Guest Lecture (10/30): William R. Burch

Coming up on Friday, October 30, at 1:30 p.m. in the Forest Club Room, we are very pleased to host a guest lecture featuring Professor Emeritus William R. Burch from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies: “Pulaski, Passion and Participation: Looking to the Past for the Future of Natural Resource Professions.”

Professor Burch

Professor Burch

SEFS Professor Bernard Bormann arranged for this special visit from Professor Burch, a renowned forest sociologist whose work with community and social forestry has touched communities across the country and world, from the Baltimore Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network to projects in Asia, Europe and South America—as well as an ongoing monitoring and evaluation project on the $26 million restoration of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park system. Burch was an early pioneer in theoretical efforts to integrate ecology and community, 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.

We’re excited to welcome Professor Burch to campus, and we hope you’ll join us for his talk!

SEFS Seminar (10/21): How to Shoot Usable Video of Your Research

Among the challenges of field research, particularly when you’re operating alone or on a limited budget, is finding a way to capture your work visually—not just as a record, but as a vehicle of science communication to help convey the value and nature of your project to broader audiences. Most of our students and faculty are not trained videographers, after all, and few of us have the time or equipment to set up sophisticated filming operations on the go. So even if you don’t have high-end tools or training, can you still collect powerful footage of your work?

Ethan Steinman

Ethan Steinman

Absolutely, says Producer/Director Ethan Steinman of Daltonic Films, who will be giving a special workshop next Wednesday, October 21, as part of the SEFS Seminar Series: “Documenting Science: How to Shoot Usable Video of Your Research.”

Steinman’s talk is designed for student and faculty researchers and will run from 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223. He has offered to stick around afterward, as well, to help with questions about specific equipment or projects (in case you need tips about recording on your smartphone with a mini-tripod, for instance). The seminar is free and open to all students, staff and faculty at the University of Washington, so bring your gear and take advantage of this great workshop!

About the Talk
The workshop’s focus is to teach scientists the inexpensive and effective methods of recording their own quality media in the field. Rather than fighting for high budgets or hiring someone to film, Steinman will talk about the methods a filmmaker uses to key in on a subject and shoot an array of footage that can be edited after research is complete to complement research papers and assist in public outreach.

About the Speaker
Steinman launched his career in film and television in 1995. Over the years, he has worked on programming for NBC, FOX and Comedy Central, commercial projects for clients including Dodge, Burger King, Capri Sun, Mercedes, Nike, Ford, Nissan, Pepsi, BMW, Novartis and Unilever, and produced series for Discovery Channel, Discovery Health and A&E.

From 2002 to 2011, Steinman lived between Paris, France, and Buenos Aires and Mendoza in Argentina to broaden his vision and to present himself with new challenges. During the past several years, he has directed the award-winning documentaries, Tesoros Descartados and Glacial Balance, as well as original content for Al Jazeera English, CNN, Adidas and Major League Soccer.

He now resides in Seattle.

Ice Caves Field Trip (ESRM 381)

This fall, SEFS master’s student Sarah Krueger Lange is the instructor for “ESRM 381: Wildland Recreation Management,” and she led her class on a field trip this past Saturday, October 10—one of the first excursions to use our new shuttle buses!

Loaded into a pair of buses from UW Fleet Services, the students headed to the Big Four Ice Caves in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. They met with staff from the U.S. Forest Service’s Darrington Ranger District, as well as Snohomish County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue department to discuss human behavior, risk management, backcountry emergency response, and the roles and responsibilities of land managers.

More than 50,000 visitors each year make the one-mile pilgrimage on the wheelchair-accessible trail that spans beaver ponds, weaves through old-growth forest, and terminates at unique snow and ice formations at the base of Big Four Mountain. Unfortunately, despite warning signs to stay away from the unstable caves, ice and rock debris have caused multiple injuries and fatalities at the popular site—including a deadly collapse this past July that prompted the Forest Service to close the site to public visitation until further notice.

ESRM 381 students will consider the case of the Big Four Ice Caves for their final project. They will draft management recommendations and share them with the Forest Service at the end of the quarter.

All photos © Bruce Savadow.

Click here to view these pictures larger

2015 Salmon BBQ: Slideshow!

Last Wednesday, October 7, the rain obliged us and halted long enough for us to enjoy another rousing Salmon BBQ in the Anderson Hall courtyard! It was a festive kick-off for the fall quarter, with more than 200 students, staff, faculty, alumni, family and friends coming out to feast on endless trays of salmon, loads of potluck offerings, several kegs from Big Time Brewery, and a wine-sampling table.

Our photographer was somewhat distracted with salmon-serving duties, but we still managed to capture a few shots of the fun. Take a look!

All photos © SEFS.

Click here to view these pictures larger

Request for Targeted Proposals: Graduate Research Augmentation Grants

The Institute of Forest Resources has issued a special request for proposals through the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research program. This special RFP will cover small, one-quarter awards that support graduate student research.

•           Awards will be available for one of the following quarters: Spring 2016 or Summer 2016.
•           Each award will be in the $10,000 to $25,000 range.
•           All awarded funds must be spent in full by September 30, 2016.
•           Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 20, 2015.

Check out the full details for this special RFP, and watch for the regular McIntire-Stennis RFP later this quarter. It will fund larger, one- and two-year proposals that will begin in fall quarter 2016.

Professor Tobin Awarded Powell Grant to Study Insect Invasiveness

Last month, Professor Patrick Tobin and a team of researchers were awarded an innovative grant from the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis in Fort Collins, Colo.: “Predicting the next high-impact insect invasion: Elucidating traits and factors determining the risk of introduced herbivorous insects on North American native plants.”

This fall, entering his second full year on the SEFS faculty, Tobin welcomed four new grad students to his newly refurbished “Disturbance Ecology Lab.”

This fall, entering his second full year on the SEFS faculty, Tobin welcomed four new grad students to his newly refurbished “Disturbance Ecology Lab.”

Powell grants are somewhat unique in that they don’t fund new data collection and research, but rather “Working Groups” that mine and synthesize existing data sets to discover overarching trends and insights. For Tobin’s group, they wanted to search for broad patterns in what drives invasiveness on a continental scale. All non-native species initially lack natural predators, he says, and they all generally feed on host plants that haven’t adapted to them. Yet out of 100 introduced insects, there are probably only three or four that become high-impact pests—like the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis)—that are dangerous enough to cause cascading changes to ecosystems. So what’s different about the other 90 to 95 percent of non-native species? What separates the really bad invasive species from the basically benign?

“I’ve dedicated my professional career to this question,” says Tobin, “so I’m excited to have this working group and the resources to really dive into it.”

The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a framework to help predict and prioritize strategies against future insect threats in the United States—with direct applications to invasive species management and risk assessment around the country and world.

The Working Group
When you submit a proposal to the Powell Center, you pitch a project and also a proposed participant list to make up a working group of about 15 scientists. The idea is to bring together a diverse set of specialties and backgrounds to explore an issue as comprehensively as possible. So Tobin’s group includes three co-investigators—Professor Daniel Herms from Ohio State University, Professor Travis Marsico from Arkansas State University, and Dr. Kathryn Thomas, a plant ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey—along with a host of other experts from 12 different universities, ranging from chemical ecologists to population geneticists to forest ecologists.

Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) larva.

Emerald ash borer larva.

Their group had submitted this concept two times previously before finally securing the grant—one of four awarded out of 50 proposals in 2015. “We almost didn’t pitch it the third year,” he says, “but we decided to try one more time. You have to be persistent and keep improving your proposal, and you can’t get frustrated. Last year, we had the dubious honor of being the top-ranked proposal not funded. This year we’re the top-ranked proposal overall. Sometimes in the grant process, it’s just a matter of convincing them it’s a good idea, and it can take a couple years to do that.”

The award will cover travel expenses for the researchers to make three weeklong visits to meet as a group at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Fort Collins Science Center, where they will have full access to the facility’s computational, data manipulation and data management resources. They will have plenty of homework in-between these visits, as well, and the grant also includes up to $100,000 for a postdoc to help guide the project for two years.

Tobin says the postdoc, who will be working directly with him and based at SEFS, will be crucial to the success of the project. “The beauty of these working groups is that they really want you to get things done,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for a postdoc to work with this diverse group of people, and they really get to pump out a lot of papers.”

The group’s plan is to meet this coming June for the first time, and Tobin will start looking this fall for a quantitative ecologist to fill the postpoc position. He has also recruited an undergrad at SEFS to help as part of a capstone project.

Photos © Patrick Tobin.

Cactus moth (now caterpillar) Cactoblastis cactorum.

Cactus moth larvae (Cactoblastis cactorum).

IFSA Welcome Meeting: October 15!

Among the 867 registered student organizations (RSOs) at the University of Washington, and the 44,786 students now roaming around campus, it can be both difficult and overwhelming for students to chart a path through the many options. In the field of environmental sciences, particularly, it can be very easy to become absorbed in the Pacific Northwest and our native species, and to lose track of our shared problems and practices with the rest of the globe. Miku Lenentine and Rachel Roberts, graduate students at SEFS, recognized a gap in our student groups last year and began working to fill it through forming the first UW chapter of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA).

Today, in its second full year as an RSO, IFSA is filled with excitement and the possibilities to connect the UW community and the world through forestry. After sending two delegates to the International Forestry Students’ Symposium (IFSS) in the Philippines this summer (a separate story on our adventures coming soon), we are better equipped to serve the UW community and bring the ‘IFSA spirit’ to our campus.

One of the trees Salina and Miku helped plant in the Philippines as part of the symposium this summer.

One of the trees Salina and Miku helped plant in the Philippines as part of the symposium this summer.

IFSA is a nonprofit organization that, first and foremost, is an international network of forestry and environmental science students. Through this active network, we share study and job opportunities abroad, along with information about varying environmental management practices for greater awareness. IFSA also works to bring students together through both casual and formal meetings, serving to represent youth in international forestry processes. We send delegations of students to important events through our partnerships with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Forum on Forest, UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and others. We are sending delegations to COP 12 in Paris this fall and even have a few UW members selected to attend the Global Landscapes Forum during COP! Rather than passively attending, as well, IFSA often works to organize side events at to provide students with more opportunities to lead, speak and share their insights.

To inform our fellow students about these opportunities for the SEFS community, we (the UW Local Committee) are holding our first “Welcome Meeting” on Thursday, October 15, at 4:30 p.m. in the Forest Club Room. This meeting is a perfect opportunity for all who want to get involved to learn more. We will have refreshments and boundless enthusiasm about the fun we can have together in this next year. If I have learned one thing from being an IFSA member, it is that when we students come together for a greater purpose, we are incredibly powerful!

Check out the global IFSA organization (“The World”) and the UW IFSA chapter for more info.

Hope to see you soon!

Salina Abraham
VP of Public Relations – IFSA UW
Head of International Processes Commission – IFSA World

Delegates at the International Forestry Students' Symposium in the Philippines this summer.

Delegates at the 2015 International Forestry Students’ Symposium in the Philippines.

Wildlife Seminar: Fall 2015 Schedule!

The long-running Wildlife Science Seminar (ESRM 455 & SEFS 554) gets rolling this coming Monday, October 5, and as always the line-up features an incredible range of subjects, from conserving seabirds to coexisting with wolves and cougars in Washington (as well as two speakers yet to be announced). Professor John Marzluff is leading the seminar this fall, and he’ll be kicking off the quarter with the first talk on Monday.

You can catch the action weekly from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Kane Hall 120. The public is welcome, so mark your calendars and come out for some animal intrigue!

Wildlife Science SeminarWeek 1: October 5
“Hot topics in wildlife science”
Professor John Marzluff, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 2: October 12
“DDT Wars”
Affiliate Professor Charlie Wurster, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 3: October 19
“A helping hand to nature: humans and cavity-nesting birds along the urban-to-wildland gradient of the Seattle area”
Jorge Tomasevic, doctoral candidate, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 4: October 26
“Interactions between wolves and deer in a managed landscape in Washington”
Justin Dellinger, doctoral candidate, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 5: November 2
“Streaked horned lark: The role of research in listing and recovery of an endangered species”
Dr. Scott Pearson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Week 6: November 9
“Coping in a human-dominated environment: good, bad, or indifferent?”
Dr. Chris Whelan, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, Ill.

Week 7: November 16
“Coexisting with wolves and cougars in Washington”
Carol Bogezi, doctoral candidate, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 8: November 23
“Conserving seabirds: from islands to hemispheres”
Professor Peter Hodum, University of Puget Sound

Week 9: November 30
Talk TBD

Week 10: December 7
Talk TBD

Student Organizing Fellowship: Carbon Washington

One of our undergrads, Aaron Tam (ESRM – Wildlife Conservation), spent the summer volunteering for a climate policy initiative with Carbon Washington (CarbonWA), a grassroots organization working to bring strong climate policy to Washington through the ballot in 2016.

CarbonWA is currently recruiting applicants for a paid fellowship for the fall quarter. They’re looking for students who are passionate about addressing climate change, advancing social justice, and enacting political change. Aaron says it’s a great experiential learning opportunity, so if you’re interested, check out the details below and submit your application by Saturday, October 10!

What is the fellowship?
CarbonWA is seeking passionate and committed individuals to apply for a Student Organizing Fellowship. This fellowship would provide students with a $500 stipend for their work as field organizers on campus and in the community advocating for CarbonWA policies. That would entail gathering signatures to get on the ballot, and organizing other volunteers and students to help you get to 500 signatures (the fellowship goal).

Who is eligible?
Any current high school or college students, and anyone preparing to enter any educational institution before the end of the calendar year. Must be able to demonstrate STRONG commitment to fighting climate change and ability to commit to the hours of work required, but previous knowledge of political organizing is not required. Preferred characteristics include: flexibility, a strong work ethic, ability to speak to groups and strangers, and social confidence.

How much is the stipend?
Be prepared to gather 500 signatures (about 30 hours of work total) for a $500 stipend, or gather 250 signatures (about 15 hours of work total) for a $250 stipend.

How do you apply?
Send an email to Ben Silesky with a resume and cover letter explaining (in no more than 250 words) why you care about climate change, and how the scholarship would benefit your studies, by October 10, 2015. CarbonWA will then evaluate your application and set up interviews.

Director’s Message: Autumn 2015 (The Starcraft Enterprise)

Autumn is such a special time of year, and the first weeks of the season always remind me of my years as a professor of forest soils at the University of Montana. Much like in our courses here at SEFS, our students there spent part of every week out in the field experiencing soils firsthand—getting their hands dirty, quite literally, with scientific discovery. We also embraced the lessons of my predecessor in Missoula, Professor Tom Nimlos, who insisted that “you can’t know anything about soils if you don’t know your plants.” So my classes made weekly forays into the prairie, woodland and subalpine ecosystems around us, simultaneously learning soils, plant species and how plant communities reflect the soils below. We explored how soil moisture and chemistry determine what can and cannot grow in a given climatic zone, and how plant communities in turn help shape the morphological characteristics of the soil below. The class was difficult, yet our students loved being outside every week—even in rain and snow—learning soils in a holistic and applied framework.

Field excursions are crucial to the understanding of all the natural resource sciences, and we have an especially long and varied tradition at SEFS of leading student research throughout the Cascades, Olympics and beyond. Whether studying soils, wildlife, forest management, ecology, recreation or hydrology, lectures and labs can only take you so far; at some point you need to see, touch and interact with natural and managed landscapes in order to grasp exactly how they function. In many ways, these trips—and the applied nature of our degree programs—are what separate us from other programs, and what make our curriculum so effective at delivering a comprehensive education in natural resource and environmental sciences.

The Starcraft Enterprise

The Starcraft Enterprise (minus the SEFS wrap it will have for the start of fall courses).

That’s why I’m so excited to introduce a new upgrade to our field programs this fall: We’re leasing a 30-passenger bus, the Starcraft XL 32, to shuttle our students in larger groups. That might not sound revolutionary at first, but we’ve grappled for a long time with the challenge, especially for larger classes, of how to transport students safely and efficiently to distant sites. We’ve often had to reserve several Suburbans and travel in caravans, requiring multiple drivers and limiting the potential for using drive time productively as a class.

During the last year, though, we worked closely with UW Fleet Services to arrange the lease for this bus, which we’ve dubbed the “Starcraft Enterprise.” We had it outfitted with a few special features for us, including a PA system for on-the-road lectures, its own wireless network, USB and charging ports, a 36-inch overhead monitor for presentations, and even our school logo on the side to advertise our research trips. The bus is designed for muddy boots and wet gear, as well—easy to clean out after a soggy day of stream surveys, or trudging through Pack Forest after the first snow of the season (hopefully coming earlier than last year!). I think it’s going to be a major improvement, and our faculty have already booked the bus for just about the whole year.

Not every field trip will require the bus, of course, and it won’t be able to access some of the rougher roads across the state. But maintaining our field courses is fundamental to the success of our programs, and the Starcraft Enterprise gives us a real boost to keep costs sustainable—and also to keep our students moving safely. I can’t wait to hear the first reports from the field!

Tom DeLuca
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences