Alder Lake Fire Near Pack Forest Grows to 150 Acres

Though nowhere near as large as the wildfires raging in central Washington, a small forest fire near Elbe., Wash., has now grown to more than 150 acres. Lightning sparked the blaze on August 11, and the fire has since spread across steep forested terrain on the south side of Alder Lake—and just south of Park Forest (which remains separated from the fire by a lake and highway).

Approximately 60 firefighters from the Department of Natural Resources and the Forest Service are working on the fire, which is known as the Alder Lake Fire, including dropping water from helicopters. No estimates of containment are available at the moment, but you can track progress and updates through The News Tribune in Tacoma, and on an Alder Lake Fire Twitter feed. Also, if you live locally, nearby residents are invited to learn more about the fire at a community meeting tonight, Tuesday, August 25, at 7 p.m. at the Mineral School’s gymnasium building, 114 Mineral Road S.

Photo © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

 Shot of the Alder Lake Fire taken from Pack Forest on Monday, August 17, when the fire covered only about 25 to 30 acres.

Shot of the Alder Lake Fire taken from Pack Forest on Monday, August 17, when the fire covered only about 25 to 30 acres.

NSF Workshop to Focus on Lower Mekong Research Partnerships

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is sponsoring a workshop series focusing on U.S. research engagement in the Lower Mekong region (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar). The purpose of this workshop is to explore the potential for advancing our scientific knowledge through supporting research partnerships in the region.

If you are interested in research engagement in the Lower Mekong, you are encouraged to take a look at the RFP for the workshop. The NSF is looking for broad and diverse contributions from multiple disciplines, science and technology domains, and regional expertise.

The first workshop is coming up this September 25-26 at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md. The second workshop will be held in Vietnam at the end of November (with a separate RFP for that workshop coming later).

Also, don’t be discouraged by the travel distance: Invited attendees from outside the Washington, D.C., region will be provided with a stipend up to $1,200 to offset the costs of attending.

To be considered for invitation, please submit a position paper by email to the workshop chair ( Due to time restrictions, the deadline to submit a paper is fast approaching on Sunday, August 23, and please share the RFP with anyone you think may be interested.

Tribal Interns Assist Bear Study in Alaska

Based at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS), the Alaska Salmon Program conducts research on ecology, biocomplexity, fisheries management and other studies relating to Alaska salmon and their environment. Part of this research, led by Professors Tom Quinn from SAFS and Aaron Wirsing from SEFS, involves investigating coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) abundance and behavior along sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) spawning streams in Bristol Bay, Alaska—including monitoring individual brown bear behavior through remote cameras and collecting hair samples for DNA analysis.

The program involves a number of partners, including the Bristol Bay Native Association (BBNA), a consortium of 31 tribes whose mission includes providing educational opportunities to the native people of the Bristol Bay region. Each summer, BBNA research interns contribute to the Alaska Salmon Program, and this year Nadezdha Wolcott (below left) and Malcolm Upton assisted with hair sample collection as part of the noninvasive genetic component of the research.

“The bears were really active this year, the fourth of our study,” says Professor Wirsing, who recently returned from a field trip to Alaska. “So we really appreciated the interns’ help in collecting all of the hairs snagged on our barbed wires!”

Photo © Aaron Wirsing.


New Faculty Intro: Laura Prugh

This past spring, we were thrilled to hire two new wildlife faculty members, Professors Beth Gardner and Laura Prugh. Though Gardner won’t be joining us until spring 2016, Prugh has already arrived in Seattle and is getting a jump on organizing her research program and lab for the fall. She and her husband moved down with their 4-year-old daughter earlier this summer, and they’re renting a place in Green Lake while they get to know the city. She has set up a temporary office space in Professor Aaron Wirsing’s former lab, which will be her lab starting in the fall. She’ll then move into her permanent office space in Winkenwerder 204.

Laura Prugh doing wolf captures in Denali in 2014.

Laura Prugh doing wolf captures in Denali in 2014.

Originally from Gaithersburg, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C., Prugh joins the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) as a wildlife ecologist—with a special interest in the quantitative analysis of species interactions—after 3.5 years with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She earned a bachelor’s in biology from Earlham College in Indiana, and then her Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where she studied coyote-prey relations in Alaska with Professor Charlie Krebs as her advisor. Prugh continued on at UBC for a postdoc with Professor Tony Sinclair, and she then headed to California for a postdoc position with Professor Justin Brashares at UC Berkeley.

Since arriving on campus, Prugh has been settling in and taking a couple trips back to Alaska, where she still has five graduate students finishing up their degrees. Two new grad students, along with a postdoc, will then be starting with her at SEFS this fall, and she will be carrying over a few of her long-term research projects. In particular, Prugh has a study in Denali looking at how wolves affect smaller carnivores like coyotes, foxes and lynx (she just submitted a proposal to continue and expand that research). And she has another project in California looking at grassland community dynamics related to precipitation and climate change—basically how kangaroo rats alter the impact of climate change on plants in the ecosystem.

She has begun preparing for her new courses, as well, which will start this spring with ESRM 351 (Wildlife Research Techniques), and then ESRM 150 (Wildlife in the Modern World) the following fall.

Trapping giant kangaroo rats as part of an ongoing study in California.

Trapping giant kangaroo rats as part of an ongoing study in California.

Future Research
As she gets to know more students and colleagues at SEFS, Prugh is excited to develop new collaborations and projects. One of those research interests with great potential applications locally relates to how cougars might affect deer-vehicle collision rates on Washington roads.

In her graduate course last year, she had her students organize a hypothetical research study to test whether the presence of cougars could reduce deer collision rates, and then model the likely economic implications of those reductions. They pulled together all sorts of data, from actual deer-vehicle collision rates in North and South Dakota, to deer population models and cougar predation rates, and ran a number of simulations. They also brought in an economist to calculate the potential savings of seeing fewer accidents. “It was pretty substantial,” she says.

One of the most promising results came from doing before-and-after analyses in some counties in South Dakota where cougars had recolonized in the past 10 years. Prugh says they found that cougars, once established, reduced deer collision rates by about 10 percent, which resulted in savings of $1.1 million annually. “That was really interesting,” she says, “but because it was such a large-scale and hypothetical situation, there were a lot of details we couldn’t look at, like traffic on roads, and variation and density in cougar movements.” (She has a paper on this research in revision with PNAS.)

Now, she’d love to follow up that initial work with a more detailed case study in Washington, where local partners—including Brian Kertson, a wildlife research scientists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (and a SEFS affiliate professor)—have already generated a wealth of data with collared cougars and deer.

Prugh’s arrival in Seattle earlier this summer felt a little different than when she moved to Fairbanks her first January, when it hovered around -40 degrees the whole month.

Prugh’s arrival in Seattle earlier this summer felt a little different than when she moved to Fairbanks her first January, when it hovered around -40 degrees the whole month.

With other research, Prugh is looking to start some work on the Olympic Peninsula to see whether coyotes—enabled by warmer winters and easier access to alpine areas—are driving the decline in Olympic marmots. She will also be setting up a non-invasive genetics lab within the school as a shared facility that will be available to students and faculty to use for genetic research.

Outside of Washington, Prugh just found out she’s been awarded two new grants from NASA’s Terrestrial Ecology Program as part of the Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE). She will be the principal investigator (PI) for one project, “Assessing alpine ecosystem vulnerability to environmental change using Dall sheep as an iconic indicator species,” which will involve synthesis and modeling of Dall sheep population and movement data throughout their range, developing new remote sensing layers of snow characteristics, and conducting fieldwork in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The research will be funded for $1 million over four years.

The second project, for which she will be a co-PI with Professor Natalie Boelman of Columbia University, will synthesize and model movements of moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears throughout Alaska and western Canada. Prugh’s role in this research, “Animals on the move: Remotely based determination of key drivers influencing movements and habitat selection of highly mobile fauna throughout the ABoVE study domain,” will be to model the wolf and bear movements, and there is a $200,000 sub-award in the grant for her to hire a postdoc for two years to lead that work.

In the meantime, Prugh is planning a family camping trip to the Olympic Peninsula, and then heading back to Alaska at the end of August to do more hare pellet counts. So keep an eye out for her this summer, and please join us in welcoming her to the SEFS community!

Photos © Laura Prugh.

Prugh especially enjoys winter fieldwork and studying carnivores in the snow. “I love snow tracking,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite things; you can see everything they’re doing. In the summer, it’s like you have a blindfold on. But in the winter, every animal around leaves a track in the snow. You can see where wolves are rolling around or playing in the snow, all kinds of things. When I was doing my graduate fieldwork up there, I would even have nightmares of it raining and all the snow melting away.”

Prugh especially enjoys winter fieldwork and studying carnivores in the snow. “I love snow tracking,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite things; you can see everything they’re doing. In the summer, it’s like you have a blindfold on. But in the winter, every animal around leaves a track in the snow. You can see where wolves are rolling around or playing in the snow, all kinds of things. When I was doing my graduate fieldwork up there, I would even have nightmares of it raining and all the snow melting away.”


Professor Ernesto Alvarado Presents Paper at Cuba Conference

Earlier this month, Professor Ernesto Alvarado spent two weeks in Havana, Cuba, as part of a team from the U.S. Forest Service, and he co-presented a paper on wildfires and climate change at the X International Convention on Environment and Development, held July 6 to 10.

With the recent re-opening of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Forest Service International Programs from Washington, D.C., sponsored the trip as part of the federal government’s efforts to initiate collaboration on environmental topics with Cuba. Joining Alvarado from the Forest Service were Dr. Armando González-Cabán from Riverside, Calif. (who co-presented the paper with Alvarado) and Alexandra Zamecnik, program manager for the Forest Service International Programs.

Alvarado says the presentation was well received and generated interest in promoting future collaboration possibilities in Cuba and other countries in the region. The team also met with staff from environmental institutions and organizations to identify key areas of interest for collaboration on environmental management and protection, and to strengthen cooperation on scientific research on related fields.

2015_07_Ernesto in Cuba

SEFS to Host Annual Biofuels Meeting

Coming up this September, the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) will be hosting the annual meeting of the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (AHB) research consortium.

Led by SEFS, AHB is comprised of university and industry partners across the Pacific Northwest, and the consortium is working to prepare Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Northern Idaho for a sustainable hardwood bioproducts and biofuels industry. So this three-day meeting will bring together contributors from ZeaChem and GreenWood Resources, as well as faculty members from UC Davis, the University of Idaho, Oregon State, Washington State University, WSU Extension and Walla Walla Community College.

The meeting begins on Tuesday, September 8, with a tour of the SEFS biofuels and bioproducts laboratories. The next two days, held over at the Center for Urban Horticulture, will include a review of current research projects and talks from the different contributors and partners.

If you’d like to learn more about AHB, contact Laura Davis, and we will have more information about the meeting closer to September.

UW Farm Opens Produce Stand!

Starting this Friday, July 24, the UW Farm would like to announce the opening of a farm produce stand, and they’re inviting you to come support their volunteer-driven agricultural enterprise! Enjoy seasonal, sustainably sourced, picked-that-morning fresh produce grown just two miles away, along with great music, refreshments and delicious seasonal recipe ideas.

2015_07_Farm Stand1From tomorrow through the rest of the summer, the UW Farm will be meeting Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Fisheries Supply parking lot at 1900 N. Northlake Way. The stand is right along the Burke-Gilman Trail and directly across from the Gasworks Park parking lot—which means easy pedestrian, bicycle and car access. It’s cash only, and they have canvass bags for sale.

So keep an eye out for their stand on Fridays, and stop by for some fresh veggies and support a fantastic program!

Poster © UW Farm.

Tell Us: Favorite Memories of Anderson Hall

In the last issue of Roots, our alumni e-newsletter, we asked our graduates to tell us about their favorite memories of Anderson Hall. Here’s what Jenniffer Bakke, (’03, B.S.), who is now a wildlife biologist for Hancock Forest Management in Independence, Ore., recalls about her time in Anderson (when she was Jenniffer Holt):

2015_07_TellUs3“My memories of Anderson Hall run the full spectrum from the dark and cold basement classrooms to the bright and inviting Forest Club Room. One quarter, I had two or three classes in Anderson Hall, so I spent A LOT of time roaming those halls. As I think back to those years, most of my memories developed in the Forest Club Room, and I loved how the Forest Club met in the balcony. Speaking of which, I met my now-husband on that balcony at a Forest Club meeting. The room has so many windows, and the sun could be so bright at times. Those were the days I silently cursed having to study when I desperately wanted to be sunning myself next to the fountain. I remember several Forest Club parties in there, and that room where I laughed with my friends until late into the night (or until we were politely asked to wrap it up).

Perhaps my most poignant memory of that room is after the 2003 graduation ceremony. As I introduced my parents and brothers to all the friends I’d made over the previous three years, and amid all the celebration and congratulatory remarks, I couldn’t help but realize that I probably wouldn’t see the inside of that room for many years.”


For the next issue of Roots, we’re asking alumni to tell us: What was your favorite spot on campus—a place to study, to eat lunch, to go for a walk? We’ll feature one or more response in the next issue of Roots, and also right here on the “Offshoots” blog. Please email submissions—of no more than 250 words—to, and we’ll follow up to ask for a photo if your letter is accepted and published.

Photos © Jenniffer Bakke.

Director’s Message: Summer 2015

In mid-June, on a visit to the Olympic Natural Resources Center out in Forks, Wash., I had the opportunity to tour the Hoh River Trust lands on the Olympic Peninsula. The Trust purchased and set aside these lands, which cover about 7,000 acres, during the last 20 years. The goal was to preserve the beauty of the 56-mile Hoh River that runs through the heart of the property, and create a zone of ecological integrity along the watershed.

Much of the area had been heavily managed in the previous 80 years, passing from small landowners to timber companies and ultimately to the Trust, and the forest is still managed today. In general, timber is being harvested at a sustainable rate and in a manner that supports continuous cover and habitat between harvest entries—and with an eye toward long-term habitat restoration and improvement. You have to marvel at the sheer size of some of the older stumps, and while I know it will take many, many years to restore the forest to the grandeur of those historical stands, I also know that much of that potential hinges on how we manage the forest today.

2015_07_Summer_HohSo the forest isn’t ‘idle,’ and neither is the land. It is an intense and ever-changing ecosystem driven by the hydraulic power of the Hoh River and the forces of fire and wind. One of the original European homesteads on the land has been lost to bank erosion from the river shifting across the floodplain at an average rate of about 20 feet per year, drawing rocks, trees, house and soil into the river, and leaving behind fresh-cut bank with exposed roots and burrow holes—all to be washed away in the next large runoff event. Amazingly, a day before our tour, two fires had broken out in this wet part of Washington in June, and one was still burning more than 20 days later. The lesson: Landscapes are incredibly dynamic, whether they experience constant human intervention or none at all. Such dynamism is found everywhere in nature, and our ability to address and work with these forces requires us to explore and understand ecological systems in their entirety.

Rural communities, with their interdependency on nearby forests and links to regional cities and international markets, also display complex dynamism. In those environments, creating a more integrated ecological and community system adds an additional layer of complexity—and also risk. Matching timber maturity and harvest scheduling with ecological objectives, for instance, can lead to cash flow challenges that cripple an organization or a company.

But that’s what makes this human ecosystem along the Hoh such an ideal test ground, and why I’m excited for the opportunity to partner with the Hoh River Trust, as well as the neighboring Olympic Experimental State Forest and Olympic National Forest, to conduct research involving faculty and students from our School. Natural laboratories like these lands, which share elements of the wild and of human management, are essential to sustainable forestry and the forest products industry. They give us a chance to integrate research across multiple disciplines, combining the expertise of our foresters, social scientists, ecologists, microbiologists, engineers, hydrologists and economists, among others.

Using these lands as an open research laboratory would allow us to conduct long-term studies experimenting with new approaches to silviculture, timber harvest and wood utilization that emphasize habitat objectives and continuous cover—all while achieving a sustainable flow of timber and revenue that supports regional demand and community well-being. I can envision us developing alternative strategies for restoration and conservation along the Hoh that will help increase the resilience of our ecosystems, economies and social networks throughout the Pacific Northwest.

There’s so much potential in this dynamic environment, and I heartily welcome the opportunity for us to help study, understand, manage, restore and sustain these rural landscapes.

Tom DeLuca
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

UW in the High School

Starting this fall, the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) will begin participating in the UW in the High School program, which offers high school students the opportunity to complete University of Washington courses—and earn UW credit—in their own classrooms, and with their own teachers. These students get to use our course curriculum, activities, texts, tests and grading scale, as well as a chance to experience the depth and challenge of college-level material.

2015_07_UW in the High SchoolIn this first year, SEFS will be supporting two courses, ESRM 101 (Forests and Society) and ESRM 150 (Wildlife in the Modern World). Professors Kristiina Vogt and Aaron Wirsing will assist with the classes, including training teachers to deliver and maximize the course material.

Participating high schools so far include Chief Kitsap, Ferndale, Garfield, Granger, Kentlake, Kentwood and Sammamish. The first training session was two weeks ago, when Vogt and Wirsing spent a couple hours with the teachers who’ll be leading these classes; at least three of them will begin teaching the material this fall. Both professors will then drop in on classes periodically and generally support the teachers throughout the semester.

“Unlike an AP course, where you get to place out of college courses, UW in the High School allows you to get the credit and actually take the class,” says Professor Wirsing. “That way, high school students come away with a college class in their pocket, and they can apply the credits they’ve earned to any university. The added bonus is that the teachers get training from the professors who teach the classes, and the professors then visit the classes to help those teachers successfully integrate the courses into their curriculum.”

We’re very pleased to get involved in this great program, which allows us to partner with great teachers and students throughout Washington!