Co-Producing the Watershed: polyvocal data and situated knowledges of the Duwamish River Valley Coordination Network

Authors: Cleo Woelfle Erskine*, University of Washington, Catherine De Almeida, University of Washington, Kristin Dew, University of Washington, Christopher Schell, University of Washington, Tacoma, P. Joshua Griffin, University of Washington, Seattle, Melanie Malone, University of Washington, Bothell, Amir Sheikh, Independent Scholar, Samantha Klein, University of Washington, Seattle, George Thomas, Jr., University of Washington, Seattle, James Lee, University of Washington, Seattle, Russell Beard, Suquardle Environmental, Environmental Consultant for the Duwamish Tribe, Timothy Lehmann, University of Washington, Seatlle
Topics: Environmental Science, Cultural and Political Ecology, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: co-generation, post-industrial, place-based restoration, Native sovereinty, environmenal justice
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Frontline communities enlist cross-disciplinary scholars to develop more responsive science. Feminist science studies argue for situated forms of inquiry and collaboration across the researcher/researched divide. Indigenous research methodologies, in particular, ground scientific studies in protocol and relationality, sometimes using cosmopolitan methods in concert with Indigenous knowledge. However, these approaches are often dismissed as unreliable by environmental managers whose research is often disconnected from community concern, impeding revitalization of damaged landscapes.
Urban communities in the Lower Duwamish River have been underserved and overstudied. Enduring legacies of settler-colonialism, industrialization, and redlining reduced ecosystem function and harmed human health. Tribes and grassroots groups supported residents’ connection to this vibrant river through protests, policy, and community projects, holding agencies accountable for Superfund cleanup, which targets contaminants in sediment, shellfish, and fish. However, academic research often overlooks community priorities, or duplicates community studies.
The Duwamish Valley Research Coordination Network (DVRCN) addresses these gaps through co-created, community-driven assessment, visioning, and dissemination. The DVRCN “Science Shop” convenes a process for learning across academic, Indigenous, and local knowledges, linked with a lending library of field equipment, and a digital communication platform. We piloted this infrastructure to support the Duwamish Tribe’s watershed assessment and trail network design. Weaving together stream sensing, camera trapping, bioblitz and storytelling events, and drone mapping, we mobilize polyvocal ways of knowing and interpreting watershed health to generate research priorities among networked organizations. This approach can enable other biophysical research projects to challenge power dynamics, reshape knowledge politics, and reconfigure collaborations towards justice.

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