Connecting community and environmental health
A high school AP course in environmental science inspired Hailey Barrett to pursue further studies in this field. Barrett chose UW Bothell because of the campus wetlands, the resources for environmental studies, and the smaller class sizes. This spring, she will graduate with a double major in Environmental Studies and Community Psychology, and a minor in Ecological Restoration.
Barrett’s introduction to formal study of the environment opened her eyes: “I was shocked at how ignorant I was and that I hadn’t been required to know this kind of information.” Barrett’s understanding of environmental issues moved beyond a general concern with global warming and its consequences to detailed engagement with issues that affect communities such as diminishing water access displacing populations and creating refugee situations.
Barrett quickly saw that in pursuing environmental science as a career path, she could help people fix fundamental community problems. She chose to double major in Environmental Studies and Community Psychology because of their fundamental linkage in health and wellness. “People are greatly impacted by the environment and their mental health is greatly affected by disparities promoted by pollution, global warming, food resources—there's a lot of factors that contribute to poor mental conditions.”
She is charting a career path that combines both physical restoration and community health, working out in the field with community partners. Barrett got a real taste of what this work entails in the UW Restoration Ecology Network Capstone she completed as part of the Minor in Ecological Restoration.
The UW-Restoration Ecology Network (UW-REN) is a tri-campus program open to UW students from all disciplines. For the capstone, UW-REN faculty match students with restoration projects submitted by community partners (local governments, schools, utilities, non-profits, and private firms). Student groups work with community partners over the course of an academic year to understand the site’s needs, develop a project that meets those needs, and carry out the work in collaboration.
Barrett working on a restoration project
Barrett’s project was located in a 0.2 acres site in Seattle’s Warren G. Magnuson Park. She and a group of four other students partnered with Green Seattle Partnership, Magnuson Environmental Stewardship Alliance, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. Barrett’s group solicited community members for 30 volunteer events, over which 273 hours were logged by 99 volunteers in restoration work over the course of the project.
Barrett’s work with community outreach included designing signage to educate about the work being done and creating a Facebook group to advertise volunteer events and update the public on progress. By the end of the year, the project removed non-native species comprising 347.7 m², placed 14,000+ gallons of mulch, and planted 236 native plants.
“Hailey was part of an excellent student team that worked with Seattle Parks Forest Steward Tom Kelly to restore forests in Magnuson Park during the 2020-21 academic year. Hailey demonstrated exceptional leadership on portions of this project, particularly in applying scientific knowledge of native plant species to craft a project design that would be successful in both the short- and long-term. Her attention to detail, patience as the needs of the project changed through time, and perseverance through the Covid-related challenges were essential components in the success of this student team to restoring Magnuson Park's forest ecosystems,” notes IAS faculty member Warren Gold.
The UW-REN Magnuson Park Team, 2020-21 with client Tom Kelly
Beyond the restoration work itself, the capstone project gave Barrett experience in community outreach and engagement, as well as in management and interpersonal skills. “Three quarters doing a restoration project was the most direct hands on work that I’ve had. It built up my confidence to work with clients, and get involved with the community.”
As Barrett looks beyond graduation, she knows she wants to continue this path of working outdoors with the environment, while engaging, helping, and learning from different communities. With these goals in mind, she is now exploring the career possibilities of park ranger, ecological restorationist, and regional planner so that she can determine what additional degree she will pursue.
The Magnuson Park team in front of a debris barrier they built to protect the restoration work in progress