Ethnoforestry: Applying and integrating a new model of ecosystem sustainability on campus

Executive Summary:

Over the course of the last year, the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) has piloted the discipline of ethnoforestry on campus, bringing together a wide range of of the UW community, from undergraduates to alumni, and from across majors to enhance sustainability on our campus and showcase a different methodology of ecosystem management and health. Ethnoforestry uses knowledge from local people and applies this to ecosystem management. This project utilizes a new framework that gives equal weight to both community wellbeing and environmental wellbeing to create a more holistic form of ecosystem sustainability. Through a CSF grant for the 2018-19 academic year, we have been able to develop a wide range of projects including creating ethnoforestry garden beds on campus, developing raised beds to grow culturally important plant species, creating a capstone and internship program, and more. Through this effort, we have hosted 9 work parties this year where we have engaged 22 volunteers that have contributed 59 hours to enhance sustainability on our campus. In addition, interns have spent over 120 hours this year learning applied ethnoforestry, enhancing their skill sets, and become leaders in inclusive ecosystem management.

This next CSF grant would allow us to continue to build on our existing projects, create additional opportunities for students, and allow UW to become the leaders in this field. This project would address several of CSF’s key sustainability impact initiatives including living systems and biodiversity, environmental justice, community development, and cultural representation. A key component of this work is its interdisciplinary nature. We will continue to build our relationships with our important UW partners including the Center for Urban Horticulture, UW Grounds, and the Intellectual House.

Next year, we will expand our ethnoforestry garden beds on main campus by adding additional plants to our Paccar/Dempsey Hall site and developing at least one more garden bed in partnership with UW Grounds that will be dedicated to tribes in our region. With this grant, we will be able to wrap up this project and turn over maintenance of the sites to UW Grounds. In addition, we will finish propagating plants in our raised beds and install them on campus or move them to our ONRC nursery.

In addition, this grant will be used to connect with tribal students on campus to determine which plants species they have typically utilized and want to see represented on campus. This will give a space for people to voice their input and ensure each student is incorporated into this project. This grant would be used to fund one graduate student position in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences for one quarter during the academic year (as an RA position) and Summer Quarter 2020 (at an hourly rate). This person will spearhead all projects on campus, oversee intern and capstone students, and continue to develop this discipline. With one more round of CSF funding, we will be able to finish our existing projects, execute new initiatives, and solidify our presence on campus.

Student Involvement:

This project has always been, and will continue to be, a student run initiative that encourages participation from people studying environmental science to business and everything in between. If our expectation is that professionals will incorporate traditional knowledge, the voices and needs of a local community, and sustainability into their careers, then teaching this in an applied way needs to start at the university level. UW is at the forefront of this movement and our goal is to generate opportunities that bring students together to learn, participate, and engage. This will allow for greater collaboration and learning of this model. 

Throughout next year, we will continue to host work parties both on main campus and at the Center for Urban Horticulture where students can participate in one-time volunteer events. Through this, they will hear about the scope of this ethnoforestry work and practice these skills in an applied setting. This could be anything from transplanting seedlings to removing invasive species on our campus to installing or harvesting culturally significant plants. These opportunities have allowed students to take ownership in the project and actively contribute to sustainability on our campus. Each work party we have hosted this year has had at least one brand new volunteer that has never been engaged with this project before. There is a clear interest and need for this work on our campus and we are committed to extending our reach with this new CSF grant.

In addition, we have had outstanding interns and capstone students throughout this year that have played an active role in making this project successful. With this new CSF grant, we would take on one to two interns per quarter during the academic year and up to five interns in Summer Quarter 2020. The Summer Quarter interns will have the unique experience of working at the Olympic Natural Resources Center on applied ethnoforestry projects including working in the upcoming ONRC nursery being installed in the coming months and taking part in an ethnoforestry study on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. This will allow for students to understand how this work could apply in a different setting away from main campus. For students who would like to integrate traditional ecological knowledge and community wellbeing into their future careers, this will be a tremendous opportunity for them. For students interested in hands-on work during the academic year, we will offer capstone projects where students can answer ethnoforestry questions that sparks their interest.

Finally, we will be conducting interviews with any tribal students who would like to participate. Throughout this year, we have been developing ethnoforestry garden beds that will be dedicated to tribes across the region. By talking directly with tribal students, we will receive input on plant species they would like to see representing their tribe or family. These species will be integrated into our planting plans so tribal students would have access to this plant material throughout the year, allowing them to continue traditions they perhaps cannot usually do on campus and to create campus green spaces that is valuing their knowledge and perspective.

We believe that sustainability is more than just restoration or water use reduction or green technology. It is about inspiring students on our campus to become leaders in this sustainability movement. Through our work, we will continue to provide spaces where every UW student feels welcome to join our project.

Education & Outreach:

We have worked hard this year to develop effective ways to promote our events and opportunities. We have partnered with the Society of Ecological Restoration- UW Chapter to highlight upcoming work parties or internship opportunities through their weekly email blasts to their listserv. Additionally, the School of Environmental and Forest Science (SEFS) regularly emails all undergraduate and graduate students about ethnoforestry events. Finally, we have collected email addresses for every person who has participated in a volunteer event and regularly reach out to inform them of any work parties. All of these methods will continue into next year and will help to build our volunteer base. We will work to find at least five more groups or listservs to post our events for next year to reach an even greater number of students. We will also utilize an equity and inclusion toolkit when developing our marketing and outreach material to ensure that it promotes and encourages diversity and equitability.

ONRC has been working on creating a social media presence to increase our reach throughout campus. In the coming months, we will be revamping our Facebook page and establishing an Instagram account. We will use this to promote ethnoforestry updates, work parties, and internship/capstone opportunities. We would like to continue attending events to promote the ethnoforestry project including the CSF Mixers and other sustainability events on campus. This has been a terrific way to reach a wider audience and we see tremendous value in each of these events. We would like to attend at least one new workshop, conference, or mixer next year to reach a wider audience.

Through these efforts, we would like to see an additional 30 new volunteers attend a work party or engage with the project. Based on our current trajectory, we believe that is certainly possible and would bring our total number of volunteers to over 50. This increase will mean that even more students will have an opportunity to learn a wide range of skills they would not otherwise receive at UW. There is no other interdisciplinary program like this on our campus or in the region, creating a very unique and accessible opportunity. Students can have a wide range of involvement based on their interest from attending a one-time volunteer event to having a summer-long internship or anything in between.

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

We fully expect most of these projects to be wrapped up by the end of Summer 2020. With this final round of funding, we hope to build on our current momentum to expand and finish our projects. Our ethnoforestry garden beds will have culturally important plant species installed and future maintenance of the site will be turned over to UW Grounds. By the end of Summer 2020, plants growing in our raised beds will be planted on campus or moved to the ONRC nursery.

We have already received funding from UW’s joint grant program between the Population Health Department and EarthLab that will fund two quarters for one RA position in the 2019-2020 academic year, travel to and from the Olympic Peninsula to visit each coastal tribe, lodging at ONRC, and supplies. This funding will be directly applied to the research components of this project and will help to increase its reach. It will also aid in the longevity of the project by funding permanent research plots and supplies for measurements.

In addition, ONRC has requested funding from the Washington State Legislature and it is currently in the State Senate budget awaiting a signature by Governor Inslee. This funding would go towards a new watershed study on the Olympic Peninsula in collaboration with the WA Department of Natural Resources. A portion of this would go directly towards future ethnoforestry research and projects. Also, the US Forest Service PNW Research Station has allocated funds towards this study with up to five thousand dollars going directly to ethnoforestry field studies. This will help tremendously with future funding of this project, especially as the on-campus projects wrap up at the end of Summer 2020 and the research component on the Olympic Peninsula continues.

Environmental Problem:

In forest and ecosystem management there is often very little value placed on incorporating traditional knowledge and the needs of local communities, both tribal and non-tribal, are often not addressed. In order to have both thriving forests and people, it is crucial that management framework change. Ethnoforestry can be a key solution to this issue by incorporating knowledge by local people. There are numerous plant species that are culturally significant to tribes across the region. Although, many of these plants are declining in abundance in the wild due to overharvesting and forest management strategies that do not promote these plants. Through this project, we have, and will continue to, engage students in this work to create future leaders that can work in an interdisciplinary way to achieve sustainability.

Our ethnoforestry garden beds on campus are a great example of applied ethnoforestry where culturally important plants are installed and can be harvested by the UW community. These species are adding to the health and wellbeing of that environment while also providing plant material for UW students who want to utilize these plants. This showcases the concept of ethnoforestry while also adding to the overall sustainability of our campus.

In order to create a project that is inclusive and representative, we will be interviewing tribal students to learn what plant species they would like to see and use on campus. By building and strengthening these relationships, we can create a project that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

This project will measure success using a variety of metrics. We would like to see at least 30 new volunteers next year attending work parties, interning, or as capstone students. We would like to have at least one to two interns per quarter and five interns during Summer Quarter 2020. Interns during the academic year will each put in 90 hours of work per quarter while summer interns will each put in 200 hours per quarter or 1,000 hours collectively. This is a tremendous amount of time each student will have to learn and practice ethnoforestry. This will certainly set them up to be successful professionals that value inclusion and promote a different framework of ecosystem sustainability that includes both community and environmental wellbeing. We would also like to interview at least 15 tribal students on campus to ensure their voice is being heard and their knowledge is incorporated into our management strategies.

We will expand the number of raised beds used and increase the quantity of plant species grown. This will allow us to grow more plants for both our main campus ethnoforestry garden beds and for our ONRC nursery. We will host at least three workshops at the ONRC nursery during Spring and Summer 2020 to bring together UW students and tribal members for collaborative plant production lessons.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $48,694
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


Ethnoforestry Project Proposed Budget
Item Description Cost
Student Funding
One graduate student position Funding for one graduate student position including an RA position for one quarter and an hourly rate for Summer 2020. This includes salary, tuition, and benefits $34,994
5 undergraduate interns for Summer 2020Interns will be compensated with $200/personper week and 2 internship credits per person$8,056
Travel and Lodging
Travel to/from ONRC 6 trips to/from ONRC for graduate student position including gas and ferries$1,081
Lodging at ONRCLodging for summer (graduate student and five interns)$1,603
Travel to/ from site daily Travel to and from ethnoforestry site each day $560
Plant Production Supplies
Supplies for plant production Supplies include soil, pots, seeds, fertilizer, bleach, filter paper, etc. $1,400
Ethnoforestry garden beds
Plants Purchasing plants for the ethnoforestry gardenbeds on campus$500
Signage Signs for plants installed on campus $500

Non-CSF Sources:

This details grants that we have already secured and funding sources we expect to receive. The total below reflects all values.
Source Amount Status
UW's Population Health/ EarthLab $32,749Received
ONRC Match to UW Population Health/ Earth Lab grant $25,000 Will Match
US Forest Service $5,000Pursuing, but will most likely receive
WA State Legislature TBD Pursuing
Project Completion Total: $62,749


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Additional plantings at our first ethnoforestry site 1 monthEnd of Spring Quarter 2020
Creating a second ethnoforestry bed 3 months End of Summer Quarter 2020
Interviewing tribal students on campus3-6 months End of Summer Quarter 2020
Creating additional raised beds3 months End of Summer Quarter 2020
Hosting up to three workshops at the ONRC nursery 4-5 months End of Summer Quarter 2020

Project Approval Forms: