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!
For 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.
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.
For Wendy Star, UW is a family affair, as both of her daughters also work for the university!
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.”
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!
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.
The 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!
The webinar is free, and online registration is now open! Who Should Attend
Extension educators, potential landowners/growers, agriculture and natural resource professionals, poplar and bioenergy researchers, environmental professionals, government officials and other biomass producers.
• 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
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 email@example.com.)
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).
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!
Tony Rho with rice plants in the Douglas Conservatory at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
Rho, who works with Professor Soo-Hyung Kim in the Plant Ecophysiology Lab, presented his poster, “Bacterial Endophytes Living in Intercellular Spaces of Leaves Lower Leaf Water Potential of Rice (Oryza sativa) Plants,” during the “Crop Physiology and Metabolism” session. His research is funded by USDA-NIFA and is the collaborative work of three labs, including Professors Kim and Sharon Doty at SEFS, both of whom were coauthors for his oral presentation. Other SEFS grad students involved in this research include Evan Henrich and Shyam Kandel.
“I believe these beneficial bacteria could be one of the potential bio-fertilizers in the future that can mitigate the climate change impacts derived from the current agricultural practice of using extensive amounts of nitrogen fertilizers,” says Rho. “My presentation gave a good glimpse of our novel approach to mitigate climate change impacts, and I got positive feedback from the audience.”
In addition to giving a presentation, Rho attended other sessions about current research trends and got to meet with a wide range of scientists and grad students. “I think it was a perfect opportunity for me to make social and professional connections throughout the conference,” he says, “as well as to introduce myself and my research.”
Every fall, using the pilot paper machine in Bloedel 014, several students in the Bioresource Science and Engineering program roll up their sheaves—sorry, sleeves—to produce a few rolls of handcrafted paper. Organized by the student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), the annual papermaking fundraiser helps cover student conference fees and support other events.
The paper itself is 100 percent non-wood, and you’ll often find holiday flourishes in it, such as ferns added to the slurry to provide festive accents when the paper is printed.
You have two options:
* Five cards and five 8.5”x11” sheets: $10
* Five cards only: $5
TAPPI had a cutting party last Tuesday, so we know the paper is trimmed and ready to go. If you’d like to place an order, email TAPPI Chapter President Seth Jorgensen or call/text 253.439.9498 to arrange a purchase between December 2 and 13. TAPPI will also have a booth at the SEFS Holiday Party this Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 4-6 p.m., so stop by and check out their handiwork!
The whole episode is very much worth watching (see below), and you can pick up the Pack Forest section about sustainable forestry around the 10th minute. After spending several hours shooting there on a sunny day this past April, the film crew captured some gorgeous footage. The final cut prominently features Professor Greg Ettl, along with a cameo from Julie Baroody, who earned her master’s from SEFS this past summer. (The UW Farm coverage begins shortly afterwards, right around the 20:50 mark, in the final section on the Campus Sustainability Fund.)
The other three episodes include “The University and the World,” “Living the Sustainability Experience,” and “Commitment to the Future.” All four videos are hosted on YouTube and are being aired on UWTV—Channel 27 in the Puget Sound region—on Sundays at 9:30 p.m.
Most grad students at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) have field sites somewhere in Washington or in surrounding states. Not so for students in our Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program. They’re scattered around the globe right now, some on projects in Africa—including a solid contingent in Senegal—and others at sites in the Philippines and in South America!
Gwen Stacy blogs about her Peace Corps experience in Senegal.
The PCMI program is a professional degree program at SEFS that combines academic study on the University of Washington campus in Seattle with a 27-month Peace Corps assignment. PCMI students complete one year of graduate course work prior to heading overseas, and then afterward they return to SEFS for one final quarter, during which they complete their degrees.
A couple weeks ago, on the first Friday of November, a two-car caravan took off from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences to catch an early-afternoon ferry out to Vashon Island. With nine graduate students in tow, Professor David Ford was leading the third field trip for his “Principles of Silviculture” course (ESRM 428).
Professor Ford, leaning on his cane, touring the first of two forest sites on Vashon Island.
The first trip had taken the students to Pack Forest to see estate forestry, and the second involved an overnight on the Olympic Peninsula to explore wet forests and densely seeded, large-scale operations. For this third excursion, the class would be touring two examples of community forestry, where they’d find small plots, some only a few acres in size, individually owned and managed, and with varying objectives depending on the landowner. Their guide for both sites would be Derek Churchill, a former Ph.D. student at SEFS who now lives on Vashon Island and works as a private forestry consultant.
Vashon Island’s history makes it an especially fertile study site for forest management. At the beginning of the 1900s, old-growth forests of hemlock, firs and red cedars covered most of the island. Smaller trees, such as alder, found room in sunnier open areas along with huckleberries and other shrubs. By the 1920s, though, most of the island’s forests had been harvested and cleared. The story went that you could stand on a high point at one end of Vashon and see pretty much across the entire island—roughly 13 miles long and eight miles across at its widest point—unimpeded by any mature trees.
At the time, Vashon was home to a number of Japanese strawberry farms, but starting in the Great Depression, and then on a broader scale as part of Japanese internment during World War II, many of those farms were abandoned. Fields that had been planted and tended were suddenly left on their own. Into that vacuum, fast-seeding alder began taking hold and spreading across the island in the 1940s and ‘50s.
Churchill, front left, lives on Vashon Island and works as a private forestry consultant.
Today, roughly 15,000 acres, or about 60 percent of Vashon, have returned to forest. A large portion of that regrowth has involved the rise of alder-dominated forests, which, rather surprisingly, can’t naturally regenerate without human interference—and that presents a tremendous opportunity to test management strategies.
In a more diverse forest, and without the unnatural boundaries of neighborhoods and other development, the ecosystem would likely replenish itself. Yet the sudden abandonment of so much cleared land gave alder, once marginalized, an unusual advantage because they seed and grow quickly. They also tend to promote a thick, tangled understory, which largely prevents new trees from taking root. So as the alder age—often beginning their decline after 60 to 70 years—there aren’t new young trees sprouting to take their place.
In turn, if a landowner did nothing to intervene in an alder-dominated forest, eventually the older trees would die and disappear, and, many years later, they’d be left with an overgrown field—but no forest.
That’s where Churchill gets involved. In his role as a forestry consultant, he advises various landowners about how to manage their forest plots, writing prescriptions for long-term planning and timber harvests. His clients have wide-ranging visions for their land, so each prescription is unique to the landowner. One might care most about wildlife viewing, horse trails or general enjoyment of nature. Some might want minimal thinning, maybe 20-30 percent; others are more aggressive and want a higher percentage of aging trees cleared.
The class tours the second forest site, where taller Douglas-fir are outcompeting Pacific madrone, resulting in some dangerously spindly, leaning and unstable trees.
In most cases, profit is not the primary objective of these harvests. More important for Churchill and the landowner is keeping the forest healthy and sustainable without overly affecting the aesthetic enjoyment of the land. If there’s a harvest here and there to make a little money, that ends up being a nice perk—and these trees definitely have market value. For a long time alder was considered a junk wood, but in the 1990s it started becoming prized for furniture (a single tree, with the right dimensions and age, could be worth more than $1,000).
As Churchill’s work has gained attention and traction around the island, more residents have recognized the importance of actively managing their forests. In fact, to handle an increasing project load more efficiently and sustainably, several years ago Churchill helped found the Vashon Forest Stewards, a nonprofit community forestry business whose mission is to “restore, enhance and maintain healthy native forest ecosystems, and to manage a sustainable ecological business that provides forestry services and island-grown wood products.” The stewards established a local mill, and they also offer educational workshops on forest planning and management, forest ecology and sustainable forestry techniques.
Showing students some of Churchill’s operation and projects, says Professor Ford, is a great way to introduce them to the viability of smaller-scale forestry. With his clients on Vashon, as well as in Seattle and surrounding communities, Churchill isn’t banking on huge harvests for an income. For him, the forests come in smaller patches and plots, and the work is more incremental and less predictable—but it is certainly viable, and plenty creative!
Check out the slideshow below to see more from their trip to Vashon.
Riley Milinovich and Meghan Halabisky get ready to scan the husky statue.
A couple weeks ago, two students in her lab, Meghan Halabisky and Riley Milinovich, used terrestrial LiDAR to produce a three-dimensional visualization of the husky statue guarding the main entrance to Husky Stadium. This type of remote sensing involves scanning the object spatially, taking billions of laser readings to create a data cloud. Although Moskal’s lab generally uses terrestrial LiDAR in the forest, they took on this project to support a 3D technology demo on GIS Day.
Funded by the UW Student Technology Fee, the LiDAR equipment they used was the Leica Scan Station 2, and it took them about four hours from set up to shutdown to finish the job. Using that data, they successfully scanned and produced a visualization of the husky (check out the cool video clip below that Milinovich put together!). Now Washington Open Object Fabricators (or WOOF), a student group on campus, will use that data to produce a reduced-scale replica of the statue by 3D printer—which you can see at the demo this Wednesday!
LiDAR started off as a surveying tool used in projects such as looking at cracks in bridges, or topographic mapping and making very fine terrain models that can model environmental impacts like drainage and landslides. RSGAL, though, uses the technology for a range of forest studies, including leaf area index estimation, how many leaves per area of ground to get at evapotranspiration, net productivity, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services.
The husky LiDAR visualization starts coming together.
Coordinated by UW Libraries, the GIS Day tradition at UW is entering its third year. The School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) is one of the biggest GIS users and teachers on campus, says Moskal, and has been a partner in helping organize the event since its inception.
Other campus activities on Wednesday include a featured speaker, Dr. Sarah Elwood from the UW Department of Geography, as well as a series of “lightning” talks—including a five-minute segment with David Campbell talking about the UW Botanic Gardens interactive maps (in the Allen Library’s Research Commons). There will be a ‘Big Data’ discussion panel, and even a GIS Doctor’s Office from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. that brings in some local GIS experts to help users answer questions.