A legacy of environmental education and engagement
Warren Gold joined the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences (then Liberal Studies) in 1998, when UW Bothell was only eight years old and was in the process of building its current location, while restoring 58 acres of pastureland to a diverse floodplain ecosystem.
Even before that, Gold has had a long history with the University of Washington, with undergraduate degrees in botany and zoology, and then a postdoc research position after his Ph.D. in plant ecology from Utah State University.
Gold found a perfect fit at UW Bothell. “I really wanted to work at a smaller place where I could get to know people at all levels. And I liked the startup nature of what was going on at that point in the 90s, trying to figure out how this institution could serve both returning students and traditional students and how it could distinguish itself from the big mothership Seattle, that was sitting there.”
Gold was also drawn by the campus emphasis on interdisciplinarity and collaboration, as he recalls in this video clip:
Prior to joining IAS, Gold studied ecosystems in the high Arctic and in Alpine areas. He developed expertise in ecological restoration because of the wetlands restoration project on the UW Bothell campus.
The UW Restoration Ecology Network (UW-REN) emerged across the UW Bothell, Tacoma, and Seattle campuses as Gold and others looked for ways to facilitate coordination and collaboration across projects.
“We realized that there were a bunch of people interested in restoring damaged lands, not just from different campuses but from wholly different disciplines. There were people from geography, engineering, fisheries, and natural sciences, but also the arts and humanities, all interested in how to inspire people to take care of land and restore it.”
UW-REN provided a structure through collaborative courses that could be attached to existing degree programs in different units, such as IAS’s Minor in Ecological Restoration.
The Minor in Ecological Restoration uses that structure and network for a three-quarter capstone course that matches student groups with community-driven restoration projects. Over the course of the academic year, groups of 4-6 students work with a community partner to understand the restoration project from the partner’s perspective, analyze the site themselves, develop a proposal for the restoration project, negotiate the proposal with the partner, design and implement a detailed work the plan, and produce a stewardship plan for the site at the conclusion of the project.
Gold notes that the capstone “is a whole arc of experience. We emphasize skills beyond just restoration, over a long-term team-based endeavor (such as project management, effective teamwork, and financial budgeting and tracking).” For two examples of the student experience, our student feature in this issue worked on a project in Seattle’s Magnuson Park while our alumni feature was part of the first group to partner with the Friends of the North Creek Forest.
Gold served as co-director of UW-REN from the beginning, together with Professor Kern Ewing at UW Seattle. Over the last 21 years, UW-REN has completed 166 projects, often with 6 to 10 projects in a year. The network has worked with fifty different community partners in locations from the foothills of Mt. Rainier to Whidbey Island.
In the video below, Gold shares a reflection that he read to the students this past year at the UW-REN Capstone celebration.
“I see my legacy happening through the work that my students do: the successes that they will have, the challenges that they will overcome once they get out into their professional contexts,” says Gold.
One of those students, IAS alum Sarah Witte, summed up her former professor this way: “Warren Gold is priceless, absolutely priceless. He is invaluable as a resource. I don't know how he's made such a big impact on the world around him, but he's an amazing person.”