SER-UW Whitman Nature Walk: A Pathway Through Restoration

Executive Summary:

The intent of this proposal is to support the University of Washington’s student chapter of The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER-UW) to better achieve our mission of promoting restoration ecology as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and reestablishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture. We are requesting funds to develop interpretive displays, more useable spaces at our on-campus restoration site, and resources to keep pace with our members interest in conducting both restoration projects and community outreach events (e.g. collaborative meetings, seminars, and travel to conferences).

Our restoration site, The Whitman Nature Walk, is located on north campus between Whitman Court NE and the Denny Field IMA tennis courts along the Whitman Walk pedestrian path (Fig 1). The northern section of Whitman Walk  is a small forest tract that has been restored by SER-UW over the past five years and is the nexus of our organizations efforts. This site embodies the mission of SER-UW and the proposed interpretive displays would be located here. SER-UW also participates in restoration activities at other locations across campus, and throughout King and Pierce Counties. We also maintain a native plant nursery at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) and hold outreach events at the UW School for Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). The total amount requested for these projects is $14,712  and would endow these increasingly popular activities.

The environmental problem this project will address is complacency and detachment from natural communities in urban settings. SER-UW has worked diligently since our founding in 2008 to restore a Puget Sound lowland forest community to north campus adjacent to McCarty and Haggett Halls. Funding to develop interpretive displays would be an effective educational tool that would leverage existing work to demonstrate the benefits of restoration ecology. Furthermore, our work along Whitman Walk is adjacent to the much larger, but inaccessible Kincaid Ravine Restoration Project, a CSF funded project to restore a 2.2 acre tract of forest.  The Whitman Nature Walk will act as the interface between the UW campus and Kincaid Ravine upon completion, providing an accessible point to learn about the importance of ecological restoration and a welcoming outdoor community space. The additional funding requested will help SER-UW increase outreach aimed at spreading awareness, recruiting students, and collaborating with other student groups and off-campus organizations.

To monitor the impacts of the proposed work we will maintain records of our membership, total number of volunteer hours, relationships with partnering organizations, and number of outreach events and attendance. To measure effect we will compare these numbers with pre-grant numbers from the 2013-2014 academic year. Because this proposal also funds tools and equipment for restoration we will also set up an annual monitoring program at Whitman Nature Walk to measure changes in plant cover by species.

SER-UW information can be found online at our Facebook page

and website


SER-UW partners with numerous organizations, both on and off campus, to accomplish our restoration goals (Table 1).


Student Involvement:

Student involvement is essential to our work and this project involves students in several different ways. Requested funds for equipment and supplies will enable us recruit larger numbers of students for restoration activities and to provide hands on experience, the interpretive displays will provide opportunities for students to participate in the design and installation, and the outreach events will provide the chance to interact with restoration professional for seminars while opening doors to work with other student groups through collaborative meetings.

Restoration activities such as native plant salvages and work parties bring together dozens of students from the UW community each quarter for direct hands-on interaction on and off campus. Whether they are students from our partnership with the Introduction to Environmental Science (ESRM 100) course or dedicated SER-UW members these events foster a sense of ownership in the project and help SER achieve its mission. There are few opportunities like ours that empower students to take part so directly in molding their campus. Requested funding will allow us to recruit more volunteers by providing needed equipment and supplies.  The same equipment and supplies will also help us act as a resource for other student groups interested in restoration. For example, we are partnering with the Kincaid Ravine restoration project and having tools on hand would greatly help in planning for the first planned work party on February 18th.

The interpretive displays will create opportunities for student involvement in restoration across many disciplines. Already, we have an intern majoring in landscape architecture developing a site plan to outline how and where interpretive displays will be located. We hope to partner with a University of Washington furniture making class to create benches from cherry sourced from the site along Whitman Walk, and work with the art department to develop works that represent the transitions the site has undergone during the restoration process.

The restoration seminars will provide students with the opportunity to reach out and interact with professionals in the field of restoration ecology. Additionally, each seminar will provide the opportunities for larger number of students to learn about and get involved with restoration.

Education & Outreach:

This proposal will utilize several methods to publicize our work to the UW community. SER-UW activities will be advertised widely and made available to all students, signage and web postings will describe our endeavors .

The primary advertisment method for our north campus student woods will be the site itself. It is located in a high traffic area in north campus adjacent to several large dormitories. In its current state, the site is undifferentiated from the surrounding campus. Our organization is currently discussing the installation of UW signage identifying the site. These combined with the proposed interpretive displays would create a high visibility site designed to encourage students to spend time at the site and learn more about our activities and the native vegetation. We will also use other methods to actively promote the restoration of the Whitman Walk landscape including posts on our Facebook page and website, continued use as an outdoor classroom as part of a collaboration with the Introduction to Environmental Science (ESRM 100) course, emails to our 150 members and relevant listserves, and posters.

Restoration Ecology Outreach Events will use similar avenues of active advertising listed for The Whitman Nature Walk. Our organization seeks to be as inclusive as possible and always disseminates event information widely. 

Our educational goals are to inform interested students about the importance of healthy functioning ecosystems to society and the role restoration ecology has in improving measures of ecosystem health including biodiversity and ecological function. In Washington State, many of our cherished ecosystems are degraded. Whether it is declining forest health in the dry coniferous forests of the eastern Cascades, loss of habitat for Puget Sound oak savannas, or fragmentation and establishment of invasive species in the lowland forests of our own backyard, in all cases management actions that fall under the discipline of restoration ecology are necessary to reverse degradation. Developing interpretive signs along The Whitman Nature Walk will showcase the importance of restoration on campus for a large number of students while the proposed restoration outreach events will provide more in depth exposure to this field.

Secondary educational goals of The Whitman Nature Walk interpretive display is to act as a public face for other restoration projects on campus and showcase the value of established natural communities for university planners. UW has several existing or planned restoration projects in addition to our efforts. These include sites between NE Walla Walla Lane and the Ship Canal, adjacent to the Conibear Shellhouse, the Union Bay Natural Area, and a planned project for Kincaid Ravine. These sites are all less accessible to students and our site has the potential to bring attention to these sites and educate students about the extent of restoration work on campus. Whitman Walk is also within the footprint of the North Campus Master Housing Plan Update. This document includes the demolition and remodel of the McCarty and Haggett residence halls. The plan notes the forested nature of the vegetation is part of the character of this section of campus but also notes the vegetation appears “unkept” and “abandoned”. The  natural plant communities of The Whitman Nature Walk and Kincaid Ravine restoration projects will be incorporated into the north campus redesigned as an inviting community space with an educational benefit. This process could provide an educational opportunity in and of itself for university staff by incorporating natural plant communities into the design of large residence halls.

Environmental Impact:
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
Project Longevity:

Environmental Problem:

With the increased global connectivity that has accompanied our modern age, natural ecosystems are losing their ecological authenticity. In the Greater Puget Sound region, several non-native invasive plant species such as Himalayan blackberry and English ivy invade and dominate swaths of land which historically supported a diverse suite of native flora and fauna. In order to combat the negative impacts of invasive species SER-UW has a adopted a two-pronged approach. We hope to practice principles of environmental restoration to return land overrun with invasive species to a natural and healthy state thus encouraging greater biodiversity and providing habitat for native wildlife. We also aim to cultivate community involvement and environmental stewardship through utilizing these projects as opportunities to discuss human-impacted ecosystems and the ways in which we foster sustainable lifestyles.

The Whitman Nature Walk project has long been our outlet for both of these goals. It serves as a place to actively practice principles of restoration ecology and as a classroom for ecological awareness. As our group’s work has progressed, the site has transitioned from an ecologically degraded area on campus to a rare and precious example of a healthy native forest which can serve not only as a beautiful natural space but also an invaluable teaching tool.

Furthermore, we hope to expand our impact through work away from our restoration site through the expansion of our social and educational outreach. A large part of ensuring environmental health is the dissemination of information about the problems that we all face and the ways to mitigate them. We seek funding to expand this communication. Holding events open to the wider university community will have huge benefits and inspire lasting environmental change.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

To measure the impact of our outreach efforts on the UW community we will track SER-UW membership and event attendance statistics and the number of each event type with the goal of increasing all three. SER-UW membership will be tracked under the assumption that greater outreach will spur more students to get involved with restoration ecology and thus these efforts should be detectable. Since there is no requirement of involvement once a student becomes a member our metric for membership will be based on new members. We will compare enrollment rates for the funding period (2014-2015 academic year) with the previous year. Event attendance statistics will also provide another metric of how well our outreach efforts are generating interest in this field. Because the number of events our organization hold fluctuates we will measure total number of attendees per quarter rather than average attendance rates. For example, if we hold more events average attendance may drop but the total number of students involved may increase). We will track the number and type of events to ensure that outreach funds are being used to increase our outreach capacity. We expect the number of restoration events to stay stable but a doubling in outreach events designed to disseminate information (e.g. collaborative meetings, seminars, conference attendance, etc).

To measure our impact on ecological restoration of The Whitman Nature Walk we will set up an ecological monitoring project to track the status of our efforts. Since restoration efforts have been underway for some time monitoring efforts will not provide baseline information however they will enable us to track the progress of native plants and maintenance efforts to keep invasive species from returning to the site. The site is small (~ 0.5 acre), thus we will conduct a complete inventory of trees and shrubs greater than 0.3 meters tall. Common multi-stemmed shrubs such as Indian-plum and California hazelnut will be recorded as individual clusters. For each tree we will record species, height, and diameter at breast height (DBH). For seedlings and saplings less than 4.5 feet tall we will measure basal diameter. For tall shrubs we will record species and height and number of stems for multi-stemmed species. While many of these individuals were present before restoration efforts began this information will allow us to characterize the structure of the overstory and understory. Most tree data can be supplemented with information from the UW’s extensive tree inventory. This data will be collected every five years. Monitoring for the groundcover layer where most of our restoration work has been concentrated will use 10-20 10-meter line transects systematically located across the site to measure cover of each groundcover species (i.e. those not measured as trees or large shrubs). These plots will be measured annually to track cover of native and non-native species. Success will be measured as a <1% cover of nonnative groundcover and upward trending cover, abundance, and evenness of native species in the groundcover layer.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $14,712
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost/ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Restoration Activities
Shovels$20 20$400.00
Pitch fork$30 3$90.00
Metal rake$20 4$80.00
Wheel barrow$70 3$210.00
Potting soil$4 30$120.00
Truck rental$50 4$200.00
Lanscaping cloth$50 4$200.00
Food & Refreshments$80.00 6$480.00
McCarty Interpretive display
Art materials$1,000 1$1,000.00
2' x 3' Interpretive sign (site history)$1,000 1$1,000.00
1' x 1' Interpretive sign (species)$250 8$2,000.00
Crushed stone$300 1$300.00
Railraod ties$20 55$1,100.00
Park benches$400 5$2,000.00
EarthCorps (Project Management)$69.00 6$414.00
EarthCorps (Crew day)$1,179.00 2$2,358.00
Seminars/Outreach Activities
Food & beverages$1606$960.00
Speaker Fee$3006$1,800.00

Non-CSF Sources:

Source/DescriptionAmount RequestedDate RequestedDate Received
Ackerley Learning To Lead Together Scholarship$1,500 12/1/20131/6/2013
Project Completion Total:


TaskTimeframeEstimated Cost
Complete McCarty Path restoration activities3 months$1,780
Design and procure McCarty Path interpretive displays6 months$4,000
Construct paths and install interpretive displays6 months$6,172
Seminars/outreach events6 months$2,760