Summer Campers Have Fun Exploring Biogeochemistry

Last week, we wrote about the new Mission Earth Scout One science camp that one our graduate students, Isabel Carrera Zamanillo, launched this August. The camp offers underrepresented middle and high school students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a variety of scientific disciplines, and to help out with the different subjects, Isabel recruited several folks from SEFS to serve as guest scientists for a day. Among the volunteers was SEFS doctoral student Catherine Kuhn, who is part of Professor David Butman’s Landscape Biogeochemistry Lab, and she took her turn leading instruction for the campers on Monday, August 8.

Students practice field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide along Ravenna Creek.

Students practice field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide along Ravenna Creek.

Catherine and her research assistant, SEFS undergrad Rachel Yonemura, taught a lesson about the freshwater carbon cycle and introduced students to the idea of how greenhouse gases can be emitted from lakes, rivers and streams. The lesson also included a section on carbon mapping and different tools that can be used to visualize geospatial data.

Rachel followed up by applying some of the new concepts to urban stream chemistry in Ravenna Creek, which is one of Rachel’s study sites for her senior capstone research. So later that afternoon, the students then practiced field sampling for methane and carbon dioxide at an access site where Ravenna Creek meets the Montlake Slough.

Catherine says the students did an outstanding job collecting field samples, and the Landscape Biogeochemistry Lab team had a great time working with the young scientists in the making.

Photos © Catherine Kuhn.

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NSF Grant to Explore Coastal Temperate Rainforests

This February, Professor David Butman was part of a research team awarded a $500,000, four-year grant through the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network. The goal of the grant is to develop a research collaborative, organized as the Coastal Rainforest Margins Research Network, to study the flux of materials from coastal watersheds to nearshore marine ecosystems in Pacific coastal temperate rainforests (PCTR).

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One of the exciting possibilities of this grant, says Butman, is the potential to create foundations for larger projects in the future, including with the Olympic Natural Resources Center and Olympic Experimental State Forest.

Butman is a co-PI on the grant with two researchers from the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. Through a series of workshops and other collaborations, they will be working to quantify what’s happening now in coastal temperate rainforest ecosystems, identify critical areas of future research—especially related to a changing climate—and build an international community of scientists in similar zones around the world, including in Patagonia and New Zealand.

It’s a higher-level project, says Butman, designed to figure out what still needs to be done—data and concepts at the cusp of current science—to understand the connectivity between land, freshwater and coastal systems.

This grant targets PCTR ecosystems from coastal Oregon and Washington up through southwest Alaska. These ecosystems encompass the largest coastal temperate rainforests in the world, and they include the most extensive remaining old-growth forests in North America. They also experience tremendous freshwater flux and run-off, so understanding how carbon moves through these dynamic coastal margins is a huge part of this research—and a primary focus of Butman’s role on the grant.

“This region gets more water and rain per unit area than anywhere else,” he says. “Essentially from the Olympic Peninsula up through southwest Alaska, the area sees more than six times the annual output of the Yukon River, or three times the Mississippi. So much material moves from the land to the ocean here, so it’s an exciting opportunity.”

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An important component of this research includes studying how warming temperatures and changing weather patterns will impact the long-term health of these dynamic coastal temperate rainforests.

The grant includes funding for four workshops, and Butman will be organizing the first this coming fall. It will focus on biogeochemical cycling, and he is currently reaching out to potential stakeholders and participants, from native communities to other scientists and natural resource managers.

Other major research questions the network will be addressing include: What are current freshwater and carbon fluxes in the PCTR, and how will these be affected by future changes in climate? How do forest communities, distribution and disturbance regimes drive current land-to-ocean biogeochemical fluxes across the PCTR, and how will climate-driven changes affect this flux? What is the relative importance of terrestrially derived materials transport for regulating marine ecosystem processes in the PCTR, and how will marine ecosystems respond to altered terrestrial biogeochemical fluxes? Is the PCTR a future source or sink of carbon under a changing climate, and can the insights gained about ecosystem processes in the PCTR translate to other coastal temperate rainforests? And what is the current and future contribution of coastal temperate rainforests to continental or global estimates of carbon sequestration and material fluxes across the terrestrial/marine interface?

Previous studies have explored some of these questions in parts or certain places, but the key with this broad collaborative is to organize a concerted effort to address information gaps and connect the dots—and to use this region as a model for understanding ecological processes in similar ecosystems around the world.

Photos © David Butman.

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

SEFS Involved in Four Major NASA Grants

As part of its Terrestrial Ecology Program, NASA recently launched the Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE). It’s a major field campaign in Alaska and western Canada—starting this year, and lasting 8 to 10 years—with the goal of better understanding the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems and society to a changing climate in Arctic and boreal regions. In 2015, NASA awarded grants to 21 projects as part this campaign, and four of the proposals involve researchers at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS)!

A Dall sheep ram.

Dall sheep ram.

New faculty member Laura Prugh had two proposals funded, including one as the principal investigator (PI) and another as a co-PI. The first, “Assessing alpine ecosystem vulnerability to environmental change using Dall sheep as an iconic indicator species,” will involve synthesis and modeling of Dall sheep population and movement data throughout their range, developing new remote sensing layers of snow characteristics, and conducting fieldwork in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The research will be funded for $1 million over four years.

The second project, “Animals on the move: Remotely based determination of key drivers influencing movements and habitat selection of highly mobile fauna throughout the ABoVE study domain,” will synthesize and model movements of moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears throughout Alaska and western Canada. Prugh’s role in this research will be to model the wolf and bear movements, and there is a $200,000 sub-award in the grant for her to hire a postdoc for two years to lead that work.

Professor David Butman is a co-PI on a third proposal, “Vulnerability of inland waters and the aquatic carbon cycle to changing permafrost and climate across boreal northwestern North America,” that focuses on changes to carbon biogeochemistry in lakes as a result of thawing permafrost. Specifically, the project aims to evaluate potential impacts in boreal and Arctic regions as permafrost thaw, climate warming and fire change the “plumbing” that controls water movement and distribution. The total award for this proposal is around $2.1 million, with $1.2 million coming from NASA and the other $900,000 coming from the U.S. Geological Survey. Of that total amount, around $110,000 will come to SEFS from NASA to fund a student for two years, and $30,000 will come from the USGS for summer support for Professor Butman.

The fourth SEFS project involves co-PI Hans-Erik Andersen, a research forester with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and an affiliate professor with SEFS. This proposal, “Fingerprinting Three Decades of Changes in Interior Alaska (1982-2014) Using Field Measurements, Stereo Air Photos, and G-LiHT Data,” will explore changes in vegetation cover and composition over time to characterize the vulnerability and likely future trajectories of these landscapes under projected warming and scenarios of future disturbances. The project is funded at $334,564 over three years.

To have nearly 20 percent of the funded proposals in 2015 involve SEFS is a fairly remarkable percentage, and we’re excited to see how these projects progress!

Photo by © Steve Arthur.

Notes from the Field: Helicopter Sampling in Alaska

Earlier this week, Professor David Butman returned from spending 11 days in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, where he had the memorable opportunity to conduct his field sampling by helicopter and float plane. He was able to coordinate the trip on a shoestring budget, as well, thanks to a great partnership with NASA and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington (where Butman holds a joint appointment).

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Professor Butman’s research involves measuring fluxes of carbon dioxide and methane in water systems—especially in Arctic and boreal ecosystems—and how those releases of greenhouse gasses are impacting the global carbon cycle and climate change. At a conference two years ago, he connected with Professor Tamlin Pavelsky, a hydrologist at the University of North Carolina’s Department of Geological Sciences. They stayed in touch and kept talking about potential collaborations, and their interests eventually aligned over an engineering project in Alaska.

Pavelsky has been helping with field calibration for a new radar sensor that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is planning to launch on a satellite in 2020. Through its Surface Water and Ocean Topography, or SWOT, mission, NASA is developing this sensor to observe changes in water level to within a millimeter of accuracy, which will have important applications for measuring water volume in lakes and rivers, as well as impacts of flooding.

Daylight extended until nearly midnight, giving them incredibly long days to collect samples. “You lose track of time,” says Butman, taking a “sampling selfie” here.

Daylight extended until nearly midnight, giving them incredibly long days to collect samples. “You lose track of time,” says Butman (taking a “sampling selfie” here).

Right now, they’re in the middle of an intense campaign to calibrate the radar sensor and test it by flying over different landforms and water features. So when Butman learned from Pavelsky that some of those test sites would include the Yukon Flats, he pitched the idea of tagging along to conduct his own biogeochemistry measurements at the same time. He had already marked some of those same areas for future sampling, and the timing was perfect to draw different programs together for common goals. NASA agreed to bring him along, and they ended up covering the expense of the helicopter and plane flights in Alaska, and Butman handled the equipment and labor.

He seized the opportunity and spent 16 to 17 hours in the field on the trip. Butman flew around with a pilot and a student technician to assist him, locating lakes from the air and heading down to take measurements. Assisted by Alaska’s endless summer sunshine, they were able to collect tons of data from 18 different lakes. “It was kind of exciting,” he says. “Some of these systems have never been measured.”

Butman has another proposal in with NASA to fund continued research in the Yukon area, and he definitely hopes to get back up there next year. “It was one of my top three field experiences so far, for sure.”

Photos © David Butman.

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Testing the Waters

This morning, Professor David Butman was finishing up the installation of a new dissolved carbon dioxide sensor at a site on Issaquah Creek, which drains a relatively pristine forested watershed into Lake Washington. Professor Butman is looking at carbon dynamics to understand how stream systems fit into the terrestrial carbon cycle, and he is collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey, which is embarking on a large-scale, intensive sampling for water quality across the Pacific Northwest. They’ll pool all of this data when they pull the sensors out in late fall.

“A collaborative time series of data like this does not really exist yet,” he says, “and we are doing this at two more sites in Bellingham that cover an urban and an agricultural watershed.”

David Butman

Water Seminar: Spring 2015

Professor David Butman is leading the Water Seminar (ESRM 429) this spring, and you can catch the action on Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 9:20 a.m. in Anderson 223. We apologize for sharing this schedule too late for you to see Professor Butman’s introduction, but there are plenty of great talks and speakers lined up for the rest of the quarter!

Week 1: March 31
“Overview: Land-use and riverine biogeochemistry from a carbon perspective”
Professor David Butman, SEFS and Civil and Environmental Engineering

Week 2: April 7
“What stable isotopes can tell us about inputs to freshwater ecosystems”
Professor Michael Brett, UW Civil and Environmental Engineering

Week 3: April 14
“Biological N2 fixation explains ancient sustained use of subarctic alluvial meadows”
SEFS Director Tom DeLuca

Week 4: April 21
“Does shoreline development impact herring in Puget Sound?”
Tessa Francis, lead ecosystem ecologist
Puget Sound Institute, UW Tacoma

Week 5: April 28
“Effects of land use on the predictability of land-atmosphere fluxes and moisture transport in the North American monsoon region”
Dr. Ted Bohn, School of Earth and Space Exploration
Arizona State University

Week 6: May 5
“Carbon storage in terrestrial systems inferred from riverine chemistry”
Dr. Erin Martin, The Evergreen State College

Week 7: May 12
“Global watershed management tools”
Professor Jeff Richey, UW School of Oceanography
Adjunct Professor, Quaternary Research Center, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Week 8: May 19
“Sediment and chemical loading from the Green River watershed to the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund site”
Kathleen Conn, hydrologist, USGS

Week 9: May 26
“Hama Hama Seafood Co.: What resource management and conservation means for a sustainable seafood business in Puget Sound”
Lissa James Monberg, Hama Hama Seafood Co.

Week 10: June 2
“Lake Washington Ship Canal and current water management operations”
Kenneth Brettmann, senior water manager, Western Washington
Water Management Section, Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District

Humans Adding ‘Fossil’ Carbon to Rivers

Though soil has often been considered a reliable long-term carbon sink, new research suggests that the effects of human land-use choices—from urbanization to agricultural intensification and deforestation—are reducing how much carbon is actually stored in the ground, says Professor David Butman, lead author on a paper just published in Nature Geoscience, “Increased mobilization of aged carbon to rivers by human disturbance.”

Professor David Butman

Professor David Butman

Professor Butman is a new faculty member with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) who holds a joint appointment with Civil and Environmental Engineering. He began this research in 2011 as an offshoot of his doctoral work at Yale University involving 13 major river basins in the United States. Starting from a trend he discovered in that initial data, Butman and his co-authors expanded the scope with direct sampling of aquatic carbon at a number of field sites around the world, and also combed the literature for other relevant studies, tracking down researchers whenever possible to verify data. The resulting study range covers 84 degrees of latitude from the Arctic to tropical ecosystems, providing a comprehensive, global data set of radiocarbon ages of riverine dissolved organic carbon, coupled with spatial data on land cover, population and environmental variables.

From exploring this data, Butman and his co-authors were able to determine how carbon isotopes of organic matter in rivers can show the impact of land cover disturbances—specifically, the release of ‘old’ carbon into the modern carbon cycle, analogous to the burning of fossil fuels. Most dissolved organic carbon in rivers originates from young organic carbon from soils and vegetation, but the results of this study suggest that 3.2 to 8.9 percent of that dissolved organic carbon is actually aged carbon that human disturbances have churned back into the system.

What that means, says Butman, is that the release of carbon through land use and land cover change has been undercounted in previous estimates of anthropogenic carbon emissions. The full impact of this increase on the global carbon cycle is not entirely clear yet, but it definitely means we’re reducing how much carbon is being stored in the land purely through how we manipulate and change the physical surface of the planet.

Check out the full results and conclusions in the paper, and contact Professor Butman if you have any questions about this research or his other projects!

Photo © David Butman.

New Faculty Intro: David Butman

Professor David Butman, one of three new faculty members with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), has been on campus a few weeks now, and he and his family are settling into their new city and neighborhood in Maple Leaf. Like Professor Patrick Tobin, who relocated from West Virginia, Professor Butman comes to us from across the country at Yale University, where he was working as a postdoctoral associate.

David Butman

Perhaps the easiest part about moving across the country to Seattle? Butman, who grew up in a fishing community, will still have tremendous access to water!

New England has been home to Butman for most of his life. He grew up in the historical fishing community of Gloucester, Mass., where most of his family still lives. (His first job out of undergrad, in fact, was working on a commercial fishing boat as an observer with the National Marine Fisheries Service to monitor bycatch for the Marine Mammal Protection Act.) He earned a bachelor’s in economics and environmental studies from Connecticut College, a master’s in environmental science from Yale, and then his Ph.D. in forestry and environmental studies from Yale in 2011.

Switching oceans and coasts, Butman joins us as part of a cluster hire in freshwater science, and he holds a joint professorship with Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and SEFS—though his office is based in our school. The vision for the Freshwater Initiative involves interdisciplinary collaboration across a number of programs and units in the College of the Environment, including CEE and SEFS, as well as the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and UW Tacoma. Among the initiative’s research themes are ecohydrology, watershed ecology and river restoration, fluvial geomorphology, urban water quality, aquatic biogeochemistry and continental hydrology.

David Butman

Butman already has a few projects in the works, including a collaboration with Professor Christian Torgersen out on the Olympic Peninsula.

As part of this broader freshwater research portfolio, Butman brings a strong background in aquatic biogeochemistry and remote sensing, including the application of new sensors to monitor the environment. He studies the influence of humans and climate on carbon cycling at the intersection of terrestrial and aquatic systems. Specifically, he measures the capacity of ecosystems to change as a result of anthropogenic carbon emissions; human landscape alteration, like logging or development; and the effects of climate change, in order to identify environmental stressors within watersheds and mitigate long-term resource degradation.

Butman already has a few projects ramping up, including one down on the Columbia River to measure carbon cycling around The Dalles Dam. He’s been working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, and he’s looking to expand the project and do more field work over the next couple summers. Also, in collaboration with Professor Christian Torgersen, he’s secured funding for a student to do carbon sampling in the Sol Duc River out on the Olympic Peninsula.

As he gets his research and lab up and running, Butman will likely start teaching this winter or spring, including the possibility of a remote sensing survey course. We’re extremely excited to have him and his expertise as part of the SEFS community, and we hope you’ll introduce yourselves as soon as you can. You can reach Butman by email or stop by his office in BLD 264 (though we’re still working on his nameplate!).

Welcome, David!

Photos © David Butman.

David Butman

SEFS Seminar Series: Fall Schedule Announced!

If you’ve been pining for the sound of stirring voices and enthralled audiences, you’ll be excited to know the SEFS Seminar Series is booting up for the fall on Wednesday, September 24!

SEFS Seminar Schedule: Fall 2014We’ve lined up 10 weeks of fantastic talks, including presentations from two new faculty members—Professors Patrick Tobin and David Butman—as well as visiting speakers from CalPoly, Portland State University and other units on campus. Also, the final seminar will feature an alumni speaker, Stephen Hopley, to talk about his life and career in paper science and engineering.

Once again, we’re partnering with the Dead Elk Society to host a casual reception in the Forest Club Room following the seminar on November 5. Two other seminars will coincide with annual school-wide events, starting with the Salmon BBQ on October 1, and then the SEFS Holiday Party on December 3.

The seminars will be held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Anderson 223. (Students can enroll for credit under SEFS 529B; contact Michelle Trudeau for more information.)

So check out the full line-up below, and get ready for 10 weeks of terrific talks!

Week 1: September 24
Professor Patrick Tobin
“Allee effects and biological invasions: Exploiting an Achilles’ Heel in management strategies”

Week 2: October 1
Professor Rob Harrison
“The ‘hidden half’ of PNW forests: Understanding why our trees grow so fast”
* Salmon BBQ to follow in Anderson Hall courtyard

Week 3: October 8
Research Scientist Vane Kane
“Biophysical controls on forest structure and disturbance across landscapes”

Week 4: October 15
Professor Rebecca Neumann, Civil and Environmental Engineering
“Climate change and arsenic uptake by rice: Impact of elevated soil temperature on rhizosphere oxygen dynamics and arsenic concentrations in rice tissue”

Week 5: October 22
Professor Christian Torgersen
“The Fourth Paradigm and data-driven discovery in riverine science”

Week 6: October 29
Professor David Butman
“Fitting freshwater ecosystems into the boreal and arctic carbon cycles”

Week 7: November 5
Professor Vince Gallucci, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (and SEFS)
“Biodiversity of Arctic Ocean fauna as related to indigenous populations and climate change”
* Reception to follow in Forest Club Room

Week 8: November 12
Professor Sarah Bisbing, CalPoly
“Landscape influence on gene flow and connectivity across the range of Pinus contorta”

Week 9: November 19
Professor Todd Rosenstiel, Portland State University
“Canopies of change: Reconsidering bryophytes, biofuels and brown clouds in the PNW”

Week 10: December 3
Stephen M. Hopley, Alumni Speaker
“My life story as a paper science and engineering graduate”