UW Climate Change Videos: Watch the 10 Finalists!

Last week, we announced the winners of the UW Climate Change Video Contest, and now you can watch each of the top 10 entries! Our photographer for the evening, Erin Lodi, has also posted a wonderful gallery of shots from the awards show, and we invite you to take a look and download any images you wish to keep or share.

So grab some popcorn and enjoy the show!

Photo © Erin Lodi Photography.

Judges Randy Olson (left), Paul D. Miller and Dean Lisa Graumlich discuss one of the student films.

Judges Randy Olson (left), Paul D. Miller and Dean Lisa Graumlich discuss one of the student films.

 

Against the Current

If you take a stream ecology course, you are generally taught that as a stream winds down from its headwaters at higher elevations, the water temperature will increase fairly steeply at first, and then gradually—and predictably—approach air temperature as the stream levels off at lower elevations. But several researchers at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS)—including doctoral student Aimee Fullerton and Professors Christian Torgersen and Josh Lawler—have recently published new findings in Hydrological Processes that could change the way we think about stream ecology and temperature dynamics.

The paper, “Rethinking the longitudinal stream temperature paradigm: region-wide comparison of thermal infrared imagery reveals unexpected complexity of river temperatures,” is a meta-analysis of thermal data from 53 rivers across the Pacific Northwest. Torgersen, a research landscape ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an affiliate professor with SEFS, started building this massive data set in 1994. He partnered with long-time colleague Russ Faux at Watershed Sciences, Inc. (now part of Quantum Spatial), to collect thermal information from Faux’s aerial surveys of hundreds of rivers in Oregon, California, Idaho, Washington and a few other states.

Aimee Fullerton

Doctoral student Aimee Fullerton, lead author on the paper, grew up in Ohio and works as a research scientist with NOAA.

Thermal infrared imaging is usually accurate to within a half degree, so these readings provided a trove of high-level, high-quality spatial data to explore. “This is the first time we’ve had the kind of spatial data over many, many rivers—and at a fine resolution—to even look at these patterns,” says Torgersen. “It was my dream project.”

Using these data, the researchers set out to map spatial patterns in river temperature during the summer, when fish are most stressed. They wanted to determine, among other information, whether they could predict the location of cold patches, which provide useful “cold refuges” for fish as they migrate up a stream. And though the authors expected to find geographical indicators for how a stream’s temperature would behave, the actual results surprised them.

Rather than finding predictable patterns, they discovered a great deal of variability and complexity in the streams. About half of the rivers behaved as expected, with temperatures steeply warming from the headwaters, and then gradually tapering off as the stream progresses. With other streams, though, the pattern was more gradual and linear, or the temperature stayed the same; and then in other cases, the temperature actually decreased or fluctuated over lengths of 50 kilometers or more—starting out cold, warming a bit, and then getting cold again.

“I think most people would say it’s not super surprising that there’s variability in these patterns,” says Torgersen. “But at this broad scale to see some of these odd-ball patterns was kind of a humdinger. We just know a lot less about river temperature than we do about air temperature.”

That’s why the mapping of water temperature in this study was so valuable. Most mathematical models of stream temperature, while largely accurate, aren’t able to account for fine-scale variations. Yet there are so many factors that can impact temperature variability, says Fullerton, such as tributaries, groundwater and nearby vegetation, or even coastal fog deflecting solar radiation. So this research provides a crucial perspective for what is actually happening in the water—and, ultimately, how those variations impact all of the species depending on the stream.

Implications
Fullerton says an important caveat with these findings is that the researchers only studied a snapshot in time. Their data came exclusively during the summer, so they weren’t capturing temperatures during different seasons, or overnight.

Christian Torgersen

For terrestrial ecology, the same paradigm would have you assume that as you go up a mountain, the air generally gets cooler. “If it got warmer as you went up, you’d know there was something up,” says Professor Christian Torgersen.

Still, these results can already reshape how researchers think about stream restoration projects, and how they determine the “natural” template for a certain section of river. It will be vital to examine the broader context of any stream segment—what’s happening directly up- and downstream, or along the riverbanks—to get the most comprehensive and accurate reading.

The diversity of thermal habitats in these streams, moreover, could be good news for the long-term survival of existing species, especially salmon. It appears that species may already be accustomed to navigating through a variety of conditions, and coping with a range of temperature tolerances, which could make them more resilient and less susceptible to future land use and climate impacts. “That’s going to help them with whatever comes next,” says Fullerton.

An important aspect of the climate analysis came from Professor Lawler, who is a coauthor on the paper. He played a key role in developing the approach for comparing patterns of water temperature among streams. “He was essential as a reality check to make sure our assertions were valid,” says Torgersen. “He also helped us couch these results in the context of climate change, and what the implications of this work are for understanding how species respond to a warming climate.”

Next Steps
Fullerton has worked as a research scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) since 2002. Now into her fifth year of doctoral study—working with Torgersen and Lawler—she can’t wait to dive back into the data and expand their analysis.

This first paper focused on a broad-scale perspective, and the next step is to key in on a finer scale and begin to look at how these spatial patterns might be affected by climate change, and therefore might affect the vulnerability of salmon. Specifically, the researchers will be quantifying the size, location and distance between cold water patches that salmon use, and considering how those patterns might change under future climate scenarios. After that, a third component of this research will be to look at drivers of these patterns, and whether we can predict where colder patches will occur in the landscape.

Which is to say, there’s much more to come from this exciting research, which has already challenged a number of long-held assumptions. “My hope is that stream ecologists will be reading this paper and then teach students that you can’t assume the temperature will increase,” says Torgersen. “It could change the way people think about basic stream ecology questions, and how to develop their models.”

Photos © Aimee Fullerton and Christian Torgersen.

Fullerton on a research trip to the Salmon River in Idaho in 2013.

Fullerton on a research trip to the Salmon River in Idaho in 2013.

And the 2015 UW Climate Change Video Contest Winners are…

The first-ever UW Climate Change Video Contest culminated with a smashing awards show at Town Hall last Friday, May 15. We screened the top 10 videos to a great crowd, and our panel of judges— Annie Leonard (also the emcee), Dean Lisa Graumlich, Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and Randy Olson—provided some lively feedback and discussion. We’ll post the 10 finalists’ videos on our website shortly, as well as more photos and information about the students, so stay tuned!

And, now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for—

HIGH SCHOOL CATEGORY

First Place
Leo Pfeifer and Meagen Tajalle
Ballard High School, Seattle, WA

Second Place
Teri Guo, Caeli MacLennan, Kevin Nakahara,
Ethan Perrin and Nivida Thomas
Tesla STEM High School, Redmond, WA

UNDERGRADUATE CATEGORY

First Place
Michael Moynihan and Sarra Tekola
University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Second Place
Erfan Dastournejad
Shoreline Community College, Shoreline, WA

Congratulations to all of our finalists and winners, and to all of the talented students who submitted so many fantastic videos!

Conservation Catwalk: Elements of the Wild

Last spring, you might remember we introduced you to two enterprising freshmen, Ava Holmes and Olivia Moskowitz, who founded a student group, “Conservation in Style,” that focuses on eco-friendly fashion to raise awareness and funds for endangered species. In their first year here, the dynamic pair pulled off an impressive series of events, from an art exhibit to a conservation dinner, with the biggest splash being a Conservation Catwalk eco-fashion show held at the Husky Union Building last winter.

"Junk Dress" by one of the featured designers in the show, Gary Harvey

“Junk Dress” by one of the featured designers in the show, Gary Harvey

Well, in year two, the sophomores have again partnered with The Gabby Wild Foundation to host a second Conservation Catwalk, coming up next Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. in Gould Hall—with all proceeds going to support wildlife conservation!

This year’s theme is “Elements of the Wild,” with a focus on environmentally and ethically sound attire inspired by wildlife and nature’s four elements. The show will merge “fashion forward” with “socially and environmentally responsible,” and the runway will be alive with animal-inspired designs and performances. Featured designs will come from a mix of local designers and past contestants on the television show Project Runway, and the host this year will be our own grad student Samantha Zwicker (who just won “Graduate Student of the Year” as the 2015 SEFS Recognition Event)!

Last year’s pilot event was hugely successful, drawing more than 1,000 students, faculty and community attendees, and Holmes and Moskowitz are excited to bring the wild to the runway once again.

Get your tickets today, and contact Conservation in Style for more information about the event. (If you go the VIP route, the VIP doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the package includes VIP styling, photoshoot with your “spirit animal,” private networking event, vegan hors d’oeuvres, front-row seating and eco-goodie bags.)

Come explore your wild side!

Photo © “Junk Dress” by one of the featured designers for the show, Gary Harvey.

Next Week (5/20): 2015 Urban Forest Symposium

Hosted by PlantAmnesty and the UW Botanic Gardens, the 7th annual Urban Forest Symposium is coming up next Wednesday, May 20, from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture (with a reception to follow from 4 to 6 p.m.).

Urban Forest SymposiumFrom providing clean water and air to supporting healthier minds and bodies, trees have significant value, but they never seem to get the credit they deserve. Attend this year’s Urban Forest Symposium, themed “For What It’s Worth: Valuing the Urban Forest,” to learn the best methods for quantifying the worth of our urban forests, and how to communicate that value to decision-makers and the public. Presenters will share the latest research on stormwater benefits and tools used to quantify them, introduce a new online portal to assist in identifying areas in cities that can have the greatest health savings through expanding tree canopy, and discuss how to leverage the multitude of benefits to engage new supporters.

Presentations will be relevant to those working in the fields of urban forestry, landscape management, policy, budget analysis, natural resources, tree care, arboricultural consulting, sustainability, urban planning, landscape design, landscape architecture, municipal management and tree advocacy.

The cost to attend the symposium is $85 per person, and lunches are available for an additional $15. Learn more and register today!

Tomorrow (5/13): CUGOS Spring Fling!

Do you care about geometry-busting workflows, brain dumping academic research, parsing vertices while flying drones, code as well as content, and usability through design? Is your skin tingling just thinking about all of this geospatial madness? Then join CUGOS tomorrow, May 13, for an all-day Spring Fling focused on all things open-source geospatial!

CUGOS, or Cascadia Users of Geospatial Open Source, is a regional chapter of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). They are a group of developers, GIS specialists, designers and geographers all gathering under one roof in the name of maps.

Their Spring Fling, held in the Forest Club Room in Anderson Hall, is an intensely educational learning session for passionate practitioners of open-source geospatial. The day will kick off at 9 a.m., when the “geo-floodgates” will open, then leads to a series of longer talks, lightning talks, free pizza, hands-on projects and then a happy hour at the end of the day. The event is free and open to anyone, and participation is highly encouraged—especially by students!

There’s no cap on how many folks can take part, so check out the full day’s program and come join the fun!

Update: Spring Fling is under way, and there's a packed house upstairs in the Forest Club Room!

Update: Spring Fling is under way, and there’s a packed house upstairs in the Forest Club Room!

2015 Recognition Event: Honorees and Auction Results!

In case you missed the SEFS Recognition Event this past Tuesday, we celebrated in style with a spirited wine tasting (featuring a record 38 donated bottles!), a delicious catered array of tapas offerings, all sorts of goodies in the Silent Auction, and, of course, our annual awards!

2015_05_Recognition ProgramWe’re still tallying the bids from the auction, but judging from the early returns, it looks like we are going to raise nearly $3,000 for the SEFS Scholarship Fund! If you won an item and didn’t pick it up on Tuesday night—or if you left early and don’t know whether you won yet—you can expect an email in the next few days. It will include instructions for how to make your donation online, as well as how to connect with a donor if you bid on a particular experience. Otherwise, you can pick up all unclaimed items in Karl Wirsing’s office in Anderson 107B.

Without further ado, the award results!

Staff Member of the Year: Sarah Geurkink
Faculty Member of the Year: Professor Jon Bakker
Graduate Student of the Year: Samantha Zwicker
Undergraduate Student of the Year: Sophia Winkler-Schor

(Each of these honorees received a certificate and will have his or her name added to the plaque display in Anderson Hall.)

The John A. Wott Fellowship in Plant Collection and Curatorship, given in recognition of outstanding research and contributions to the Washington Park Arboretum: Chris Watson

The Richard D. Taber Outstanding Wildlife Conservation Student Award, given in recognition of exemplary performance in wildlife conservation: Ghee-Hee Yang

Director’s Awards for Outstanding Service to the School
Faculty: Professor Josh Lawler
Staff: David Campbell

We hope you’ll join us in congratulating each of these deserving winners, as well as all of the fantastic nominees, for continuing to make our school such a vibrant and inspiring community.

Also, we’d like to give a special thank you to our selection committee, which had an especially challenging job this year, and to everyone who submitted a nomination letter. So many others helped pull this event together, as well, including Steve West spearheading another spectacular wine tasting (and for everyone who generously donated bottles); Greg Ettl for serving as Master of Ceremonies; Sarah Thomas for organizing the award process; Amanda Davis for managing the catering and a dozen other tasks; everyone who donated—and bid on—the wonderful prizes and experiences for the Silent Auction; and so many others. Thank you!

Already looking forward to next year!

Testing the Waters

This morning, Professor David Butman was finishing up the installation of a new dissolved carbon dioxide sensor at a site on Issaquah Creek, which drains a relatively pristine forested watershed into Lake Washington. Professor Butman is looking at carbon dynamics to understand how stream systems fit into the terrestrial carbon cycle, and he is collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey, which is embarking on a large-scale, intensive sampling for water quality across the Pacific Northwest. They’ll pool all of this data when they pull the sensors out in late fall.

“A collaborative time series of data like this does not really exist yet,” he says, “and we are doing this at two more sites in Bellingham that cover an urban and an agricultural watershed.”

David Butman