Video: Everyday Products From Poplar Trees

Continuing its ongoing video series, Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest has recently released another great segment that helps explain how we can produce many everyday products—such as keyboards, paints and fleece jackets—from renewable poplar trees.

Learn more about the conversion process that can help yield such diverse products, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the series!

Wildlife Science Seminar: Fall Schedule!

Next week we kick off another quarter of the long-running Wildlife Science Seminar, starting with Professor John Marzluff for the first talk, “Living with nature in your backyard.”

Professor Marzluff is leading the seminar this fall, and he’s put together an outstanding slate of speakers, from visiting professors and experts, to faculty in other departments around campus, to a couple of our own graduate students.

You can catch the seminars on Mondays from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Kane Hall 120. (Undergraduate students may register for credit under ESRM 455; graduate students under SEFS 554.)

The public is invited, so check out the full schedule below and mark your calendars!

Wildlife SeminarWeek 1: September 29
“Living with nature in your backyard”
Dr. John Marzluff
, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 2: October 6
“Patterns of evolution among New World birds”
Dr. John Klicka
, Burke Museum and Department of Biology, UW

Week 3: October 13 
“Brain mechanisms of vocal learning in songbirds”
Dr. David Perkel
, Departments of Biology and Otolaryngology, UW

Week 4: October 20
“Tigers in Malaysia”
Dr. Fred Koontz
, Woodland Park Zoo

Week 5: October 27
“Wildlife issues on the UW campus”
Dr. Charles Easterberg
, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, UW

Week 6: November 3
“Monitoring raptors on the Washington Coast”
Dr. Daniel Varland,
Coastal Raptors, Hoquiam

Week 7: November 10
“Outdoor recreation and the still unlovely mind”
Dr. Richard Knight
, Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

Week 8: November 17
Talk TBD
Dr. Gordon Orians, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology, UW

Week 9: November 24
“American crows use funerals as an opportunity to learn about dangers”
Kaeli Swift
, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 10: December 1
Talk TBD
Clint Robbins, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

New Faculty Intro: Patrick Tobin

With three new faculty members joining SEFS this fall—Professors David Butman, Peter Kahn and Patrick Tobin—we’re excited to introduce our new colleagues and welcome them to the community!

First up for introductions is Tobin, who joins us as an assistant professor after spending more than 11 years with the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station in Morgantown, W.Va. He spent most of the summer back in West Virginia selling his home and preparing for a cross-country drive to Seattle, where his family—Ahnya Redman and two “very energetic boys”—have been living since May. Ahnya, in fact, is also working at the University of Washington, just up Rainier Vista in Mary Gates Hall. It’s been about 20 years, says Tobin, since he and Ahnya worked close enough to have lunch together. That was back in graduate school at Penn State, and they feel lucky to be campus neighbors once again.

Patrick TobinAs for his background, Tobin earned a bachelor’s in environmental health sciences from the University of Georgia in 1991 (occasionally bumping into Michael Stipe around Athens), a master’s in entomology from Penn State in 1997, and then a Ph.D. in entomology from Penn State in 2002 (with minors in statistics and operations research). His interest areas broadly approach different aspects of forest health, including entomology, invasion ecology and population ecology. A big part of what inspired his transition to university life, as well, was the chance to partner with other faculty on a wider range of research projects. “I think there’s a greater opportunity for different kinds of collaborations,” he says.

Tobin is also excited to have closer engagement with students. With the Forest Service, he was able to serve on some graduate committees and give guest lectures, but he never had the opportunity to lead his own courses. “I’m really looking forward to teaching, and also student mentorship,” he says. “I think I’ve sort of missed out on that the last 12 years.”

Though he won’t be teaching his first quarter, Tobin says he’ll be taking on a quantitative science course this winter, an entomology/pathology course for spring, and then likely a graduate-level course on entomology next fall. “I’ve always been interested in insects,” he says. “It’s a personal bias of mine, but I think insects rule the world, and studying them just opens up so many opportunities.”

Whether you’re researching insects as vectors of disease, or how they interact with plants and animals, or how they affect humans, Tobin says there’s no limit to the kinds of questions you can ask and investigate. “I’m surprised more people don’t work with insects. There are so many different directions you can go.”

mosquito

A “magnificent creature”? Only to an entomologist!

In terms of favorite study species, Tobin says he’s always been partial to moths and butterflies, and he’s had a long fascination with mosquitoes—not an affection, to be sure, so much as a tip of the hat to their evolutionary success and historical impact. He even contracted malaria years ago while serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa, yet he still can’t help but respect and admire them.

“We can hate them because they annoy us and give us diseases and keep us up at night,” he says, “but you have to appreciate the sophistication of the mosquito. They are magnificent creatures.”

By moving to Seattle, Tobin will have to forgo the pleasure of swatting away swarms of mosquitoes all summer, but he and his family otherwise feel enormous excitement about life in the Pacific Northwest. Ahnya is originally from Chelan, Wash., where most of her family still lives, and Tobin is originally from southern California, so they feel very much at home on the West Coast. They’re also looking forward to the local coffee culture—including finding unroasted coffee beans for their roaster—and taking advantage of the countless outdoor opportunities throughout the year.

Tobin is now on campus full-time, and you can stop by his office in Anderson 123B or catch him by email at pctobin@uw.edu. He’s also giving the first talk in the SEFS Seminar Series this fall, so come out and welcome Professor Tobin on Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 3:30 p.m. in Anderson 223!

Photo © Patrick Tobin.

SEFS Seminar Series: Fall Schedule Announced!

If you’ve been pining for the sound of stirring voices and enthralled audiences, you’ll be excited to know the SEFS Seminar Series is booting up for the fall on Wednesday, September 24!

SEFS Seminar Schedule: Fall 2014We’ve lined up 10 weeks of fantastic talks, including presentations from two new faculty members—Professors Patrick Tobin and David Butman—as well as visiting speakers from CalPoly, Portland State University and other units on campus. Also, the final seminar will feature an alumni speaker, Stephen Hopley, to talk about his life and career in paper science and engineering.

Once again, we’re partnering with the Dead Elk Society to host a casual reception in the Forest Club Room following the seminar on November 5. Two other seminars will coincide with annual school-wide events, starting with the Salmon BBQ on October 1, and then the SEFS Holiday Party on December 3.

The seminars will be held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Anderson 223. (Students can enroll for credit under SEFS 529B; contact Michelle Trudeau for more information.)

So check out the full line-up below, and get ready for 10 weeks of terrific talks!

Week 1: September 24
Professor Patrick Tobin
“Allee effects and biological invasions: Exploiting an Achilles’ Heel in management strategies”

Week 2: October 1
Professor Rob Harrison
“The ‘hidden half’ of PNW forests: Understanding why our trees grow so fast”
* Salmon BBQ to follow in Anderson Hall courtyard

Week 3: October 8
Research Scientist Vane Kane
“Biophysical controls on forest structure and disturbance across landscapes”

Week 4: October 15
Professor Rebecca Neumann, Civil and Environmental Engineering
“Climate change and arsenic uptake by rice: Impact of elevated soil temperature on rhizosphere oxygen dynamics and arsenic concentrations in rice tissue”

Week 5: October 22
Professor Christian Torgersen
“The Fourth Paradigm and data-driven discovery in riverine science”

Week 6: October 29
Professor David Butman
“Fitting freshwater ecosystems into the boreal and arctic carbon cycles”

Week 7: November 5
Professor Vince Gallucci, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (and SEFS)
“Biodiversity of Arctic Ocean fauna as related to indigenous populations and climate change”
* Reception to follow in Forest Club Room

Week 8: November 12
Professor Sarah Bisbing, CalPoly
“Landscape influence on gene flow and connectivity across the range of Pinus contorta”

Week 9: November 19
Professor Todd Rosenstiel, Portland State University
“Canopies of change: Reconsidering bryophytes, biofuels and brown clouds in the PNW”

Week 10: December 3
Stephen M. Hopley, Alumni Speaker
“My life story as a paper science and engineering graduate”

Undergrad Spotlight: Maria Gamman

“I’ve always felt that whatever you do without getting paid on your own time, that’s what you should try to do for your job,” says Maria Gamman, who is heading into her final quarter at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). “Particularly what you enjoyed doing when you were younger—something you had a natural pull or attraction for.”

Maria Gamman

From an early age, Maria Gamman says she has always felt a strong pull to work with wildlife (here, it’s a beetle!).

For Gamman, that meant trying to find a career involving animals. She grew up in Livingston, Mont., about 60 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, and enjoyed early exposure to the mountains and wild lands of Big Sky Country. She remembers asking her parents to order a series of pamphlets about wildlife, which would arrive every month—each one featuring a different species, and each mailing going into a binder Gamman could page through again and again. “I’ve been studying wildlife since I was about 10 years old,” she says. “I was always hungry for it.”

Of course, developing a passion for wildlife was the easy part. Channeling that childhood curiosity into a practical career—as you can hear the cynics harrumphing—is not as simple as it sounds.

Yet there’s nothing naïve about Gamman’s philosophy. She’s never relied on wishful thinking or idle dreaming to reach her goals. She’s had to will herself—through great resourcefulness and resilience—to overcome a number of personal and professional challenges, and there have been plenty of recalibrations and near-derailments along the way. But now, as she wraps up her degree, Gamman can look back on all her decisions and detours and see the journey has been almost as exciting as the opportunities ahead of her.

West, East and Back Again
After attending school in Livingston through 8th grade, Gamman earned a scholarship to attend the Madeira School, an all-girls boarding school in McLean, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. Madeira attracts students from all over the country and world, and it was a dramatic East Coast plunge for Gamman. “It was a challenge,” she says, “and especially my first year, my freshman year, was very hard to be away from my family.”

Maria Gamman

Gamman, left, at Mount Rainier National Park.

Gamman quickly adapted, though, and took advantage of the school’s rigorous curriculum, which included spending every Wednesday at an outside internship. Her projects included volunteering at a retirement center, working with a Montana senator, and tutoring at a middle school in downtown D.C.—each experience feeding her love of hands-on, applied learning.

Yet the East Coast couldn’t compete with the mountains and wilderness of the West, or the proximity to her family, so when it came time to think about colleges, Gamman decided to head back across the country. “My older sister Réva had moved out to Seattle my sophomore year, so I had visited her out here,” she says. “We walked around campus, and I fell in love with the University of Washington. Then my senior year, my entire immediate family moved to Issaquah, so UW was the only school I wanted to go to, and the only school I applied to.”

After she was accepted, Gamman started working on the next hurdle: financing her education. “I’m one of seven kids in my family, and my parents didn’t have the money to put me through college,” she says.

She managed to secure grants to cover tuition and expenses her first year, but then her funding ran out. Gamman had initially chosen to major in biology, but she wasn’t feeling confident enough in her direction or finances to commit to another year of full tuition. So she withdrew from UW and enrolled at Bellevue Community College in 2005 to try studying business. It was a brief experiment. “That is not my thing,” says Gamman. “Not happening.”

At that point, Gamman decided to take some time off and work, and she found a position with a local moving company called Miracle Movers. She started as a saleswoman and quickly worked her way up to manage the office. But after six years at a desk, she was feeling pretty burned out from the routine. “At some point I just discovered I couldn’t handle working in an office for the rest of my life,” she says.

Back to School
Gamman had never lost her interest in working with wildlife, so she did some research to figure out the best program for her if she returned to UW. She ended up calling the SEFS advising office and connecting with Lisa Nordlund, who encouraged her to consider the Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) major with a wildlife conservation concentration. It sounded perfect, so Gamman re-enrolled at Bellevue College (previously Bellevue Community College) to get her prerequisites in order, and then she returned to UW in winter 2013.

Maria Gamman

Gamman has thrived in the applied, hands-on field courses at SEFS.

There was still the issue of funding, and Gamman had pulled together enough grant and loan money to cover her first year back. It was a risk, and another big investment for her, but she quickly realized she’d made a terrific decision. “Oh, I love it—I love this program,” she says. “From that first quarter, I’ve absolutely loved my classes, and it’s not that they’re easy. Most of the classes I’m required to take are pretty challenging, but I love that.”

She especially enjoyed courses with large field components, including Wildlife Research Techniques (ESRM 351). “Really any class that has field trips is my favorite class every quarter,” she says. “I’m all about application, and field trips are the best method of teaching for me. I like to get out and do whatever it is I’m learning.”

A little less than a year into the program, though, Gamman lost her older sister Réva, who had been her closest friend. “She passed away last November from brain cancer when she was 38 years old,” says Gamman. “We’re about 10 years apart, and she was my best friend, as well as a mother figure to me.”

To spend as much time as possible with Réva, Gamman withdrew from the 2013 Autumn Quarter. “That was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” she says. “The more life I live, the more I recognize that relationships are the key to happiness. I am so happy I chose to spend that time with her without the distractions of school or work.”

The Final Push
Determined to finish her degree, Gamman returned to SEFS for the Winter Quarter. She had won a School of Environmental and Forest Sciences Scholarship, awarded through the College of the Environment, to cover the 2013-2014 academic year, and she was able to scrape together enough extra money to stretch through her final quarter. “It’s just barely going to work, but it is going to work,” she says.

Maria Gamman

One of Gamman’s pillars of support for the past few years has been her fiancé Victor Martinez. “Victor has really been there for me, supporting me while I’m in school and after my sister passed away,” she says. The two met salsa dancing, and they’ve since competed in a number of competitions—including earning second place regionally in the Pacific Northwest in 2012 (in the amateur division).

Since she wanted to make the most of this investment in herself—and to make herself more competitive in the job market—she had also added a Quantitative Science minor. It seemed like a great idea to bolster her scientific credentials, but that didn’t mean she could sleepwalk her way through it.

“I struggled with math until my sophomore year of high school,” says Gamman. “I don’t know what I missed in grade school, but some things just didn’t click.”

Everything started falling into place when she took algebra, and especially when she discovered how much she enjoyed statistics and quantitative science courses at SEFS. Suddenly math made a whole lot more sense to her, and felt much more relevant to her studies—not to mention more applicable to her career goals.

Gamman has shrewdly sought out a number of internship opportunities, as well, to build up more field experience for the sort of jobs she’s thinking of after graduation.

For a week and a half last summer, she helped SEFS graduate student Laurel Peelle with telemetry for VHF-collared snowshoe hares and vegetation plots for kill sites as part of Peelle’s Canada lynx research. They were working on kill identification and how to systematically prove what kind of predator killed a snowshoe hare. Also, as part of a different project last summer, Gamman spent another week assisting with pellet plot surveys to establish population density baselines for snowshoe hares around Loomis, Wash.; she recently returned from doing two more weeks of those surveys this summer, too. “I’m a poop counter,” says Gamman, and she actually first got turned onto the wonders of studying animal scat through her friend and fellow SEFS student (and now graduate) Tara Wilson.

“I feel like internships are so important for learning what you want to do, and getting you experience for the job you want to have,” says Gamman. “Go out and try it. That was one of the reasons I did two different internships last summer—and they were very different—is because I wanted to see if I could really cut it in field work. You’re not going to know unless you get out there.”

Maria Gamman

Gamman and Martinez at a competition in Las Vegas.

What she’s learned so far is that she definitely wants to work as a wildlife field technician, and, if possible, preferably in the Seattle area or greater Pacific Northwest. Graduate school could be down the road, but right now Gamman wants to be outside and working hands-on with scientific research and conservation. In the meantime, as she tweaks her resume and starts applying for positions, she has already completed her minor and has only a few classes to go this fall, as well as her senior capstone project, before graduating.

Even with that job search ahead of her, Gamman can still savor a rare moment of relative calm: She has no regrets about coming back to school, she loves what she’s studying, her funding for this quarter is secured, and she’s worked hard to give herself a vast horizon of opportunity in a field she loves.

That’s a fine reward for her perseverance and optimism.

Photos © Maria Gamman.

Gibson Virtual Desktops: Mobile Computing, From Anywhere!

Behind the scenes of most technology projects at SEFS—whether in your office, the classroom or out in the field—are a number of resources that help support your research and studies. Among the least visible, yet also the most powerful and versatile of these resources, is our own virtual desktop environment, known as Gibson.

Named for the supercomputer in the movie Hackers, Gibson provides fully secure, 24-hour remote access to high-end software previously available only by visiting SEFS computing labs. The core system is a commercial product, but the SEFS IT Team specifically configured Gibson to meet the needs of classes and research in our school, from remote sensing to data analysis and statistics—all while using only a fraction of the power of a normal computer.

Gibson

Gibson!

Much of the impetus for developing this system, after all, was hearing about students who had to drive or bus a half hour into campus just to run a certain program for five minutes. Now, all of our students can access Gibson’s programs and features anywhere there’s an internet connection. You can even save preferences and data, and when you later log on to the virtual desktop—no matter where you are in the world—you’ll have your personalized computer waiting for you, along with the full suite of SEFS online resources and software at your fingertips.

Gibson, in short, provides the ultimate mobile computing experience. “It’s like having your own personal cloud,” says Shane Krause, senior computer specialist for SEFS.

Launched by Krause about two years ago, the pilot of Gibson was funded by the Student Technology Fee, along with research funds from Professors Stanley Asah and Soo-Hyung Kim, both of whom were looking for a more mobile system to help their students. Since then the system has grown and evolved with a number of infrastructure improvements, including adding faster hardware and recently moving the entire system from Bloedel Hall over to one of the UW’s main datacenters.

Gibson is now available to all SEFS students, faculty and staff, and the system has seen expanded use on campus, including in other units of the College of the Environment, and at remote sites such as the Arboretum, ONRC and Pack Forest. In fact, the system has already served nearly 1,000 unique users, and there’s plenty of room for more, say Krause and Marc Morrison. So jump in there and get connected—Gibson is ready for primetime!

Video: Cultivating Hybrid Poplars for Biofuel Production

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (AHB), a consortium of Pacific Northwest university and industry partners led by the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, has put together a series of short videos to help explain current research into the conversion of hybrid poplars into biofuels and other bioproducts. From an AHB project overview to more granular explorations of specific parts of the conversion process, the videos provide a great window into some of the exciting research happening right here at SEFS and at our partner institutions.

The segment below, for instance, covers the cultivation of hybrid poplars for biofuel production, including site selection, site preparation, planting techniques, post-planting management practices and harvesting.

Take a look at the rest of the videos, too, and stay plugged into everything happening with AHB!

UW Farm Opens Weekly Produce Stand Along Burke-Gilman Trail

Beginning this Friday, August 29, the UW Farm will be partnering with UW Transportation Services to set up a weekly farm stand on the Burke-Gilman Trail from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The stand will be located just across the trail from the Husky Grind at the Mercer Court apartments.

UW Farm Stand

The Burke-Gilman Trail along the Mercer Court apartments, where the farm stand will be located.

You’ll be able to pick out fresh, hyper-local lettuce, kale, chard, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, carrots, beets, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, turnips, radishes, beans, tomatillos, herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, lavender), mustard, garlic and more!

The UW Farm is a campus center for the practice and study of urban agriculture and sustainability. It is an educational, community-oriented resource for people who want to learn about building productive and sustainable urban landscapes. All proceeds go toward sustainable farming education and student development, and you can contact UW Farm Manager Sarah Geurkink if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

So stop by and support a great program!

Photos © UW Farm.

UW Farm Stand

John Tylczak: The Northwoods Photographic Project

For the month of October, we are very pleased to feature an exhibition of photographs by John Tylczak in the Forest Club Room! Tylczak (pronounced tile-zack) grew up in Shelton, Wash., where four generations of his family have lived since 1885; his grandfather, in fact, was the executor of Agnes Anderson’s estate. The black-and-white portraits he is sharing with us come from his broader collection, Views from the Northwoods: 1983-1995, which captures the faces of the Washington timber industry in the mid-1980s and early 1990s—an age of great change and transition in the logging community, from vastly shrinking workforces to more mechanized production.

John Tylczak

John Tylczak’s family has lived around Shelton, Wash., for four generations.

Tylczak says he first felt the power of photography in 1978 when he was in graduate school studying American social history at the University of Connecticut. “There was a rainy, cold day, and I was feeling kind of homesick,” he says, so he headed a few miles down the road to the neighboring town of Willimantic. He wandered into a bookstore and came across Dave Bohn’s newly released book of Darius Kinsey’s photographs. Kinsey (1869-1945) was famous for his photographs of loggers and the virgin timberland of western Washington from 1890 to 1940. The scenes were immensely familiar to Tylczak, whose own family had arrived in the area only a few years before Kinsey got to work in Sedro-Woolley.

“I just sat on the floor and gazed through those magnificent images for maybe an hour,” says Tylczak. “It relieved my homesickness, but it also opened a window to realizing how important photographers are to understanding our history.”

John Tylczak

Taken in 1988, one of the photos in Tylczak’s collection.

That experience helped shape Tylczak’s passion and career, and through the years he worked on a number of long-term photo collections, including Views from the Northwoods, which took him more than a decade to complete and includes more than 1,500 large-format images. When he started the project in 1983, he had set out to photographically re-explore the timber industry of western Washington and create a historical record of what the industry really looked like during that time period.

Part of what makes the collection so special is that Tylczak had nearly total access to forest roads and timber operations; he would often simply stroll up to a mill or field site and ask permission to photograph the workers—and was almost always welcomed. The results are an incredibly intimate, unvarnished reflection of the logging community, from the fallers and rigging crews, to loaders and transport workers, to log scalers and mill workers.

Tylczak is still active in photography and has several other ongoing collections, including photographing abandoned railroad trestles. He currently teaches graphic design and photography at Governor John R. Rogers High School in Puyallup, Wash., and we very much appreciate his generosity in sharing some of his wonderful portraits with our school.

The exhibition will be on display in the Forest Club Room and available for viewing during normal business hours in Anderson Hall (8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.). Come out and take a look this October!

Photos © John Tylczak.

New Staff Bio: Sarah Thomas

Greetings, SEFS community! I am pleased to be writing to you as the new outreach and events specialist for our school. I’m thrilled to be here, and I’m looking forward to planning some amazing events, showcasing the school’s achievements and strengthening the alumni community to increase involvement across the board. And, furthermore, SEFS seems like an amazing place to cultivate my passion for environmental conservation and sustainable living/playing/building/eating/harvesting—you name it!

Sarah Thomas

Thomas in Central Park.

As a Husky graduate and former School of Medicine employee of six years, I’m no stranger to the UW. I have a BA in Arts, Media and Culture, with an emphasis in Communications, as well as a UW Editing Certificate. I’ve worked in a variety of UW departments and roles—from tracking medical student compliance in the Deans Office, to coordinating events at the Graduate Medical Education Office, to my last role coordinating communications and outreach, planning events and managing office operations at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC). In addition to my work at UW, I’ve also held communications and event planning positions in state government, nonprofit art organizations, commercial art galleries and real estate.

I left HIPRC this April to pursue professional real estate photography. It was a striking change of pace that gave me a much-needed jolt of creativity. And while it was a fun way to spend the summer, my long-term career goals are firmly rooted in communications and outreach. Joining your community is a little like having my cake and eating it too—I’m able to do something I enjoy, for a school that inspires me.

It’s funny, I’d only been out of the UW system for about a week when I got the call to interview for this position. Even though I’d just left UW, I knew I couldn’t pass this up. I felt like Al Pacino in The Godfather III—say it with me, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” But, not in the terrifying Mafia way. In good way. A great way!

When I’m off the clock, I’m out exploring the world, either on foot as a runner, hiker and urban wanderer, or through an art lens surveying Seattle’s vibrant music, film and art scene. I’m also an occasional freelance writer for Earshot Jazz, a local news magazine. Oh, and I brew beer. And, sure, I like to indulge in a good Netflix marathon here and there too.

My office is located in 107C Anderson Hall. Come stop by and say hello!

Photo © Sarah Thomas.