Dr. Michael McGoodwin established an endowment to support undergraduate students in the College of the Environment in December 2019. This endowment honors the life and memory of Rebecca McGoodwin and their shared passion for the natural environment.

By supporting undergraduates on the basis of academic merit and/or financial need, this scholarship helps students who are pursuing the study, investigation, and conservation of the biosphere and its protection from human impacts. Their areas of study may include but are not limited to, the study of relevant Earth and atmospheric sciences such as aquatic and terrestrial habitats including oceans, soils, forests, atmospheric physics and chemistry, and the interactions of these with past and current life forms.

A Shared Love for the Environment

RCM & MCM prob. at Angel Glacier in Jasper NP (on north face of Mount Edith Cavell in), Date: 7/2/1993-7/9/1993, prob. by WLM
Rebecca and Michael at Angel Glacier in Jasper National Park, July 1993.

Rebecca and I became very interested in the natural environment in our early years and, beginning in 1964, shared this interest as a couple. Opportunities to enjoy our environment included extensive explorations via hiking, camping, and backpacking in many of the National, State, and Provincial Parks and forests of the Northwest.

In college, Rebecca majored in Biology. She taught this subject at the high school level for several years while I attended medical school, and was a much respected and admired teacher. Her love for biology evolved into a lifelong passion for botany and horticulture, and she became an extremely knowledgeable gardener whose opinion was often sought. After raising two fine daughters who were also imbued with our passion for the outdoors, she returned to college to earn a second degree in diagnostic ultrasound, which she subsequently practiced. Rebecca died in July 2017 in the 50th year of our treasured marriage. We took up birdwatching even before we married in 1966, and this provided motivation to explore the outdoors and admire the diversity of bird life. We enjoyed nature observation in many forms but especially observing flora and fauna, and always carried field guides and other resources to guide our study.

Our earliest contact with faculty in the College of the Environment (“the College”) was a delightful weekend outing in the 1970’s led by Prof. David A. Manuwal and focused on forest bird identification. This was held at the UW’s Pack Forest, and reinforced our growing interest in the study and preservation of the majestic forests of the Pacific Northwest. Since then, we have audited many courses in the College, for instance 2009 courses on Biology and Conservation of Birds (Prof. John Marzluff) and Wildlife Ecology and Conservation (Prof. Aaron Wirsing). We learned from Rachel Carson, Al Gore, and a host of other passionate defenders, that our ecosystems and natural environments are fragile, and easily and often irrevocably damaged by human interventions. Visiting the magnificent glaciers during our two years in Alaska filled us with awe and admiration in the 1970’s, as did many that we subsequently explored in northwest national parks. Yet sadly these and other great glaciers are in a drastic decline, as are most of the Earth’s ice sheets and sea ice. These dramatic changes have enormous implications for future ocean and atmospheric dynamics and will greatly impact many species. We came to view our global concerns in terms of the biosphere, which we understand to be the Earth’s zones—terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric—that can harbor life, along with their past, present, and potentially future life forms. We have studied mass extinctions, such as are described in Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, and have grown deeply concerned that human interactions have initiated an ongoing and widespread anthropogenic extinction involving many of Earth’s diverse species. We focused on how humans and other organisms have interacted with Earth environments in Geobiology (Prof. Roger Buick), and in Environmental Earth Science (Prof. Terry Swanson).

Michael and Rebecca with a new generation of future environmentalists, January 2017.
Michael and Rebecca with a new generation of future environmentalists, January 2017.

Through many of the core units of the College, one or both of us have also studied many of the basic sciences informing our understanding of how the Earth’s environments have evolved and function. These include Physical Processes of the Earth (Prof. Darrel Cowan), Geological Time (Prof. John Stone), Atmospheric Science and Atmospheric Thermodynamics (both by Prof. Robert A. Houze, Jr.), Atmospheric Chemistry: Air Pollution and Global Warming (Prof. Joel Thornton), Geological Remote Sensing (Prof. Stephen E. Wood), and Space Physics (Prof. Robert Holzworth).

Another unexpected but delightful connection that we made with the College was through two of the editors (research soil scientist Prof. Sally Brown and her former graduate student Kristen McIvor Ph.D.) of a text on urban agriculture. We and our daughter Wendy McGoodwin were honored to be invited to provide a chapter on P-Patch community gardening in their Sowing Seeds in the City.

No academic subjects are of greater or more pressing importance than those improving our understanding of the many interrelationships and dynamics of our precious biosphere, and searching for ways to reduce and remediate the many adverse human impacts on it, including ultimately mass extinction. Future generations demand us to act effectively now. To this end, I am pleased to establish our scholarship for undergraduates interested in pursuing some of these vital goals.

Michael McGoodwin, April, 2020