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)

South Lake Union Streetcar, August 2017. Photo: SDOT (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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.


Science Panel: Are Puget Sound recovery efforts working?

The Puget Sound Science Panel will discuss the state of effectiveness monitoring in Puget Sound at its October 16th meeting in Edmonds. Also on the agenda are updates to new biophysical and human wellbeing indicators of Puget Sound health.

The meeting will be held from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Center Conference Room
at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. The meeting is immediately followed by the science panel’s speaker series from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Edmonds Community College. Puget Sound Institute Director Joel Baker will give a talk about the global impacts of microplastics. He will be followed by NOAA Fisheries Science and Research Director John Stein, who will looks at some of the ways that science informs fisheries policy.

Download the meeting agenda and related documents.



New Puget Sound Science Panel members announced

The Puget Sound Leadership Council has appointed four new members to the Puget Sound Science Panel, including two Canadian scientists. Ian Perry of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Terre Satterfield of the University of British Columbia join Nives Dolsak and Tim Essington of the University of Washington. Bill Labiosa was re-appointed. Their terms extend to November 2017.

medium_nives_delo_velikaNives Dolšak is Associate Professor at the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (University of Washington Seattle campus) and School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences (Bothell campus). She is also a Visiting Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Her research examines institutional challenges in governing common pool resources at multiple levels of aggregation. She has co-edited two volumes:  “The Drama of the Commons”(National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council’s Committee on Human Dimensions of Global Change); and  “The Commons in the New Millennium: Challenges and Adaptation”, co-edited with Professor Elinor Ostrom (the MIT Press)

Her other published work examines national level global climate change mitigation; media coverage and its impact on climate change legislative agenda in the U.S. states; the impact of civil society in environmental policy in transitional economies; the link between donors’ commercial interests and the location of environmental aid projects; the impact of voting in international environmental regimes on bilateral aid allocations; applicability and political feasibility of tradable permits in common-pool resource management.

Nives holds a BA in Economics from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and a Joint Ph.D. from the School of Public & Environmental Affairs and Department of Political Science Indiana University, Bloomington.

medium_essingtonTim Essington in a professor and Associate Director at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, and the Director of the Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management Interdisciplinary Research Program. His research is directed at better understanding human effects on marine food webs and ecosystems and evaluating effectiveness of alternative regulatory and policy actions.

He works in diverse ecosystems, ranging from estuaries to coastal and open oceans, and uses a wide range of quantitative tools to evaluate how ecological systems respond to fishing and other disturbances.

medium_billLaBill Labiosa has worked as a Research Physical Scientist with USGS since 2001, specializing in watershed/ecosystems management decision analysis and decision support. He has extensive ecological experience and knowledge of Puget Sound serving as the project manager and PI for the Puget Sound Ecosystem Portfolio Model project – a model-based evaluation of ecosystem services and metrics of human well-being as influenced by land use change and regional-scale coastal anthropogenic modifications.

Prior to working for USGS, he worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water in Washington, D.C.

medium_Ian_Perry-photo-241x300Ian Perry is a research scientist with Fisheries & Oceans Canada, at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, BC, Canada. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., and has taught courses on fisheries oceanography at universities in Canada, Chile, and Portugal. Dr. Perry currently heads the Ecosystem Approaches Program at the Pacific Biological Station, and was one of two co-leads for the DFO Strait of Georgia Ecosystem Research Initiative. His research expertise includes the effects of the environment on finfish and invertebrates; the structure and function of marine ecosystems; ecosystem-based approaches to the management of marine resources; the human dimensions of marine ecosystem changes; and scientific leadership of international and inter-governmental programs on marine ecosystems and global change. In addition, he is a former Chair of the international Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) program, whose goal was to understand how global changes affect the abundance, diversity and productivity of marine populations, and is a former Chief Scientist and Chair of the Science Board for the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). He is a past Editor for the scientific journal Fisheries Oceanography, is presently a Subject Editor for the journal Ecology and Society, and is a member of the Editorial Boards for Fisheries OceanographyCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, and Journal of Marine Systems. In 2008, Dr. Perry received the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Assistant Deputy Minister’s Distinction Award, as well as the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Prix d’Excellence.

medium_Terre-300x227Terre Satterfield is an interdisciplinary social scientist; professor of culture, risk and the environment; and director of the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability.

Her research concerns sustainable thinking and action in the context of environmental assessment and decision making. She studies natural resource controversies; culture and cultural ecosystem services; and the perceived risk of new technologies. She has worked primarily on tensions between indigenous communities and the state and/or regulatory dilemmas regarding new technologies.

Her work has been published in journals such as: Nature; Global Environmental Change; Ecological Applications, Ecology and Society; Journal of Environmental Management; Biosciences; Society and Natural Resources; Land Economics; Science and Public Policy; Ecological Economics; Environmental Values; and Risk Analysis. Her books include: The Anatomy of a Conflict: Emotion, Knowledge and Identity in Old Growth Forests; What’s Nature Worth? (with Scott Slovic); and The Earthscan Reader in Environmental Values (with Linda Kalof).


PSP soliciting nominations for Puget Sound Science Panel

The Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership is calling for nominations for appointment to the Puget Sound Science Panel. The panel serves as an advisory group to the Puget Sound Partnership, and is made up of leading scientists from around the Salish Sea region. Scientists can nominate themselves or others, and scientists from the U.S. or Canada are welcome to apply. The deadline for applications is November 4th. Download the full solicitation. 


Science Panel meeting reduced to single day due to federal government shutdown

The Puget Sound Science Panel meets today in Mount Vernon, but will not meet tomorrow (October 2nd) as scheduled due to the federal government shutdown. This is to accommodate panel members with federal affiliations. A revised meeting agenda is not yet available online, but the original meeting materials are available at the Puget Sound Partnership website:


PSI co-sponsors state of the science workshop on Puget Sound floodplains

Floodplains are considered a critical vital sign of Puget Sound recovery by the Puget Sound Partnership. Yet according to the agency, “there is currently no agreed-upon definition of a floodplain,” and much remains to be understood about the social and ecological implications of their protection and management.

Kari Stiles welcomes attendees at 6/6/2013 flooplains workshop

Kari Stiles welcomes attendees at 6/6/2013 flooplains workshop

A June 6th workshop at the Center for Urban Waters in Tacoma explored the state of the science of floodplains in the region. Approximately 60 people attended the workshop, which was organized by the Puget Sound Partnership, the Puget Sound Institute and the Puget Sound Science Panel. Participants discussed floodplains from the perspectives of both the biophysical and social sciences. Continue reading


John Stein elected new Science Panel Chair

John Stein is the new Chair of the Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel. Stein was elected in December, and replaces outgoing Chair Joe Gaydos, who served in 2012. Katherine Wellman is now Vice Chair.

Stein is the current Science Director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC), NOAA Fisheries Service in Seattle. The NWFSC conducts basic and applied research to support the management and conservation of the Pacific Northwest region’s anadromous and marine fishery resources and their habitats. Stein oversees the Science Center’s headquarters in Seattle and five research stations in Washington and Oregon. Stein joined the Science Panel in 2012.

Wellman has been a member of the Puget Sound Science Panel since 2011, and is a social scientist at Northern Economics, Inc., specializing in the marine estuarine environment.


Tracy Collier named Science Director for Puget Sound Partnership

Tracy Collier has been named the new Science Director for the Puget Sound Partnership. Collier replaces outgoing Science Director Ken Currens, who returns to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission after a two-year temporary appointment. Collier was most recently a member of the Puget Sound Science Panel, which serves as an advisory body to the Puget Sound Institute. Continue reading


Joe Gaydos begins term as Science Panel Chair

Newly elected Chair of the Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel Joe Gaydos began his term on January 25th, with Bill Labiosa serving as Vice Chair. Gaydos is the Chief Scientist for the SeaDoc Society, a marine ecosystem health program of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center. Gaydos has been a member of the Science Panel since 2009, and has spent the past eight years collecting and distributing scientific data on Puget Sound.
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Please comment on Puget Sound Biennial Science Workplan by Feb 3rd

The Puget Sound Science Panel invites your comments on their Biennial Science Work Plan by February 3, 2012.  Comments are also solicited by the Puget Sound Partnership on its Puget Sound Action Agenda.

View the PDF documents directly:

Comments can be submitted online to or by mail to Puget Sound Partnership, Attn: Action Agenda, 326 E. D St., Tacoma, WA 98421.

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