The Keystone Project is an integral part of the Certificate in Environmental Management and a rewarding hands-on experience for students. Projects span the Autumn and Winter quarters and are conducted as the Keystone Projects Course Series (ENVIR 511, ENVIR 512).
Keystone Projects, proposed by community partners to address their specific interests and needs, provide real-world examples of contemporary environmental challenges. Community partners are active participants on the projects, enabling students to make professional connections and contribute directly toward developing solutions to the region’s environmental issues.
Keystone projects are interdisciplinary team projects that consist of:
- 3 to 6 students
- A UW faculty mentor who provides guidance and expertise and contributes substantively to the projects
- Community partners from business, government and private sectors, who provide problem statement, collaboration, and other project support
Read about our Keystone projects:
2015–2016 Project Reports
Pollution Prevention for Specialty Paints
Keystone Partner: Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center
Specialty paints are a sub-set of commercial paints made for performance properties like impact resistance, heat cold resistance and corrosion resistance. Industry feedback suggests that painting businesses find they have to purchase these paints in minimum quantity batches that exceed the amount of paint needed. Businesses report that the ratio of used to unused paint can be as much at 1 to 12, and that the excess product is stored and disposed of as a hazardous waste. The negative impacts of the current supply chain model include disposal costs, expense of the products to consumers, GHG emissions associated with extraction, production and transport, liabilities associated with manufacture and storage of hazardous substances, and human health/environmental risks associated with disposal.
Carbon Footprint: University of Washington Air Travel
Keystone Partner: UW Office of Sustainability
The UW has committed to reducing carbon to 15% below 2005 levels by 2020, and reducing to 36% below 2005 levels by 2035. Air transportation comprises a significant amount of the UW’s carbon footprint, and the impact of professional and athletic travel on the total footprint is not well understood. Possible professional air travel reduction initiatives will need to take into account the UW’s mission as a collaborative research institution, as well as behavioral resistance to reducing travel.
2014–2015 Project Reports
Coping With a Changing Coast: Adaptation Strategies to Protect the Coastal Culture and Environment of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
Client: Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
There is a tribal saying that “Every River Has Its People”. For the Jamestown S’Klallams, the Dungeness River is that ancestral watershed.
The Dungeness River delta shoreline is experiencing the impacts of climate change. Specifically, the flooding and erosion hazards profile is changing due to sea level rise projections for this area.
The objective of this project is to develop an outreach and communications strategy targeting Dungeness River delta shoreline homeowners who are in a unique geographic area that makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise. In response, there is a range of possible adaptation strategies these homeowners could take, and these strategies in turn come with a range of associated consequences.
This work will support efforts by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and others to prevent continued armoring of this low bank shoreline, promote the removal or re-engineering of existing shoreline armor, and to encourage the consideration of structure removal or re-location as an alternative to armoring.
Associated materials for the outreach and communications strategy may include ecological or regulatory frameworks, approaches/strategies for communicating with or reaching parcel-owners, creating visualizations, and/or data communications tools that can be used with homeowners or regulatory agencies (i.e. Clallam County). Additionally, the students may explore incentive strategies that could be utilized to maintain intact shorelines and shoreline processes.
Citizen Science and Emergency Response
Client: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
After large spills and other disasters there is often an outpouring of volunteer interest, generally focused on directly helping with cleanup and recovery, and more recently, with conducting citizen science. This interest is expected to grow as technologies advance and as social media continues to expand and change the way that agencies engage with the public. This project will explore how citizen science can improve emergency response efforts and management.
Recent trends suggest an opportunity exists to leverage citizen science to improve OR&R’s emergency response. However, this growing interest also has the potential to conflict with the response and create coordination challenges. While citizen science may improve the information available to the response, the outpouring of effort and interest may distract the response and sour public expectations unless the responders are prepared to receive and meaningfully incorporate the data and information. The potential of citizen science merits further investigation to ensure its potential is fully realized.
The overarching goals of this project are to identify and prioritize activities of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration that could benefit from citizen science and provide recommendations on effective citizen science management. These goals can be broken up into two key objectives:
- To provide the most current and relevant information on citizen science from the perspective of all involved parties; and
- To compare and contrast different models of citizen science, including but not limited to observations, data collection, and interpretation.
Geoduck Aquaculture in South Puget Sound
Client: Washington State Department of Ecology
Geoducks are a saltwater clam native to the west coast of North America. They live in the mud of the lower intertidal and subtidal zones. Geoduck aquaculture is the practice of farming on tidelands to cultivate large geoduck clams. In Puget Sound, geoduck clams have been cultured commercially since 1996, and there is potential for considerable expansion on privately owned tracts and on public lands managed by the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR).
The issue is complicated by a complex permitting process, limited scientific information to guide decision making, and vocal public opposition to certain aspects of geoduck farming. Specific concerns initially centered on aspects of culture operations that may disturb ecological communities, habitats, and ecosystem processes. In response, the Washington State Legislature passed a law that tasked Washington Sea Grant (WSG) to commission a series of scientific studies, collectively termed the Geoduck Aquaculture Research (GAR) Program to measure and assess possible effects, and created a Shellfish Aquaculture Regulatory Committee (SARC) to address regulatory concerns.
This project will explore geoduck aquaculture in South Puget Sound. The objectives are:
- Situation Assessment: Identify and describe the interests of organizations and individuals related to geoduck aquaculture.
- Policy Analysis: Aquaculture permitting process
- Deliver findings in a format that can be easily incorporated into management and decision making for all stakeholders, including via website, group presentation, and document form in order to increase accessibility.
2013–2014 Project Reports
Emerging Risks Workgroup
Client: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Emerging Risks Workgroup (ERW) analyzed the emerging risks associated with increased production and transport of petroleum products, including changes in transportation patterns in U.S. ports and waterways and their environmental implications. ERW aims to provide topical, useful and thorough research, analysis and recommendations (as appropriate) to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Response and Restoration so they can effectively mitigate and respond to them in order to protect the nation’s coastal environments and communities. The following questions framed our investigation into transportation of crude oil and petroleum products in US waters:
- How might oil transportation patterns in U.S. ports and waterways change?
- What are the environmental risks of new transportation patterns?
- What does this mean for existing spill prevention and response plans?
- Will the federal and state funding be adequate for spill response?
- Are the lessons learned from previous spills still valid?
Regional Open Space Strategy
Client: The Regional Open Space Strategy of Central Puget Sound
As the Puget Sound region continues to experience rapid growth and development, policy makers, developers, advocacy groups and others need a regional strategy to address and balance their disparate set of interests. Central to this strategy is how the region will value, use, and interact with open space, including parks, trails, farmlands, forests, recreation areas, waterways, and green storm water infrastructure, all of which provide essential and valuable benefits and services to all inhabitants of the region.
This project provided the Regional Open Space Strategy with a method for evaluating and communicating ecosystem services in order to prioritize conservation activities in the Puget Sound region. The role of the project team is to use existing methodologies of ecosystem services valuation with data from the Puyallup-White watershed. We then developed a framework for valuating ecosystem services in the Puget Sound region and recommended metrics to address ecosystem service benefits, health and equity outcomes, jobs and economic development, and special considerations, such as linking isolated natural lands and parks or providing a key wildlife corridor need.
Offshore Wind Energy
Client: Washington State Department of Commerce
Washington law calls for the Washington State Department of Commerce to provide guidance in achieving a unified state position on the siting and operation of renewable energy facilities in Washington’s coastal and marine waters. The team focused on developing efficient coordination between state agencies on the development of future Offshore Wind Energy (OWE) projects. The goal of agency coordination is to make the permitting and siting process more efficient for applicants while protecting Washington’s natural resources.
- Conducted background research on OWE and state agencies that have responsibilities associate with OWE
- Interviewed representatives from relevant agencies to determine roles and responsibilities related to OWE
- Identified additional groups involved in the process including federal, local, and tribal governments.
The final report provides a Preliminary Guidance Notebook including:
- An overview of each state agency role and responsibility associated with OWE and the relationships between agencies and federal government, tribes and other stakeholder groups.
- A regulatory matrix listing statutes and ordinances relevant to OWE permitting and the corresponding state agency.
- Recommendations for further research on policies and procedures for Washington State and identification of gaps based on experiences in other locations.
University of Washington Residence Hall Energy Conservation Study
Client: University of Washington Facilities Services
The University of Washington Residence Hall Energy Conservation Study is a subsidiary of the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project. The project’s overarching goals are to integrate renewable energy, increase reliability, and promote energy savings in the Pacific Northwest. The team’s study focused on addressing these goals specifically at the University of Washington (UW), where smart grid integration has already taken effect.
The project is designed to study the effects of small-scale technological and educational energy interventions on students living in UW residence halls. The research focuses on the degree of change in energy consumption and behavior as result of ten-week interventions. The interventions are implemented in two selected residence halls on UW’s Seattle campus.