The Puget Sound Institute (PSI) was established at the University of Washington to identify and catalyze the science driving Puget Sound and Salish Sea ecosystem recovery. Since its founding in 2010, PSI has advanced our understanding of the region through synthesis, original research and communication in support of state and federal agencies, tribes and many other organizations. PSI receives major funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.
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We provide academic and research opportunities for UW Tacoma and South Sound students through our summer internship program, student employment, curricular integration, on-campus lectures and access to renowned scientists.
Our office location at the LEED Platinum Center for Urban Waters and resulting relationships with the Puget Sound Partnership and City of Tacoma Environmental Services provide collaboration opportunities and contribute to environmentally oriented economic development.
Scientists, educators and the general public often use media such as audio recordings from the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. Our species recordings have appeared on national radio programs such as Birdnote and Living on Earth, and are even used as popular ringtones.
The same techniques used by PSI to analyze water quality in Puget Sound are being applied at Everest base camp. Water samples were collected on the mountain and sent back to PSI researchers Andy James and Justin Miller-Schulze as part of a study on potential human impacts on drinking water. New techniques can identify chemical tracers known as CECs that indicate human sources.
Our team has contributed hundreds of map layers and other data to NOAA’s Pacific Northwest Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA). This resource will aid with rapid analysis in the event of natural disasters and also supports general scientific research by making GIS data publicly accessible.
Species and their habitats are a foundation of the ecosystem framework, but there are currently no generally agreed upon habitat classification systems for Puget Sound. We worked with Drs. Megan Dethier and Si Simenstad to update Dethier’s 1990 resource A Marine and Estuarine Habitat Classification System for Washington State.
The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound is a comprehensive guide to the science of Salish Sea ecosystem recovery. Articles on the site describe the region's major environmental threats and areas of concern, but also the facts and stories that make the Salish Sea an estuary of international importance. The website is a product of the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute and receives major support from the Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program.
PSI with support from the EPA and in collaboration with the Puget Sound Partnership assembled a team of writers to document new scientific research presented at the 2014 and 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conferences. These writers worked closely with the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound editorial board to provide the most accurate and timely information, and to place it into the context of other work going on in the region.
The 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem.
This semi-annual symposium brings together nationally recognized scientists and engineers to present and discuss water-related research in Washington and beyond. It is convened jointly by PSI and the Center for Urban Waters.
PSI organizes a wide range of panels and discussion sessions on topics such as science communications, open standards, social sciences, the Ocean Health Index, and other areas of current interest.
Seventeen regional social scientists from public agencies, universities and consulting firms gathered to compile existing social research and monitoring related to Puget Sound recovery and to identify social research and monitoring gaps.
PSI convened a Study Panel on Ecosystem-based Management of Puget Sound Forage Fish at the Whiteley Center at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs. Forage fish populations are considered a key indicator of the health of the Salish Sea, and these expert panels were some of the first to examine research questions related to status and trends, vulnerabilities and spatial variation of species.
A workshop at the Center for Urban Waters in Tacoma explored the state of the science of floodplains in the region. The workshop was jointly 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.
A two-day workshop convened by PSI brought leading scientists and managers to Seattle to compare and contrast the role of science in large-scale coastal ecosystem recovery projects. Participants represented Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades, Long Island Sound, San Joaquin/Sacramento Delta, Columbia River Estuary, the Louisiana Coast and Puget Sound. Topics included challenges relating to scope, complexity and cost in large and complex systems.
PSI research scientist Nick Georgiadis drafted initial versions of shellfish and estuaries Implementation Strategy documents for the Puget Sound Partnership. The Partnership describes its Implementation Strategies as “plans for achieving the Puget Sound 2020 Ecosystem Recovery Targets, which are associated with the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The plans are designed to inform the Puget Sound Action Agenda, the State of the Sound, the Biennial Science Work Plan, the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program, and salmon recovery planning.”
PSI research scientist Tessa Francis testified before the Washington House Environment Committee 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.
Research by PSI chemist and engineer Andy James is expanding the scientific understanding of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in Puget Sound. These compounds range from pharmaceuticals, personal care products, food additives to compounds used in industrial and commercial applications. James’ studies will inform state water quality monitoring and groups such as the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program.
The state adopted a series of human wellbeing indicators for Puget Sound based on research led by PSI social scientist Kelly Biedenweg. These indicators are now part of the state’s ‘Vital Signs’ for Puget Sound recovery.
Recent efforts by PSI Lead Ecologist Tessa Francis in collaboration with NOAA and DFW have helped to digitize and analyze more than 40 years of state data related to herring spawning habitat. The scientists hope that it will help to answer some of the key questions behind recent declines in Puget Sound herring populations.
Overall, PSI-affiliated researchers have authored or co-authored dozens of papers in peer-reviewed journals.
PSI is contracted to analyze, synthesize, and communicate the results of Marine and Nearshore Grant Program projects from 2012-2015 to identify how those results can support future recovery efforts. The project aims are to ensure the continued contribution of funded work to marine and nearshore recovery efforts, to highlight successful strategies that could be the focus of future efforts, and to communicate key findings and messages from the program."
We commissioned the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group to prepare an in-depth synthesis of expected climate change impacts for the Puget Sound watershed. The EPA provided funding for this project.
The biennial science work plan supports state efforts to identify and address decision-critical uncertainties related to the recovery of Puget Sound. PSI’s Nick Georgiadis co-authored the report in collaboration with the Puget Sound Science Panel and the Puget Sound Partnership.
PSI’s Lead Social Scientist Kelly Biedenweg was co-editor of a special issue of the journal Coastal Management that focused on the role of social sciences in Puget Sound recovery. Biedenweg also authored an article in the issue describing the development of Puget Sound human wellbeing indicators.
An independent review convened by PSI was featured in findings released by the EPA and the state Department of Ecology that there is currently “no compelling evidence” that humans are the cause of recent trends in declines in dissolved oxygen in Hood Canal.