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Restoration Biologist, Tacoma Water

Natalie Schmidt

Restoration Biologist, Tacoma Water

Passion, Expertise and Contribution

Participate in one or more PBL Curriculum Design Labs to support both teachers and students in applied problem solving.

Support the development of curriculum resources related to Tacoma Water.

Coach Interns working on developing site-based case studies of projects in the Green Duwamish Watershed for posting on

Support new opportunities to engage school districts in the Tacoma Water Service area.

Develop a year-round mentoring circle with Ambassadors interested in learning about careers in environmental science. 

Encourage students of color to get involved and reach out to BIPOC planning professionals to serve as additional role models.

Support Green Job profiles and diversity workforce development strategies.

Design ways to integrate SA Impact Storytelling into personal and professional communications channels and platforms.

Support Ambassadors in building positive scenarios for the year 2050 through the Summer Series of 2050 WORKOUTS.

Attend the annual 2050 Update (August) and help promote it as widely as possible.

About Natalie

Natalie grew up on a little nursery on the south end of Whidbey Island, WA.  Her family ran a landscaping business and sold plats out of their front yard, and they also grew berries to supply local restaurants.  When Natalie was eleven her family was contracted to grow local prairie plants, including Indian paintbrush. Taken by the beauty of the plant, she lobbied her parents to let her change her name to the species' scientific name: Castilleja.  They declined, but that was a milestone in her love of all things plants.  In high school Natalie struggled with science, and after taking AP biology and doing horribly on the exam she vowed never to take another biology class.

Upon being offered a scholarship, Natalie entered college at the University of Washington, intending to study Japanese or statistics.  This was all going according to plan, until she took a non-majors genetics class from a very cool professor, and immediately changed her major to biology.  A similar epiphany occurred her senior year when she took an ecology class and realized that she would much prefer working outside to pipetting in a lab all day.  After graduation, Natalie left the country for two years to serve in the Peace Corps, where she lived in a small village in Senegal, West Africa.  While there she did a lot of farming and agroforestry work, as well as having a great time learning about Senegalese culture and languages.

Natalie returned home in 2010 and enrolled in a graduate program in Environmental Science at the University of Washington.  She spent five years studying restoration ecology; specifically how parasitic plants interact with the rest of the plant community.  During this time she also started teaching classes at Edmonds Community College and at Monroe Correctional Complex through a program called University Beyond Bars, as well as working several landscaping jobs (it was a busy time!).

As she was planning to graduate, she was offered a job at Tacoma Water, and eventually landed in her current position as a restoration biologist. In this job she gets to do lots of fun projects related to restoring and enhancing habitat in the Upper Green River Watershed (where Tacoma gets its drinking water).  This includes identifying plants that elk eat in our fields, helping the forester and fish biologist with their work, and creating a native plant nursery to supply plants for restoration projects.

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