Our Partnerships

The EES program features a unique collection of Federal and non-profit environmental partner organizations, whose scientists, educators, and policy experts help PSU graduate students shape their dissertation projects. The program also offers a forum through which these organizations can recruit new scientists and strengthen their connection to Metro Portland. 

PSU grads and BLM archaeologists working on Anderson's research at an archaeological site in northwest Alaska.


These partnerships currently include:

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

The U.S. Geological Survey was originally set up to “classify the public lands and examine the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.” Today, it is one of the U.S. Government’s most respected scientific organizations, focusing on societal priorities like finding and protecting water resources, preparing for natural hazards, and locating critical minerals. 

USGS scientist on lake

The USGS has two offices in Metro Portland. One of these, the Oregon Water Science Center (ORWSC), is located at the south end of PSU’s campus. The ORWSC primarily studies surface and underground water resources and related geological and biological phenomena, like landslides and algal blooms. The ORWSC has a formal MOU with the EES program and interacts with all three of its core departments, as well as other units at PSU, including Chemistry, Anthropology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Math and Statistics. EES students may work on dissertation projects co-supervised by ORWSC staff, use USGS facilities, attend USGS seminars, work part-time for the USGS while in graduate school, and in some cases become USGS employees after graduation. PSU is one of a small number of universities that host and leverage USGS offices. 


U.S. Forest Service (USFS)

The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region’s headquarters is located a few blocks from the PSU campus in the recently renovated and highly sustainable Edith Green – Wendell Wyatt Federal Building. Over the past decade, faculty members in ESM, Biology, Geography, and the College of Urban and Public Affairs have built strong collaborative ties with this Region’s staff, and with other USFS offices around the country. While most of this research has focused on forest and rangeland ecology, protection, and policy in rural Oregon and Washington, it increasingly addresses city-related issues, such as urban farming, urban ecology, and public health. Nationally, the USFS was one of the first federal agencies to engage in urban sustainability, emphasizing the role that forests play in improving air quality, reducing the heat island effect, lessening the impacts of urban flooding, protecting salmon and other wildlife, and improving city dwellers’ wellness by promoting outdoor recreation. 

USFS staff have served on EES dissertation committees, and graduate students have been supported by USFS research grants. Through these connections and because of PSU’s urban-serving mission, EES graduates and faculty are well-positioned to help the USFS expand its city-based research activities.


Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)

Few brands are as well respected as that of the Smithsonian Institution. Most people know the Smithsonian only for its 19 museums, but collectively, they also have one of the largest and most distinguished scientific staffs in the world, based in their museums and research centers. PSU is one of the few universities outside of Washington, D.C. that has a formal partnership agreement with a branch of the Smithsonian, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), based in Edgewater, Maryland. The SERC-PSU relationship was formally launched in 2012 and focuses on freshwater and marine invasive species work conducted by faculty and students in ESM. The agreement supports the exchange of scientists (professional and graduate students) between SERC and PSU. SERC and PSU are currently exploring many other research areas for potential collaboration, including urban sustainability, forest health, and environmental education.


The Nature Conservancy Oregon Chapter (TNC)

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the world’s largest conservation organization, has a strong emphasis on scientific research and policy, with a presence in all 50 states and 69 countries. The Oregon Chapter’s main office is located about ten minutes from PSU in SE Portland. TNC manages preserves and conducts studies in every major ecosystem in Oregon, including coasts, rivers, dry forests, wet forests, and high deserts. Their staff work throughout the state, partnering closely with federal and state agencies, including the USGS and USFS. The Oregon Chapter’s Board of Trustees has included PSU faculty from CLAS and Engineering, as well as several members of the PSU Board of Trustees, and other major PSU donors.

Columbia River Gorge

Several PSU faculty and graduate students, both inside and outside of the EES program, have received TNC research funding and have collaborated with TNC scientists. PSU is one of about a dozen universities around the U.S. that have strong connections to their local TNC chapters, including giving TNC scientists adjunct or research faculty status, publishing papers together, providing student internships, and engaging in joint fundraising. TNC launched an urban initiative in 2014, which is particularly well-suited for EES students to collaborate with.


Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), located 15 minutes from PSU by light rail, streetcar or bike across the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, is the leading science museum in the Pacific Northwest. It offers extensive formal and informal science education programs both at its property in Portland and in several outdoor school facilities throughout Oregon. It is one of the few science museums that still designs exhibits that travel across the country. It runs science communication programs for professional and higher education audiences, and it hosts hundreds of college and high school student volunteers, who work with the museum’s more than one million annual visitors.
OMSI and PSU have a long history of collaboration. PSU faculty and graduate students present in the museum’s “OMSI after Dark” events and in their “Science Pub” programs held throughout Metro Portland. Faculty advise museum staff about exhibit development. STEM-related students use the OMSI campus as a test-bed for scientific outreach programs. PSU has long held a seat on the OMSI Board of Trustees. In 2018, OMSI launched a decade-long redevelopment program to convert its 18-acre site into a sustainable, tech-enabled collection of residential and commercial buildings that complement OMSI’s education and outreach mission.

Tilikum River crossing with Mt St Helens in background

Including OMSI as a partner greatly expands the opportunities for EES students to conduct STEM-related dissertations that can address priority questions of interest to the museum community, while offering access to a huge population of children and their parents for associated outreach activities. It also helps OMSI connect more easily with other partner organizations involved in scientific outreach, especially the Oregon Zoo and TNC.


Oregon Zoo

Despite having a relatively small scientific staff, the Oregon Zoo is a significant player in zoo-related behavioral, physiological, nutritional, and conservation research. Since 2014, the Oregon Zoo Foundation and PSU have had a collaboration that funds Biology PhD students to work at the Zoo. However, PSU faculty and students have conducted research at the Zoo for several decades. In fact, PSU’s link to the Oregon Zoo is the strongest such academic-zoo partnership in the Pacific Northwest, comparable to others anchored at UC Davis and UC San Diego. Although based in the Department of Biology, the Zoo-related PhD program is linked to the EES degree in order to expand the visibility of both, and to help connect the Zoo’s research and training program with other EES partners, especially TNC, OMSI, and the Smithsonian. Zoo-related senior staff carry out collaborative research with PSU faculty and graduate students.


Learn more about our geosciences partnerships throughout Oregon and the region:

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