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!

Guest Seminar (4/27): Brett McClintock

Next Thursday, April 27, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Anderson 223, you are invited to join a special guest seminar with Dr. Brett McClintock from the NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory: “Hidden Markov models of animal movement: integrating more ecological realism and common challenges associated with telemetry data.”

Brett McClintockBrett is a research statistician (biology) at the NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle. He earned a Ph.D. in wildlife biology and an M.S. in statistics at Colorado State University. His research focuses on the development and application of statistical models for ecological data, with a primary focus on marine mammals. He is the creator and maintainer of the animal movement R package ‘momentuHMM’ and the capture-recapture R package ‘multimark’. He also recently co-authored the book, Animal Movement: Statistical Models for Telemetry Data (CRC Press).

About the Talk
Discrete-time hidden Markov models (HMMs) have become an immensely popular tool for inferring latent animal behaviors from telemetry data, largely because they are relatively fast and easy to implement when data streams are observed without error and at regular time intervals. While HMMs of animal movement typically rely solely on location data, auxiliary biotelemetry and environmental data are powerful and readily available resources for incorporating much more behavioral realism and inferring ecological relationships that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to infer from location data alone. However, there is a paucity of generalized user-friendly software available for implementing (multivariate) HMMs of animal movement. Furthermore, measurement error and temporally irregular or missing data are often pervasive in telemetry studies (particularly in marine systems), and the incorporation of uncertainty attributable to location measurement error, temporally irregular observations, or other forms of missing data typically requires fitting HMMs using custom and computationally demanding model-fitting techniques. This is unfortunate because complex analyses requiring novel statistical methods, and custom model-fitting algorithms are not practical for many of the biologists and ecologists who collect telemetry data. Using several real-world examples, including African elephant and marine mammal telemetry data, Brett will demonstrate how a recently developed R package (momentuHMM) addresses these challenges and facilitates hypothesis-driven analyses of animal movement by non-statisticians.

Brett’s talk is free and open to the public, and we hope you can join us!

We hope you can join us!

Photo © Brett McClintock.

Stinging Nettles and Traditional Ecology

Tom Hinckley

On Saturday, April 15, Cynthia Updegrave and Joyce LeCompte-Mastenbrooks led students on a field trip to the Harvey Manning trailhead on Cougar Mountain. Cynthia is the instructor for the class Traditional Foods and Engaging Local Ecology (AIS 275B), and Joyce teaches Ethnobiology: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity (ENVIR 495E), and also joining the group from SEFS were Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley and doctoral student Eve Rickenbaker.

Following background discussions on the cultural and natural history of the area, the students engaged in lots of botanizing and the collection of stinging nettles. The collected plant material was then taken home, prepared and frozen so that it would be available for the meals that will be prepared for The Living Breath Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium, coming up on May 5 and 6 at the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House.

Learn more and register for this great symposium (including a chance to taste those nettles yourself)!

Native Plant Sale: May 7!

Our Native Plant Nursery, part of the Society for Ecological Restoration – UW Chapter (SER-UW), will be hosting a public plant sale on Sunday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Held at the Douglas Research Conservatory, the Native Plant Sale will feature more than 40 different species, from vanilla leaf to Douglas-fir, so come pick out your favorite plants and support your local student-run nursery!

Most of these plants are grown and propagated by students for other students’ projects and classes. Your support helps to keep them going and growing!

Learn more about SER-UW and the Native Plant Nursery, connect with them on Facebook, and feel free to contact the nursery managers, Derek Allen and Kimmy Ertel, by email anytime.

Hope you can make the sale!

Ashley Ahearn to Emcee UW Climate Change Video Awards

We are excited to announce that Ashley Ahearn, award-winning environment reporter with KUOW, will be the emcee for our 2017 UW Climate Video Awards show on Friday, June 2, at Town Hall Seattle! This is our third year hosting the UW Climate Change Video Contest, and this year’s award show and screening will feature high school students across the state of Washington who created two-minute ads addressing the prompt, “How do you convince a climate change skeptic to take action?”

In addition to her role as a reporter, Ashley is the host of a new national podcast called Terrestrial, which focuses on the choices we make in a world we have changed (the podcast launched on May 2). Or, as Ashley refers to it, it’s the “we’re f#@ked, now what?” podcast. “We, as a generation, have grown up with some level of awareness and understanding of climate change and what our emissions are doing to the planet,” says Ashley. “And we’re going to be the generation that has to figure out what to do about that—and how to live and adapt in a changed world. That’s why we’re making this podcast.”

Ashley says she’s honored to emcee the award show, and that the way she approaches an episode of the podcast might not be very different from the way these young filmmakers unpack the issue of climate change for audiences, visually.

She earned a master’s in science journalism from the University of Southern California and has completed reporting fellowships with MIT, Vermont Law School, the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island, and the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. She has covered numerous multimedia stories around Washington and the Pacific Northwest, from the Elwha River recovery to an interview with our own Carol Bogezi. In her spare time you’ll find her riding her motorcycle or hiking and snowboarding in the Olympic and Cascade mountains.

Submissions for the 2017 Climate Change Video Contest are due by April 30, and we’ll soon have more details to share about the award show, four judges and opening speaker!

Photo of Ashley Ahearn © Melanie Moore.

Ashley Ahearn at the Duwamish

Donated Diploma: Noal F. Caywood (’13, B.S.)

A couple months ago, we received an inquiry from Rob Lohrmeyer, who is dean for Career & Technical Education at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho, about whether we’d be interested in an old framed diploma from one of our early alumni, Noal F. Caywood, who graduated with a bachelor’s in forestry in 1913. Rob didn’t attend SEFS—though he did earn a bachelor’s in forestry from the University of Montana—but he had purchased the diploma at an auction in Lewiston, Idaho, in the late 1970s and was looking to clear some storage.

We were immediately intrigued, and earlier this week Rob and his wife passed through Seattle and dropped off the diploma. The glass on the frame broke and was removed years ago, and the paper is in fairly rough shape, but it is still clearly legible—including the signature of Thomas Kane, president of the university at the time.

Rob had done some searching to try to learn more about Noal, and the most recent record he found was an August 23, 1936 issue of The Salt Lake Tribune announcing that Noel, with an “e,” and his wife were relocating to Salt Lake City from Spokane, Wash. We were able to find a record of his graduation, his membership in the Xi Sigma Pi forestry honor society while in school, and a possible note about him working as a logging engineer in Everett around 1922. We are fairly confident, as well, that he was born in Avon, Ind., in 1889 and lived until 1976. Then there’s a 1940 U.S. Census record of a Noah F. Caywood—also from Indiana, and also 50 years old, as Noal would have been—living with his wife Gertrude in Spokane. He lists his occupation as a “forest engineer” working in “government forestry.” Certainly sounds like Noal, though beyond that we haven’t had much luck.

All of which is to say we’re very grateful to Rob for generously donating this piece of our history, and we hope we’re able to track down more of Noal’s story!

New Faculty Intro: Sarah Converse

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

This March, we were enormously pleased to welcome our newest faculty member, Sarah J. Converse, who joins us as an associate professor and the new leader of the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The Cooperative Research Unit program was founded in the 1930s to enhance graduate education in fisheries and wildlife sciences, and to facilitate research between natural resource agencies and universities. In Washington the Coop is a partnership between federal and state government agencies, the University of Washington, and the Wildlife Management Institute. While Sarah’s position is technically funded through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), her role operates in all other ways as a non-tenured faculty member—with her home department in SEFS and a joint appointment with the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

Sarah with a sandhill crane at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Sarah, who grew up in Battle Creek, Mich., brings tremendous experience as a quantitative population ecologist with a strong interest in decision analysis and decision science, conservation biology, demographic estimation, hierarchical modeling, integrated population modeling and reintroduction biology. “I build models of wildlife populations, and then I help land managers use those models to make management decisions,” she says.

That element of her research—working with land managers and seeing real-world applications of her models for different species—really clicked for her during graduate school.

Coming out of her bachelor’s in fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University, Sarah thought she’d probably end up being a lawyer. Then she went on to a master’s program in natural resource sciences at the University of Nebraska, where she got to work on a project she loved involving box turtles and the pet trade. “That really cemented it,” she says. “By the end of my master’s, I knew I would be continuing on and working as a research scientist.”

Her next move was to complete a Ph.D. in wildlife biology from Colorado State University, where she got heavier training in quantitative methods, before accepting a postdoc position at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. Two years later, she accepted a permanent position at Patuxent. For the next 10 years, Sarah worked there as a research ecologist with projects that stretched across the country from Washington to Florida, and also internationally. Most involved studying threatened species, including whooping crane recovery and conservation, management of avian reintroductions in New Zealand, and design and analysis methods for albatross population studies.

Sarah and her husband relocated from Washington, D.C., to Seattle in mid-March, and they have just moved into their new home in Green Lake. Here, she has her hands full with a waved albatross in the Galapagos.

“I really enjoyed my time at Patuxent—so many great people there, an amazing place to work—and 10 years went by really quickly,” she says.

Still, she always thought she’d end up back in academia, and this Coop faculty position struck her as a perfect fit and opportunity. “I like the environment and the energy of a university,” says Sarah, “and I love working with students. I also love the Northwest and always wanted to live here, so when this job came up, I was really excited.”

After the national-level focus of her time at Patuxent, Sarah is also excited to be a whole lot closer to some of her study areas and species in Washington. “For 10 years, my closest project, in terms of where I was working, was in Wisconsin, about 1,000 miles from my home,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know the state of Washington—ecologically, socially, politically, all those things—so I feel I’m working where I live. To be more immersed in a place is going to be great.”

As that immersion begins, we are thrilled to have Sarah as part of our community, and we encourage you to stop by her new office in Anderson 123A (at least part of the time) or introduce yourselves by email.


Photos © Sarah Converse.

Captured here working on a Florida manatee survey, Sarah will stay involved with a postdoc working on lesser prairie chickens, another with polar bears, and a new one working on marine birds in Europe—so even with her new home in the Pacific Northwest, she’ll have plenty of other national and international projects.


Xi Sigma Pi Research Grants: Apply by May 1!

This spring, the Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honor Society will award two grants of up to $1,000 each to support graduate and undergraduate research for students currently enrolled at SEFS. These grants are based on merit and financial need and will be applicable for research activities and/or equipment that is otherwise unattainable by the student.

The deadline to apply for these grants is Monday, May 1, by 11 p.m., so learn more about the application process below and get your packets together!

To apply, please include the following items in the grant application packet:

  1. A resume no longer than 2 pages, single-spaced. It should include the following information:
    1. Education history
    2. Work history
    3. Achievements
    4. Volunteer work
  2. Letter of recommendation from an advisor, committee member or influential faculty member. The author must email this document separately to before May 1, 2017, at 11 p.m.
  3. Current transcript (unofficial or official).
  4. Proposal for Research Grant that does not exceed 3 pages, double-spaced (excluding works cited)
    1. Title
    2. PI and Co-PI with contact information
    3. Project description:
      1. Objectives and significance of project
      2. Methods to be employed
      3. Anticipated outcome and effect of project fulfillment
      4. Broader impacts associated with the project
      5. Timeline of the project completion and deliverables
      6. Works cited
    4. Statement of financial need with budget of the specific proposed project

Include in the budget ONLY the expenses for your project, which are to be funded by the XSP grant, including but not limited to: equipment, travel, lodging, material, supplies and/or any other pertinent research activities. If you have received any scholarship or funding to fund the rest of your research, make sure to mention it here. You may want to include a brief narrative of expenses along with a table of individual cost components.

This year the grants are worth up to $1,000 dollars each, and the application process will run until May 1, 2017 (11 p.m).

The complete grant application packet can be dropped off in person to David Campbell or Lisa Nordlund in Anderson Hall rooms 116/130, OR uploaded directly onto catalyst by the due date.

If you have any questions about the grant process, email!

You’re Invited (4/25): Toward Renewable Energy & Ecosystem Services (TREES) Summit

On April 25, you are invited to join Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (AHB) and GreenWood Resources for a day of talks, workshops and a field trip that will explore the use of poplar tree plantings as a means of linking bioenergy and biomass production with ecosystem services to improve water, soil, air, climate and wildlife habitat.

The summit, Toward Renewable Energy & Ecosystem Services (TREES), is free and open to the public, and it will be held at the Brightwater Education and Community Center in Woodinville, Wash., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you’d like to attend, please register by April 15, and email Noelle Hart if you have any questions.

SEFS Year-End Celebration: Tuesday, May 23!

We’re excited to announce the date for our annual SEFS Year-End Celebration is set for Tuesday, May 23, from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Anderson Hall courtyard!

For those who haven’t been before, the Year-End Celebration is a high-spirited occasion to recognize students and colleagues—including retiring faculty—who have made exemplary contributions to the school and academic community. After the short awards portion up front, though, we dive into the catered snacks, an expansive wine tasting, a silent auction to raise money for the SEFS student scholarship fund (more on that to come!), and general merriment. This year, as well, we’re planning to make the party more of a spring picnic in the Anderson courtyard, so cross your fingers for a sunny afternoon (assuming such a vision still survives in your memory).

Remember this guy last year? SEFS doctoral student Matthew Aghai went home the big winner in the Silent Auction—to us, anyway—when he bid on this greater kudu head, donated by Professor Laura Prugh.

We always kick off the fun with the awards, and we’ll be presenting a range of student, staff and faculty honors. For students, the awards include the John A. Wott Fellowship in Plant Collection and Curatorship, and the Richard D. Taber Outstanding Wildlife Conservation Student Award. We will also present two Director’s Awards, one each for staff and faculty service.

After that, we depend on all of you to determine the final four awards, which are based entirely on nominations: Faculty Member of the Year, Staff Member of the Year, Graduate Student of the Year, and Undergraduate Student of the Year. We launched these awards three years ago to recognize the highest honor for a year of achievement and service, and they are open to nominations from all faculty, staff and students. Honorees will have their names engraved on the plaques in the Anderson Hall display case.

Submitting a Nomination
Nomination letters do not need to be long—a good paragraph or two will suffice—but they should be specific and clearly demonstrate the qualities your candidate exemplifies. Nominations can call out a wide range of qualities and accomplishments, whether in one area or across many, in one instance or sustained throughout the year. You may nominate more than one individual for each category, and all nominations will be reviewed by a panel of students, staff and faculty. You are not expected to know grant totals or grades or precise figures, though the selection committee may use these metrics as part of the selection process. Most important, all nominations must be emailed to Sarah Thomas no later than Friday, May 5!

Below are some criteria and characteristics to consider:

1. Faculty Member of the Year
Exemplary attributes can include, but are not limited to: Quality of teaching, advising and mentoring; student success in the field; new research grants and programs; recent publications, books, patents and invited lectures; contributions to the SEFS community and administration; preeminence in his/her field of study; etc. (Previous winners include Professors Sharon Doty, Jon Bakker and Patrick Tobin.)

2. Staff Member of the Year
Exemplary attributes can include, but are not limited to: Outstanding commitment to the school and supporting students, faculty and other staff; contributing to the positive spirit and cohesiveness of the school; outstanding, creative and/or innovative performance of duties; community participation and outreach; commitment to professional growth and development; etc. (Previous winners include Amanda Davis, Sarah Geurkink and David Campbell.)

3. Graduate Student of the Year
Exemplary attributes can include, but are not limited to: Academic excellence and accolades; quality of teaching; outstanding thesis/dissertation research and progress; extracurricular projects, collaborations and activities; conference presentations and other professional engagements; community participation and outreach; outstanding promise in his/her field of study; etc. (Previous winners include Hyungmin “Tony” Rho, Samantha Zwicker and Allison Rossman)

4. Undergraduate Student of the Year
Exemplary attributes can include, but are not limited to: Academic excellence and accolades; outstanding research projects; conference presentations and other professional engagements; extracurricular projects, collaborations and activities; community participation, leadership and outreach; outstanding promise in his/her field of study; etc. (Previous winners include Alison Sienkiewicz, Sophia Winkler-Schor and Stephen Calkins.)

Remember, nominations are due by Friday, May 5, so send them to Sarah as soon as possible!