Wildlife Research Techniques: Photos from the Field!

This past spring, Professor Laura Prugh took her first turn teaching ESRM 351: Wildlife Research Techniques, a field-intensive course that involves several weekend trips to sites around the state.

Professor Prugh handling a garter snake.

Professor Prugh handling a garter snake.

Through a combination of classroom time and field excursions, the course introduces students to common techniques used to assess wildlife populations and their habitat, and also how to communicate observations through field journals. Students gain hands-on experience with species identification, non-lethal methods of capturing and handling a variety of wildlife species, and non-invasive methods of wildlife research that do not involve capturing animals. By the end of the quarter, they should be able to identify a host of regional birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and plants, and they should be proficient at keeping detailed field notes and have a basic understanding of the scientific writing and the publication process.

The four primary field trips included overnights at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island and the Olympic Natural Resource Center in Forks, Wash., as well as camping at Teanaway and Mount Rainier. While at these field sites, students get to experiment with all sorts of skills and techniques, including radiotelemetry, learning regional birds by sight and sound (call/song), conducting rabbit burrow counts and small mammal trapping, field identification and capture methods for birds, amphibian surveys in terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and much more.

It’s an incredibly popular and memorable course, and one of the students in this year’s class, Kacy Hardin, set up a public Facebook group to capture scenes from their trips. The page offers a fun photo journal of their various research endeavors, with loads of great shots and clips, so check it out!

Photo of Laura Prugh with snake © Laura Prugh; photo of Laurel Peelle handling a Keen’s mouse (below) © Andrew Wang.

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WPPF Holds 47th Annual Meeting

The Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation (WPPF) recently held is 47th annual meeting and banquet on Thursday, May 26. The event was highlighted by the Foundation awarding its most prestigious honors to Gary Jergensen (PSE, ’72) with the year’s “Outstanding Alumni Award,” and to Dr. Tom Wolford for his induction to the WPPF “Wall of Fame.”

Tom Wolford, center, was honored with a spot on the WPPF Hall of Fame.

Dr. Tom Wolford, center, was honored with a spot on the WPPF Wall of Fame.

After opening the day with a board meeting and luncheon, this year’s attendees participated in a comprehensive poster session by BSE’s graduating seniors, with projects featuring accomplishments in papermaking and the production of polylactic acid from wheat straw. Following the poster session, attendees toured the Paper and Bioresource Science Center, where students were running the program’s paper machine to make “Ol’ Dawg Bond.” (If you want some unique paper for an event—such as for invitations—contact Kurt Haunreiter in the pilot lab to see if our students are available for the job!)

The day wrapped up with a social hour and banquet at the University Club, where Gary, Tom and SEFS Director Tom DeLuca were recognized.

Learn more about WPPF and its legacy of support for students in the Bioresource Science and Engineering program!

Photos © Juliet Louie and SEFS.

Attendees interact with BSE students during the poster session.

Attendees interact with BSE students during the poster session in the Forest Club Room.

 

Undergrad Spotlight: Samantha Mendez

For someone about to graduate with an engineering degree, SEFS senior Samantha Mendez got hooked on her program through a surprisingly mundane product: a popcorn bag.

Sam grew up in Sacramento, Calif., until she was 13, when her family moved to Spokane, Wash. That’s where she attended part of middle and high school, and it’s also where she met Tom Wolford, executive director of the Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation (WPPF) at the time.

Tom was giving an info session on the Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program at SEFS, and one of his demonstrations—involving that popcorn bag—struck Sam immediately. Tom spoke about how something as ordinary and overlooked as that bag was the product of a lot of people spending a great deal of time making it perfect. Sam liked the buzz about scholarships and internships and job opportunities, too, but she found the popcorn story particularly entrancing. “That was my first introduction to the industry, and I really liked it,” she says. “It was a turning point for me.”

Sam and her mom at the annual WPPF luncheon, where she was honored with the UW TAPPI Award.

Sam with her mom at the annual WPPF luncheon, where she was honored with the UW TAPPI Award.

Sam graduated high school in the spring of 2011 and enrolled at the University of Washington the next fall. The summer after her freshman year, she decided to take some classes at a community college back in Spokane. She wanted to catch up on a few prerequisites—including linear algebra, differential equations and organic chemistry—and she ended up extending at Spokane Falls Community College for the whole next year before returning to SEFS in 2013.

As soon as Sam settled into the BSE program, everything clicked. She felt at home with the small class sizes and close contact with professors, and she loved knowing all of her classmates by name. She got involved in the UW student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), including attending the 2015 TAPPI Student Summit in Savannah, Ga., and serving as chapter president this past year. She spent countless hours working with the paper machine in Bloedel Hall, attended PaperCon this past May in Cincinnati, Ohio, and also gained tremendous hands-on experience through several internships.

Her first was a three-month stint with the Ponderay Newsprint Company just north of Spokane in the small town of Usk, Wash. Sam worked as an engineering intern and got to assist with a range of projects, from statistical analysis and validation of testing equipment, to helping reallocate jobs for the workers. Her schedule involved four 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday, while she stayed at her aunt and uncle’s place along the Pend Oreille River. She’d come home after work, go for a run and then jump in the river to cool off. Then on Fridays, she’d head to her parents’ home in Spokane and work about 20 more hours over the weekend at an orchard. “It was really fun, and I learned a lot,” she says.

Sam, at work here in the paper lab, cites the small class sizes and accessibility of professors as huge reasons for her success. “Renata [Bura] is such a mom,” she says. “She’s fantastic.”

Sam, at work here in the paper lab, cites the small class sizes and accessibility of professors as huge reasons for her success. “Renata [Bura] is such a mom,” she says. “She’s fantastic.”

The next summer, she started what would become a 15-month internship with NORPAC in Longview, Wash. Working about 50 hours a week, Sam spent the first nine months on the paper machines, and then six months in the pulp mill.

Now, in a week she will head to Ashdown, Ark., for her third and final internship—this time with Domtar as a process engineering intern. WPPF had invited Domtar to campus earlier this year for an info session, and Sam scored two interviews and then a job offer in the same day.

She thoroughly enjoyed everyone she met with the company, and she’s looking forward to her first experience in the South. She’s also keen to work for a company that’s launching a new fluff pulp machine (used primarily for diapers). “It’s a rare opportunity to get to start up a new machine,” she says. “That’s what I’m most excited about.”

Perhaps the best part about this internship—like the two before it—is that it is fully paid. In fact, between her internships, the Del Rio Environmental Studies Scholarship she won her freshman year, and other WPPF support, Sam has been able to pay for most of her education. That’s a fairly remarkable achievement in today’s college environment, and Sam will head into her Domtar internship for what is essentially an extended interview process, with the potential to stay on permanently.

Before she leaves SEFS for good, though, Sam has one course to complete this fall with Professor Rick Gustafson. But first, she will be walking with the 17 members of her class at this Friday’s graduation as a worthy send-off for so many years of studying and working so closely together. “It’s such a great group of students,” she says, “and I’m proud and excited to be walking with them.”

Photos © SEFS.

Sam (back middle) and some of her BSE classmates.

Sam (back left) and some of her BSE classmates at the WPPF banquet on May 26.

 

Chief Kitsap Academy Immersion Day

On Tuesday, May 24, a group of students from Chief Kitsap Academy visited the University of Washington for a college immersion day.

Sponsored by SEFS, the Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program (GO-MAP), and the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House, the Immersion day gave the Chief Kitsap students an opportunity to explore a range of college experiences. For most of them, it was their first time visiting a college campus, says Jessica Hernandez, a first-year graduate student at SEFS and one of the main organizers of the event. Their day started with a classroom lecture—ESRM 101A: Forest and Society—with Professor Kristiina Vogt and guest speaker Mike Marchand, and later included a tour of the Intellectual House and then undergraduate presentations from students in the iSchool.

Back in March, the Vogt lab joined the iSchool students out at Chief Kitsap Academy to work with them on the creation of apps to visualize climate change and their personal footprint on the environment. The Immersion Day, in turn, provided a great follow-up to those initial interactions, as well as a broader introduction to the university community and experience.

Chief Kitsap Academy is a tribal school that supports the Suquamish Tribe’s mission of respecting diversity and ancestral heritage, and encouraging lifelong learning. Partnering with the school is one of several projects Jessica is involved with, including the Lummi Youth Academy and Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, around empowering indigenous youth to enter STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art and math). In her outreach efforts, she focuses on the revitalization of ancestral knowledge and language, and integrating traditional knowledge with scientific concepts.

Photo © Jessica Hernandez.

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Melissa Pingree Preps for Summer Research Program in Japan

This summer, from June 14 through August, SEFS doctoral candidate Melissa Pingree will be spending 10 weeks in Japan studying in the Teshio Experimental Forest—an ideal field research center in northern Hokkaido that provides 22,550 hectares of sub-boreal forests.

Melissa applied for the opportunity through the National Science Foundation’s East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) program, in conjunction with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The EAPSI program partners with international research institutes in Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore to provide graduate students in the United States with firsthand research experience in an international environment. Participating students get an immersive introduction to the science, science policy and scientific infrastructure of the host research institution, as well as an orientation to the society, culture and language of the host country.

Melissa Pingree collecting soil samples on the Olympic Peninsula.

Melissa Pingree collecting soil samples on the Olympic Peninsula.

EAPSI awards are designed to initiate professional relationships and enable future collaborations with foreign counterparts, and Melissa will be working with Professors Makoto Kobayashi and Kentaro Takagi of Hokkaido University. Her project involves measuring soil phosphorus (P) in contrasting soil types of northern Japan with an advanced method that mimics the variety of plant P acquisition techniques. In a laboratory experiment, they will combine soils with a common earthworm species and charcoal from wildfires in order to provide a context for biological activity and forest disturbance that is likely to alter soil P availability.

Melissa’s doctoral research at SEFS involves studying the role of wildfire in soil nutrient pools, and the influence of charcoal in fire-affected forest soils of the eastern Olympic Peninsula. So after spending so much time researching Pacific Northwest forests, she’s excited to get out in the woods in Japan. “I’m excited to see bamboo growing next to spruce and larch,” she says. “While we have some interesting similarities in the Pacific Northwest, with volcanism shaping much of our regions, there will also be some really interesting differences between our forests.”

Her NSF award includes a pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C., an orientation and homestay in Tokyo, a summer stipend of $5,000, and roundtrip airplane ticket to the host location. The EAPSI partner agencies pay in-country living expenses during the summer period. While she’s there, Melissa will be participating in field excursions with her host lab to multiple experimental forests, as well as the nearby Daisetsuzan National Park, which is the largest of Japan’s national parks.

She can’t wait to experience and explore Japanese culture—very much including the unique and delicious food—and she promises to send plenty of photos when she gets there!

Photo © Melissa Pingree.

For Graduation Donation, College Contributes to Two UW Farm Projects at CUH

For its annual gift to the graduating class this year, the College of the Environment is partnering with the Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF) to help fund two CSF projects at the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH): planting pollinator habitats to create suitable habitat for local pollinating insects, and installing a composting toilet to support more than 180 student farmers and volunteers!

The College decided to contribute to these two projects based on the recommendation of its Student Advisory Council and a vote by graduating students. Read more about each project below!

Pollinator Habitats
This project involves planting and installing pollinator habitats at the UW Farm. Specifically, the UW Farm will design and plant a hedgerow along its southern boundary to create suitable habitat for local pollinating insects, enhancing the biodiversity of the surrounding Union Bay Natural Area and student food production at the UW Farm. The hedgerow will be composed of woody perennial plant species that will act primarily as pollinator habitat, providing forage, shelter and, most importantly, overwintering habitat for insects.

UW students who work and volunteer at the farm will have the opportunity to help plant the vegetation over the coming year. They will learn how to care for the habitats into future years: primarily trimming and maintenance of perennial shrubs, removing weeds that grow into the area, and planting replacement plants as necessary. Teens and young adults from Seattle Youth Garden Works will also be involved in the installation and future maintenance of the pollinator habitats.

The total award for this project was $750, and you can contact Nicolette Neumann with any questions.

Composting Toilet
The lack of a bathroom on the worksite at the UW Farm has negatively impacted productivity and disrupted workflow (individuals have to stop work and leave the site to use the nearest restrooms), disrupted programing on the farm, and especially impeded access to any bathroom on weekends (the nearest bathrooms are locked on the weekend, a time when the farm has routine volunteer hours).

So the installation of this composting toilet—arriving in a few weeks!—at CUH will help support more than 180 student farmers and volunteers working at the UW Farm, and more than 500 student visitors to the site annually. Yet the farm will not be the only beneficiary, by any means. An outdoor bathroom will provide an indispensable resource and greatly benefit a variety of community and university groups that operate adjacent to the farm, including neighborhood visitors to the Union Bay Natural Area and CUH during daylight hours; participants in the neighboring Seattle Tilth Youth Garden Works program; youth participating in other educational programs at CUH; student ecologists and volunteers doing restoration work in UBNA; and UW grounds and maintenance members who frequently do work in the area.

The total award for this project is $33,000, and you can contact UW Farm Manager Sarah
Geurkink with any questions.

Photo © Sarah Geurkink.

This Friday (6/3): Dead Elk Spring Party!

Come celebrate the end of classes this Friday, June 3, at the Dead Elk Society’s annual spring party! “Fin de Año” starts at 5 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture Headhouse, which is around the back side of the Douglas Research Conservatory greenhouse. There will be games, free food and plenty of free beer, and also live music from Mariachi Quinto Sol de UW.

All are welcome—students, staff, faculty, friends and family—so head over to CUH for a fun-filled fiesta!

2016 Dead Elk Spring Party

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).