Research Portal

March 14, 2023

Coastal Adaptations with the Shoalwater Bay Tribe: Centering Place and Community to Address Climate Change and Social Justice

The proposed community-based participatory action research project is a collaborative research, planning and design initiative that will enable a UW research team to work with the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe to explore sustainable and culturally relevant strategies for an upland expansion in response to climate change-driven sea level rise and other threats to their coastal ecosystems and community. The situation is urgent as the reservation is located in the most rapidly eroding stretch of Pacific coastline in the US, on near-sea-level land vulnerable also to catastrophic tsunamis. The project will advance the Tribe’s master plan and collaboratively develop a model of climate adaptive, culture-affirming and change-mitigating environmental strategies for creating new infrastructure, housing and open spaces in newly acquired higher elevation land adjacent to the reservation. Design and planning strategies will draw on culturally-based place meanings and attachments to support a sense of continuity, ease the transition, and create new possibilities for re-grounding. Sustainable strategies generated by the project will draw on both traditional ecological knowledge and scientific modeling of environmental change. The project will involve the following methods and activities:

  • The creation of a Tribal scientific and policy Advisory Board with representatives from the Tribal Council, elder, youth, state and county agencies, and indigenous architects and planners;
  • Student-led collaborative team-building and research activities that will also engage Tribal youth;
  • Systematic review of the Tribe’s and neighboring county plans;
  • Interviews, focus groups and community workshops to identify priority actions, needs and strategies;
  • Adaptation of existing research on sustainable master planning, design and carbon storing construction materials; and
  • The development of culturally meaningful and sustainable building prototypes.

Deliverables include a report of findings summarizing community assets and values, and priorities for the upland expansion vetted by Tribal leaders, documentation and evaluation of the UW-community partnership and engagement process, digitized web- based geo-narratives and story maps and technical recommendations for culturally-informed schematic designs, sustainable construction methods and low-embodied carbon storing materials. The project process and outcomes will have broad applicability for other vulnerable coastal communities and can be used to support their climate adaptation efforts as well.

Research Team
Principal Investigator: Daniel Abramson, College of Built Environments, Urban Design and Planning, University of Washington
Community Lead: Jamie Judkins, Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe

University of Washington Partners:
Rob Corser, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
Julie Kriegh, Affiliate Lecturer, Departments of Construction Management and Architecture and Principal, Kriegh Architecture Studios | Design + Research
Jackson Blalock, Community Engagement Specialist, Washington Sea Grant
Lynne Manzo, Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
Kristiina Vogt, Professor, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Community Partners:
Daniel Glenn, AIA, NCARB, Principal, 7 Directions Architects/Planners 
John David “J.D.” Tovey III, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Timothy Archer Lehman, Design and Planning Consultant and Lecturer