Undergrad Spotlight: Linnea Kessler

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

Last winter and spring, SEFS undergrad Linnea Kessler spent two quarters in Tanzania with the School for Field Studies, a study-abroad program that offers students immersive experiences through field-based learning and research. In addition to taking a range of courses, from Swahili to environmental policy and wildlife management, Linnea got to carry out a research study on the chestnut-banded plover, a near-threatened species that’s endemic to the area.

Linnea, back left, and her classmates conducting transects and counting mammals at the Manyara Ranch Conservancy.

Linnea, back left, and her classmates running transects and counting mammals at the Manyara Ranch Conservancy.

Linnea, who grew up in Cheney, Wash., is an ESRM major in the wildlife option, and she says she had always wanted to study abroad in Africa. The field-heavy nature of this program is what especially attracted her, and the students were based in a village near Lake Manyara National Park in central Tanzania. They lived in an enclosed camp that included a dining hall, classroom and six cabins. She had three roommates, slept in a bunk bed, had spotty electricity and took a lot of cold showers. “It was basically like summer camp,” she says, except you were across the world in a totally unfamiliar environment.

The other highlight, of course, was the hands-on research experience. Linnea’s plover project involved looking at the birds’ distribution around Lake Manyara, part of which extends out of the park. Working with Bridget Amulike, a Tanzanian doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts who is working with grey crowned cranes, they discovered a positive correlation between pH levels in the water and abundance of the plovers. Levels in the lake can vary pretty widely, says Linnea, and they found more plovers in areas with an elevated pH (but none within the park). They also found the plovers were more abundant in mudflat habitats, potentially because the tiny birds have short legs and don’t thrive in marshy areas or deeper water. With more time and a bigger team, Linnea says they would be able to test these other variables to determine the drivers of plover distribution, and also compare their findings against data from another lake in northern Tanzania where the plovers have greater numbers.

Linnea’s study area in Lake Manyara National Park, where we took water samples for her plover research.

Linnea’s study area in Lake Manyara National Park, where she took water samples for her plover research.

When they weren’t in the field or in the classroom, the students also got to take a few memorable side excursions, including a camping trip to Tarangire National Park, as well as visits to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, where Linnea had the incredible fortune of seeing an elusive serval cat.

The program is fairly expensive, she says, but she highly recommends it, from the great people involved to the unforgettable experiences in Africa. “I was worried about not knowing anyone,” she says, “but the other students were awesome and I made some really close friends.”

Now back on campus for her senior year, she’s wrapping up her final courses this fall and might have one or two more classes in the winter—including, if it works out, the weeklong Yellowstone field course during spring break. After that, she’s considering pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree, and her long-term goal is to return to Africa to study one of the big cats (leopards are her favorite).

Whatever path she takes, Linnea has accumulated tremendous field experiences here and abroad, and we are excited to see where she goes!

Photo in safari vehicle © Isaac Merson; photo of Lake Manyara study area © Linnea Kessler; photo below of scat identification exercise © Eva Geisse.

Conducting a scat identification field exercise in a ranch area of Lake Manyara, where wildlife is protected but livestock and grazing are also allowed.

Linnea, second from right, conducting a scat identification field exercise in a ranch area of Lake Manyara, where wildlife is protected but livestock and grazing are also allowed.

 

Monday (11/14): Introducing Google Earth Engine

As part of Geohackweek next Monday, November 14, you are invited to a free public lecture by Google developers introducing the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform. The event will run from 3:30 to 4:25 p.m. Anderson 223!

GEE is a tool for geospatial analysis that includes a massive data catalog of satellite imagery and geospatial data. The data catalog is hosted on Google’s cloud, allowing for rapid, on-the-fly calculations over large spatial and temporal scales. Whether you want to build a habitat map for your study area, map malaria risks throughout a country, or monitor global deforestation patterns, Google Earth Engine is an exciting new technology that brings petabytes of free, public data to users’ fingertips from the cloud.

The event is free and open to the public, but organizers request an RSVP to get a headcount beforehand. Contact SEFS doctoral student Catherine Kuhn if you have any questions!

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This November: Environmental Justice Symposium

In partnership with the Climate Impacts Group, Urban@UW is hosting a symposium on November 7 and 8 to expand university-wide engagement with the complex issues of environmental and climate justice in the context of urbanization and city growth and decline. The free symposium will feature several SEFS faculty members and affiliates, including Director Tom DeLuca, Professors Peter Kahn and Josh Lawler, and Mary Ruckelshaus from Natural Capital, and you can check out the full agenda online.

What: “Urban Environmental Justice in a Time of Climate Change”
When: November 7 and 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: University of Washington Samuel E. Kelley Ethnic Cultural Center

The symposium will explore how communities are drawing on environmental and climate science alongside social sciences to advocate for justice; how human and environmental health are linked in a just city; and how we bring these issues to our classrooms, academic communities and beyond. It will gather academic and civic leaders to collectively learn from each other about the challenging legacies and current issues of environmental injustices, and how we create more just and equitable cities.

Registering for the symposium does not entail complete attendance, and organizers invite you to attend as many sessions and events as your schedule allows. So RSVP if you’re interested, and contact urbanuw@uw.edu if you have any questions!

(Note: you will need to register separately for Jacqui Patterson’s lecture at 7:30 p.m. on November 7.)

Notes from the Field: Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains

From September 16 to 22, Professor Laura Prugh and her new postdoc, Madelon Van de Kerk, headed to the field in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. They were deploying remote cameras and snow stakes to monitor snow conditions as part of Laura’s NASA ABoVE project involving Dall sheep.

Laura feeling the chill of late September in , the largest national park in the United States.

The largest national park in the country, Wrangell-St. Elias features terrain that ranges from sea level up to more than 18,000 feet.

A major goal of this study is to determine how snow conditions affect Dall sheep movement and survival rates. So they put up 22 snow-monitoring stations in an area of the park where their agency collaborators will be putting GPS collars on sheep later this fall. Each monitoring station consists of a camera mounted on a t-post that will take a photo of a snow stake every hour all winter. Their ground-based snow monitoring will be used to improve a model of snow conditions based on satellite remote sensing and meteorological data. Then, combining this model with the GPS location data from collared sheep will allow the researchers to determine—for the first time—how snow conditions like depth and hardness affect Dall sheep movements.

Joining Laura and Madelon for the fieldwork were her co-PI at Oregon State University, Professor Anne Nolin, and Anne’s doctoral student, Chris Cosgrove. The four of them flew to the Wrangells in a small plane—a Piper Super Cub—to reach their little cabin, well above the tree line on a large, alpine mesa. They then set up the snow-monitoring stations along elevational transects, which Laura says was extremely challenging work due to steep and rocky terrain. Their packs were also quite heavy and awkward, weighing more than 40 pounds, as they had to pack around the steel t-posts, PVC snow stakes, cameras and two 16-pound post drivers.

“We all had pretty sore muscles,” says Laura, “but it was worth it! The scenery was breathtaking, weather was great, and we saw lots of sheep, pikas, ptarmigan and some arctic ground squirrels.”

Take a look at a gallery of photos from their trip, and also a great little video of Laura explaining the project while on site last month!

Photos and video © Laura Prugh.

The Wrangells team (left to right): Madelon Van de Kerk, Chris Cosgrove, Anne Nolin and Laura Prugh.

The Wrangells team (left to right): Madelon Van de Kerk, Chris Cosgrove, Anne Nolin and Laura Prugh.

 

A Dedication for the Dedicated: John Wott Way

On Sunday, October 2, some 200 friends and colleagues gathered in the Washington Park Arboretum to celebrate Professor Emeritus John Wott at the dedication of a trail—John Wott Way—in his honor. The afternoon dedication included a Scottish bagpiper, speeches, ribbon cutting, cake and champagne, and a procession along the trail, which runs through the New Zealand Forest in the Pacific Connections Garden.

John Wott with Paige Miller from the Arboretum Foundation.

John Wott with Paige Miller from the Arboretum Foundation.

John, who earned his bachelor’s in agricultural education from Ohio State University in 1961, and then his master’s (1966) and Ph.D. (1968) in ornamental horticulture from Cornell University, joined the faculty of the College of Forest Resources in 1981. He took over as director of the Arboretum from 1991 to 2004 and continues to serve—as director emeritus, long after his retirement in 2006—as a passionate leader, teacher and advocate for the park.

Guests and speakers at the dedication ranged from Harold J. Tukey, who became the first director of the Center for Urban Horticulture in the spring of 1980 (John was one of his first faculty hires); to Paige Miller, executive director of the Arboretum Foundation; to Michael Shiosaki, director of planning and development for Seattle Parks and Recreation; to Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley and many other friends, students, staff and faculty from SEFS.

Congratulations, John, for so many years of wonderful leadership and support for the Arboretum—and now literally offering a path for others to follow in your footsteps!

Photo of John and Paige © Ellen Hecht; photo of trail procession © Auslaug Harralsdottir.

John Wott and Fred Hoyt leading the procession along John Wott Way.

John Wott and Fred Hoyt leading the procession along John Wott Way.

 

Photo Gallery: 2016 Salmon BBQ!

Last Wednesday, October 5, we hosted the largest Salmon BBQ we can remember! The weather turned beautiful after a dodgy forecast in the morning, and record numbers turned out—and waited patiently in line for a shot at the salmon!—for a joyful afternoon among friends and colleagues. Seriously, such a good time, and a huge thank you to everyone who chipped in to make our annual feast a wonderful success.

In case you missed the fun or want to spot yourself in the crowd, take a look at some photos from the afternoon!

Photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

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The grillmasters: Phil Hurvitz, Andrew Cooke, Luke Rogers and Jeffrey Comnick.

Notes from the Field: Kyrgyzstan

This September, Professor Aaron Wirsing joined his doctoral student Shannon Kachel in Kyrgyzstan for a couple weeks of field research. Working in collaboration with Panthera and the local managers of the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve in the Tian Chan Mountains, Shannon is exploring interactions between snow leopards and wolves, which compete for prey (argali and ibex) amid the regions’ towering peaks.

Doctoral student Shannon Kachel.

Doctoral student Shannon Kachel.

“During my stay, we weathered a tornado, forded rushing rivers on horseback, and hiked hard every day in a truly herculean effort to capture and collar these elusive carnivores,” says Aaron. “I left the field camp without seeing a leopard, but not without indelible memories of stunning alpine scenery and the bumps and bruises to show for some truly challenging field work at 3,000 meters (~10,000 feet). I am also happy to report that, merely a week after my departure, Shannon and company captured their first snow leopard of the season, a male!” (Read more about their first successful collaring last fall.)

Prior to returning to Seattle, Aaron also enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime visit with his father, Robert, in the Kyrgyz capital city of Bishkek. Through an incredible coincidence, Robert—a recently retired professor—was doing his own research in the area, and they were able to rendezvous for two nights (though it took nine hours, in turns by horse and by car, for Aaron to reach the rendezvous point!). The highlight, says Aaron, was a trip to Ala Archa National Park, which offers majestic alpine vistas just 40 kilometers outside of the city.

Photos © Aaron Wirsing.

Aaron, left, with his father Robert Wirsing.

Aaron, left, with his father Robert Wirsing.

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Native Plant Sale: November 6!

The Society for Ecological Restoration- UW Chapter’s Native Plant Nursery will be hosting a public plant sale on Sunday, November 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Douglas Research Conservatory at the Center for Urban Horticulture. They will be selling 50 different species—from Pacific bleeding hearts to Oregon grape, Sitka spruce, poplars, salmonberry and many more—so come pick out your favorite native plants and support your local student-run nursery!

The Native Plant Nursery provides plants to on-campus restoration projects. Using its brand-new hoop house, the nursery has cultivated an extensive inventory of more than 2,400 plants native to the forests and prairies of Lower Puget Sound, including more than 70 different species. Their plants are sourced from plant salvages, donations from local business, campus research projects and classes, and from collected seeds. All proceeds from the sale go toward funding SER-UW restoration projects on campus, and providing horticulture learning opportunities for UW students.

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2016 Farm to Table Dinner: Get Your Tickets!

On Thursday, October 27, the UW Farm will be hosting its third annual Farm to Table Dinner! Featuring food grown on campus and from other local producers—and cooked by Chaco Canyon Organic Café—this is a dinner you don’t want to miss. Tickets are on sale now, so book your spot at the table today!

The dinner will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in NHS Hall at the Center for Urban Horticulture. In addition to the bounty of delicious food, you’ll be able to enjoy local beer and wine, music, games and pumpkin carving. Tickets are $14 for students, $35 for the general public, and $10 for kids. Order yours today!

The UW Farm is a one-acre, student-powered, urban vegetable farm located on three sites at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. The farm’s mission is to be the campus center for the practice and study of urban agriculture and sustainability, and an educational, community-oriented resource for people who want to learn about building productive and sustainable urban landscapes. Their produce is sold to community members and UW institutions, given to learners/volunteers, and donated to the University District Food Bank and the UW Food Pantry.

So on top of all the mouth-watering reasons to join the Farm to Table Dinner, you’ll also be supporting a fantastic campus group!

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Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Gellermann

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

A few years ago, Helene Fowler inherited the unpublished manuscript of her late uncle’s autobiography, The Book of Daniel. Its author, our alumnus Daniel Gellermann (’39, B.S.), passed away on October 3, 2012, less than a month shy of his 96th birthday. He had transferred to the College of Forestry in 1935 and then went on to a long career in forestry in California from 1940 through the late 1960s—including stints with the Consolidated Timber Company, U.S. Forest Service and Setzer Forest Products—and we were hugely grateful to Helene for sharing the text with us.

Daniel, in a photo dated 1937, two years before he graduated from the University of Washington.

Daniel, in a photo dated 1937, two years before he graduated from the University of Washington.

The printed manuscript is dated 1987, and it’s an incredibly detailed, nearly week-by-week account of his life, from as early as he can remember up through school, work, family and retirement. Within that narrative, Daniel dedicates about 20 pages to his time as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, and his writing style opens an intimate and unvarnished window into his thoughts and experiences as a student in the 1930s. We wanted to pull out and share a few lines and memories that especially stood out to us, including the entirety of his great introduction!

***
Introduction

“Writing a life story is really a series of hits and misses, inclusions and exclusions, remembereds and forgottens—simply a subjective cross-section of one’s time on this mortal coil. I do have the advantage of being the sole survivor of my generation of Gellermanns, and so I can make it up as I go along. In the process of recall my memory has moved back and forth in time amid parents, siblings, classmates, playmates, church, school, friends, coworkers, jobs, towns, forests, homes, and thoughts and opinions and precepts and attitudes; this is obviously reflected in this account.

It seems to me that for most of us life comprises the early years, a time for education and the pursuit of knowledge; the middle years, a time for occupation and the pursuit of experience; and the retirement years, a time for contemplation and the pursuit of wisdom. I believe we all have our ups and downs and that life balances out for most of us; I have been fortunate in that my down years were my early years and my life’s curve has been on a steady upswing ever since.

Money was always tight for Daniel as a student, so he carried a paper route—first for the Seattle Times, and later a double route for the Post-Intelligencer, that earned him $40 to 50 a month.

Money was always tight for Daniel as a student, so he carried a paper route—first for the Seattle Times, and later a double route for the Post-Intelligencer, that earned him $40 to 50 a month.

My first marriage provided me an education in the liberal arts; my second marriage afforded me an education in the fine arts. I am grateful for both. And I am indeed thankful I could have a handsome and strong and bright son. Life has been good to me.

From here on out my time will be occupied with continued scribbling. I have quotations—some three thousand—to assemble in book form, a book of personal precepts and opinions, and other various essays yet to prepare.

My anagram can provide my epitaph: Deign All Men Learn.”

Time at the College of Forestry
“In the fall of 1935 I transferred to the College of Forestry at the University of Washington and a whole new world seemed to open up to me. The college had a great tradition and there was a comeraderie among the “foresters” that gave us an identity. We were given to understand at the outset that the curriculum was strenuous and that our physical and mental energies would be taxed to the limit; subsequently they were. We were told to take a look at our fellow students both to our left and to our right; the odds were that only one of three of us would be on hand to graduate four years hence. And that is the way it worked out.”

“The Foresters had a blind date dance with the Nurses each year. I could only look with envy at the signup list on the bulletin board since I knew not how to dance and I was too timid to even meet a girl.”

“My two best friends in forestry college were John Connell and Robert Myer … Sad to say, John’s success never quite met his ambitions, so he has never been able to relax and enjoy it. In his later years he has sought refuge in religion; for what good that may be I know not.”

“Fletcher Daniels was a forestry classmate; his father was Dean of the College of Mines. Fletcher was a seemingly happy-go-lucky sort, but he had a lightning-sharp mind and understood everything the first time around. I admired his quick intelligence. I understand that Fletcher was killed in WWII, so I was never to see him again after our graduation.”

To supplement his studies as an undergrad, Daniel sent for bulletins from the Government Printing Office, and he also subscribed to the West Coast Lumberman.

To supplement his studies as an undergrad, Daniel had sent for bulletins from the Government Printing Office, and he also subscribed to the West Coast Lumberman.

“The Dean of the College of Forestry in the beginning of my time there was Hugo Winkenwerder. He was strictly an armchair forester (I would add that the woods are full of armchair foresters!).”

“Professor Alexander was the one who taught our frosh courses in silviculture and mensuration. His knowledge was considerable, but his talent for teaching was sadly lacking. In addition to being a poor communicator of information he was a patsy for apple-polishing; consequently he graded on the basis of student attitude rather than ability. Intellectual honesty was a worthy trait totally lacking in dear Professor Alexander.”

In 1936, while assisting “a coed in rescuing her car from a mudhole,” Daniel tore ligaments in his knee, which later kept him out of military service. “I reported to Fort Lewis for initial assembly and physical examination but I was rejected on account of my knee injury and sent home; I felt bitter despondency and defeat.”

“I felt fortunate then and ever since to have had Walter H. Meyers for my major professor; he was a gentleman and a scholar.”

“This, my first summer in the brush I had my first taste of sin; i.e., I tasted beer for the first time! It tasted to me a bit like green olives. I very much liked green olives and so I was able to learn to like beer in due time with assiduous practice. The boys took up rolling their own Bull Durham; some gained great proficiency. It was the logger-like thing to do.”

“I was disinterested in cigarette smoking; I had tried that at the age six (dried maple leaves) and again at age twelve (Philip Morris samples) but it didn’t appeal to me; no doubt smoking retained its connotation of sinfulness for me. Eventually I decided that, were I to smoke at all, I would smoke a pipe. And so I tried that. Prince Albert at ten cents a tin was my brand. I acquired a variety of pipes, and in time settled on one with a slightly bent stem which I felt revealed proper sophistication, and enjoyed that from time to time as I wandered about. But it tended to bother my teeth, so I gave up on the entire endeavor and I am glad I did. Some of the boys took to chewing snooze (another loggermania), but I could not even stomach the thought of that for myself.”

“When I went back to school in the fall of 1937, at the start of my junior year in forestry, I was full of piss and vinegar. I had gained weight and strength, and confidence in myself.”

***

Photos © Helene Fowler.

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