Healthy People

Puget Sound Vital Signs

Human well-being is linked to the environment

Kelly Biedenweg

Taking stock of an ecosystem can mean monitoring the environment: air, water, soil, plants and animals. To Kelly Biedenweg, it also means asking people about how nature affects their quality of life.

Over the last five years in Washington state, she has worked with the Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency that leads restoration activities for the sound, to identify metrics of environmental quality that are associated with well-being. She has conducted surveys, asking questions such as: How many people in the watershed earn their living from natural resources? How do outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming contribute to a sense of well-being? How much trust do people have in the officials and scientists who help manage natural resources?

Now, with a $400,000 Early Career Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the assistant professor in Fisheries and Wildlife is taking the next step to determine if and how resource managers use information about ecological and human health when they develop strategic plans. She and her colleagues will consider how social and ecological data are being integrated into resource management planning processes.

Biedenweg directs the Human Dimensions Lab at OSU and is a lead social scientist with the Puget Sound Institute at the University of Washington, Tacoma. In previous work, she studied the social factors affecting community forest management in Bolivia and environmental leadership in Honduras.

By Nick Houtman

Nick Houtman is director of research communications at OSU and edits Terra, a world of research and creativity at Oregon State University. He has experience in weekly and daily print journalism and university science writing. A native Californian, he lived in Wisconsin and Maine before arriving in Corvallis in 2005.