Undergrad Spotlight: Julie Hower

Julie Hower, a senior Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) major, split her childhood between the two coasts: first out west in the Los Angeles area, and then back east near Tampa, Fla., for her high school years. By the time she started looking at colleges, though, she felt the call of the West once again.

“Because I grew up in LA,” she says, “my dad would take me to Yosemite and Sequoia, so I really missed the West Coast.”

She considered a number of schools, including a few in California, but a University of Washington campus tour in 2008 sealed it for her. “It felt like a great fit,” she says.

Julie Hower

“Each national park is different, but Yellowstone is something else,” says Hower, who has also worked on summer projects at Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks.

Hower arrived on campus originally interested in studying marine biology and fisheries, but later in her freshman year she attended a seminar with Professor Aaron Wirsing involving his research with tiger sharks and dugongs, and wolves and elk. She loved the concept of predator-prey ecology and quickly shifted her focus to the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). “I knew I wanted to be a wildlife major,” she says.

In the next few years, she took advantage of a wide range of field courses, including Spring Comes to the Cascades (ESRM 401) with Professor Tom Hinckley, and Wildlife Research Techniques (ESRM 351) with Professor Steve West. Then she took “Wildlife Conservation in Northwest Ecosystems” (ESRM 459), which begins during spring break with an intensive week in Yellowstone National Park. Led by Professors John Marzluff, Monika Moskal and Wirsing, the course focuses on a range of wildlife and management issues in the park, including corvid distribution and wolf predation.

The experience really resonated with Hower, and this past winter she signed up to take part in a long-running study of the wolves in Yellowstone as part of the Yellowstone Wolf Project.

Back in 1995 and 1996, after decades of wolves being completely absent from the ecosystem, 31 were reintroduced to the park. Since then, the Yellowstone Park Foundation has worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to research and closely monitor the wolves, including carrying out two 30-day winter surveys every year—one at the start of the season, and one at the end. Technicians receive a small stipend and free housing, and they operate as volunteers for the NPS.

Julie Hower

Hower sizes up a wolf track in Yellowstone.

This year marked the 19th winter of observations. From the beginning, one of the project leaders has been Rick McIntyre, a biological technician for the Yellowstone Wolf Project who’s been involved with monitoring the park’s wolves since 1996. McIntyre is famous for the countless hours he’s invested in these observations, at one point logging more than 3,000 consecutive days heading out to look for wolves. The survey crews who work with him don’t quite have to match that standard, but they don’t fall too far off that pace.

Each volunteer is assigned to follow one specific pack. Hower and the other members of her crew—which included two graduate students, one from South Dakota and another from Wisconsin—were charged with tracking the seven wolves of the Junction Butte Pack.

For 30 days in March, their weekly schedule involved six days in the field and one day off. Using radio telemetry, they’d drive through their pack’s territory along the main park road and try to locate the wolves, and then hike out for a closer view when they zeroed in on the pack. Their job was to record a number of behaviors, including monitoring interactions with elk, bison and bears, as well as predator-prey encounters: the chase and the attack, noting which wolves did what, whether it was a pup that initiated or the alpha took the lead. They also performed field necropsies of prey to determine the age, sex and condition of the individual.

Julie Hower

Her crew once spotted a grizzly and a wolf in the same area, and Hower says they were jumping up and down with excitement—albeit from a safe distance.

They’d routinely put in 13-hour days, topped off by some paperwork at the end of it. “It’s not a glamorous job,” says Hower, “and the days get very long and tiring. But it’s an awesome and rewarding experience seeing these amazing animals in the wild.”

Of course, finding the wolves in the first place was no easy task. “A lot of people have this ideal that you’re going to see wolves every day,” she says. Yet you’re talking about tracking 80 or so wolves—or actually seven, in the case of this one pack—ranging through Yellowstone’s nearly 3,500 square miles.

Numbers aren’t the only challenge, either. During Hower’s first week in the park, the temperature was about -22 degrees, and the wind was howling with 50-60 mph gusts. Toting their equipment, her crew spent hours hiking to the top of a ridge in pursuit of the wolves, and they didn’t get their first glimpse until the third day. They set up their tripod and spotting scopes, hands shaking in the bitter cold, bracing against the wind and hoping they weren’t blown off the mountain—but they had finally located the pack. “It was a grand introduction,” she says.

From then on, Hower never got tired of seeing the wolves. The excitement was fresh each day, because during the undisturbed quiet of a Yellowstone winter, you never know what’s lurking around the next bend.

“On my very last day, I was getting ready to leave the park and drive back to Seattle, and I decided to reminisce with a drive out to the Lamar Valley,” she says. “Right as I made the turn out of the Tower Ranger Station, a wolf crosses in front of my car about 10 feet ahead of me.”

Julie Hower

After a winter of surveying the wolves from a distance, Hower got to see 889F saunter across the road right in front her on her last day in the park.

It was a female, 889F, that used to be part of the Junction Butte Pack but had separated in February to go with a lone male, 755M. “I was just in shock and laughing,” says Hower. “I couldn’t believe it was happening as I was ready to leave the park.”

That was a fine send-off after five incredible weeks in the park, and she’s now back on campus wrapping up her final quarter before graduation this June. Graduate school might be down the road, yet for now she wants more field experience. In fact, she just accepted a position as a Wildlife Biological Sciences Technician with Helena National Forest, where she’ll be surveying wolverines, Canada lynx and snowshoe hares. She’ll be living in Lincoln, Mont., and can’t wait to get started shortly after graduation.

Given her many field courses and hands-on research training, as well as field tech jobs and internships at Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, Hower has put herself in an excellent position to thrive as a wildlife researcher—and she’s already well on her way!

“I’m so happy I came up here,” she says. “It’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Photos © Julie Hower.

Julie Hower

2014 Garb Day: Back to Tradition!

The UW Forest Club, one of the oldest and longest-running clubs on campus, is proud to present the 2014 edition of Garb Day on May 10 and 11 down at Pack Forest!

If you’ve never been to Garb Day before, picture a long afternoon of playing outdoor games with your friends, drinking beers and barbecuing around a campfire, listening to live music and hanging out late into the night. In short, picture a really fantastic time with a whole bunch of your classmates and colleagues from the SEFS community!

Garb DayThe theme of this year’s Garb Day is “Back to Tradition.” Justine Andreychuk, president of the Forest Club, did some historical research in the UW Archives last week and found clippings from the Seattle Times about Garb Day in the early 1940s. It used to be a weeklong celebration, and all forestry majors had to grow a beard; if you didn’t—or, worse, couldn’t—you could find yourself getting dunked in the nearest fountain or pond. (Women, meanwhile, had to settle for a cigarette-rolling contest. Seriously.) Other events ranged from a wood chop to log rolling, axe throwing and a logger’s brawl.

Andreychuk doesn’t want to bring back all of these traditions, and liability concerns make some them out of the question. Yet there are a few she’s hoping to resurrect this year—with some modern modifications, of course. First off, you are encouraged to bring and wear your forester best, including full flannel garb, jeans and forestry boots. There will also be the crowning of a “Timber Queen” and “Ole, King of the Woods.” Final judging criteria haven’t been set, but Andreychuk says they’ll be looking for who has been the most spirited, had the most fun, encouraged others and generally been an enthusiastic participant in the day’s activities. Prizes for these honors, which last the whole year until new winners are crowned at the next Garb Day, could include a crown, scepter and other SEFS goodies. Needless to say, competition is likely to be fierce.

Remember, Garb Day is open to all students, staff, faculty, family and friends—the more the merrier—so check out the details below and sign up today! And contact Andreychuk if you have any other questions.

Things to Get Excited About
* Salmon bake
* Live music
* Multiple kegs of beer (for those of age)
* Old-growth nature walk
* Tug-of-war and three-legged races
* Other field games, perhaps including kickball and “sticks,” which Andreychuk says is like capture the flag with Frisbees
* Beard-growing competition (begins a week in advance of Garb Day, so get those whiskers going this weekend!)
* Campfires and camping
* General frolicking in the woods

What to Bring
* Tent and sleeping bag (there are a limited spot in cabins, too, in case you prefer a solid roof over your head)
* Sack lunch for Saturday, May 10; all other meals, snacks and drinks will be provided.
* Rain gear and clothes for all sorts of weather. Last year we got lucky with total sunshine, but you never know what to expect!
* Refillable water bottle
* Decent footwear if you plan to do any hiking

Garb DaySchedule of Activities
Official events will kick off at noon sharp on Saturday, May 10. You are welcome to show up and set up camp anytime that morning, but planners hope you will be there and ready for the start of the festivities. Also, remember that Saturday lunch will not be provided, so bring a sack meal to tide you over until the salmon bake and bbq that night.

Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m., and then there will be some downtime before the evening awards program and the music begins. You are encouraged to bring your own instruments, as well, for strumming and singing deep into the night.

On Sunday, you’ll wake up, pack up and clean up, and there will be some breakfast pastries/light breakfast and coffee. You should plan to be on the road by 11:30 a.m., and by to campus by 1:30 or 2 p.m.

Tickets and Transportation
Tickets are on sale now in the SEFS Advising Office for $20, and that covers just about everything—lodging, all meals except for lunch the first day, beer, etc. You are welcome to provide your own transportation down to Pack Forest, or you can sign up for a group ride from campus by emailing Andreychuk or signing up when you buy your ticket. To reserve your spot in a group car, try to make your reservation by this Monday, May 5!

Directions to Pack Forest
If you’re driving separately, the best route to Pack Forest from Seattle is to take I-5 south to Tacoma, then take exit 127 for WA-512 E toward Puyallup. Turn left onto 512. Stay in the far righthand lane as you will take the Steele Street exit (which is about 0.2 miles down 512). Turn left at Steele Street South. Continue straight through intersections as the road changes from Steele Street into 116th Street, and finally into the Spanaway Loop Road that will bring you to WA-7 S (after a long sweeping turn through a light where the Cross Base Highway will eventually be constructed). Turn right onto Rt. 7 and travel about 20 miles to the entrance of Pack Forest, which will be on your left. Driving time—off-peak hours—is about an hour and 45 minutes.

Garb Day Tug-of-War

Spring Comes to the Cascades

Last week, Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley led his famous “Spring Comes to the Cascades” (ESRM 401) class on a snowshoe hike out to Spring Lake. Their object was to learn about two new species—mountain hemlock and Pacific silver fir—and understand the effect of avalanches and snowpack on ecological and ecosystem processes. The Thursday section of the class got battered with rain, sleet and the threat of avalanches, while the Saturday section, pictured below, had much better luck!

Joining the students were Professors Hinckley and Iain Robertson from Landscape Architecture. In the back row, left to right: Jaime Yazzie (ESRM), Jin Nam (PoE), Lisa Day (ESRM), Carolyn Foster (CEP), Tom Hinckley (SEFS), Kyla Caddey (ESRM), KC Christensen (LARCH), Shelby Upton (LARCH), Tyler Caulkins (BIOL), Rebecca Leafmeeker (SOC WF), Andrew Shuckhart (ESRM), Jordon Bunch (SEFS – PCMI), Zach Williams (SEFS – PCMI).

Front row, left to right: Iain Robertson, Crescent Calimpong (SEFS – MEH), Jingya Chen (ESRM), Ashley Imhof (ESRM), Mary Diamond (ESRM), Tom Jenkins (PoE), Tabatha Rood (SEFS).

Photo © Tom Hinckley.

Spring Comes to the Cascades

Slideshow: 2014 Alumni Spring Gathering!

This past Sunday, April 27, on a breezy, beautiful afternoon, families and friends of all ages gathered at the Center of Urban Horticulture for the annual Alumni Spring Gathering!

The event was a great success, from honored alumnus Jim Brown (’62), who attended with members of his family; to the exceedingly generous wine tasting, donated by Bruce Lippke with a hand from Steve West; to the incredible salmon spread and potluck offerings; to the great music and festive cheer, and all the hard work of the organizers, including Jessica Farmer, Cynthia Welte, Ara Erickson, Jim Gullickson, Bob Edmonds and a host of other dedicated volunteers.

In case you couldn’t make it, or if you did go and just love trying to spot yourself in photos, then take a look at a slideshow from the event!

Photos © SEFS.

Conservation Catwalks: Strut Your Environmental Stuff!

For many first-year students, freshman orientation can be an overwhelming experience. They’re confronted with so many new faces and personalities, so many different responsibilities and places to navigate, and on top of everything is the challenge of meeting and making new friends.

For Ava Holmes and Olivia Moskowitz, though, they cut right through all the haze. They weren’t even in the same orientation group this past summer, but they picked each other out of the crowds and instantly connected over a shared love of dancing, conservation and fashion. The latter two passions became the basis of a dynamic partnership, and the two even organized a new student group, “Conservation in Style,” which focuses on eco-friendly fashion to raise awareness and funds for endangered species.

Ava and Olivia

Ava Holmes, left, and Olivia Moskowitz connected instantly during freshman orientation.

Holmes, who grew up Ithaca, N.Y., was involved in fundraising for all sorts of environmental causes in high school, and during her sophomore year she specifically started working with The Gabby Wild Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes wildlife conservation through the intersection of science and art. Her dad is president of Primitive Pursuits, a wilderness school in Ithaca, and her mom has been involved in performance arts. “So it was my heritage to incorporate them both,” she says.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Moskowitz had similar interests in high school, and she spent a lot of time working at a wildlife rehabilitation hospital. She’s now enrolled as an Environmental Science and Resource Management major with SEFS, while Holmes is majoring in Environmental Studies with Program on the Environment.

Outside of class, Holmes and Moskowitz quickly built up their ranks in “Conservation in Style.” They serve as co-presidents and already have more than 60 members, and they got The Gabby Wild Foundation to sponsor the group. The timing was perfect.

In 2012, Gabby Wild introduced the “12 in 12 for 12” campaign, which involved her wearing 12 animal-inspired outfits—one for every month of the year of 2012—to raise money and awareness for the conservation of 12 threatened species around the planet. Designers from the Lifetime TV show Project Runway designed the collection, and that successful collaboration helped kick off a broader commitment to pairing fashion with conservation. As a result, one of the foundation’s big promotions now is a cross-country series of eco-fashion shows, called “Conservation Catwalks,” that raise money and awareness for conservation issues.

Holmes and Moskowitz saw a tremendous opportunity to organize their own “Conservation Catwalk” on the UW campus this winter. To prepare for such a major undertaking, they collaborated closely with a number of other student organizations, including ASUW and the Student Health Consortium, in their production of the Everybody Every Body Fashion Show; they coordinated with different university departments, from business and marketing to drama and architecture; they recruited student models around campus; and they also engaged in a wide range of sponsor and partner outreach, including choosing which designers to work with and some of the styles to feature, and emailing with the CEOs of companies and Project Runway designers.

Conservation Catwalk

A Sumatran tiger-inspired dress at the UW Conservation Catwalk on February 28.

In the end, they managed to pull together $10,000 in raffle prizes and completely packed the Husky Union Building for the show on February 28—all, it’s worth remembering, in only their second quarter as undergrads. They directed all the proceeds through The Gabby Wild Foundation to support wildlife conservation efforts for specific endangered species, including African elephants. “We want to make sure our money is going to the best cause and is really directed to animal conservation,” says Moskowitz.

The concept behind the catwalk—showcasing environmentally responsible fashion—takes many forms. Most of the outfits on display were produced by local designers, and all were made from sustainable materials. Eco-fashion includes using only eco-friendly materials, such as organic hemp or cotton, sustainable silk or recycled items that would otherwise be wasted or thrown away. “We had one designer on the catwalk use soda pop tabs to make chainmail dresses,” says Moskowitz. “Some really unique things come from using sustainable materials.”

If can tabs aren’t your aesthetic, don’t worry. There are plenty of more wearable, everyday designs, including some beautiful dresses made from vintage tablecloths, says Holmes, not to mention some eye-grabbing leopard- and tiger-inspired dresses.

Conservation Catwalk

A dress inspired by the critically endangered Amur leopard. Some estimates have fewer than 30 of these leopards remaining in the wild in Russia and China.

Whether through those designs or through the concept of the show, a big part of what motivates Holmes and Moskowitz is the chance to connect with people. They want to make conservation issues more accessible and personal, and really resonate with younger audiences. The catwalks are a perfect medium for that, because students get to see and wear high-fashion outfits and take part in a campus social event, all while raising visibility for critical conservation areas and extreme population decline in endangered species. “It’s a really fun way to make sustainability exciting,” says Holmes. “We encourage people think about where their fashion is coming from and how it affects the world.”

Some of the takeaways from the show are easy—like avoiding ivory products and fur, or new clothing whenever possible—and Holmes and Moskowitz are also trying to cultivate a deeper passion for conservation in as many people as they can reach. “I love getting people involved and getting people excited about a cause I’m passionate about,” says Moskowitz. “It’s really rewarding.”

It’s also a ton of work, but the hugely positive response to their first show made it all worth the effort. “It’s just really, really awesome when the event is over and everyone is saying, ‘I can’t wait for the next one,’” says Holmes.

They’re already mapping out the Conservation Catwalk for next year, in fact, and their calendar is hardly empty in the meantime. For the month of April—which they describe, without a hint of irony, as fairly “low-key”—they have an ongoing art exhibit at the Odegaard Library featuring the “12 in 12 for 12” collection and photos, and they had an exhibition on Earth Day. For May, they’re organizing a conservation dinner, an Animal Art Walk on May 22, and then at the end of the month The Gabby Wild Foundation is flying them to New York City for Elephantasia, the largest eco-fashion show at the Central Park Zoo to benefit African elephants.

One could reasonably ask, given their school and extracurricular obligations, how they have time for it all. “We don’t,” they’ll answer you, smiling, in unison. But somehow that hasn’t slowed them down or tamed their energy yet.

After all, these two classmates are forces of nature—or rather, forces for nature—and their mantra is pretty clear on this point: Stay Wild!

Photos courtesy of Ava Holmes and Olivia Moskowitz.

This Friday: Celebrate Earth Day With SER-UW!

This Friday, April 25, the UW Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER-UW) invites you to join them at two events to celebrate Earth Day: One involving your hands in the dirt, and the other involving beers in your belly!

Tabs for Trees

Pacific trillium recently planted at the restoration site.

First, in partnership with the UW Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF), you can join SER-UW at the Whitman Walk Restoration Area from 1 to 4 p.m. to help remove invasive species that have started to creep back into the site. For those of you who just want to learn more about the site, SER-UW will be giving tours to describe their restoration work that has transformed this area from a small patch of forest overrun with invasive species into an example of a biologically rich Puget Sound lowland forest with more than 40 new species added during the past two years!

Snacks and refreshments will be provided for everyone, and CSF will be handing out free totes and water bottles. For those who want to help with some restoration work, they’ll also have gloves and tools available. The Whitman Walk Restoration Area is located right between McCarty and Haggett Halls and the Denny IMA tennis courts.

Then, after some satisfying restoration work, you can relax with a can of Rainer Beer in the courtyard behind Anderson Hall at 5 p.m.! As part of the Earth Day festivities, SER-UW is taking advantage of Rainier’s Tabs for Trees program, for which Rainier will work with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant a new tree for every six beer tabs mailed back to them. So as you slake our thirst, you’ll also be helping promote tree planting and restoration at other locations in the Pacific Northwest!

No need to RSVP—just head out and join the fun at one or both events! And if you have any questions about either activity, email Jim Cronan or Brooke Cassell.

Photo © SER-UW.

Emeritus Spotlight: Steve West

(Dear readers: This story is slightly longer than your typical blog post, so we beg your indulgence and recommend you find a comfortable seat, and possibly a fresh cup of coffee.) 

Ask Steve West to point out his hometown on a map, and you’d better have a full United States atlas handy. He grew up in a military family, and though he was born in San Jose and later lived in Sacramento while his father fought in the Korean War, his family crisscrossed the country depending on the Air Force base where his dad was stationed. What West can pinpoint, though, is what he learned and picked up at just about every town along the way.

Steve West

Steve West, left, with some of his cousins during his undergraduate days at Berkeley.

One of the family’s earliest stops, while West was still in elementary school, was Mineral Wells, Texas. It was the 1950s, and West remembers a special trip they used to take once a month. They’d pack him and his younger sister into the car for the 70-mile drive into Fort Worth, where they’d stop for cheese sandwiches at the Woolworths counter. After lunch, his parents would drop him off to spend half the day exploring the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

“They’d just turn me loose,” he says. “I’d muck around in that museum until sometime in early afternoon, and then they’d come back and pick me up and go home.”

His mom grew weary of sweeping dust from under the door every morning, and the Wests eventually moved on from Texas. But a seed had been planted, and wherever the family moved after that—from Texas to Illinois, New York to Georgia, Alaska to Alabama—West found sanctuary in museums and the wild areas around military bases, where he’d hunt for lizards, snakes, toads, frogs and scores of other critters. He was developing a lifelong love of wildlife and science, and the giddy excitement of wondering what’s hiding under the next rock.

Through his undergraduate and graduate days, and from the moment he first joined the College of Forest Resources as a professor of wildlife science in 1979, he never lost an ounce of that childhood curiosity. In his field research courses, you could always find him up to his knees in a pond hunting for frogs at night, trapping small mammals and bats, turning over leaves and logs or freezing his knuckles searching for salamanders in a mountain stream. He did it all with a twinkle in his glasses and a devious grin—a good-natured challenge to his students that if he could do it, so could they. Science, after all, is a whole lot of fun.

West

West wades into a pond in search of frogs at the Olympic Natural Resources Center on the first night of a weekend ESRM 351 field trip.

He’s now officially retired, but you’ll see that same glint in his eye anytime he’s talking about a local beer festival or prepping a wine tasting for a school event; if he’s brimming with optimism about Husky sports, or telling stories from his glory days in the field. Get him to reminisce about close calls (“In my 34 years here, I never killed a student, so that’s a plus”), or gags involving rattlesnakes, tall fishing tales and other hijinks with Professor Emeritus Jim Agee, with whom he co-taught Wildlife Research Techniques (ESRM 351) for many years.

What you’ll learn, above all, is that he’s been through enough scrapes and adventures to fill several entertaining volumes. And while we don’t have the time or space to capture the whole Steve West story, we did catch him on one of his weekly visits to campus—when he pops in to water his plants or catch a seminar—to pull out a few of his formative moments and favorite memories.

Northern Exposure
In 1959, after a “sentence of three years” in Warner-Robbins, Ga.—where West picked up little league baseball and spent summers swatting away torrents of ferocious gnats—the family was all packed up for an exciting transfer to Germany. But the assignment fell through at the last minute, and they were abruptly rerouted to Fairbanks, Alaska, only a year after it had become a state.

West was in middle school at the time, and he remembers there was not a lot to do but fish and play baseball, which was fine with him. “Alaska was a raw place,” he says. “We were there before everyone caught all the local fish, so the challenge was getting the lure out of the water before you caught something.”

He had similar success on the mound, as his team won the Alaska state championship in the run-up to the Little League World Series. West had pitched the winning game, and when they moved on to the regional, they beat Nevada but lost to Washington. Despite the disappointment, though, West was undefeated as a pitcher!

The High (School) West
There’s a Forrest Gump serendipity to much of West’s childhood, and the family’s next move —trading the frosty wilderness of Alaska for the steamy summers of Montgomery, Ala.—dropped them into the Deep South at the boiling point of the civil rights movement.

West

In college, West once experimented with a full beard (not pictured here, sadly), which grew in red even though his hair was blond. The look was so different that when he went home one holiday to visit his parents, his mom walked right past him at the airport.

West was just starting 10th grade at Sidney Lanier High School, home of “The Poets.” (Their crosstown rivals were the Robert E. Lee Generals, so victories for the Poets naturally gave truth to the adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”) “For the first two years, you had to go to a different part of town to see a black person,” says West. “It was totally segregated.”

During his junior year, however, the first two black students arrived at his school of about 3,000 kids. The tension in town was relentless, he says, and the famous 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery passed a few blocks from his house. One of West’s neighbors, as well—and also a classmate and track teammate—was Richmond Flowers Jr.

Flowers’ father was attorney general of Alabama and an outspoken opponent of racial segregation (Governor George Wallace once even had him thrown in jail for refusing to keep a school legally segregated). West says the younger Flowers might not have survived his dad’s politics if he hadn’t been a premier athlete and star of the football team; he would go on to play football for the University of Tennessee, and then professionally for Dallas. There’s even a book out about the senior Flowers, Bitter Harvest, which has a forward written by former President Jimmy Carter.

Flower Power
After his days as a Poet, West headed back to California to attend college at Berkeley. His father had maintained residency in California, so even though he arrived during the first year the UC system charged in-state tuition, he still got quite a bargain at $113 a quarter.

He started his freshman year in 1966. San Francisco was alive with “Flower Power,” an age of social upheaval and revolution, and West sported the requisite long hair and beard (made all the more feral by his hair being blond and his beard red). “Coming from Montgomery,” he says, “it was the most stark social change you could imagine. It was fabulous being there, but socially I was maybe 30 years behind the times. I spent the first two years of college catching up on many things other than academics.”

West

West in the mid-1970s (he says he still has this shirt).

On the school side, the first class that really caught his attention was animal ecology in the fall of his junior year. After the class was over, he went in and asked his professor, Dr. Oscar Paris, if there was another similar class he could take as a follow-up. Paris narrowed his eyes at West and asked, “You’re not another [expletive] med student, are you?” When West assured him of his ecological intentions, Paris suggested he try a two-quarter graduate-level course, “Analytical Field Ecology.” It would be field-intensive and limited to eight students, and acceptance into the course would be highly competitive.

As West showed up at the informational meeting, he quickly realized he was surrounded by 35 to 40 graduate students, including a couple who were teaching assistants for his own classes. Just as he was feeling pretty hopeless, in walked this imposing figure, about 6’2” with spectacles. It was Frank Pitelka, chair of the zoology department. Professor Pitelka gave a quick rundown of the course, then started walking around the room, orally interviewing each student—for all others to hear—about his or her qualifications and interest in the course. West could feel the growing inadequacy of his resume, and he assumed he’d get hugely embarrassed when his turn came. Yet when Pitelka got to West and heard his name, he cast a knowing glance over at Professor Paris, who nodded in recognition. Pitelka moved on without any further interrogation.

The class ended up getting filled with eight graduate students—and West. “I was running in place for six months to catch up,” he says. Between the field exercises, hypothesis testing, collecting data, writing up and analyzing, it was full-time work. But he was sold on wildlife research. “I learned more in those two classes than I did in everything else the four years I was there,” he says.

An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse

Feeling galvanized about his future, West decided to go to grad school. He wasn’t initially interested in teaching, so he envisioned getting a master’s and perhaps looking for a position with an agency or research program. He applied to the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, and though they lost his application for months, they ultimately offered him a spot in their program.

This was no ordinary offer, either. They were willing to pay him $12,000 a year, which in the 1970s was a lot of money for a graduate student, ultimately to earn a Ph.D. in wildlife management and then come work in the Institute of Northern Forestry, run by the U.S. Forest Service, as an animal ecologist, dealing with the population ecology of small mammals. They were literally going to create a position for him as a wildlife biologist and pay all the costs associated with his doctoral research. Then when he was done, he’d come back on their staff full-time.

West

West, pictured here on a bird walk at ONRC, traces many of the lessons he later taught his own classes to Professor Pitelka at Berkeley.

That was too tempting to refuse, so he called up Professor Pitelka to see if he could do his doctoral work back at Berkeley. He even got exempted from the teaching requirement since he was heading in a different career direction to work for the Forest Service, and the primary focus of the Ph.D. program was to train professors and academics. “I used to give my officemates all sorts of grief,” he says. “I was making so much more than they were, and they had to teach all these courses.”

With few distractions, West completed his dissertation—on the relationship between small mammals and natural forests—in only three years, including his field work. It was the spring of 1977, he had handed in his dissertation to Pitelka and was waiting to hear from his future employers in Fairbanks. He was due to start work in July.

That’s when President Carter ordered a federal hiring freeze, and suddenly West’s job was stuck in limbo for at least a year. So he skulked back into Pitelka’s office. “I go back in and Frank starts laughing before I say anything,” says West. But Pitelka rescued him by saying he’d set his dissertation aside for a while—meaning West could remain at Berkeley as a graduate student until his job came through, with one major change from before: He’d have to start earning his keep as a teaching assistant.

After that, he taught every quarter. And when President Carter extended the hiring freeze another year, West got so much experience teaching he became a teaching associate. Yet when the hiring freeze got extended a third year, West couldn’t stand the purgatory any longer. He contacted the Institute of Northern Forestry and was released from his obligations there.

Right about that time, a position opened up at the University of Washington in the College of Forest Resources. Thanks to the teaching experience he had never intended to develop, West ended up landing the academic job he had never planned to get. He joined the faculty in 1979 initially as a research assistant professor, not tenure track, but eventually found his way onto the permanent wildlife faculty after the program’s founder—Dick Taber, who had been the last graduate student Aldo Leopold accepted —left for a position in Montana.

The Last Word
We’ve left out dozens of other breadcrumbs in West’s story, but we’d be woefully remiss if he didn’t mention the story of how he met his wife. Back at Berkeley, one of West’s TAs in a plant ecology class had been a graduate student named Pam Yorks. West remembers being particularly proud of one of his class projects, for which he earned an A, but he never got his paper back.

West

West with his wife Pam and daughter Tracey at the Salmon BBQ this past October (naturally, he is manning the beer table).

Years later, not long after West had accepted his position at UW, he ran into Yorks on the steps by a side entrance to Anderson Hall. “That was a big surprise to find her here,” he says. She had graduated with her Ph.D. in Botany from Berkeley and was teaching at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. After that, she and West would occasionally cross paths on campus when she was coming up for seminars—and she eventually returned that paper to him, confessing that she had held onto it to share with future students as an exemplary project!

Yorks later joined UW as a graduate student, earned a master’s in information science and became head librarian for the Physics/Astronomy library  (along the way, she even did a stint in the forestry library in the basement of Bloedel Hall). They got married, had their daughter Tracey, and settled into Seattle for the long haul.

Now, after logging 30-plus years together on campus, they both retired this fall. They certainly haven’t mothballed their purple and gold, though, and you have a good chance of running into them at most major Husky sporting events, from women’s volleyball to basketball and football.

If you do run into West and want to toast his career and retirement, you could do worse than clink glasses with one of his favorite cocktails, The Last Word, which he says is the unofficial drink of Seattle. It’s a gin-based drink from the days of Prohibition that has experienced a bit of a cult revival locally. The drink itself has a lime-green color and a tart, intense herbal boldness (in large part from the Chartreuse). Some love it; others give up after a few sips. For West, though, it’s an assertive tribute to the senses, and it has just the kick to get some of his best stories flowing!

Photos from younger years © Steve West; all other photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

Steve West

Director’s Message: Spring 2014

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in the dedication of the new solar arrays that are being installed on the top of one of the Mercer Court buildings. Quite a few students, faculty and administrators attended, as well as guest speakers Governor Jay Inslee and Denis Hayes of the Bullitt Foundation—both big proponents of solar power.

Known as UW-Solar, the project involves installing 178 panels on the roof, and monitors will then publish real-time and historical energy production and savings data online. It’s an impressive and exciting undertaking, and nothing struck me more than learning the effort was completely spearheaded by University of Washington students.

UW SolarI was told the Mercer Court dorms were built with the foresight to include infrastructure for solar panels, but the cost was apparently prohibitive at the time. It took the drive and determination of a group of students—including one of our SEFS graduate students, Allison McGrath, who is earning a joint master’s with the Evans School of Public Affairs—to spark this huge commitment to solar energy. In the end, these enterprising young leaders managed to raise $174,900 to help build the solar array.

Those students could have shied away from the sheer magnitude of raising that much money. They could have balked at the enormity of confronting the social and economic challenges associated with climate change. Instead, they’re celebrating the payoff of more than a year of planning, prodding and organizing, and their perseverance—their fearlessness in pursuing their passions—gave me a huge pulse of pride in our students.

You can find that same enthusiasm and initiative in other students throughout the School, College and University. In so many ways, they recognize the gravity of the challenges ahead, and they’re anxious to get involved and find solutions. At a time when so many of us feel precariously pressed for free minutes, these students are finding ways to stretch their hours almost miraculously (do they sleep?). On top of their course schedules, they’re taking on multiple projects and commitments, forming clubs and groups and partnerships, and they’re doing it all with uncompromised optimism and energy.

We have students spending their spring breaks down at Pack Forest to plant seedlings as part of a 75-plus-year tradition in sustainable forest management. They’ll never get to see these trees fully mature, yet they’re proudly investing in forests for future generations to use and enjoy. We also have freshmen organizing eco-fashion shows on campus, raising money and awareness for endangered species around the planet. Then we have other students leading divestment campaigns, creatively rallying support for sustainability through everything from campus forums to poetry slams. And all of these activities also build lasting friendships, connections and social networks that might otherwise be limited to class and dorm room interactions.

You can take so many lessons from these students. Most of all, I’m inspired by their action and ideas. Learning at a university is and must be a two-way street, and here the students are teaching us that there’s more to a minute than we might think, and that you can never be too busy to help others and to make a difference.

Photo © UW Solar.

SEFS Recognition Event: Monday, May 19!

We have finally set the date for this year’s SEFS Recognition Event—Monday, May 19, from 4-6 p.m. in the Forest Club Room—so mark your calendars for our annual celebration of all things SEFS!

For those who haven’t been to the Recognition Event before, it’s a wonderful occasion to recognize fellow students and colleagues who have made exemplary contributions to the school and academic community. There will be catered snacks, a silent auction to raise money for the SEFS student scholarship fund (more on that later!), an expansive wine tasting, beer and other beverages, and a host of honors and awards presented—in short, a truly excellent time!

Recognition Event

The Anderson Hall award case will soon house a permanent plaque display to recognize honorees each year.

At the heart of the event, of course, are the awards, and we have made a few significant changes to the program this year. The biggest change is that we are streamlining the core awards into four categories: Faculty Member of the Year, Staff Member of the Year, Graduate Student of the Year, and Undergraduate Student of the Year.

Each of these awards will be open to nominations from all faculty, staff and students, and our hope is that they will reflect the highest honor for a year of achievement and service. Befitting the lasting contributions these awards reflect, honorees will have their names engraved on a permanent plaque display in Anderson Hall. (That case has been languishing for quite some time, so we’re pleased to restore its role as a showpiece of scholarship and engagement)

Nominations do not need to be long—a good paragraph or two will suffice—but they should be specific and clearly demonstrate the qualities your candidate exemplifies. Nominations can recognize a wide range of strengths and accomplishments, whether in one area or across many, in one instance or sustained throughout the year. (You are not expected to know grant totals or grades or precise figures, though the selection committee may use these metrics as part of the selection process.)

Please send your nominations to Karl Wirsing no later than Friday, April 25; that’s less than three weeks ago, so get cranking on those letters!

Some criteria and characteristics to consider:
(For each category, you may nominate more than one individual, and all nominations will be reviewed by a panel of students, staff and faculty. Also, in addition to these nominated awards, we will also have several other traditional student awards, as well as two Director’s Awards.)

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

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

3. Graduate Student of the Year
Exemplary attributes can include, but are not limited to: Academic excellence and accolades; outstanding thesis/dissertation research and progress; extracurricular projects, collaborations and activities; conference presentations and other professional engagements; community participation and outreach; outstanding promise in his/her field of study; etc. Candidates must be enrolled either full-time in a graduate degree program at SEFS, or as part of a joint degree.

4. Undergraduate Student of the Year
Exemplary attributes can include, but are not limited to: Academic excellence and accolades; outstanding research projects; conference presentations and other professional engagements; extracurricular projects, collaborations and activities; community participation and outreach; outstanding promise in his/her field of study; etc. Candidates must be declared ESRM or BSE majors at SEFS.

Remember, nominations are due no later than Friday, April 25, so send them in as soon as possible! And if you have any questions about the awards or event, don’t hesitate to reach out to Karl Wirsing.

Water Seminar: Spring 2014

If you’re looking to soak up as much amazing knowledge as possible this spring, you’re in luck, as we have a veritable flood of seminars and guest talks lined up for your enjoyment. Among the offerings this quarter is the long-running Water Seminar (ESRM 429/SEFS529), which is held on Tuesday mornings from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in Mary Gates Hall, Room 389.

The talks are open to the public, so take a look at the schedule below and see which topics whet your intellectual appetite! (Our apologies for posting too late for you to make the first talk.)

Schedule

April 1
“Science, public policy and society: Experiences in river conservation and restoration”
Tom O’Keefe
Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director
American Whitewater Association

April 8           
“Assessing land use effects and regulatory effectiveness on streams in rural watersheds of King County, WA”
Gino Lucchetti
Environmental Scientist
King County

April 15
“Mythbusters: Challenging commonly held beliefs in stream restoration”
Jen O’Neal
Project Manager/Fish Biologist
TetraTech

April 22
“Pacific Northwest beavers are a lot like you: a little different”
Ben Dittbrenner
UW Ph.D. student

April 29
Film: History of Water
Terje Tvedt – Norwegian series

May 6
“Regional assessments of floodplains in the Puget Sound basin”
Chris Konrad
Research Hydrologist
USGS Tacoma

May 13
“Levee setbacks and removals in urban and rural rivers of King County”
Sarah McCarthy and Josh Latterell
Senior Ecologists, Green and White River Basins, River and Floodplain Management Section King County Water and Land Resources Division

May 20
“Fish passage through culverts: Considerations for design and evaluation”
Martin Fox
Fisheries Biologist
Muckleshoot Tribe

May 27
“River Restoration for a Changing Climate”
Tim Beechie
Research Scientist
Watershed Program, NOAA/NMFS

June 3
“Stream temperature: It’s not just another number”
Ashley Steel
Supervisory Statistician/Quantitative Ecologist
USFS, Seattle