SEFS Seminar Series: Spring 2016 Schedule

The schedule is set for the Spring 2016 SEFS Seminar Series, and this quarter we’ve organized the talks around the theme, “Exploring Nature, Health, Ecosystems and Sustainability.” We’ll also be featuring three candidates for the Nature, Health and Recreation faculty position we’re interviewing for right now—all in the first three weeks—so there’s a lot to get excited about this quarter.

Held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223, the talks are always open to the public, and the first seminar of each month will be followed by a casual reception down the hall in the Forest Club Room. Students can register for course credit under SEFS 529A.

Check out the schedule below and join us for as many talks as you can!

PowerPoint PresentationWeek 1: March 30
“The Impacts of Nature Experience on Mood, Emotion Regulation and Cognitive Function”
Greg Bratman
Stanford University

Week 2: April 6*
“The Effects of Family-Based Nature Activities on Family Relationships”
Dina Izenstark
University of Illinois

Week 3: April 13
“Access to Nature and Psychological Health: The Geography of Children”
Dongying Li
University of Illinois

Week 4: April 20
“Measuring Ecosystem Function in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region of Alberta: Problems and Solutions”
Professor Derek MacKenzie
University of Alberta

Week 5: April 27
“Hello from the Other Side: New Approaches for Wildlife Population Modeling”
Professor Beth Gardner

Week 6: May 4*
“Bryophytes and the Sustained Nitrogen Economy of Boreal Forest Ecosystems”
María Arróniz-Crespo
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Week 7: May 11
“Contrasting Plant Flammability and the Implications for Fire Regimes”
Morgan Varner
U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

Week 8: May 18
“What are We Trying to Sustain, Anyway? Some Questions About the Idea of Sustainability”
Professor Steve Harrell
SEFS and Anthropology

Week 9: May 25
“Nature’s Rx in Cities – Economic Value . . .  and Who Should Care”
Dr. Kathy Wolf
Research Scientist, SEFS

Week 10: June 1*

“Blast from the Past: Understanding Plant Community Assembly on Mount St. Helens”
Professor Cynthia Chang
UW Bothell
School of STEM, Division of Biology

* Indicates reception after seminar

NSF Grant to Explore Coastal Temperate Rainforests

This February, Professor David Butman was part of a research team awarded a $500,000, four-year grant through the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network. The goal of the grant is to develop a research collaborative, organized as the Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network, to study the flux of materials from coastal watersheds to nearshore marine ecosystems in Pacific coastal temperate rainforests (PCTR).


One of the exciting possibilities of this grant, says Butman, is the potential to create foundations for larger projects in the future, including with the Olympic Natural Resources Center and Olympic Experimental State Forest.

Butman is a co-PI on the grant with two researchers from the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. Through a series of workshops and other collaborations, they will be working to quantify what’s happening now in coastal temperate rainforest ecosystems, identify critical areas of future research—especially related to a changing climate—and build an international community of scientists in similar zones around the world, including in Patagonia and New Zealand.

It’s a higher-level project, says Butman, designed to figure out what still needs to be done—data and concepts at the cusp of current science—to understand the connectivity between land, freshwater and coastal systems.

This grant targets PCTR ecosystems from coastal Oregon and Washington up through southwest Alaska. These ecosystems encompass the largest coastal temperate rainforests in the world, and they include the most extensive remaining old-growth forests in North America. They also experience tremendous freshwater flux and run-off, so understanding how carbon moves through these dynamic coastal margins is a huge part of this research—and a primary focus of Butman’s role on the grant.

“This region gets more water and rain per unit area than anywhere else,” he says. “Essentially from the Olympic Peninsula up through southwest Alaska, the area sees more than six times the annual output of the Yukon River, or three times the Mississippi. So much material moves from the land to the ocean here, so it’s an exciting opportunity.”


An important component of this research includes studying how warming temperatures and changing weather patterns will impact the long-term health of these dynamic coastal temperate rainforests.

The grant includes funding for four workshops, and Butman will be organizing the first this coming fall. It will focus on biogeochemical cycling, and he is currently reaching out to potential stakeholders and participants, from native communities to other scientists and natural resource managers.

Other major research questions the network will be addressing include: What are current freshwater and carbon fluxes in the PCTR, and how will these be affected by future changes in climate? How do forest communities, distribution and disturbance regimes drive current land-to-ocean biogeochemical fluxes across the PCTR, and how will climate-driven changes affect this flux? What is the relative importance of terrestrially derived materials transport for regulating marine ecosystem processes in the PCTR, and how will marine ecosystems respond to altered terrestrial biogeochemical fluxes? Is the PCTR a future source or sink of carbon under a changing climate, and can the insights gained about ecosystem processes in the PCTR translate to other coastal temperate rainforests? And what is the current and future contribution of coastal temperate rainforests to continental or global estimates of carbon sequestration and material fluxes across the terrestrial/marine interface?

Previous studies have explored some of these questions in parts or certain places, but the key with this broad collaborative is to organize a concerted effort to address information gaps and connect the dots—and to use this region as a model for understanding ecological processes in similar ecosystems around the world.

Photos © David Butman.

Wildlife Seminar: Spring 2016 Schedule

The line-up is set for the Spring 2016 Wildlife Science Seminar, which kicks off this coming Monday, March 28. SAFS Professor Emeritus Christian Grue will be leading the seminar this quarter, and the speakers will be covering a huge range of subjects, from cougar management to the breeding biology of snow geese in Russia. (Undergraduate students may register for credit under ESRM 455; graduate students under ESRM 554.)

You can catch the talks Mondays from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Kane Hall 130. The public is always welcome, so mark your calendars and come out for some fascinating seminars!

Wildlife Science SeminarWeek 1: March 28
“Managing Cougars in the Presence of Wolves in Washington State”
Professor Robert Wielgus
Director, Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory, Washington State University

Week 2: April 4
“On the Scent for Wildlife Conservation”
Professor Samuel Wasser
Director, Center for Conservation Biology, University of Washington

Week 3: April 11
“Breeding Biology of Wrangel Island Snow Geese”
Dr. Vasilliy Baranyak
Research Scientist, Working Group on Waterfowl of Northern Eurasia, Russia

Week 4: April 18
“Getting to Know the Bear Dogs of Washington State”
Dr. Richard Beausoleil
Bear and Cougar Specialist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Week 5: April 25
“Owl vs. Owl: Experimental Removal and Implications for Managing Barred and Spotted Owls”
Dr. Lowell Diller
Research Associate and Adjunct Professor, Department of Wildlife, Humboldt State University

Week 6: May 2
“Reptiles Up Close & Personal: What You Wanted to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask”
Scott Petersen
The Reptile Man: Reptile Zoo, Monroe, Washington

Week 7: May 9
“Climate Change and California Sea Lions”
Dr. Sharon Melin
Research Biologist, NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Seattle

Week 8: May 16
“Ghosts of Shrimp Past: Pesticides, Burrowing Shrimp and Oysters”
Professor Christian Grue
Laboratory for Fish and Wildlife Toxicology (FISH 455/ESRM 457), University of Washington

Week 9: May 23
“Maternity Den Characteristics of Polar Bears in Baffin Bay and Kane Basin”
Erica Escajeda
Doctoral Student, School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, University of Washington

Week 10: May 30
No class, Memorial Day

Beetles Save Needles: Purple Haze Talk & Tour

Want to learn how a UV light purchased at Archie McPhee led to an important scientific discovery? Then head over to the Washington Park Arboretum on Wednesday, March 23, for a lecture and walking tour from 7 to 8:30 p.m.: “Beetles Save Needles: Purple Haze Talk & Tour.”

2016_03_Beetles Save NeedlesLeading the program will be Dr. Richard McDonald (a.k.a. Dr. McBug), who will tell the story of the discovery that ultraviolet-A light could be used to detect predators of the hemlock wooly adelgid. Drawing from research presented in the Journal of Entomological Science (Vol. 49, No. 2. 2014), McDonald will highlight his work in the Washington Park Arboretum and lead a night hike to see the technology in action.

Researchers have found that predatory beetles native to the Pacific Northwest play an important role in regulating populations of hemlock wooly adelgid pest populations. These predators are now being introduced to the hemlock forests of the eastern United States, and they are playing a significant role in reducing damage caused by the exotic adelgid pests. This ultraviolet detection has been an important discovery in the detection and identification of the predators.

The talk is free and open to the public, but please re-register to help organizers anticipate numbers! Questions? Call 206.685.2590 or email

A Shakespearean Twist

Doctoral candidate Ben Dittbrenner, who taught ESRM 426: Wildland Hydrology this winter, used the new SEFS buses for eight field trips throughout the quarter. Three different drivers helped shuttle the class to field sites, and one in particular, GregRobin Smith, really engaged with the students.

Ben had heard from another driver that GregRobin was also the president of the Washington Shakespeare Festival, so he asked him about it one day. They quickly struck up a conversation, and over the course of multiple field trips GregRobin became integrated into the class.

“He was cool from the start,” says Ben. “At the end of each class, we would have a round-up and get in circle to talk about what we observed out in the field. GregRobin would always hang out with us, and at some point we started talking about incorporating Shakespeare into the course.”

GregRobin eventually brought up an apt hydrology lesson from Shakespeare’s Henry V. In the play, the seriously outnumbered English face a decisive battle against the French, who on the day before the clash parade their horses around the battleground in a show of force. It had been raining for weeks, and the horses churned up the soil into a soggy mess. When the French charged the following day, they got bogged down in the muck, and the English archers picked them apart and ultimately won the battle.

“We had just finished talking about how water affects soils, and this was just a perfect real-world example,” says Ben. “So we made it into an extra credit question on the midterm, and the students were really into it.”

For the last field trip, in fact, the class decided to give GregRobin an award for being such a great contributor to the course experience. One of the students brought in a wood cookie, which she had sanded down, and they all voted on what it should read—“Certificate of Excellence in Shakespearean Hydrology”—before signing it.

In return, GregRobin awarded Ben a new title as the “Official Wildland Hydrology Advisor for the Washington Shakespeare Festival.”

Photo © Ben Dittbrenner.

2016_03_Bus Driver Honored

GregRobin, left, with Ben at the end of the quarter.

In the News … in 1915

John Tylczak, who has loaned us photography exhibitions in the Forest Club Room the past two years, recently sent us a clipping from an October 15, 2015, issue of an old trade publication, the West Coast Lumberman.

At the time, the paper had decided to feature a section once a month with news and updates from the College of Forestry. This issue hosted the introductory story, which included an overview of the College and the Forest Club, as well as short blurbs about where recent graduates had found work—such as E.J. Hanzlik, Class of 1911, who was working as a forest examiner in the Olympic National Forest, or Lewis A. Treen, also Class of 1911, who was the deputy supervisor of Snoqualmie National Forest, or W.S. Cahill, Class of 1913, a timber inspector with the Port of Seattle, and a few dozen others.

The pages include a photo of Dean Hugo Winkenwerder, and also an advertisement for wire rope for logging, available through the A. Leschen & Sons Rope Company. For all the historical details, though, it’s clear that some things about our school are just as true today: “Few situations could be more advantageous for the location of a forest school than the Puget Sound region.”

Thanks for sending the clipping, John!

2016_03_West Coast Lumberman

2016 Sustaining Our World Lecture: Lynda V. Mapes

For our annual Sustaining Our World Lecture coming up on Thursday, April 21, the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences is extremely pleased to welcome Lynda V. Mapes, author and environmental reporter for the Seattle Times: “Witness Tree: My year with a single, 100-year old oak.”

2016_03_MapesThe lecture is open to the public and will be held on Thursday, April 21, from 6 to 7 p.m. in Johnson Hall 102. Event registration is free, but we encourage you to RSVP as soon as possible to make sure we have enough seating for everyone!

About the Lecture
What can one tree tell us about our changing world? Lynda will show slides from her year exploring the human and natural history of a single, 100-year old red oak tree at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Mass., and read from her book Witness Tree, forthcoming from Bloomsbury Publishing.

About the Speaker
Lynda Mapes is a staff writer at the Seattle Times, where she specializes in covering native cultures, natural history and environmental topics. Over the course of her career, she has won numerous national and regional awards, most recently a 2012 award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest professional science association. She has written three previous books, most recently Elwha, a River Reborn (The Mountaineers Books, 2012), about the largest dam removal project ever in history and the effort to restore a wilderness watershed in Washington’s Olympic National Park, and its once legendary salmon runs. Now in its second printing, the book also was the inspiration for a major exhibition at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle from September 2013 to March 2014, and is now touring across the country for three years.

2016_03_Mapes2In 2013-14, Lynda was awarded a prestigious nine-month Knight fellowship in Science Journalism at MIT. While there, she focused her study on how seasons and species are affected by climate change. Her research trips to the Harvard Forest for this work earned her the honor of an appointment as a fellow and science writer in residence at the Harvard Forest.

As her work with scientists at the forest unfolded, she discovered the idea for her new book project, Witness Tree, an intimate look at what one tree in the forest tells us about climate change, now under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. In March 2014, Lynda was awarded another prestigious fellowship, this time from Harvard University. Her 12-month Bullard Fellowship in Forest Research began in September 2014, enabling her to take up residence at Harvard to continue her work and write Witness Tree.

A birder, gardener, hiker and close observer of the natural world, Lynda lives in Seattle with her husband, Doug MacDonald.


We hope you can join us. Register today!

Native Plant Nursery: Spring 2016 Internships!

The UW student chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER-UW) is seeking applicants for two undergraduate intern positions to work in the Native Plant Nursery during the spring quarter. These positions are unpaid, but interns can receive ESRM 399 credit and will gain all sorts of hands-on learning experience!

2016_03_UW-SER Spring InternshipsThe Native Plant Nursery is located on campus at the Center for Urban Horticulture. It is a student-run operation that provides plants to the on-campus restoration projects that SER-UW manages. This year, with the support of a Campus Sustainability Fund grant, the nursery is expanding by building a new hoop house, growing more plants from seed and cuttings, and increasing its opportunities for volunteer involvement.

About the Internships
Interns are expected to devote an average of nine hours a week to nursery projects. In conjunction with the co-managers, interns will develop learning objectives based on individual interests and strengths, receiving credit for ESRM 399 or their school’s equivalent. The interns’ time will be split between routine plant maintenance, plant propagation, nursery infrastructure projects, helping with weekly volunteer work parties, and individual projects. Each intern will have a different focus to help tackle the many and diverse needs of a native plant nursery. The two intern position descriptions are as follows:

Communications Intern will produce a video telling the story of the SER nursery, work on increasing volunteer involvement with outside groups, produce written content for newsletters, social media and advertising, and assist with the coordination of a large community event.

Botany Intern will assist in plant propagation and production of native species grown in the nursery, developing plant irrigation systems, organizing a public plant sale, and preparing the nursery for the summer months.

Both interns are expected to:

  • be willing to get dirty, get wet, and work in all weather conditions
  • be on time and follow directions closely
  • work well with fellow interns and co-managers, and be comfortable working independently
  • problem solve and know when to ask for help
  • work well with volunteers and be available for weekly volunteer work parties
  • be able to lift 40 pounds and walk on uneven terrain

Interested? Learn more about SER-UW on their website and Facebook page, and email them at if you have any questions or would like to apply.

Applications are due by Monday, March 7, so act swiftly!

Join the 2016 Pack Forest Summer Crew!

Every summer, a hardy crew of SEFS students heads down to Pack Forest for two months of hands-on field training in sustainable forest management. It’s one of our oldest field traditions, and also one of the most memorable, so take a look at the internship opportunities coming up this summer!

2016_02_Pack Forest Summer Crew2There are up to six internship positions available for the 2016 Summer Quarter at Park Forest, which runs from June 20 to August 19. Each position is eligible for 4 ESRM credit hours (with in-state tuition included), as well as a $200 weekly stipend and free housing in cozy cabins for a summer spent in the shadow of Mount Rainier. Hard to beat!

* Three to five spots are open for Forest Resource Interns, who will assist with the management and stewardship of Pack Forest’s timber resources, research installations, roads and trails. These students will develop forest mensuration skills, practice species identification, participate in research programs, and learn about sustainable forest management.

* One additional position is available for an Outreach & GIS Intern, who will actively participate in public outreach, environmental education and/or GIS applications for natural resource management. This student will develop skills in communications, public outreach, curriculum development and natural resource management.

The deadline to apply has been extended to Wednesday, April 20. If you’re interested, please send your resume and a cover letter describing how the internship will fit into your program of study to Professor Ernesto Alvarado.

2016_02_Pack Forest Summer Crew

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