Research Recap for March 19

Western’s faculty and students are engaged in exciting research across a variety of fields. Periodically, Western Today will share short summaries of the latest developments in scholarship and research at the University. Interested in reading in-depth stories about science and research at Western? Go to Gaia, the university's online journal of research, discovery and scholarship, and subscribe (it's free) to that site by clicking the "Follow" button. Want more research news? Follow @WWUResearch on Twitter.

Emily Borda

Emily Borda, director of Western's Science, Math and Technology Education program (SMATE), is the principal investigator on a new $75,000 one-year NSF Noyce capacity building grant which will start in April. 

The title of the grant is Science Education for Equity in K-6 (SEEK).  This grant will fund an opportunity to build partnerships with local K-6 educators and to assess the current state of Elementary Science Instruction in the region.   With this information the researchers will work to identify problems and areas of need in K-6 science education and use that information to inform a full Noyce Track 3 multi-year proposal to NSF that will focus on solutions to the problems identified. 

The full proposal application will be submitted in August, 2022 after the capacity building grant has ended.  The co-PIs on this grant are Elementary Education's Debi Hanuscin, Biology's Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez and SMATE postdoc Josie MeltonDan Hanley, the SMATE director of STEM Education Research and Development, and Shannon Warren, SMATE director of STEM Faculty Development and K12 Partnerships, will both play key roles in the work. 

Troy Abel

In 2007, Washington State’s Governor and Legislature established the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP). It was tasked with the restoration of our state’s 1,000-square-mile estuarine ecosystem by 2020. While government agencies spent hundreds of millions on research and restoration in the 12 Washington counties bordering the Sound, progress stagnated. This results in part from an interconnected ecosystem divided by an international border and fragmented governance arrangements. Puget Sound Recovery started with research on, and restoration of estuarine ecosystems. But governance beyond ecosystems drives recovery, for the good or the bad. To help continue to move the goals set forth by the partnership forward, Kitsap County has partnered with a Western Washington University research team led by Huxley College of the Environment's Troy Abel to examine solutions for several governance dilemmas such as: (1) restoration policy inconsistency; (2) environmental regulation fragmentation; (3) conflicting legal mandates; (4) land use planning obstacles; and (5) funding complications.

The team will employ Participatory Action Research (PAR) and solutions focused approach for the sound's natural resource governance assessment of Puget Sound recovery. PAR involves research with subjects rather than on them or for them. The team will work to recognize how research functions not only to produce knowledge and educate, but also as a process supporting the mobilization of action. PAR also offers an alternative to the two primary scientific approaches in conservation science. First, a moralist/educational method assumes humans will change their values about natural resources and related behavior once they become aware of the consequences of their, and others’ actions. Second, a technocratic view holds that enlightened scientists can guide politicians to the best policies. The team will hope to learn about and support needed transitions to improve natural resource governance and recovery in the Puget Sound.

Dimitri Dounas-Fraser and Isabel Mills

Assistant Professor of Physics/Astronomy and SMATE faculty member Dimitri Dounas-Fraser, and SMATE Teaching assistant and Masters in Teaching student Isabel Mills, recently co-authored an article for the American Physical Society (APR) Forum on Education (Fed) Spring 2021 newsletter "Incorporating Virtual Panels Into a Physics Course for Future Teachers: One Teaching Team’s Experience."  This article is based on research on our SCED 201 course, Matter and Energy in Physical systems.  See more at



Friday, March 19, 2021 - 9:51am

K-6 science education is the focus of a new grant awarded to SMATE director Emily Borda and a multidisciplinary team from the College of Science and Engineering and the Woodring College of Education.