The Elwha River Restoration Project; The Associated REU Program; and Preliminary Data on the Use of Microbial Community Structure and Nutrients As Indicators of Habitat Change Within the Elwha River.

Dr. Bill Eaton

Senior Vice President of Academics

Director of the Center of Excellence

Peninsula College

Port Angeles, Washington


Tuesday, February 5th, at 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Ruhl Student Center, Community Room




Construction of two dams (lacking fish passage facilities) in the early 1900’s on the 72 km long Elwha River in Washington State—historically one of the most productive salmon rivers in the Puget Sound—has altered physical, biological and chemical characteristics throughout the watershed. The dams break the watershed into discrete segments above, between and below the two dams. As a result of the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act (PL102-495), removal of both dams on the Elwha River will begin by 2012, resulting in the release of about 8 million metric yards of sediment that is behind both dams. As the largest dam removal ever conducted and the number two national restoration priority for the National Park Service (behind restoration of the Everglades) this project presents a unique opportunity for the study of ecosystem processes and ecosystem restoration. In April 2005, an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program began at Peninsula College—15 miles from the Elwha River, the primary goal of which was to develop baseline data to be used as part of the plan for assessing the impact of the dams and the effectiveness of the restoration project post-dam removal. This presentation will provide information about the Elwha Restoration Project, the Peninsula College REU program, and the results of the first attempt at assessing the feasibility of using genetic and functional microbial diversity, microbial community structure, and nutrient chemistry measurements as indicators of habitat change or variation within the three main reaches of the Elwha River and the Quinault River.




Dr. Bill Eaton received a BA in Wildlife Zoology and MA in Biology from San Jose State University and a Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1988. He has been a faculty member at University of Alaska, Malaspina University College and California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). He served as the Chief Academic Officer at Penn State York, and the Associate vice-President of Academic Planning at CSUMB. He is currently the Senior Academic Vice President and the Executive Director of the Center of Excellence at Peninsula College, in Port Angeles, WA. His research activities have included work on infectious diseases of aquatic animals in California, Alaska, Washington, and British Columbia, Canada, and microbial ecology work in Pennsylvania, Belize, Washington State, and Costa Rica. Dr. Eaton helped develop the undergraduate research programs at Malaspina University College and Peninsula College. His work in the tropics includes development of Tropical Ecology courses and research projects in Belize from 1995-2001 and in Costa Rica since 2004. He is leading a new consortium in Costa Rica to examine the impacts of forest change in the Northern Zone of the country in partnership with the Centro Científico Tropical, Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBIO), EARTH University, and Estación Biológica La Selva (La Selva Biological Research Station). He is PI of the NSF REU grant at Peninsula College, and co-PI on a NASA Remote Sensing Grant and a NSF Elwha Research consortium grant. For the latter, Peninsula College is a consortium member along with Olympic National Park, NOAA, USGS, WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife, Lower Elwha Tribe, Western Washington University, and the University of Washington. He studies microbial communities in both WA and Costa Rica as potential indicators of habitat variation and change. He will be working at the Estación Biológica La Selva in Costa Rica this summer using microbial community variation as potential indicators of the impact of various land management practices.


(Back to Science and Technology Seminar Series 2008 Website Home Page)