Cross-Cultural Collaboration at the Burke Meadow: Maintenance, Management and Education for a Living Exhibit.

Executive Summary:

The Burke Meadow is located adjacent to the Burke Museum and the primary campus entrance from the University District light rail station from NE 43rd St. The ~10,000 s.f. meadow is planted with a diverse mix of prairie plants native to the region, many of which are important food and medicinal species relevant to indigenous cultural needs and practices. Since 2020, an interdisciplinary team of faculty, staff, and students have collaborated on developing and implementing plans to monitor and manage this unique habitat in an urban area to support the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture mission to "care for and share natural and cultural collections so all people can learn, be inspired, generate knowledge, feel joy, and heal."

More specifically, the team works together to coordinate volunteer work parties and public events, study plant community changes, and communicate the importance of the meadow as a living exhibit on campus. The work has been supported, financially and through in-kind donations, by the Campus Sustainability Fund, the Burke Museum, UW Grounds, Urban@UW, and the Departments of Biology and Landscape Architecture with advice and contributions from external partners including members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center, and the design firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.

This proposal seeks the opportunity to extend this work for an additional year beyond our initial three-year agreement with CSF to support student employment, materials and supplies, and event coordination. The team is requesting $28,240.

Student Involvement:

Financial support from the CSF and other sources (Urban@UW, Burke Museum, and Department of Landscape Architecture) over the past three years has continually supported 1 - 3 undergraduate and/or graduate students on partial graduate appointments (0.2 FTE) or hourly undergraduate positions. This proposal requests funding for one partial graduate appointment (0.2 FTE) for 12 months, June 2023 - May 2024.

The student will work in collaboration with the full team on the project, but coordinate directly with an undergraduate student recently hired by the Burke Museum to support all activities related to the meadow. These responsibilities include monthly data collection and entry, coordination of volunteer and formal events, educational and docent opportunities, and internal/external communications.

Education & Outreach:

Formal and informal activities to promote education on regional nature and society relations are at the core of this project. This deeply collaborative work engages practices and perspectives from indigenous knowledge, eco-feminist perspectives, and Western science methods. It requires a strong commitment from all partners with a focus on building and extending relationships and trust. The strength of this work is not in its outcomes, which are substantial, but in the ways in which the team works together to support the meadow and community.

External project communications can be found on the Burke Museum website and Instagram as examples. All team members - students, faculty and staff - regularly provide tours of the meadow to UW classes and the public. Last year, a student employed with the project presented the team’s collaboration to those gathered for the annual celebration of the meadow. This year, all students will be participating in the annual activities providing tours of the meadow.

One educational example of the collaboration was the recent design workshop hosted by the Burke Museum and the Department of Landscape Architecture. In an effort to control browse in the meadow the team came up with an idea for ‘weaving’ fences to deter the eastern cottontail rabbits who are frequent visitors to the meadow and who feast on the new shoots of the young plants such as camas. The team worked with UW Grounds to gather dogwood ‘whips’ (new growth) from around campus and invited a Yakama tribal elder and Master weaver to join with a group of interdisciplinary students from American Indian Studies, Anthropology, Archaeology, and Landscape Architecture among others to design and install fences that protected three areas in the meadow which were heavily planted with camas last fall. During the process, the student discussions moved away from the work of building fences to exclude the rabbits to building baskets that hold their food. For us, this was a breakthrough moment in our learning activities, and all drew much from the experience. The baskets are currently installed in the meadow and will be there through camas bloom in late June with the team coordinating efforts to expand on this work next year.

Lastly, members of the team have presented this work at professional conferences (Community of Educators in Landscape Architecture) and the team has been invited to publish their work in the journal Ecological Restoration as part of their Restoration Notes series which highlights new and innovative strategies to promote ecological restoration and management activities. These are great opportunities to extend our approach and learning for others.

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

For this proposal we are seeking 12 months (June 2023 - May 2024) of funding to support the partial appointment of one graduate student, materials and supplies, and event coordination. The funding will serve to help bridge the gap while we continue to seek longer term options for funding. To date, the project has been financially supported by CSF as well as the Burke Museum, Urban@UW, and the Department of Landscape Architecture. Current efforts to secure longer term funding include opportunities to engage in a Mellon grant through the University of Washington and other sources, but none have been secured at this time and it is necessary to maintain continuous support for the project.

Environmental Problem:

The Burke Meadow is a living exhibit with the Burke Museum, and essential to the mission of the museum to “care for and share natural and cultural collections so all people can learn, be inspired, generate knowledge, feel joy, and heal.” It was designed and incorporated into the overall site design of the museum’s new campus because of the historical and contemporary importance of meadow habitats in the region as locations of direct intersection between nature and culture.  This project offers great opportunities to more fully understand the potential of this habitat type in the context of a highly urbanized and managed environment.

Our proposal for maintenance, communication and 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 regional meadows for this region and identify cultural practices 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. Lowland meadow habitats 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 have actively managed these environments to support environmental health and, in turn, cultivation of culturally significant food and medicinal plants. Our collaboration seeks to integrate this knowledge base with methods from Western science while incorporating eco-feminist perspective on building natural and cultural relations through active engagement and formal and informal activities that support education.

This project proposal also aims to provide ongoing research around the economic resilience of culturally significant landscapes such as meadows within 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 are monitored.

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 serves 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 provides students, faculty, and staff engage in a culturally-relevant collaboration to learn about the ecology of meadows, their cultural significance, and how to work across disciplinary limitations to knowing and understanding. Approaches to measure educational impacts include, but are not limited to formal and informal activities that promote student and public knowledge.

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 costs, labor hours (paid and volunteered) will be tracked and compared against estimates for the care and maintenance of more familiar campus landscape types.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $28,240
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Grad Student17681221216

Non-CSF Sources:

SourceFunding forAmountType
UWLA/ BurkeVounteer Labor200+ hoursin-kind
Mellon Foundation / BurkeGrant~$10,000applied / not yet received
Project Completion Total: $28,240


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Monitoring12 monthsMay 2024
Maintenance12 months (every 2 months)May 2024
Work parties12 months (every 3 months)May 2024
Public events12 months (2x/year)May 2024