Interim Director’s Welcome: Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh

On January 3, 2017, I began my nine-month appointment as interim director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. It has been a dizzying—and infinitely fascinating—first month settling into my new role and office here in Anderson Hall, and I’m gradually feeling my way through the complex world of our school after more than 30 years as a professor of biology at the University of Washington. My calendar has been packed as I’ve tried to connect with as many folks as possible, but until I get a chance to meet everyone face to face, I wanted to share a little more about my background and what brought me to SEFS.

My family includes B Lippitt, an educator working at the Institute for Systems Biology, our daughter Alice, who teaches 2nd and 3rd grade in the Seattle Public Schools, and our son Will, who is a construction manager with Venture Construction, his partner Ashley and their brand-new baby Wiley. B and I live in south Seattle, where we raise vegetables, bees and other art forms on our property.

My family includes B Lippitt, an educator working at the Institute for Systems Biology, our daughter Alice, who teaches 2nd and 3rd grade in the Seattle Public Schools, and our son Will, who is a construction manager with Venture Construction, his partner Ashley and their brand-new baby Wiley. B and I live in south Seattle, where we raise vegetables, bees and other art forms on our property.

My interest in biology began in high school. I remember two remarkable teachers, in chemistry and in biology, and learning to pith a frog. Forevermore I was a plant biologist, interested in physiology and biochemical function.

I went on to earn a bachelor’s in botany from Duke University and a Ph.D. in plant physiology from the University of Washington. Following postdoctoral appointments at the University of Illinois and as a NATO Fellow at Lancaster University in England, I returned to the UW Botany Department and began postdoctoral/research faculty work, including with the poplar research program led by Professor Emeritus Reinhard Stettler from the College of Forest Resources (now our school). I worked closely then with Tom Hinckley and Toby Bradshaw (then a member of CFR, now chair of Biology), and soon I was hired as an assistant professor in botany in 1987. I continued my collaboration with CFR by joining graduate supervisory committees and serving on the Center for Urban Horticulture Advisory Committee with Professor Emeritus Harold Tukey, and later David Mabberly and Sarah Reichard.

In my own career as a plant biologist, my research has focused on the physiological regulation of leaf expansion in crop plants, including beans, corn, poplar and tomato. I am most known for my work on leaf growth with respect to photobiology and drought stress, and I have explored how genetic variation in activity of growth control affects yield. One of these projects was funded by Pioneer Hi-Bred seed company, a collaboration with Professor Emeritus David Ford on corn canopies. With poplar, it became clear that the rate of leaf expansion predicted stem volume at the end of a one-year growth season. Recent experiments show that the rate of bean leaf expansion predicts yield of bean plants grown in greenhouse conditions. Students currently working in my Plant Growth Lab are exploring how blue light controls the growth mechanism, what influence leaf shape has on function, and how drought tolerance develops in growing bean plants.

Greenhouse beans.

Greenhouse beans, part of an experiment in Liz’s Plant Growth Lab.

From the beginning, I’ve been interested in how plants work, focusing on physiology and adaptation. A little more than 10 years ago, I was invited to join an international group of researchers forming the Society for Plant Neurobiology. It seemed a natural progression, especially since leaf growth physiology has many similarities to neurophysiology. I became president of this society, which later changed its name to Plant Signaling and Behavior (to match its journal), and I’m also a longstanding member of the American Society of Plant Biology, Sigma Xi and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where I am a AAAS Fellow.

Which brings me to this new chapter as interim director of SEFS. When I first considered this opportunity—after the surprise of being asked—I saw a tremendous opportunity to work with old colleagues and new partners on a mission that’s vitally important to the health of our global environment. The complexity of leading a school is new to me, but also appealing. So I look forward to understanding better the whole of the SEFS community, and getting to know all of the people and projects that make it work!

Sincerely,

Liz Van Volkenburgh
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Washington Botanical Symposium: Student Scholarships Available!

On Wednesday, March 15, the First Washington Botanical Symposium will take place at the Center for Urban Horticulture from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in NHS Hall!

2017_01_Botanical SymposiumSponsored by the Burke Museum, UW Botanic Gardens, Washington Natural Heritage Program, and the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, the symposium will bring together an extensive network of professional, academic and amateur botanists who are actively engaged in the conservation, management and study of Washington’s diverse flora. Their expertise ranges from how best to manage biodiversity, to understanding climate change impacts on plant communities, to naming and classifying the flora’s rare, common and invasive elements. At this symposium, invited speakers and poster presentations will share new insights and discoveries about these topics and more. Participants from throughout Washington and adjacent areas will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues within and across disciplines.

The cost for attending is $75, which includes lunch, and a limited number of scholarships are available for current, full-time students to attend at no charge. To be considered for a scholarship, email urbhort@uw.edu with two paragraphs about your interest in the symposium and a picture/copy of your current student ID. Applications will be considered in the order in which they are received. (If you are a student who has already registered for the symposium, you may still apply for a scholarship, and if, accepted, your registration fee will be refunded.)

Learn more about the speakers and topics, and register today!

UW Farm CSA: Sign Up for Summer Shares!

This summer, for the fourth season, the UW Farm will once again be offering shares of its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program!

Buying a CSA share entitles you to a weekly selection of fresh produce for 17 consecutive weeks from June 7 to September 27, with each share feeding a family of four. The price is $510 ($30/week) for faculty, staff and community members, and $470 for students; you can also inquire about other need-based discounts and early-bird bonuses. You will be able to pick up your box on Wednesdays after 3 p.m. from the UW Farm at the Center for Urban Horticulture, or on the main UW Campus (location TBD).

Learn more and sign up for a summer 2017 membership, and keep an eye out for high-season (August) and fall (October/November) shares that will be available later in the season!

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IFSA to Host Yoga Fundraiser

This February, the UW Local Committee of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) is hosting the Canadian-American Regional Meeting, which will welcome 30 students from about eight different universities in the United States and Canada. These student guests will be spending a week here to learn about forestry practices and restoration work in Washington, including a trip to Pack Forest, and IFSA has organized a yoga class to help raise funds for this great event!

2017_01_IFSA FundraiserOn Saturday, February 11, IFSA is partnering with a local yoga studio, We Yoga Co, to offer a one-hour vinyasa class—which is perfect for all skill levels—with a $15 donation. The class will begin at 5:30 p.m., and We Yoga Co, located at 4511 Roosevelt Way NE in the U District, recommends arriving about 15 minutes early. They will provide yoga mats at the studio if you don’t have your own, and they will accept card or cash for the donations, which are about what a normal drop-in fee would cost at most studios. No advance registration is required, and all of the money raised goes directly to support IFSA.

All are welcome—students, friends, family, complete strangers—so come get limber with IFSA and help support a fantastic student-run event!

Alumni Spotlight: Ellen Lois Hooven (1924-2016)

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

Seventy-two years ago, a young woman named Ellen Lois Johnson arrived on the University of Washington (UW) campus to begin her undergraduate studies. She didn’t realize it when she applied, but Ellen would be one of the first two women ever enrolled in the College of Forestry—now the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences—and four years later, in 1948, she would become the very first to earn an undergraduate forestry degree from UW.

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Ellen attended Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, where she first learned about the College of Forestry. “I had read about [the forestry program],” she said. “They had books on different professions, and forestry sounded like it was very interesting, so that’s what I decided to do.”

After she finished school, Ellen ended up marrying and having five children with one of her forestry classmates, Ed Hooven. They eventually settled in Corvallis, Ore., and both worked for many years at Oregon State University—Ed as a professor and forest wildlife ecologist until he passed away in 1978, and Ellen as an assistant to the manager of the College of Forestry’s McDonald-Dunn Research Forest.

Last month, on December 5, 2016, Ellen passed away a couple weeks shy of her 92nd birthday. We were enormously grateful to have had a chance to catch up with her the previous year, and some of her memories of college—nearly 70 years after graduation—were still as poignant as the day she got tossed into Frosh Pond on Garb Day.

Bucking Tradition
Ellen grew up in Spokane, Wash., and started school during an era of tremendous change. The country had been at war for several years, and many of her new classmates were World War II soldiers taking advantage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the G.I. Bill. It provided, among other benefits, cash payments for tuition and living expenses for returning veterans. “All those fellows coming back from the service were quite a shock to the professors,” said Ellen. “They were used to having classes full of little high school graduates, but here were these seasoned veterans. In one of my classes, the professor came in and started talking about the weather, and a voice came from the back of the room, ‘Cut out the baloney and start teaching.’ Those veterans wanted to get in there and get going and get on with their lives!”

2015_04_Hooven3The professors and students in the College of Forestry were also adjusting to the first two women among their ranks. Ellen had enrolled at the same time as one other female student, but her classmate later transferred to a different school. The next year, though, another young woman, Priscilla Lewis, joined the program, and it took a little while to integrate them fully into the system. Priscilla, for instance, had to lobby to be allowed to participate on a field trip with her male classmates (“Coed Wins Equality; Will Accompany Boys on Trip,” wrote The Daily), and she would later join Ellen as a charter member of a women’s group (“Forestry and Engineering Fems Unite”) that formed to provide support to women in male-dominated fields.

Some challenges of being a female student were less curricular in nature. While studying down at Pack Forest one quarter, Ellen remembers a brazen professor who actually propositioned her, offering her a good grade if she’d spend the night with him. “I was so flabbergasted, so I said the first thing that popped into my head, which was to say that would be too hard.”

That kind of behavior was definitely the anomaly, says Ellen, and she survived the class without further incident—though maybe not without penalty. “I had been getting A’s and B’s, but I got a C out of the course. That was pretty nasty.”

Scraps of History
Throughout her time as an undergrad, Ellen kept a scrapbook and collected scores of handwritten notes, programs, flyers and newspaper clippings from The Daily, including the headlines quoted above. One of her daughters, Louisa Hooven, recently scanned and made digital records of those pages, and the photos and headlines capture powerful scenes from campus life in the mid-1940s—frozen moments that feel as fresh and immediate as the day they were published.

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Lois, above, experiences some of the ‘rough’ treatment of Garb Day festivities. Though men showed their stuff by growing a beard that week, the “Coed Beardless,” one article advertised, “will have a chance to show their skill when they take part in the cigarette rolling contest.”

Ellen saved articles that cover everything from news from the war (“Jap Attack on U.S. Not Wanted”) to a humorous campus advice column (“Cleo’s Campus Clinic: for problems of the heart, mind and conscience”); and from school activities (“650 Coeds Pledged in Record Rushing Week”) to social news (“Jeanne Simmons, Navy Man Engaged”). There are scribbled notes, including invites to pledge at several sororities (Ellen accepted at Delta Zeta), and a program for a local production, “Khyber Pass,” a “dramatic operetta” staged by the Associated Students of the University of Washington in cooperation with the School of Music and School of Drama.

Also prominently featured are campus stories about the annual Garb Day festivities and shenanigans, which Ellen and Priscilla experienced firsthand. Back then, the celebration lasted a full week and included several notorious events and traditions, from logger sports and logrolling in Frosh Pond (now Drumheller Foundation), to the culminating dance—known as the “Loggers’ Brawl”—in the Forest Club Room of Anderson Hall. During the week, forestry students were required to grow a beard by the time of the dance or risk getting tossed into Frosh Pond. Ellen, of course, had a rather unfair disadvantage, but that didn’t spare her a dunking. “It was a beard-growing contest,” she said, “and of course I lost that one, so I got thrown into the pond. All in good fun!”

She didn’t go down alone, though. Ellen grabbed onto the wrist of the boy who pushed her in and dragged him right in with her. Priscilla wasn’t quite so lucky when she arrived the next year. The Daily was on hand for her dip into Frosh Pond and recorded the moment—and the annoyance in her expression (captured below)—with a big photo and story, “College of Forestry Girl Student Pays Penalty for No Beard.”

2015_04_Hooven4Captured among Ellen’s clippings, as well, is her budding romance with Ed. They met on the first day of class when Ed sat a row in front of her, and soon their names started appearing together in print.

In one short article, “Forestry Club Holds Elections,” the new officers of the Forestry Club—now the Forest Club—are announced, including Ellen as secretary and Ed as treasurer. Then, when Garb Day rolled around, a story noted that the two had teamed up for the double bucking contest. “My husband-to-be was on the other end of a crosscut saw, and the contest was to see who could saw through a log the fastest,” she said. “We didn’t do all that well.”

For the History Books
“That’s been a long time ago,” said Ellen, yet her story is still as vibrant and important as the day she first stepped onto campus. She helped open a door through which thousands of women have since followed, and today more than 50 percent of students at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences are now women.

That’s quite a change—and quite a legacy—for Ellen’s pioneering role in our history.

Photos and clippings © Courtesy of Louisa Hooven and The Daily.

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Photography Exhibition: An Intimate View of Wild Lands

This month, from January 4 through 30, the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the UW Botanic Gardens is hosting a photography exhibition, “An Intimate View of Wild Lands,” featuring Richard Dunford, the son of SEFS alumnus Earl Gerald Dunford (’35, B.S.).

Richard started as a large-format film photographer 45 years ago and just recently converted to digital. His primary photographic interest has always been in Pacific Northwest landscapes, particularly public forest lands, trees and moving water. He is retired from a career in medicine and science and is currently living in Bellevue, Wash., with his wife of 28 years and two corgis.

Read more about his exhibition below, and we hope you get a chance to explore his wonderful photographs!

2017_01_richard-dunford1Artist Statement
My father, a graduate of the University of Washington College of Forestry, was career U.S. Forest Service. With him I’ve lived in and walked through some of our country’s finest remote wild lands, including the national forests of the Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Sierras and Cascades. My mother was from Oklahoma and not a forest person, but she was a determined amateur painter. This sentiment for forests and artistic DNA merged some 45 years ago when I picked up Ansel Adams’ book, The Range of Light. It was a new day for me and I went looking for a 4×5 camera.

This exhibition is mostly about trees, and I want you to see them differently from how you may have looked at them before. We mostly think of tree color at peak in autumn—full of color and beautiful to behold, but commonplace photographically and easily overdone. I only nibble at the edges of autumn because there is so much more out there. My best photographic time is from late autumn into late spring. Summers are best early morning and late afternoon even for backlit subjects.

These are primarily digital capture photos from the western and eastern Cascade slopes, Puget Sound and central Washington scablands. Many are from the soggy forest in overcast and rain where winter light is subdued and color vibrant and saturated. Others are from the dry eastern side where there is surprisingly expansive color. There you have to look for it in nooks and crannies and it can be unruly and difficult to control. In each region, there is a uniqueness that requires a customized approach for weather, time of year, time of day. One constant, though, is midday on a sunny summer afternoon. Those are best for a nap.

Forests are a confused and disordered visual experience. When we walk in a deep forest, we rarely focus on a single tree, there is also the environment. Where the tree lives is sometimes more important than the tree itself. Without an environment, one tree is not much different from the next. This is why my images rarely show a single focal point of interest. They are often an assortment of spaces in what might be called a “tableau” or “mosaic” effect. The tree must share visual interest with its cluttered surround. It is messy, to be sure, but it is my job as an artist and a quiet personal victory to be able to use color, light and shape to make order out of this landscape.

Photographs © Richard Dunford.

Richard Dunford

Wildlife Science Seminar: Winter 2017 Schedule

This winter, Professor Laura Prugh is leading the long-running Wildlife Science Seminar, and she has lined up a fantastic slate of speakers. Subjects range from the Florida panther to golden eagles to the effects of fungal diseases on wildlife communities, so take a look at the schedule below and join us for as many talks as you can!

Wildlife Science SeminarThe talks are held on Mondays from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Smith Hall 120, and the public is always welcome. (Undergraduate students may register for credit under ESRM 455; graduate students under SEFS 554. welcome.)

Week 1: January 9
“Wildlife conservation in Washington’s Cascades: a paradigm shift in the role of national parks”
Dr. Jason Ransom, National Park Service, North Cascades National Park

Week 2: January 16
No seminar

Week 3: January 23
“Spatial ecology of coyotes and cougars: Understanding the influence of multiple prey on the spatial interactions of two predators”
Dr. Peter Mahoney, Postdoctoral Research Associate, SEFS

Week 4: January 30
“Genetic introgression as a conservation strategy: past, present and future of the Florida panther”
Dr. Madelon Van de Kerk, Postdoctoral Research Associate, SEFS

Week 5: February 6
“Breeding ecology of golden eagles in western Washington”
Leif Hansen, Graduate Student, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 6: February 13
“Is the sky falling or is there an elephant in the room? Perspectives on how fungal diseases influence communities and population dynamics”
Dr. Tara Chestnut, National Park Service, Mt. Rainier National Park

Week 7: February 20
No seminar

Week 8: February 27
“American crow vocal behavior”
Loma Pendergraft, Graduate Student, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 9: March 6
“Megaherbivory, trophic control, and plant defensive landscapes in a savanna ecosystem”
Professor Jacob Goheen, University of Wyoming

ESRM Seminar Series: Winter 2017 Schedule!

The SEFS Seminar Series will be on hiatus this quarter (returning in the spring), but we still have two other terrific series to keep you thoroughly engaged through our darkest months: the Wildlife Science Seminar and the ESRM 429 Seminar.

The latter is our subject today, and SEFS doctoral student Si Gao is running the show this quarter. She’s put together a terrific line-up of speakers around the theme of “Ecosystem Services,” and talk topics will range from deep soil carbon to plant remediation and oceanography.

The talks are held on Tuesdays from 8:30 to 9:20 a.m. in Anderson 223. They are always open to the public, and we encourage you to mark your calendars and join us for as many as you can!

2016_12_sefs-senior-seminar_winter-2017Week 1: January 3
“Diversity of ecosystem services: examples from plant community ecology”
Dr. Claire Wainwright, SEFS Research Associate

Week 2: January 10
Topic: Fire management in the Pacific Northwest
Professor Ernesto Alvarado, SEFS

Week 3: January 17
Topic: Life -cycle assessment of wood products
Dr. Francesca Pierobon, SEFS Research Associate, CINTRAFOR

Week 4: January 24
Topic: Social ecology
Professor Steve Harrell, SEFS and Department of Anthropology

Week 5: January 31
Topic: Disturbance ecology and entomology
Professor Patrick Tobin, SEFS

Week 6: February 7
Topic: Deep soil carbon
Cole Gross, SEFS graduate student

Week 7: February 14
Topic: Biological oceanography
Bryndan Durham & Ryan Groussman, School of Oceanography

Week 8: February 21
Topic: Biofuel and Bioenergy
Chang Dou, SEFS doctoral candidate

Week 9: February 28
Topic: Plant remediation
Robert Tournay, SEFS doctoral student

Week 10: March 7
Topic: Atmospheric reactive N cycling
Professor Joel Thornton, UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences

SEFS Researchers Partner with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and four researchers from SEFS—including Professors Josh Lawler (PI) and Aaron Wirsing, Affiliate Professor Peter Dunwiddie and postdoc Michael Case—have teamed up on a new research project, “Evaluating Flora and Fauna Diversity in the John Day/Willow Creek Project for Special Status Species Protection.”

2016_12_army-corps-of-engineersWith $284,968 in funding, the project in northwest Oregon aims to:

1)   Inventory and identify terrestrial animal and plant species and their habitats. This comprehensive inventory will include native and non-native and invasive, threatened and endangered, noxious and nuisance plants and wildlife on 13,600 acres of project lands;
2)   Delineate and identify dominant ecological communities, including abiotic components;
3)   Assess the status, health and viability of resident wildlife and plant populations and their habitats, including special status species, as well as biological diversity and environmental health of ecological communities;
4)   Provide qualitative and quantitative information about the identity, location and abundance of state and federal classified invasive and noxious species within dominant ecological communities;
5)   Develop an integrated pest management plan.

The relevant data will be entered into a GIS database and generate a series of maps to show a detailed, scaled overview of ecological communities, species habitats, and general habitat conditions.

Funding for the project is made available through a cooperative agreement (W912HZ-16-2-0031) under the Pacific Northwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (PNW CESU), a partnership for research, technical assistance and education to enhance understanding and management of natural and cultural resources.

Next Week (12/21): Solstice Garden Gathering at UW Botanic Gardens

This coming Wednesday, December 21, from 4 to 6 p.m., you are all invited to the Soest Garden at the Center for Urban Horticulture for a quiet gathering to celebrate community and embrace the peace of a night garden. We encourage community members to bring an electric candle or lantern to help light up the night, and also to bring friends or family members to enjoy the gardens at dusk.

There will not be a formal program; instead visitors will be welcome to share poems or reflections with those who are gathered. Warm beverages will be provided.

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