Submit your Water Photos!

Can’t resist snapping that alpine-lake photo at the end of your hike?  Neither can we.

Mount Rainier Landscape

iPhone full of pictures of students in waders?  Us too.

Graduate student Beka Stiling teaching in a stream


Share your photos with Freshwater Initiative!  We would love to use photos taken by Freshwater Initiative community members on our website. Share your picturesque landscapes (hopefully with a water feature!), field work snaps, and field site photos with us, and we will include them on our website!

Email your photos to

Interdisciplinarity Strengthens UW Freshwater Initiative

At the beginning of November 2018, the University of Washington (UW) Freshwater Initiative hosted its inaugural Freshwater Confluence meeting.  This meeting—the first of its kind at the UW—put scientists from all disciplines, career stages, backgrounds, and specialties in one room.  Two things united this diverse crowd: 1) the University of Washington, and 2) a love of water.

In the world of water research, “confluence” describes the junction of two rivers, especially rivers of approximately equal size.  More generally, “confluence” describes the act or process of merging, coming together, uniting.

Stream confluence

One of the primary objectives of the UW Freshwater Initiative is to promote community interaction and facilitate new and creative applications of freshwater research across alldisciplines.  How better to do this than to physically bring together great water-focused minds on the UW campuses?  A “confluence” of ideas, questions, data, and expertise was in order.

Ecologists, hydrologists, atmospheric scientists, limnologists, fisheries scientists, students, staff, and faculty converged upon the eScience Institute to exchange project ideas, datasets, and feedback about ongoing water research on campus. Over the course of two hours, the conversation meandered from data science to lake metabolism, water purification technology to volcanoes, acid mine drainage to early-career scientist training opportunities.

The room buzzed with excitement.  Graduate students heard about new and upcoming training opportunities for science communication from faculty outside of their own departments.  Engineering faculty exchanged ideas with water quality specialists about a new water purification technology.  Aquatic ecologists conversed with data scientists about the complexity of an inherited dataset.

The Confluence facilitated interdisciplinary conversations, inspired new collaborations, and perhaps most importantly, invigorated a group of freshwater scientists to engage with a more diverse community.  The Confluence reinforced the idea that interdisciplinarity and diversity are the UW Freshwater Initiative’s greatest strengths.

The following interactive map visually demonstrates the diverse interests, foci, and research specialties represented on the UW Freshwater Initiative student and faculty steering committees alone.  From small mountain streams to mighty roaring rivers, from arctic wetlands to tropical lakes, Freshwater Initiative faculty and students work on today’s most pressing freshwater challenges across six different continents.


The map and the fall 2018 Confluence meeting each represent only a subset of Freshwater Initiative community interests.  But each provides an opportunity to learn, interact, and engage with water researchers outside of one’s disciplinary circle.  What will you bring to the next Confluence?

Freshwater Student Leadership Opportunities

Calling all student leaders!

Interested in learning more about Freshwater Initiative student leadership opportunities?  We are recruiting new members to our Student Steering Committee.

Freshwater student steering committee at a mixer event in January 2018.

Our student leadership is the heart of Freshwater Initiative, planning events, organizing training opportunities, and promoting water science on campus.

The following positions are currently available on the Student Steering Committee, but it is not necessary to fill a specific position to become involved!  Graduate students from all backgrounds are welcome. Email to indicate your interest or to learn more!

Grants Coordinator

The Grants Coordinator serves a vital role in identifying funding priorities on behalf of the Student Steering Committee and communicating those priorities to the Freshwater faculty. Responsibilities of the Grants Coordinator include, but are not limited to:

  • Identifying funding needs and priorities within the Student Steering Committee.
  • Communicating those needs and priorities to the Freshwater faculty by way of the “Freshwater Fund Me” email programs, a quarterly email designed to communicate student priorities to faculty, who often see funding opportunities more frequently that students do.
  • Coordinating with the Freshwater Communications Specialist to distribute Freshwater Fund Me emails to an appropriate audience.
  • Be generally aware of small pots of money around the University of Washington that may be useful to the Freshwater Initiative’s activities, goals, or priorities.

Contact Erika Rubenson ( with specific questions regarding this position. Contact to indicate your interest.

WaterHackWeek Student Coordinator

WaterHackWeek is a 5-day collaborative workshop event to be held at the University of Washington in conjunction with the eScience Institute from March 25-29, 2019. Participants will learn about open source technology, models, and data for conducting state-of-the-art freshwater research. Mornings will consist of interactive lectures, and afternoon sessions will involve facilitated exploration of datasets and hands-on software development. Responsibilities of a WaterHackWeek (WHW) Student Coordinator include, but are not limited to:

  • Solicit student feedback and opinions regarding various WHW activities and events.
  • Help plan and organize the WHW closing mixer in collaboration with College of the Environment and College of Engineering staff, including asking students about invited speakers, contacting speakers, advertising and fundraising.
  • Helping to devise and execute an evaluation strategy for WHW impact.
  • Network with interdisciplinary water scientists at the University of Washington.

Contact Lillian McGill ( with specific questions regarding this position. Contact to indicate your interest.

Social Events Coordinator

Social activities provide an opportunity for students from interdisciplinary backgrounds to interact and collaborate in a low-pressure environment.  Responsibilities of a Social Events Coordinator include, but are not limited to:

  • Plan and coordinate ~1 social event (happy hour, networking mixer, pizza dinner, etc.) per quarter for Freshwater Initiative students.
  • Coordinate with Freshwater Communications Specialist to advertise and market the event.
  • Help plan and support other Freshwater student activities.
  • Help plan and perhaps facilitate bi-annual Freshwater Confluence meetings.

Contact Julia Hart ( with specific questions regarding this position. Contact to indicate your interest.

Freshwater Activity Coordinator

Freshwater Activity Coordinators are at the core of the Student Steering Committee, providing input, feedback, and support for a variety of Freshwater student activities. Freshwater Activity Coordinators may “float” between activities, offering support where it is needed.  Responsibilities of an Activity Coordinator include, but are not limited to:

  • Attend and provide input during Freshwater student steering committee meetings
  • Help organize and execute an activity e.g. Freshwater Exploration Series, Social Events, Confluence Meetings, etc.
  • Write and revise Freshwater blog posts
  • Attend Freshwater Confluence meetings

Contact Yifan Cheng ( or Ryan Currier ( with specific questions regarding this position. Contact to indicate your interest.

Save The Date! Freshwater Exploration Series Winter Roundtable

After a fun and insightful Fall field trip to the Skagit River Hydroelectric project, the Freshwater Exploration Series is moving downstream to the next activity in the Series!

Students learn about the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project from atop the dam

What: Freshwater Exploration Series: Student Roundtable on Dams in the PNW

When: Tuesday, February 12, 2019, 5:00-7:00 pm

Where: Communications Building, Room 202

Details:  This event will include (1) lightning talks about how dams are featured in student research, (2) brief discussion of Ho et al. (2017), The future role of dams in the United States of America, and (3) planning for Spring 2019 Panel Event.

Students from ALL disciplines are invited to give ~3 minute lightning talk on how they approach studying dams and their impacts (either directly or indirectly) from their disciplinary lens. Giving a talk is not required to participate.

We will also be identifying questions, issues, and perspectives that we would like to address in a panel event with academic and industry experts, to be held Spring quarter 2019.  Food and drinks will be served.

Contact:  Contact Claire Beveridge with questions,


Anthropocene Film Salon

You’re invited!

The Simpson Center for Humanities and EarthLab are proud to present the Anthropocene Film Salon, a film event-series which seeks to improve understanding across environmental fields of the humanistic, social, biophysical, and artistic dimensions of contemporary environmental challenges. Each quarter, the series will screen an environment-themed film and host a panel discussion, audience Q-and-A, and social gathering. Films are selected to attract and provoke discussion among a diverse audience from a range of disciplines, professional sectors, and local communities.

Anthropocene + Environment + Film

The term “Anthropocene” has different meanings in different disciplines, but its broad use suggests a converging focus on the grand problems of our time, one of which is the environment. We remain siloed, territorial, and comfortable in our own disciplines and discourses are the moment, even though major problems demand our most imaginatively synergistic and interdisciplinary solutions.

By hosting a provocative film followed by a discussion among friends, the Anthropocene Film Salon aims to connect people from the humanities, arts, physical sciences, and social sciences, foster mutual learning, and catalyze new, cross-cutting collaborations to address the unique social-ecological challenges of the Anthropocene.

For more information about this film series, please visit the event website.

Fall Film Event

Fall event poster

Featured Film: Chasing Ice, a film by Jeff Orlowski

When: Wednesday, November 28th, 2018, 5:30-8:00pm

Where: School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, FSH 102

Panelists: Jesse Oak Tayler, Associate Professor of English and Co-director, Anthropocene Research Cluster (Simpson Center for Humanities) & Heidi Roop, Lead Scientist for Science Communication, Climate Impacts Group (EarthLab)

RSVP Today!


Freshwater Students Explore Skagit River Hydroelectric Project

The Freshwater Exploration Series provides an opportunity for students from any discipline to collaboratively explore a water theme through a series of events. During the 2018-2019 academic year, the series will explore “Dams in the Pacific Northwest.” Here, Freshwater Exploration Series leader Claire Beveridge describes the series’ first event: a field trip to the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.

By Claire Beveridge. Photos courtesy of Yifan Cheng and Claire Beveridge.

What did the fish say when he ran into a wall?

Dam jokes were flowing freely as six UW graduate students journeyed to the North Cascades on September 27th, 2018 to visit the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. The field trip was part of the inaugural Freshwater Exploration Series, which will explore the theme “Dams in the Pacific Northwest” during the 2018-2019 academic year. This event series seeks to provide a unique interdisciplinary experience for graduate students from all disciplines to collaboratively explore a freshwater topic as well as share related perspectives, goals, concerns, and methods from their various research fields. The 2018-19 series is funded by the Simpson Center for Humanities as a Graduate Research Cluster.

Our first event, a tour of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, highlighted the benefits of and often unpredictable insights gained from engaging a diversity of academic perspectives. It was also just a fun and beautiful day! Our field trip attendees consisted of three Civil and Environmental Engineering students, each with a specialty in Hydrology (Yifan Cheng, Ryan Currier, and myself, Claire Beveridge) and three Humanities students in the fields of Fine Arts (Abigail Drapkin), Scandinavian Studies (Camille Richey), and Anthropology (Kristen Daley Mosier). Our tour guides from Seattle City Light were Fisheries Biologist Erin Lowery and Climate Change Advisor Ronda Strauch, two UW Graduate School alumnae.

Students learn about the Hydroelectric Project
Students listen about the history of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.

Our day started in a cozy Seattle City Light conference room nested in the beautiful Cascades, where we received an overview of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project history, operations, fish management, and climate change adaptation along with career path insights from our tour guides.

Next, we journeyed to the Diablo Dam and Ross Lake where we got to walk across the dam, take in some epic views and insights on the dam and reservoir maintenance, and enjoy a lakeside lunch filled with lots of time for fascinating Q&A.

Ross Dam
Ross Dam.
Students exploring the dam's infrastructure.
Students exploring the dam’s infrastructure.

Then, we journeyed to Gorge Powerhouse where we learned a bit more about the power operations and the surrounding ecosystem. We were also all stunned to see a plethora of Chinook and Sockeye salmon spawning right in front of us!

Ross Dam and Diablo Lake
Ross Dam and Diablo Lake.
Experts provided insight into dam operations and management.
Experts provided insight into dam operations and management.

Our adventures finished with a couple of quick stops to a river bypass reach and habitat restoration areas.

A stream meanders through restored habitat.
An area of habitat restoration not far from Ross Dam.

I found the trip to be a rewarding experience for multiple reasons. Visiting the project site and standing on top of the dam provided an incomparable opportunity to admire the scale of the Project and how the needs of humans and the environment intersect and impact each other. Spending a day in conversation with two leading scientists on the Project gave a transparent and detailed understanding of the complex engineering required to run this operation.  It takes a diverse teams with varied backgrounds to keep the Project and ecosystems functioning fruitfully.

Group shot of field trip participants and leaders.
Our amazing crew! Clockwise from top left: Abigail Drapkin, Camille Richey, Claire Beveridge, Ryan Currier, Erin Lowery, Ronda Strauch, Kristen Daley Mosier, Yifan Cheng.

My favorite part of the trip, however, was spending a day with seven amazing people fueled by intellectual curiosity and an openness for an adventure and unexpected outcomes. It was fascinating to hear the questions and insights of our three lovely Humanists on the trip. They got me thinking about the history of the dam informs its relationship with society today; the gains and losses of the communities impacted by the dams; the ethical concerns surrounding hydropower dams and other engineering infrastructure; the aesthetics of the landscape; and so much more that most of us scientists or engineers don’t think about in the day-to-day. In addition, even my two fellow hydrologists that dospend most of their days like me (doing things like trying to represent physical processes with equations and the language of computer code) asked questions and shared insights that got me thinking beyond my intellectual boundaries. It is remarkable what we can gain in knowledge and character by stepping outside of ourselves, and spending the time to encounter and appreciate the lenses through which others do their work and see the world.

I’m looking forward to the next parts of our Freshwater Exploration Series on Dams (which will includes a panel discussion in Spring 2019), and hope that others will join us in future activities with the same enthusiasm, openness, and curiosity of our dam field-trippers!

So what did the fish say when he ran into a wall?  


Cybertraining Grant Supports WaterHackWeek at the University of Washington

By Julia Hart

Recent technological advances in sensor and satellite instruments used in water research generate “big data,” high volume datasets that enable researchers to investigate earth systems at larger scales and finer resolutions.  However, massive volumes of data are not readily manipulated or shared publicly. Increasingly, researchers must be well-versed in how to store, access, and process voluminous data, skills that are not taught in domain-specific science curricula.

A new CyberTraining program in the National Science Foundation recently funded a University of Washington-based research team to develop and implement cybertraining opportunities for water researchers. In collaboration with the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), the team will organize a hackweek, provide cyberseminars, and introduce community development opportunities.  Cybertraining will lower the barrier to entry for big data users in water research by providing the skills needed to create new models, explore new datasets, and publish reproducible workflows.

Dr. Christina Bandaragoda, a Senior Research Scientist with University of Washington (UW) Civil and Environmental Engineering and UW Freshwater Initiative, leads this team of experts.

“The biggest challenge here,” says Dr. Bandaragoda, “is to teach data and software skills such that diverse, multi-disciplinary teams can collaborate in a project-based learning environment. We have seen that new ideas and innovations often emerge from the most diverse teams, where everyone is supported in their contributions.”

The team seeks to provide educational opportunities that build data analysis literacy across many disciplines.  For example, complex water research questions require hydrologists, ecologists, information scientists, and human-health researchers to collaborate on data analysis. The team will engage a diverse community of big data practitioners, including students, researchers, government scientists, and industry professionals (all across multiple career stages), to achieve this goal.

First, the researchers will develop curricula for a series of online seminars, which will 1) introduce basic cybertraining concepts and tools, and 2) apply those tools to case studies.  This seminar series, hosted by CUAHSI, will be open to a general audience online, but also videotaped and archived as a cybertraining resource.

The online seminar series will serve as an excellent primer for the researchers’ flagship event: WaterHackWeek, a five-day collaborative workshop to be held at the University of Washington’s eScience Institute in March 2019.  WaterHackWeek will follow the successful “hackweek” model used by the eScience Institute since 2014 (Huppenkothen et al., 2018), as evidenced by previous geo-, neuro-, and oceanhackweeks.  WaterHackWeek participants will learn about modern software tools, models, and cyberinfrastructure from expert-led tutorials, which will include live coding and deep participant engagement.  Afternoon “hack” sessions will provide the opportunity for participants to gain hands-on experience with these tools by applying them to real-world data sets and research questions.

Through these cybertraining events, the researchers hope to establish open and reproducible data science and software practices that enhance interdisciplinary collaboration and increase capacity for addressing complex water science challenges.

For more information about upcoming, online Cybertraining opportunities in hydrologic sciences, please visit the CUAHSI website.

For more information about WaterHackWeek 2019, please visit the WaterHackWeek website.

Apply to participate in WaterHackWeek 2019 by November 26, 2018.

Do you work with big, complicated datasets in water research?  Students and researching working with and publishing open-source software tools are encouraged to contact Nicoleta Cristea to learn more about instructor opportunities at WaterHackWeek 2019.

Scientific Computing Meetup

Are you a freshwater scientist who uses Python? Are you based in the Seattle area? Would you like to meetup with other scientifically-inclined Python users near you?

You’re invited to attend the Puget Sound Programming Python (PuPPy) Scientific Computing meetup! Join other Python/coding enthusiasts for informal, monthly meetings, where the topic of conversation is computing in scientific applications.  Meetups are hosted at Galvanize.

For more information, check out their page on Meetup, including their upcoming speaker lineup and location of the meetup (which changes month to month).

Questions? Get in touch with PuPPy on Slack. Or check out some of their code on the PuPPy Github. Or email Amanda Manaster,

STREAM in the Classroom: Landslides, Floods, and Haikus

By Christina Bandaragoda, with Julia Hart

Emphasis on STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) has been a cornerstone of school curricula for over a decade.  But recently, a couple of extra letters have been creeping into this well-known acronym. Namely, an “A” for Art and an “R” for…well, we’ve got options.

No one denies the benefits of a strong STEM education, but many scientific educators concede that to be successful in any one STEM field, students also require strong foundation in the arts.  Thus, STEM became STEAM. For example, engineers require the ability to think outside the box, to imagine the world as you’d like it to be. Creativity is a job requirement.

Others argue that a student’s ability to Read and wRite are essential to their STEM training.  Advocates of STREAM understand that literacy is an essential part of being a scientist.  Critical thinking and communication are also job requirements in STEM.

I think that one might also argue that the R could stand for Relationships.  Science increasingly trends towards being a “team sport.” Research projects are strengthened by interdisciplinary collaboration, and published papers rarely feature a single author.  The relationships you cultivate as a scientist may help you understand your data with a different perspective, might teach you how to run a model, or even literally pull you out of the mud when you get stuck in a pond.

I recently had the opportunity to develop a STREAM lesson plan about Landslides for a 5th grade classroom, with support from NSF PREEVENTS: Landslides and Floods.  Conceptual understanding of the water cycle, landslide, or estuary flow was built with colorful art work and solidified in memory using poetry, especially Haiku for building cognitive links and positive emotional connections with learning math.  Visualization of spatio-temporal processes across wide geographic ranges, can be understood with small-scale hands on experiments. Once the student can visualize a physical process occurring in front of them and connect to their own experience and skills, the curiosity and inspiration is generally in place to invite them to learn the math and coding languages needed to build a deeper understanding.

Four students proudly display their math equations
Mukilteo School District students Rose, Aphraisja, Abbey, and Morgan hold slides used in the 4th and 5th grade sessions to teach students how scientists use math, engineering, technology, and art to study earth processes like landslides (Photos taken with permission by Christina Bandaragoda, University of Washington).

In one 20 minute session, I was able to convince the students that they understood a complex equation used in landslide prediction – the Factor of Safety Equation (see student photos below, taken with parent permission).

Student's haiku about the origin of landslides
Students wrote haiku following a short, long, short format using key words and concepts introduced during the hands-on activities. (Photo by Christina Bandaragoda, University of Washington).

We wrote Haikus about landslides, requiring the students to synthesize the information they’d absorbed that afternoon into a punch, artistic form of expression.  Genevieve’s haiku gets at the heart of why landslides occur:

Finally, we watched a mini-landslide demonstration on the playground, recreated using a watering can and a Lego house.

Video caption: Experimental models like this demonstration of earth subsidence under a house due to excess saturated soils help students visualize how mathematical concepts such as cohesion, friction, and gravity relate to safety and risk.

At the end of the day, I was so impressed with the ability of each student to retain their newfound information about flooding and landslides.  Finding new and innovative ways to present STEM material, using Art and Relationship building, gives students the best opportunity to become well-rounded scientists.

More information about the STREAM curriculum is available on the UW Program for Climate Change website.

This work was made possible by the National Science Foundation, CBET-1336725 and ICER-1663859, the University of Washington Mountain to Sea Initiative and the University of Washington Freshwater Initiative.

Hackweek Testimony: Network-Building at GeoHackWeek 2018

By Steven Pestana

Steven Pestana is a graduate student in the Mountain Hydrology Research Group in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Steven had the opportunity to participate in GeoHackWeek 2018, where he picked up a couple of helpful tricks and tools that he’s brought back to his graduate research. Here, he describes his hackweek experience.

Attending Geohackweek gave me a valuable introduction to the wide array of open source geospatial tools and software technologies available to researchers today. The week-long series of workshops and tutorials guided us through using python for analyzing geospatial data, leveraging data libraries specific to research goals, and how to follow software best practices for collaborative work and scientific reproducibility.

The team projects provided a chance to practice these new skills and apply them to a research question relevant to our interests. I came to Geohackweek with a dataset and a project in mind.  NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory uses LiDAR to measure snow depth in the Tuolumne River Basin, and I hoped to use this time series data to estimate trends in snowpack with respect to climate and topography. A team of nine Geohackweek participants coalesced around this data set and these science questions. In our project, we explored trends in snowmelt with python and xarray, visualized geospatial data with mapping libraries like folium, and worked collaboratively in parallel with git version control. Applying what we had learned to a relevant research topic was a rewarding learning experience and allowed us to progress beyond the the introductory lessons, testing and trying new things in a creative atmosphere.

Working with Geohackweek participants from other universities, companies, and countries was itself a valuable opportunity. The wide array of disciplines represented – from seismology to ecology to psychology – demonstrated the importance of geospatial data analysis across the sciences. I have already been able to apply the technical skills I’ve learned from my participation in Geohackweek to my own snow hydrology and remote sensing research work. Having formed connections with the participants and instructors, I can now share ideas or seek help from a network of peers and experts. This network-building demonstrates that beyond technical training, Geohackweek can help grow the community of users and developers of open source geospatial tools, which strengthens the sense of community among scientists with these shared interests.

If you’re interested in participating in a similar hackweek style event, consider applying to WaterHackWeek, hosted at the University of Washington’s eScience Institute, March 2019. Apply here by November 26, 2018.