Olympic Natural Resources Center

Housed within ONRC, the Washington Rural Ecosystem Sustainability Team (WREST) is composed of University of Washington faculty and graduate students, and ONRC staff. The team’s transdisciplinary research and engagement activities broadly concern ecosystem health and sustainability on the Olympic Peninsula with the perspective that ecosystems have two interacting components—one having to do with community wellbeing and another with environment wellbeing.

The dual goals of community and environment wellbeing mandate an ecosystems approach that can integrate biophysical and social sciences. A sample of our research questions include the following:

  • How do rural ecosystem practices positively/negatively influence sustainability (as measured by community and environment wellbeing)?
  • What ecosystem practices shape rural community values and identity?
  • How might forest governance positively shape livelihoods and lifestyles in timber, fishery, recreation/tourism communities?

WREST Researchers

Before joining the UW faculty in April 2015 and becoming director of the Olympic Natural Resources Center, Bernard Bormann worked as a research scientist for the US Forest Service on forest ecosystems, the role of soils and plants in long-term productivity, and adaptive management. His research has helped better understand the role of post-disturbance plant assemblages in controlling ecosystem processes that determine the productivity of forests in the long run. His work with managers and collaborative groups on adaptive management culminated with a major role in revising the national planning rule for the Forest Service in 2012. He has also designed and participated in many innovative forestry trials that explore new ways of managing the forest for community and environment benefit. Currently, he is leading efforts in implementing a 20,000 acre experiment on watersheds on coastal Washington Department of Natural Resources land and integrating consideration of people into the ecosystem with WREST.

Marc L. Miller, Ph.D, is a professor of Marine and Environmental Affairs and adjunct professor of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. His domestic and international research has concerned social and cultural change, globalization, sustainable livelihoods, natural resource and protected area governance, and outdoor recreation and tourism.

Bryan Pelach is a geographer with experience working in environmental restoration and policy development, holding a broad interest in rural ecosystem sustainability and the intersection of human and natural wellbeing. His research employs a mixed methods approach - using key-informant interviews and human ecology mapping - to examine how infrastructure and development influence (and potentially reconfigure) relationships between stakeholders and natural resource governance on the Olympic Peninsula. Before matriculating to UW, Bryan spent five years as a naval officer and ship’s navigator, operating across Oceania and the Indian Ocean in support of freedom of navigation (FONOPS) and fisheries enforcement (OMSI). He holds a BA from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master of Marine Affairs (MMA) from University of Washington.

Courtney Bobsin is a PhD student in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington working on a dissertation on ethnoforestry that implements new approaches to forest management to enhance ecosystem wellbeing on the Olympic Peninsula. She studies how understory plant species installed into recently harvested areas can provide plant material to local communities, habitat for wildlife, and enhance forest structure. Courtney received her Master of Science degree at the University of Washington studying the role understory plant species play in shaping ecosystem processes in different successional forest stages on the Olympic Peninsula. She has been working for the Olympic Natural Resources Center since 2016.

Chelsea Midgett is a PhD student in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington with a background in sustainable tourism research and management. She is currently working on a dissertation exploring social practices and resident perceptions in natural resource dependent communities on the Olympic Peninsula with a focus on the implications for rural ecosystem sustainability.
Chelsea Midgett, MS, MBA
Ph.D. Student in Sustainable Tourism School of Environmental & Forest Sciences


Frank Hanson

Education and Outreach Facilitator

Olympic Natural Resources Center