The first year experience provides students with natural and social science skills needed to develop and realize their vision for conservation.

In this first year of our program, scholars spend eight weeks traversing a wide variety of ecological and cultural landscapes among the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest. Our first summer together is an exploration of biodiversity conservation through four fundamental systems:


Connecting urban community gardens, organic farmers, hunters, fishers, industrial food production and “wild” native food and medicine gardens, this theme explores the food-shed and its implications for environmental justice, public health, the conservation of genetic diversity within foods, environmental sustainability and cultural resilience.

From shrinking glaciers to urban sewers, this theme will expose how the protection of watersheds, aquatic habitats and the biodiversity within these systems affects and is affected by water supply and quality. These issues sit at the intersection between water-related ecosystem services, population growth, technology and restoration.

How will we adapt to rising seas, torrential rains and less snow? This theme brings the ultimate global conservation threat into local focus.

From protected wilderness to roof-tops and city parks, this theme explores the ways in which conservation enriches and supports human communities through the biodiversity supported within ecosystems and the ecosystems services provided, and how changes in human behavior can support or adversely impact biological richness.

UrbanGardensChrisDyaami copy
Dyaami D'Orazio and Chris Deleon (year two) analyze urban ecosystem services in a community garden in Seattle's International District. 508DD0010

Year One Schedule

Week 1

Orienting and Nesting – Growing into Conservation

Location: Seattle, Cedar River Watershed

Beginning with an orientation to place via waterways in the greater Seattle area, we will consider the practice of conservation and it’s applications to cities. We will examine the connections between historically altered waterways in Seattle, the displacement of plant and animal communities that ensued and the implications of modern day displacements on environmental and human health.

Week 2

Emerging – Entering New Spaces

Location: Skagit Valley and Bellingham

In our first excursion out of Seattle, we will enter the Skagit Valley area with a first stop at Mukilteo Lighthouse Park- the site of the signing of the Point Elliott Treaty.

Basing out of Padilla Bay the next 4 days, we will explore intertidal diversity and will be introduced to ways culture influences restoration efforts. We will engage with projects that utilize innovative approaches to restoring estuary habitat, protecting communities from flooding and preserving farms while providing better wildlife habitat. Later, we will meet with leaders at the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to learn about Indigenous Health Indicators, a tool which integrates understandings of ecosystem health and social/cultural beliefs—to better evaluate and manage public environmental health risks and impacts. From there, we will make our way from Skagit to Whidbey Island to spend a few days on SkyRoot farm.

Mossy Tree in the North Cascades
©  Wally Wright
Week 3

Surfacing – Feeding our Selves and Environments

Location: North Cascades and Yakima Valley

Our explorations within the Greater North Cascades ecosystem will take us to endangered alpine meadows, retreating glaciers and threatened forest ecosystems. This week focuses on ecological change and adaptive management of these habitats over the temporal scale of decades to thousands of years. Coming down the east side of the mountains, the Moses Coulee Field Station that sits in an oasis of sagebrush steppe embedded in a sea of industrial agriculture, we will explore issues of habitat fragmentation, dams, fire dynamics and water withdrawals within Colville Tribal lands and adjacent communities. We will reflect on impacts on local communities, including undocumented agricultural workers, and the efforts to enhance community sustainability and ecosystem resilience.

Moses Coulee
2014 scholars
Week 4

Migration – Adjusting to New Conditions

Location: Mt. Saint Helens, Pack Forest, and Mount Rainier/Tahoma

The Pack Forest Experimental Station – 4,250 acres from new plantations to mature forest – is less than 30 minutes away from Mt. Rainier National Park – 235,000 acres of wilderness including the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, old growth forests to alpine meadows, and over 1,000 species of flora and fauna. Here we will explore old-growth and working forest ecosystems, documenting patterns and exploring explanations for abundance and diversity. At Mt. St. Helens National Park, only an hour south, we will explore disturbance, succession, and resilience at an active volcano site.

Mount Rainier
Dr. Janneke Hille Ris Lambers leads students back down the trail after completing a survey for the Meadow Watch program. 508DD0480
Week 5

Treading – Applying and Challenging Knowledges

Location: South Puget Sound and Seattle

Our week in Seattle is filled with hands-on explorations of urban conservation and environmental justice. We’ll work on a collaborative project that allows us to dabble in science communication, GIS, and community partnership while getting to know people, policies, and organizations that are transforming the field.

© Daniel Revenel
Week 6

Journeying – Asking Permission to Come Ashore

Location: Olympic Peninsula

Exploring the wild and managed lands and waters of the Olympic Peninsula, we ask how approaches to protecting habitats and ecosystem services differ for a host of stakeholders. On the Quinault Indian Nation we will learn about their cultural and wildlife conservation efforts and visit a forest that provides habitat for cougars, massive trees for ocean-going canoes and incomes and livelihoods for tribal members. At the Elwha River, a landmark restoration project involving removal of two dams to re-establish free-flowing Pacific salmon habitat, we will dive into issues of water management and river restoration.

Duwamish River
The Duwamish River in Seattle.
Week 7

Circling – Reaching Home and Starting Anew

Location: Olympic Peninsula, Olympia, and Seattle

The prairies, oak woodlands, and freshwater systems of the South Puget Sound ecoregion are home to many innovative efforts towards collaborative stewardship of natural resources. From camas prairies to estuaries to the Washington State Capitol, interagency and intergenerational partnerships are working together to uphold and re-create healthy food, ecological and social systems for everyone and everything.

Back to the wider Seattle foodshed, we will dig into how food systems are constructed, and how the local and global markets and policies shape land management practices ultimately impact food security and the conservation of biodiversity. We will take a “food tour” to rural working farms, food distribution and waste management centers, and key sites of urban agriculture. From urban to wildlands conservation approaches, we will explore different projects to learn about policies for public health and climate change prevention in Seattle.

© Joseph Eusebio
Week 8

Reorienting – Becoming a Change Maker

Location: Seattle, University of Washington Campus

In the final week in Seattle, we will synthesize insights and experiences across the wild-urban continuum, present work to friends and family in the annual DDCSP Summit, and finalize individualized career plans for next steps in conservation leadership.