Fall Lecture Series 2019

Join adult lectures and discussions with state and local professionals and community members on the health of our region, along with ways to sustain or enhance it. This series is sponsored by the City of Burien to inform community members about regional watershed issues, stormwater management, stewardship practices and to further appreciate our natural treasures. Speakers represent, and partnerships include, Humanities Washington, Forterra, Earth Corps, Seattle Audubon, The University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs, their Department of Aquatic and Fishery Science, and their Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean with the College of the Environment. 

Please REGISTER to help us plan these engaging presentations and conversations: 

5:30 pm   Reception       6:00 pm   Lectures

9/12   Actions for Ocean Health
We are surrounded by bountiful, but delicate marine systems that make up one global ocean. Delve into the worldwide impacts humans have on them, both negative and positive, and learn how to help local watersheds daily, and through community science projects.

Human Impacts, Multiple Stressors, and Response Options: Jarett Kaplan, PhD
We now know that we can no longer think about the ocean’s health as something separate from those factors that impact the land, the atmosphere, and the Earth’s various, and easily disrupted, ecosystems. We also know the types of human behavior that are resulting in the accelerating, and increasingly irreparable, damage to them… creating a multiple-stressor scenario. In the face of the enormity, and severity, of this developing crisis, it can seem like an overwhelming, or insurmountable, challenge to determine what any individual, or community, can do to have meaningful positive impacts. Dr. Jarett Kaplan, will discuss these themes from a science-informed perspective, providing a fact/evidence-based understanding of how we’ve come to this point and what needs to change to go in a different direction. Jarett is a retired clinical psychologist who is passionate about science, not as a collection of interesting information, but, as the means for investigating and understanding the “natural world” within which all living things, and the physical planet itself, exist. For the past decade, he’s strengthened his long-standing interest in marine science and community engagement through involvement with a variety of environmental education organizations, including the Environmental Science Center. Anthropogenic climate disruption (i.e., climate change) can be viewed as the most severe, and urgent, challenge/crisis that life on Earth has faced, so it is very high on his list of public environmental education priorities.

Small Steps, Big Impacts: Kelly Steffen
Small actions can make big impacts for wide-scale environmental issues. Speaking about marine systems is second nature for Kelly Steffen, regardless of the environment. Before she worked along Puget Sound, she shared marine wonders to the land-locked citizens of Utah as the Director of Education at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. Since 2015, she has served as a naturalist at the Environmental Science Center to help hundreds of students test local water quality, learn about the plants and wildlife that rely on aquatic systems and empower them with ways they can make a difference in their daily lives. Now ESC’s grants and programs coordinator, Kelly has helped incorporate these messages in creative was to a variety of educational programs. She is a sponge for marine studies and will share new local research on carbon sequestration and stormwater impacts of aquatic systems, along with steps you can take daily to improve their health.


9/26    Are Salmon Doomed?
Salmon are an environmental necessity, a vital economic resource, and a cultural symbol in the the Pacific Northwest, but they are in trouble. Explore the past, present, and possible future conditions for salmon in our state, with current accomplishments and critical considerations.

Hatching a Plan to Save a Northwest Icon: Nick Bond, PhD
With warming oceans, environmental degradation, and lowering genetic variability, wild salmon populations are dwindling. Climatologist Nick Bond explores the past, present, and possible future conditions for salmon in our state, and sees room for optimism. He shares lessons on how local communities have accomplished important work to support salmon runs, but also takes a hard look at the realities climate change poses for this regional treasure. Explore the history, science, and story of this cherished Northwest icon. Nick Bond is the Washington State Climatologist, a position created by the State of Washington to serve as a credible and expert source of climate and weather information. He earned a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington, and is now a principal research scientist with the Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean with the College of the Environment. Bond is on the Science Panel for the Puget Sound Partnership, which focuses on the actions needed to recover and sustain the Puget Sound ecosystem.


10/10  Restoring Seahurst Park
Discover the past, present and future restoration efforts within this great community space. Learn about the seawall removal project, the research around the affected plants and animals, and how becoming a Green City will benefit the park!

Restoration Effectiveness and Beach Monitoring at Seahurst Park: Jason Toft & Megan Dethier, PhD
More than 25% of Puget Sound’s natural shoreline is armored by retaining structures (seawalls, bulkheads and revetments) that cause harm to aquatic systems. The 1,800-foot seawall at Seahurst Park was fully removed in 2014 to restore the balance between the land and water and the species within them. Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have conducted studies in the park since before the wall’s installation in the 70’s and will share some current projects and findings.

-Jason Toft is a senior research scientist at the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, focusing on nearshore restoration monitoring and ecological effects of shoreline armoring in Puget Sound. His recent work with Washington Sea Grant has centered around development of the Shoreline Monitoring Toolbox and coordination of the PSEMP Nearshore work group.

-Dr. Megan N. Dethier is a research professor in the Biology Department at UW, in residence at the Friday Harbor Laboratories, where she is currently interim director. She did her undergraduate work at Carleton College in Minnesota, then PhD work at UW. Since ~1978 she has been working on the shoreline ecology of the Pacific Northwest. Her first love is rocky shores, having spent childhood summers on the coast of Maine, but she now also works in mud, gravel, and salt marsh habitats. Her current research efforts involve the linkages between physical features of shoreline habitats and their biota, and the effects of human impacts (such as shoreline armoring) on this linkage. Some of Megan’s greatest pleasure comes from teaching marine biology to undergraduate students, which she has done at the Friday Harbor Labs for over 30 years. She will share information on shoreline studies that have occurred at Seahurst Park before the seawall was installed and after its removal.

Why Urban Forests?: Ali Lakehart
Urban Forests are vital lifelines for urban residents. Their value for wildlife and ecosystem health is widely known but new research is uncovering the public health benefits of urban trees and natural areas. In this session, Forterra Senior Project Manager Ali Lakehart will present some of the findings from Forterra’s soon-to-be published 20-year Urban Forest Stewardship Plan, including information on the health of the forest in Seahurst Park. Originally from the New Orleans Area, Ali has also called mountain ranges from the Blue Ridge to the Chisos to the Absarokas home. A self-described plant nerd, Ali fell in love with the Emerald City’s urban forests and scenic beaches upon arrival in Seattle. She holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management from Western State Colorado University and has served as a National Park Ranger, Restoration Manager, Environmental Educator and Conservation Corps Co-Director. Ali originally came to Forterra as a Master’s student working with the Cedar River Stewardship Project, which helped define her personal passion of engaging urban residents in their own communities. Come learn how there are now Green City Partnerships in SeaTac, Burien & Des Moines to restore and care for our local urban forests and how to take part in them.


10/24  Making Birds & Plants Count
Flora and fauna play a big role in the health of our natural surroundings, but also fuel and inspire us. Learn about their impact on various cultures, how you can take part in community science projects and how you can help them from home!

Cities as Climate Refugia for Birds and Wildlife: Joshua Morris
Over the past century, development has been the primary driver of population decline for most bird species. Climate change now poses an additional threat. One hundred eighty-nine bird species in Washington State are climate threatened – projected to lose more than 50% of suitable habitat by 2080. Ensuring a place for our birds will require us to protect critical habitat. Or perhaps create it. Joshua Morris, Seattle Audubon’s urban conservation manager will discuss how cities have great potential to enhance habitat values and may become refugia for climate threatened species. Urban landscapes are already intensively managed (e.g., controlling invasive species in parks, or watering street trees during periods of prolonged drought) and with some planning, urban habitats can provide stable and abundant resources to wildlife as climate, wildfire, and land-use changes create more unpredictability elsewhere. Seattle Audubon’s Neighborhood Flyways initiative seeks to maintain, enhance, and connect habitat patches across the urban landscape for greater habitat function and to provide food resources for birds throughout the year. It envisions a healthy, growing urban forest that improves the quality of life for all Seattleites – human or otherwise.

Native Plants of the Salish Sea: Eir Cheeka
Come learn some Native plant names in the Native language of this land, Lushootseed. Eir Cheeka will talk about the importance of some of these plants and the importance of being outside and knowing the place where you live. She will share stories and ideas of how she teaches children and adults, of how she was raised and how she raises her kids outside, learning the Native plants and animals of this beautiful place in both English and Lushootseed. Seahurst Park is a special place for her. She recently delivered weekly Native Play and Learns there for the White Center Community Development Association and she has helped ESC incorporate Native learning into a variety of programs and projects, including in the production of plant trail signs that were created by Big Picture Middle School students and are viewed by parkgoers daily.


If You Can Count, You Can Help Birds: Kharli Rose
Birds can inspire and enlighten us, so it’s time to uplift them. They face increasing threats, but you can help by simply counting them. Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Their populations are dynamic and constantly in flux, which can make monitoring them challenging. Community science projects, such as the Great Backyard Bird Count, Audubon Christmas Bird Counts, Project Feeder Watch and eBird submissions provide the “big picture” about what is happening to bird populations. The more data is collected, the more scientists can investigate far-reaching questions about birds, the environment, and our role within theirs. Regardless of your birding skill level, Kharli Rose will share resources and information about upcoming counts and community projects that you can sometimes do from your own home. Kharli spent a decade in the news industry and began birding in the middle of it. This joy soon revealed many natural connections and a desire to share them with others. Working with national estuary programs, county conservation and natural resource departments and local Audubon groups were wonderful conduits. As the community engagement manager at the Environmental Science Center, Kharli is thrilled to fuse environmental stewardship with community involvement, especially in spreading the bird word.


PLEASE REGISTER to help us plan an engaging presentation and conversation!