Migrations in Motion: An Animated Map of Climate-Driven Species Movement

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recently developed an incredibly cool animated map that depicts how more than 2,900 species of birds, mammals and amphibians might migrate in response to rising sea levels and temperatures. The flow model, called Migrations in Motion, draws from research published in Ecology Letters in 2013, “Projected climate-driven faunal movement routes,” which Professor Josh Lawler coauthored with Professor Julian Olden from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, former SEFS grad student Aaron Ruesch (’11, M.S.), and Brad McRae, a senior landscape ecologist with TNC.

The map drew some immediate press coverage, including in Wired, which rightly calls the animation “mesmerizing, if unsettling” in its story, “Here’s Where Species Will Flee Because of Global Warming.”

Unlike the idle screengrab below, the actual map pulses with color and activity. Take a look!

Image of Migrations in Motion © The Nature Conservancy.

2016_08_Migrations in Motion

Professor Sarah Reichard: 1957-2016

2016_08_SarahReichardOn Monday, August 29, our community woke up to the heartbreaking news that Professor Sarah Reichard passed away while leading a UW Botanic Gardens tour in South Africa. We can’t begin to express our shock and sadness at the loss of such a tremendous person and scholar. Our thoughts are with her husband and all of her family, friends, colleagues and students.

Sarah was born on December 16, 1957, and grew up in New Orleans and North Carolina. She earned her bachelor’s in botany from the University of Washington in 1981, and then her master’s (1989) and Ph.D. (1994) from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. Her research and teaching interests included the biology and ecology of invasive plants, as well as the recovery of rare species. Her courses on campus ranged from plant identification to public presentation in horticulture, and she led unforgettable botanical tours from Cuba to South Africa.

“Losing Sarah has been devastating to our community,” says SEFS Director Tom DeLuca. “Sarah gave everything in directing the UW Botanic Gardens, and she absolutely loved the Arboretum and Center for Urban Horticulture. She was a noted scholar in plant conservation and invasive ecology, and well loved and respected as a colleague, friend and faculty member. Sarah was also dedicated to educating children on the importance of nature in their lives and used her position as director to expand our role in K-12 education, including establishing hugely successful programs like the Fiddleheads Forest School. We are all still reeling from her loss and know there is no way to replace, or forget, her incredible talents and countless contributions.”

Dean Lisa Graumlich of the College of the Environment shared a wonderful tribute to Sarah on Friday, September 16, and we encourage you to read many other beautiful reflections in the blog comments below and on stories at the UW Botanic Gardens and the American Public Gardens Association.


Memorial Set for October 13
We will be holding a celebration of life in honor of Sarah on Thursday, October 13. The celebration will be a two-part event, and guests are invited to attend either or both parts.

The first part of the celebration will be at the Washington Park Arboretum from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Guests are asked to meet in Wisteria Hall at the Graham Visitor’s Center at 2 p.m. From there they will be given a map indicating three separate areas around the park where guest speakers will be sharing stories of Sarah. The speakers will remain at the areas and will be giving informal chats. Each chat will last approximately 15 minutes.

Later that afternoon, we will host a more formal celebration at the Don James Center in Husky Stadium. This program will begin with a reception from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by a formal presentation featuring several speakers from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Please mark your calendars to join us in honoring Sarah, and we hope you’ll RSVP as soon as possible. We look forward to seeing you there.


Two funds have now been set up in Sarah’s honor:

1. The Professor Sarah E. Reichard Endowed Fund for UW Botanic Gardens will support the UW Botanic Gardens for public education, outreach, student education, research and general maintenance and improvement of gardens and plant collections.

2. The Sarah Reichard Endowed Fellowship will support graduate students within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences who are engaged in studies with the UW Botanic Gardens.

Photo of Sarah Reichard, 2016 © School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

New Faculty Intro: Brian Harvey

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

Brian Harvey might not be able to pinpoint the exact moment he knew he wanted to be a professor, but he can definitely recall a series of “pinch me” moments that gradually crystallized his dream—a dream he’s now realized, as he will be joining our faculty this spring as an assistant professor of forest ecosystem science and services!

Brian, who was born in Cleveland but spent most of his childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area, double-majored in geography and environmental studies as an undergrad at UC Santa Barbara. After he graduated, one of his first jobs was with an environmental consulting firm, where he was involved in a lot of remediation clean-up at industrial sites. “It was a really good experience in terms of working with all the different stakeholders in environment management,” he says, “from businesses and municipalities to state and federal governments.”

Brian with his wife Denisse Guerrero-Harvey and son Joaquin Guerrero-Harvey on a recent trip to New York City.

Brian with his wife Denisse Guerrero-Harvey and son Joaquin Guerrero-Harvey on a recent trip to New York City.

Still, though he found much of the work fairly interesting, Brian says the job mostly had the unintended effect of rekindling his interest in ecology and natural sciences—and therefore a desire to return to school.

So he then enrolled in a master’s program at San Francisco State University to study geography and natural resource management. “I went back to school to get back into ecology, and particularly forest ecology, and I did my thesis research on a post-fire study of the Point Reyes National Seashore.”

Resurveying an area that had burned in 1995, Brian was able to explore more than a decade of post-fire succession to see how the forest ecosystem had responded. “Those years at San Francisco State were when things really started to click for me,” he says. “I realized this was my dream job, to be able to combine research in forest ecology with teaching and mentoring.”

That revelation solidified his decision to continue on in graduate school for a Ph.D. Since he’d always been fascinated by the Yellowstone fires of 1988, he reached out to one of the pioneers of research in that area, Professor Monica Turner from the University of Wisconsin, and joined her lab to focus on forest disturbance ecology in the Northern Rockies. “That was sort of the next pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moment,” he says, “walking around in Yellowstone in the forests I’d seen as a kid go up in flames in 1988, and here I was getting to study this stuff for my Ph.D. It was unbelievable.”

Brian hiking to a research site with his youngest field assistant, his son Joaquin!

Brian hiking to a research site with his youngest field assistant, his son Joaquin!

While he was wrapping up his doctoral program in 2015—he had actually defended his dissertation in 2014 just before the birth of his son, who turned a year and half this August—he started looking for postdoc opportunities. He ended up applying to and getting selected for a prestigious Smith Conservation Research Fellowship, and he based his project at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Founded by Dr. David H. Smith, a pediatrician who developed a vaccine for childhood spinal meningitis and later became an active conservationist, Smith Fellowships support early-career scientists working in the field of conservation biology. The Society for Conservation Biology now runs the program, which brings in five fellows a year, provides funding for two years and allows them to design their own projects (SEFS Professor Josh Lawler was also a Smith Fellow from the class of 2004).

Professional training and development are also central elements of the program, as Smith Fellows attend three weeklong retreats a year. Traveling to different sites, they gain skills in everything from science communication and working with the media, to how to translate their research into successful environmental policy and management. “For me,” says Brian, “the Smith Fellows program has been a tremendous foundation for fulfilling my social contract as a scientist—making sure my research is not only broadening our understanding of the natural world, but also providing a solid foundation for informed decision-making.”

The core of the Smith Fellows program, of course, is the fellows’ proposed research project, and Brian has been looking at the phenomenon of subalpine fir decline in the Rocky Mountains. Largely overlooked since it never significantly factored into timber production, subalpine fir has suddenly gained prominence as some of its peers—especially lodgepole pine and spruce—have suffered extensively from bark beetle outbreaks. Mountain pine beetles and spruce beetles have killed trees across large tracts of forest, and Brian says a lot of research has identified subalpine fir has a critical stopgap species to keep habitat intact until the next generation of spruce and pine can establish. Yet now subalpine fir populations have also started to decline, so Brian is trying to figure out why that’s happening. “Resilience, or the capacity of forests to ‘bounce back’ after disturbance,” he says, “is critical for maintaining many of the ecosystem services we associate with forests—water supply, wildlife habitat, carbon storage and recreation opportunities.”

This research will keep Brian plenty busy through the fall and winter until he completes his fellowship, and then he’ll begin his move to Seattle. His official start date with SEFS is March 16, 2017, just in time for spring quarter—and he can’t wait to get here.

Brian taking a lunch break during fieldwork on a project examining post-fire tree regeneration in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Brian taking a lunch break during fieldwork on a project examining post-fire tree regeneration in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

“As a forest ecologist, I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be in the Pacific Northwest,” he says. “You’ve got an enormous wealth of foundational forest ecology research from many of the folks at UW, and at the same time we’re starting to see the emergence of some really big changes in forests from wildfires and bark beetle outbreaks in the last several years.”

Brian sees a growing need to understand when, where and why these disturbances are happening, and to answer the critical question of how our forest ecosystems will respond. “A lot of my work focuses on understanding the mechanisms of resilience in these forests,” he says, “and then how processes play out across different spatial and temporal scales. Disturbances like fires and insect outbreaks are natural and important components of ‘normally’ functioning forests. At the same time, climate change and the associated steep increases in disturbance activity can trigger big changes in forests, setting different trajectories for decades to centuries.”

More broadly, Brian says he’s looking forward to connecting with graduate students and colleagues in the school and university, and collaborators and stakeholders across the Pacific Northwest. “The key theme in my research is looking at how forests change over space and time, and the role disturbance plays in those changes,” he says, “and I really like to use multiple approaches and tools to answer questions. That opens up a lot of opportunities to work with grad students who have a diverse skillset, and also to collaborate with folks across a broad spectrum of disciplines.”

We can’t wait to welcome Brian and his family to Seattle this spring, and to start harnessing his tremendous energy and ideas. “I absolutely love what I do,” he says, “and I’m excited to interact with folks who are as enthusiastic as I am!”

Photos © Brian Harvey.

Brian walking through a recently burned forest in western Wyoming where native fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) has taken advantage of the space opened up from disturbance.

Brian walking through a recently burned forest in western Wyoming where native fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) has taken advantage of the space opened up from disturbance.

Taylor’s Checkerspot: An Endangered Butterfly with an Interesting Diet

Coming up on Monday, September 12, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., the UW Botanic Gardens is hosting a talk with one of our doctoral candidates, Nate Haan: “Taylor’s Checkerspot: An Endangered Butterfly with an Interesting Diet.”

2016_08_Nate HaanA member of Professor Jon Bakker’s lab, Nate studies interactions between plants and insects, and his dissertation focuses on the relationship between Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and its larval host plants. Before beginning his doctoral research, Nate completed a bachelor’s degree in biology at Calvin College, and a master’s in natural resources and environment at the University of Michigan.

His talk will be held in the Douglas Classroom at the Center for Urban Horticulture. It’s free and open to the public, and you can RSVP in advance online, by phone (206.685.8033) or by email (you are also welcome to give a $5 donation at the door to help support educational programs at the UW Botanic Gardens).

About the Talk
Taylor’s checkerspot is an endangered butterfly that occurs only in prairies of the Pacific Northwest. Several agencies and nonprofits are involved in recovery efforts, which include habitat restoration and a captive rearing and release program.

There are several gaps in our knowledge of Taylor’s checkerspot that make recovery efforts difficult; we know especially little about how its caterpillars interact with the various host plants they eat. One of these hosts is a common native paintbrush, another is the federally threatened golden paintbrush, and the third is an invasive exotic weed!

Nate will share photographs and natural history of Taylor’s checkerspot and its host plants, and give an overview of his research projects and findings so far.

Hope you can make it!

Geohackweek: A Five-Day Geospatial Workshop

From November 14 to 18, the University of Washington’s eScience Institute will be hosting a five-day Geohackweek, and you are invited to take part in wide-ranging tutorials, data exploration, software development and community networking—all focused on open source tools to analyze and visualize geospatial data. Among the practical tools and skills addressed will be how to:

•             access, store and manage environmental datasets like climate grids;
•             create beautiful maps and visualizations that are easily shareable;
•             analyze geospatial data, including remote sensing imagery, using spatial statistics and open source packages;
•             use different cloud storage options to host your code and data depending on your needs.
•             and much more!

One workshop that might be of particular interest to SEFS is about Google Earth Engine, which is a free, cloud-based platform for analyzing land-use change that includes well-developed case studies centered on deforestation, among other themes.

While the workshops will predominantly be taught using Python and/or Javascript, the lessons should be accessible to anyone with basic programming language experience, even if it is in another language (R, Matlab, etc). Also, if you want to brush up on Python beforehand, Software Carpentry has great intro workshops they regularly teach in the Puget Sound area.

The application deadline for attending is September 15, 2016, so learn more and get involved!


Summer Campers Have Fun Exploring Biogeochemistry

Last week, we wrote about the new Mission Earth Scout One science camp that one our graduate students, Isabel Carrera Zamanillo, launched this August. The camp offers underrepresented middle and high school students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a variety of scientific disciplines, and to help out with the different subjects, Isabel recruited several folks from SEFS to serve as guest scientists for a day. Among the volunteers was SEFS doctoral student Catherine Kuhn, who is part of Professor David Butman’s Landscape Biogeochemistry Lab, and she took her turn leading instruction for the campers on Monday, August 8.

Students practice field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide along Ravenna Creek.

Students practice field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide along Ravenna Creek.

Catherine and her research assistant, SEFS undergrad Rachel Yonemura, taught a lesson about the freshwater carbon cycle and introduced students to the idea of how greenhouse gases can be emitted from lakes, rivers and streams. The lesson also included a section on carbon mapping and different tools that can be used to visualize geospatial data.

Rachel followed up by applying some of the new concepts to urban stream chemistry in Ravenna Creek, which is one of Rachel’s study sites for her senior capstone research. So later that afternoon, the students then practiced field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide at an access site where Ravenna Creek meets the Montlake Slough.

Catherine says the students did an outstanding job collecting field samples, and the Landscape Biogeochemistry Lab team had a great time working with the young scientists in the making.

Photos © Catherine Kuhn.

2016_08_Space Camp2

Professor Prugh Hits the Field with Current and Future Grad Students

This summer, Professor Laura Prugh has taken two trips to the field—first with one of her current graduate students near Mount Rainer, and then to southeast Alaska with a master’s student who’s joining her lab and starting at SEFS this fall.

Mitch Parsons with a Microtus vole that he captured and ear tagged for mark-recapture density estimation.

Mitch Parsons with a Microtus vole that he captured and ear tagged for mark-recapture density estimation.

For the first excursion in June, Laura spent a few days south of Mount Rainier in Gifford Pinchot National Forest with her current master’s student, Mitch Parsons, and his summer field technician, Aaron Black. Mitch’s project is looking at trophic relationships of reintroduced fishers in the South Cascades. Fishers were reintroduced this past winter, and another round of releases will occur this winter. So Mitch is assessing prey availability using sign surveys and small mammal trapping, and assessing the occupancy of competing carnivores using camera trapping.

Then, two weeks ago Laura traveled to Glacier Bay National Park in southeast Alaska to check out future study sites for her incoming master’s student, Mira Sytsma. Using camera traps, Mira’s project will involve looking at how visitor shore excursions affect the activity of terrestrial wildlife. They spent three days on a research boat with National Park Service Biologist and project collaborator Tania Lewis, and they visited many sites—enjoying amazing wildlife sightings along the way, too, including a wolf with three pups, two brown bears, lots of humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, Stellar sea lions, harbor seals, moose, mountain goats and even a porcupine!

We look forward to hearing how these projects progress!

Photos © Laura Prugh.

Laura (right) and Mira at one of the sites, with their research boat in the background.

Laura (right) and Mira at one of the sites, with their research boat in the background.


SEFS Student Leads Mission One Science Camp

This August, SEFS doctoral candidate Isabel Carrera Zamanillo is leading the first-ever Mission Earth Scout One science camp, which will guide more than 35 middle and high school students through four weeks of hands-on STEM activities and exploration.

The idea for the camp came from her time living in Chicago a few years ago, when she created an outreach project called Jugando con la Ciencia (“Playing with Science”) at the Evanston Public Library. Every weekend, the program would invite Hispanic scientists to the library to talk about their work and research with kids and their parents. Isabel, who grew up in Mexico City, also helped with science outreach in the Latino community through the Field Museum and Adler Planetarium, and she had been looking for a similar opportunity in Seattle.

On their first day of the Mission Earth One camp, students ... at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

On their first day of camp on August 1, 2016, the students were out observing birds at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

So when she was offered a chance to help organize the first summer camp for the Northwestern Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (which is supported by the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium), she accepted and got approval this past May to host the camp in August. She then began reaching out to underrepresented communities to recruit students who haven’t had as much exposure to science. Mission Earth has an emphasis on bilingual students, as well, and Isabel’s outreach attracted participants from a wide range of backgrounds, including Latino, African, Bosnian and Asian Indian, among others.

“My idea was to create a theme that will combine physics, math, chemistry, engineering, biology and environmental sciences,” she says, so she settled on climate change as the unifying subject.

The students will now get to spend the month learning about climate change through a variety of fun hands-on experiments and field trips. They’ll visits campus labs and the UW Farm, go on excursions to Whidbey Island to look at glaciers, and Tacoma to look at a wastewater treatment plant and learn about biosolids. They’ll start the camp by focusing on understanding nature, interacting with soils and plants—touching, feeling and sensing—and learning the principles of an ecosystem. From there they’ll move on to technology and more abstract concepts, building to the final week, which will feature drones and rockets, remote sensing and GIS. Through everything, the students will get a chance to work closely with scientists and see how science connects to their daily lives.

In addition to Isabel as the main instructor, several other members of SEFS are participating as guest scientists and leading one-day sessions, including Professors Dan and Kristiina Vogt, Sally Brown and Renata Bura; Research Associate Azra Suko and Paper Science Center Manager Kurt Haunreiter; and graduate students Shawn Behling, Catherine Kuhn and Jessica Hernandez. All of them are volunteering their time and materials, which helps remove financial obstacles for students attending the camp. The cost per student, in fact, is only $5 per week, with grant funding covering the rest.

The day camp runs from August 1 to 26, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s going to be an exciting month of discovery for these students, and keep an eye out on August 18 when they’ll be visiting SEFS!

Photo © Isabel Carrera Zamanillo.

Alaska Bear Project: Year Five

Now in its fifth year (and counting), the Alaska Bear Project continues to build momentum. Working in collaboration with Professor Tom Quinn from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Professor Aaron Wirsing just returned from Bristol Bay, Alaska, where researchers have been non-invasively studying brown bears hunting along six sockeye salmon spawning streams since 2012. Thus far, they’ve collected more than 2,000 hair samples for genetic analysis using barbed wires strung across the streams, and detected 121 individual bears.

Professor Aaron Wirsing, left, and Professor Tom Quinn on the tundra near one of their bear wires on Whitefish Creek.

Professor Aaron Wirsing, left, and Professor Tom Quinn on the tundra near one of their bear wires on Whitefish Creek.

This year, for the first time, they’ve also been collecting video using motion-activated trail cameras deployed in conjunction with the wires, and elsewhere, on each stream. They’ll be analyzing the videos to explore bear behavioral responses to the wires (e.g., do they learn to avoid them?), and to track the timing and location of different bear behaviors, including foraging and traveling. Working with Anne Hilborn, a doctoral student in Professor Marcella Kelly’s lab at Virginia Tech, they’re also using the videos as a means to better communicate their work and findings to the public.

Below, check out one of their videos from this summer, which provides a great example of the type of footage they’re collecting: a brown bear mother passing by with two cubs!

Photo © Blakeley Adkins; video © Aaron Wirsing.

Grizzly Mom with Two Cubs