UW News

May 11, 2020

EarthLab announces Innovation Grant recipients for 2020

Research projects funded for 2020 by EarthLab’s Innovation Grants Program will study how vegetation might reduce pollution, help an Alaskan village achieve safety and resilience amid climate change, organize a California river’s restoration with tribal involvement, compare practices in self-managed indigenous immigrant communities and more.

EarthLab is a University of Washington-wide institute connecting scholars with community partners to address environmental challenges. The institute announced awards for its 2020 Innovation Grants Program on May 5.

Four research teams were chosen from 43 that applied. Proposals were reviewed by an 11-member committee including faculty and staff in several areas as well as an outside community member. This is the program’s second year.

Each team will receive up to $75,000 as well as administrative and communications support for a 16-month period ending in September 2021.

Crucially, the researchers also plan to collaborate with community partners from El Centro de la Raza locally to universities internationally for these projects. All of the community partners involved are listed on the EarthLab grants webpage.

Does vegetation help mitigate roadway and aircraft-related air pollution in Seattle?

UW's Edmund Seto

Edmund Seto

Edmund Seto, associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, is principal investigator on this community-engaged study using drones for 3D air quality measurements.

Co-investigators are professor Timothy Larson and assistant professor David Shean of civil and environmental engineering, and Joel Thornton, professor of atmospheric sciences.

According to their proposal, “Findings from this study will provide local and highly relevant evidence on the effectiveness of urban planning initiatives that may utilize greenery as an approach to address particulate air pollution.”

Hazard planning, food sovereignty and climate adaptation in the Alaskan Arctic 

P. Joshua Griffin

P. Joshua Griffin, assistant professor in the Department of American Indian Studies and the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, is this project’s principal investigator and co-director.

Kivalina is a 500-person Iñupiaq community in Northwest Alaska about 80 miles above the Arctic Circle. Sea-ice cover around this area has decreased dramatically in the last two decades, increasing coastal erosion during storms and the frequency of traveler distress calls, among other concerns.

For this research, an interdisciplinary team of UW polar researchers will work with area search and rescue volunteers to help Kivalina and its residents achieve more safety, resilience and food sovereignty, and become a model of community-driven polar research. The team also plans to develop new methods in sea ice forecasting to support local decision-making, among several other goals.

Other UW researchers involved are Cecilia Bitz, chair and professor; and Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, research assistant professor, both in atmospheric sciences.

Píkyav on the Mid-Klamath River: Peeshkêesh Yáv Umúsaheesh

UW's Cleo Woelfle-Erskine

Cleo Woelfle-Erskine

The Klamath River flows through parts of Oregon and Northern California. Four hydroelectric dams along the river are scheduled for removal in 2022. The Karuk Tribe, in that area, is among the largest in California.

This research team proposes a river restoration process on the Klamath that centers on Karuk tribal sovereignty using a model of justice, helping to bring tribal perspectives to large-scale governance. The title of the project, they write, translates to “the river will look good” — and the phrase “goes far below the surface to include function, connection and ceremonial renewal.”

UW's July Hazard

July Hazard

The team plans an intergenerational, field-based school on the river, working with Karuk youth and cultural practitioners to gather historical maps, stories and spatial data on Karuk uses of floodplain ecosystems.

UW team members for this project are Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, assistant professor in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs; July Hazard, a lecturer in Comparative History of Ideas and the Program on the Environment; and Karuk tribal member Kimberly Yazzie, a doctoral student in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

Lessons from urban indigenous immigrants  

“This project will compare a self-managed indigenous immigrant community still using traditional practices in Iquitos, Peru,” the team wrote, “to a similar indigenous immigrant community nearby that developed with social and political pressures to colonially urbanize and leave traditional practices behind.”

UW members of the research team are Leann Andrews, affiliate assistant professor of landscape architecture; Gemina Garland-Lewis, photographer with the UW Center for One Health Research; Ursula Valdez, lecturer in the UW Bothell School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences; Kathleen Wolf, research social scientist with the School of Environment and Forest Sciences; and doctoral student Coco Alarcon of the School of Public Health.

“We use an innovative, mixed-methods approach by combining indigenous knowledge, science and art to document environmental conditions, ecosystem health, traditional knowledge practices, and human-nature connections in each community,” the team wrote.

Environmental and human health impacts of a new invasive species in Madagascar

A fifth project was announced in March, representing the second project funded in collaboration with the UW Population Health Initiative. The project’s UW leads are Chelsea Wood, assistant professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; and Peter Rabinowitz, professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

For more information, contact the EarthLab Innovation Grants program lead at elgrants@uw.edu.