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December 2, 2019

Freshwater Initiative connects UW water researchers across disciplines

Water-related research flows through many disciplines at UW, from engineering to environmental studies. To meet growing research needs, the Freshwater Initiative was founded in 2014 to bring together water scientists and engineers from various departments across UW.

Students involved in the Freshwater Initiative visited Ross Dam during an exploration series on Pacific Northwest dams.

The Freshwater Initiative aims to promote new and creative applications of freshwater research through collaborations with regional, national and global partners. The initiative also strives to provide educational opportunities for graduate students, allowing them to gain knowledge in not only their own field, but other water-related disciplines.

In 2017, the first student steering committee was formed to guide the Freshwater Initiative to best support students as they develop the research, communication and professional skills needed to be successful in freshwater science. From Civil and Environmental Engineering, several graduate students are involved, as well as nine faculty who serve on the faculty steering committee.

Last year, a quarterly exploration series on Pacific Northwest dams provided an opportunity for students from various disciplines to come together to visit the Skagit River Hydroelectric project, participate in a student research roundtable and attend an expert panel to discuss management strategies and future research needs. During spring break, faculty and staff also collaborated with the e-Science Institute to host the first annual Waterhackweek, a five-day workshop that brought together water researchers from UW and around the country to learn about data science and collaborate on real-world water research projects.

Beginning in fall 2020, graduate students will have additional opportunities to participate in interdisciplinary research through a “Future Rivers” National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program, where they will learn how to develop culturally aware approaches for sustaining food-energy-water systems in freshwater environments.

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