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Seattle City (spot)Light: Ronda Strauch

Ronda Strauch joined City Light in July 2018 as part of the Environment, Land and Licensing business unit. As a climate scientist, she works on climate change research and adaption. “My goal is to better understand climate change, how it affects City Light’s business, and what strategic things can we do to reduce impacts and prepare for it,” Ronda explained.

Originally from San Diego, Ronda received a bachelor’s degree in environmental management from UC Davis. She also earned her master’s degree in forest ecology and a Ph.D. in civil environmental engineering from the University of Washington. “In grad school, I looked at climate change impacts on high elevation forests,” Ronda shared. “I focused on what happens after a wildfire because, when you think of it, you’re kind of starting with a clean slate. It was a hot topic at the time. The IPCC had just formed and I knew we needed to learn more about how change could impact our forests.” She continued studying climate change focusing on landslides in the North Cascades during her doctorate.

Learn more about Ronda and her adventurous hobbies (including building her own sea kayak) in this week’s (spot)Light. 

Ronda with the 17 ft kayak that she built with her husband

“I love getting outdoors to kayak.  I’ll kayak on the Snoqualmie River, but last Labor Day my husband and I went to Broken Group Islands on the outskirts of Vancouver Island. I have a smaller kayak for rivers and lakes and the 17-foot sea kayak that we built! It took about five months to make. It’s a kit from Pygmy Boats out of Port Townsend and it’s made from an Okoume plywood that’s thin and resistant to fungal attack. I named her Cuttlefish.”

“I’m also a mountain climber. I’ve done Rainier twice, Mount Adams several times, and Mount Olympus once. Mount Baker and Mount Hood are on my list. I tried Glacier Peak, but we got foiled by whiteout conditions. I’d like to try that again. Right now, I’m training for an ultra-marathon trail run which is crazy, but it keeps me active! It’ll be at Bryce Canyon in May.”

“Gardening is another favorite hobby of mine. I have this goal of getting every tree species in Washington to grow in my yard. I have most, actually! I live on the outskirts of Woodinville. It’s a nice forested area with a little over an acre. So, we tend to get lots of animals. Last year we had two black bears. We’ve also had bobcats – we live with wildlife!”

“In my career, I’ve also looked at climate change and how it affects transportation. I did that at King County Department of Transportation and as part of my graduate work. I focused on climate change wherever I went, in whatever job I’ve held. I get to carry on that work at City Light. My work entails keeping up on the science, advancing research that supports our data needs, and communicating that information such that climate change considerations are integrated into our everyday decisions.  I really enjoy meeting and interacting with City Light employees and appreciate how they embrace the duty of keeping the lights on – even when the snow comes or doesn’t come, wind blows, fire strikes, and the heat is on!”