Letter of Intent
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: 
Letter of Intent: 

Summary of Project

The University of Washington’s Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) is pioneering the new scientific discipline of ethnoforestry that elicits traditional ecological knowledge by local people and incorporates it into the forest management process. Indigenous communities have thousands of years of knowledge on the inner workings of ecosystems and this information can be utilized to make more mindful and inclusive decisions that benefit both ecosystems and local communities. Each tribe has cultural keystone species that are of the utmost importance to their culture. Through ethnoforestry, we will learn how to grow and install these plants back onto the landscape so community members have more access to these species for food, medicine, and more. Ethnoforestry is a new and exciting approach to current land management and will be brought to main campus through this project where students will work on tangible projects that will directly impact rural Washington communities, enhancing sustainability and knowledge across campus and Washington state.


The first part of this project will take place on campus through the 2018-2019 academic year.  

During this time, grant funds will be allocated to fund a research assistant position that will spearhead ethnoforestry projects on campus. Projects will cover the following main topics: UW community engagement, plant propagation and production, and strengthening tribal relationships in partnership with the UW Native Pathways Program.

UW community engagement will include creating a new interdisciplinary class, providing internship opportunities for undergraduate students, and offering volunteer work parties for any student interested in ethnoforestry. At the University of Washington, students who are interested in horticulture, plant production, or ethnobotany on campus have very few opportunities to engage and learn about these topics. None of these options, from classes to field courses to symposiums, offer a hands-on opportunity for students to learn how traditional ecological knowledge can be used to improve applied forestry. We will develop an ethnoforestry course in partnership with the Society for Ecological Restoration-UW (SER-UW) Nursery where students can learn applied ethnoforestry in an interdisciplinary way, bringing together students from a wide range of majors and interests from the College of Built Environment to Anthropology and beyond. In addition, ONRC will host one to two ethnoforestry interns quarterly, providing a more in-depth experience for those interested in the topic. Finally, we will offer volunteer work parties in collaboration with the SER-UW Nursery. For students wanting to take this information into their future careers, this will provide opportunities for them to get hands-on experience.

The research assistant, interns, and volunteers will work on plant propagation and production projects. This will include identifying cultural keystone species important with local coastal tribes and learning best growth practices. In collaboration with the SER-UW Nursery, we will install raised beds at the Center for Urban Horticulture that will be used to grow these species in high volumes. These plants will be used for UW forestry studies as well as on-campus student restoration projects. All components of this will be designed and implemented by UW students, providing a space to learn new and sustainable plant propagation and production methods not currently being done by the SER-UW Nursery.

Finally, we will also focus on strengthening Olympic Peninsula coastal tribal relationships. ONRC has been building relationships with coastal tribes on the Olympic Peninsula for two decades. Through these relationships, it has become clear that many of theses communities are impacted by persistent poverty and a lack of opportunity to pursue higher education. Tribes have indicated that they would like to learn plant propagation techniques to teach their youth important knowledge on cultural use of plants. Once grown, these plants can be installed on reservations where tribal members can harvest and utilize these species for a myriad of uses from basket making to medicine. Part of this project will be to create a sister nursery on the Quileute Indian Reservation. UW students will be able to utilize the ethnoforestry knowledge they learned throughout the year on campus and apply it to teach tribal youth how to propagate and grow these culturally important species. A small hoop house will be constructed to house these plants. Tribal youth will be able to hear from UW students about their pathways to college and their involvement in this project. Interested tribal youth will be able to visit campus to learn how they could become future students, increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus.

The second part of this project will happen over summer quarter of 2019. Three to five undergraduate interns will work on applied ethnoforestry on the Olympic Peninsula. These students will be based out of ONRC in Forks, WA. They will be able to see ethnoforestry in action on a new forestry study on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. These UW students will work with tribal youth to set up an ethnobotanical garden with cultural keystone species at ONRC and work on constructing the new nursery on the Quileute Indian Reservation in concert with their social services Youth Opportunity Program.

Environmental Impact

This project has far reaching environmental impact across campus. First, engaging students from all majors and backgrounds through our volunteer program will help disseminate knowledge on how we can responsibly manage green spaces that incorporates important traditional ecological knowledge and wisdom to benefit both communities and ecosystems together. This new and inclusive approach will create a positive environmental impact from student restoration projects to UW grounds projects. In addition, we will be working in close partnership with the SER-UW Nursery to establish new raised beds to more effectively grow additional plants that can be used for on campus projects. These new raised beds will be designed to use less space, water, and soil, reducing the resources required and enhancing sustainability. This will follow the same philosophy as the SER-UW Nursery’s current mission where plants are grown on campus for campus projects, closing the loop and creating a more sustainable system.

Student Leadership and Involvement

All components of this project will have student leadership and involvement. The research assistant position will be filled by a UW graduate student, providing important leadership to this project. A key aim of this project is to make opportunities available for students to learn about ethnoforestry in a hands-on and tangible way on campus. Volunteer opportunities will be available for all students while quarter long internship opportunities will also be provided for those interested in a more in-depth experience.

Education, Outreach, and Behavior Change

There will be a strong emphasis of education, outreach, and behavior change through this project targeting coastal tribal youth through a guided pathways approach.  Creating an interdisciplinary ethnoforestry course on campus open to all students would greatly increase educational opportunities. In addition, creating consistent internships and volunteer opportunities will teach students how they can help change behavior in the long term by their hands-on connection. We will partner with SER-UW, a club that consistently engages large numbers of interested students, to provide outreach to the UW community.

Feasibility, Accountability, and Sustainability

This ethnoforestry project is very feasible. The framework and beginning stages have already begun for this project including creating partnerships with coastal tribes and with the SER-UW Nursery, generating plant propagation curriculum for a sister nursery, and determining some cultural keystone species. This grant would provide the key funding we need to continue to push this project forward. We strongly believe that providing a space where students can learn about this new discipline of ethnoforestry will create and enhance sustainability on campus, but will also have a ripple effect as students move on into their future endeavors and take this knowledge and new skill set with them.

Project Budget

We are requesting $110,00 for this project. This amount would include funding for one research assistant position for the 2018-19 academic year, supplies for plant propagation and production needs, construction of a sister nursery, transportation to and from ONRC, and lodging for the RA position and interns throughout the summer.

Contact Information

Courtney Bobsin



Bernard Bormann



Frank Hanson


Contact Information
Primary Contact First & Last Name: 
Courtney Bobsin
Full Proposal
This will display after the CSF committee has reviewed and approved your LOI, and after you have received the link to edit your application.
Executive Summary: 

In current forest management practices and education traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous people is not often addressed or acknowledged. Local tribes have thousands of years of collective knowledge about the inner workings of ecosystems, plant growth, and traditional foods and medicines. This important information should be utilized to make more informed decisions about forest management to enhance both ecosystem and community wellbeing and provide a holistic approach to sustainability. As a way to bring traditional knowledge to the forefront of forest management, a new discipline of ethnoforestry has been created and will be implemented on campus through this project.

Ethnoforestry elicits traditional ecological knowledge by local people and incorporates it into the forest management process. Through this work, culturally important plants could be planted in forests where they can be harvested commercially or by tribal members to use, generating new small businesses and jobs in places hit hardest by the reduction in the logging industry. Management would be tailored to benefit the ecosystem as well as the local community. In order for this type of work to be widespread and successful, it is important to start by teaching and generating opportunities for students to learn about this in a hands-on way.

This grant would be used to execute several objectives including the following: plan a brand new interdisciplinary ethnoforestry class on campus, propagate and grow culturally important species, build an internship and volunteer program, strengthen relationships with local tribes, and construct a new nursery at the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC). This project will take place at the Center for Urban Horticulture and at ONRC.

Through this grant, one Research Assistant position will be funded to spearhead the project. The RA would handle logistics, building relationships with local tribes, collaborating with other departments on campus, developing an intern and volunteer program, and more. Through this project, UW students will have a wide range of chances to get involved and learn and apply this knowledge.

In the Summer of 2019, funds from the CSF grant would be used to construct a new nursery at ONRC. This space will bring together both tribal youth and UW students for a collaborative way to share scientific information and traditional ecological knowledge. During this summer, ONRC will offer internships to local tribal youth and UW undergraduate students where they can learn about ethnoforestry, lands management, and plant production.

Through this project, ONRC will collaborate with many different groups both on and off campus. We will strengthen our current relationship with the SER-UW Nursery through the sharing of resources, staff time, and expertise. We will continue to build our relationship with the Quileute tribe and begin to work with their high school science classes to help monitor and grow plants in the ONRC nursery. We will also create brand new partnerships with UW Grounds, the Carlson Center, and other related departments. This project will be an opportunity to break the current mold of restoration and lands management and create a new, more inclusive and interdisciplinary model. 

Total amount requested from the CSF: 
$92 800
This funding request is a: 
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
** Budget uploaded to application
Non-CSF Sources: 
Organization SourceDescription Amount
ONRCIn-kind Donation Donation of facility usage and staff time of ONRC staff members$5-10,000
Project Completion Total: 
$102 800
Sustainability Impact: 
Living Systems and Biodiversity
Sustainability Challenge: 

The boom and bust cycle of the logging industry left many rural Washington communities without jobs and stuck in a cycle of persistent poverty. As a way to generate stable, long term jobs while benefiting the ecosystem, culturally important species can be installed into forests that can provide a source of plants for tribal members and also be harvested and sold as a non-timber forest product. Local tribes have often been neglected and ignored by forest managers and their deep knowledge of the landscape pushed aside. This can be combated by incorporating a new forest management technique and philosophy: ethnoforestry. In this new approach, traditional knowledge by tribes is highlighted and respected as key information to fully understand how we should manage our ecosystems. Through this process, culturally important plants can be grown, planted in forests, and harvested for food, medicine, goods, or commercially to be sold in the local community.

This approach can be scaled up for large ecosystems or scaled down to bring to UW’s campus through this project. This effort will help teach students how this concept can be applied to a real setting. Plants grown on campus will be used for restoring campus green spaces for students to experience the full scope of the project while increasing sustainability. Generating a new ONRC nursery will also provide a space to learn plant propagation and production, connect with local tribes, generate pathways for tribal youth to pursue higher education, and grow ethnoforestry species that can be used both at ONRC and on nearby reservations. Finally, building an ethnoforestry class on campus we be an excellent place for students to learn and practice these skills. The future of sustainability in forest management does not lie in perfecting tree growth and timber harvests. Instead, we believe creating a system that encourages ecosystem wellbeing along with community wellbeing will result in true sustainability. Teaching these concepts to students across campus will foster a new generation of professionals who can bring an inclusive approach to forest and ecosystem management forward.

Explain how the impacts will be measured: 

Impacts will be measured through a mixture of student involvement and projects. We hope to host between six and twelve undergraduate interns next year, two to five tribal youth interns, and at least 15 volunteers per month at work parties. This will allow us to build momentum, provide projects for interested students, and establish partnerships with groups on campus. Creating bare root beds and the ONRC nursery will be impactful and increase the sustainability of the project. Bare root beds will be shared with the SER-UW Nursery to help add to their stock of available plants. It will also be used for on-campus restoration at our future ethnoforestry site. This approach to growing reduces resources and space and teaches students a new skill that is not being done on campus. In addition, creating the nursery will greatly add to the sustainability of the project and increase its impacts. This will be a unique space where both local community members and UW students come together to learn and experience plant production and ethnoforestry.

Education & Outreach: 

Education and outreach will be key components of our project. One of our main goals is to have both formal and informal ways for students to learn approaches to ethnoforestry and how to apply it. Our internship and volunteer programs will generate educational opportunities and student involvement in the project. There is currently no program like this on campus for students to learn about both traditional ecological knowledge and forestry in a holistic fashion.

This project will be publicized by sharing with the SEFS, ESRM, Biology, Anthropology, and College of Built Environment communities as well as with the SER-UW network. As a former SER-UW Nursery Manager that worked on volunteer recruitment, I am very familiar with reaching out to groups on campus and will bring that expertise to this project.

The RA position will be responsible for coordinating all internships and volunteer events. In addition, this position will also be in charge of developing an interdisciplinary ethnoforestry course. After connecting with both undergraduate and graduate students in ESRM and SEFS, it has become clear that students are missing this in their education. This course would work with local tribal members and other departments at UW to create a class that is a mixture of lecture and field experience. This class would take students from seed collection of culturally important species to planting in a formalized setting.

Students will also have the unique opportunity to learn the process of designing and implementing a nursery. This type of learning-by-doing experience is rarely fulfilled by traditional classes but represents tasks that are often required in the post-collegiate life. Growers face many challenges when attempting to propagate and grow species including pests, extreme weather, and irrigation. Students will learn how to design a technologically sophisticated nursery space that is equipped to deal with issues that may arise when producing plants. The ONRC nursery will have overhead and drip irrigation installed and be set to timers to automatically distribute water at set intervals depending on current rainfall conditions and temperatures. In addition, it will have temperature and wind gauges to provide information about current conditions so the nursery can be managed accordingly. These additions will help the nursery run smoothly, reduce the amount of resources needed, and will make tasks that often take many hours and staff to accomplish and automate them. Because the nursery will not have students in it daily to complete these tasks, this system will help the plants thrive.

This nursery will also serve as a hub for local coastal tribes to learn about plant propagation and production. Both the Quileute and Hoh tribes have expressed an interest in growing their own native plants for their reservations and restore local forests with cultural keystone species. This nursery will be a space to bring tribes together for a common goal and learn from one another. Instead of having a separate nursery on each reservation, they can grow plants together at the ONRC nursery. This will hopefully strengthen their relationship with one another and ONRC. Space and tools will be provided at no charge to them. In addition, the RA position will put together propagation protocols for plant species they would like to grow in order to ensure success. In the future, we hope that tribes feel a sense of ownership and will consistently come to the nursery to help with its maintenance and teach their youth about culturally important plants.

Student Involvement: 

This ethnoforestry project will allow students from all majors from Environmental Science and Resource Management to Anthropology to get involved in the process. Creating a project where students from different backgrounds and fields are able to learn together in an inclusive environment will lead to success. In order to achieve this, we will create internship and volunteer opportunities on a regular basis in partnership with the SER-UW Nursery. With both projects supporting one another, we will enhance the amount of volunteer events, interns, and plants produced overall to have a greater impact on campus.

Since the Nursery has an already established volunteer base whose interests may overlap with ethnoforestry, we will partner with them to offer additional opportunities. The Nursery has agreed to work with our interns to provide more opportunities for them to learn about plant production and nursery management in their nursery. This will allow for both the RA and interns to help assist their efforts while also giving interns a more well-rounded internship experience. We will work with the SER-UW communications team to add our ethnoforestry work parties into their weekly mailer to reach more students across campus. Because we already have a strong relationship between groups, we believe that this will help gain a dedicated intern and volunteer base.

We will host one to two interns each quarter during the year and an additional three to five interns over the Summer of 2019. During the year, interns will work on a wide range of projects that will allow them to leave with a diverse skill set in topics ranging from nursery production of ethnobotanical species to restoration. Interns will assist in the creation of new beds designed to grow bare root plants (meaning plants that grow directly in a raised bed instead of a nursery pot). This style of plant growth uses less soil, is more water efficient, and allows for more plants per square foot than growing in pots. This will lower the footprint of the project by reducing resources while teaching a different method of plant growth.

In addition, interns will help with the plant propagation and production of ethnoforestry species. After, they will plan and execute a new restoration site on campus where we will install these species, showing the full process of ethnoforestry while restoring a campus green space. This project will be in partnership with SER-UW and will give us the opportunity to build our relationship with UW Grounds. Finally, interns will also help plan and execute the ONRC nursery.

Over the summer of 2019, interns will be based out of ONRC. During the internship, they will assist in the establishment of the ONRC nursery and learn plant propagation and production techniques in this new space. This will be paired with field work on a new watershed study that incorporates ethnoforestry in the study plan. Students can see the full scope of the mission of ethnoforestry from seed collection to implementation in a scientific study.

During this time, we will also work with the Quileute tribe’s Youth Opportunities Program (YOP) that offers internships for high school tribal students. YOP is a great chance for tribal youth to gain experience and new skills. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of placements for these students. ONRC has established a partnership with YOP to host interns during the Summer of 2019. This will be an excellent chance to teach young people from the Quileute tribe about lands management, restoration, and plant propagation. The high school dropout rate is high on the reservation with a lack of support to help students attend college. This internship will be a way for these students to explore future careers and a pathway to the University of Washington. Jobs on or near the reservation are often in this field, making this a good opportunity for tribal students to earn a degree and return to their home for their career if they choose. In addition, this will allow for the UW undergraduate interns and tribal youth to learn from one another. Tribal students can share their important traditional ecological knowledge and experience, while UW students can provide mentorship and gain leadership skills.

Volunteer opportunities will also be offered on a regular basis on main campus. During this events, volunteers will be able to assist in growing ethnoforestry plants, working on restoration sites, creating new plant beds, and more. Based on the involvement of volunteers through the SER network, we anticipate having 10-15 students participate at each event. In order to reach a wider audience, we will work with ESRM 100 where students must complete a volunteer requirement. In the SER-UW Nursery, this has brought in dozens of additional volunteers throughout the year, allowing more students a chance to learn and be exposed to new techniques like ethnoforestry. We will also partner with the UW Carlson Center for Experiential Learning and Diversity to offer service-learning opportunities. Additionally, we will work with interested capstone students. ESRM students are required to complete a two quarter capstone project in their final year. For those interested in ethnoforestry, this can be one of the only opportunities for them to engage in this topic. Students can work with ONRC and the Nursery to establish a research project focused on this topic. Resources and space could be made available at the Center for Urban Horticulture if students wanted to run a greenhouse experiment.

Students will be able to gain a skill set that allows them to look through a new lens and understand why incorporating traditional ecological knowledge and wisdom is a crucial step in the future of lands management, restoration, and forest ecology.

TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Create bare root beds 2-3 months December 2018
Establish partnerships with other departments on campus 6February 2019
Establish new on-campus restoration site 6-8 monthsApril 2019
Design and construct ONRC nursery 10-12 months July 2019
Grow ethnoforestry plant species 6-12 months August 2019
Create ethnoforestry class 12 months August 2019
Amount Awarded: 
Potential Funding Reductions: 
If funds are reduced, this project would scale back and pick a few key areas to focus on. At a 5% reduction, ONRC would limit the number of plants grown in the first year. We would select a few culturally important target species to focus on. This would reduce the amount of time and resources needed to complete the project. At a 10% reduction, ONRC would select a smaller hoop house kit to purchase and install. This would reduce the number of overall plants that are able to be grown and stored there, but would still allow for a more modest nursery to be constructed. Even at a smaller size, our objectives and deliverables could be met. At a 20% reduction of costs, the ONRC nursery would not be constructed. ONRC would still be able to offer internships to tribal youth, but the emphasis on teaching plant propagation and production would be limited.
Project Longevity: 

ONRC is partnering with other organizations to apply for grant funding to continue this effort. An existing partnership is already established with the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the Nature Conservancy’s Coast Works program in Seattle. Through these, we hope to increase the longevity of the program. As we generate stronger relationships with the Quileute tribe and expand to other coastal tribes, we would like them to get more involved in the running of the ONRC Nursery. This will ensure work is done on a regular basis in the nursery and also create a hub for plant propagation information to be shared. A portion of the RA’s time will be allocated to researching additional revenue sources as well.

Project status: 
Active: Planning phase