SEFS Students Honored with College Scholarships

The College of the Environment recently announced the winners of the 2014-2015 Dean’s Office Scholarships, and we were thrilled—though certainly not surprised—to see six of our students among the honorees! Check out the specific scholarships and recipients below:

Nancy Wilcox Endowed Scholarship
This scholarship is made possible by the generosity of former UW Provost Phyllis Wise, who established it to support students pursuing degrees in the College of the Environment. Dr. Wise named the endowment in honor and memory of her late sister, Nancy E. Wang Wilcox, a middle school teacher who tried to develop the minds of young adolescents using creative and innovative ways of learning.  It is this legacy that inspired Provost Wise to establish this endowment to carry on her sister’s commitment to helping others achieve their educational goals.

SEFS Recipients: Dana Chapman, a sophomore ESRM major, and Emily Richmond, a junior ESRM major.

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College of the Environment Scholarship
This scholarship is made possible by the generosity of donors. The scholarship was created to support both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in the College of the Environment.

SEFS Recipients: graduate students Benjamin Antonius, Benjamin Roe and Maria Carrere Zamanillo, and sophomore Natalie Pollett.

Congratulations to all of you, and keep up the great work!

Nominations Open for College of the Environment Awards

The College of the Environment is now seeking nominations to honor students, staff and faculty who make exceptional and meaningful contributions to the College community. Award categories include distinguished staff member, outstanding teaching faculty, outstanding researcher, outstanding community impact, and Dean’s medals for undergraduate and graduate students. Check out last year’s winners, and see below for specific requirements and eligibility for each award!

To nominate an award recipient, all you have to do is submit a letter of nomination, via catalyst, to Dean Lisa Graumlich (you must have a UW NetID to participate). Letters should be no more than two pages in length and may be from a single nominator or group of nominators. The deadline for all nominations is Friday, February 28, so don’t delay in recognizing your worthy SEFS classmates and colleagues!

Distinguished Staff Member

Criteria: Nominees should provide extraordinary service beyond the basic job description and demonstrate the University of Washington values of integrity, diversity, excellence, collaboration, innovation and respect.

Eligible: College of the Environment staff members who hold a 50 percent or greater permanent appointment, and have been employed at the University for a minimum of six months as of the nomination deadline.

Outstanding Teaching Faculty

Criteria:  Nominees should demonstrate:

* Mastery of subject matter including the continued growth in his/her own teaching
* Demonstration of enthusiasm and innovation in the teaching and learning process
* Ability to engage students both inside and outside of the classroom
* Aptitude to inspire independent and original thinking in students
* Ability to stimulate students to do creative work
* Innovations in course and curriculum design

Eligible: College of the Environment tenure-track, WOT (without tenure) and research faculty; lecturers and instructors.

Outstanding Researcher

Criteria: Research or scholarship contributed within the past two years that has been or has the potential to be widely recognized by peers and whose achievements have had or may have a substantial impact of the profession, on research or the performance of others, or on society as a whole.

Eligible: College of the Environment tenure-track, WOT (without tenure) and research faculty; lecturers, instructors, staff or students who are engaged in research.

Outstanding Community Impact

Criteria: Stakeholder engagement within the past two years that stimulates, inspires and drives interactive uses of environmental science and information to impact the broader community.  Includes, but is not limited to, one or more of the following:

* Working with communities to change management of natural resources
* Bringing diverse groups of people together to address a common problem
* Developing business, economic or industry solutions through hands-on interaction and collaboration
* Affecting or changing city, local or state policies and/or processes

Eligible (two awards):

1.  Staff or faculty, acting within their role in the College, who did not receive the College of the Environment’s Outstanding Public Engagement Award the previous year.
2.  College of the Environment student who did not previously receive the College of the Environment’s Outstanding Public Engagement Award.

Undergraduate Dean’s Medalist

Criteria: Outstanding academic achievement, including research, overall GPA and other measurable academic achievements, as well as outstanding leadership or service, including community service and leadership on or off campus.

Eligible: College of the Environment undergraduate students

Graduate Dean’s Medalist

Criteria: Outstanding academic achievement, including research, overall GPA and other measurable academic achievements, as well as outstanding leadership or service, including teaching, community service and leadership on or off campus.

The Bear Essentials

When you think about salmon in Alaska, you might picture grizzly bears standing in a gushing stream and snapping up spawning fish as they leap against the current. (Even a Steamfresh® Chef’s Favorites frozen dinner commercial plays off this image, as does this John West Red Salmon clip).

But for all the iconic footage of salmon runs, this annual rite of passage and predation has gone largely unstudied from the point of view of individual bears—especially outside of easily observable areas.

The challenge is that observations of bears are generally too few and too close to reveal natural feeding behavior, so most of what we know about the bear-salmon relationship comes from fish carcass surveys: We see what’s been eaten, but not always who did the eating, or how often or where or when. That leaves a lot of unknowns, including how many bears hunt along salmon spawning-streams, and whether bears return to the same stream year after year.

To answer these questions and others, two units in the College of the Environment—the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS)—have launched a coordinated research project.

Professors Wirsing and Quinn

Professors Aaron Wirsing, left, and Tom Quinn. Since 1993, Quinn’s research has explored a number of dimensions of the salmon-bear relationship, including the effects of stream characteristics on bear predation rate, size selectivity, density dependence, evolutionary consequences and links to nutrient cycling.

Led by SAFS Professor Tom Quinn and SEFS Professor Aaron Wirsing, this new study is investigating coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) abundance and behavior along sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) spawning streams in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Their project draws from decades of existing salmon research and introduces a completely new perspective by exploring individual brown bear behavior, including monitoring bears through remote cameras and collecting hair samples for DNA analysis.

The research team is housed at the Fisheries Research Institute, a program within SAFS, and based in the village of Aleknagik. In addition to Professors Quinn and Wirsing, the crew includes SAFS graduate student Curry Cunningham and Professor Lisette Waits from the University of Idaho.

Their work began in 2010 by placing the first cameras along salmon-spawning streams in the Wood River Lakes System. In July 2012, they then deployed barbed wire across three streams to begin snagging tufts of hair from foraging bears. This past summer, they expanded the research area and deployed two barbed wires each on six streams. One wire per stream is paired with a remote camera trap to document what happens when bears encounter the wires. The wires are set just high enough—55-60 centimeters—for bears to step gingerly over them, often leaving small tufts of hair behind (when good samples are collected, they call it a “good hair day”). The hairs, in turn, yield DNA samples that help researchers identify individual bears.

Hair Tuft

A tuft of brown bear hair snagged on a wire.

The study is designed to be noninvasive, so among the questions to answer was whether the wires would impact or otherwise disrupt bear behavior and hunting. Judging from the camera images so far—including many taken at night (see slideshow below)—the bears appear largely unconcerned with the wires, often stepping over and under multiple times in a single encounter (in the process, of course, leaving collectible tufts of hair).

In the first year of hair sampling last summer, the team collected 74 tufts from wires along Bear, Happy, and Hansen creeks. They have analyzed 41 of the samples so far and have successfully identified 15 different individuals—eleven females, four males, and all brown bears.

Field work is just winding down for this summer (at left, check out a slideshow of photos Professor Wirsing took a few weeks ago). They plan to continue the project for a few more years, and as researchers sort through several hundred new samples to analyze, they’re excited to open this window into a largely unseen and unstudied realm of bear behavior.

“Outside of a few highly visible areas, such as the McNeil River, the behavior of brown bears foraging on salmon has been largely shrouded in mystery,” says Wirsing. “We hope our work will reveal how feeding and social behavior of individual bears are shaped by the arrival of migrating salmon—and by extension how coastal brown bear populations might be affected by changes to the size and timing of salmon runs.”

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Super Salmon
In the short video clip below, Professor Wirsing captures sockeye salmon swimming up Hansen Creek, which in some places is only a couple inches deep as it approaches Lake Aleknagik. You’ll get a glimpse—a tiny glimpse, mind you—of the herculean effort it takes for salmon to reach their spawning grounds. Their exertion is nothing short of heroic during this brutal slog. After all, even when they manage to dodge the maw of a hungry grizzly, they still have to muscle their way through narrow, shallow streams to reach their final destinations. In some cases, a few of the larger males get too fatigued to maneuver through the shallowest sections and end up stranded. Those beached souls then sometimes have to suffer through gulls pecking their eyes out as a final insult. No question, it’s an unforgiving business.

Slideshow photos, hair tuft and salmon video © Aaron Wirsing; all other photos © Tom Quinn.

Introducing Kristin Buckley, Philanthropy Officer

Kristin Buckley

Kristin Buckley grew up on Orcas Island and graduated from UW’s Jackson School of International Studies.

This past May, the College of the Environment welcomed Kristin Buckley as a new philanthropy officer to work in support of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) as well as other units in the college. After 16 years in a similar role with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Buckley brings a strong background in fundraising for scientific research.

The University of Washington (UW) will be familiar territory for Buckley, who grew up on Orcas Island and graduated from the Jackson School of International Studies. Her husband is also a UW alumnus who studied at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and now works as a research scientist.

Buckley has another personal connection that made her especially excited to work with SEFS: She and her husband have a family-owned forest on Natapoc Mountain in eastern Washington. They initially purchased it for recreational purposes, she says, but they’ve since taken classes to learn more about how to manage the land for the health of the forest. As time permits, she hopes to take advantage of the many seminars and learning opportunities that abound throughout the SEFS and college community.

Kristin Buckley

Buckley and her husband have a small family-owned forest on Natapoc Mountain in eastern Washington.

A little more than a month on the job, Buckley says she’s still “drinking from the fire hose of new information,” but that’s part of what motivates her about the role. “I’m really enjoying learning about all the research happening here,” she says. “I loved going to the graduations and seeing the enthusiasm of the students, and how SEFS has given them a foundation to go forward.”

As she works to grow that foundation, Buckley will be working with people who wish to support programs involving SEFS faculty and students. Her experience with the language and vocabulary of research will be a big asset. “One of the great things [about this position] is the opportunity to learn about the science and to then describe it for people who want to support the work,” she says.

Buckley remembers walking past Anderson Hall’s beautiful landscaping as a student, and as a long-time Seattle resident she’s spent many hours at the Washington Park Arboretum. Now, of course, her relationship to these facilities is a little deeper, and she can’t wait to work on behalf of the school and college. “Everybody has been so warm and welcoming,” she says. “I am fortunate to have joined such a smart, dynamic and dedicated group.”

She’ll be stationed at 3718 Brooklyn Ave. NE and can be reached at buckleyk@uw.edu. Please join us in welcoming Kristin to our community!

Photos © Kristin Buckley.

Korena Mafune Receives Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Innovation

Korena Mafune

Korena Mafune collecting canopy soil samples last spring along the Queets River.

On December 18, 2012, Korena Mafune was officially named the very first recipient of the Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Innovation. Selected by the University of Washington College of the Environment Scholarship Committee, Mafune will receive $1,000 for research materials and supplies, and a $1,500 scholarship for tuition and fees, for a $2,500 total award.

Mafune, a senior Environmental Science and Resource Management major in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), says the award will allow her to continue exploring her growing fascination with soil and plant ecology.

“While collecting and analyzing samples and data on my current capstone project—analyzing microbial communities in prairie restoration plots—I developed a strong interest for fungal associations, specifically mycorrhizal associations,” she says. “Thanks to the great opportunity provided by the Dean’s award, I will now be able to further my interests and expand the scope of my capstone project. It is an honor to be granted the award. Not only will it allow me to enhance my knowledge in the field, but it will allow us to become familiar with the (mostly) unknown mycorrhizal fungal communities on the prairie restoration plots.”

The Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Innovation funds are competitively awarded to support College of the Environment undergraduates engaged in research, as well as community-based projects or experiential learning, combining academic content and skillset learning with innovative applications to particular issues or problems within an environmental context. These funds are designed to support students not just in completing the level of projects they might already be required to complete for their degree programs, but also in taking their projects to a higher level, significantly adding to the depth, quality, creativity and impact of their work.

The research funding, to be administered by Professor John Bakker, Mafune’s faculty advisor at SEFS, will be dispersed in Winter Quarter 2013.

Congratulations, Korena, on this terrific achievement!

Photo © Korena Mafune.