Fall Alumni Hike: Methow Valley

On October 3 and 4, Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley led his annual alumni hiking trip to explore the Methow Valley and its incredible fall foliage—which did not disappoint! Splitting the weekend into two hikes, Hinckley set off on Saturday to hike the Maple Pass Loop with Kyla Caddey, Graeme Riggins and Tom Friberg. On Sunday, Leahe Swayze joined Hinckley for a trek from Hairpin Curve to Kangaroo Pass, and up the south ridge to about 7,140 feet.

So as the damp chill of autumn begins to blanket the city, you can warm up to the season with a slideshow of spectacular mountain foliage!

All photos © Tom Hinckley.

UW Kicks Off New Crowdfunding Platform with SEFS Project

The University of Washington has recently launched a partnership with a new crowdfunding platform called USEED, and the first College of the Environment pilot project to test its effectiveness involves a research team at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).

On Wednesday, October 15, graduate students in the Predator Ecology Lab, led by Professor Aaron Wirsing, kicked off a campaign to raise $12,000 to fund radio collaring deer as part of an ongoing wolf study. Their goal is to better understand how the return of these top predators to Washington may impact other carnivores, deer populations and perhaps even plants.

USEED Launch

SEFS doctoral student Justin Dellinger (left) and Professor Wirsing use radio telemetry to locate collared deer.

After an absence of nearly 80 years, gray wolves are recolonizing Washington State and many other areas of the American West. To date, most studies of the impacts of wolves in the contiguous United States have occurred in protected areas or wilderness. Yet in Washington wolves are moving into managed landscapes where hunting, logging and livestock ranching also occur. “This study offers a rare opportunity to test if the ecological effects of wolves that have been demonstrated in protected areas like Yellowstone National Park also manifest in areas that have been modified by humans,” says Professor Wirsing.

What differentiates USEED from other crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter or Experiment.com, is that all of the money raised goes directly to the project, and researchers can take advantage of a wide range of training and tools. The USEED program is also unique in that funds go to the project immediately regardless of the total raised, rather than the “all or nothing” funding approach of most platforms. USEED ensures that researchers in Professor Wirsing’s lab are able to access and use every dollar they raise in the next 30 days, and that funding will help drive important graduate student research—and also give donors a chance to have a direct connection to research at UW.

Check out the Predator Ecology Lab USEED page, and then learn how you can propose your own project for USEED funding!

Photo © Professor Aaron Wirsing/SEFS.

Director’s Message: Autumn 2014

Last month, we marked the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law on September 3, 1964. In defining wilderness and ultimately protecting more than 109 million acres of federal land, the act was a brilliant and far-reaching piece of legislation. It designated huge tracts of land where the American public could experience nature with minimal human presence or interference, where “… the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain … without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”

Sawtooth Wilderness

Sawtooth Wilderness Area in Idaho.

For me, “wilderness” has always been one of the most beautiful and charged words in our language. It carries so much meaning and mystique, from our primeval roots to the allure of undiscovered wilds. To be in wilderness brings a deep sense of humility, something we experience too infrequently in our constructed landscapes, reminding us that we are part of something much larger than ourselves—and that we fit into this complex puzzle of ecology and evolution.

Yet one of the great hallmarks of our wilderness areas—their seclusion and reduced access—has also proven to be one of their greatest vulnerabilities. Visitor numbers have steadily declined in the past few decades, and while nearly everybody can name or locate a national park, far fewer can point out a wilderness area, or have ever been to one. Moreover, while the boundaries of our wilderness areas have remained mostly intact, human development has pressed in on the semi-natural, less protected lands that surround them. Large tracts of what was wild half a century ago are now a neighborhood or a suburb, and the very idea of wilderness has become increasingly distant and abstract.

You could argue, of course, that light use of our nation’s wilderness areas is a good thing. These lands do not need crowds to be successful, as fewer visitors generally means fewer impacts, and thus retention of an untrammeled landscape. Yet low foot traffic also means low visibility, to the point that the importance of wilderness starts losing its foothold in cultural and political discourse. Lack of use too-easily implies lack of economic value, and lack of economic value often yields a lack of congressional support, which threatens not only the wilderness, but the retention of any natural and semi-natural landscapes that also provide forest and non-forest products.

Yet wilderness doesn’t—and shouldn’t—need to generate paychecks or ticket stubs to prove its worth. As our footsteps and fingerprints have touched nearly every corner of the planet, I would argue the value of protected lands has become almost incalculable, especially from an educational and management perspective.

Wilderness areas, after all, aren’t idle spaces. They are living laboratories, offering windows to our ecological past and clues to future changes and adaptations. They provide crucial environmental baselines and test grounds for understanding how healthy ecosystems operate. Most important, especially at zones of convergence with human development, they can help provide blueprints for designing sustainable land-management strategies that provide for our needs without destroying the very systems that sustain our well-being.

So as we reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, I hope we can restore the promise and purpose of our wilderness areas, and make sure the next 50 years of wilderness management prove equally farsighted.

Tom DeLuca
Director, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

New Faculty Intro: David Butman

Professor David Butman, one of three new faculty members with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), has been on campus a few weeks now, and he and his family are settling into their new city and neighborhood in Maple Leaf. Like Professor Patrick Tobin, who relocated from West Virginia, Professor Butman comes to us from across the country at Yale University, where he was working as a postdoctoral associate.

David Butman

Perhaps the easiest part about moving across the country to Seattle? Butman, who grew up in a fishing community, will still have tremendous access to water!

New England has been home to Butman for most of his life. He grew up in the historical fishing community of Gloucester, Mass., where most of his family still lives. (His first job out of undergrad, in fact, was working on a commercial fishing boat as an observer with the National Marine Fisheries Service to monitor bycatch for the Marine Mammal Protection Act.) He earned a bachelor’s in economics and environmental studies from Connecticut College, a master’s in environmental science from Yale, and then his Ph.D. in forestry and environmental studies from Yale in 2011.

Switching oceans and coasts, Butman joins us as part of a cluster hire in freshwater science, and he holds a joint professorship with Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and SEFS—though his office is based in our school. The vision for the Freshwater Initiative involves interdisciplinary collaboration across a number of programs and units in the College of the Environment, including CEE and SEFS, as well as the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and UW Tacoma. Among the initiative’s research themes are ecohydrology, watershed ecology and river restoration, fluvial geomorphology, urban water quality, aquatic biogeochemistry and continental hydrology.

David Butman

Butman already has a few projects in the works, including a collaboration with Professor Christian Torgersen out on the Olympic Peninsula.

As part of this broader freshwater research portfolio, Butman brings a strong background in aquatic biogeochemistry and remote sensing, including the application of new sensors to monitor the environment. He studies the influence of humans and climate on carbon cycling at the intersection of terrestrial and aquatic systems. Specifically, he measures the capacity of ecosystems to change as a result of anthropogenic carbon emissions; human landscape alteration, like logging or development; and the effects of climate change, in order to identify environmental stressors within watersheds and mitigate long-term resource degradation.

Butman already has a few projects ramping up, including one down on the Columbia River to measure carbon cycling around The Dalles Dam. He’s been working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, and he’s looking to expand the project and do more field work over the next couple summers. Also, in collaboration with Professor Christian Torgersen, he’s secured funding for a student to do carbon sampling in the Sol Duc River out on the Olympic Peninsula.

As he gets his research and lab up and running, Butman will likely start teaching this winter or spring, including the possibility of a remote sensing survey course. We’re extremely excited to have him and his expertise as part of the SEFS community, and we hope you’ll introduce yourselves as soon as you can. You can reach Butman by email or stop by his office in BLD 264 (though we’re still working on his nameplate!).

Welcome, David!

Photos © David Butman.

David Butman

Winter Study Abroad: Costa Rica!

This February, you could earn 12 credits while spending four weeks studying in Costa Rica as part of a field course, “Costa Rica Field Studies: Ecology and Community.” Organized by UW Tacoma’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the Office of International Programs, the field course will introduce students to issues in tropical ecology, focusing on sustainability and rainforest conservation.

Costa Rica Study AbroadSEFS doctoral student Robert Tournay, who is working in Professors Sharon Doty and Tom DeLuca, is an alumnus of UW Tacoma and took this course as an undergraduate. He’s now handling logistics for the trip—transportation, accommodations, excursions, etc.—and will be traveling with the group to assist Professor John Banks, who is leading the class. (He handles arrangements for other Costa Rica programs, as well, including Professor John Marzluff’s with UW and trips through U.C. Irvine, Villanova and Seattle University).

It’s a tremendous opportunity and experience, and some of the many highlights include:

  • Independent student rainforest research projects
  • Living in a rural farming village (including optional homestays with local village residents)
  • Cultural exchange with indigenous people in nearby Zapaton
  • Excursions to coastal habitats, wildlife viewing, and service learning projects

The course runs from February 2 to March 1, 2015. Students will stay in communal bunk facilities at a local environmental/sustainable field station for part of the program. They will also spend time exploring the coastal environment in and around Manuel Antonio National Park, a few hours to the west, as well as a visit to the spectacular Osa peninsula in the south. Course work will include required readings, designing and conducting independent research projects in the field, participating in group discussions, and presenting a summary (via PowerPoint) of research projects at the end of the course.

Eligibility
Undergraduate students from any UW campus may apply, and a maximum of 15 students will be selected to participate in the program. Participants are selected on the basis of academic merit, preparation, interest, motivation, emotional maturity and financial responsibility. No previous international/language experience is required, though a willingness to engage in hard physical activity is necessary, and familiarity with at least basic Spanish is a plus.

The total cost of the program is $4,250, and the deadline to apply is November 10, 2014. Learn more about the course and how to apply!

Farm to Table Dinner: A UW Farm Benefit

The folks at the UW Farm are setting the table for dinner on October 23, and you’re invited! Round up your friends and family for a fun-filled evening at the farm, located at the Center for Urban Horticulture. There will be games to play, food preservation demos, a presentation about the farm and, of course, food!

Farm to TableYou’ll be treated to a knockout meal, incorporating UW Farm produce, from the chefs at Chaco Canyon Café. Local microbrews will also be available for purchase. Tickets are $13 in advance or $15 at the door for students, and $20 in advance or $25 at the door for non-students. All proceeds go to the UW Farm, the campus hub for urban farming, agricultural education and research.

What: Farm to Table Dinner
When: Thursday, Oct. 23, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: NHS Hall at the Center for Urban Horticulture

Come show your support, and share a meal with the UW Farm!

Evening Talks at ONRC: Melissa Pingree!

Coming up on Saturday, October 18, from 7 to 8 p.m., SEFS graduate student Melissa Pingree will be presenting the next installment in the Evening Talks at ONRC speaker series: “The unseen legacy of fire: Charcoal and its role in carbon and nutrient cycling in forest soils of the Olympic Peninsula.” Held out at the Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks, Wash., the talk is open to the public, and light refreshments will be served.

Melissa Pingree

Pingree at Mount Rainier National Park.

Pingree, a second-year doctoral student working with SEFS Director Tom DeLuca, earned a bachelor’s in forestry from the University of Montana, where she worked in the DeLuca Biogeochemistry Lab and explored the fundamentals of soil science and forest ecology. After graduating, she worked for the forestry department at Fort Lewis Army Base (now Joint Base Lewis-McChord) and gained wildland firefighter certification. The following summer, she worked as a handcrew member with Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Initial Attack, and later on the Wenatchee River crew with the U.S. Forest Service.

Her experiences in wildland fire sparked an interest in fire ecology, which Pingree combined with her knowledge of soils to earn a master’s in environmental science at Western Washington University. From working with Professor Peter Homan and studying the 2002 Biscuit Fire of southwest Oregon, she then diversified her fire experiences by working on a fuels module at North Cascades National Park, where she strengthened her skills in the field and traveled to various national parks in response to wildland fires, prescribed fires and fuel-reduction projects.

Working with Professor DeLuca once again, Pingree is studying the role of charcoal in nutrient and carbon cycling in natural forest ecosystems. This legacy of wildfires has the potential to alter short-term and long-term forest soil characteristics and plant-soil relationships, and you can learn a whole lot more from her talk next week! (Also, in case you can make the journey out to Forks, we hear Pingree knows some killer fishing spots out there, so bring your tackle along! No promises, though, because she says she’s about as likely to divulge those secrets as she is to call “soils” “dirt.”)

About the Speaker Series
Evening Talks at ONRC is supported by the Rosmond Forestry Education Fund, an endowment that honors the contributions of Fred Rosmond and his family to forestry and the Forks community. In addition to bringing speakers and interesting research out to ONRC, the series provides a great opportunity for graduate students to gain experience presenting their research to the public, and to a generally non-scientific—though thoroughly engaged—audience. For participating University of Washington graduate student speakers, ONRC will cover travel expenses and provide lodging for the night, as well as a stipend of $200.

So far, we’ve had fantastic talks from Laurel Peelle, Jorge Tomasevic, Meghan Halabisky and Rachel Roberts. If you’re interested in giving a talk or know someone who would be a great fit for this series, email Karl Wirsing or Frank Hanson!

Photos © Melissa Pingree.

Melissa Pingree

SEFS to Host Wolf Research Panel on Lethal Management

The School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), in partnership with Conservation Northwest, will be hosting a research panel on Wednesday, October 29, to explore the impacts lethal management may have on wolves, and to facilitate a discussion about how to apply that knowledge to wildlife management in the Pacific Northwest.

Organized by SEFS Professors John Marzluff and Aaron Wirsing, the research panel will highlight the current issues managers face in California, Oregon, Washington and the Northern Rockies as wolf populations have or are in the process of recovering. Panelists will share research findings and the most current science on how various management strategies might impact wolf ecology, pack structure, habitat connectivity, social acceptance and recovery.

Wolf Panel

Wolf caught on a stationary camera near Republic, Wash.

“Our hope is that this panel, which is the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, will help to shape policy in Washington that facilitates wolf recovery while minimizing impacts to those who are coming into contact with these top predators,” says Professor Wirsing.

Drawing top researchers from around the region and country, the panel will include Dr. Doug Smith of the National Park Service; Professor Jeremy Bruskotter from Ohio State University; Professor Rob Wielgus from Washington State University; Dr. Scott Brainerd from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Professor Adrian Treves from the University of Wisconsin – Madison; Dr. Donny Martorello from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; and Mike Jimenez from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Due to limited space, the panel is invitation-only and not open to the public, but you can contact Professors Marzluff and Wirsing to learn more about the event and how to access materials and findings afterwards.

Generous support for the panel has come from the University of Washington, Wilburforce Foundation, Conservation Northwest, and the Pacific Wolf Coalition.

Photo © SEFS.

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