Student Capstone projects highlight impact beyond borders and across oceans

Program on the Environment’s Spring 2018 Capstone Symposium featured 38 projects that addressed an array of environmental challenges students worked on for 9 months. From greening UW’s sport facilities to assessing water quality, piloting waste management plans and exploring the impact of environmental education, students shared their work with passion and finesse.

The symposium, held twice a year, drew colleagues, faculty advisors and students from across campus as well as parents and community (Capstone) partners. Students excitedly shared tidbits of what they learned on Twitter, under the #POEcap hashtag.

After tallying the evaluations of volunteer judges, Capstone instructor P. Sean McDonald determined the winning presenters, who were honored at the June graduation celebration:

Danielle Bogardus, Best Oral Presentation

E.W.W!! Education, Waste, and Water: A case study in the Las Piedras Region of Peru

Since her freshman year, Danielle has been working with Hoja Nueva, a non-profit founded by fellow alum Samantha Zwicker. For her Capstone Danielle worked to develop a waste management toolkit for the communities within the Madres de Dios region of Peru, as part of an effort to combat the negative impacts of unsustainable landfills on the community’s health and the environment. The toolkit includes waste auditing, water sampling and mentality survey strategies and has resulted in the implementation of improved waste management practices in three communities in the region.

Danielle recently founded her own non-profit, Connect Three, to continue the work she has done in Peru addressing waste management and water quality in developing communities. A pilot project in Ethiopia is already underway. 

Tyler Ung, Honorable Mention Oral Presentation

Raising environmental awareness in a digitized world: The effectiveness of visual art and photography

Tyler worked with the UW Center for Creative Conservation to highlight how visual art and photography can be an effective medium to raise environmental awareness and spur behavior change. He taught himself photography and super-imposed stencils he drew of human impacts on the natural environment, taking inspiration from Seattle, China and India. His science-based art project was part of his research that included the effective use of the art as a new model for sustainability and environmental education.

Tyler believes the integration of art to tell the story of different cultures, histories and environments is a powerful tool for shifting us towards a better future.Tyler’s art project, A Mind’s Meadow: Beauty Beyond Suppression is on display this summer at Axis in Pioneer Square, Seattle.

Summer Cook, Best Poster Presentation

Full circle in the remote tropics: 5 ways to optimize permaculture in unconventional settings

Summer Cook_capstoneSummer also interned with Hoja Nueva for her Capstone and went to Peru to work with the community to develop community-centered permaculture plots in Puerto Nuevo, located on the Piedras River in the Peruvian Amazon. Her case study sought to eliminate dependence on imports and sustain healthy, arable soil, a challenge within the region due to the difficulty growing crops in nutrient-poor soil and resulting insufficient access to adequate nutrition in diets.

Summer tested approaches for developing a community-centered permaculture planting plan. She conducted interviews with community members about current diet and desired fruits and vegetables and identified two potential planting sites, then tested each for macronutrient concentrations and soil fertility/microclimate parameters. She found five main methods to incorporate while designing a permaculture plan in the remote tropics and the plots, when complete, would provide nutrient-rich food for the communities.

Staci McMahon, Honorable Mention Poster Presentation

Predicting the effects of climate change on flatfish distributional shifts into the Chukchi Sea

Staci McMahon with her Capstone posterStaci interned with NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center to crunch some data and get an idea of which fish species would be able to thrive in the Chukchi Sea, a habitat that is changing rapidly due to rising temperatures. Working with resource selection models, Staci’s data results suggest that populations of Pacific halibut and arrowtooth flounder are likely to increase due to rising sea temperatures. The implications of these flatfish species moving northward could potentially transform the food webs and ecology of the Chukchi Sea.