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Donor Profile: Drs. Usha and S. Rao Varanasi 

Drs. Usha and S. Rao Varanasi are longtime supporters of SAFS and also benefactors to many other academic units across the UW. Usha chatted with Andrew Storms (Advancement, College of the Environment) about her and Rao’s commitment to the education of students at SAFS and the UW.

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Improving geoduck aquaculture through “hardening”

Pacific geoducks, among the largest burrowing clams in the world, are native to the Pacific Northwest. Commercially grown only since 1995, farmed geoducks now generate over $20 million in annual sales in Washington State and are among the most valuable farmed shellfish on a per-acre basis. However, hatcheries can be a critical production bottleneck.

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Working towards a more diverse and equitable SAFS

As many have adjusted their lives in the midst of a pandemic and during this marked time of social unrest, SAFS is recommitting itself to better connect and support its own community for a true sense of belonging and for welcoming diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences. At SAFS, a Diversity Specialist, a strategic plan, and the Equity & Inclusion Committee are engaged in efforts to help advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. 

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Cracking the genetic code of Washington’s eelgrass

In the Pacific Northwest, eelgrass serves an important function in the ecosystem by binding sediments, storing carbon, and providing essential habitat for Pacific herring, juvenile salmon, and many other species. Concerningly, eelgrass populations are susceptible to human impacts related to water quality changes or direct disturbance. Eelgrass mitigation and restoration strategies often result in plants being transplanted to new locations where eelgrass may already be present. However, these efforts often lack information on the genetic population structure in an ever-changing environment. A team of interdisciplinary researchers at the University of Washington is developing baseline data for native eelgrass to make the first comprehensive geographic map of state eelgrass population structure and describe the relationship between eelgrass population structure, phenotypic diversity, and local adaptation and resistance to environmental stressors.

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Community science effort helps UW researchers understand local seabird populations

For nearly two decades, volunteers on Whidbey Island have been monitoring a curious little seabird—the pigeon guillemot, small in size, black with white patches on the wings and a fire-engine-red mouth and feet. Using binoculars, they observe and record the comings and goings of the island’s resident seabirds along the seaside cliffs.
Pigeon guillemots have been identified as a Puget Sound indicator species due to their abundance throughout the region, but what they might indicate is not yet clear. 

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