SEFS Students Volunteer at “Meet the Mammals”

Last month, SEFS grad students Laurel Peelle and Jack DeLap volunteered in the annual “Meet the Mammals” event held at the Burke Museum on Saturday, November 14. It’s the only day of the year when the museum brings out hundreds of specimens from its extensive mammalogy collection for visitors to see and touch, and this year more than 1,100 people—a record high—joined the fun.

Peelle engages with a young scientist in the making.

Peelle engages with a young scientist in the making.

Led by Mammalogy Collection Manager and SEFS alumnus Jeff Bradley (’00, M.S.) and Curator of Mammals Sharlene Santana, the Burke Museum organizes Meet the Mammals for guests of all ages to explore species from tigers and bats to sea otters and even a live llama. Mammal experts were on hand all day to answer questions about their particular specimens, and other activities ranged from live music played on instruments made from mammals, to putting together a 16-foot whale skeleton.

DeLap has volunteered four of the last five years, and this time he helped out with the “Limbs & Locomotion” table, which featured museum specimens (skins, skeletons, print infographics, video) illustrating mammalian adaptations for walking/running, flying, swimming and digging. The leader of his table was Tamlyn Sapp, a former SEFS undergrad (’13) and student of ESRM 351 who is pursuing a career in zoo keeping.

Over at Peelle’s table, she was showcasing some of her research involving Canada lynx and snowshoe hares. Her display featured two hare pelts (one winter and one summer), along with a stuffed bobcat and lynx, for folks to touch—and the steady stream of visitors kept her busy from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. “I was hoarse by the end of the day, literally talking for six hours straight,” she says. “It was crazy but really, really awesome!”

DeLap fields questions at the “Limbs & Locomotion” table.

DeLap fields questions at the “Limbs & Locomotion” table.

It’s a much different kind of outreach than a public talk, says Peelle. Instead of standing up at a podium and fielding a few questions afterward, she got to spend six hours engaged in back-and-forth discussions about her research, and she learned a great deal through those wide-ranging—and often eye-opening—conversations. “For one thing, I realized that 99 percent of people in Washington don’t even know that we have Canada lynx as a native species here,” says Peelle. “It was cool to see people take pride in learning something new about their state.”

The crowd included lots of families with young children, as well, and Peelle loved hearing insights from budding scientists. One girl came through and looked at the stuffed lynx specimen on the table. She was feeling the paws and spreading out the toes with her hands, and she asked whether that adaptation made it easier for the lynx to walk on snow—like natural snowshoes. “She was so observant,” says Peelle. “It was really inspiring.”

Photos © Jeff Bradley/Burke Museum.


Wildlife Science Seminar: Fall Schedule!

Next week we kick off another quarter of the long-running Wildlife Science Seminar, starting with Professor John Marzluff for the first talk, “Living with nature in your backyard.”

Professor Marzluff is leading the seminar this fall, and he’s put together an outstanding slate of speakers, from visiting professors and experts, to faculty in other departments around campus, to a couple of our own graduate students.

You can catch the seminars on Mondays from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Kane Hall 120. (Undergraduate students may register for credit under ESRM 455; graduate students under SEFS 554.)

The public is invited, so check out the full schedule below and mark your calendars!

Wildlife SeminarWeek 1: September 29
“Living with nature in your backyard”
Dr. John Marzluff
, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 2: October 6
“Patterns of evolution among New World birds”
Dr. John Klicka
, Burke Museum and Department of Biology, UW

Week 3: October 13 
“Brain mechanisms of vocal learning in songbirds”
Dr. David Perkel
, Departments of Biology and Otolaryngology, UW

Week 4: October 20
“Tigers in Malaysia”
Dr. Fred Koontz
, Woodland Park Zoo

Week 5: October 27
“Wildlife issues on the UW campus”
Dr. Charles Easterberg
, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, UW

Week 6: November 3
“Monitoring raptors on the Washington Coast”
Dr. Daniel Varland,
Coastal Raptors, Hoquiam

Week 7: November 10
“Outdoor recreation and the still unlovely mind”
Dr. Richard Knight
, Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

Week 8: November 17
Talk TBD
Dr. Gordon Orians, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology, UW

Week 9: November 24
“American crows use funerals as an opportunity to learn about dangers”
Kaeli Swift
, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 10: December 1
Talk TBD
Clint Robbins, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Feathered Fun

On Wednesday, March 5, 4th grader and avid birder Hudson Brown sat down for some lively discussion about all things avian with Professor John Marzluff of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).


Hudson Brown, Richard Lasser and John Marzluff outside of Anderson Hall.

Brown, who is 9 years old and lives in Queen Anne, has already developed a remarkable knowledge of birds. His family—including his grandfather Richard Lasser, who joined him at SEFS—has been fanning that curiosity by taking Hudson to visit other experts in the area, including a stop to meet with Professor John Klicka at the Burke Museum (who tested, and was apparently duly impressed by, Hudson’s ability to identify hundreds of specimens in the museum’s collections and tucked in basement drawers).

For this visit, Marzluff toured Hudson around his lab and then showed him the vast corvidae family, from ravens and magpies to nutcrackers, in his massive Handbook of the Birds of the World. The aspiring ornithologist, in turn, had plenty questions of his own. His family had recently returned from Hawaii’s Big Island, and Hudson was curious about how the Hawaiian crow got so endangered, and if there was any way to get rid of mongoose on the islands—to which Marzluff responded that he’d once caught and grilled mongooses (though he didn’t recommend it).

We ran out of time long before Hudson ran out of questions, but Marzluff gave him several ideas for how to continue exploring and developing his interest in birds. We also sent him home with a new SEFS t-shirt and hope to see him again soon!

Photos © SEFS.

Hudson and Marzluff


Arboretum to Unveil New Zealand Collection

Coming up on Sunday, September 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the public is invited to attend the official dedication of the New Zealand Forest, the most significant addition to the Washington Park Arboretum in decades!

First conceived nearly 10 years ago, the 2-acre New Zealand collection will feature more than 10,000 plants, shrubs and grasses that are found on New Zealand’s South Island. The exhibit—located on a boulder-strewn hillside crisscrossed with rock swales—is the second of five eco-geographic forests to be completed in the Arboretum’s Pacific Connections Garden, which will eventually cover 14 acres and be the largest exhibit of its kind in North America.

New Zealand Forest

The New Zealand Forest under construction this past May.

Construction of the New Zealand Forest cost roughly $2 million, with funding from the Arboretum Foundation and the 2008 Parks and Green Space Levy, and planners are extremely excited to see the garden opened to the public.

“This is our legacy to leave behind for future generations to enjoy, like Azalea Way or the Winter Garden,” says Fred Hoyt, associate director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG), which owns and manages the collections at the Arboretum.

The opening celebration—organized in partnership with the Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Association and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture—will pay homage to New Zealand’s culture and ethnobotanical history. The dedication will include a Māori dance troupe from Vancouver, British Columbia, to perform a traditional “haka,” or war dance. Caine Tauwhare, a Māori wood carver who carved the slats for a park bench in the new forest, is also traveling from Christchurch (Seattle’s sister city in New Zealand) for a demonstration. Members of the local Muckleshoot Tribe will be there to greet the Māori, who by custom won’t enter a new land until the native people have welcomed them. (In the lead-up to the formal dedication, the Burke Museum will be highlighting its New Zealand collection, and the Māori dance group and carver will be there on Saturday, September 14, for a separate performance and demo.)

Sunday’s festivities will also include a host of speakers, including speeches from Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, UW Vice Provost for Global Affairs Jeffrey Riedinger, New Zealand Honorary Consul Rachel Jacobson, and senior officials from the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and the Arboretum Foundation.

New Zealand Forest

The New Zealand Forest last week, coming together beautifully in time for the public dedication.

Building the New Zealand Forest has been an enormous collaborative effort that has involved the support of many partners, including Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Arboretum Foundation and The Berger Partnership, the design firm hired for the project. UWBG Director Sarah Reichard and Hoyt have been closely involved in the planning and creation of this new exhibit since its inception, and they’re grateful for all of the community volunteers and energy, as well as the citizens of Seattle for supporting the levy that funded the garden’s infrastructure.

As the New Zealand Forest matures, it will be a spectacular new garden to enjoy at the Arboretum. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in unfamiliar landscapes—modeled on actual plant communities from the South Island of New Zealand—and discover beautiful plants they’ve never seen before. When you do visit, though, be mindful that many of the plants will be small for a while yet. Of course, that’s part of the joy of a collection like this: It will continue growing and changing for as long as it’s here. “No garden is ever done,” says Reichard, and they will keep adding new plants for years to come.

Check back with UWBG closer to the date for the most updated schedule of activities. The dedication is free and open to the public—no ticket or RSVP required—and will take place at the Pacific Connections meadow at the south end of the Arboretum. There will be live music, a ribbon cutting, cake and lemonade, and tours of the new garden. So come out and explore the New Zealand Forest!

Parking and Transportation
Arboretum Drive will be open to one-way traffic, going south, for the duration of the event. Parking will be permitted along the right-hand side of the drive, as well as in designated Arboretum parking lots. To help reduce traffic, please consider using public transportation, or coming by bike or on foot.

New Zealand Forest
Photos © SEFS.