Annual Honey Extraction: ’Comb and Get It!

On Friday, July 14, Evan Sugden organized his annual honey extracting event at the UW Ceramics Lab, just north of the UW Farm at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Evan, who teaches “Bees, Beekeeping and Pollination” (ESRM491D) during the summer, says the course hives can produce several hundred pounds of honey, and this year’s bees delivered 450 pounds!

The bees make honey early in the season as Himalayan blackberry blooms, and then they finish the summer as research subjects for the science-based class (up to five bee research projects are run simultaneously). Extraction of the honey, the first harvest, marks the transition of the function of the hives. The second harvest comes with the presentation of research results on the last day of class, August 17, and the public is invited. Students help in the honey harvest, and all the proceeds benefit the beekeeping course and program as part of the UW Farm.

Update: As of August 16, the honey is now bottled and ready to go! The student marketing team has arranged a tabling event and pick-up time for this Friday, August 18, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on the UW Quad, and you can place your order online (payment at pick up accepted by cash or check). If this pick-up time does not work for your schedule, there will be future events. They acknowledge that distribution is a challenge, but with a little patience you’ll be able to get your delicious UW honey, and maybe also a UW Farm-etched beverage glass. Thank you for your support!

Photos © Evan Sugden and Will Peterman.

 

Interim Director’s Message: Summer 2017

High summer in Seattle: blue skies, cool breezes, roses in the rose garden. How did we get here so fast? Seems like a moment ago I was writing you with “hello,” and now we’ve progressed through winter and spring quarters and are already midway through summer. What’s kept me so busy?

The glorious, redolent rose garden around Drumheller Foundation.

SEFS is a wonderful school and has shown me in a variety of ways just what we are about. My favorite learning spot has been the “SEFS 15 Minutes” opportunities I introduced during faculty meetings. Faculty had mentioned they hungered for in-person conversation about issues affecting our community, and I thought devoting time in faculty meetings for this discussion would be an ideal way for me to learn who and what SEFS is—and for all of us to discern which direction SEFS wants to go with a new director.

At first, I invited faculty attending the January 24 meeting to list up to three issues they wanted to discuss on a card, collected and sorted the issues, and shared the outcome. Next, I met with the SEFS Elected Faculty Council for a probing, hour-long discussion of the main issues facing SEFS, and how best to elicit productive conversation among faculty. I seeded the first “SEFS 15” with: “What questions in environmental and forest sciences would you like to address with your research?” This conversation proved difficult for a number of reasons: The question was stilted, faculty wondered whether to answer for themselves or for SEFS as a whole, and the practice of thinking out loud in faculty meetings was unfamiliar. But the first stumbling try gave way to a soaring second, seeded by a rephrasing of the first question: “What BIG questions do you want to address …?”

With me at the chalkboard recording faculty suggestions, a picture of SEFS emerged with everyone’s contributions, showing a coherent and passionate mission for developing and conveying knowledge about how best to understand, utilize and conserve our landscape environment. I believe we all walked away from that meeting feeling part of a larger whole, enthusiastic about pushing forward. Since then, faculty meetings have dealt with a number of issues, including the value (and description) of “Interest Groups” in SEFS, a Faculty Salary Plan requested by Provost Jerry Baldasty, and finally our searches for five open faculty positions.

Our most recent faculty meeting, held last week as a special session since we are in summer, vibrantly summed the progress we’ve made this year as we discussed our search for a new SEFS Director. In June we hosted three candidates who interviewed and enthused us with their and our visions of the future. This energy, and a wish to be a concerted group sure of its momentum and purpose, shined through a thoughtful discussion that included disagreements, points of information, and gradual agreements. The eve of a leadership change is always an exciting and anxious time, and we could potentially reach a final decision about the next director within a few weeks.

I’m also looking forward to at least one more “SEFS 15” discussion during the school’s annual retreat this September. We will welcome everyone back, from field research, travels to meetings and holiday, and also new graduate students, staff and faculty. We’ll focus our attention on the SEFS Graduate Program, as it is surely the grads who carry out most of the research conducted in SEFS. How best can we select, guide, fund and promote our grads? If we consider their work as the forefront of all of our efforts, we must all work to support their mission.

As always, I welcome your input and look forward to learning more about SEFS every day.

Liz Van Volkenburgh
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Introducing the SEFS Shared Genetics Laboratory!

After many months of planning and set-up, room renovations and equipment tweaks, we are very pleased to announce that our new SEFS Shared Genetics Laboratory is fully open and operational in Bloedel 170!

Funded by Professor Laura Prugh, SEFS and a Student Technology Fee grant that alumna Melissa Pingree secured, the newly refurbished lab is designed to focus on non-invasive, low-quality/low-quantity DNA genetic testing from hair, scat, saliva,  water, soil and other collected material that doesn’t require the capture of an animal (though the lab is also capable of handling blood and tissue sampling). It’s equipped with highly specialized technologies, including a droplet digital PCR machine to detect very low levels of DNA, and is open to SEFS graduate and undergraduate students in need of space and equipment for their genetic research, whether they’re exploring bacterial communities in soil, or identifying species through hair samples. While using the equipment is free—dependent on availability—students do have to provide their own supplies.

Several graduate students are already using the lab, including a project that involves swabbing bite marks on killed ungulates to determine predator identification. There’s also a new citizen science project on Vashon Island through the Vashon Nature Center that involves a pilot coyote study to try to isolate quality DNA from scat samples to determine individual identification.

The possibilities range widely, and the best way to see how the lab might support your own research is to contact the lab manager, Kelly Williams. Originally from Upstate New York, Kelly earned a master’s in ecology from Colorado State University, and her graduate research involved developing a method of detecting feral pig DNA in water samples (she just had her paper accepted in PLOS ONE!). In addition to assisting graduate student projects, she is currently training and working with three undergraduate student volunteers this summer to help extract DNA scat samples from Alaska as part of one of Laura’s grants.

If you’d like to learn more about the lab or set up a tour, contact Kelly anytime!

Lab manager Kelly Williams with the PCR workstation.

Alumni Spotlight: Olivia Moskowitz

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

Shortly after graduating this spring, new SEFS alumna Olivia Moskowitz flew to Chicago to spend a week training for her Chicago Botanic Garden Conservation and Land Management Internship. Through a highly competitive application process, the program matches interns with federal agencies or nonprofit organizations involved in land management work. For Olivia, that meant heading to Idaho Falls, Idaho, earlier this month to begin a five-month assignment—as a full-time employee, paid by the Chicago Botanic Garden—with the U.S. Forest Service.

Olivia at the 2017 SEFS Graduation.

She’ll be working in four different national forests around the region (Caribou-Targhee, Sawtooth, Bridger-Teton and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache), and covering a big mix of projects, from collecting native seeds (like showy fleabane and horsemint) for sage-grouse habitat restoration, to conducting forest inventories, plant population scouting and GPS mapping. Some of her tasks will be completely new to her. Others will feel incredibly familiar, which isn’t surprising considering the number of lab and field experiences Olivia accumulated during her four years as an undergrad!

Olivia, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, wasted no time getting involved in university life when she arrived on campus. In her first year, in fact, she co-founded a student group, Conservation in Style, and organized a highly successful “Conservation Catwalk” to raise money to support wildlife conservation efforts for endangered species, including African elephants, through The Gabby Wild Foundation.

Though no longer involved with that group, she quickly filled her hours by exploring every opportunity as an Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) major. At the end of her sophomore year in 2015, she headed down to Pack Forest to take part in the Summer Crew, a foundational internship experience that entrenched and expanded her interest in forests and field work. “That’s what started it all,” says Olivia, who also minored in Quantitative Sciences. “[Working on that crew] puts you on the right track, and it’s a whole lot of fun.”

Working in Pack Forest with Stephen Calkins, a fellow intern on the 2015 Summer Crew.

Olivia came back energized in the fall and started working with SEFS doctoral student Matthew Aghai on his dissertation research. She had reached out to Matthew earlier in her sophomore year, and now he was able to bring her in as a lab tech. She started attending weekly lab meetings with Professor Greg Ettl and taking trips down to Pack Forest, the Cedar and Tolt River watersheds, and Cle Elum. She completed the rest of her research at the Center for Urban Horticulture overseeing and collecting data for Matthew’s greenhouse studies. “It was a lot of fun and really intense, but also probably the most valuable experience I’ve gotten,” she says. (Her research there would eventually lead to a sub-study for her capstone project this spring, “The effects of varying light and moisture levels on the growth and survival of 12 Pacific Northwest tree species.”)

Last summer, Olivia then got to work with Professor Charlie Halpern on his long-running Demonstration of Ecosystem Management Options (DEMO) study, looking at how different patterns of harvesting trees have long-term effects on the landscape. That study took her down to the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon, near Crater Lake, and also to parts of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southern Washington.

Most recently, this past quarter Olivia worked with Professor Ernesto Alvarado’s Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory doing a fire-risk assessment report for Washington State Parks out in Spokane. She got to spend several weekends out in the field, as well as plenty of time in the lab working on GIS, writing reports and data entry. “It was great to be a part of something directly useful, and hopefully applied,” she says. She also enjoyed the exposure to how state government works, and getting to meet stakeholders involved in the project at different levels.

Measuring leaf area of destructively sampled seedlings for her capstone project.

Those hands-on research experiences opened doors for Olivia to get some high-level presentation experience, as well. In spring 2016 she presented preliminary results of her capstone research at the 10th IUFRO International Workshop on Uneven-aged Silviculture in Little Rock, Ark., and this May, as part of her Mary Gates Research Scholarship, she gave an oral presentation at the 2017 UW Undergraduate Research Symposium. She will also be presenting twice this summer—first in July at the Forest Regeneration In Changing Environments conference in Corvallis, Ore., and then in September at the IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress in Freiburg, Germany.

Throughout these many side projects, of course, has been a steady stream of memorable classes. “I’ve made it a point to take as many ESRM classes as I can, which has resulted in very packed schedules,” she says. Among her favorites—and there are many, she says—were Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley’s Spring Comes to the Cascades, and then Professor Jerry Franklin’s ESRM 425 field trip down in Oregon, Fire-Prone Ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest.

Now, at the end of her four years at SEFS, Olivia has some advice and encouragement for other students getting started in the program. “Get involved, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” she says. “It was pretty scary to reach out to Matthew and Greg [Ettl] and know you want to get involved, but not what your role would be. But when you talk to the professors, they’ve been so helpful and encouraging, they take the whole scariness away from the process. I don’t think a lot of students realize that undergraduate research is available to them. I think it set the stage for the rest of my life, and my experience certainly wouldn’t have been as wonderful and fruitful as it’s been.”

Good luck, Olivia, and stay in touch!

Graduation photo © Karl Wirsing/SEFS; Pack Forest pic © Olivia Moskowitz; lab shot © Matthew Aghai.

Photo Gallery: Pack Forest Summer Crew Gets Underway!

On June 19, four SEFS undergrads began a nine-week internship at Pack Forest as part of the long-running Summer Crew. For the rest of summer quarter, these students—Nicole Lau, Xin Deng, Brian Chan and Joshua Clark—will be involved in a set of diverse projects while receiving hands-on field training in sustainable forest management in the 4,300 acres of Pack Forest. Graduate students Kiwoong Lee, Matthew Aghai and Emilio Vilanova, as well as Forester Jeff Kelly and Professor Greg Ettl, will be working with the interns as they develop skills from forest mensuration to species identification, tackling projects from repairing roads and trails to assisting with research installations, and also taking some field trips.

It’s a tremendous, hallowed experience in SEFS history, and you can check out some great photos from their first couple weeks of work!

Photos © Emilio Vilanova.

2017 Pack Forest Summer Crew