Introducing: Freshwater Exploration Series 2018-2019

Hosted by the UW Freshwater Initiative and the UW Simpson Center for Humanities

Are you a graduate student interested in broadening your understanding of the complex freshwater challenges facing society?

Do you want to explore the multi-faceted challenges of dams with students, faculty, and practitioners from a diversity of fields?

Do you want to visit a dam and learn about its fisheries, climate change adaptation, public perception, and more?

What is the Freshwater Exploration Series? 

The Freshwater Exploration Series is a unique interdisciplinary opportunity for graduate students who study freshwater-related topics from all disciplines–across the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, and engineering—to come together and collectively learn about a designated freshwater topic as well as share related perspectives, aims, concerns, and methods of various research fields. We aim to do this through a diverse series of activities (~1 per quarter) on campus and in the field, which also involve faculty, practitioners and the public.

For the 2018-19 school year, the Freshwater Exploration Series theme is “Dams in the Pacific Northwest.” This is the first-ever Freshwater Exploration Series, and we hope it will lead to future series on other intriguing freshwater topics in years to come.

What is the significance of the 2018-19 theme “Dams in the Pacific Northwest”?

Dams in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) provide valuable services such as hydropower generation, flood control, and water storage, which are integral to the region’s social and economic development. However, dams may also negatively impact ecosystems and people. Most notably in the PNW, dams impede migration of native, endangered fish species like salmon and steelhead. This impact on fish has been particularly detrimental to the culture and livelihoods of local Native American populations. In addition, rapid human population growth and climate change, which both place increasing demands on freshwater resources, exacerbate tensions surrounding dams.

How do we manage dams? How do dams impact our natural resources? How do we communicate with stakeholders about these issues? These complex require interdisciplinary collaboration and creativity and provide students an opportunity to explore different perspectives, discover and fill knowledge gaps, and devise holistic and lasting solutions.

What and when are the Freshwater Exploration Series activities for the 2018-19 school year?

Fall Quarter: On Thursday, September 27, we will take a day-long field trip to view the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. We will hear from a Fish Biologist and Climate Change Advisor from Seattle City Light, who owns and operates the Project.

We will also share ~3 key cross-disciplinary papers related to dam for students to optionally read by our Winter Quarter meeting (see below).

Winter Quarter: We will meet (date TBD) to reflect on our Fall field trip experience and discuss student insights and questions on PNW dams. Students who were not able to attend the field trip are welcome to join this discussion (we will provide a summary of the field trip to all). We aim to (1) identify collective questions and knowledge gaps about PNW dam management and perspectives, (2) articulate questions for faculty and/or practitioners in the Spring panel event, and (3) discuss which specific faculty and/or practitioners could potentially address these questions.

Spring Quarter: We will conduct a panel discussion event (date TBD) with student-selected faculty and/or practitioners that is centered on questions and knowledge gaps curated by students. This event will be a highly interactive discussion with encouraged audience participation.

Who can participate in the Freshwater Exploration Series?

We are primarily seeking participation from graduate students who study or have strong interest in freshwater-related topics. We welcome and encourage graduate students from all disciplines–humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, and engineering– to participate so that this may be a truly interdisciplinary event. Graduate students are encouraged, but not required to attend all three activities.

Interested undergraduates and postdocs are welcome to inquire about participating in the Fall and Winter activities, and may be able to join if space is available.

For the Spring Panel event, anyone (undergraduate, graduate, postdoc, faculty, practitioners, and general public) is welcome to attend.

How can participating in the Freshwater Exploration Series help students?

We can think of countless ways the Freshwater Exploration Series may enrich your graduate school experience as well as your professional and personal development. Here are just a few:

  • Expand your horizons and become more T-shaped (that is, deepen knowledge in your own discipline, while and strengthen your ability to communicate across disciplines).
  • Understand your freshwater interests within a broader context, and potentially discover new facets, applications, and questions related your current and future research.
  • Grow and diversify your network of researchers and practitioners.
  • Develop your visionary leadership skills by helping to pioneer the Freshwater Exploration Series and shape future related activities.

Who do I contact with questions and comments?

Contact Claire Beveridge ( with any questions or comments.