What We Do: Representative Projects

Active Projects

Rivers, Watersheds, Communities Graduate Research Traineeship Program

Rivers provide food and clean water, transportation pathways, energy production, travel corridors for organisms, and cultural and spiritual values for people. Despite their importance, many river systems are highly contaminated with toxics, sediment, nutrients, and metals. It is a global, invisible crisis. With a focus on the Columbia River Basin, students in this program connect to a diversity of communities in watersheds to integrate scientific information, public policy, and local and traditional knowledge towards solutions to this crisis.

WSU Units Involved: CEREO, Engineering, Biology, Environmental Sciences, Sociology and Anthropology
Contact: Jan Boll

Rethinking reservoir management rules for river resilience

This project explores “How, and to what extent, the degree of discretion in management affects biophysical outcomes?”, “How, and to what extent, management-dependent natural system outcomes affect rule setting, exercise of discretion, and decision outcomes?”, and “How social and environmental factors shape the dynamic reciprocal relationship between biophysical outcomes from management decisions and the structure of rules governing them?”. Researchers integrate Columbia River system biogeochemistry and ecology, environmental management, and cost and benefit analysis.

WSU Units Involved: Environmental Sciences, Economics
Contact: John Harrison

Building Drinking Water Security in a Wildfire-Prone Future

Catastrophic wildfire creates threats to safe and reliable drinking water, especially in the Pacific Northwest where fire activity has historically been limited. This USFS-funded project explores factors that influence the relationships between wildfire and drinking water from headwaters to water treatment facilities to help communities prepare and provide safe drinking water in the aftermath of wildfire.

WSU Units Involved: CEREO, Engineering, Environmental Sciences
Contact: Jennifer Adam

Strengthening Research Connections Across the Americas to Build Headwater System Resilience

Pathways is a novel international research for students program with engagement in headwater dependent systems research across the Transect of the Americas (see below). Pathways student participate in a two-week Summer School in collaboration with our hosts at one Transect site, and a 2-4 month research experience with a host mentor at one of the Transect sites. The Pathways Program advances interdisciplinary, institutional, and international understanding of socio-ecological systems and climate change resilience.

WSU Units Involved: CEREO, Engineering, Ecology, International Programs
Contact: Jan Boll

Intermountain West Transformation Network

The Intermountain West is facing multiple pressing challenges related to wildfire, water security, and sustainable agriculture. This NSF-funded project brings together researchers and communities to create science-driven solutions that allow places and landscapes across our region to transform and thrive under changing conditions.

WSU Units involved: MCARE, Engineering, CEREO, Environmental Sciences, CSANR
Contact: Julie Padowski

Developing Decision Support Tools for Wildfire-Impacted Water Utilities

Wildfires create increased erosion and runoff of ash, sediment, and debris flows in rivers that communities use for drinking water. This NASA-funded project supports researchers and utility partners to work together to adapt the FireEarth research modeling framework into a decision support tool that can be used for preparing water utilities for wildfire impacts.

WSU Units Involved: CEREO, Engineering, Environmental Sciences
Contact: Julie Padowski

Recently Completed

Food-Energy-Water Resilience in the Columbia River Basin

In the Columbia River Basin, food, energy, and water issues revolve around the competition for limited surface water resources to sustain irrigated agriculture, hydropower generation, and in-stream flow requirements for endangered fish populations.  This NSF-funded project approaches problems to FEW issues in tour region  through a set of conceptual and biophysical regional models that focus on storage for a more resilient future.  

WSU Units Involved: CEREO, Engineering Environmental Sciences, philosophy,, economics, CSANR
Contact: Jennifer Adam

Headwater Dependent Systems Resilience Across the Transect of the Americas

This research coordination network focuses on the effects of climate change and population dynamics on water storage in headwater-dependent systems and downstream human development along a latitudinal Transect of the Americas from Canada to Chile. Three dominant headwater storage types are: glaciers, seasonal snowpack, and rain-fed systems. The network includes researchers and practitioners capable of integrating new knowledge and communication with the people who can carry the work forward. 

WSU units Involved: Engineering, CEREO, Environmental Sciences, WRC
Contact: Jan Boll

Modeling framework for assessing resilience to wildfire vulnerability

The FireEarth modeling framework leverages collaboration between scientists at the University of Idaho, Washington State University, University of California Merced, and the US Forest Service. FireEarth aims to improve our understanding of wildfire vulnerability across the Pacific Northwest so that communities can build resilience to future wildfires.

WSU units Involved: CEREO, Environmental Sciences, Engineering
Contact: Jennifer Adam

Generating Research Opportunities Workshop (GROW) for Urban Agriculture

Research that spans disciplinary and geographic divides is important for finding sustainable solutions to agricultural and environmental issues. This USDA-funded project supported  integrated Research, Extension, and Education (REE) teams towards developing collaborative proposals that at the intersection of urban agriculture and food systems in, near, or within urban settings.

Contact: Brad Gaolach