Laura Prugh Receives CAREER Grant to Study How Wolves Impact Smaller Carnivores in Washington

Professor Laura Prugh was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant for $898,551—provided through the Faculty Early-Career Development (CAREER) program—to support a new project in northern Washington, “Integrating positive and negative interactions in carnivore community ecology.”

Laura collaring a wolf in Denali.

Large carnivores are key components of ecosystems, and as wolves naturally recolonize Washington, their presence could have cascading effects on a variety of species, including smaller carnivores, known as mesopredators. While wolves can reduce populations of mesopredators through killing and intimidation, they may also benefit these smaller carnivores by providing easy meals in the form of carrion. This study, in turn, will focus on the movements and population dynamics of two common mesopredators, coyotes and bobcats, as part of a collaborative investigation of wolves, cougars, deer and elk—with the ultimate aim of improving carnivore conservation and management.

“I’m fascinated by the fact that large carnivores provide food to small carnivores in the form of carrion, and yet they also kill small carnivores,” says Laura, an assistant professor of quantitative wildlife sciences in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). “Scavenging and intra-carnivore killing have been treated as separate phenomena, but I’ve proposed that they are in fact closely linked: carrion could be an ecological trap that makes small carnivores vulnerable to being killed by their larger cousins. I’m looking forward to testing this ‘fatal attraction’ hypothesis and learning more about complex interactions at the top of the food chain.”

The project—which will run from June 15, 2017, to May 31, 2022—includes several collaborators, including Professor Leslie Herrenkohl from the UW College of Education; Professor Jonathan Pauli from the University of Wisconsin; Angela Davis-Unger from the UW Office of Educational Assessment; the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; the Alaska Native Science and Education Program (ANSEP); and Symbio Studios.

These partners will use a powerful combination of animal-borne GPS and video tracking technology, stable isotope enrichment of carcasses, fecal genotyping, and cameras at kill sites to jointly examine facilitation and suppression. This research will be integrated into a wildlife course at SEFS with 150 students per year—ESRM 150: Wildlife in the Modern World—by creating new inquiry-based labs using photos from carcass sites. In addition, this study will involve Alaska Native students in field and lab research in partnership with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, and video vignettes about carnivore ecology will be created in partnership with Symbio Studios to reach 2 million K-12 students per year for five to seven years.

Photos © Laura Prugh.

A coyote scavenging a wolf kill site in Alaska. This study focuses on coyotes and bobcats as study subjects because they differ strongly in their scavenging activity but are otherwise ecologically similar.

Alumni Update: Melissa Pingree

We were excited to learn that recent SEFS alumna Melissa Pingree, who defended her dissertation earlier this year and will walk in our graduation ceremony on June 9, has already begun a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Idaho with Dr. Leda Kobziar, a fire ecologist in the Department of Natural Resources and Society! Melissa will be working on projects relating fire disturbances to soil heating and repercussions for soil ecological processes.

Also, you may recall that for 10 weeks last summer Melissa studied in Japan’s Teshio Experimental Forest. She 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 work she accomplished there is currently being prepared for a peer-reviewed journal, and she looks forward to continuing her research endeavors with Dr. Makoto Kobayashi to form a better understanding of soil nutrient limitations that pose challenges around the world.

If you’d like to get a glimpse of her experience in Japan—and also her travels in the country afterwards—Melissa shared a great 15-minute video she put together from her photos!

New Class This Summer: Intro to Papermaking (BSE 490B)!

Coffee cups, paper bags, cardboard boxes, baby diapers. What do these things have in common? They are all made from paper, and they are all essential items in our daily lives. Even in our modern society, papermaking continues to be a vital and innovative industry. So how long has paper been around? How is paper made? Is paper sustainable? This summer, SEFS Instructor Shannon Ewanick will explore these questions and more as part of a new class, “Intro to Papermaking,” that will run during the Summer A Term from June 19 to July 17!

In this course—which requires no science or engineering background and has no prerequisites—you’ll learn about methods of papermaking (from hand to machine), raw materials (from rags to wood), environmental sustainability (from water and air pollution to energy use and recycling), and you’ll get to make your own paper on the pilot-scale paper machine in Bloedel Hall!

We’re really excited to offer this course, which will include on-campus classroom sessions twice a week, as well as weekly labs and field trips.

Learn more and sign up for a summer of hands-on, papermaking fun!

SEFS Women in Science Panel: May 16!

On Tuesday, May 16, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Forest Club Room, you are invited to the first SEFS Women in Science panel, featuring accomplished women from diverse STEM fields to discuss the challenges and opportunities they’ve faced along their journeys!

The distinguished panelists include Dean Lisa Graumlich from the College of the Environment; Professor Monika Moskal from SEFS; Bernease Herman, a data fellow with the eScience Institute; and Dr. Kathayoon Khalil, principal evaluator with the Seattle Aquarium. The event is free and open to the public, and snacks and drinks will be provided. RSVP by email to help them plan for the right number of attendees!

Also, the week before the panel on Tuesday, May 9, there will be a bonus Brown Bag Lunch Discussion in the Forest Club Room from noon to 1:30 p.m. You’ll get to learn more about the SEFS Women in Science group, and also contribute potential questions for the panel the following week.

Hope you can join this fantastic panel and discussion!

Washington Hardwoods Commission Annual Symposium: June 15

The Washington Hardwoods Commission invites you to join its annual symposium on June 15, 2017, at the U.S. Forest Service office in Olympia, Wash. The theme of this year’s symposium is “Where Are We Growing?” and speakers will represent the U.S. Forest Service, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Cowlitz Indian Tribe and Washington State University, among others.

Check out the day’s agenda, and you can register by mail or online!

Peter Kareiva to Give Keynote at UW Climate Change Video Awards

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Peter Kareiva, director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, will be the keynote speaker at the 2017 UW Climate Change Video Awards on Friday, June 2, 7 to 9 p.m. at Town Hall Seattle!

Peter KareivaPeter studied political science and zoology at Duke University for his bachelor’s, and then ecology and applied mathematics at Cornell University for his Ph.D. Prior to taking his current role at UCLA, he served as chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy for 12 years, worked as director of the Division of Conservation Biology at NOAA’s fisheries lab in Seattle for three years, and was a professor of zoology at the University of Washington for 20 years. He began his career as a mathematical biologist who also did fieldwork on plants and insects around the world. His early work focused on ecological theory, and he gradually shifted to agriculture, biotechnology, risk assessment and conservation. He now mixes policy and social science with natural science, and further believes that today’s environmental challenges require a strong dose of the humanities and private sector engagement.

Peter is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of The National Academy of Sciences. He co-founded the Natural Capital Project, NatureNet Fellows, and Science for Nature and People (SNAP). He has written or edited nine books and more than 200 articles, including a conservation biology textbook. His most recent book, Effective Conservation Science: Data Not Dogma (co-edited with Michelle Marvier and Brian Silliman) will be published by Oxford University Press in October 2017.

His current research examines the importance of public engagement and science communication in advancing environmental stewardship. Exploring that theme in his keynote at the award show, Peter will address how we need new messengers and new messages to communicate about climate change—and how film and video could be a vehicle for new conversations.

We hope you can join us at the show—register for free today!

2017 UW Climate Change Video Awards: Meet the Judges!

Submissions have been rolling in during the past week, and today is the deadline for the 2017 UW Climate Change Video Contest. After we collect all the videos, we’ll turn them over to our panel of four judges to determine the finalists, which we’ll screen at the UW Climate Change Video Awards on Friday, June 2, 7 to 9 p.m. at Town Hall Seattle!

For the contest this year, we challenged high school students across the state of Washington to create a two-minute ad that will convince a climate change skeptic to take action—with a top prize of $5,000, $1,000 for second and $500 for third. We can’t wait to see how students tackled this prompt, and we’re excited to introduce the distinguished judges who’ll determine the winning videos!

Laura Jean Cronin

Laura Jean Cronin
Laura Jean Cronin has written, directed and produced an array of award-winning short films that played in festivals worldwide, including John Gill, 2000, Block Party, Leave It, Free Parking, Arthur and One Night. Laura Jean also works as a freelance 1st assistant director in the local Indie film and television industry and teaches video production skills to kids and teens at Reel Grrls, an after-school program that gives youth the tools to succeed as leaders through media production. She has recently wrapped Season Six of the Emmy Award-winning PBS show Biz Kid$, where she served as line producer. Currently, Laura Jean is a producer and director at B47 Studios in Seattle.

Melanie HarrisonDr. Melanie Harrison Okoro
Melanie is a water quality specialist and the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, West Coast Region. She earned her doctorate in environmental science from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and her research focuses on water quality impacts to federally listed threatened and endangered species. Her passions include mentoring youth as a Big Sister in the San Francisco Bay Big Brothers Big Sister Program, and being an advocate for increasing diversity in STEM fields through her involvement with the American Association of University Women in Davis, Calif.

Cody PermenterCody Permenter
Cody is the social media manager at Seattle-based Grist.org, a nonprofit environmental news organization for people who want “a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck.” Before joining Grist, Cody helped lead the social media efforts at viral news site Cheezburger.com and has been published in publications like Thrillist, The Daily Dot and USA Today. He has served on the nominating board for the Shorty Awards for the past three years, an awards program honoring the best of social media in the entertainment industry, and he studied multimedia journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ethan SteinmanEthan Steinman
Ethan is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and owner of the Seattle-based media production company, Daltonic Films. As a producer and director, he has worked over the past two decades on programming for a wide range of media outlets, 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 feature-length documentaries, including Glacial Balance, which explores the effects of climate change on Andean glaciers and the people who depend on them for survival.

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The award show and screening is free and open to the public, and we hope you’ll join us to celebrate these talented students!

Guest Seminar (5/11): William R. Burch

On Thursday, May 11, at 10:30 a.m. in the Forest Club Room, we’re very pleased to host a visiting talk with Professor Emeritus Bill Burch from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences: “Taking charge: A human ecosystem approach for joining rural and urban communities in sustaining their legacies and future hopes.”

Bill is renowned forest sociologist whose work with urban and community forestry has spanned the country and world, from the Baltimore Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network to projects in Asia, Europe and South America. In addition to teaching and advising at Yale, he has served as the first director of the Yale Tropical Resources Institute and the Yale Urban Resources Initiative, and as PI for a five-year restoration monitoring and evaluation effort for five stream valley park systems in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Parks. More broadly, Bill was an early pioneer in theoretical efforts to integrate ecology and community—using parks and forests to revitalize communities and ecosystems, and developing a unified ecosystem management approach that fully includes humans as part of the ecosystem. He has also been a leader in researching recreation behavior and ecotourism in wild, preserved and urban places.

This seminar is free and open to the public, and it kicks off the Spring 2017 Governor’s ONRC Advisory Board meeting on campus. The board is wrestling with how to deal with the rural-urban divide in concepts of sustainability and has sought out Burch’s insights to jump-start this initiative. There will be an extended discussion period after the talk.

We hope you can join us!

RAPID Response: Brian Harvey to Study Re-Burned Yellowstone Forests

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

In 1988, wildfires burned about a third of Yellowstone National Park’s forests. Most of those wooded areas hadn’t burned in 100 to 300 years, largely within the average burn cycle for those forests, and they bounced back really well from the disturbance. But what happens when the next fire comes far sooner than the average? With shorter-interval burns and changing climate conditions, will the younger trees and forest be as resilient to a severe fire? Along with collaborators at the University of Wisconsin, Professor Brian Harvey will try to answer those questions, among others, this summer as part of a new National Science Foundation grant for Rapid Response Research (RAPID).

A lodgepole forest in Yellowstone that naturally reseeded after the 1988 fires.

RAPID grants are a special category for funding research that needs to be carried out immediately. They provide a one-year pulse of money for time-critical projects that can’t wait for the usual funding cycle. In this case, more than 10 thousand hectares of forest in Yellowstone did in fact re-burn last summer—only 28 years after the 1988 fires—so this summer will be the first and best opportunity to observe how these forests respond to the short-interval disturbance. “This grant provides an awesome opportunity to get there as soon as the forest is likely to show signs of resilience, or if it is not going to be as resilient,” says Brian. “This is the key time and place to be testing these questions.”

Natural disturbances, of course, are integral to forests worldwide, but conifer forests in western North America are facing warmer temperatures and larger, more severe wildfires than at any time in recorded history. Changing climates—with hotter, drier summers—are increasing disturbance frequency in some areas, and disrupting long-established patterns of forest regrowth and succession. In Yellowstone’s forests, the dominant species is lodgepole pine, which has closed, serotinous cones that release their seeds only in response to fire. Nearly all of the seedlings then establish one year after a fire; historically, they’ve then had many decades to grow and start producing cones (and seeds) of their own before the next burn. But instead of a fire interval of 150 to 300 years, these Yellowstone forests could start seeing new fires within a matter of a few decades. “Some systems are used short-interval fires,” says Brian. “But throughout much of Yellowstone, that’s a novel thing.”

The ecological consequences of these changing fire regimes are unclear and could be profound in the next century. The results of this study, in turn, could be widely relevant for understanding abrupt changes in forest ecosystems across the globe.

“This project is a unique opportunity to test what’s going on at the leading edge of climate change and changing fire regimes in these areas,” says Brian. “We’re really seeing the start of conditions in Yellowstone that may be heading outside the range we’ve seen in the paleo-ecological record. No matter what we find, it’s going to be extremely exciting, and very important. On one hand, these ecosystems can always surprise us in their resilience. On the other hand, as many times as we’ve been surprised by their resilience, we may be heading toward a state where things could be changing pretty rapidly.”

Similar to the sites Brian will be studying this summer, this lodgepole pine forest—originally burned in the 1988 fire—was re-burned in 2012 (with this photo taken in 2015).

Starting this July, Brian will head out to the burned sites in Yellowstone with his incoming master’s student, Saba Saberi, along with an undergrad field intern. They will meet up with a team from the University of Wisconsin, and together they’ll be investigating and measuring a number of factors for how the shortened fire interval is affecting the forest, including burn severity, post-fire tree seedling establishment and carbon storage.

A major component of this research, which Brian’s master’s student will be leading, involves studying how well satellites can measure burn severity in forests that are still very young since the last severe fire. “We have well-developed satellite indices to measure burn severity in forests, but most of these indices have really only been tested on older forests with much greater live biomass,” says Brian. “However, when fire burns through a dense stand of 25-year-old trees, we don’t know how accurately the satellite can detect burn severity. This is a big part of what Saba will be testing in her master’s research at SEFS. “Calibrating these satellite indices will allow us to investigate spatial patterns of burn severity over much broader scales, and gain insight into how fire regimes may be changing right before our eyes.”

The RAPID grant provides a total of $200,000 in funding, with just under $60,000 coming to Brian for his role in the project, and the rest supporting his collaborators at the University of Wisconsin.

Also joining the crew in the field will be a freelance writer from the New York Times to spend a weekend a write a store about the project. The Discovery Channel will be sending a team, as well, as part of documentary about the research on climate change and fire. Brian and his collaborators plan to produce a series of mini-documentaries (5-8 minutes in length), in English and Spanish, to explain effects of increased fire activity and climate warming on western forests to a wide audience.

It’s going to be a packed July for Brian and his partners, and we look forward to hearing reports from the field!

Photos © Brian Harvey.

Guest Seminar (5/10): Paul Armsworth

On Wednesday, May 10, we are very pleased to welcome Professor Paul Armsworth from the University of Tennessee to give a visiting seminar in Anderson Hall 223 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.: “The ecological benefits and economic costs of protected areas.”

Paul is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he is also affiliated with the National Science Foundation’s National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. A modeler by training, Paul has worked on numerous topics in conservation science. He has a particular emphasis on how ecology and economics can be combined to make more effective conservation decisions.

About the Talk
Protected areas provide a cornerstone in efforts to conserve biodiversity in the face of ongoing habitat loss and degradation. Existing protected area networks need to be greatly expanded if we are to meet species and habitat conservation goals. However, available funding to support the establishment of protected areas is limited, and it is imperative that what funds are available are targeted in ways that provide the greatest conservation gain per dollar invested. To do so, conservation organizations need to consider both the economic costs and ecological benefits of protecting land. Using as a case study areas protected in the United States by The Nature Conservancy, Paul examines how considering costs and benefits of protected areas together changes recommendations regarding what locations should be priorities for protection, and how protected areas should be designed. He also shows how recommendations one would arrive at regarding protected area design depend on the “quality” of cost and benefit data used, and the particular choice of conservation target. Finally, he outlines ways that the science behind conservation planning can become more relevant to the practice of land protection moving forward.

Paul’s talk is open to the public and no RSVP is required. We hope you can join us!