Western Washington University’s Provost Council in November approved the establishment of the University’s new Salish Sea Studies Institute, an interdisciplinary center for collaboration, education, research and community involvement focused on the health of the Salish Sea and its environs – the body of water encompassing the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Today more than 7 million people inhabit the Salish Sea basin. Increasing population and industrialization, climate variability, and other human activities place increasing strain on the Salish Sea’s ecosystem and the health of humans connected to it. The Salish Sea basin and the people who inhabit it have much to share with each other, and the Institute, as an intentionally collaborative effort, will bring these diverse groups together in multiple ways and across boundaries of all types to facilitate this sharing.
The new institute will provide programmatic efforts related to the health of the Salish Sea that cross disciplinary boundaries; provide a mechanism and platform for outreach activities aimed at increasing knowledge of the sea, its many cultures and economies, health and sustainability; facilitate and improve opportunities for external funding of teaching and research on issues related to the sea; and more.
The institute will also serve as the ongoing home for the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, a multinational gathering which assembles scientists, First Nations and tribal government representatives, resource managers, community/business leaders, policy makers, educators and students to present the latest scientific research on the state of the ecosystem, and to guide future actions for protecting and restoring it.
The vision for the Institute has been guided by a steering committee comprised of the deans of Western’s Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Graduate School, and Huxley College of the Environment; the directors of the Center for Canadian – American Studies, the Institute of Environmental Toxicology, and Shannon Point Marine Center; and faculty from Huxley College, the department of Anthropology and Fairhaven College. Input was also solicited from researchers and faculty affiliated with Northwest Indian College, the University of Victoria, and the University of British Columbia as well as from representatives of the Coast Salish Gathering, the Fraser Basin Council, the Puget Sound Partnership and the Sea Doc Society. It is anticipated that all of these entities will be formally or informally affiliated with the Institute.
The institute will be led initially by a leadership team of retired Western faculty member and “Father of the Salish Sea,” Bert Webber; Wayne Landis, director of Western‘s Institute for Environmental Toxicology and a professor of Environmental Science; and Brian Burton, Western’s associate vice president for Academic Affairs.
“We are looking forward to working with groups from all over the Salish Sea on new research and to open new dialogues with partners across the region,” said Burton.
For more information on Western’s new Salish Sea Studies institute, contact Brian Burton at (360) 650-3389.