Happy Holidays!

There aren’t many folks left here during the winter recess. Cafés are closed, classrooms are idle, and the next two weeks are bound to be even quieter on campus. Such rare moments of stillness, though, make abundantly clear how much we miss and thrive on all the characters—students, staff and faculty, past and present, near and far—who make up the SEFS community. You’re the pulse of this school, the peas to our pod, and it’s pretty lonely here without you.

So from everyone still toiling in these halls, and from those who’ve already left to join friends and family, we’d like to wish you a wonderful holiday season—and we can’t wait to have you back in the New Year!

Happy Holidays from SEFS!

Winter SEFS Seminar Schedule Announced!

As soon as finals are done tomorrow, things are going to get eerily quiet around here for a couple weeks as folks scatter for the holiday break. But just about as soon as the calendar turns to 2014, we’ll start firing up the academic boilers once again, and that includes the return of the SEFS Seminar Series!

SEFS Seminar ScheduleFor the Winter Quarter, we’re moving the seminars back to Wednesdays, but the hour and place remain the same: 3:30-4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223. We’ll be hosting a casual reception after the first seminar of each month—January 8, February 5 and March 5—and all students, staff and faculty are welcome to attend.

We have a terrific line-up, starting on January 8 with Teodora Minkova from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, so mark your calendars and join us each Wednesday!

(Students: To receive course credit, you may enroll in ESRM 490F or SEFS 550C as a 2-credit course. Contact Michelle Trudeau or Amanda Davis with any questions.)

Week 1: January 8
Teodora Minkova, WA DNR: “Monitoring riparian and aquatic habitat in the Olympic Experimental State Forest—first results and research opportunities”

Week 2: January 15
Martin Nie, University of Montana: “Decision-making triggers, adaptive management, and natural resources law and planning”

Week 3: January 22
Bruce Lippke, SEFS: “Life-cycle analysis of green and conventional buildings”

Week 4: January 29
Steve Sillett, Humboldt State: “A tree-level approach to understanding growth potential of the six tallest species”

Week 5: February 5
Don McKenzie, U.S. Forest Service: “Climate change and wildfire: Why we need ecology”

Week 6: February 12           
Indroneil Ganguly, SEFS: “Modeling the role of carbon sequestration in Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA)”

Week 7: February 19
Marnie Route, University of North Texas: “The role of the plant microbiome in invasion ecology—a case study”

Week 8: February 26
Kathy Wolf, SEFS: “Ecosystem services in the city? The evidence for expanded definitions and values”

Week 9: March 5
Joe Mayo, Mahlum Architects: “Wood architecture: Innovation, technology and re-connecting with a culture of wood”

Week 10: March 12
Derek Churchill, SEFS: “Managing for resilience at multiple scales: applying landscape ecology principles to silviculture”

Meet Wendy Star, the New SEFS Administrator!

With students flooding in and out of classes every day, and researchers cycling in for various projects and seminars, we’re accustomed to seeing unfamiliar faces around the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). But thanks to a handful of hires in the past month, a few of those new faces will soon be regular fixtures in our halls and memories!

One of the newest additions is Wendy Star, who started as SEFS administrator on Monday, November 25. While Star is new to SEFS, she’s been connected to the University of Washington for much of her life, from when she studied business at UW as an undergrad, to her most recent position as administrator for the Department of Sociology.

There’s so much more to her story, of course, and we sat down with Star at the end of her second week to learn a little more and help introduce her to the SEFS community.

Wendy Star

For Wendy Star, UW is a family affair, as both of her daughters also work for the university!

Seattle Roots
Star was born in Wisconsin, but her family moved to Seattle when she was still a baby. Her grandparents had a home in Ballard, and Star grew up playing around the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, and spending hours exploring the Washington Park Arboretum. “We have lots of pictures of this skinny little kid running around outside,” she says.

These days, though, the tables have turned, and now Star’s shelves and walls are filled with photos of her two young granddaughters. Both of her daughters live in Seattle and work for UW: Jennifer as the curriculum coordinator for the university, and JoAnn as a nurse in labor and delivery at the UW Medical Center. They each have a daughter, and Star says her free time generally revolves around what her granddaughters want to do.

They both started Girl Scouts this year, and Star says she especially loves taking them out on local adventures. “When the weather is nice, we’ll go out in nature and explore,” she says. “One of our favorite things to do is take trips over to Sequim and visit the Olympic Game Farm. You drive through in your car, and you get to see all these animals, buffalo and elk and llamas and yaks, and they come right up to you.”

Book It
Next to the grandkids, one of the easiest ways to get Star gushing is to ask her about what she’s reading. Most mornings, she carpools to campus from Everett with her daughter Jennifer, and then she takes the bus home. That gives her plenty of time to devour all sorts of nonfiction.

She recently finished Last Child in the Woods, which addresses some of the nature deficit many kids are experiencing today, when it’s harder to find open spaces to play outdoors. She doesn’t necessarily recommend that one, but she loved the book before it, The Girl With No Name, by Marina Chapman.

It’s about a 6-year-old girl who grew up in Colombia and was kidnapped. Her abductors ended up leaving her alone into the jungle, where she miraculously survived, in part through the company and protection of monkeys. She’s now grown and has her own daughters, who helped her tell her incredible story. “I couldn’t put it down,” says Star. “It was so fascinating.”

First Impressions
Part of the appeal of the administrator position for Star was the connection to her childhood, and those early days trekking through the Arboretum. She grew up loving these parks and facilities, and now she gets to work on behalf on them.

“I’m excited to learn more about the research our faculty do,” she says, “and to learn about Pack Forest and ONRC and the Botanic Gardens all the centers that are part of SEFS.”

It’s a daunting learning curve, she says, but her first two weeks have been fun, and she’s felt very welcome and at ease. As she familiarizes herself with all the new people and programs in the SEFS community, the hardest part actually might be reminding herself she can’t learn everything overnight—and that all the new science and professors and students are precisely what make the job so exciting. “I’m so tickled to be a part of it!”

You can find Star in Anderson 107D, so feel free to stop by or shoot her an email to introduce yourself!

Photo © SEFS.

Student Panel Touts BSE Program

Every fall, students interested in the Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program sign up for a seminar (BSE 150) to give them an overview of the degree. Led by Professor Rick Gustafson, the course provides current and prospective BSE students with an introduction to the science and technology of bioresources, and throughout the quarter various faculty, advisors and guest lecturers cover different dimensions of the program.

The class is generally a mixture of freshman and transfer students, and this past Tuesday, December 3, they got to hear from a panel of six current students who’ve already invested several years in the program.

BSE PanelThe students on the panel—Edward Berg, Ryan Binder, Breanna Huschka, Seth Jorgensen, Andre Smith and Monet Springmeyer—answered questions and talked about their experiences, ranging from the tremendous paid internship opportunities (getting recruited, traveling to positions in other states, hands-on training); setting up study groups and managing the course load; preparing for interviews; whether to opt for minors or a double major; considerations for grad school; and generally how to succeed in the major.

Even as the panel cautioned students to be prepared for some tough courses and serious studying ahead, the biggest takeaway was clear: BSE is worth the effort, as most of the students on the panel already have full-time job offers waiting for them after graduation!

Photo © SEFS.

Hardwood Biofuels Webinar Series

Next Wednesday, December 11, from 10-11 a.m. PST, Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (AHB) is hosting the second webinar in an ongoing series about aspects of the biofuels industry and current research. The webinar, “Assessing the economic and environmental impacts of poplar-based biofuel production,” will feature three presenters from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences: Professor Rick Gustafson along with graduate students Erik Budsberg and Jordan Crawford.

The webinar is free, and online registration is now open!

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels NorthwestWho Should Attend

Extension educators, potential landowners/growers, agriculture and natural resource professionals, poplar and bioenergy researchers, environmental professionals, government officials and other biomass producers.

What’s Covered? 

•           Economic assessment of the bioconversion process based on ASPEN model outputs
•           Profitability analysis, including options to produce hydrogen
•           Life-cycle inventory of resources and energy inputs and emissions
•           Life-cycle analysis in consideration of global warming and fossil fuel and water use

Summary
A technical feasibility and economic performance analysis examines the production of biofuels using the ZeaChem conversion technology with options for producing the hydrogen that is required in the process. Using outputs from an ASPEN simulation model of the bioconversion process for the economic assessment, we will present operating and capital cost results as well as an evaluation of economies of scale. Profitability is presented in terms of the cash cost to produce the fuel and the selling price required to generate a reasonable return on investment.

Life-cycle assessments (LCA) examine all the resource demands and outputs to the environment associated with the production and use of a product. Starting from establishment of the bioenergy farm to combustion of the fuel product, we inventory the resources and energy acquired from the environment and all emissions that go back into the environment. The life-cycle inventories are then translated into environmental impacts using standard LCA protocols. In this LCA we examine life-cycle global warming potential, fossil fuel usage and water usage. The life-cycle impacts of hydrogen production options are examined in detail to complement the techno/economic analysis research in this area.

How to Access the Webinar
After you’ve registered, you should start connecting 10 minutes prior to the start time. You’ll need a computer with internet access and speakers. At the meeting time, you can enter the meeting online or paste  this link, http://breeze.wsu.edu/growinggreen/, into your internet browser. The link will open to a login page. “Enter as guest” with your name and business or institution, and click “Enter Room.” (If you have any difficulty registering online, contact Nora Haider at nora.haider@wsu.edu.)

Sponsored by the  University of Washington and Washington State University, this webinar is part of the Hardwood Biofuels Webinar Series. You can check out archived presentations, and the next installment is scheduled for February 5, 2014, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. PST (details to come).

About AHB
Led by the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, AHB is a consortium of university and industry partners in the Pacific Northwest working to support a sustainable hardwood biofuels industry for growing and converting hardwoods, such as hybrid poplars, into liquid biofuels. If you’d like to join the AHB mailing list and receive the latest news and event information, sign up now!