Alumni (and Staff) Spotlight: Wendy Gibble

While volunteering with the Falcon Research Group in the San Juan Islands a number of years ago, Wendy Gibble remembers repelling down a cliff to reach a peregrine falcon nest. She’d been taking part in a raptor study for several years, and her job was to put bands on the young birds. With each subsequent season visiting a nest, Gibble says the adult falcons grew less tolerant of the intruders—and also far less timid. At first, they would swoop nervously yet stay about 10 feet above the researchers’ heads. After a few years, though, some of them would actually make contact. “You’re hanging on a rope, banding a young falcon, and all the sudden you get this “thwack” on your helmet,” she says.

Wendy Gibble

Before returning to graduate school after 13 years in environmental consulting, Gibble volunteered on a wide range of conservation projects, including several raptor studies.

Armored with that helmet and a sturdy jacket, Gibble didn’t feel in danger, and in fact she loved the excitement of working hands-on with wildlife research and conservation. So much that she regularly sought out similar volunteer projects with several organizations, including Hawkwatch International, and ended up participating in raptor studies at far-flung sites around the world, from Cape May, N.J., to Chile and the Falkland Islands.

She managed all of that, incredibly, on top of her full-time career as an engineer. But her side passions were increasingly elbowing for more room and attention.

Gibble had grown up in Chatham Township, N.J., about 30 miles west of Manhattan, and later studied civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University in New York. She briefly returned to New Jersey after graduation before heeding the call of the Pacific Northwest and its many natural offerings.

“I came for the mountains,” she says, and ended up working in environmental consulting for 13 years, splitting time between a couple firms, including Herrera Environmental Consultants. Some of her work involved construction management for water resource projects, such as drinking water supplies, fish rearing and passage projects. Gibble did some flood modeling and work on landfills, as well as projects on the Columbia and Snake river systems designing hatcheries and fish screens (to prevent fish from getting sucked out with irrigation withdrawal). She also spent time designing water treatment plants, pipeline transmissions, pump stations and other infrastructure related to our drinking water system.

Through she generally enjoyed all of those projects, Gibble felt a growing desire to spend her days working more directly with habitat management and conservation. She’d experienced that world firsthand through her volunteering, but only for a few weeks a year. The tease was too much to keep ignoring.

Wendy Gibble

Getting to do field research across the state, including recently in the Wenatchee Mountains (above), is one of Gibble’s favorite parts of her job with Rare Care.

“I had that moment of, ‘What am I doing?’” she says. “I was running into people all over South America who were doing really cool research projects and wildlife studies, and I just thought it was time for a career change.”

Since she didn’t want to leave the West Coast, Gibble started researching potential graduate programs in California and Washington. She says she had a really good feeling about coming to the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) and ended up pursuing a master’s with Professor Kristiina Vogt as her advisor. Within her overall emphasis on plant ecology, Gibble studied plant invasion in the Puget Sound prairies for her thesis (her other committee members included Professors Charles Halpern and Peter Dunwiddie). She got to be in the field. She got to organize her own research program. She’d found a shared outlet for her personal and professional aptitudes.

As it happened, a few months before Gibble had even earned her M.S. in March 2006, the program manager position opened up with the Washington Rare Plant Care and Conservation Program, or Rare Care, with the UW Botanic Gardens. Gibble had taken a seminar with Professor Sarah Reichard, the director of UWBG, and knew a little bit about the Rare Care program. The timing was hard to beat, and Gibble knew positions like this one didn’t pop up every day in this field, so she jumped at the opportunity and started working while she wrapped up her thesis.

The Rare Care program, housed at the Center for Urban Horticulture, is dedicated to conserving Washington’s rare native plants. It has four main areas of emphasis: researching rare native plants and engaging graduate students in those studies; organizing statewide citizen science monitoring of rare plants (including more than 200 volunteers who do around 5,000 hours of work each year); managing the Miller Seed Vault, a seed banking effort that preserves the seeds of rare plant species; and conducting other outreach projects.

Wendy Gibble

Gibble, center, at the 2014 SEFS Alumni Spring Gathering, held April 27 at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

A big part of what Gibble loves about her role as program manager is that she gets to have a hand in all of these activities, and a couple years ago she took on the additional responsibility of managing the education programs and a seven-person staff. She especially enjoys working closely with students, and getting to spend a lot of time traveling to field sites around the state. “I really like going new places,” she says, “and that’s one of the things I really love about my job. I’ve gone to places I probably never would have seen.”

Some of those excursions include gathering collections for the seed vault, or leading a range of research and monitoring projects. Gibble recently spent a week in the Lake Quinault area working with the Forest Service to map populations of the rare Quinault fawn lily. She’s also been collecting seeds with the Bureau of Land Management out in Washington’s shrub steppe regions, and monitoring Whited milk-vetch south of Wenatchee. “It’s all very cool,” she says.

Of course, even the most satisfying work week still leaves plenty of spare hours, and Gibble isn’t one to wear out a couch. “If I’m in the wilderness, I’m a happy person,” she says, and that means hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, bird watching, gardening, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, you name it—including rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

Wendy Gibble

Gibble on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.

Two summers ago, she added salmon fishing. Gibble and some friends chartered a boat on the west side of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, where she hooked her first Chinook salmon. She doesn’t remember how long she fought the 28-pounder—it was a bit of blur—but she definitely recalls the thrill of the catch, and then the four or so months it took to work her way through all the meat. “It was a ton of fun,” she says.

Not to limit herself to terrestrial and marine adventures, Gibble used to have a pilot’s license, as well. “It was a bucket list kind of thing,” she says, and she flew herself to a number of local destinations, including to Portland, Ore., and out to the San Juan Islands. Yet since flying requires a lot of time and money to stay current and safe, Gibble didn’t keep her license up to date. Plus, as fun as it was to cruise through the sky, she says most of her outdoor passions involve closer contact to nature. “In the end,” she says, “I just want to be on the ground.”

For all the ground she’s covered so far—New Jersey to Washington, Cape May to Chile, engineering to ecology, and countless trips along the way—Gibble knows there’s plenty yet for her to do and explore in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Best of all, she no longer has to wait for vacations and volunteer projects to get there. With Rare Care and the broader SEFS community, she gets to travel regularly and work at the leading edge of environmental research and education every day.

And that, says Gibble, is a rare find indeed.

Photos © Wendy Gibble.

Wendy Gibble

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.

Miller Library Book Sale: April 4 and 5!

Coming up the first weekend of April is the annual Elisabeth C. Miller Library Garden Lovers’ Book Sale. It’s the biggest event of the year and an important fundraiser for the library—not to mention a great time—so mark your calendars and come join the fun!

Miller Library Book SaleThe festivities kick off on Friday, April 4, with a Wine and Cheese Preview Party from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, there’s a silent auction of especially interesting books, and you’ll find plenty of appetizers (enough to make a meal for most people). The following day, Saturday, April 5, the book sale runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s free and open to the public, and all sales go to benefit the Miller Library.

So head over and support the Miller Library, and take part in a wonderful tradition at our school!

Want to chip in?
The library is still collecting book donations! Specifically, they’re looking for new or gently used books that are plant-related, such as about botany, landscape design, horticulture, landscape restoration, etc. Books can be brought to the library, located within the Center for Urban Horticulture, anytime during open hours right up until the day of the sale (Mondays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

To purchase party tickets or for more information about making a book donation, contact Martha Ferguson or call the Miller Library at 206.543.0415.

Keeping the Emerald City Green

Seattle has long been known as the Emerald City because of its lush green environment and beautiful trees, and the city of Seattle hopes to keep its neighborhoods green by actively planting new trees for future generations.

Trees for Neighborhoods

Seattle residents have until October 11 to apply for trees this year.

The greatest potential for planting trees in Seattle is on private residential property, so Seattle reLeaf—housed within Seattle Public Utilities—launched the “Trees for Neighborhoods” project a couple years ago to provide 1,000 free trees each fall for Seattle residents to plant in their yards and planting strips. And this year, for the first time, the University of Washington Botanic Gardens is working with the city to help distribute the trees and engage residents in urban forest stewardship.

The UW Botanic Gardens’ involvement may be new, but the project’s roots with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) run deeper. In fact, Seattle reLeaf Program Manager Jana Dilley earned a joint Masters from SEFS and the Evans School of Public Affairs in 2010, and the Trees for Neighborhoods program was developed based on her thesis research. Now, Dilley and an intern, Katie Gibbons (who is also a current SEFS/Evans graduate student), manage the project.

The city is currently taking applications from interested residents who have space suitable for growing trees. To participate, you must live in Seattle. You can apply to receive up to four trees per household, and when you come to the UW Botanic Gardens’ Center for Urban Horticulture to pick up your plants—either on October 19 or November 3—you’ll receive a brief training on how to properly plant and care for the trees, as well as free watering bags. You’ll also get ongoing care reminders and opportunities for additional training, like pruning workshops, says Jessica Farmer, continuing education coordinator for the UW Botanic Gardens. Farmer is managing the support from the university side, including help with outreach, tree storage, distribution and training.

If you’re hoping to plant in your yard, you have until October 11 to apply for trees. The deadline to apply for street trees has passed, unfortunately, but if you’re interested in receiving advance notice of next year’s application opening, email treesforneighborhoods@seattle.gov.

Trees for Neighborhoods

A number of varieties are already sold out for this year, but you can add your name to the waiting list or sign up to receive early notice when the application process kicks off next year.

As for your tree options, many varieties are already sold out for this year, yet Farmer recommends that you add your name to the waiting list, as more than 50 percent of those on the waiting list received trees last year. This year’s trees with the shortest waiting lists are Austrian pine and Oriental spruce. These larger conifers are often the hardest to place, but Seattle reLeaf encourages residents who have the space to plant them. As they grow and mature, these conifers offer ideal cover for birds and other wildlife, stabilize soil with their roots, and help keep Puget Sound and other water bodies clean by trapping rain runoff and pollutants.

Right now, the trees are still at the growers and will be delivered to the Center for Urban Horticulture in early October. That’s where participating residents will pick up their trees during the distribution days on either October 19 or November 3.

If you have questions about the application process or how to get involved, Seattle reLeaf has assembled a host of great resources to help you navigate the program, including an online and paper option for the application, an up-to-date list of available trees, and “Things To Consider When Planting a Tree” and “Frequently Asked Questions” pages. You can also direct inquiries to treesforneighborhoods@seattle.gov or 206.615.1668.

Photos © Courtesy of Seattle reLeaf

Thesis Defense: Rosemary Baker!

At 9:30 a.m. tomorrow on Tuesday, June 11, Rosemary Baker will be presenting her Master of Environmental Horticulture research in the Douglass Classroom at the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH): “Elwha Revegetation Project: 2012 Lake Aldwell Seeding Trials.”

Rosemary Baker

Lake Aldwell/Elwha River, 2012

Landmark restoration of the Elwha River by the Olympic National Park and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe began in 2011 and involves planting native woody trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs throughout two recently exposed reservoirs. Revegetating by direct seed application supplements these efforts and is intended to speed ecosystem processes by quickly adding organic matter and building soils on fine and coarse glacial sediments. Revegetation efforts are expected to reduce sediment erosion on valley walls and terraces and assist in the natural succession process within the context of restoring relatively pristine riparian habitat for the return of salmonids following a 100-year absence from the Elwha River.

Practical seeding methods and several species mixes were tested on the shoreline of former Lake Aldwell in 2012 and monitored for successful germination, initial growth and resulting stand densities through the summer drought period. Colonization by priority weeds and native tree and shrub recruitment was also assessed.

So make your way to CUH to hear Baker talk about her work during the past two years and its context within the restoration of the Elwha River. All are welcome!

Image © Rosemary Baker.

Dissertation Defense: Eric Delvin!

Eric DelvinAs part of a tripleheader coming up tomorrow on Thursday, May 30, Eric Delvin will be defending his dissertation at 2 p.m.: “Restoring Abandoned Agricultural Lands in Puget Lowland Prairies: A New Approach.”

In his official public defense, Delvin will discuss his five years of research, share results of seeding and companion planting experiments of Castillej levisecta, and highlight a research design feature of the project called Staged-Scale Restoration.

Delvin’s committee chair is Professor Jon Bakker, and other members include SEFS Professor Kern Ewing along with Peter Dunwiddie, Sarah Hamman and Janneke Hille Ris Lambers.

You can catch his talk at the Center for Urban Horticulture (Isaacson Classroom), so mark it down for 2 p.m.!

Photo © Eric Delvin.

Thesis Defense: Lindsey Hamilton!

Lindsey HamiltonThere’s a thesis doubleheader this Tuesday, May 28, so after Lauren Grand kicks things off at 8:30 a.m., head over to the Center for Urban Horticulture to see Lindsey Hamilton present her Master of Environmental Horticulture research at 10:30 a.m. in the Isaacson Classroom!

“Skokomish Savanna Fire Restoration and the Effects on Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinium) and Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Olympic National Forest, Wash.”

All along western Washington, fire has been used for thousands of years by Native American tribes in order to maintain open landscapes that in effect promote particular plant communities and grazing habitat. This study takes place in the southeast Olympic Peninsula, on land that was traditionally burned, likely every 2 to 10 years by the Skokomish Tribe. In this moist Mediterranean climate, a fire regime not imposed by humans would have occurred only every 90 to 300 years. With fire suppression beginning in the late 1800s, a Douglas fir – salal (Pseudotsuga menziesii – Gaultheria shallon) forest established in a once prairie/savanna/ woodland matrix. In 2002, the Olympic National Forest began to restore a 32-acre portion with the intent to enhance landscape and biological diversity and to restore a culturally significant ecosystem.

Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinium) and salal plants were once managed by the use of fire by the Skokomish Tribe in this matrix ecosystem, because of their important food value. Studies suggest that they can co-dominate a fire-managed system in the Pacific Northwest. The objective of Hamilton’s research is to understand how restoration efforts using controlled fires have affected the distribution of bracken fern and salal with respect to environmental factors in order to better understand how to manage for a savanna with a co-dominant understory of both.

Hamilton’s committee chair is Professor Kern Ewing, and other members include James Fridley and David Peter.

Photo © Lindsey Hamilton.

Urban Forest Symposium

Urban Forest SymposiumComing up on Monday, May 15, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG) and PlantAmnesty will be hosting the 5th Annual Urban Forest Symposium. Held at the Center for Urban Horticulture, this year’s symposium will focus on the theme of “Trees and Views,” a contentious issue that often pits view seekers against tree lovers.

Sessions range from “The Aesthetics of Views” to “Views and Laws” to “Trees, Views and Slope Stability.” The symposium draws on a host of experts and practitioners in the field, and topics target a wide range of interested parties, including arborists, attorneys, municipalities, planners, developers, tree advocates and HOAs.

Check out the full program!

Registration is $75 per person, and lunches are available for $15 (or free for the first 100 registrants). A limited number of seats are still available, and lunch ordering will be available until Wednesday, May 8.

Photo © UWBG.

Arboretum History, Maps Going Digital

Grid Map

Arboretum grid map, before.

Since it opened in 1934, the Washington Park Arboretum has hosted thousands of plant collections and species, each with a meticulously kept record and history. Until recently, many of those details from 1934 through the 1980s—when the database became digital—have been preserved solely on paper, scribbled on grid maps or filed in countless handwritten notes.

This past August, though, the University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG) received a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to begin digitizing those records and create an interactive Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map for the entire park. In the end, planners and visitors will be able to go online and pinpoint specific plants and collections within the arboretum, and access all sorts of historical details—a prospect that has everyone at UWBG and the arboretum buzzing.

“People will be able to find an area in the Arboretum, then zoom down and see which plants are there,” says Tracy Mehlin, project manager and information technology librarian at the Center for Urban Horticulture. “It will be really fascinating and educational to have all of that history linked to the plant records, and accessible online to everyone.”

Grid Map

Arboretum grid map, after.

One of the first tasks of the project was to begin surveying and verifying the geospatial coordinates of the 230-acre park, which decades ago was originally divided into 595 grid squares, each 100 feet by 100 feet. When those grid markers and coordinates are confirmed, they will be used to create a map that supports the geo-referenced database. Two- and three-person teams of students and staff have already been out surveying for the past couple months.

It’s a multi-tiered project, and Mehlin has been working closely with other partners at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).

Sarah Reichard, director of UWBG, is the principal investigator on the grant along with Soo-Hyung Kim, a professor of plant ecophysiology. Jim Lutz, a research scientist and engineer with the College of the Environment, has been helping coordinate the student survey crews and GIS mapping, and David Campbell is working on the searchable database and Web interface. Others involved are helping with various projects, including digitizing the existing maps, as well as handwritten notes and histories attached to each of the park’s 10,000 accessions (plants specifically added and catalogued as part of the arboretum’s collections).When completed, the searchable database will be a boon for environmental research and park management. It will also expand interpretative opportunities for visitors.

“The really fun part of it starts when it’s done,” says Reichard. “The idea is that eventually you’d be able to get the coordinates of a particular collection, like our magnolias, and locate them on your cell phone or GPS unit. We can start putting together virtual tours, and visitors can go from plant to plant.”

The grant covers two years and is expected to run through August 2014. By then, anyone with a Web-connected device will have unprecedented access to most of the living collections—barring a few rare species—at the arboretum. And for the rest, you’ll just have to come out and explore the park on foot!

Images courtesy of Tracy Mehlin.

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.