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EPA awards WWU nearly $900,000 to study climate change effects on Pacific Northwest Estuaries


Western Washington University (WWU) received a grant for almost $900,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a model to determine the consequences of climate change on sea-level rise and river flow alteration in two of the most ecologically significant estuarine systems in Puget Sound, Padilla Bay and Skagit Bay.

Researchers at WWU are developing a predictive landscape simulation model to guide the course of restoration and management efforts, given climate change, as they relate to salmon habitat in Puget Sound. Specifically, researchers will develop models that describe sediment movement and wetland changes in Padilla Bay and Skagit Bay. They will link these models to other models describing tidal channel landforms and the abundance and distribution of juvenile salmon.

According to Elin Miller, EPA Regional Administrator, innovative approaches in research help tomorrow’s scientists develop new solutions to tough environmental challenges like climate change.

“This advanced computer modeling tool will enable scientists to adjust estuary recovery goals as more erosion occurs over the next century,” said Miller. “This will allow them to focus more sharply on effects in estuary areas most vulnerable to climate change.”

John Rybczyk, an Associate Professor at Western’s Huxley College and one of award recipients, noted that this grant was the direct result of a coordinated effort between the University, the Skagit River System Cooperative and Battelle’s Seattle Research Center.

“Dr. Greg Hood and the Skagit River System Cooperative have been at the forefront of estuarine restoration efforts in this region,” said Rybczyk. “Dr. Tarang Khangoankar and his group at Battle Labs have developed the sophisticated hydrodynamic models that are required to predict the effects of climate change on coastal systems. Our research team looks forward to developing the tools and strategies necessary for managing sensitive coastal ecosystems to meet the challenges of climate change.”

Researchers anticipate that the model could be used by local Tribes and local and regional planning organizations doing restoration planning.

For more information on this project, Sustainable Coastal Habitat Restoration in the Pacific Northwest: Modeling and Managing the Effects, Feedbacks, and Risks Associated with Climate Change:


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