Capstone Project

On this page: 

  • Outline of Expectations
  • Designing your Capstone Experience
  • Suggested Timeline (for a 2-year degree program)
  • Crafting your Capstone Proposal
  • The Final Report
  • Blog Post Resources

Outline of Expectations

Keep in mind the overarching goals of the GCeCS. Students will: 

  • Demonstrate mastery of multidisciplinary climate science through the creation of material that communicates some aspect of the physical climate system, climate impacts and/or adaptation.
  • Examine how your work contributes to the current state of knowledge in climate science communication
  • Learn to become better communicators, through coursework, creation of communication, and by evaluating the effectiveness of their communication (you are encouraged to consult with Angela Davis-Unger in UW Office of Educational Assessment,, or other faculty with assessment expertise). 
  • Share their experience by creating a blog post reflecting on both what you learned from the capstone experience and how you impacted your audience.

To be awarded the certificate, your GCeCS file in the PCC office must include documentation and GCeCS Graduate Adviser approvals as follows: 

  • Form stating intent to participate, with necessary transcripts and student number.
  • Departmental acknowledgment and approval (email from departmental adviser) to participate.* 
  • Plan for completing required coursework including capstone credits and who will award them** (suggested for all, but the written plan is only required for those working to complete a two-year graduate program).
  • Final project proposal (with email approvals from mentors and PCC Director).
  • Final evaluation plan
  • Project final report (with email approvals from mentors and PCC Director).
  • Final blog post describing the capstone experience, collaborations, and reflections.
  • Meetings with the GCeCS Graduate Adviser each quarter enrolled in capstone credits. 

*If not enrolled as a graduate student in ESS, OCEAN or ATMOS, obtain approval of participation in the GCeCS from your departmental adviser. This should be submitted as an email to 

**Sign up for a total of 5 capstone credits, OCEAN/ATM S/ESS 596 over 1 or more quarters. The final credit should be taken on the quarter you submit the final report. If you have a GCeCS project adviser/mentor who is faculty in Atmospheric Sciences, Oceanography, or Earth and Space Sciences you can sign up for credits with that faculty member. If you do not, then sign up for credits with the GCeCS Graduate Adviser, Miriam. In either case, document the quarter and the number of credits and who will give you the grade. 

Designing your Capstone Experience

Beyond the basic requirements for the GCeCS capstone project….

  • Project should be firmly grounded in climate science
  • Communication targeted at non-specialists
  • Complete 5 credits of ATMS/OCN/ESS 596 across 1 or more quarters (a minimum of 120 hours of effort)

There are a few other things to consider:

  • What are the goals of your communication effort?  What will you want your audience to walk away knowing more about?
  • What is the current communication/education research that can be used to inform your project?
  • Who would be a good mentor/partner/adviser? Could be one or more people with expertise and/or experience with the audience and/or the content being communicated.
  • What kind of evaluation tool is appropriate for your project?  This tool should help you determine how effective you are at meeting your communication goals.
  • How can you utilize human connections available to you through your department, the PCC, or your own connections outside the UW?

Additional Resources:

  • Blog posts written by recent capstone students can help you understand the wide range of projects that are possible.
  • List of completed capstone projects

Ready to move forward? Contact Miriam with your idea, and to request an example of a capstone proposal to use as a guide for writing your own.

Suggested Timeline (for a 2-year degree program)

Recommendations for those who want to complete the GCeCS and capstone while completing a two-year degree.

Required Coursework:

Submit a plan for completing required coursework that fits with your departmental requirements, to the GCeCS Graduate Adviser (Miriam Bertram, as soon as possible (preferably during the first year in your graduate program). Be sure to include a plan for completing the two required seminars (586 and a Science Communication seminar). 

Capstone project:

  1. Identify a project by the end of your first year.
    1. Start to explore possible projects and partners while taking the required courses. If at all possible, attend the capstone informational meeting in the fall and learn about previously completed projects and current opportunities. Read blogs and descriptions of past capstone projects available on the PCC website and through the GCeCS Graduate Adviser.
    2. Before the end of your first year, brainstorm ideas for capstone projects with the GCeCS Graduate Adviser and with potential mentors. Note that some graduate students complete a significant portion of their capstone during their first year summer internships, and this requires planning ahead.
    3. Explore potential synergies between the GCeCS capstone project and departmental degree projects. If the GCeCS project has overlap with degree projects, you will need to clearly articulate the distinction between the GCeCS capstone project and your degree projects. The GCeCS capstone often focuses on the communication of a project done for a degree. 
    4. Identify a project, partners and mentors. 
  2. Obtain all necessary approvals for the project proposal during (or before) the first quarter of your second year. Proposal guidelines outlined below. 
    1. During or before the first quarter of your second year, obtain examples of capstone proposals that are most similar to your project from Miriam. Every project is unique and distinct, so these proposals are simply guides.
    2. Identify project mentor(s). These are individuals with expertise in the content being communicated and/or with expertise in working with the audience with whom you are communicating. It is often appropriate to have two mentors. Mentors and advisers submit emails to stating they support the students’ participation and will be actively engaged.
    3. Submit a draft proposal to GCeCS Graduate Adviser for approval; project mentors then approve (via email), and revised draft submitted for final approval to the PCC director.
    4. The draft proposal must include a general plan for evaluating the communication; the final questionnaire can be submitted later, but prior to presenting the communication.
  3. Develop and deliver the communication, with audience evaluation, during the second quarter of your second year.
    1. Once you identify the goals of the communication, discuss evaluation options with Angela in UW’S OEA. Submit an evaluation plan for approval to the GCeCS Graduate Adviser.
    2. If you are basing your communication on your departmental research, this is more difficult to accomplish, and you should expect to find yourself scrambling during the third quarter of your second year.
    3. The GCeCS Graduate Adviser can help identify and secure audiences, as needed.
    4. Discuss any changes from the initial proposal with the GCeCS Graduate Adviser, to ensure you are still meeting the requirements of the capstone.
    5. Reflect on the project and write up the final report in your final quarter at UW. Do your best to complete on or before finals week! 
    6. Once all coursework and capstone requirements are met the GCeCS adviser (currently Miriam) will notify the graduate school of your completion of certificate requirements.

Note: For every quarter enrolled in capstone credits, you are required to meet with the GCeCS Graduate Adviser to discuss progress.

Crafting your Capstone Proposal

Before you write anything down, discuss your project with an adviser and consider the feasibility of accomplishing your goals in the time you have.  Present the idea to the GCeCS Graduate Adviser (Miriam) and/or PCC director who can help you explore connections and opportunities both within and outside UW.

Need a proposal example?  Ask Miriam for one that has elements in common with what you are proposing.

Consider the context.  What has been done before?  What makes your communication and/or communication tool or strategy interesting and important?  Who is your audience and why? Is your proposed project an extension of thesis work, part of a larger project?  Address these questions in the background section of the proposal.

Elements to include:

  • Title
  • Names and positions of collaborators and advisers; it is the responsibility of advisers to guide, read, and approve proposals, content (within their area of expertise) and final report and blog. Advisers are asked to email Miriam at with the acceptance of this role.
  • Background/Context (see above)
  • Target Audience. Who will be the audience for your communication?
  • Evaluation Plan. What do you want the audience to learn? To determine the effectiveness of your project, you’ll need to identify your communication goals and evaluate whether you’ve met these goals. There are resources (people) to help you do this well. Some projects are potentially publishable, but this would require additional planning around evaluation. Ask Miriam in the PCC office for advice on who to contact for guidance.
  • What is your communication product? A presentation? Game? Graphic? Classroom Lesson?
  • Come up with a plan as to how you’ll spend at least 120 hours across multiple quarters on this project.
  • Sharing the project. Please identify the most likely PCC venue for presenting what you did, given your timeline. It could be the spring symposium, a GSS, the summer institute, or other.

Most proposals are between 2 and 4 pages in length.

The Final Report

Expand on your proposal.  Your final report should update and revise the proposal, include the final evaluation of the communication and a reflection on the project.  Most final reports are 5-10 pages in length.

Ask Miriam for an example of a final report of a project that has elements similar to your project.

For graduating seniors, this report should be complete by the first day of finals for review by your faculty/external advisors, by Miriam, and finally by the PCC Director.  Expect some revisions to be either required or suggested.  Once this is complete you will receive a grade for all your capstone credits.

Blog Post

Once the final report is complete, it’s time to share what you did with the UW and external PCC communities through a reflective blog post.  We share this piece on the PCC website, and it is helpful to include links to materials that you created as part of the project.  Additional detail on structure and content can be found in these resources:

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