Alumni Spotlight: Ben Harrison

In the fall of 1966, the Forest Club, one of the oldest and longest-running clubs at the University of Washington, realized it was nearly broke and didn’t have enough funds for some of its activities, including Garb Day. Ben Harrison, who was working on the final quarter of his forest management degree, came up with an idea to raise some money for the group and spread a little holiday cheer on campus: a Christmas tree sale.

The Seattle Times story from December 8, 1966.

The Forest Club had about a dozen members at the time, and Harrison managed to get permission from the Forest Service for them to cut some Pacific silver firs from a plantation in the Hansen Creek area near Snoqualmie Pass. They succeeded in selling all the trees—including unloading a few extras to local banks—and rescuing the group’s finances. They also brought back one especially large fir to place on Red Square right in front of the old Administration Building (now Gerberding Hall).

President William Gerberding came out to light the 30-foot tree, which freshman and sophomores had decorated, and the Husky Band played to a lively crowd of students. The Seattle Times even covered the occasion in an article on December 8, 1966, “Tree Caps Collegiate Career,” referring to Harrison as a “spirited forestry student.”

Harrison turned 90 earlier this fall and now lives in Issaquah with his wife Dorie. He was a slightly older student while at UW, where he met Dorie, and his career covered multiple chapters before and after his time at school. Harrison twice served in the Navy, first enrolling at age 16 for submarine service during World War II (his older brother signed his papers). He later served as an electrician and medic during the Korean War, and after graduating from college he went to work as a forester for Weyerhaeuser—and then eventually as a contract forester with private landowners. Along the way, he staffed a Society of American Foresters booth at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, traveled to every continent except Antarctica, and received the Honored Alumnus Award from our school in 1992.

It’s impossible to pick one legacy from such a life and career, but one of his most enduring contributions to our school was organizing that first tree sale. Though he never imagined it at the time, he kicked off a tradition that has now continued for 49 years, drawing together students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members across Seattle.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the sale, and maybe we can convince Harrison to head out with the Forest Club when they harvest the next batch of trees!

Photo of Ben and Dorie Harrison © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

2015_15_Ben Harrison

2016 Pack Forest Spring Planting: March 21-25!

For nearly 80 years, SEFS students have been putting down roots at Pack Forest, helping to shape the woods for future generations. This Spring Break, you can leave your own mark by taking part in the annual spring planting, March 21-25, as one of the elite Pack Forest interns!

2016_02_Pack Forest Spring PlantingWhile staying in cozy cabins at Pack Forest—just down the road from Mount Rainier—you’ll get to roll up your sleeves and work on forest establishment, including planting, regeneration surveys and survey reports.

Your housing (and some food) will be covered, there’s a kitchen at your disposal, you’ll earn a $200 stipend, and two course credits are also available. It’s a week of field work and hands-on learning in the daytime, and also a whole lot of fun as you explore the gorgeous 4,300 acres of Pack Forest and hang out with fellow interns in the evenings. Seriously, it’s an unforgettable experience!

The internship is open to undergraduate students (and possibly MFR grad students), and the deadline to apply is Friday, February 19. Contact Professor Ernesto Alvarado at or 206.616.6920 to learn more and apply.

Need more inspiration? Check out this great video from the 2014 crew!

UW Farm: CSA Shares on Sale!

For the third season, the UW Farm will be offering its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and the summer 2016 sign-up period is now open!

2016_02_CSA SharesBy purchasing a CSA share, you’ll get to support the farm with an initial investment, and in return you’ll get a weekly box of fresh produce throughout the growing season. Each box is packed for a family of four, and you’ll be able to pick them up at the Center for Urban Horticulture or elsewhere on the main UW campus (exact location TBD).

Right now, you have a chance to join the CSA for the period from June 1 to September 28, which covers 18 consecutive weeks of produce. There are 40 shares available, and the cost is $540 ($30 per box) for faculty, staff and community members, and $450 ($25 per box) for students. You may pay in installments, but full payment for the whole season is due by the first pick-up on June 1. (August and fall shares will be on sale later in the season.)

The UW Farm kicked off its CSA program in the summer of 2014, serving 15 members of the campus community. In 2015, they more than doubled the number of CSA shares they offered, delivering to 37 members each week.

Now you have a chance to join for this summer, so sign up now!

Oh, and if you pay in full by the end of February, you’ll get a choice of early bird incentives: 3 u-picks of their organic-cut flowers throughout the season, or five seedlings for you to plant in your garden!

2016 Graduate Student Symposium: Submit Your Abstracts!

The 2016 Graduate Student Symposium (GSS) is coming up on Friday, March 4, and the abstract submission period is now open! Students will be able to submit an abstract, via the online form, from Friday, January 29, through Friday, February 12, at 5 p.m. As always, there are a limited number of presentation spots available, so submit your abstract ASAP!

This year’s GSS, which will be held in the Forest Club Room (AND 207), is built around the theme, “The Interface Between Scientific Research and Management.” Many SEFS students seek to build careers in land management or other applied fields, yet we receive most of our formal training in an academic setting. Is our research responding to on-the-ground priorities? How can we improve the dialogue between science, management and other stakeholders? How can we best communicate our results—including variability and uncertainty? A stellar panel of experts will kick off the day to help us grapple with these questions.

Open to the public and everyone in the SEFS community, GSS is a friendly gathering to share your work and hone your presentation skills. You can present a preliminary proposal, your results from a completed project, or anything in between. Presentations last 10 minutes and are followed by 2-3 minutes of Q&A. Undergraduate capstone students will be showing off their research during poster sessions throughout the day. As is tradition, the symposium will be followed by a Dead Elk party—the perfect opportunity to discuss the presentations and posters over food and drinks.

Again, don’t forget to get your abstract submissions in as soon as possible during the next two weeks. And if you have any questions, please email

Next Tuesday (2/2): Résumé Café with UW TAPPI!

Have interviews coming up? Attending any job fairs? Want to stand out from the crowd? The UW Student TAPPI Club has you covered!

This Tuesday, February 2, they’re hosting is hosting a BYOM—as in “bring your own mug”— résumé café at 4 p.m. in the Forest Club Room. Mike Roberts, executive director of the Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation, will be there to give the DO’s and DON’Ts of professional résumés.

All SEFS students, grad and undergrad, are invited, and TAPPI will have snacks and hot cider on hand. Contact if you have any questions; otherwise, don’t forget that mug, and come boost your résumé!

2016_01_Resume Cafe

Grad Student Spotlight: Korena Mafune

Korena Mafune, who earned her master’s last spring working with Professors Dan and Kristiina Vogt, has continued on at SEFS this year with her doctoral studies. Her project involves researching plant-fungal relationships in Washington’s temperate old-growth rain forests, with a specific focus on canopy soils and host tree fungal interactions. Her main goal is to learn which fungal species are associating with the host plant’s adventitious roots in canopy soils, and also to collect any fruiting mushrooms.

Korena Mafune 'hanging out' in the canopy.

Korena Mafune ‘hanging out’ in the canopy.

“The temperate old-growth rain forests we work in are rare and unique,” she says. “If we disregard the interactions going on in the canopies, we have an incomplete understanding of how these ecosystems function.”

The results from her master’s thesis laid a strong foundation for additional exploration, and Korena just received two grants to support her doctoral research—one for $9,300 from the Daniel E. Stuntz Memorial Foundation, and the other for $1,900 from the Puget Sound Mycological Society.

“With the support of these grants, we are ready to hit the ground running!”

Nice work, Korena, and good luck!

Photo © Korena Mafune.

Richard D. Taber: 1920-2016

We were incredibly sad to learn that Professor Emeritus Richard “Dick” Taber, a long-time faculty member at SEFS, passed away on January 25, 2016, in Missoula, Mont. He was 95 years old.

Dick Taber was a California native who studied zoology as an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his bachelor’s in 1942, and at the outbreak of World War II he joined the Marine Corps and served with distinction in the Pacific as an officer in artillery. Among other deployments, he commanded a detachment of Marines to get the Japanese to the surrender on the USS. Missouri on September 2, 1945. He also served briefly in the occupation forces in Japan. Following his discharge, he applied to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin and was eventually accepted by Aldo Leopold as a master’s student. Following Leopold’s passing, Dr. Joseph Hickey assumed responsibility for advising Dick through his thesis research.

2016_01_Dick TaberAfter completing his master’s, Dick entered a doctoral program at Berkeley, where he worked under the guidance of A. Starker Leopold, Aldo Leopold’s son. His doctoral work resulted in a classic study on the black-tailed deer of the chaparral, and Dick later joined the faculty at the University of Montana in 1955. When he came to the University of Washington in 1968, he was instrumental in helping develop the original undergraduate and graduate programs in wildlife science at the College of Forest Resources (now SEFS). His primary research interests were in ungulate ecology, though he advised graduate students in a variety of vertebrate ecology and conservation areas.

Dick was known for his inquisitive nature and quick wit, and he was an excellent writer. He was also a strong believer in interdisciplinary approaches to science, and he encouraged the formation of a group of faculty from the College of Forest Resources and the College of Fisheries to form a committee to develop the first wildlife curriculum.

During his time on the SEFS faculty from 1968 to 1985, he advised 23 master’s and 16 doctoral students. He often asked penetrating questions at oral exams and usually asked more questions of guest speakers than anyone else present. He made a lasting contribution to not only the wildlife program, but also to the College of Forest Resources, and he received numerous awards throughout his career—including in 2008, when The Wildlife Society presented Dick with its highest honor, the Aldo Leopold Award.

He was well-respected by all of his colleagues, and his valuable lessons live on through his many graduate students—and now their graduate students, as well. Some of his former students, in fact, went on to become his professional colleagues at SEFS years later, including Professor Emeritus Dave Manuwal, who earned his master’s with Dick at the University of Montana, and Ken Raedeke, who earned his Ph.D. with Dick at SEFS.

If you wish to make a donation in his memory, you can make a gift to the Richard D. Taber Wildlife Student Award Fund, which was established to provide annual awards to meritorious SEFS students who are involved in the study and research of wildlife science.

Director’s Message: Winter 2016

While I was biking into work this past Monday, the air was incredibly cool and crisp, and the sky was actually somewhat blue for a change. I remember thinking, “What a perfect way to start another work week in January.” Then, as I walked into Anderson Hall I heard the sound of someone playing piano up in the Forest Club Room. Those notes reinforced my optimistic feeling for the week and made me think of our wonderful community at SEFS—and, in many ways, how much of it revolves around that room.

The 26-foot noble fir, brought up from Pack Forest for the SEFS Holiday Party this year, soars toward the ceiling of the Forest Club Room.

The 26-foot noble fir, brought up from Pack Forest for the SEFS Holiday Party this year, soars toward the ceiling of the Forest Club Room.

When Agnes Anderson donated the financial support to build Anderson Hall in the early 1920s, she stipulated that the large room on the second floor was to be known as the Forest Club Room, and that it would forever be dedicated to students within our School. Her intent was to create a reading room and a common space where students could gather, discuss, study, invent, reflect, forecast and celebrate. The room also happens to be visually impressive, as it has a vaulted gabled ceiling with chandelier lights, a balcony, a large fireplace that we use at annual events, and tall multi-paneled windows that create a cozy, naturally lit atmosphere. It has picked up a few other more eclectic features over the years—such as the elk head mounted on the balcony railing—yet is has remained a warm and inviting space.

For us, as well, it means so much more. Since coming to the University of Washington in 2012, I have emphasized the importance of community within the School, and the Forest Club Room plays a key role in uniting us as friends and colleagues. Sure, the couches are a bit tattered and the tables wobbly—and the carpet seems to attract a remarkable assortment of crumbs—but the room represents so much that is great about our programs, our history, our integrity, our enthusiasm and dedication to our science. It’s the staging ground for scores of meetings and social events, and a catalyst for interdisciplinary activities. Just in the past few months, the room has hosted receptions after SEFS graduate seminars; it was the site of the SEFS Holiday party, a Pecha Kucha night with the International Forestry Students’ Association, and a couple Dead Elk parties that echoed laughter through Anderson Hall late into the evening. In the next few months, the room will be home to a Natural Resources Career Fair, the Graduate Student Symposium and prospective graduate student weekend, a Capstone Poster Session to showcase undergraduate research, thesis and dissertation defenses, and so many other solo and group work sessions. The secret is out, too, as just last year the UW Daily ranked the room as one of the best study spots on campus.

Even as we plan for Anderson Hall to get a major refurbishment in the next several years, we will make sure the Forest Club Room remains almost exactly as it is today, just with updated lighting, insulation and windows. After all, the room is like so much of what we offer in our School—unpretentious, welcoming and enriching. On chilly and rainy winter days, especially, it is both a place of retreat and the platform for an advance. It is part of the very fabric that makes us such a special and cohesive program. So, as the piano softly plays in the Forest Club Room, I welcome you as students, colleagues, alumni and friends to come and enjoy this warm and wonderful space during the cold, dark months of winter—and any other time you find yourself in these halls.

Tom DeLuca
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Alumni Spotlight: Avery Meeker

Shortly after graduating, recent SEFS alumnus Avery Meeker (’15, B.S.) spent the late summer and fall volunteering with the Raptor View Research Institute (RVRI), a nonprofit research and education organization based in Missoula, Mont.

Avery MeekerRVRI monitors raptor migration trends by collecting data from hawk counts and raptor banding, and Meeker was helping with fall migration studies along the Rocky Mountain Front in Lincoln, Montana. The goal of this research, he says, is to create long-term studies to better understand anthropogenic impacts on migrating raptors.

In his time there, he got to work closely with a variety of raptors, from hawks to golden eagles, and he shared a few amazing photos with us. With the migration monitoring over at the end of October, though, he’s already moved onto the next gig—volunteering at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C., conducting behavioral studies on ruffs (a seabird).

Great stuff, and thanks for staying in touch!

Photos © courtesy of Avery Meeker and RVRI

Avery Meeker

Grad Student Spotlight: Samantha Zwicker

As the rest of Seattle hunkers down for the darkest days and months of the year, first-year doctoral student Samantha Zwicker has been gearing up for a far more tropical experience as she preps for her winter field season in the Peruvian Amazon.

Zwicker originally came to the University of Washington to study zoology, but she eventually tapped into her interest in ecosystem ecology with Program on the Environment and SEFS.

Zwicker originally came to the University of Washington to study zoology, but she eventually tapped into her interest in ecosystem ecology with Program on the Environment and SEFS.

Zwicker, who grew up nearby on Bainbridge Island, has been working with Professor Kristiina Vogt since her time as an undergrad at the University of Washington. She has explored various angles of ecosystem ecology, conservation and human impacts on the environment, and she earned her master’s last spring with a project in the same region of the Amazon.

Now, for her doctoral work, she has begun a large-scale study assessing the impact of roads on big cats—primarily jaguar (Panthera onca)—in the Las Piedras River basin, wedged roughly between Peru’s southeastern borders with Brazil and Bolivia.

New settlements and a growing population along the river have resulted in an influx of roads and other stresses on the ecosystem, from selective logging to the clearing of forestland for farming. Despite these land-use pressures, though, the rainforest is surrounded by several national parks and reserves, and it continues to foster an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, from giant anteaters and armadillos, to bush dogs and lowland tapirs, to jaguars and even the rare pacarana. “It’s the last intact tropical forest left in the Amazon, and it’s not protected right now,” says Zwicker.

A crucial part of preserving this habitat involves proving its ecological significance, but she says researchers don’t yet have the animal data to support a conservation strategy. So Zwicker has designed her doctoral program to see how roads are affecting animal movements—and in the process gather as much data as possible about the wildlife communities in the Las Piedras River basin.

Caught on Camera
Zwicker’s research team includes field assistants Harry Turner and Danielle Bogardus, and she also coordinates with several other organizations in the region, including ARCAmazon and Wild Forests and Fauna.

“One time while we were floating down the central stream on a pack raft, we saw a jaguar lying out in the sun on a log,” says Zwicker. “That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Not all of her jaguar sightings come via camera trap, like this shot here.  “One time while we were floating down the central stream on a pack raft, we saw a jaguar lying out in the sun on a log,” says Zwicker. “That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Her study area covers about 450 square kilometers, and the heart of her project involves setting up an extensive network of camera-traps along secondary road networks. These motion-sensitive cameras snap an image of animals that cross in front of their infrared sensors, which detect changes in heat energy. With 100 cameras currently placed, this non-invasive technique allows her to capture a cross-section of species in the jungle and also explore several variables, including tracking how, where and when animals are moving—using roads, streams, etc.—and how those movements relate to habitat qualities—forest density, proximity to human activity, illegal logging. (Check out the video below for a sample of the camera-trap footage of a jaguar!)

More broadly, Zwicker hopes the cameras will help her establish baseline population numbers for some of these secretive and largely unstudied animals. “This place is important and rich in biodiversity,” she says, “and I really want to contribute and show this using mammal frequencies and density estimates.”

One of the biggest challenges in setting up her study, actually, has been concealing the cameras well enough to make sure no one discovers and walks off with them, which was a real problem during her master’s research. This time she expanded her outreach in local communities to explain the work she’s doing, and she says she’s gotten a lot sneakier in placing the cameras. “We hid them well.”

It’s still early, but the camera-traps are already yielding exciting results. “It’s incredibly rare to see a pacarana,” says Zwicker. “The last known camera-trap photo was in 2004, but I’ve recently caught three different individuals.”

It’s still early, but the camera-traps are already yielding exciting results. “It’s incredibly rare to see a pacarana,” says Zwicker. “The last known camera-trap photo was in 2004, but I’ve recently caught three different individuals.”

As she continues to build her data set, Zwicker anticipates at least another three years of field work. She’s traveling to Peru twice a year, including three months in the summer and then almost two months in the winter (she’ll be heading down this January for most of the Winter Quarter). It’s no easy trek to reach this part of the Amazon, either. She flies into Puerto Maldonado, the entrance city to the jungle, and then has to take an eight-hour boat ride to haul her equipment up the river to her base site near the community of Lucerna—where, incredibly, her doctoral research covers only half of the work she’s doing in Peru.

Double Duty
Lucerna, after all, is also home to Hoja Nueva, a nonprofit that Zwicker cofounded a year ago to help local communities along the Las Piedras River develop more sustainable agricultural practices.

In addition to spurring new road development, population growth in the region has put increasing pressure on converting forests to farm land. And when the soil gets exhausted after three to five years, the cycle continues and accelerates the loss of forest habitat. So working with her partner Melanie Desch, who lives on site in Peru, Zwicker says they are promoting strategies to help these communities maintain their food production and healthy forest ecosystems.

As a master’s student, Zwicker earned the College of the Environment Graduate Dean’s Medalist Award and the SEFS Graduate Student of the Year Award. She’s also President of the Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honor Society.

As a master’s student, Zwicker earned the College of the Environment Graduate Dean’s Medalist Award and the SEFS Graduate Student of the Year Award. She’s also President of the Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honor Society.

Hoja Nueva now owns 30 hectares in the jungle, and they use part of that plot as an experimental farm, or chakra, to demonstrate permaculture practices, such as using biochar to prolong soil productivity. They’re currently growing 2,000 cacao trees, lime, lemon, mango, avocado, cotton, copazu, maracuya, yucca and uncucha, among many other trees, herbs and vegetables. Their goal is to provide a practical framework for communities to follow along the Las Piedras River, as well as in other lowland rainforest environments. “We’re hoping the Piedras will become a larger, protected area,” says Zwicker, “and we’re working with the communities because they can make the largest impact on the ground.”

When she’s not down in Peru, Zwicker takes the lead on fundraising in the Seattle area—including hosting a benefit in November that raised about $4,000, which they’ll use to build a more permanent lodge. Right now, their accommodations are fairly basic, and they’re hoping to add a composting toilet and water tower and generally build out infrastructure that could potentially house future SEFS students.

In short, there is plenty of work to do, and between her ambitious long-term goals and all the projects she’s managing year-round in Peru, Zwicker has committed just about every free minute she has. But if you’re lucky enough to steal a moment with her, make sure to ask about jaguars, or Hoja Nueva, or really anything related to her work in Peru. She has great stories to tell, and watching her beam with excitement and energy will have you ready to sign up as her field assistant next season!

Photos and video © Sam Zwicker.

Sam Zwicker: Camera Trap Video