New Staff Bio: Sarah Thomas

Greetings, SEFS community! I am pleased to be writing to you as the new outreach and events specialist for our school. I’m thrilled to be here, and I’m looking forward to planning some amazing events, showcasing the school’s achievements and strengthening the alumni community to increase involvement across the board. And, furthermore, SEFS seems like an amazing place to cultivate my passion for environmental conservation and sustainable living/playing/building/eating/harvesting—you name it!

Sarah Thomas

Thomas in Central Park.

As a Husky graduate and former School of Medicine employee of six years, I’m no stranger to the UW. I have a BA in Arts, Media and Culture, with an emphasis in Communications, as well as a UW Editing Certificate. I’ve worked in a variety of UW departments and roles—from tracking medical student compliance in the Deans Office, to coordinating events at the Graduate Medical Education Office, to my last role coordinating communications and outreach, planning events and managing office operations at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC). In addition to my work at UW, I’ve also held communications and event planning positions in state government, nonprofit art organizations, commercial art galleries and real estate.

I left HIPRC this April to pursue professional real estate photography. It was a striking change of pace that gave me a much-needed jolt of creativity. And while it was a fun way to spend the summer, my long-term career goals are firmly rooted in communications and outreach. Joining your community is a little like having my cake and eating it too—I’m able to do something I enjoy, for a school that inspires me.

It’s funny, I’d only been out of the UW system for about a week when I got the call to interview for this position. Even though I’d just left UW, I knew I couldn’t pass this up. I felt like Al Pacino in The Godfather III—say it with me, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” But, not in the terrifying Mafia way. In good way. A great way!

When I’m off the clock, I’m out exploring the world, either on foot as a runner, hiker and urban wanderer, or through an art lens surveying Seattle’s vibrant music, film and art scene. I’m also an occasional freelance writer for Earshot Jazz, a local news magazine. Oh, and I brew beer. And, sure, I like to indulge in a good Netflix marathon here and there too.

My office is located in 107C Anderson Hall. Come stop by and say hello!

Photo © Sarah Thomas.

Alumni Spring Gathering: Sunday, April 27!

Coming up on Sunday, April 27, is the annual SEFS Alumni Spring Gathering! Organized by the SEFS Alumni Group, the spring celebration is a wonderful occasion to reconnect with old colleagues and friends, and to meet some of the current faculty, staff and students at the school (and all, of course, while having a great time!).

SEFS Spring GatheringThis year’s event will be a potluck-style barbecue at the NHS Hall at the UW Botanic Garden’s Center for Urban Horticulture from 4-7 p.m. In addition to other activities, we will have open house-style tours available so you can come see what’s happening at the Center for Urban Horticulture, and hear about current projects from staff and students. We’ll also be honoring the career of Jim Brown, class of ’62, for his decades of work in forestry. Come help us thank him for his lifelong dedication to the industry!

Last year’s gathering was a great success, from the incredible weather to the wine tasting to the 150 or so alumni, staff, students, faculty and friends who attended. So come out and join the celebration this year, and spread the word to other alumni and friends!

If you’re able to come, we hope you’ll bring a side dish or dessert to share for the potluck. We’ll provide provide beverages, grillables and salmon, and please sign up as soon as possible to help us prepare for the right number of people. Families and children are extremely welcome, and you can contact Cynthia Welte, one of the organizers, with any questions about the event, or if you’d like to get involved.

See you there!

SEFS Grads Begin Alaskan Adventure

A few weeks ago, we heard from two of our recent graduate students, John Simeone and Erika Knight, who each earned a master’s from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) this past year. They actually met and started dating while undergraduates at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.—they’re now engaged—and this past September they loaded their Volkswagen, hitched up a small U-Haul trailer and set out on the 2,400-mile drive to try life in Anchorage, Alaska!

Knight and Simeone

Knight and Simeone on a hike up to Flattop Mountain, about a 20-minute drive from their apartment in Anchorage.

Simeone grew up outside of New York City, and Knight is originally from New Hampshire, so Alaska would open a totally new frontier for them. And since they weren’t in a hurry, they decided to soak up the scenery on the way, including making a couple memorable stops at the Liard Hotsprings in northern British Columbia, and then the Kluane Lake area in the Yukon. They ended up taking almost six days to complete the journey before pulling into their driveway in Anchorage on October 3 (some make the drive in three days, says Simeone, but what’s the fun in that?!).

Since then, they’ve been reveling in the outdoor offerings in and around Anchorage, finding great hiking and ski trails within minutes of their apartment. “The autumn seems to have sped by quickly,” he says, “and by early November the snow started flying, which we were very glad of since we were excited to get out on the extensive cross-country ski trail networks in town—not to mention getting out into the mountains to backcountry ski!”

Erika Knight

As snow and ski lovers, Knight and Simeone have moved to the right place!

The only downside is that as the snow gets heavier, the days keep getting shorter. “The darkness is certainly hard,” says Simeone, “but the abundance of snow makes up for it! For instance, as I write this email at 10 a.m., it is basically pre-dawn light right now. But the days are already starting to get longer!”

Gobbling up some of those precious daytime hours, of course, are their jobs. Knight has been working for a consulting firm as a full-time environmental scientist, and Simeone has been piecing together some part-time contract consulting work from places as far reaching as Washington, D.C, and Russia. As he continues looking for a full-time position, he has a new contract starting that will involve working on Russia-Alaska king crab trade issues for the World Wildlife Fund’s arctic office.

The real fun, though, has been exploring their new city and state, and they’re just getting started. If you’d like to get a peek at their Alaskan adventure so far, Simeone and Knight shared some of the photos they took during their spectacular drive and first autumn in Anchorage. We put a selection of them in a gallery below, so check it out!

Best of luck to both of you, and stay in touch!

All photos © John Simeone and Erika Knight.

An October Hike with Tom Hinckley!

If those first whiffs of fall have been intoxicating to you, then make sure to sign up for a full-on autumn immersion this October when Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley leads one of his famous alumni hikes into the Methow Valley!

Methow Valley

What awaits you in the Methow Valley this October!

On Saturday, October 5, and Sunday, October 6, Hinckley is planning to gather up to 20 folks for two days of trekking. Depending on the weather, interest and ability levels, he’ll select from a range of hikes focused on Rainy and Washington passes, Cutthroat Lake and Pass, Hart’s Pass, Goat Peak and a few other options, with the goal of finding reasonable weather and subalpine larch.

For those responding early, Hinckley is offering space for about eight hikers at a house very near the Mazama Country Inn . There are two bedrooms with queen-sized beds, plus a loft with a fold-down bed and several thick sleeping pads (enough space, he found this past May, to fit eight students). The house has a large balcony and porch, and full food services and showers will be available.

You don’t have to stay there to join the fun, and faculty, staff and students are also welcome to take part. So if you’re interested in joining the hike or would like more information, contact Hinckley at hinckley@uw.edu or call 206.525.1396.

Photo © Tom Hinckley.

This Sunday: Alumni Hike with Tom Hinckley!

This Sunday, July 14, Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley will be leading a group hike to discover some secret treasures on the east side of Squak Mountain in the Issaquah Alps. So if you’d like to get out and celebrate the sunshine, strap on your boots and come out and join him!

Tom Hinckley

A spring ski trip to Shrode Lake in Prince William Sound effectively captures the exact OPPOSITE of your potential visual experiences this coming Sunday, says Hinckley. To be a real hiker, one must love the extremes!

The plan is to hike the Sycamore Access Trail to the East Ridge Trail. From there, depending on interest and ability, they will either trek just beyond the summit of Southeast Peak—to see a very large old-growth tree on an unofficial and recently developed trail, about 1,500 feet in elevation gain—or up to Thrush Gap and then Phil’s Creek Trail, down to the Eastside Trail and back to Thrush Gap via the Gap Connector. You’ll experience a wide diversity of stand histories and compositions, as well as some interesting and infrequently used trails. Elevation gain using this latter route is closer to 2,000 feet, and there’s even an opportunity, if energy and time allow, to head another 500 feet to the top.

“This is a gem for forest and understory lovers,” says Hinckley. “It’s close to Seattle but not like the West Tiger III or Mount Si trails with regard to numbers, it gives a great workout, and it will rekindle memories of Dave Scott or Reini Stettler or Linda Brubaker from our school training.”

Hikers should meet at noon in the Issaquah High School parking lot. Hinckley recommends carpooling since there is limiting parking at the trailhead, and you’ll have to bring your own water and provisions. Students, faculty and staff are also invited, and if you’re interested in joining, please email Hinckley (hinckley@uw.edu) to maximize car space and make sure he’s expecting you!

Also, hold October 5 and 6 open for a Methow Valley hike to see the subalpine larches!

Photo © Tom Hinckley
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Alumni Spotlight: Christina Galitsky

Christina Galitsky

After nearly a decade as an engineer, Galitsky changed course and headed to graduate school to study wildlife ecology at SEFS.

“Ecology is so much harder than engineering, despite what the majority of the population might think,” says Christina Galitsky, who recently earned a Master of Science from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). She would know: After nearly a decade as an engineer, Galitsky moved to Seattle in 2009 to begin graduate study in wildlife ecology—trading factories for field work, and lab goggles for binoculars.

What prompted this turnabout was many years in the making, and it started with a simple desire to feel more energized by her work.

Originally from Allentown, Pa., Galitsky moved to California in 1996 to attend graduate school at Berkeley. She had always excelled at math and science and felt it was a natural fit to study chemical engineering. After school, she spent the next nine years as a full-time engineer, first with an environmental consulting firm in Oakland and then with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Her work involved solving basic engineering problems for some of the poorest people in the world. No question, she says, the projects were immensely important and rewarding. Yet she got to a point where she’d be in a meeting and watch her colleagues be giddy and raving about a tiny engineering tweak, like getting a minute increase in efficiency, and she realized she wanted to share that same pulse of excitement with her job someday—and it wasn’t going to happen as an engineer.

Christina Galitsky

In her free time, Galitsky is an accomplished rock climber, mountaineer, snowboarder and lover of all things outdoors.

Galitsky decided to take some time off work to figure out her next move. She spent a summer interning with the U.S. Geological Survey on the Olympic Peninsula and researched graduate programs and professors studying wildlife biology, conservation and related areas.

She soon discovered SEFS and was particularly attracted to the work Professor Josh Lawler was doing with climate change and landscape ecology. She wanted to be involved in research that would directly influence policy or on-the-ground management, and when she met Lawler and visited campus, she felt a strong connection. “At first it was his research, and then our conversations,” she says. “I really liked his lab and the way he has his students weigh in on potential next students, which I think is really unique and special. Josh was clearly passionate about what he does and wanted to make a difference in the world. I liked all of those things about him.”

After so many years in the workforce, Galitsky wasn’t eager to take out new student loans and debt, so she was relieved to find that Lawler had funding for another Master’s student. Plus, he was open to her doing field work, which became the heart of her graduate program.

For her thesis, “Effects of Local Vegetation and Landscape Patterns on Avian Biodiversity in the Threatened Oak Habitat of the Willamette Valley, Ore.,” she spent several field seasons meticulously documenting birds, learning to recognize species by sight and sound, patiently listening and watching for long hours.

Christina Galitsky

Galitsky out birding.

“I found field work really hard, frustrating and amazing, all at the same time, every day,” she says. “Getting to see the sunrise every day and hear the birds in the morning was great. But having to get up at 3 a.m., not so good.”

The stress of field work, too, was different from her previous office deadlines. If things don’t go right in a field season—if your research doesn’t come together, or you need to adjust your methods—you’re in school for another year. “There’s more urgency to figure out how to make it right,” she says.

Galitsky persevered, of course, and she credits her committee, which included SEFS Professors John Marzluff and Aaron Wirsing, for their critiques and encouragement in building her confidence as a researcher. Above all, she’s grateful for Lawler’s support as her advisor. “Working with Josh was the highlight for me,” she says. “He just blew me away with how understanding, helpful and encouraging he was. He always seemed to have time for me, and he really helped me through grad school, probably more than he knows.”

Now, her transition from engineer to ecologist is complete: As of May 1, 2013, Galitsky is the program coordinator for Tree Kangaroo Conservation at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

Not quite two months into her new gig, she says she feels privileged to have found a home at the intersection of so many of her interests. “The tree kangaroo program has both a wildlife and a people component, which was exactly what I wanted,” she says. “I think that’s why this project hits home to me. It’s been really fun working in a place where everyone has the same passions about animals and conservation.”

Tree Kangaroo

This photo, taken by Bruce Beehler, captures an incontrovertible truth about tree kangaroos: their incredible stuffed-animal cuteness.

Tree kangaroos are found only in one small region of Papua New Guinea, and Galitsky hopes she’ll get a chance to travel there in the next year or two with her boss, Dr. Lisa Dabek. Her current position, though, is not as a field research biologist, and she’s been focusing on fundraising, program management and outreach. “I’m probably most excited about the outreach,” she says. “We scientists aren’t always the best communicators, and I enjoy the challenge of being the link between scientific research and the public.”

As she settles into her new role, Galitsky has no regrets about her past career. Her new work, she says, isn’t more worthwhile; it’s just more her. Unlike her years spent in cement plants or steel factories, where she felt invested if not inspired, these days she finally has her passions and profession in tune. How can she tell? This time, the line between work and play is awfully fuzzy.

“I still love going out and watching birds and trying to identify them, probably to the dismay of my boyfriend and everyone around me,” says Galitsky. “I can’t shut it off!”

Photos of Christina Galitsky © Matt Gerhart; photo of tree kangaroo © Bruce Beehler.

Tree Kangaroo (Photo by Bruce Beehler)

SEFS Graduation Speaker: Dean Thomas Maness

For the SEFS graduation celebration this Friday, June 14, we are extremely pleased to welcome Professor Thomas Maness, Dean of the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, as the keynote speaker. A SEFS alumnus, Maness is a leading voice in forestry research and education, and he brings an incredible wealth of professional and academic experience from across the United States and Canada.

Dean Thomas Maness

Thomas Maness

We caught up with Dean Maness this week as he prepares to address the latest class of SEFS graduates. Reflecting on his time as a doctoral student at UW in the 1980s, he spoke of the promising career landscape today’s students can find in the forestry and natural sciences fields.

“Right now there’s a huge opportunity for graduates because so many people who had started their careers in the 1970s and ‘80s are retiring now,” says Maness. “I remember when I graduated, the problem was that the pipeline was full and it was difficult to get promoted. That’s not true now. You see it everywhere, in land management and public agencies or private companies, it’s all the same—there are a lot of opportunities for promotion and career advancement.”

One of the keys to success as a new applicant or employee, he says, will be your approach to work. “I think attitude is everything. Graduates are coming out and they now know the language, but they have to learn the culture. They have to work hard, be responsible and want to learn. That’s what companies are looking for: People who can socialize into their organizations really quickly and be decision-makers.”

Just as important in this profession is being able to present yourself and your ideas, he says. “I think communication is key. To survive in natural resources, you have to have really good communication skills. It doesn’t matter if you’re an economist or an ecologist, you’ve got to be able to connect with people.”

We won’t scoop his talk any further, and we look forward to hearing more on Friday!

The SEFS Graduation Celebration will run from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Kane Hall 120. A reception will directly follow in the Anderson Hall courtyard.

About the Speaker
Maness, who lives in Corvallis, Ore., with his wife Nicole, earned his Bachelor’s degree in forest management from West Virginia University in 1979, and then a Master’s in forest operations at Virginia Tech in 1981. He then headed west to work for Weyerhaeuser Company as a forest engineer in the Klamath Falls region of Oregon. His responsibilities ranged from developing forest-planning models, to conducting financial analyses for large-scale capital projects, to designing and installing manufacturing optimization systems for West Coast sawmills.

From Weyerhaeuser, Maness returned to school and earned his doctorate in forest economics from the College of Forest Resources at UW (now SEFS). He then joined the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia, where he served in various capacities for 20 years.

His career highlights are many, including founding the Canadian National Centre of Excellence in Advanced Wood Processing, as well as the BC Forum on Forest Economics and Policy. He led an effort to design and implement a completely new undergraduate program at UBC, which won the Yves Landry Foundation Award for the most innovative Canadian university-level manufacturing technology program in 2002. Later, in 2008, Maness served as senior policy analyst with the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C., researching and writing on climate mitigation and wood energy policy. He joined OSU’s College of Forestry in 2009 and in 2012 became dean of the College of Forestry and director of the Oregon Forest Research Laboratory.

Maness’ research interests include developing innovative forest policies and practices to balance the production of traditional forest products with society’s expanding need for ecosystem services, energy and climate mitigation. He has also developed and taught courses in Forest & Conservation Economics, Sustainable Forest Management and Quality Management.

Photo of Dean Maness © Oregon State College of Forestry

Operation Reboot: SEFS Alumni Union

Alumni Snowshoe Trip

SEFS alumni gather for a snowshoeing trek in the Cascades.

A few months ago, I turned on my home computer and watched the small wheel spin. The screen eventually turned blue. I experienced a moment of hope, and then the wheel froze. Neither a reboot nor a reinstalling of the operating system fixed the problem. ..drat! To computer wasteland our beloved iMac was heading. At the same time, I was working with a few dedicated alumni to reboot the SEFS alumni group. I was hoping that our reboot wouldn’t result in the same frozen state; that, instead, we would start the wheel spinning and it would take off!

I’m happy to report that the reboot appears to be successful! Earlier this month, we had our first official meeting, with 18 people participating and lots of great ideas being planned and discussed. The gears are starting to move. The wheels are starting to turn. The newly hired Director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Tom DeLuca, and the Dean of the College of the Environment, Lisa Graumlich, are supportive of and encouraged by the direction our group is taking.

THE STRUCTURE
First, our new name: an alumni union?  Similar to a student union, but for alumni. A group of people who share the common bond of alma mater and a desire to help build and foster the community surrounding our former academic home. We are grassroots and decentralized, but networked, supportive and collaborative. We are fun. We are young, we are old. We are students, we work, we are retired. We studied forestry, we studied restoration ecology, we studied pulp and paper. We live in Seattle, we live in Oregon, we live in Florida. We focus our energies where we have interest and enthusiasm.

Alumni Hike

Group hike at Heather Lake.

THE ACTIVITIES 
Right now, we have more than 25 people involved—and more are always welcome! The current members are beginning to formulate activities and projects. Some of us will host happy hours at downtown restaurants, some will host BBQs at their homes or Pack Forest, some will work on special outreach or history projects, some will start seeking support to replenish the student scholarships fund, and some will help us connect with more students, alumni and industry contacts. Stay tuned for invites and opportunities to events near you.

GETTING TOGETHER  
We are planning for an inclusive, alumni-wide gathering this spring at the Center for Urban Horticulture. It will be a casual affair—BBQ and potluck—and a wonderful opportunity to bring your family and friends and reconnect with the SEFS community.  More information will be coming soon, and we hope to see many familiar and new faces there!

Be sure to connect with us on Facebook and LinkedIn, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m at your service!

Ara Erickson (’04), SEFS Alumni Union Captain

Photos courtesy of Jessica Farmer.