Thesis Defense: John Simeone!

Simeone Thesis Defense

An 18-wheeler carrying roundwood in Dalnerechensk, Russia.

SEFS graduate student John Simeone, who is working on a joint degree at the Jackson School of International Studies, will be defending his thesis for the latter program this coming Friday, May 3, at 10:30 a.m. in Anderson 22.

While the Russian forest sector languished for much of the first 15 years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, beginning in 2007 the Russian government instituted a set of policies designed to develop and modernize the Russian forest sector. This thesis is a policy analysis of Russia’s 2007 and 2008 forest sector initiatives—principally export taxes on roundwood and investment subsidies for value-added processing.

If you can’t make this Friday’s defense, then keep an eye out for Simeone’s SEFS defense later in August. His faculty advisor is Professor Sergey Rabotyagov, and he is also working closely with Professor Ivan Eastin and CINTRAFOR on Russia’s role in the timber trade. Should be great stuff!

Photo © John Simeone.

SEFS Seminar Series: Week 5 Preview!

Forest HealthAs we turn a new leaf on the calendar this coming Wednesday, it’s fitting—or at least convenient as far this story is concerned—that we’ll also be turning your attention to the leaves (and roots, bark, branches, etc.) in our state’s forests for Week 5 of the SEFS Seminar Series!

For his talk, “Forest Health in Washington,” Professor Emeritus Bob Edmonds will explore concerns about the recent high rate of tree mortality and the potential impact on ecosystem services. Washington’s forests are impacted by insects, diseases, fire, animals, air pollution, drought, climate change and other factors. Introduced as well as native insect and disease problems are involved, and forest health is generally worse in eastern Washington than western Washington. Professor Edmonds’ talk, in turn, will cover the causes of forest health problems and what is being done to alleviate them.

When: Wednesday, May 1, 3:30-4:20 p.m.
Where: Anderson Hall, Room 223
Who’s Invited: It’s open to the public, and all faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend!

Come out and support your colleagues, and then head over to the Forest Club Room afterward for a casual reception from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Also, mark your calendars for the remaining talks this spring!

Xi Sigma Pi Announces Research Grant Winners for 2013

Xi Sigma PiXi Sigma Pi, the Forestry Honor Society founded at the University of Washington in 1908, is proud to announce the recipients of this year’s research grant funding. After long and hard deliberation, and the careful review of many highly competitive proposals, the following winners were selected:

Two First Place Winners of $500 each:
Oliver Jan, “A mechanistic approach towards lignin char reduction and valorization in catalytic fast pyrolysis through bifunctional Pd/ZSM-5 catalysts” (Faculty Advisor: Fernando Resende)

Luyi Li, “The effects of soil parent material and fertilization treatment on the wood quality of Douglas fir in the Pacific Northwest” (Faculty Advisor: Eric Turnblom)

Second Place Winner of $250:
Sebastian Tramon, “The mystery of conservation outcomes: Looked through institutional lenses” (Faculty Advisor: Clare Ryan)

Undergraduate Research Winner of $250:
Raymond Yap, “Colonization, degradation of Trichloroethylene and comparison of phytotoxicity in plants inoculated with endophyte PDN3” (Faculty Advisor: Sharon Doty)

Congratulations to all of the grant recipients, and Xi Sigma Pi extends a big thank you to the grant review committee!

SEFS Recognition Event: Submit Your Award Nominations!

Coming up on Tuesday, May 14, we’ll be holding our annual SEFS Recognition Event in the Forest Club Room from 3-5 p.m. This year’s festivities include the award presentation, honoring retiring faculty and staff, door prizes, food and a wine tasting for those of age, as well as the always-popular silent auction (salmon fishing on Puget Sound? Sunset champagne sail?!) It’ll be one big school-wide stew—undergrads, grads, faculty and staff—so mark your calendars and come out and celebrate with your friends and colleagues!

In addition to faculty and research awards, each year we give out six awards based on nominations—three each for staff and students—to recognize exemplary members of the SEFS community.

Staff Categories

  1. Exemplary Administrative Performance
  2. Exemplary Research Activities
  3. Exemplary Outreach Activities

Student Categories

  1. Distinguished Teaching Assistant
  2. Outstanding Community Participation
  3. Distinguished Research Assistant

Nominations can come from students, staff or faculty, so don’t be bashful. To support your nomination, please send me a brief but specific nominating statement identifying your candidate and the nominated award category, and how your candidate exemplifies the characteristics of that category (a few lines will suffice). You may nominate a candidate for more than one award.

Please send your nominations to me—Karl Wirsing—by Friday, May 3. That’s less than two weeks away, so don’t dally in recognizing the amazing qualities of your peers and colleagues!

ESRM Students Volunteer at Beaver Pond

Beaver PondEarlier this quarter, students in Professor Rob Harrison’s “ESRM 100: Environmental Science” course volunteered at the Beaver Pond Natural Area in Seattle. Working with Ruth Williams, the volunteer organizer, the students removed invasive plants and planted some native species.

Most ESRM 100 students complete a volunteer project as part of the course requirements, which include writing up a summary of their work, including the species they worked with, why they did the work, any problems they encountered, solutions they employed, and environmental benefits of doing their particular project.

For many, says Professor Harrison, the project is the first time they’ve done anything like this kind of restoration work outside—and they enjoy it so much that it often leads to additional environmental service volunteering!

Photo © Rob Harrison.

Thesis Defense: Jesse Langdon!

Jesse Langdon

Species turnover hot/cold spots.

Nothing gets the nervous/excited juices flowing like more faces in the crowd, so come out and support Jesse Langdon tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, April 24, as he defends his thesis, “Forecasting the impacts of climate change on terrestrial species and protected areas in the Pacific Northwest!”

Part of the Landscape Ecology and Conservation Lab, Langdon’s faculty advisor is Professor Josh Lawler, and his other committee members are Professor Steve West and Elizabeth Gray. He will be giving his talk in the Forest Club Room from 1-2 p.m., with snacks and refreshments provided.

It’s a great opportunity to support a fellow colleague and student, and to help commemorate his years of research and contributions to the SEFS community!

A Friday Tour of the ONRC


Derric Kettel, Ellen Matheny and Theresa Santman at ONRC.

This past Friday, I drove out with Professor Aaron Wirsing to visit and tour the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) in Forks, Wash. My goal was to learn more about the center and spotlight some of its facilities for research and education within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). Professor Wirsing was on hand to shadow the “ESRM 351: Wildlife Research Techniques” class, which Professor Steve West was leading out to spend two days and nights conducting field research on the Olympic Peninsula—using ONRC as the perfect staging ground for lodging, dining, frog hunts, bird walks, newt and salamander searches, stream surveys and a range of other hands-on activities.

It takes about 3.5 hours to reach ONRC from the Seattle campus, depending on your luck with timing the Kingston ferry. When we arrived, the rain was lashing, so we quickly ducked indoors and met our extremely welcoming hosts: Ellen Matheny, education and outreach director; Theresa Santman, manager of program operations, and Deric Kettel, who’s overseen general maintenance of ONRC since its first days in the mid-1990s.

They walked us through ONRC’s incredibly versatile facility, which features a host of lab and conference spaces, a library, social and dining hall with an indoor/outdoor fireplace, dormitories and larger apartments (brimming with ESRM students later that evening), classroom space for distance learning, and even a two-mile walking trail around the property, which locals in Forks use regularly—and who are sure to call in for help whenever there’s a tree or other blockage across the trail!

Depending on the type of event or activity, ONRC provides terrific space for conferences and other professional gatherings; day and overnight trips for class field study; graduate students looking for space to conduct or complete research projects; staging grounds for other projects and meetings; even social events (weddings and reunions are fairly common). The setting is a small field atop a forested hill overlooking Forks and the surrounding area. Tall hemlocks ring the clearing, which is a popular elk grazing ground, and even with the rain and typical cloud cover, huge windows keep the inside feeling bright and cozy. We left excited thinking about more ways we could integrate SEFS classes and research opportunities at ONRC.

Find out how you can get involved and take advantage of this great research and learning center—and the next time you’re in the area, make sure to stop by and visit!

Photo © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

Undergrad Spotlight: Sarra Tekola

If you want to see fierce incarnate, just ask Sarra Tekola to recite one of her poems—particularly a recent piece about climate change—and see if you don’t get tingles. You can feel her passion burn through every word.

Sarra Tekola

Sarra Tekola has her hands in scores of activities around campus.

“I’ve been accused to being an environmental evangelist before,” says Tekola, a junior at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), “but you never want to be too overbearing. It’s important not to push people away. There’s a happy medium with not being so extreme, and if we want to do something about climate change, we need to include everyone. Because it isn’t just a political agenda. It’s a global issue that every single person on this Earth needs to become involved in and do something about.”

Poetry plays into Tekola’s desire to make science more accessible and accepted. She doesn’t want to be a scientist who mostly talks to other scientists; she wants to be actively connected to her community and the public. Even when we have an abundance of evidence—as with ocean acidification and climate change, she says—there’s often a disconnect when trying to galvanize the community to accept and act on the available science. “I want to be able to relate to people and help find solutions to climate change, to be able to persuade people and politicians, to convince them.”

With verse, she gets to practice her art of persuasion when she’s reading poems at an “open mic” night on campus, where she often addresses different audiences and perspectives. “I get to talk to people I might not meet at a restoration event or seminar,” she says.

Another of her tactics for fighting climate change denial is connecting collaborators. So far, she’s set up a Facebook page called “Climate Change Crisis Council,” and she hopes to grow the page into a forum where activists, scientists and environmentalists share ideas, opportunities for environmental involvement and research, and also build networks to find solutions for climate change. (If you’re interested in joining, it’s an open group, and you can contact Tekola via that page). Her plan is to build enough momentum to form a campus club that would get students involved in environmental research, work on public outreach and complete sustainability projects at UW through the Campus Sustainability Fund.

Sarra Tekola

One of Tekola’s projects is to mitigate run-off from a gravel road into a salmon stream near her parent’s home in Maple Valley.

Organizing the Climate Change Crisis Council is only the tip of the iceberg for Tekola’s campus activities. In fact, you might be forgiven for thinking she cloned herself when you realize all the research projects she shoehorns into her schedule.

Tekola, whom you might see riding her motorcycle around campus (she drives it to reduce her carbon footprint; she gets 75 mpg!), was born in Seattle and grew up in nearby Maple Valley. She began her college career at Green River Community College in Auburn, Wash., and transferred to the University of Washington (UW) to start her junior year this past fall. She’s now working toward a major in Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM), and she’s been sopping up the program’s research opportunities and field trips.

“I like that it’s really hands-on here,” she says. “I had taken a number of environmental courses, but most of them were textbook-based.” It’s one thing to learn about equipment in the classroom and interpret data others have recorded. “But going out in the field and using the equipment, and being able to do it with your own hands—that’s really fun.”

A few weeks ago, Tekola got her hands plenty cold and dirty in Yellowstone National Park as part of the annual spring course, “ESRM 459: Wildlife Conservation in Northwest Ecosystems.”

With a crew of three SEFS faculty members and 15 students, and using the northern Rockies as their staging ground, Tekola’s class explored patterns of corvid distribution, elk anti-predator behavior and wolf vigilance, among other research tasks. “It was awesome,” she says. “The Yellowstone trip is something I’d want to do on my own, and to be able to do it for school was really amazing. We got to see a lot of cool things.”

The “coolest,” she says, was when they got to watch—from a safe distance—a wolf pack attacking four bull elk. Three of the elk still had their antlers, but one didn’t, and the wolves had separated him from the others. One wolf ran out ahead and tried to bring down the elk, drawing blood on the run, and Tekola was sure the elk was going to fall. Yet the wounded bull stayed on its feet and staggered into the freezing Lamar River with two other elk, where the three lined up, rump to rump, staring at the wolves on the banks (the wolves wouldn’t enter the icy water, apparently, to avoid water freezing in their paws and injuring them; the warmer months are a different story). The fourth elk had turned to face the wolves, which feinted in and out at him, but the bull managed to ward them off with antlers brandished for about 20 minutes. The wolves ultimately gave up and retreated. It was an incredible display of survival tactics that worked—this time—and the class had front-row seats to the show.

Sarra Tekola

Tekola and other ESRM students investigate an elk kill site in Yellowstone National Park.

On another afternoon, they were heading out to investigate a recent wolf kill site. The elk carcass was only two days old, and Tekola remembers several students asking if they might be disturbing the site—or risk interrupting wolves at meal time. Their answer came right on cue: When they walked within 300 or 400 meters of the kill, a wolf was gnawing on the carcass, and binocular range was as close as they got to the carnage.

These field experiences have been a feast for Tekola, a research hound who’s been devouring every opportunity since she transferred from Green River Community College. “I always try to tell my friends and peers and people in the field what a great opportunity we have here at UW,” she says, “and how they should get involved in research as much as they can.”

Thanks to that hunger, her list of involvements is long and varied.

As part of Professor Tim Essington’s lab at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Tekola is studying hypoxia in the Hood Canal in Puget Sound. Her research includes seeing how fish are adapting to naturally occurring hypoxia. “It’s been a really fun project, especially dissecting stomachs and trying to identify the contents,” she says.

Tekola is also interning with Friends of the Cedar River Watershed, a nonprofit whose work impacts her hometown. The Cedar River forms in North Bend, eventually flows through Maple Valley and out into the bottom of Lake Washington in Renton. “I sometimes help them write grants or lead restoration projects,” says Tekola, and she especially enjoys sharing how the river contributes to the larger Lake Washington watershed, and also salmon spawning and habitat. “It’s my connection to the community.”

Sarra Tekola

“If time wasn’t such a limiting factor,” says Tekola, “I’d be involved in more stuff!”

For another project she’s spearheading close to home, Tekola recently scored a prestigious scholarship to help complete her research and final year at UW.

In Maple Valley, her parents live on a gravel hill in a rural area. Anytime it rains heavily, the run-off washes into a nearby salmon stream. Tekola’s plan is to create a rain garden to reduce the run-off and protect the stream, and in her spare moments she’s already started monitoring sediment and run-off in her test zone. But the project got a major boost recently when Tekola was awarded a one-year scholarship from the United Negro College Fund and the Merck Company Foundation for the 2013-14 academic year.

The 2013 UNCF-Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Award will provide Tekola up to $30,000 in funding to cover her independent research expenses, a summer internship and tuition for her senior year. It’s big honor—one of only 15 nationally!—and helps ensure that Tekola can keep pursuing her many ideas and inspirations.

About the only thing slowing her down, in fact, is the turn of a minute hand.

“If time wasn’t such a limiting factor,” she says, “I’d be involved in more stuff!”

Photos of Sarra Tekola © Sarra Tekola; photo of elk kill site © Professor Aaron Wirsing/SEFS. 

SEFS Seminar Series: Week 3 Preview

For Week 3 of the SEFS Seminar Series this Wednesday, we’re going to focus your curious gaze on a fascinating story of conservation and ecological restoration on Tiritiri Matangi, a small island on the other side of the world in New Zealand. Bringing his extensive expertise to our doorstep is Mel Galbraith of the Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand, and we hope you can join us for his talk, “Ecological Restoration of Tiritiri Matangi Island, New Zealand!”

When: Wednesday, April 17, 3:30-4:20 p.m.
Where: Anderson Hall, Room 223
Who’s Invited: It’s open to the public, and all faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend!

After the seminar, join your colleagues over in the Forest Club Room for a casual reception from 4:30-5:30 p.m. We’ll have snacks, and this spring we’re offering selections from the Fremont Brewing Company (for those of age)!

Saddleback on Tiritiri Matangi Island

Once rare and endangered, the Saddleback, or Tieke, is now thriving on Tiritiri Matangi Island.

Tiritiri Matangi Island, commonly known as “Tiri,” is a low-lying, 254-hectare scientific reserve located three kilometers from mainland New Zealand in the Hauraki Gulf north of Auckland. The island is administered by the Department of Conservation and is supported by a community group, the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi.

Originally inhabited by Maori, Tiri has a long history of degradation from human activities and habitation, starting with deforestation association with Polynesian colonization of New Zealand, and culminating with European farming practices from the 1850s to the 1970s. When stock was removed from the island, the remaining vegetation covered only 6 percent of the area, and much of that was a canopy with little regeneration underneath. Tiri has been free of all introduced mammals since the Pacific rat (kiore) was eradicated in 1983. A program of vegetation restoration started in 1984, with vegetated cover on the island increasing 60 percent through the planting of 280,000 trees during a 10-year period through 1984. Translocations of species to the island is an ongoing mechanism of restoration for the island itself—as well as providing refuge for species to be restored to other parts of New Zealand in the future.

To date, 15 fauna species have been introduced (12 native to the local ecological district; 6 being used, or having the potential to be used, to populate other restoration habitats), including some with naturally threatened status.

About the Speaker
Galbraith is a senior lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences at Unitec Institute of Technology. He lectures in the Biodiversity Management major for the school’s Bachelor of Applied Science degree, specializing in biodiversity, ecology and biosecurity. He is active in the Ecological Society of New Zealand (President 2011-2013), Ornithological Society of New Zealand (Regional Representative, Auckland), the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi (Biodiversity subcommittee), and a past member of the Auckland Conservation Board (1998-2004). His area of interest has always been natural history, especially ornithology and herpetology, which he formalized through post-graduate study at the University of Auckland.

Photo © Duncan Wright.

Celebrate Earth Day at the Arboretum!

This Saturday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., roll up your sleeves and come join the Student Conservation Association (SCA), the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG) and Seattle Parks and Recreation for a day of fun service projects to help improve the Washington Park Arboretum!

Organizers have selected about eight work sites throughout the Arboretum. Projects range from weeding and invasive plant removal to mulching and even some trail work, with different tasks suitable for 8-year-olds up through early teens and adults.

Earth Day 2012

2012 Earth Day volunteers. See how pumped up and excited they are?

This year’s service event is expected to draw some 300 volunteers, including a crew from a fraternity and sorority at the University of Washington, groups from Southwest Airlines and other corporate partners, volunteers from the National Park Service, local high schools and other individual participants.

The event officially kicks at 9:30 a.m. with introductory remarks from several speakers, including Tom DeLuca, director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. By 10 a.m., volunteers will begin fanning out to project sites around the Arboretum, and the event ends at 2 p.m.

If this is the first you’ve heard of the clean-up, don’t worry, it’s not too late to sign up! You can register online up until noon on Friday, April 12, and walk-up registration on Saturday will be available beginning at 9 a.m. They’re eager for all the hands they can get, so come spend a morning playing in the dirt, celebrating our Earth, working together to beautify our community, and getting youth and community members involved!

Where: Washington Park Arboretum, 2300 Arboretum Drive E, Seattle 98112. We will meet in the Meadow, which is about a five-minute walk south of the Graham Visitors Center on Arboretum Drive.

What to bring: Water bottle, sack lunch, travel mug for a hot drink, sunscreen, rain gear, long pants, layers of clothing and boots. (Some snacks and drinks are provided.)

What you won’t need: Tools, gloves, environmental education and project materials, all of which will be provided on site!

For more info or to register, visit the SCA’s event site, email or call 206.324.4649.

Photo of 2012 Earth Day volunteers © Student Conservation Association.