You’re Invited: Field Tour of Poplar Demonstration Site in Oregon

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (AHB) invites you to join researchers, Washington State University Extension agents, and other poplar tree enthusiasts for a free field tour of the AHB Jefferson “Poplar for Biofuels” demonstration site in Jefferson, Ore., on February 22, anytime from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The poplars at the Jefferson Demonstration Site were planted in the spring of 2012 and first harvested in 2013 after two growing seasons. Now, three years after the initial harvest, they have regrown to heights of more than 30 feet and are ready for a second harvest. So on the site tour, attendees will get to learn about the harvest procedure, watch the poplar harvester at work (it’s a modified version of the machine used to harvest corn in the Midwest), and learn about the uses of poplar farms in the Pacific Northwest.

You can register for free online, and email Noelle Hart or call 425-741-9953 with any questions. (Please do register, though, so you can be informed of any changes or cancellations due to inclement weather). And remember to dress for field conditions!

AHB is a consortium of university and industry partners, including the University of Washington, working to prepare northern California, Oregon, Washington and northern Idaho for a sustainable hardwood bio-based chemicals and biofuels industry.

Photo of poplar harvester © AHB.

IFSA to Host Canadian-American Regional Meeting

Starting this Saturday, February 18, and running through Sunday, February 26, our UW Local Committee of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) will be hosting the 2017 Canadian-American Regional Meeting (CARM). Organized entirely by our IFSA students, this international gathering will welcome around 40 students from universities across the United States and Canada to learn about sustainable forestry practices in Washington.

Throughout their visit, CARM attendees will enjoy a full slate of activities, from tours of the Washington Park Arboretum and Union Bay Natural Area, to an overnight field trip to Pack Forest and the Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks, Wash. Other events include a Faculty Welcome Dinner and informal networking night on Wednesday, February 22, and one of IFSA’s annual Pecha Kucha nights on Thursday, February 23, at 5 p.m. in the Forest Club Room, where students will give lightning talks on a variety environmental topics (with a potluck dinner afterward). Then, at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 24, IFSA is throwing the Forester’s Ball in the Forest Club Room. The cost is $10 at the door or $8 in advance, which includes two drinks (for those of age with ID), and other snacks and beverages will be provided (tickets can be purchased starting this Thursday, February 16, in Anderson 116 or 107B). For more information, check out the event page on Facebook, and you can email IFSA with any questions.

IFSA heartily invites all faculty, staff and students to attend all of these events. Hosting CARM is a huge undertaking—from housing the many out-of-state guests, to pulling together a full slate of activities throughout the week—and they are eager to show off the incredible programs and community we have here at SEFS. So take a look at the schedule for this week-long event, and we hope you’ll join in as many events as you can!

Next Tuesday (2/14): Natural Resources Career Fair!

This coming Tuesday, February 14, the Society of American Foresters – UW Student Chapter will be hosting its 3rd annual Natural Resources Career Fair in the Forest Club Room from 1 to 4 p.m.!

SEFS master’s student Cole Gross, who is organizing the fair this year, has signed up 17 agencies and organizations, ranging from Weyerhaeuser and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, to King County Parks and The Nature Conservancy. The fair will be a fun, informational and interactive process that will allow you to introduce yourself to these potential employers and learn about a wide range of opportunities in natural resource fields. You can come for any length of time during the three hours, and there will be periodic raffle giveaways (including several REI gift cards!), as well as free refreshments and snacks.

So update your résumé, do your research, and come learn about some great internship and career possibilities!

PowerPoint Presentation

How Do You Convince a Climate Change Skeptic?

We are very excited to announce the launch of our third annual UW Climate Change Video Contest! Our first two contests inspired some incredibly thoughtful and creative videos, and this year we’re challenging high school students throughout Washington with a new prompt: Create a two-minute ad that will convince a climate change skeptic to take action.

2017_02_2017 FlyerYour ad can be targeted at anyone—the general public, voters, a friend, family member, local politician or world leader. What matters most is the power and effectiveness of your message, from your ability to engage viewers with opposing viewpoints, to the strength of your scientific reasoning. Your video can take on any format imaginable, and we encourage you to get creative (fake news satire, Claymation, sci-fi, music video, film noir mystery, ballet, stand-up comedy routine, rock opera, personal monologue, documentary…and everything else in between).

A top prize of $5,000 awaits the winner, $1,000 for second and $500 for third, and we’ll screen and celebrate the finalists at the UW Climate Change Video Awards at Town Hall Seattle this spring.

The deadline to submit a video is Sunday, April 30, 2017, and we can’t wait to see how students tackle this challenge. So learn more about the contest, and help us spread the word to as many high schools as possible across the state!

2017_02_Blog Announcement

This August: Symposium on Systems Analysis in Forest Resources

This summer, from August 27 to 31, Professor Sándor Tóth is organizing the Symposium on Systems Analysis in Forest Resources (SSAFR), an international gathering that has been held every couple years since 1975. Co-sponsored by the Precision Forestry Cooperative, this symposium will be held at the Clearwater Resort in Suquamish, Wash., about an hour outside of Seattle.

Past symposiums have brought together decision scientists from around the world who study forest systems with the goal of making better management and policy decisions. Common topics have included harvest scheduling, spatial reserve design, wildfire management, wildlife management, invasive pest detection and control, forest ecosystem services, supply chain optimization for biofuel and timber and non-timber forest economics. The overarching link across these topics has been the use of operations research and decision theory to inform on-the-ground management as well as forest policy.

The 2017 SSAFR will be unique in that it will bring together two traditionally disconnected disciplines both working on forest decision support systems: the remote sensing/geospatial informatics community, and operations researchers. The former group is concerned with how to best collect and process data on forests and other resources, whereas the latter tries to optimize resource management given whatever data is available. Despite the obvious feedback and connections between the two groups, so far they have generally operated separately from each other. Working together in this symposium, the two groups will seek to study such questions as how to streamline data collection protocols of competing forest management objectives.

The deadline to submit abstracts has been extended to this coming Friday, February 10, so learn more about the symposium and get involved!

2017_02_SSAFR

Alaska Airlines Takes Flight Using Forest-Powered Biofuel

This past November, Alaska Airlines made history by completing the first commercial flight using an alternative jet fuel made in part from forest residuals, the limbs and branches that remain after the harvesting of managed forests. The first-of-its-kind renewable biofuel comprised 20 percent of the jet fuel blend, and it helped power the demonstration flight on a Boeing 737-800—carrying several elected officials and a number of researchers involved in the project, including Professor Indroneil Ganguly and SEFS doctoral candidate Laurel James, among the 163 passengers—from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. This cross-country flight on November 14 provided a triumphant culmination to a five-year USDA-funded project, led by Washington State University (WSU).

The wood used in the jet fuel came from Washington, Oregon and Montana, including forests managed by Weyerhaeuser, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe.

The wood used in the jet fuel came from Washington, Oregon and Montana, including forests managed by Weyerhaeuser, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe. (© 2016 Washington State University)

Nearly lost in the press coverage and excitement, though, were some of the contributions SEFS researchers made as key partners in this bio-jet fuel development, including leading the overall environmental, community and deep soil carbon impact assessments of this bio-based alternative energy.

Guiding the cutting-edge research on this alternative jet fuel has been the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), a partnership of public universities, government laboratories and private industry. NARA received a $40 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture in 2011 to develop bio-based alternatives to traditionally petroleum-based products such as jet fuel. Led by WSU, NARA organized a comprehensive approach to building a supply chain for aviation biofuel with the goal of increasing efficiency in everything from forestry operations to conversion processes. The project aimed to create a sustainable industry to produce aviation biofuels and valuable co-products, all while empowering rural economies, increasing America’s energy security, and reducing aviation’s environmental impact.

At SEFS, Indroneil and Dr. Francesca Pierobon led a team of researchers evaluating the overall environmental footprint of the bio-jet fuel using a cradle-to-grave life-cycle assessment (LCA). To meet the U.S. Energy Independence and Securities Act standards, it was critical to be able to show that using this renewable biofuel could achieve at least a 60 percent lifecycle Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction threshold. Impressively, their LCA demonstrated the potential for as much as a 72-percent reduction in lifecycle GHG emissions using NARA’s jet fuel, which is chemically indistinguishable from regular jet fuel.

“If Alaska Airlines were able to replace 20 percent of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of communications and external relations. “This is equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.”

“If Alaska Airlines were able to replace 20 percent of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of communications and external relations. “This is equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.” (© 2016 Washington State University)

Typical forest harvest operations in the Pacific Northwest, after all, leave behind a considerable volume of unused residual woody biomass, most of which is collected into piles in the forest and burned. “So in my opinion,” says Indroneil, “the most important environmental benefit associated with producing this bio-jet fuel is the avoided slash pile burns, which improves local air quality and reduces the local health impacts caused by the harmful pollutants generated from burning.”

Through a community impact assessment (CIA), Professor Ivan Eastin—who led SEFS’ overall involvement in the project—and Research Associate Daisuke Sasatani evaluated the potential economic impacts, including job creation, of a bio-jet fuel production facility located in the Pacific Northwest. They found that establishing a commercial-sized bio-jet fuel production plant, located in southwestern Washington and producing 35 million gallons of woody biomass-based jet fuel per year, could generate approximately $650 million in industrial output while directly creating 173 jobs within the production facility—and indirectly leading to the creation of an additional 1,200 jobs within the supply chain.

For the soil carbon impacts assessment, Professor Rob Harrison led stump decomposition, deep soil carbon retention and nutrient sustainability studies. He and his team concluded that Pacific Northwest forests—particularly moist coastal coniferous forests—are highly productive due partly to high belowground resource stocks and availability. They further concluded that these resource stocks are likely to be resilient to additional biomass harvest removals that would provide feedstock for a biofuels and biochemical industry.

These findings, coupled with the successful demonstration flight, highlighted some of the enormous potential of viable alternatives to replace conventional fossil fuels for aviation.

“By creating an advanced drop-in biofuel from residual woody biomass, which is generally disposed of by open burning,” says Indroneil, “we are not only addressing the global warming issue by displacing fossil fuel, we are also presenting an economic alternative for forest-dependent communities.”

Photo below © USDA/Lance Cheung/USDA.

2017_01_NARA2

Pack Forest Spring Planting: March 20-24!

For nearly 80 years, SEFS students have been putting down roots at Pack Forest, helping to shape the woods for future generations. This Spring Break, you can leave your own mark by taking part in the annual spring planting, March 20 to 24, as a Pack Forest intern. After all, why veg when you can plant?!

While staying in rustic cabins at Pack Forest—just down the road from Mount Rainier—you’ll get to roll up your sleeves and work on forest establishment, including planting, regeneration surveys and survey reports. Your housing (and some food) will be covered, there’s a kitchen at your disposal, you’ll earn a $200 stipend, and one course credit is also available. It’s a week of hard work and hands-on learning, and also a whole lot of fun as you explore the gorgeous 4,300 acres of Pack Forest. It’s an unforgettable experience!

The internship is open to undergraduate and graduate students. To apply, send an email expressing your interest to Professor Greg Ettl as soon as possible, and no later than Sunday, February 26!

2017_01_Spring Planting1

Society of American Foresters Accredits Three SEFS Degree Programs

Since 2006, the Society of American Foresters (SAF) has accredited our Master of Forest Resources – Forest Management (MFR) as the sole professional forestry program at our school. In 2015, we sought continued accreditation for this program, as well as accreditation for two options within our undergraduate Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Environmental Science and Resource Management: Sustainable Forest Management, and Natural Resource and Environmental Management.

2017_01_SAF AccreditationAs of January 1, 2017, the SAF Committee on Accreditation granted continued accreditation to our MFR program, initial accreditation to the Sustainable Forest Management option, and provisional accreditation to the Natural Resource and Environmental Management option! Accreditation for the two professional forestry programs, under the SAF Forestry Standard, is for 10 years, and the provisional accreditation of the Natural Resource and Environmental Management option—under the SAF Natural Resources and Ecosystem Management Standard—extends through 2019. These options are now the only SAF-accredited B.S. programs in Washington!

Gaining accreditation for these programs is great news for prospective and currently enrolled students, their families, our alumni and employers, and it further strengthens our ability to recruit and train the next generation of forestry and natural resource leaders. It also allows us to strengthen our long-time association with SAF, which began its accreditation of forestry programs more than 80 years ago!

Interim Director’s Welcome: Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh

On January 3, 2017, I began my nine-month appointment as interim director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. It has been a dizzying—and infinitely fascinating—first month settling into my new role and office here in Anderson Hall, and I’m gradually feeling my way through the complex world of our school after more than 30 years as a professor of biology at the University of Washington. My calendar has been packed as I’ve tried to connect with as many folks as possible, but until I get a chance to meet everyone face to face, I wanted to share a little more about my background and what brought me to SEFS.

My family includes B Lippitt, an educator working at the Institute for Systems Biology, our daughter Alice, who teaches 2nd and 3rd grade in the Seattle Public Schools, and our son Will, who is a construction manager with Venture Construction, his partner Ashley and their brand-new baby Wiley. B and I live in south Seattle, where we raise vegetables, bees and other art forms on our property.

My family includes B Lippitt, an educator working at the Institute for Systems Biology, our daughter Alice, who teaches 2nd and 3rd grade in the Seattle Public Schools, and our son Will, who is a construction manager with Venture Construction, his partner Ashley and their brand-new baby Wiley. B and I live in south Seattle, where we raise vegetables, bees and other art forms on our property.

My interest in biology began in high school. I remember two remarkable teachers, in chemistry and in biology, and learning to pith a frog. Forevermore I was a plant biologist, interested in physiology and biochemical function.

I went on to earn a bachelor’s in botany from Duke University and a Ph.D. in plant physiology from the University of Washington. Following postdoctoral appointments at the University of Illinois and as a NATO Fellow at Lancaster University in England, I returned to the UW Botany Department and began postdoctoral/research faculty work, including with the poplar research program led by Professor Emeritus Reinhard Stettler from the College of Forest Resources (now our school). I worked closely then with Tom Hinckley and Toby Bradshaw (then a member of CFR, now chair of Biology), and soon I was hired as an assistant professor in botany in 1987. I continued my collaboration with CFR by joining graduate supervisory committees and serving on the Center for Urban Horticulture Advisory Committee with Professor Emeritus Harold Tukey, and later David Mabberly and Sarah Reichard.

In my own career as a plant biologist, my research has focused on the physiological regulation of leaf expansion in crop plants, including beans, corn, poplar and tomato. I am most known for my work on leaf growth with respect to photobiology and drought stress, and I have explored how genetic variation in activity of growth control affects yield. One of these projects was funded by Pioneer Hi-Bred seed company, a collaboration with Professor Emeritus David Ford on corn canopies. With poplar, it became clear that the rate of leaf expansion predicted stem volume at the end of a one-year growth season. Recent experiments show that the rate of bean leaf expansion predicts yield of bean plants grown in greenhouse conditions. Students currently working in my Plant Growth Lab are exploring how blue light controls the growth mechanism, what influence leaf shape has on function, and how drought tolerance develops in growing bean plants.

Greenhouse beans.

Greenhouse beans, part of an experiment in Liz’s Plant Growth Lab.

From the beginning, I’ve been interested in how plants work, focusing on physiology and adaptation. A little more than 10 years ago, I was invited to join an international group of researchers forming the Society for Plant Neurobiology. It seemed a natural progression, especially since leaf growth physiology has many similarities to neurophysiology. I became president of this society, which later changed its name to Plant Signaling and Behavior (to match its journal), and I’m also a longstanding member of the American Society of Plant Biology, Sigma Xi and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where I am a AAAS Fellow.

Which brings me to this new chapter as interim director of SEFS. When I first considered this opportunity—after the surprise of being asked—I saw a tremendous opportunity to work with old colleagues and new partners on a mission that’s vitally important to the health of our global environment. The complexity of leading a school is new to me, but also appealing. So I look forward to understanding better the whole of the SEFS community, and getting to know all of the people and projects that make it work!

Sincerely,

Liz Van Volkenburgh
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Washington Botanical Symposium: Student Scholarships Available!

On Wednesday, March 15, the First Washington Botanical Symposium will take place at the Center for Urban Horticulture from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in NHS Hall!

2017_01_Botanical SymposiumSponsored by the Burke Museum, UW Botanic Gardens, Washington Natural Heritage Program, and the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, the symposium will bring together an extensive network of professional, academic and amateur botanists who are actively engaged in the conservation, management and study of Washington’s diverse flora. Their expertise ranges from how best to manage biodiversity, to understanding climate change impacts on plant communities, to naming and classifying the flora’s rare, common and invasive elements. At this symposium, invited speakers and poster presentations will share new insights and discoveries about these topics and more. Participants from throughout Washington and adjacent areas will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues within and across disciplines.

The cost for attending is $75, which includes lunch, and a limited number of scholarships are available for current, full-time students to attend at no charge. To be considered for a scholarship, email urbhort@uw.edu with two paragraphs about your interest in the symposium and a picture/copy of your current student ID. Applications will be considered in the order in which they are received. (If you are a student who has already registered for the symposium, you may still apply for a scholarship, and if, accepted, your registration fee will be refunded.)

Learn more about the speakers and topics, and register today!