Social science

Find content related to subjects within the social and economic sciences, such as population dynamics, quality of life, fisheries, culture and history of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea ecosystems.


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Finding common ground in a world of environmental change

A 2017 course at the UW Jackson School of International Studies examined how to create alliances between the Tulalip Tribes and non-tribal millennials through improved intercultural communication. The students in the course produced a multi-media story describing their experiences. 


A comparative study of human well-being indicators across three Puget Sound regions

A 2016 paper in the journal Society and Natural Resources looks at the creation of human well-being indicators across three regions in the Puget Sound watershed. The author suggests that overarching domains for these indictors might be applied more broadly in other environmental contexts. 

Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines (MSDG) report cover

State guidelines offer new approaches to shoreline protection

Bulkhead removal is becoming an attractive option for many shoreline property owners as awareness spreads of their geological and ecological impacts, and as aging bulkheads come up for replacement. New state guidelines provide alternatives to hard armor.

Chart: Local shoreline changes in King County (2012-13). Source: King County, 2014

Studies point to gap in permits for shoreline armoring

A significant number of Puget Sound property owners have been altering their shorelines without required permits. A new report suggests that state and local regulators should increase enforcement and make penalties more costly for violators.

Pat Collier walking along the restored beach in front of her Maury Island home. Photo: Christopher Dunagan/PSI

Shoreline restoration turns to private property owners

By removing bulkheads where they can, property owners are improving shoreline habitat, one piece at a time. Officials from county and nonprofit groups have been offering assistance and finding new ways to connect with property owners.

A graph shows an increase in published papers related to anthropogenic noise

Impacts of anthropogenic noise on marine life: Publication patterns, new discoveries, and future directions in research and management

A 2015 review in Ocean & Coastal Management looks at trends in research related to anthropogenic noise and its affect on a wide variety of marine organisms, from whales and fish to invertebrates. The review includes case studies from the Salish Sea. 

Salmon fishing at Fauntleroy. Photo: Washington State Dept of Transportation (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Human dimensions

This content initiates a description of the social dimensions of the Puget Sound system with a short list of facts about population growth trends, how humans interact with and depend on the Puget Sound ecosystem for their wellbeing (in the broadest sense), and the large-scale policies and individual human activities that have the greatest potential impact on the Puget Sound ecosystem. 

Fig 1. The six projects assessed are located on both sides of the Canadian / United States border, which bisects the Salish Sea and its watershed.

Evaluating threats in multinational marine ecosystems: A Coast Salish first nations and tribal perspective

A 2015 paper in the journal PLoS ONE identifies ongoing and proposed energy-related development projects that will increase marine vessel traffic in the Salish Sea. It evaluates the threats each project poses to natural resources important to Coast Salish first nations and tribes.

Visual representation of Human Wellbeing domains for marine policy.

A holistic framework for identifying human wellbeing indicators for marine policy

A 2015 paper in the journal Marine Policy identifies six domains of human wellbeing related to the natural environment. The domains were developed based on case studies in Washington's Hood Canal and Olympic Coast regions.

Report cover for State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound

State of Knowledge: Climate Change in Puget Sound

A 2015 report from the University of Washington provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the expected impacts of climate change on the Puget Sound region.

A social norm curve showing desirability of seven development scenarios (and associated changes in eelgrass) on a Likert scale from –2 (completely unacceptable) to +2, (optimal state). The line depicts the average desirability of each scenario; the colors show the frequency distribution of responses to each scenario. (From Fig. 4 in the article.)

Developing conservation targets in social-ecological systems

A 2015 paper in the journal Ecology and Society looks at interdisciplinary approaches to developing conservation targets in Puget Sound. 


Evaluating sense of place as a domain of human well-being for Puget Sound restoration

This report communicates findings of a social science study conducted between July 2013 and December 2014 on a focal domain of human well-being: sense of place.

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book report cover

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book

The 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Areas of focus include climate change, geography, water quality, habitats, human dimensions and regional species. The fact book was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership.

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The Values of Place: Recreation and Cultural Ecosystem Services in Puget Sound

Coastal recreation, tourism, and ethical or existence values are among the most important ecosystem service (ES) benefits identified by Puget Sound stakeholders (Iceland et al, 2008). The ecosystem services (ES) concept has become the leading framework to understand and communicate the human dimensions of environmental change. This report focuses on economic, social and cultural values inextricably linked to ES benefits in the context of ongoing efforts to restore and protect the Sound.


Tribes of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea regions

The following list includes Native American tribes and First Nations of the Salish Sea region.

2014 state of salmon in watersheds report cover

2014 state of salmon in watersheds executive summary

This report documents how Washingtonians have responded to the challenges of protecting and restoring salmon and steelhead to healthy status. It also serves as a tool to summarize achievements, track salmon recovery progress through common indicators, and identify data gaps that need to be filled.


Human dimensions of Puget Sound and Washington Coast ecosystem-based management

A workshop report prepared for the Puget Sound Institute and Washington Sea Grant

2012 State of Salmon in Watersheds Executive Summary report cover

2012 state of salmon in watersheds executive summary

Salmon recovery demands both dedication among people with different interests, and sustained resources. This biennial report tells the story of the progress made to date and the challenges ahead.

Sound Science 2007 report cover image

Sound Science 2007

Sound Science: Synthesizing Ecological and Socio-economic Information about the Puget Sound Ecosystem summarizes what we know about the greater Puget Sound ecosystem and what we think could happen in the future given present trajectories and trends.

1998 Puget Sound Update report cover page

1998 Puget Sound Update

This is the sixth Puget Sound Update, a report for residents of the region about the overall health of Puget Sound. The conclusions in the Update are based mainly on scientific results of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP).

Ecology’s core river and stream monitoring stations in the Puget Sound basin. (page 18)

2000 Puget Sound Update

This seventh Puget Sound Update is based primarily on the findings of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP). The PSAMP is a long-term effort to investigate environmental trends, improve decision-making and prevent overlaps and duplication in monitoring efforts. The results of the PSAMP are supplemented by the findings of many other efforts to evaluate the condition of Puget Sound’s waters, sediments, nearshore habitats and biological resources.

2002 Puget Sound Update report cover page

2002 Puget Sound Update

This Puget Sound Update is the eighth report of the Puget Sound Ambient Monitoring Program (PSAMP) since the program was initiated in 1988 by the State of Washington.

Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines report cover

Marine shoreline design guidelines

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has published a comprehensive set of guidelines for managing shoreline development such as bulkheads and seawalls.

Fisherman cleaning and filleting a fish. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Subsistence fishing in a 21st century capitalist society: From commodity to gift

A 2015 paper in the journal Ecological Economics evaluated “personal use” and subsistence use of seafood among commercial operators in Washington and California, as well as the extent, range, and species diversity of noncommercial wild ocean seafood subsistence harvests. 

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2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

The 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference took place April 30-May 2 at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. Over 1200 delegates attended the conference.

Yelloweye rockfish. Photo by Brian Gratwicke; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

Using stakeholder engagement to inform endangered species management and improve conservation

A 2015 paper in the journal Marine Policy examines surveys of Puget Sound anglers to provide baseline information related to rockfish conservation. 

Social scientists will monitor several of the Puget Sound Partership's "Vital Signs" including Healthy Human Population and Human Quality of Life.

Recommended social indicators for the Puget Sound Partnership: A report summarizing lessons from three local case studies

A 2014 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute identifies 23 potential indicators of human wellbeing in the Puget Sound region. These indicators will inform the adoption of Human Quality of Life "Vital Signs" by the Puget Sound Partnership.

Hood Canal Fireworks near Poulsbo, Washington. Photo: Eric Scouten. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Measuring human wellbeing indicators for Hood Canal

This 2014 Puget Sound Institue report shows baseline data, surveyed from Hood Canal residents, of four subjective indicators: accessing locally harvested products, experiencing positive emotions, working with community members to solve natural resource issues, and knowledge gained from different communication sources.


A role for decision science in Puget Sound recovery

The field of decision analysis studies and develops rigorous and practical methods for improving how we make decisions. Over the past three years, the Puget Sound Partnership has invested in decision science expertise in its ongoing role of supporting effective Puget Sound recovery.  This paper describes some of these efforts and analyzes several decision support ideals.

Olympia oysters. Photo: VIUDeepBay (CC BY 2.0)

Gifts from the sea: shellfish as an ecosystem service

The shellfish industry is a cornerstone of the Puget Sound economy, but the region's famed mollusks provide more than just money and jobs. They offer what are called ecosystem services—a wide variety of benefits that humans derive from an ecosystem.

Clam gardens, while all being characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall in the lower intertidal, are diverse in their shapes and sizes. Photo: Amy S. Groesbeck.Clam gardens, while all being characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall in the lower intertidal, are diverse in their shapes and sizes.

Ancient clam gardens of the Northwest Coast of North America

Northwest Coast First Peoples made clam garden terraces to expand ideal clam habitat at tidal heights that provided optimal conditions for clam growth and survival, therefore enhancing food production and increasing food security.

Whatcom County’s Colonial Creek Campground site 85. Photo: Miguel Vieira  (CC BY 2.0)

Developing human wellbeing indicators related to the natural environment for Whatcom County

An October 2014 report examines the planning and monitoring of human wellbeing as a component of resource management in Whatcom County.

A “medicine wheel” graphic that will be used to showcase HWB indicators; copyright Biedenweg et al.

Developing Human Wellbeing Indicators for the Puyallup Watershed

A July 2014 report examines potential human wellbeing indicators for the Puyallup Watershed.

Coastal Management journal cover

The Sound Behavior Index: A Management Tool for Behavioral Aspects of Ecosystem Restoration

This paper appears in the July 2014 issue of the journal Coastal Management, which focuses on the role of social sciences in Puget Sound ecosystem recovery.

Coastal Management journal cover

Developing Human Wellbeing Indicators in the Puget Sound: Focusing on the Watershed Scale

This paper appears in the July 2014 issue of the journal Coastal Management, which focuses on the role of social sciences in Puget Sound ecosystem recovery.

Coastal Management journal cover

Indigenous Community Health and Climate Change: Integrating Biophysical and Social Science Indicators

This paper appears in the July 2014 issue of the journal Coastal Management, which focuses on the role of social sciences in Puget Sound ecosystem recovery.

Coastal Management journal cover

Collaboration within the Puget Sound marine and nearshore science network

A study published in the journal Coastal Management generates a broad description of the collaborative network among marine and nearshore researchers in Puget Sound and identifies incentives and barriers to collaboration.

Coastal Management journal cover

A Complex Tool for a Complex Problem: Political Ecology in the Service of Ecosystem Recovery

This paper appears in the July 2014 issue of the journal Coastal Management, which focuses on the role of social sciences in Puget Sound ecosystem recovery.

Coastal Management journal cover

Special issue of Coastal Management focuses on social sciences in Puget Sound recovery

The July 2014 issue of the journal Coastal Management focuses on the role of social sciences in Puget Sound ecosystem recovery. Articles range from political ecology to the development of human wellbeing indicators and directly address current Puget Sound restoration efforts. Guest editors include Encyclopedia of Puget Sound topic editor Kelly Biedenweg and Puget Sound Science Panel co-chair Katharine Wellman. The journal is co-edited by Patrick Christie of our editorial board. Extended abstracts of the articles will be available on these pages in coming weeks.


Marine Protected Areas in Puget Sound

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been present in Puget Sound since the early 1900s, although most were established after the 1960s (Whitesell et al. 2008, Van Cleve 2009). By 1998 there were at least 102 intertidal and subtidal protected areas in Puget Sound, created and managed by at least 12 different agencies or organizations at the local, county, State and Federal level (Murray and Ferguson 1998).

Sockey salmon. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Measuring Socio-Cultural Values Associated with Salmon in the Quinault Indian Nation

A 2014 report describes a study of socio-cultural values associated with blueback salmon in the Quinault Indian Nation. The blueback salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) is a unique strain of sockeye that returns primarily to the Quinault river system.

Tidal turbines like this one developed by OpenHydro, Ltd. will be installed in Puget Sound in mid 2015 as part of a demonstration project. Sustainable, large-scale development of tidal energy will require studying and learning from these early-stage projects. Image source: OpenHydro, Ltd./DCNS

Tidal energy in Puget Sound

Scientists have identified the strong underwater currents of Puget Sound's Admiralty Inlet as a potential source of electricity for nearby utilities. The following article describes some of the basic principles and mechanisms of tidal energy.  

An infographic explains the basic principles of TDR. Image via King County.

Report: Regional transfer of development rights in Puget Sound

A 2013 report from the Environmental Protection Agency discusses progress on implementing transfer of development rights (TDR) as a strategy for conservation and increased development capacity in Puget Sound.

Oyster shell cultch containing seed oysters is washed onto a public beach. Image courtesy of WDFW.

Report: Evaluating the effects of bivalve filter feeding on nutrient dynamics in Puget Sound

A January 2014 USGS report discusses approaches for measuring the effect of bivalves on nutrient availability in different regions of Puget Sound.

Camano Island State Park coastline. Image courtesy of WDFW.

Lessons learned: Island Local integrating pilot process for selecting near term actions for the 2014 Action Agenda.

This report discusses lessons learned from the task of choosing near term actions (NTAs), activities and initiatives for achieving recovery targets for Puget Sound Vital Sign indicators. It focuses on efforts by Local Integrating Organizations in Island County, including Whidbey and Camano Islands. 

Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 2010. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Making science useful in complex political and legal arenas: A case for frontloading science in anticipation of environmental changes to support natural resource laws and policies

Scientists argue that environmental disasters are inevitable and that it is just a matter of when and where they will occur. "Our coasts and oceans routinely experience significant environmental crises," writes Dr. Usha Varanasi, who makes a case for staying ahead of the curve and "frontloading the science." Her 2013 paper in the Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy proposes a new model for ecological disaster planning and response, in which baseline ecosystem data and syntheses are collected in advance of possible incidents. 
Social scientists will monitor several of the Puget Sound Partership's "Vital Signs" including Healthy Human Population and Human Quality of Life.

Social science and monitoring needs for Puget Sound recovery

A report by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute describes a 2013 workshop to integrate the social sciences into Puget Sound ecosystem monitoring. Social scientists will focus in part on several of the Puget Sound Partnership's designated ecosystem indicators, including categories such as Healthy Human Population and Human Quality of Life.

Photo by Ingrid Taylar

Cultural dimensions of socio-ecological systems: key connections and guiding principles for conservation in coastal environments

A November 2013 paper in the journal Conservation Letters examines the importance of cultural values to ecosystem-based management of coastal environments. Extended abstract by Melissa Poe of NOAA Fisheries and Washington Sea Grant, with Phil Levin and Karma Norman.

Book cover for "Elwha: A River Reborn" by Lynda Mapes

Puget Sound Voices: Exhibit traces Elwha restoration

The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound spoke with Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes about the exhibit Elwha: A River Reborn, which opened at the University of Washington Burke Museum on November 23rd. The exhibit is based on the book of the same title by Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman, and tells the story of the largest dam removal in U.S. history.