and bring them to the table.

PSI: Do you think those folks — the Bill Gates’s and the Jeff Bezos’s — really care about the environment? Or do they care more about making money and building software?

RE: I’m doing some work with a leadership training group called Pathwise. I’m managing their fellowship program. Most of their students are Microsoft, Expedia, Gates Foundation professionals and engineers. And in dealing with them I find that most of them don’t think about the environment very much. But you don’t have to talk very long until they get quite interested.

I’ve been in a class with engineers [whose] whole world is about getting a search a nanosecond faster than Google. Just giving them a few minutes to think about where they are in the world with their family and so on can open a path to environmental discussions.

We are all so much more capable through intuition and emotion to understand the world we live in — and [to understand] that we are part of the natural world — but we don’t communicate in that way. That’s something Pathwise is trying to do and is doing pretty successfully. I’m not saying I’m an expert in these things, but I see it working.

PSI: So what should we do to bring these people in?

RE: There are a lot of people struggling with exactly how to do this. I think there’s a way of not putting all the action items within a bureaucratic framework. There are ways to think more experientially, and organically, about how to move forward. [We should] try more things. Be more open to ideas and changes. Be more adaptable. One of the reasons that I’ve wanted to be active on the science panel is I think we have to be able to answer the question you just posed. That’s going to take a collaborative effort, an open source effort if you will. This is where the brainpower of the region comes in. I mean, we have Amazon, the University and a variety of start-ups and a lot of smart people walking the streets. Collectively, I think the answer is there. We just need to figure out how to bring it all into action. My goal is to be around the people who can figure this out. And hopefully it’s younger, higher powered people with a lot of energy with some guidance from people with experience. My main goal is to try to have this dialogue go forward and find the resources we need to collectively involve the people who will give us the answer.

About Robert Ewing:

Robert Ewing was trained as an economist and holds a PhD in Wildland Resource Science. He has worked in both the private and public sectors and was Director of Timberlands Strategic Planning for Weyerhaeuser for 20 years. Before that, he was head of resource assessment and strategic planning at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He is currently a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources and is Director of the Pathwise Fellows Program, which offers leadership training for business professionals. He is also a member of the Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel.

Related article: Urban lifestyles help to protect the Puget Sound ecosystem

See also: Land Development and Land Cover Implementation Strategy.

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Are we making progress on salmon recovery?

Dean Toba, a biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, operates the agency’s screw trap on the Skagit River. The trap helps biologists estimate the number of juvenile salmon leaving the river each year. Photo: Christopher Dunagan, PSI

Dean Toba, a scientific technician with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, operates the agency’s screw trap on the Skagit River. The trap helps biologists estimate the number of juvenile salmon leaving the river each year. Photo: Christopher Dunagan, PSI

In recent decades, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to restore habitat for Puget Sound salmon. This month, PSI senior writer Christopher Dunagan looks at how scientists are gauging their progress. Are environmental conditions improving or getting worse? The answer may depend on where you look and who you ask.

Read the article in Salish Sea Currents. 

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Will Ballard Locks withstand a major earthquake?

Ballard Locks from the air. Photo: Jeff Wilcox (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffwilcox/4805933588

Ballard Locks from the air. Photo: Jeff Wilcox (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffwilcox/4805933588

Concerns are growing that an earthquake or major ship accident could cause a failure that would halt ship traffic — or, worse, drop water levels in Lake Washington and Lake Union by up to 20 feet. That could mean stranded boats, disabled bridges and big problems for salmon restoration.

Read the story in Salish Sea Currents on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. 

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New papers look at ‘zombie’ steroids

They are sometimes called ‘zombie’ chemicals. Some compounds thought to be safe and inactive can change into dangerously active forms when they are exposed to the environment. Two recent papers co-authored by PSI collaborator Ed Kolodziej look at some of the ways that regulators may need to account for these transformations.

Cole, EA, McBride, SA, Kimbrough, KC, Lee, J, Marchand, EA, Cwiertny, DM, Kolodziej, EP. (2015). Rates and product identification for trenbolone acetate metabolite biotransformation under aerobic conditions. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Volume: 34, Issue: 7, pgs. 1472-1484; DOI: 10.1002/etc.2962.

Read the full paper.

Ward, AS, Cwiertny, DM, Kolodziej, EP, Brehm, CC. (2015). Coupled reversion and stream-hyporheic exchange processes increase environmental persistence of trenbolone metabolites. Nature Communications. Volume: 6, Article Number 7067; DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8067.

Read the full paper. 

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Assessing microplastics in the world’s oceans

Microplastics in the Ocean: A Global Assessment

Microplastics in the Ocean: A Global Assessment

Our Director Joel Baker recently co-authored Microplastics in the Ocean: A Global Assessment, an international report commissioned by GESAMP (The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). GESAMP is an inter-Agency Body of the United Nations, comprised of a group of independent scientists providing advice to UN Agencies on a wide variety of ocean matters. The report examined the global distribution of micro plastic particles, their known and hypothesized effects on marine organisms, and evaluated potential solutions.

Download the report. 

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Nature inspires new approach to flood control

Aerial photo of Hansen Creek restoration site in Skagit County, WA. October 15, 2010. Photo: Kari Neumeyer/NWIFC

Aerial photo of Hansen Creek restoration site in Skagit County, WA. October 15, 2010. Photo: Kari Neumeyer/NWIFC

Every year, winter rains bring the threat of millions of dollars in property damage, or even the loss of life, from floods. Rivers have historically been channeled and tamed to protect towns and farms in low-lying floodplains, but research shows that this approach may actually be making flooding worse while at the same time threatening Puget Sound’s salmon. At Hansen Creek in the Skagit Valley, scientists say nature is the best engineer. Read Eric Wagner’s story in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound’s Salish Sea Currents series. 

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Brighter future for salmon at downtown seawall

Juvenile salmon at the Seattle Aquarium. Photo: kamikaze.spoon https://www.flickr.com/photos/kamikazespoon/264239056

Juvenile salmon at the Seattle Aquarium. Photo: kamikaze.spoon https://www.flickr.com/photos/kamikazespoon/264239056

The decaying seawall along Seattle’s waterfront is providing scientists with an opportunity to improve long-lost habitat for migrating salmon. It could also show the way for habitat enhancements to crumbling infrastructure worldwide. One University of Washington researcher describes the project.

Read more about the Seattle seawall in Salish Sea Currents.

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Shedding new light on eelgrass recovery

Inside the Eelgrass beds. Photo: Eric Heupel (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/eclectic-echoes/7654885752 - See more at: http://www.eopugetsound.org/articles/shedding-new-light-eelgrass-recovery#sthash.BMcQrBpd.dpuf

Inside the Eelgrass beds. Photo: Eric Heupel (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One of the goals set by the state’s Puget Sound Action Agenda is to add 20 percent more eelgrass to the region by 2020. But three years into the effort, there’s been little or no progress, and growing perplexity. Studies show that some eelgrass beds are increasing while others are in decline. Scientists met at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference to share new research and possible new directions for recovery efforts.

Read the article by Katie Harrington in the new Salish Sea Currents series. 

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Legislature hears testimony on Puget Sound forage fish

Tessa Francis testifies before the state legislature on the importance of Puget Sound forage fish.

Tessa Francis (center facing away from camera) testifies before the state legislature on the importance of Puget Sound forage fish.

Puget Sound Institute research scientist Tessa Francis testified before the Washington House Environment Committee today about the ecological importance of the region’s forage fish.

She discussed findings from PSI’s recent Study Panel on Ecosystem-based Management of Forage Fish in Puget Sound.

Watch the testimony online.

 

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Green roof staves off the cold at PSI

Graph shows temperature comparisons

Graph shows temperature comparisons

The current cold snap is no match for the green roof at PSI headquarters. Our own Kurt Marx has been monitoring roof conditions here at the Center for Urban Waters and gave us this graphic showing temperatures about 5 degrees Celsius warmer under the surface.

Read more about the LEED Platinum Center for Urban Waters. 

Related item: Tacoma’s Center for Urban Waters wins national award for green
roof.

 

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New paper applies invasion biology to social networks

Social media now proliferates across almost every sector of the Web, from commercial enterprises like Facebook to crowd sourcing of science and medical data. New online communities are sprouting like weeds, but not all of these efforts succeed, and the Web is littered with failed attempts and false starts. How can you tell if your network will be the next big thing? PSI Visiting Scientist Marc Mangel says the answer may lie with population biology. Continue reading

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Burke exhibit traces Elwha restoration

Book cover for "Elwha: A River Reborn" by Lynda Mapes. The Burke Museum exhibit runs from November 23, 2013 to March 9, 2014.

Book cover for “Elwha: A River Reborn” by Lynda Mapes. The exhibit based on the book runs from November 23, 2013 to March 9, 2014.

This month, the University of Washington’s Burke Museum opens the exhibit Elwha: A River Reborn, based on the book by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes, with photography by Steve Ringman. The exhibit tells the story of the largest dam removal in U.S. history, and PSI’s Jeff Rice spoke with Mapes about her experience covering the story, her recent book, and the upcoming exhibit. Read the interview at the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. 

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