Camas Meadows Monitoring at Burke Museum

Executive Summary:

We propose a 3-year plan to monitor the establishment and growth of the Camas Meadow recently installed as part of the new Burke Museums site development. The purpose of this monitoring is to develop a strategic, long-term management plan to assist UW Grounds in mitigating increased costs for maintenance while ensuring the ecological viability and sustainability of the project. Our proposal is grounded in a collaborative approach to support educational goals, and will work with a committed stakeholder group which includes students, a faculty member (Landscape Architecture), the Burke museum, UW Grounds, wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (Intellectual House), Urban@UW, Oxbow Nursery, and GGN (landscape architecture firm). The project further proposes working with our project partners to develop interpretive strategies and communication plans of the environment as part of the Burke Museum’s mission to educate the public on the natural history of the Salish Sea Region.  As part of this process we propose hosting annual student-led workdays open to the UW community and broader public to be timed with the bloom of the camas plants (April) and harvest of the camas bulbs (June/July).

In a recent survey, it was estimated that in the early stages of Euro-American settlement in the Cascade region there were more than 5,000 acres of prairie habitat of what is today King County.[1]  Though not a dominant ecosystem type within the region the prairies offered critical habitat for many plant, insect and animal species, while further providing resources and nourishment of native communities and peoples. [2] Today, very little of the historical extent of prairies in the region remains, with only a few scattered remnant patches of any significance in size and the plant communities of both have been heavily impacted by the encroachment of invasive grass species. [3] 

The landscape design for the Burke Museum included eighty thousand native plants. Most of these plants were propagated by locally collected seed. For example, much of the camas seed was collected on a small island in the San Juans and the bulbs were nurtured for up to four years in a nursery prior to planting. Establishment and growth of the plants community in the project will be tested against varying management including hand weeding, mowing, and potentially controlled burning. The results of the monitoring research will be compiled into a findings report, that will include a recommended maintenance manual to be shared with UW Grounds, and other land management and design teams interested in understanding how to establish and nourish this rare habitat type. The proposal for three years of monitoring, includes the seasonal employment of five students, the establishment of a long-term management plan, the development and implementation of interpretive strategies, and student-led work days for public education totals $21,720.



[1] Perasso, David (2018) “Prairies in King County?” (Report), Accessed 2.26/2020;

[2] Kruckeberg, Arthur R. (1991) The Natural History of Puget Sound Country. (Seattle: University of Washington Press), pp. 284 – 290.

[3] See Perasso, 2018 and Floberg, J. et al. (2004) “Wilamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin Ecoregional Assessment, Volume One (Report), Prepared for The Nature Conservancy with support from the Nature Conservancy Canada, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Oregon State Natural Heritage Information Center and the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre. Accessed 2.26/2020

Student Involvement:

The Camas Meadows Project will take a hands-on, student-led approach to urban land management research. This initiative will first and foremost help students gain research and field experience by studying an existing project on UW campus at the new Burke Museum. Often, landscape architecture students are taught that once in practice, they have considerable creative control over conceptual and construction plans but rarely get to work on the management and maintenance of a given site once the firm has completed the design. Planting plan documents have detailed instructions around planting written by landscape architecture professionals but how does that ensure that information is implemented, improvised upon and passed on? And how does that go beyond planting instructions and into maintenance, management and care? And how can the management of a given site become an educational opportunity to communicate that site’s ecological and cultural significance to the public at large? How can a given site not only become a sustainability model but stay a sustainability model years after its design and construction? This project provides students with the opportunity to work directly with landscape architects, interpretive specialists, land maintenance professionals to understand the issues, concerns, and opportunities in translating the design of urban camas meadows into established and managed landscapes. While we will build knowledge from the several existing research projects on camas meadows in the region such as Novel Plant Communities and Partnerships: Creative Strategies for Habitat Conservation and Restoration in Western Washington Prairies by the Center of Natural Lands Management and Evaluating the Purpose, Extent, and Ecological Restoration Applications of Indigenous Burning Practices in Southwestern Washington published by UW Press, our proposal is unique in that it is investigating the establishment of this plant community type in an urban condition.

With the support of the Campus Sustainability Fund, this project will employ students to collaborate with a diverse team of project stakeholders, develop research methodologies, conduct field research, synthesize findings and communicate those findings to diverse audiences from academic publications to public information. The students for this project proposal will act as interlocutors to bridge the gaps of communication between seemingly disparate entities (private firms, clients, maintenance services, plant nurseries, students, visitors) with the intention of developing management strategies that reduce UW Grounds’ maintenance workload of the meadow.

This project will employ a total of five (5) students over three (3) years. In year 1 and year 2, two students will be employed, with one as lead researcher. The assistant researcher will then become lead the following year to ensure that knowledge gained from the project continues within the student body network and that the management plan stays active, pertinent and evolving. This also will build stronger relations between partners and stakeholders (UW Landscape Architecture Department, the Burke Museum, wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ [Intellectual House], UW Grounds, Urban@UW, GGN and Oxbow Nursery) to be informed of project progress on a biannual basis and continue in the development of interpretive strategies and management practices.

With the support of the faculty advisor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and other partners, the students’ key roles will be: research best management practices of the camas meadows, perform and monitor said best practices as experiments, design interpretation for the meadows and eventually create the management plan document. A student lead researcher will primarily research best practices and establish methods to conduct experiments. The student lead will work alongside an assistant researcher student by the second or third academic quarter to monitor management plan implementation (mowing regularly or semi-regularly, hand-weeding, flame weeding/controlled burning, seed-saving, bulb harvesting and propagation). The intention is that the student lead will transition out of their position so that the student research aide can take their place after their one year contract is finished. At times, the two student researchers will implement the management practices themselves with the help of fellow students (through landscape architecture courses or wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ [Intellectual House]) and Carlson Center service learning volunteers. There will be programming opportunities for campus-wide volunteer work and education days, especially during April (weeding) and June (harvesting) that coincide with UW annual events like Earth Day and graduation celebrations.

Education & Outreach:

Education and outreach is at the core of our proposal. Our project is intended to help advance the university’s objective to utilize all aspects of its facilities and campus as a learning environment. Working closely with project partners, the Burke Museum and wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (Intellectual House), we will develop interpretive and communication strategies to educate the UW community and public of this rare yet significant and culturally important habitat type. The monitoring  and assessment of management strategies of this site will further integrate with the Burke Museum’s educational mission to provide living knowledge of our environment with the hope to inspire others to explore opportunities that recognize the importance of their surroundings and to potentially offer new and insightful ways to improve and increase our knowledge and interactions of historically important and endemic habitat types and conditions. The research into the establishment and evaluation of distinct management studies will further be disseminated in academic journals and other media outlets such as UW News.

The Camas Meadow is centrally located and adjacent to a primary entrance to campus when the light rail station on NE 43rd St. opens in 2021, and will have high exposure. In many ways, this site will be the first faculty, staff, students, and visitors to see upon entering campus and opportunities for informational outreach will be high. It is our intention to further offer student-led volunteer ‘work days’ on the site to assist with management while educating the public about camas and native meadows as well as the other native landscapes located adjacent to the Burke museum. Initial ideas for public engagement include ‘harvest days’ in June or July during which the camas bulbs will be dug, and during ‘burn days’ during which a portion of the meadow will be burned. These are preliminary ideas, but working closely with UW Grounds, the Burke Museum, and wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (Intellectual House) will identify the most appropriate strategies for interpretation and outreach.

Environmental Impact:
  • Food
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
  • Environmental Justice
  • Cultural Representation
  • Social Justice
Project Longevity:

The Camas Meadows Project's longevity will be a total of 3 years for the management report and plan. The interpretation strategies will extend beyond this 3 year mark. 

The active timeline for the management plan portion of our project is June 2020 - December 2022. 


[June - September]  Research Methods Development, Stakeholder Meeting (2), Field Monitoring, and Student-led Public Workday (1)

[October - December]  Data Analysis


[January - March] Adaptation of Methods, Preparation of Field Season

[April - September]  Stakeholder Meeting (2), Field Monitoring, Interpretive Strategy Development, and Student-led Public Workdays (2) 

[October - December]  Data Analysis and Interpretive Strategy Refinement


[January - March] Adaptation of Methods, Preparation of Field Season

[April - September]  Stakeholder Meeting (2), Field Monitoring, Student-led Public Workdays (2), and Interpretive Strategy Deployment

[October - December] Synthesis of Findings, Preparation of Management Manual and other publications and Project ends.

Environmental Problem:

The Camas Meadow is an integral component of the designed landscape associated with the Burke museum. It was designed and incorporated into the overall site design because of its historical importance in the ecology and culture of the region and its direct association to the mission of the museum. This project offers a great opportunity to more fully understand the potential of this habitat type in the context of a highly urbanized and managed environment. Our proposal for monitoring is intended to provide information for designers, property managers (like the UW), and the public to learn about the ecological and cultural importance of camas meadows for this region and identify cultivation and management strategies to translate their establishment in similar and distinct land use contexts.

Climate change impacts are shifting ecosystems, including urban ones, and it is necessary to adapt to these changes. Camas meadows are unique and endemic to the northwestern region of the United States and are particularly adept to the combination of seasonal fires, drought and occasional flood inundation. For centuries, tribal communities such as the Nez Perce in Oregon have been implementing controlled burns in order to cultivate camas in open clearings as an agroecological practice that imitates naturally occurring seasonal fires. Before chemical weed and pest suppression, fire maintenance was adopted in specific ecosystems of plants that benefited from this regime. Because of this cyclical occurrence, sporadic larger wildfires during drought seasons were significantly less frequent. As climate change continues to bring less snowpack, longer droughts and more wildfires, urban and peri-urban landscapes will continue to experience the effects of it, much in the same ways as their rural and wilder counterparts. 

This project proposal aims to provide ongoing research around the economic implications of native landscapes like camas meadows in urban landscapes. Management and utility costs for designed landscapes can be exponentially high and hardy, native landscapes like the camas meadows may reduce those costs over time once these plants are established. Combined with increasing public and campus-wide participation through educational programming, labor costs around management may be monitored to see if they see a significant drop as well.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

The impacts of this project will be measured primarily in three ways:

Scientific Knowledge / The empirical research conducted through monitoring the establishment and survivability of this habitat type in an urban condition in relation to a variety of management strategies will serve to benefit the establishment of this habitat type in other urban areas and long term management. As a culturally significant landscape type, this impact not only enhances our ecological understanding, it deepens our cultural connection to the landscape.

Educational Outcomes / Most directly, this project will provide five students with the opportunities to work on a project of scientific and design inquiry, to collect, analyze, and synthesize findings, and identify strategies for communicating these findings. Approaches to measure other educational impacts will emerge, and be related to the development and deployment of interpretive strategies for the visitors of the Burke Museum and UW campus.

Financial Savings / A direct impact of this research will be to identify management approaches that streamline the labor necessary to care for this project as it matures. In an effort to identify adaptive pathways to balance ecological health and maintenance cost

Total amount requested from the CSF: $21,720
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


Camas Meadows Project Budget Proposal
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal CostNotes
Student (Hourly)$24.24 (21.2% load rate)715$17,331Student hourly combined with load rate and multiplied by 715 total hours in a 3 year duration. Average student hours per week is between 8-10 hours.
Faculty (Summer Support)$1,239 (23.9% load rate)1$1,239
Field Equipment$2501$250Field-based research equipment
Public Field Days$1506$900Rentals
Interpretive Strategy Development$1,5001$1,500Construction costs
Management Report and Management Plan$5001$500Printing and Publication Fees

Non-CSF Sources:

Camas Meadows In-kind Support
SourceAmount (Hourly)HoursTotal
In-kind (Public volunteers)$18240 $4,320
In-kind (UW Grounds)$4030 $1,200
In-kind (Stakeholders)$6075$4,500
Project Completion Total: $21,720


Camas Meadows Project Timeline
TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Stakeholder Meetings ½ day, 2X annually September 2022
Research Methods Development 2 months (annual review) August 2020
Field Monitoring April to September annually September 2022
Student-led Work Days 1 day, 3X annually September 2022
Interpretation Collaboration (with Burke and Intellectual House) Ongoing, 2020 - 2022 September 2022
Create Management Plan 3 months September 2022
Dissemination of Findings Ongoing, 2020 - 2022 December 2022

Project Approval Forms: