Canvasback Lake Fall 2016

Watershed Perspective: July 2017

Welcome to the Freshwater Blog!

We have heard from government and professional leaders from both the State of Washington and our federal government that we need to train a generation of scientists that can join professional teams of experts, get wet in the water, dirty in the data, and understand complex systems of science and human interactions. We have been told that we need a watershed perspective to be successful in our future work, and that a watershed perspective helps contribute to society by integrating multiple disciplines of sciences related to the study of water.

But, what exactly is a ‘watershed perspective’? If you search English language dictionaries for ‘watershed perspective’, this phrase is not yet clearly defined. I propose a few alternate definitions based on systems, education, personal and action-oriented views:  

Watershed perspective (noun):

  1. (Systems) Understanding  boundaries of the complex and interconnected physical and human processes that influence water and water-supported ecosystems throughout a watershed.  
  2. (Education) Using the natural boundaries of the earth system (water flow paths from mountain to sea) to guide the focus of study, rather than traditional political or disciplinary boundaries, which can only see a part of the whole.  
  3. (Personal) The ability to communicate and think critically across a range of temporal and spatial scales while integrating information across scientific, engineering, and human dimensions of freshwater systems.
  4. (Action-Oriented) To build a watershed perspective, gather information through community and collaborative relationship building with scientific, government professionals, and local experts in a watershed, as well as collecting experimental observations that fill gaps in available data.   When an individual or institutional knowledge is advanced, there is a commitment to communicate new perspectives to everyone in the community –  researchers, professionals, and the public – so that everyone can learn and build on available information.

A UW community of students, partners, faculty and staff are working together to understand and investigate the most pressing water-related environmental concerns of our time from all aspects of a watershed perspective. In the years since the Freshwater (2014) and Mountain to Sea (2016) initiatives, faculty have been hired, many proposals have been submitted (and funded!), papers have been written, and students have been educated and mentored.  Additionally, beneath the surface of our academic progress, we are developing collaborations that extend beyond traditional scientific partnerships. We aim to develop a process for building knowledge that is adaptable to an unknown future.  We share a desire to activate curiosity in everyone who wants to participate in our research community.

In our upcoming blogs, students, partners and researchers will be sharing their watershed perspectives as they actively participate in expanding their knowledge and information networks, and build understanding on how education, public decisions, and environmental impacts are integrated in freshwater systems. This blog is dedicated to communicating the freshwater science we understand, and the adventures we have on our journey to expand our collective understanding.   

If you have a watershed perspective to share, please contact Christina Bandaragoda ( to contribute to the Freshwater Blog.

About the Author:

Christina Bandaragoda is a Senior Research Scientist in the Watershed Dynamics Group of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Washington.  She specializes in numerical modeling and model coupling at the watershed scale. Her favorite watershed is the Nooksack River Basin.