SEFS Holiday Tree Sale

Winter is coming, and that means it’s time for the annual SEFS Holiday Tree Fundraiser! Due to some club reorganizations, we got a bit of a late start this year, we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause with the shortened ordering window. Like last year, the sale is being run by a number of UW School of Environmental and Forest science clubs, and all proceeds will go to helping these clubs function throughout the year.

Your $45 donation will get you a beautiful five to seven-foot Noble Fir holiday tree from Hunter Farms, cut and sold by the SEFS Students. Our trees are handpicked and unique, and will come in all shapes and sizes. Some will be over seven feet and some will be less than 5 feet. If you are looking for a specific type of tree we recommend coming early to make sure you have a variety of trees to choose from!

If you would like a tree under five feet tall or over seven feet tall, please email your request to:

To preorder your tree, simply visit our website to place an order online. Due to the late start this year, we are moving away from paper order forms. However, if you would still like to order a tree this way, please email for more information. All orders must be submitted by Thursday, Nov. 29.

The trees will be cut on Saturday Dec. 1 and available for pick-up at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture outside the Douglas Research Conservatory on Sunday Dec. 2 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Please Note: Your $45 donation is non-refundable. This sale is organized and run entirely by student volunteers, all proceeds go towards funding SEFS student club events and are highly appreciated.

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday, Dec.2!

Common allergen, ragweed, will shift northward under climate change

Common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, is common in North America and is spreading in Europe. The plant releases a fine pollen in late summer and fall that causes allergy symptoms in people with hay fever.Andreas Rockstein/Flickr

New research from the University of Washington and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst looks at how the most common cause of sneezing and sniffling in North America is likely to shift under climate change.

A recent study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE finds that common ragweed will expand its range northward as the climate warms, reaching places including New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, while retreating from some current hot spots.

“It was surprising that nobody had looked at ragweed distributions in the U.S.: As climate conditions are changing, where will it spread to in the future?” said corresponding author Michael Case, who did the work as a postdoctoral researcher in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Ragweed is a native North American plant that thrives in open areas, moving quickly into disturbed areas. It produces copious fine-powder pollen from August to November, causing sneezing, runny noses, irritated eyes, itchy throats and headaches for people with hay fever.

Several studies of ragweed’s future geographic distribution have been done in Europe, where people are concerned because this invasive species is expanding its range. This is the first study to consider future ragweed distribution in the United States.

Case’s previous research looks at how climate change may influence the distribution of various species, mainly native trees in the Pacific Northwest. Co-lead author Kristina Stinson, an assistant professor of plant ecology at UMass Amherst, is an expert on ragweed, including mapping allergy hot spots in New England.

“One reason we chose to study ragweed is because of its human health implications. Ragweed pollen is the primary allergen culprit for hay fever symptoms in summer and fall in North America, so it affects a lot of people,” Stinson said.

For the new study, the two authors built a machine learning model using Maxent software that takes some 726 observations of common ragweed in the eastern U.S., drawn from an international biodiversity database, then combines those with climate information to identify conditions that allow the plant to thrive. Researchers next ran the model into the future using temperature and precipitation output from 13 global climate models under two different pathways for future greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the rest of the story at UW News.

Racial, ethnic minorities face greater vulnerability to wildfires

Environmental disasters in the U.S. often hit minority groups the hardest.

When Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans in 2005, the city’s black residents were disproportionately affected. Their neighborhoods were located in the low-lying, less-protected areas of the city, and many people lacked the resources to evacuate safely. Similar patterns have played out during hurricanes and tropical storms ever since.

Massive wildfires, which may be getting more intense due to climate change and a long history of fire-suppression policies, also have strikingly unequal effects on minority communities, a new study shows.

Researchers at the University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy used census data to develop a “vulnerability index” to assess wildfire risk in communities across the U.S. Their results, appearing Nov. 2 in the journal PLOS ONE, show that racial and ethnic minorities face greater vulnerability to wildfires compared with primarily white communities. In particular, Native Americans are six times more likely than other groups to live in areas most prone to wildfires.

“A general perception is that communities most affected by wildfires are affluent people living in rural and suburban communities near forested areas,” said lead author Ian Davies, a graduate student in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. “But there are actually millions of people who live in areas that have a high wildfire potential and are very poor, or don’t have access to vehicles or other resources, which makes it difficult to adapt or recover from a wildfire disaster.”

This study is one of the first to integrate both the physical risk of wildfire with the social and economic resilience of communities to see which areas across the country are most vulnerable to large wildfires. The approach takes 13 socioeconomic measures from the U.S. census — including income, housing type, English fluency and health — for more than 71,000 census tracts across the country and overlays them with wildfire potential based on weather, historical fire activity and burnable fuels on the landscape.

Read the rest of the story at the UW News.

SEFS alumna Vicki Christiansen appointed Forest Service chief

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences alumna Vicki Christiansen (’83, B.S.) is the 19th Chief of the USDA Forest Service after spending seven months as the interim chief.

She was appointed on Oct. 10 by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who said in a press release that Christiansen “knows what’s needed to restore our forests and put them back to work for the taxpayers.”

Christiansen, a Washington native, has worked in wildland firefighting and forestry for 36 years, joining the U.S. Forest Service in 2010. She is also a Society of American Foresters member. While attending UW, she worked as a wildland firefighter and later held jobs in operations, managing state trust lands and regulating forest practices on state and private lands.

“I’m passionate about the Forest Service mission to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forest and grasslands and I have worked over the past 35 years both at the state and national level to advance that mission,” Christiansen said. The University of Washington provided me a place to really be curious and develop a quest for lifelong learning.”

A dose of nature: New UW initiative to spearhead research on health benefits of time outside


Time spent in nature can reduce anxiety and help you sleep better at night, experts have found. It also offers promising benefits for a range of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, depression and obesity.

But there are still many questions about how time in nature can help with these health conditions, and others. A new University of Washington initiative announced this week seeks to advance research on these questions, connecting academic researchers with pediatricians, childcare providers, mental health practitioners and others who work with various populations on critical health issues.

“The Nature for Health initiative is aimed at accelerating our understanding of the health impacts of time spent in nature,” said Joshua Lawler, the initiative’s lead and a UW professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. “The group is not only about doing this critical research, but also about applying it to create programs and policies that are good for human health.”

Read more on UW News

Greg Bratman Selected for Harvard Fellowship

Greg Bratman, assistant professor at SEFS, has been selected as a JPB Environmental Health (EH) Fellow by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Professor Bratman is one of 15 new fellows that were selected through a competitive process. Over the next three years, he will receive $240,000, mentoring and training in methods, skills, new technologies, leadership and communications.

Funded by the JPB Foundation, the JPB EH Fellowship Program supports a new generation of environmental health scholars who are committed to developing solutions and supporting policy changes that address environmental, social and economic health disparities in the U.S. JPB EH Fellows are engaged in rigorous interdisciplinary research on the social and physical determinants of environmental health disparities in vulnerable communities.

SEFS Seminars – Wednesdays at 3:30 PM

In Autumn 2018, SEFS will offer seminars on Wednesdays at 3:30 PM in the Forest Club Room (Anderson 207).  These seminars are not for credit and the entire SEFS community is invited.  Please consider attending to learn about current research and interesting projects.

A reception will follow each seminar.  See the schedule of speakers below:

Oct 10 – Briana Abrams
Position: Research Ecologist, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Seminar Title: From the Savanna to the Sea: Linking environmental conditions to wildlife movement, fitness, and conservation

Oct 17 – David Diaz
Position: PhD Student, SEFS, UW
Seminar Title: Tradeoffs in Timber, Carbon, and Cash Flow under Alternative Management Systems for Douglas-Fir in the Pacific Northwest

Oct 24 – Jenny Knoth and Elaine O’Neill
Positions: SEFS Alumnae, Green Crow and WA Farm Forestry
Seminar Title: Carbon – Forest science, policy, and practice in the PNW

Oct 31 – Robert Montgomery
Position: Assistant Professor, Michigan State University
Seminar Title: Why big fierce animals are increasingly rare

Nov 7 – Sarah Gergel
Position: Professor and Associate Dean, UBC
Seminar Title: TBD

Nov 14 – Sharon Doty
Position: Professor, SEFS
Seminar Title: The Functional Importance of the Plant Microbiome in Sustainable Forestry, Agriculture, and Bioenergy

Nov 28 – Mark Huff
Position: Inventory & Monitoring Program Mgr, North Coast and Cascades Monitoring Network
Seminar Title: Long-term ecological monitoring of northwest national parks from 2005 to 2018

Dec 5 – Paul Sounders
Position: Photographer
Seminar Title: Arctic Solitaire

Dec 12 – Sara Curran
Position: Professor and Director, CSDE, UW
Seminar Title: Research Reflections @ Demographic & Environment Dynamics

2018 Sustaining Our World Lecture: Jonathan Foley

Guest Post by Daniel S. Feinberg, SEFS Staff Assistant and Ph.D. Candidate

On Thursday, April 26, SEFS had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, for the annual Sustaining Our World Lecture, along with a variety of other activities throughout the day. Dr. Foley studies global sustainability and is one of the most cited environmental scientists in the world.

Picture of Dr. Jonathan Foley.

Dr. Jonathan Foley

Dr. Foley’s visit began with an informal lunch and discussion that touched on topics such as the accessibility (or lack thereof) of scientific journals, as well as the need for scientists to inspire children from under-represented communities. He also expressed his appreciation for the intersection of science and art, which manifests itself through exhibits at the California Academy. Following the discussion, Dr. Foley spent the afternoon in individual meetings with faculty members to explore shared interests and potential opportunities for collaboration.

Although Dr. Foley began his lecture with examples of pressing environmental problems (e.g., methane pollution from cows), he went on to offer corresponding solutions (e.g., eating less red meat). He described the perceived state of political polarization in the U.S. and its implications for climate change, noting that many Americans are actually undecided and might still be swayed to support or oppose climate action.

Dr. Foley described himself as having hope for the future, without being blindly optimistic; he stressed that we (i.e., humans) must take it upon ourselves to create a better world, rather than waiting for an invisible hand to correct our errors. The California Academy’s Planet Vision initiative provides specific guidance for how we can start to make changes in our day-to-day lives.

Dr. Jonathan Foley is joined by SEFS students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends for dinner at Ivar's Salmon House after the lecture.

Dr. Jonathan Foley with SEFS students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends at Ivar’s Salmon House.

The evening concluded with dinner at Ivar’s Salmon House, where a combination of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends continued the conversation with Dr. Foley. As one of the students who attended the dinner, I had the chance to learn about various environmental career paths, such as academia and the non-profit sector. In addition to the extra time with Dr. Foley, I appreciated being able to chat with SEFS faculty outside of the classroom.

Watch the full UWTV recording of Dr. Foley’s 2018 Sustaining Our World Lecture here.

Director’s Message

In my first quarter as director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, I am so grateful for the warm welcome, and for opportunities to meet the committed students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends that make up the SEFS community. As I do, I learn more about the many ways in which the mission that attracted me here in the first place—“generating and disseminating knowledge for the stewardship of natural and managed environments and the sustainable use of their products and services”—inspires your work. I’m also energized as I learn about the opportunities we have to collaborate within the College of the Environment, the University of Washington, Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest region. We have an important mission, and together, we’re well positioned to make a big impact through our collective commitment and strong partnerships.

SEFS Director Dan Brown

Trained as a geographer and landscape ecologist, my research program takes a systems approach to understanding human-environment interactions and their implications for landscape and societal change. From that background, I’m particularly drawn to how scholars in SEFS confront the challenges of managing and stewarding environmental resources and their products using multiple strategies, perspectives, and disciplines. Our forests and landscapes are called upon to provide an increasingly diverse set of services in a globalizing, urbanizing, and warming world, and as a society, we face increasingly challenging choices about how to balance forest products, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, environmental justice, outdoor recreation, and human health, among others. I’m excited to work within the SEFS community as we lead efforts to advance knowledge discovery, application, dissemination, and integration, across science and engineering, natural and social processes, and many audiences of learners, to address these environmental challenges and support societal decision-making.

SEFS graduate programs are superb platforms for developing scientific and engineering expertise, as are our undergraduate tracks within the ESRM and BSE curricula. Importantly, the ESRM degree has long been structured to provide a foundation for integrated understanding of sustainability across economic, environmental, and social dimensions. My own experience with systems thinking has drawn me to sustainability science as a lens through which such integration can productively occur, and I am inspired by the leadership SEFS has shown in curricular innovation on this front. Further, SEFS and College of the Environment are also leaders in immersive learning, getting students into the field, into labs, and into internships so they can work on real problems, and in critical efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the environmental sciences. Our engagement with state, federal, tribal, and community partners, numerous field facilities, and partnerships with EarthLab and other units of the College of the Environment provide many avenues for SEFS faculty and students to confront complex social, environmental, and economic issues and sets the stage for innovative sustainability thinking and problem-solving.

It is the commitment of communities like those in SEFS, College of the Environment, and the UW that keep me hopeful in the face of big challenges. I’m so happy to be a part of them, and invite you to join us.

Dan Brown
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Photo Gallery: 2017 Pack Forest Summer Crew Recap!

For nine weeks, from June 19 to August 18, four SEFS undergraduate students—Nicole Lau, Xin Deng, Brian Chan and Joshua Clark—took part in this year’s Pack Forest Summer Crew!

As part of the internship, these students worked closely with SEFS graduate students Matthew Aghai, Kiwoong Lee and Emilio Vilanova, as well as forester Jeff Kelly. They participated in a diverse set of activities, including a great amount of time measuring 92 permanent forest plots from the Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) project. During this time, they became true field experts and were able to update a vital piece of information for the sustainable management of Pack Forest.

On a similar note, the interns joined Matthew in several field tasks related to his doctoral research project, both at Pack Forest and the Cedar and Tolt River Watersheds. They also helped in the maintenance of a through-fall exclusion project led by Professor Greg Ettl and Kiwoong Lee, and they were critical in the upkeep of the trail network at Pack Forest and measuring additional small-scale research projects, ranging from regeneration surveys to the installation of other research plots. Finally, during the summer the interns also got to participate in three field trips, including official visits to Rainier Veneer and Silvaseed facilities.

Check out a photo gallery for more on another fantastic summer at Pack Forest!

Photos courtesy of Emilio Vilanova