Community-University Sustainability Partners

Community partnerships are essential to the UW Master of GIS for Sustainability Management program. Each spring, for their capstone project, students work with a community partner in the Puget Sound region on an important sustainability-related project.

The capstone project immerses students in the full range of tasks associated with the application of GIS. Working in small teams, students define project goals with the community partner, perform database design, acquire and analyze data, model sustainable solutions and recommend a course of action. 

For community partners, the partnership is an opportunity to push their mandates further. Armed with actionable knowledge and materials from student teams, partners can press their case for change. To date, these partnerships have changed practices, discourse, power dynamics and geography by design.

Project Examples

Below are examples of successful community partnerships. For more, see the full list of capstone projects

  • Partnering with Friends of the Farms, a small nonprofit on Bainbridge Island, students developed a GIS system that enabled Friends of the Farms to analyze and represent their land use priorities, giving them a voice alongside more affluent and powerful land use interest groups.

  • In a project for the Audubon Washington, students identified marine bird hotspots in the Salish Sea by organizing, mapping and spatially analyzing more than 30 years of data collected from aerial flight observation. This information will aid future efforts to protect marine bird habitat.

  • Working with the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, students assessed the distributional equity changes brought about by dynamic population changes in King County, Washington, from 2000 to 2010. The team developed a metric for park size and access — much like the neighborhood Walk Score — to illuminate social and racial inequities in park accessibility.

  • Partnering with The Nature Conservancy, students used complex systems modeling to help the organization assess best agricultural practices for water quality in the Puget Sound, in the interest of lessening agricultural impacts on downstream salmon and shellfish. 

Recent Community Partners

View a full list of community partners.