SEFS BioBlitz Team Featured Nationally!

This past weekend, a team from SEFS participated in the Olympic National Park BioBlitz, which was one of dozens of BioBlitzes held across the county as part of the National Park Service’s centennial celebration this year (another event down at Mount Rainier included Professor Laura Prugh and her ESRM 351 class!). The Olympic National Park team included Research Scientist James Freund and Affiliate Professor Robert Van Pelt, along with graduate students Russell Kramer, Sean Callahan and Korena Mafune.

In preparation for the BioBlitz, they put together a video of some of their tree-climbing work high up in a 401-year-old Douglas-fir in the Hoh River Valley. The video captures them roped in and measuring the tree’s characteristics, including documenting the moss, lichen and other plant and animal communities in the canopy. It’s a great five-minute video, and also a terrific window into some the research going on in our school.

Even cooler, too, is that the National Park Service chose this video as one of only three across the country to show on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this past weekend!

Nice work!

Video © National Park Service.

Olympic National Park BioBlitz

Emilio on the Go: From French Guiana to Venezuela

From March 21 to 25, SEFS doctoral student Emilio Vilanova traveled to Kourou in French Guiana to take part in a meeting, “Thematic School on Functional Ecology of Tropical Rainforests in the Context of Climate Changes: From Real Observations to Simulations.” Mostly organized for graduate students and young scientists, the meeting included many sessions to discuss the fundamental processes driving tropical forest dynamics, and how to study them by means of climate stations—permanent sample plots with a major focus on modeling.

In addition to the presentations and traditional lectures, an important part of the thematic school involved practical works, both in the field/greenhouses (measurements on trees or seedlings) and in classrooms (modeling and simulation). Emilio also got a chance to visit an interesting tropical rainforest experimental site of Paracou, including the Guyaflux tower.

Emilio helping survey a forest plot during his field campaign in Venezuela.

Emilio helping survey a forest plot during his field work in Venezuela.

From there, thanks to the support of the RAINFOR network, and with partial funding through the Corkery Family Chair Fund, Emilio got to spend several weeks in Venezuela from March 30 to May 5. He was there to work with a diverse group of students, professors and technicians from Universidad de Los Andes in Venezuela, specifically from the Instituto de Investigaciones para el Desarrollo Forestal, on the re-census of 18 permanent forest plots located in western Venezuela.

This research is part of the ongoing effort to monitor the dynamics of forests in the neotropics, and also a critical part of Emilio’s doctoral research at SEFS, where he is working with Professor Greg Ettl. His aim is to analyze the factors driving the main differences in wood productivity and turnover in a contrasting environmental setting in Venezuela using information collected from these and other forest plots—and by applying a functional trait approach in the process.

On this field campaign, Emilio helped survey six plots that were installed during the 1960s in the Andean cloud forests, including a botanical check and the collection of leaf samples from 61 individuals corresponding to the most important species in the area. A group of skilled tree climbers carried out that task.

After that, the crew moved to the Caparo Forest Reserve in the western plains region to evaluate six more plots established originally in 1990 in lowland seasonal forests. Using a similar approach, they reviewed some individuals for botanical identification, and also climbed into 27 individuals to collect leaf samples. Finally, a reduced crew moved to the El Caimital sector, also in the western plains region (Barinas state), in order to re-census six more plots established in 1960.

Along with Emilio, the other participants in this field work included a forest technician, botanist, tree climbers and an undergraduate student, as well as several local workers, or “parataxonomists.”

Photos © Emilio Vilanova.

Staring high up into the canopy in French Guiana.

Staring high up into the canopy in French Guiana.

 

Brockman Tree Tour Going Mobile!

For the past two quarters, a pair of undergrads in the University of Washington Information School (iSchool)—Omar Rojas and Jamy Southafeng—have been working on developing a mobile app for the Frank Brockman Memorial Campus Tree Tour.

Started in 1980, the Brockman Tree Tour guides visitors to explore 80 of the hundreds of tree species on the University of Washington campus. Most information from the tour is available online—though not in a mobile-friendly format—so most people still follow it through an old black-and-white booklet, with each tree marked as a number on the campus map (we also have a printed insert that updates some of the trees that have died or been removed). It’s long been a popular way to stroll through and experience campus, but the use of paper maps has largely declined in favor of real-time mapping and navigational services on mobile phones.

With this new app, users will be able to locate trees around them nowhere where they start the tour.

With this new app, users will be able to locate trees around them no matter where they start the tour.

Wanting to make the tour more modern and accessible, we’ve circulated the idea of adapting it for a mobile app for a few years. Yet we hadn’t been able to get the project running until Professor Emeritus Al Wagar picked up the baton about a year ago and started organizing a more concerted effort. He eventually rallied more interest and connected with SEFS doctoral student Isabel Carrera Zamanillo, who also works with students in the iSchool. She then helped recruit Omar and Jamy to design the app for their senior capstone project, and they set to work this past winter.

They’ve since put in countless hours storyboarding, sketching out wireframes, coding and testing their concept, and they’re now in the final stages of development. Designed to be used on Android phones, their app will enable users to set up customized tours and use GPS navigation through Google Maps to locate trees—and pull up images and info—from anywhere on campus. All you will have to do is launch the app on your phone wherever you’re standing, and you will see icons for trees on the tour around you. It’s going to create a far more fun, interactive and versatile experience, making it much easier, as well, to enjoy parts of the tour for short breaks between classes or during lunch.

As Omar and Jamy tweak the final details and functionality, you can check out their one-minute promotional video to get excited about their work! You’re also invited to the iSchool Capstone Night, which is coming up at the HUB on May 26. Omar and Jamy will be presenting their app, and two other iSchool students are working on projects with the Vogt Lab (please RSVP if you’d like to attend).

2016 Climate Change Video Awards: Announcing the Winners!

We hosted our second UW Climate Change Video Awards last Saturday, May 14, at Town Hall in Seattle, and it was quite a show!

From our emcee, stand-up economist Yoram Bauman, to our fantastic judges—Dean Lisa J. Graumlich, Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and Ethan Steinman—to all of the students, families and friends who came out to watch, we couldn’t have asked for a more positive and inspiring evening. Also, one of the team members on the second-place winner for the undergraduate category, Ben Jensen, is a student in our Environmental Science and Resource Management program!

Yuna Shin, from Henry M. Jackson High School in Bothell, won first prize in the high school category—good for $5,000!

Yuna Shin, from Henry M. Jackson High School in Bothell, won first prize in the high school category—good for $5,000!

Hannah Letinich, our photographer for the show, captured a wonderful range of shots from the evening, so we encourage you to take a look at her gallery (download any images you’d like for free, but please give Hannah credit if you post or share them online anywhere). We’ll be working on getting the winning videos up online to share soon, as well, and in the meantime, below are this year’s finalists and winners.

A huge congratulations to all of them, and to everyone who submitted a video for this year’s contest. These students poured so much time and creativity into these films, and they give us tremendous hope for the future of environmental leadership.

High School

First Place: Yuna Shin, Henry M. Jackson High School, Bothell – $5,000
Second Place: Suraj Buddhavarapu, Naveen Sahi, Allison Tran and Vibha Vadlamani, Tesla STEM High School, Redmond – $1,000
Third Place: Luke Brodersen, Shorewood High School, Shoreline – $500

Other finalists: Julci Areza, Chloe Birney and Tanaya Sardesai from Redmond High School in Redmond, and Aria Ching, Jesselynn Noland, Emily Riley and Emily Weaver from Lynnwood High School in Bothell.

Undergraduate

First Place: Audrey Seda and Tommy Tang, Eastern Washington University and University of Washington – Bothell – $5,000
Second Place: Ben Jensen, Charles Johnson and Anthony Whitfield, University of Washington – $1,000
Third Place: Aaron Hecker, University of Washington – $500

Other finalists: Kennedy McGahan from Gonzaga University, and Malea Saul, Madeline Savage and Bethany Shepler from the University of Washington.

***

Special thanks to the Denman Endowment for Student Excellence in Forest Resources for funding the contest.

Photos © Hannah Letinich.

Aaron Hecker, who won third place in the undergraduate category.

Aaron Hecker, who won third place in the undergraduate category, is a student at the University of Washington.

A Sabbatical Sojourn in Australia

Professor Aaron Wirsing just returned from a sabbatical sojourn in Australia, where he spent six weeks as a visiting professor at the University of Sydney. Hosted by SEFS Affiliate Assistant Professor Thomas Newsome, Aaron says the trip turned out to be quite the adventure.

Along the way, he logged more than 4,000 kilometers on the ground, highlighted by an epic drive from Alice Springs to the Tanami Desert along the legendary Tanami Track, which most Australians never see. He also paid visits to Melbourne for a guest lecture at Deakin University, and to Yulara for some hiking in the iconic Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Wildlife abounded at every turn, including a flood plains monitor (the biggest lizard he’s ever seen), a host of small marsupials in the Simpson Desert, and numerous dingoes.

For a more detailed account of his travels, and loads of additional photos, you can check out his research blog!

Photo © Aaron Wirsing.

2016_05_Aaron in Australia

 

2016 UW Climate Change Video Awards: Meet the Judges!

Last year, our first-ever UW Climate Change Video Contest was such a success that we decided we had to do it again. So this winter and spring, we once again challenged high school and undergraduate students in the state of Washington to grab a camera and show us what climate change means to them in three minutes or less. The submissions are in, the finalists reviewed and selected—and now the reel fun begins!

Join us at Town Hall on Saturday, May 14, from 7 to 9 p.m. for a public screening of the top five video entries in each category—high school and undergraduate—and see who takes home the grand prize of $5,000, as well as $1,000 for second and $500 for third. A renowned panel of judges will be on hand to announce the winners and discuss the student’s work, and it’s going to be a great show!

We hope you’ll join us in recognizing these incredibly talented students. The screening and award ceremony is free and open to the public, and doors open at 6 p.m. Register now!

Meet the Judges

2016_05_Yoram for blogYoram Bauman (Judge and emcee)
An environmental economist, writer and comedian, Yoram Bauman earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington in 2003 and now performs as the “world’s first and only stand-up economist.” He’s shared the stage with everyone from the late Robin Williams to Paul Krugman, and he has appeared in TIME Magazine and on PBS and NPR. He’s the founder and co-chair of Carbon Washington, a grassroots campaign to bring a revenue-neutral carbon tax (I-732) to Washington, and he is also the co-author of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change.

2016_05_DJ Spooky for blogPaul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky
Paul D. Miller is a composer, multimedia artist and writer. He has created many works based on his travels to the Arctic and Antarctic, including multimedia stage works: “Arctic Rhythms,” “Check Your Math,” “Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica”; art exhibition “Ice Music”; and The Book of Ice, a graphic book that explores the impact of climate change on Antarctica through the prism of digital media and contemporary music.

Some of his recent projects include “Heart of a River,” a composition that looks at water, cities, climate change and music in India, and “Heart of a Forest,” a symphony about forests and the future (premiering May 18 at Oregon State University). You can follow him on Twitter at @djspooky.

2016_05_Lisa Graumlich for blogDean Lisa Graumlich
Dr. Lisa J. Graumlich, Virginia and Prentice Bloedel Professor, is the inaugural dean of the College of the Environment at the University of Washington. As dean, she leads a college with unparalleled depth and breadth in environmental systems: from the forests to the seas, and from the depths of the Earth to the edges of the solar system. As a scholar, Graumlich pioneered the use of tree-ring data to understand long-term trends in climate, focusing on the mountains of western North America. She is actively engaged with a broad range of stakeholders to understand the impacts of climate change on wilderness and natural areas.

2016_05_Ethan for blogEthan Steinman
Ethan Steinman launched his career in film and television in 1995, and the Emmy-nominated filmmaker opened his Seattle-based media production company, Daltonic Films, in 2013. As a producer and director, he has worked on programming for a wide range of stations, including NBC, FOX, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel and A&E. During the past several years, he has produced original content for Al Jazeera English, FOX Sports, CNN, Adidas and Major League Soccer, and he directed two award-winning documentaries, including Glacial Balance, which explores the effects of climate change on Andean glaciers and the people who depend on them for survival.

Arbor Intelligence: An Art Exhibition by Cheryl Richey

This summer, from July through September, local artist Cheryl A. Richey will be showcasing her artwork in the UW Tower’s Mezzanine Gallery. Before committing to her art full-time, Cheryl was a professor in the UW School of Social Work for 30 years from 1973 to 2003. She has since had dozens of solo and group exhibitions of her artwork, and her latest show, Arbor Intelligence, will feature 16 pieces from her abstract “tree spirit” paintings, which explore the subtle power and mystery of trees, especially their secret lives or “souls.”

One of Cheryl's "tree spirit" paintings, Pyrophyte 2 (acrylic, collage, burned canvas)

One of Cheryl’s “tree spirit” paintings, Pyrophyte 2 (acrylic, collage, burned canvas)

With each of these paintings, as well, Cheryl is hoping to pair “tree truths” that capture a range of scientific facts and interpretations about trees and forests. That’s where we come in, because she is partnering with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences—our graduate students, in particular—to help write these truths!

For students interested in providing a “tree truth,” Cheryl will be giving a talk on Thursday, May 19, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Forest Club Room. She’ll provide more background and context about her art and the Arbor Intelligence exhibition, and students will have a chance to view a few of her paintings. It’s a cool opportunity to engage with the public through art—about your research, personal experiences or reflections—as anywhere from 500 to 1,500 people pass through the Mezzanine Gallery every day!

About the Exhibition
Arbor Intelligence reflects Cheryl’s deep affinity for trees, and her interest in exploring and understanding their ecological importance. The exhibition will combine her paintings with scientific information about the wonder of trees. Her aim is to offer both aesthetic and scientific reasons to honor and protect trees as part of an ecologically grounded approach to environmental stewardship and advocacy. She believes that bringing scientific truths about trees to the attention of UW Tower visitors via “artful persuasion” will motivate them emotionally and intellectually to preserve and restore area woodlands and urban forests.

Ultimately, Arbor Intelligence aims to stimulate contemplation of both the artistic merits of trees, as well as the universal power of tree symbolism, to advance our understanding of the broad, sweeping interconnectedness between people and the environment. Cheryl hopes that visitors increase their own “intelligence” about trees, as well as learn how “intelligently” trees manage to live, survive and thrive.

Painting © Cheryl A. Richey

Inspiración del Perú: Blending Fashion with Conservation

Shortly after starting at the University of Washington two years ago, Ava Holmes co-founded a student group, Conservation in Style, that used eco-friendly fashion to raise awareness and funds for endangered species. They organized a full calendar of events in their first year, culminating in a hugely successful Conservation Catwalk eco-fashion show, and they somehow managed to expand their programs last year.

One of 12 featured international artists, Jose Zafra, designed this couture inspired by cacao, which is grown as a sustainable crop at Hoja Nueva and will be imported to Seattle for chocolate manufacturing.

Now, in year three, Ava continues to grow and evolve her work. She founded her own production company, A-DOT Productions, and this spring is co-hosting a Peruvian-themed benefit, Inspiración del Perú, to raise money for Hoja Nueva, a nonprofit SEFS doctoral student Sam Zwicker cofounded to help local communities along the Las Piedras River in Peru develop more sustainable agricultural practices.

The benefit, coming up on Wednesday, May 11, from 2 to 10 p.m. at Metropolist in Seattle, will feature an eco-fashion show, “Runway to Peru;” a Peruvian marketplace; VIP cacao, chocolate and cocktail tasting hour; an auction of crafts, designs and artwork; and live music and performance art by local and international artists, all inspired by the colorful scenes of Peru.

​All proceeds go directly to benefit Hoja Nueva, and each ticket will help protect at least five acres of rainforest and plant one cacao tree in the Piedras region of the Amazon, home to the largest unprotected rainforest in the world. In addition to the positive environmental impacts these donations will make—including protecting endangered wildlife habitat and combating global climate change—this event will support cacao trees that will produce fair-trade and organic ingredients for Seattle-based chocolate manufacturers. Proceeds will also support Hoja Nueva’s other projects involving sustainability, community development, wildlife conservation and reforestation.

Partners for the benefit include A-DOT Productions and Hoja Nueva, the Peruvian Consulate, AVEDA, National Geographic’s NOVICA, and the many artists participating in the runway show and performances.

It’s going to be a tremendous evening of student-driven ideas and energy, so check out the full event program and get your tax-deductible tickets today!

Photos © Ava Holmes.

One of 12 featured international artists, Jose Zafra, designed this couture inspired by cacao, which is grown as a sustainable crop at Hoja Nueva and will be imported to Seattle for chocolate manufacturing.

One of 12 featured international artists, Jose Zafra, designed this couture inspired by cacao, which is grown as a sustainable crop at Hoja Nueva and will be imported to Seattle for chocolate manufacturing in the next couple years.

 

SEFS Researchers Awarded Grant to Study Fire Management in Washington

Three researchers at SEFS—including Research Associates Derek Churchill and Van Kane, as well as Research Ecologist Alina Cansler—are part of a team that was just awarded a $383,565 grant through the federal Joint Fire Science Program.

The project, “Landscape Evaluations and Prescriptions for Post-Fire Landscapes,” will focus on landscape approaches to post-fire management in north-central Washington. Specifically, the researchers will be studying recent fires in the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville national forests, with the goal of assisting forest managers in better understanding the effects of large wildfires on landscape conditions—and facilitating science-driven approaches to post-fire management.

Professor Andrew Larson from the University of Montana is the principal investigator, and $196,000 of the total grant will go to support the SEFS researchers. Other team members include Paul Hessburg and Nick Povak from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station; Professor Jim Lutz from Utah State University; and Richy Harrod from the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

2016_04_Fire Management Grant1Project Overview
Wildfires in the western United States are modifying the structure and composition of forests at rates that far exceed mechanical and prescribed fire treatments. Despite the huge number of acres affected by wildfires each year, our scientific understanding and social license regarding how to both critically assess and manage post-fire landscapes to maximize resilience to future disturbances is limited. Millions of burned acres are thus being left to recover naturally with little landscape-level analysis of the ecosystem structure and function that is likely to result. Credible stewardship of western forests must consider the effects of recent and future wildfires in a whole-landscape framework.

The “work” of wildfires can be beneficial in terms of reducing fuel loads (Lydersen et al. 2012), enhancing fire resistant species and structure (Larson et al. 2013), and creating early-seral habitat (Swanson et al. 2011). However, many recent wildfires are creating large high-severity patches in dry forest systems that were historically dominated by low- and mixed-severity fires (Cansler and McKenzie 2014). This may be creating conditions that are more susceptible to future high-severity disturbances or shifts to new ecosystem states that will not sustain the same ecological and social functions. We will provide managers with a framework to quantify the extent to which fires moved forest structure and composition towards or away from desired conditions by evaluating wildfire effects relative to reference conditions.

In north-central Washington, 2014 and 2015 were record-setting wildfire years, burning hundreds of thousands of acres on the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville national forests. These fires burned through a wide range of treated and untreated conditions at a range of severities, including re-burning past wildfires that received a range of post-fire management activities. These large fire years have presented a huge challenge to managers and collaborative stakeholder groups in terms of how to assess the need for post-fire management actions. Relatively little post-fire management has been proposed or implemented.

The researchers will address both ecological and management questions by:

  • Investigating how wildfires are shaping the temporal and spatial patterns of vegetation and fuels as influenced by combinations of annual weather, local climate, topography, prior fire, and prior management.
  • Assessing how forests have recovered from previous fires, with special focus on the effects of prior management.
  • Building tools to assist managers and stakeholder groups to assess how future fires may affect forest structure, and determine what combinations of post-fire management and green tree treatments will best enhance future forest resilience.
  • Showing which landscape assessment tools allow the best understanding of patterns of pre- and post-fire forest structure by comparing several tools across our study area with a particular focus on understanding and demonstrating the use of airborne LiDAR data.

Photos courtesy of Derek Churchill.

2016_04_Fire Management Grant2