Social Science for the Salish Sea

Social Science for the Salish Sea (S4) provides a foundation for future research projects, accessible information for planning or management decisions, and synthesized content to inform ecosystem recovery.

Salish Sea with Mt Baker in the background
View of the Salish Sea, Guemes Island and Mt. Baker from Anacortes, WA. Photo: Sylvia Kantor

Social Science for the Salish Sea (S4) is an action-oriented research agenda to inform ecosystem recovery in the Salish Sea region. Supported by the Puget Sound Partnership, University of Washington’s EarthLab, University of Washington’s Canadian Studies Center, and Bullitt Foundation, S4 outlines a research agenda for the environmental social sciences that aims to enhance ecosystem recovery needs in the transboundary region. Led by Dr. Sara Jo Breslow (University of Washington) and Leah Kintner (Puget Sound Partnership), and others, S4 emerged as an idea in 2017 and came to fruition in 2018-2019. S4’s development included multiple collaborative meetings to help create a framework to distill and generate research topics. This effort included social scientists trained in geography, anthropology, economics, law, history, public health, conflict studies, and other fields. Through this highly collaborative process with social scientists and practitioners largely from the transboundary Salish Sea region, a set of top social science research topics were identified and prioritized.

Building upon S4’s research priorities in 2021, Dr. Kelly Biedenweg and Dr. David J. Trimbach (Oregon State University, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences, Human Dimensions Lab) with the support of the Puget Sound Partnership, worked with Audrey Nelson, an OSU undergraduate student, on creating a foundation or base of knowledge. Related resources include literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, summary documents, and other content. These resources aim to provide a foundation for future projects, accessible information for planning or management decisions, and offer synthesized content for the greater recovery community. Most of the related documents (below) highlight Salish Sea relevant research, with some exceptions.

Priority 1: Climate change

How does, and will, climate change impact the holistic health and well-being of Salish Sea communities?


Priority 2: Legal framework

Is the legal framework for ecosystem recovery working?


Priority 3: Urbanization and development

How is urbanization and development impacting the Salish Sea social-ecological system, and how can impacts be mitigated and minimized through planning?


Priority 4: Diversity

To what degree, and how, are diverse people and their values currently represented in political and decision-making processes, how does representation affect ecosystem recovery outcomes, and how are diverse people affected by these outcomes?


Priority 5: Indigenous knowledge and governance

How can Indigenous knowledge systems and governance (i.e., traditional knowledge, Indigenous science, and Coast Salish legal orders) be meaningfully applied in ecosystems recovery?


About the Author: 
Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences, Oregon State University