Institute of Forest Resources Announces Four Research Grant Winners

This March, the Institute of Forest Resources awarded four grants through the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research program, totaling $374,877 in funding. After final approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these projects will begin during the 2016 Fall Quarter and last two years, wrapping up by September 30, 2018.

Read more about the funded projects below!

Awarded Projects

1. Sustainable Development of Nanosorbents by Catalytic Graphitization of Woody Biomass for Water Remediation

PI: Professor Anthony Dichiara, SEFS
Co-PI: Professor Renata Bura, SEFS

The present research proposes the development of a simple, sustainable and scalable method to produce high-value carbon nanomaterials from woody biomass. As-prepared carbon products will be employed as adsorbents of large capacity and high binding affinity to remove pesticides from hydrological environments. This project will (i) help mitigate forest fires by limiting the accumulation of dry residues in forest lands, (ii) create new market opportunities to transform the wood manufacturing industry and reinvigorate rural communities, and (iii) minimize potential exposure to hazardous contaminants.

Award total: $109,869

2. Trophic Relationships of Reintroduced Fishers in the South Cascades

PI: Professor Laura Prugh, SEFS

In 2015, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began reintroducing fishers (Pekania pennanti) to the South Cascades. The west coast fisher population has been proposed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (decision due by April 2016), and fisher recovery is thus a high priority in Washington. Fisher habitat use has been studied with respect to denning and rest site characteristics, but effects of forest management and stand characteristics on establishment success of reintroduced fishers remains unknown. In collaboration with agency partners, we propose to study how forest structure and management impact prey availability, competitor abundance and fisher establishment in the South Cascades.

Award total: $99,679

3. High-value Chemicals and Gasoline Additives from Pyrolysis and Upgrade of Beetle-killed Trees

PI: Professor Fernando Resende, SEFS
Co-PI: Professor Anthony Dichiara, SEFS

In this project, we will convert beetle-killed lodgepole pine into fuel additives and valuable chemicals (hydrocarbons) using a technique called ablative pyrolysis combined with an upgrading step. We developed a novel and unique system for pyrolysis of wood that has the capability of converting entire wood chips into bio-oil. This characteristic is important for mobile pyrolysis units, because it eliminates the need of grinding wood chips prior to pyrolysis.

Award total: $109,861

4. Bigleaf Maple Decline in Western Washington

PI: Professor Patrick Tobin, SEFS
Co-PI: Professor Greg Ettl, SEFS

We propose to investigate the extent and severity of a recently reported decline in bigleaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, in the urban and suburban forests of Western Washington, and to differentiate between possible abiotic and biotic drivers of the decline. Specifically, we propose to (1) survey the spatial extent of bigleaf maple decline (BLMD) and record associated environmental, anthropogenic, and weather conditions that are associated with BLMD presence and absence; (2) use dendrochronological techniques to analyze and compare growth rates of healthy and symptomatic trees to further differentiate the potential roles of abiotic and biotic drivers of the decline; and (3) to link the data collected under Objectives 1 and 2 with previous  records of BLMD collected by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to ascertain the spatial-temporal pattern associated with BLMD in Western Washington.

Award total: $55,468

Carbon Seminar: Winter 2016 Schedule

This winter, we are excited to host the first Carbon Seminar (ESRM 429a), which runs Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 9:20 a.m. in Anderson 223 (apologies for this announcement coming too late for the first talk). It features weekly lectures from leading UW scientists who are covering the applications and cycles of carbon—the most interdisciplinary element!

The talks are open to the public, so check out the full schedule below and join us as often as you can!

posterWeek 1: January 5
“Diagnosing drought in a changing climate”
Professor Abigail Swann, Atmospheric Sciences & Biology

Week 2: January 12
“Forests, fire and reality in the global C cycle”
Director Tom DeLuca, SEFS

Week 3: January 19
“Deep soil C quantification and modeling”
Jason James, SEFS doctoral student

Week 4: January 26
“Climate adaptations in the Pacific Northwest”
Dean Amy Snover, Director, Climate Impacts Group

Week 5: February 2
“Life Cycle Assessment of bio-products and technology”
Professor Indroneil Ganguly, SEFS/CINTRAFOR

Week 6: February 9
“Crude oil remediation of soils by earthworm symbionts”
Professor Seana Davidson, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Week 7: February 16
“Water remediation from biomass-based C nanomaterials”
Professor Anthony Dichiara, SEFS

Week 8: February 23
“Microbial C production and diversity on the early Earth”
Dr. Eva Stueeken, NASA Postdoctoral Associate, Astrobiology

Week 9: March 1
“Applied climatology and wildfire C emissions”
Dr. Sim Larkin, Research Physical Climatologist and Team Leader, U.S. Forest Service AirFire Team

Week 10: March 8
“Microorganisms and the marine C cycle”
Professor Anitra Ingalls, Oceanography

SEFS Seminar Series: Winter 2016 Schedule!

The schedule is set for the Winter 2016 SEFS Seminar Series, and this quarter we’ve organized the talks around the theme of “Ecosystem Carbon.” Topics range from carbon nanomaterials to the oil sands of Alberta, and SEFS Director Tom DeLuca will kick off the series on Wednesday, January 6!

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.

SEFS SEMINAR Carbon: Nanotubes to Biome Fluxes  Winter 2016 223Check out the schedule below and join us for as many talks as you can!

Week 1: January 6*
“Why the food yard waste bin is a good thing (carbon accounting for food scraps)”
Professor Sally Brown, SEFS

Week 2: January 13
“Carbon in New Guinea rain forests: Storage, dynamics and community-based conservation”
Dr. John Vincent, SEFS

Week 3: January 20
“Synthesis of carbon nanomaterials from biomass for environmental remediation”
Professor Anthony Dichiara, SEFS

Week 4: January 27
“Ecosystem genetics and riparian forest carbon flux: From common garden experiments to the field”
Professor Dylan Fischer, The Evergreen State College

Week 5: February 3*
“The carbon conundrum for aquatic ecosystems: Where does it all come from?”
Professor David Butman, SEFS

Week 6: February 10
“Soil carbon: A future for sequestration?”
Director Tom DeLuca, SEFS

Week 7: February 17
“Controlling processes of carbon uptake and distribution and their importance for productivity”
Professor Emeritus David Ford, SEFS

Week 8: February 24
“What deep soils can tell us about forest productivity and resilience”
Professor Rob Harrison, SEFS

Week 9: March 2*
“Forest community reassembly with climate change”
Professor Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, UW Biology

Week 10: March 9

“Measuring ecosystem function in the Athabasca oil sands region of Alberta: Problems and solutions”
Professor Derek MacKenzie, University of Alberta

* Indicates reception after seminar

New Staff Intro: Kurt Haunreiter

This fall, we were very pleased to welcome Kurt Haunreiter has the new manager of the Paper Science Center in Bloedel B-14! He arrived at the beginning of October, right when classes started, and he’s been scrambling to get the paper lab back in shape. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” he says.

2015_11_Kurt HaunreiterHaunreiter, who lives north of Everett, Wash., earned a bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of Washington, and then a master’s from the Georgia Tech Institute of Paper Science and Technology. He started in the industry as an analytical chemist for the James River Corporation in Camas, Wash., and then held positions as a process engineer, tissue operations manager and pulp manufacturing superintendent at Kimberly-Clark in Everett.

A big part of what attracted him to this position was the opportunity to work with students, and this quarter he’s been assisting Professor Anthony Dichiara with BSE 248: Paper Properties. He attends every class, making sure the lab is ready and writing simplified procedures for each instrument the students use for the course.

Fridays are papermaking days, as well, and Haunreiter has been working with a few BSE students to get the paper pilot machine fully operational in time for the senior papermaking class this winter (which will led by Shannon Ewanick and taught jointly with Professor Dichiara). His goal is to have the students more directly engaged in the process, and he’s been writing new procedures so they can eventually operate the paper machine independently.

If you haven’t had a chance to introduce yourself yet, we hope you’ll join us in welcoming Haunreiter to the SEFS community!

Photo of Kurt Haunreiter © Karl Wirsing/SEFS; photo of papermaking © Kurt Haunreiter.

BSE students at work in the paper lab last Friday, November 20.

BSE students at work in the paper lab last Friday, November 20.

New Faculty Intro: Anthony Dichiara

This fall, we were very excited to welcome Professor Anthony Dichiara as a new faculty member with our Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program. Dichiara joins us after two years with the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., where he had been working as a postdoc with Professor Reginald Rogers. He brings an extensive background in materials science and engineering, and his research here will focus on the synthesis of carbon-based nanomaterials from biomass—with applications in multifunctional composites and environmental remediation, including the development of innovative ways to improve the sustainability of the biorefinery process.

“I’ve always been interested in nanomaterials,” says Dichiara, who grew up near Fontainebleau, France, about an hour outside of Paris. “From a very early age, you have those people who are interested in space and everything that’s huge. On the reverse end, I was always into everything that’s small. You look at planets, I look at atoms.”

Dichiara and his wife Emma are living in Bellevue, and they have a little boy, Ayden, who’s 16 months old.

Dichiara and his wife Emma are living in Bellevue with son Ayden, who is 16 months old.

Dichiara earned his bachelor’s and master’s in materials science and engineering, as well as a master’s in optics and nanotechnology, from the University of Technology in Troyes, France. He then earned his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from École Centrale Paris in 2012.

As part of his master’s double degree program, Dichiara spent about a year on a fellowship doing research in optical applications of nanomaterials in Hsinchu, the Silicon Valley of Taiwan. It was a defining experience personally and professionally, he says, as he met his future wife Emma there and sharpened his career outlook. “When I was doing my research in Taiwan, that’s when I realized I wanted to work with nanomaterials for my career,” he says. “That’s where I decided I wanted to go into academia and have more freedom with my research.”

Dichiara’s research initially focused on synthesizing nanomaterials, which are comprised of incredibly tiny nanoparticles and have broad uses in industries from healthcare to electronics and aerospace. His pioneering work on hybrid structures contributed to record performances in multifunctional polymer composites and water purification.

His overall goals haven’t changed, he says, but at SEFS he’s shifting to a biomass perspective and no longer using synthetic materials. He’ll be starting from nature, trying to create carbon-based nanomaterials that mimic the natural world—and that have powerful applications in the production of biofuels and other bioproducts.

Working with his new BSE colleagues, he’s already collaborating on a project to increase the efficiency of water treatment at biorefineries. That’s one of the main costs of producing biofuels, and Dichiara is looking to improve methods of cleaning toxic pollutants from the water to make the biorefinery process more cost-effective and sustainable. A related project involves working with biomass that comes from waste management, and trying to transform those materials into high-value products to treat water at a biorefinery. It’s using waste from one industry to solve the challenges of another. The result would be a synergistic, highly sustainable waste management system that brings us closer to the long-term goal of a biorefinery that create zero emissions and zero waste.

As he jumps into these projects, Dichiara has been getting settled in his office in Bloedel 288, and his lab refurbishment should be complete by the end of November. He’s hoping to start advertising for grad students this spring, as well, and he already started teaching this quarter with BSE 248: Paper Properties. “It’s pretty exciting to meet the students from UW,” he says. “They are really bright and dynamic.”

It’s wonderful to have Dichiara’s energy and expertise at SEFS, and we hope you’ll join us in welcoming him to our community!

Photo © Anthony Dichiara.

Director’s Message: Spring 2015

While I was out running at 5 a.m. the other morning, I was thrilled to see the sky beginning to lighten on the horizon. Getting up and out the door at that hour is pretty brutal any time of year, but it’s particularly discouraging during the darkest, dampest months. So that faint glow offered a wonderful promise of lengthening days throughout April and into the summer.

We’re starting to see a similar horizon in our school, and it comes on the heels of an extended ‘winter’ of retirements. Each quarter, it seems, we’ve had to say goodbye to another round of great friends and colleagues, including some of our longest-tenured professors—from Dave Manuwal, Tom Hinckley and Bob Edmonds to Steve West, then David Ford and Kevin Hodgson, and now Frank Greulich, Bruce Bare and Gordon Bradley.

2015_04_Spring 2015These farewells have been sad and profound, and it’s hard to quantify just how much their absence will affect our community. The personality of a school or university, after all, is never static. It’s always shifting and evolving with the people who work here, and you can never exactly replace the experience—let alone the institutional memory and character—of one faculty member with another.

Yet these departures have also signaled a period of opportunity and new beginnings for the school. We’ve already added three new professors this year, and I’m excited to welcome their energy and ideas. Professor David Butman is a watershed biogeochemist who has joined us from Yale University as a joint appointment with Civil and Environmental Engineering. David studies carbon and nitrogen flux in whole watershed studies, and he provides our programs with an increasingly important perspective in freshwater ecosystems. Professor Patrick Tobin is our new disturbance ecologist who joined us from the U.S. Forest Service in Morgantown, W.Va. Patrick is an entomologist and forest health specialist who primarily focuses on large-scale insect infestations of forest ecosystems, and his work has broad applications for forest management. Through some internal shuffling, we were then able to hire Professor Peter Kahn in a half-time capacity. Peter is an eco-psychologist who works on evaluating the human relationship with nature, and he holds a joint appointment with the Department of Psychology.

As our new faculty members have gotten settled, we have also hosted several additional searches this winter and spring. We have now hired—or are in the process of hiring—three more professors, with the possibility of a fourth coming soon. On April 1, Dr. Bernard Bormann took over as the new director of our Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks, Wash. Bernard joins us after 34 years with the Forest Service, and his research focuses on forest ecology and physiology. Dr. Anthony Dichiara is a chemical engineer who comes to us from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Anthony will join our bioresource science and engineering group this fall, providing new expertise in bioproducts. By then, we’ll also be welcoming at least one new quantitative wildlife ecologist, and it now looks like we’ll be able to hire two.

These faculty members bring a wealth of new strengths and capacities. They’ll greatly enhance our ability to address the complexities of land management, and the potential for new and dynamic products both here and abroad. And they give me hope for what we’ll be able to accomplish in the coming years—in the lab and in the classroom, and in all of the environments around us.

So while it would be easy to dwell on all we’re losing, I’ll also hold onto the feeling of that sunrise, and the promise of new beginnings.

Tom DeLuca
School of Environmental and Forest Sciences