May 10, 2021 /

Dr. Stephanie Norman on Marine Mammals, Epidemiology, and Environmental Justice

Dr. Stephanie Norman, a veterinarian and wildlife epidemiologist, studies diseases in marine species, ranging from the smallest coral polyps to large predators, like marine mammals. She embraces a “One Health” perspective in her work, where human, environmental, and animal health are inextricably linked. Her recent crowdfunding project on antibiotic resistance in the Salish Sea looked at the intersection of marine environments, aquatic organisms, and human health and wellbeing. 

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May 3, 2021 /

SMEA Students Name Their Favorite BIPOC Scholars

A black woman dressed in black, wearing glasses, and a microphone over her ear is speaking in front of a large theater screen. The picture displayed on the screen is a group of people meeting around a conference room table.

In the last year we’ve seen a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and a growing movement against anti-Asian hate, against the backdrop of mental health, social, economic, and racial issues that were all exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities are organizing to resist the violence of systematic racism, not only pushing for systematic changes in policing but moving beyond that to challenge the very roots of our history and the injustices which our nation was built upon and which continue to impact so many. 

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Apr 26, 2021 /

Cuddle Party! One Grad Student’s Reflection on Her Love for Sea Otters

Sea otters: adorable, fluffy, and their pups lay on their stomachs. Is there anything cuter? I certainly don’t think so! My love for sea otters was a random result of watching Finding Dory, where short clips of sea otters nuzzling while Dory yelled, “Cuddle party!” captured my attention and heart. This relationship remained rooted in an appreciation for their cuteness until my first quarter at UC Davis. 

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Apr 19, 2021 /

Grief in Our Time, and Turning Towards Hope and Action

I distinctly remember the moment last quarter when I felt completely defeated by grief. It was during a week when my coursework had aligned to cover the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the myriad anthropogenic impacts that have depleted whale populations, and the ongoing battle for Tribal nations to have their fishing treaty rights upheld by Washington State. I was toggling between my law book discussing the numerous mortalities of dolphins in the 1960s due to the yellowfin tuna industry, a marine mammal biology textbook reviewing mass cetacean culls, a book reviewing the data that explores the capacity for orcas to experience heartbreak, and a news article on the severity of destroyed salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest. 

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Apr 12, 2021 /

The Hidden Cost of Hydropower

The narrative surrounding our region’s hydroelectric power often includes the words “renewable,” “cheap,” and “green.” And as climate scientists continue to sound the alarm about the climate emergency and the need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the need for green power generation is clearly critical. In such a context, the hydroelectric dam-building craze of the last century seems almost prescient, even if the dams were built before the climate emergency was common knowledge. 

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Apr 5, 2021 /

Should Glitter Go the Way of Microbeads?

Back in the depths of a long forgotten past, by which I mean the early 2010s, little plastic spheres called microbeads were a hugely popular ingredient in skincare and grooming products. Microbeads were commonly used for cleaning and exfoliation because their tiny size and rounded shape (under five millimeters in diameter by law, but usually under a millimeter in practice) made them great for scrubbing. 

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Mar 29, 2021 /

The Environment is Someone’s Home: Matilda Handsley-Davis on the Ethics of Environmental DNA Research

All living things leave traces of their DNA, the genetic instructions they carry, in the places they live. This DNA, called environmental DNA (eDNA), is increasingly used by researchers to understand our present and past. We could collect a bottle of water from Lake Union and detect many of the fish, crabs, and bacteria currently living in the lake that have left their DNA behind. 

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Mar 15, 2021 /

Regenerative Ocean Farming: How Can Polycultures Help Our Coasts?

Job creation, carbon sequestration, nutrient runoff capture, oxygenation, storm surge protection, ecosystem restoration, food security: just a few of the selling points and ecosystem services promised by the champions of regenerative ocean farming. So what is this type of farming, and what’s so special about it?
Regenerative ocean farming (ROF) is a “polyculture farming system [that] grows a mix of seaweeds and shellfish…[and] require[s] zero inputs…while sequestering carbon and rebuilding reef ecosystems.” I first heard the term from a friend in SMEA, and then again in a How to Save a Planet episode focused on the ROF nonprofit GreenWave. 

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Mar 8, 2021 /

Anthropocene Debates: Talks of the Apocalypse and a Way Forward

“The power that humans wield is unlike any other force of nature.” – Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin
According to many scientists and scholars, human activity (i.e. fossil fuel consumption, landscape development, resource extraction) has been so inordinate that it has altered the environment on a global scale. Debates about defining a new epoch continue as scientists discuss the idea that the Earth has entered a new geologic time period. 

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Mar 1, 2021 /

Science Denial in a World of Crises

What can decades of research on climate change denial tell us about fighting COVID-19? The world is currently faced with two crises—one immediate, one existential: a global pandemic and global climate change. Solving both problems will require intensive political action backed by public support, yet both suffer from a vocal minority that actively refute scientific consensus.
Exit polls from the 2020 presidential election show that almost a third of all voters fail to see climate change as a serious problem. 

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Feb 25, 2021 /

Our Responsibility to Indigenous Land Defenders

When you hear a land acknowledgment, or listen to Indigenous scholars like Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer talking about reciprocity with the land, you hopefully might think about responsibility. What is our responsibility to land? To water? To each other? What is our nation’s responsibility to people and ecosystems in other countries, near and far?
In 2016, Laura Zúñiga Cáceres traveled from Honduras to the Democratic National Convention to protest the assassination of her mother Berta Cáceres, founder of COPINH (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. 

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Feb 22, 2021 /

The First All-Woman Research Team to Overwinter in the Arctic

Hearts in the Ice is a citizen science project conducted by the first all-woman team to overwinter in the Arctic, composed of Sunniva Sorby and Hilde Fålun Strøm. Both women are skilled polar explorers, with years of collective experience in the Arctic and Antarctica. Sunniva was part of the first all-woman team to ski to the South Pole at the age of thirty during a multi-month expedition. 

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Feb 18, 2021 /

Giving Land Back is Really the Bottom Line: A Conversation with Dina Gilio-Whitaker

“Any diversity and equity or anti-racist work that doesn’t include an anti-colonial commitment, just perpetuates further erasure.” – Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Due to my interest in the history of the U.S. National Park Service and displacement of Indigenous peoples, last quarter I dug in a bit more and reached out to Dina Gilio-Whitaker, a prominent author and scholar on this topic, and read her book, As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice From Colonization to Standing Rock. 

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Feb 15, 2021 /

How COVID-19 Has Affected the SMEA Experience

The Currents board asked students in SMEA how their research has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and, particularly for first-year students, what their experience has been like starting graduate school in the middle of a pandemic.
 Academic difficulties graduate students have struggled with due to COVID-19—like changing a research topic, curtailing lab or field work, canceling relationship-building opportunities, or reassessing post-graduation plans—all pale in comparison to the personal, often untold toll this pandemic has taken on so many, including those of us in the SMEA community. 

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Feb 11, 2021 /

From STEM to STEAM: An Interview with Isa Kelawili Whalen

Isa Kelawili Whalen is a senior at UW majoring in Anthropology and double minoring in Diversity and Oceania and Pacific Islander Studies (OPIS). She is also an Ocean Nexus Indigenous Ocean Ecologies Fellow, a year-long research fellowship focused on the intersections of sovereignty, wellbeing, and environmental justice among Indigenous coastal communities, especially in the Pacific Northwest. She also coaches soccer and plays on the Guam women’s national team. 

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Feb 8, 2021 /

The Highs and Lows of an Anxious Grad Student Grappling with Eco-anxiety

Trigger warning: This article briefly discusses thoughts of self-harm.
I’ve always been a pretty anxious person, and in a strange way, anxiety has been one of the oldest and most consistent presences in my life. So, when I first learned about climate change thanks to the Disney Channel’s programming, my gut reaction was anxiety. What will happen to me and the future children I wanted to have? 

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Feb 4, 2021 /

Dr. Sherry Pictou on Indigeneity, Feminism, and Resource Extraction

Sherry Pictou is a Mi’kmaw woman, former Chief from L’sɨtkuk (known as Bear River First Nation, Nova Scotia), and former Co-Chair of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples. She is an Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, a member of the IPBES Task Force on Indigenous and Local Knowledge, and a Partnership Grant holder with KAIROS working on a project called: “Building Indigenous-Academic-Not-for-Profit Relations for Mobilizing Research Knowledge on the Gendered Impacts of Resource Extraction in Indigenous Communities in Canada.”
I first heard Sherry speak last fall as part of the UW School for Marine and Environmental Affairs’ (SMEA) Environmental Justice Speaker Series, and was immediately struck by her sincerity and compassion. 

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Feb 1, 2021 /

Lying through Art and Models to Uncover Truth

During college, I spent a summer working in Cape Cod, a headland known for its maritime personality, distinct architectural style, and the second homes of Massachusetts’s “East Egg.” On the weekends I would drive up the narrow cape, sink my toes in the dunes, and watch the sun disappear below the bay’s horizon. One weekend in Provincetown, at the tip of the Cape, I stumbled into a small art store owned by a woman who had lived in Cape Cod her entire life. 

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Jan 25, 2021 /

How a Biden Presidency Could Impact the EPA

“Fear never builds the future, but hope does.” Joe Biden spoke these words as the Democratic nominee in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last year. His words may have been meant to inspire Americans at a time when divisions in the country had been made quite visible. Among many goals, the Biden administration has claimed that it will seek to bring economic relief while combating a deadly pandemic and rebuild the country’s trust in science. 

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Jan 19, 2021 /

Participatory Budgeting for Environmental Justice

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a process in which community members design and vote on projects to receive public funding. It is a tool for social justice and community empowerment that has gained momentum in Seattle following the protests to defend Black lives ignited by the murder of George Floyd. Although PB has been used to fund street improvement and park projects in Seattle since 2017, it is still unfamiliar to Seattle’s general population. 

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