Emeritus Spotlight: Gordon Bradley

There was a time, a little more than 40 years ago, when Professor Emeritus Gordon Bradley had to choose between taking a research job in Tennessee or accepting a faculty position at the University of Washington. It was a stark choice—and not an easy one, either.

He had flown down to Knoxville, Tenn., to interview for a position with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), where he would have been involved in their land-use impacts program. Around the same time, he’d also applied for a recreation planning faculty position at the College of Forest Resources. So while weighing an offer from the TVA, he headed up to Seattle to explore the possibility of an academic career. “I gave [UW] an interview and went back home, and the chair of the department called me up the next day to offer me the job,” says Bradley. “I had to think about it for a little while, because the people in Tennessee were so nice. But I thought, ‘I’ll try UW for a couple years.’”

Bradley with his wife Jackie in the Anderson Hall courtyard in 1974. The two met as undergrads at Cal Poly.

Bradley with his wife Jackie in the Anderson Hall courtyard in 1974. The two met as undergrads at Cal Poly.

A couple turned into more than 40, and Bradley—who retired at the end of 2014—has begun tying up the many threads of a long university life. “Some people might say, ‘You’ve had this one 42-year career,’” he says. “But if you take an academic career seriously, you can actually reinvent yourself over and over again. You can get a mix of things from about four or five different careers, and you don’t have to leave town.”

For Bradley, that mix has been unusually varied. In his four-plus decades on the faculty, he never shied away from opportunities to get involved and contribute to the SEFS community. He taught dozens of courses, from recreation and forest planning to urban forestry, and held adjunct positions with the Department of Urban Design and Planning and the Department of Landscape Architecture. He served on countless committees, including multiple turns organizing the school’s annual strategic planning retreat, and published scores of publications. He also held a number of leadership positions, including several years as faculty chair and associate dean of academic affairs, and his drawing of Anderson Hall now adorns all sorts of cards and documents as our unofficial seal.

Even now—between golf trips and more time with his family—he’s back at the helm of one more planning committee for the 2015 retreat. Yet the pace has definitely slowed a little, giving him more time to reflect on the bookends of his long, industrious tenure here.

“It seems like a rather trite comment,” he says, “but where did the time go? Well, if you hang around long enough, the time will go.”

Planning Ahead
Bradley was born in Bellingham, Wash., and he “fell down the West Coast” from there. First, his family moved to Seattle for a couple years, and then continued south to Sacramento when he was 7 years old. That’s where he went to high school, and Bradley says he didn’t exactly graduate with a clear vision of his future. “I had an occasion to look at my yearbook a while back, and where they ask you about your ambition, I just put ‘undecided.’”

After he enrolled at Sacramento State College (now California State University – Sacramento), though, some of his interests started to crystallize. “I was using those first two years to explore and take your general distributions classes,” he says, “and I knew I had an interest in agriculture, forestry, business and art. Somehow, as I was exploring different fields, landscape architecture seemed to capture a lot of that stuff. It clearly had an environmental aspect like forestry; the art aspect in design; and business if you were going to make it work.”

He transferred to the landscape architecture program at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in Pomona after his second year. The downside was that the technical nature of all programs at Cal Poly required a four-year sequence of courses. So he basically had to start over at year one of the program, knowing he would need another four years from there to complete the requirements of a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture.

Bradley's iconic drawing of Anderson Hall for the centennial of the College of Forest Resources in 2007.

Bradley’s iconic drawing of Anderson Hall, rather butchered here in web translation, for the centennial of the College of Forest Resources in 2007.

The upside of taking six years to finish the degree, however, was that he had time to get involved in a number of extracurricular activities, from spending time in a pottery studio—as it happens, with Robert Zappa, the brother of Frank Zappa—to getting active in the student government at Cal Poly.

In 1967, in fact, he got elected as vice-president of the Associated Students, Inc., a position that meant he was chair of the student senate. Bradley had been a student senator the year before, and he realized that most of the students didn’t have a clear picture of how the legislative process worked. So in a move that would surprise few of his later colleagues, Bradley partnered with a friend from his landscape architecture program to build a graphic that explained the legislative world, from introducing bills to votes and other procedural motions.

Scaling Up
After earning his bachelor’s in 1969, Bradley headed to Berkeley to work toward a master’s in landscape architecture in environmental planning. His undergraduate program had focused heavily on project-level planning, and his graduate work expanded the scope to include more regional planning—looking at the natural world, as well as the social and political and administrative dimensions.

The timing of his arrival on campus was perfect. “The nice thing about that degree,” he says, “was I got there just at the time when a piece of legislation passed that created the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), and my academic advisor was an advisor to that agency.”

Bradley secured a research assistantship in 1970 to help the TRPA develop a land-use plan in the basin. He helped build an extensive GIS database and assisted with overall plan development, including modeling a number of future scenarios. “I worked on that project for the whole two years until the plan was adopted,” he says. “It was a real-world, heavy-duty policy-planning experience.”

Bradley speaking at the SEFS Graduation Celebration in 2013.

After his student deferment ran out, Bradley got drafted and spent the Vietnam War era with an Army National Guard reserve unit in California and Washington until 1975.

The TRPA defined the planning area to address the hydro-physiological boundary of the lake rather than simply the political boundary of the water. By factoring in conditions and inputs through the broader lake watershed, the agency was able to address a far more comprehensive set of variables. “It was unique in the world to have an environmental plan that captured all of the problems that influenced the health of the lake,” says Bradley. “It was an incredible experience.”

Back to Seattle
Not long after earning his master’s in 1972, Bradley saw the advertisement for an assistant professor of resource planning at the College of Forest Resources. “At the time I came here, we had a major recreation program headed up by Professor Grant Sharp,” says Bradley. “He did the interpretation, and I was hired to do the planning. I helped him build the program, and we developed a whole series of classes, case studies and field trips. But we eventually had to close the program because university budget constraints and the student numbers were more than the two of us could handle.”

In those first few years on the faculty, some of Bradley’s favorite classes were the two-week field trips he led as part of “Introduction to Recreation and Conservation.” Some of those excursions took them all the way out through Yellowstone, the Tetons, Jackson Hole and Hell’s Canyon, while others didn’t require going more than a few miles out of the city. “In this part of the world, when you walk outside of the building, that basically is your lab and your classroom,” he says. “You don’t’ have to read or lecture about it; you can go out and look at it. Urban forestry, urban ecology, recreation, sustainable sites—it’s all out there. So we’d be traveling and visiting agencies and trying to discover the important issues in natural resource management, and also some of the employment opportunities and career paths. It was quite an enterprise.”

Within five years, Bradley had been promoted and awarded tenure. And though his MLA was the highest he could achieve in his field at the time, he recognized that he was one of only a few professors at the university who didn’t hold a Ph.D. So he decided to use his first opportunity for sabbatical to enroll at the University of Michigan to pursue his doctorate in urban and regional planning. “Nobody made me do it, but I wanted to remain competitive and expand my horizons,” he says.

He returned to campus after a year and a half in Michigan and then spent the next six years completing his research remotely from Seattle, eventually earning his Ph.D. in urban, technological and environmental planning in 1986. “So I came here with a master’s and then was teaching for five to six years, got tenure and then went and got a Ph.D.”

Bradley is still in touch with many of his former students, and especially some of the first he took on field trips in the late 1970s. “You hang around with these kids for two weeks, and there’s a bonding that goes on,” he says, and he’s still in touch with many of them (some of whom are now retired themselves).

Bradley is still in touch with many of his former students, and especially some of the first he took on field trips in the late 1970s. “You hang around with these kids for two weeks, and there’s a bonding that goes on,” he says.

Also, while his time on campus at Michigan was brief, his connections to his advisor, Professor Rachel Kaplan, and her many students continue to this day. In fact, a book that Kaplan co-edited, Fostering Reasonableness: Supportive Environments for Bringing out Our Best, was just published last month. It includes a chapter by Bradley and one of his former students, Laura Cooper, “Planning for Small Forest Landscapes: Facilitating the Connection between People and Nature,” as well as contributions from 20 other individuals who have collaborated together for many years.

Bradley was later promoted to full professor in 1991 and he went on to serve in a number of leadership roles, including as faculty chair from 2005 to 2009. “With a background in planning,” he says, “I always viewed administration, in many respects, as adaptive management. If you really enjoy planning, you realize that not everything is going to work with everybody. I always thought of it as kind of a bunch of little experiments to see what worked and what didn’t work. My interest was just trying to resource the faculty in a way that allowed them to do their job, whether that was workload, time or money—to the extent we had some money to spend. I didn’t want the administration to ever be a barrier or a burden.”

A Professor’s Life
It’s hard to put a period at the end of such a long, multifaceted life in academia. Bradley has had a chance to work on so many projects with so many partners, from city, county, state and federal agencies, to timber companies across the region, to nonprofits like Forterra and the Mountains to Sound Greenway. “This has been absolutely incredible, the opportunity afforded by the University of Washington,” he says. “A lot of people don’t have the chance to enjoy a career like this. There just isn’t a bad day.”

He looks at these projects as chapters, or mini-careers, each with a different focus and set of challenges. His research ‘careers’ have covered recreation and conservation planning, forest land-use issues (including a book about the urban-forest interface), and urban ecology and urban forestry (including a book about urban forest landscapes). He also spent 10 years looking at visual resource management on forest lands, and through everything he continued to teach and mentor students.

One of his most rewarding experiences was serving as principal investigator for the National Science Foundation-funded program in urban ecology. The Integrative Graduate Education Research and Training (IGERT) grant allowed Bradley and several colleagues, including SEFS Professors Clare Ryan and John Marzluff, to work and travel internationally with doctoral students to address pressing environmental issues.

Taking advantage of extra time in his schedule, Bradley recently spent a week golfing the Alabama Trail, a series of courses that Robert Trent Jones designed. “Great courses, excellent weather and a game about as good as I can play.”

Taking advantage of his lighter schedule, Bradley recently spent a week golfing the Alabama Trail, a series of courses that Robert Trent Jones designed. “Great courses, excellent weather and a game about as good as I can play.”

Missing those student interactions might be an especially tough adjustment. “That’s really the fun of teaching, the process of sharing discoveries,” he says. “I always liked that, whether it was the introductory classes or the graduate classes. You have a guaranteed supply of good students, and there’s a high energy level in terms of ideas, issues, personnel. It’s a stimulating kind of place.”

Now, aside from a couple consulting projects and helping a few graduate students wrap up their research, Bradley’s schedule definitely looks much more open—though his days are likely to be just as full. “The calendar is not empty,” he says.

He’s already taken a couple golf trips and has visits to Montana and Hawaii coming up this summer. He’s also spending more time with his family, including his daughter Autumn and two grandkids. “This afternoon, my granddaughter has an indoor soccer game, and I love to watch her. “I have [the grandkids] every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. I fix them breakfast and then take them to school.”

It will take him a year or two to fully transition out of the university, and he’s now gradually packing up his office in Bloedel Hall (which his grandkids call the “treehouse”). But there’s more to it than that. After a lifetime of constant learning and professional evolution, Bradley doesn’t ever want to close the door on new adventures and pursuits. “Put your antenna up, keep your eyes open and your ears unplugged, and make sure you’re sensing your environment and what interests you,” he says.

One of his former students, Wendy Asplin, might have said it best when she encouraged him to sit back and watch the universe expand.

“I liked that,” says Bradley. “Watch the universe expand. I think it’s going to work out.”

Photo of Gordon and Jackie Bradley, and Anderson drawing © Gordon Bradley; all other photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

Emeritus Spotlight: Bruce Bare

“This isn’t something I ever thought I was going to do—I never thought about being a professor when I was growing up,” says Dean and Professor Emeritus Bruce Bare, who recently retired after more than 45 years as a faculty member with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). Yet even if Bare never planned on a life in academia, he certainly embraced the role and flourished in his nearly half a century as a professor.

Bruce Bare

Bruce Bare’s academic career with SEFS touched six decades, and he never slowed down from his first days on campus in 1969 to his final hours in the office.

In measuring his extensive career, the arithmetic looks simple yet encompasses so much more than an accumulation of years. Bare has been part of this school for more than 42 percent of its existence, serving on countless committees and holding leadership roles from director of the Center for Quantitative Science to eight years as dean of the college. He was an early adopter and innovator of computer technologies, and he taught everything from forest management, policy and planning, to operations research, statistics and calculus.

He is, almost without parallel, a massive storehouse of institutional memory, and a bridge to some of the earliest faculty and deans who helped shape this school. Take a look at the faculty photos on the bottom floor of Bloedel Hall, and you’ll notice there’s only one of an active professor who arrived before Bare did—Professor Graham Allen. The rest came in Bare’s wake, and he outlasted a great many of them, too.

With that kind of tenure, it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t already have at least a few stories to tell. So rather than rehash the most recent steps in Bare’s journey, we thought we’d focus on a few of his earlier memories and (possibly) lesser-known endeavors. In each, we hope, there’s something that helps capture the spirit of Bare’s thoroughly distinguished career.

Indiana Roots
“My mother, for some unknown reason, thought I should be an architect,” says Bare, who was born in South Bend, Ind., in 1942. “I don’t know where that came from. I had taken a drafting class in high school, but I had no talent for perspective drawings, and my handwriting was never good, so I knew that wasn’t going to fly.”

He didn’t have a lot of other clear ideas to run with, either, but he knew he enjoyed playing sports and spending time outdoors. Year-round, even in the worst of an Indiana winter, Bare would carve out a space to be active. “I’d shovel the snow off our basketball court and use a long extension cord to stick the floodlight out there and play until 10 at night,” he says. “Of course, the ball wouldn’t bounce because it was so damn cold, so it was a lot of pass and shoot.”

The tougher task was figuring out how to direct his interests after high school, but at least the results of a few aptitude tests were unanimous: He should do something that let him work outside.

“Where I come from, working outside means being a farmer,” says Bare, but since his family didn’t own any farm land, he was pretty sure his future wasn’t in agriculture. While paging through a Purdue University catalog, though, he noticed a forestry degree listed as part of the College of Agriculture’s offerings. “It described employment and working for the Forest Service and getting to manage national forests,” he says. “I thought, ‘I would like to do that,’ so I decided to go to Purdue to study forestry.”

Bruce Bare

Bare outside of Anderson Hall in the 1970s. He was initially hired with a joint appointment in the College of Fisheries, but he then joined the College of Forest Resources full-time in 1973 and was awarded tenure in 1976.

Oregon Trial
The forestry curriculum at Purdue was fairly regimented, allowing only two forestry courses toward Bare’s degree his first year. He found a more immersive experience that first summer, however, when he got a job with the Forest Service in southern Oregon. Bare remembers driving to Chicago, where he caught the Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder to Portland, then switched to the Coast Starlight to Klamath Falls, and then finally caught a ride on the Red Ball Stage to the ranger station in Bly, Ore. (Bare was disappointed to discover it was not an actual stagecoach).

He was assigned to the helitack fire crew for the Fremont National Forest. The team consisted of four students and the pilot, and they relied on a tiny chopper with no doors. Luckily, they didn’t have too many fires that summer, but one night Bare recalls getting dropped by himself to tackle a small fire. Planes had already been through and doused most of the blaze, so Bare’s task was to stamp out the last smoke and embers. He was armed only with a small backpack, a shovel and a pulaski, a wildland firefighting tool with an axe and hoe on the same head (good for both chopping and digging a firebreak). “That was it,” he says. “No saw, no water, no reinforcements. So I spent the whole night trying to put out that little fire until they came back to pick me up the next day.”

Then, around Labor Day they got one final call to help with a fire. “We’re flying over this big valley,” says Bare, “and the engine quits in the chopper—just like it snapped. The pilot is just sitting there, and nobody said a word. There are no doors on this little bubble, and you could hear the wind whistling as you’re falling.”

It happened so fast that Bare says he never thought he was going to die. But he remembers when they were careening toward a boulder field, about 10 feet from the ground, when the pilot flared up the nose of the helicopter just before crashing. They hit the ground and spun around a few times, and when they finally came to a rest, the only thing the pilot said was, “Whoo. We’d better get away from here in case there’s a fire.”

Nobody was visibly hurt, and they all walked away from the wreck. Yet Bare did leave with a few misgivings about helicopters. “I’ve flown in choppers since, but I’m not a big fan of them,” he says. “They don’t look like they should be airborne.”

On the March
In those days, everybody at Purdue had to serve two years in the military, says Bare, and since he had been a drummer in high school, he opted to fulfill his service with the military band.

The marching band outfit was quite large, with some 250 members, and Bare signed on with the drum corps. During the fall, that meant playing at football games, and during the winter it meant performing at basketball games and other functions. They marched in a big military parade in the spring, and even got to play at the Indianapolis 500.

What Bare remembers most—aside from the famous “Golden Girl,” a sequined twirler who performed with the marching band—was the intense rehearsing and choreography. “Every autumn day, rain or shine, we marched out,” he says. They would get arrayed in a long column and then play their cadence while marching through town from the music hall to the practice grounds—and then back again. “This was a big operation,” he says. “By the time you strung it out, we were about a quarter-mile long. It was a lot of marching.”

Bruce Bare

Bare actually went to the same high school—and later college—as SEFS Professor Emeritus Dave Manuwal; they even took a biology class together.

Lesson Learned
During his second summer, Bare completed an internship at an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the northeast corner of Wisconsin, and then after his junior year he took a final internship with the Forest Service in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. That summer, while living in a trailer at 9,600 feet of elevation, he worked on regeneration surveys, lodgepole pine timber sales, cruising and marking the road rights-of-way. But he says he picked up his most valuable lesson when he accompanied a friend, Floyd Wilson, to haul two donkeys back from Wyoming.

It was the Fourth of July weekend, and they hauled a horse trailer behind Floyd’s little Dodge Valiant. When they finally reached the town of Pavillion, Wy., Floyd labored to get his donkeys, named Jack and Jill, properly lined up in the trailer. The donkeys refused to stand parallel to each other, and the only way Floyd eventually succeeded was by shoving one of the donkeys in the opposite direction of where he wanted it to go—and then the donkey obliged by resisting him in the right direction.

“They’re so stubborn, you have to do the opposite of what you want them to do,” says Bare. “I never forgot that lesson, and I used it quite a few times in my career. Sometimes, when you want someone to do something they’re resisting, push them in the opposite direction and they often push back in the right direction.”

Numbers Game
In the spring of his senior year, Bare took a computer programming course using Fortran, which IBM had developed in the 1950s. The instructor was one of his favorite professors, Otis Hall, and Bare immediately connected with the technology. “That was my first introduction to analysis and programming,” he says, “and most of this was doing simple things—a table of interest rates and basal area factors, inventory analysis, that kind of stuff. It was an old computer, an IBM 1620 located in the Ag Experiment Station.”

Later, after earning his bachelor’s in 1964, Bare headed up to the University of Minnesota to begin his master’s program in statistics, biometry and forest inventory. The first thing they had him do was help sort through a pile of Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) plot records from the Cloquet Valley State Forest Forest. He had just spent the previous summer working with Cal Stott, the father of modern continuous forest inventory, and Bare again found himself working through inventory records, volume calculations and statistical analyses. He started reading books about powerful new machines and real-time computing, where you could get results almost immediately instead of waiting a few hours, or even overnight. And by the time he finished his degree in 1965, he was hooked on analytics and the rapidly evolving computer industry.

Bruce Bare

Bare, left, with Orin Soest, Jack Corkery and Dick Denman at the UW Foundation Gala during his time as dean.

Soon after that, Bare’s old advisor, Professor Hall, encouraged him to come back to Purdue to get his Ph.D. Hall had secured a National Defense Education Act fellowship that would pay him for two years, and Bare loved the opportunity to learn more about computers and operations research.

The core of his doctoral work, in fact, involved designing a computerized teaching tool to help with forest management training and experimentation. His creation, the Purdue Forest Management Game, allowed students to manage a simulated forest and to react to a variety of random events, such as forest fires, price changes and other triggers. The original program was designed to let students practice developing a one- to three-year plan that included operations like harvesting, regeneration and road building, and all with a specified annual budget and harvest quota (a later addition would incorporate longer-term planning). Within the game, there were three different forest districts, and teams of students competed to see who could do the best job managing their district.

Bare’s program proved so successful that several other universities used it in the 1970s, including the universities of Georgia, Iowa State, Michigan, Penn State and NC State.

A Taxing Diversion
Within five years of earning his bachelor’s, Bare had completed his Ph.D. in 1969, and not long afterward he had a job offer from Penn State—as well as an invitation to interview for a faculty position with the College of Forest Resources at UW. “If you’re going to make it in forestry, you might as well come where forestry is king,” says Bare. “That’s why I didn’t go to Penn State. The biggest challenge was out here.”

He was hired as an assistant professor to work in the Center for Quantitative Science (CQS) and arrived on campus in August 1969. Back then, CQS occupied its own building down by the hospital, and Bare initially had a joint appointment with the College of Fisheries. Not until 1973 did he move into Anderson Hall and become full-time with forestry, and by 1976 he had been promoted and awarded tenure. He would go on to teach dozens of courses, from operations research and computer programming to forest management and policy, quantitative methods for forest planning, statistics, financial management for foresters, computer-based modeling and many others.

Bruce Bare

Bare with Bill Gates, Sr., on Azalea Way in the Arboretum after a tree-planting ceremony in 2007.

He maintained an active research program, as well, and one of his more memorable projects involved researching how to tax timber in Washington and how to better manage large tracts of land for many uses on a sustainable basis. “The forest industry was moving from an extractive to a plantation-based industry,” he says, where “you have to manage resources entirely different. I was interested because it was a mixture of the analytics I knew well, with application to a real-world environment.”

Bare and his colleague, Professor Barney Dowdle, ended up having numerous serious discussions over the most appropriate way to tax forests under transition from an old-growth to a plantation basis. Eventually, they settled on a compromise wherein the basis of the plantation property tax should be the land value plus the reforestation investment required to initiate the next timber crop. The legislative debate that ensued extended for almost 15 years before the state settled on a permanent solution.

Managing large forested water basins for multiple uses also attracted Bare and Professors Bethel and Schreuder to develop a spatially oriented simulation model through the National Science Foundation. This multi-year effort was one of the first of its kind in this region and allowed agency and private land managers to experiment with alternative land use strategies over time, while viewing environmental as well as societal impacts of their proposed actions.

Barely Gone
From his first days on campus in 1969 to his final hours in the office last quarter, Bare never slowed down or stepped away from the action. He kept working on new research, including the 2013 Western Washington Hardwood Assessment, and served as director of the Institute of Forest Resources up until his final months. He showed up for pretty much every school event and served on numerous committees, and he continued—continues, rather—to awe everyone with his running regimen, routinely logging 40-plus miles a week.

As such a fixture for so long, with a career that touched six decades, Bare’s absence is already palpable. Sure, it’s only been a few weeks, but there’s no question—if you can excuse such an unpardonable pun—these halls are noticeably more bare without him.

Photos © Bruce Bare and SEFS.

Bruce Bare

Bare, far right, at the 2014 SEFS Graduation Ceremony.

Emeritus Spotlight: Steve West

(Dear readers: This story is slightly longer than your typical blog post, so we beg your indulgence and recommend you find a comfortable seat, and possibly a fresh cup of coffee.) 

Ask Steve West to point out his hometown on a map, and you’d better have a full United States atlas handy. He grew up in a military family, and though he was born in San Jose and later lived in Sacramento while his father fought in the Korean War, his family crisscrossed the country depending on the Air Force base where his dad was stationed. What West can pinpoint, though, is what he learned and picked up at just about every town along the way.

Steve West

Steve West, left, with some of his cousins during his undergraduate days at Berkeley.

One of the family’s earliest stops, while West was still in elementary school, was Mineral Wells, Texas. It was the 1950s, and West remembers a special trip they used to take once a month. They’d pack him and his younger sister into the car for the 70-mile drive into Fort Worth, where they’d stop for cheese sandwiches at the Woolworths counter. After lunch, his parents would drop him off to spend half the day exploring the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

“They’d just turn me loose,” he says. “I’d muck around in that museum until sometime in early afternoon, and then they’d come back and pick me up and go home.”

His mom grew weary of sweeping dust from under the door every morning, and the Wests eventually moved on from Texas. But a seed had been planted, and wherever the family moved after that—from Texas to Illinois, New York to Georgia, Alaska to Alabama—West found sanctuary in museums and the wild areas around military bases, where he’d hunt for lizards, snakes, toads, frogs and scores of other critters. He was developing a lifelong love of wildlife and science, and the giddy excitement of wondering what’s hiding under the next rock.

Through his undergraduate and graduate days, and from the moment he first joined the College of Forest Resources as a professor of wildlife science in 1979, he never lost an ounce of that childhood curiosity. In his field research courses, you could always find him up to his knees in a pond hunting for frogs at night, trapping small mammals and bats, turning over leaves and logs or freezing his knuckles searching for salamanders in a mountain stream. He did it all with a twinkle in his glasses and a devious grin—a good-natured challenge to his students that if he could do it, so could they. Science, after all, is a whole lot of fun.

West

West wades into a pond in search of frogs at the Olympic Natural Resources Center on the first night of a weekend ESRM 351 field trip.

He’s now officially retired, but you’ll see that same glint in his eye anytime he’s talking about a local beer festival or prepping a wine tasting for a school event; if he’s brimming with optimism about Husky sports, or telling stories from his glory days in the field. Get him to reminisce about close calls (“In my 34 years here, I never killed a student, so that’s a plus”), or gags involving rattlesnakes, tall fishing tales and other hijinks with Professor Emeritus Jim Agee, with whom he co-taught Wildlife Research Techniques (ESRM 351) for many years.

What you’ll learn, above all, is that he’s been through enough scrapes and adventures to fill several entertaining volumes. And while we don’t have the time or space to capture the whole Steve West story, we did catch him on one of his weekly visits to campus—when he pops in to water his plants or catch a seminar—to pull out a few of his formative moments and favorite memories.

Northern Exposure
In 1959, after a “sentence of three years” in Warner-Robbins, Ga.—where West picked up little league baseball and spent summers swatting away torrents of ferocious gnats—the family was all packed up for an exciting transfer to Germany. But the assignment fell through at the last minute, and they were abruptly rerouted to Fairbanks, Alaska, only a year after it had become a state.

West was in middle school at the time, and he remembers there was not a lot to do but fish and play baseball, which was fine with him. “Alaska was a raw place,” he says. “We were there before everyone caught all the local fish, so the challenge was getting the lure out of the water before you caught something.”

He had similar success on the mound, as his team won the Alaska state championship in the run-up to the Little League World Series. West had pitched the winning game, and when they moved on to the regional, they beat Nevada but lost to Washington. Despite the disappointment, though, West was undefeated as a pitcher!

The High (School) West
There’s a Forrest Gump serendipity to much of West’s childhood, and the family’s next move —trading the frosty wilderness of Alaska for the steamy summers of Montgomery, Ala.—dropped them into the Deep South at the boiling point of the civil rights movement.

West

In college, West once experimented with a full beard (not pictured here, sadly), which grew in red even though his hair was blond. The look was so different that when he went home one holiday to visit his parents, his mom walked right past him at the airport.

West was just starting 10th grade at Sidney Lanier High School, home of “The Poets.” (Their crosstown rivals were the Robert E. Lee Generals, so victories for the Poets naturally gave truth to the adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”) “For the first two years, you had to go to a different part of town to see a black person,” says West. “It was totally segregated.”

During his junior year, however, the first two black students arrived at his school of about 3,000 kids. The tension in town was relentless, he says, and the famous 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery passed a few blocks from his house. One of West’s neighbors, as well—and also a classmate and track teammate—was Richmond Flowers Jr.

Flowers’ father was attorney general of Alabama and an outspoken opponent of racial segregation (Governor George Wallace once even had him thrown in jail for refusing to keep a school legally segregated). West says the younger Flowers might not have survived his dad’s politics if he hadn’t been a premier athlete and star of the football team; he would go on to play football for the University of Tennessee, and then professionally for Dallas. There’s even a book out about the senior Flowers, Bitter Harvest, which has a forward written by former President Jimmy Carter.

Flower Power
After his days as a Poet, West headed back to California to attend college at Berkeley. His father had maintained residency in California, so even though he arrived during the first year the UC system charged in-state tuition, he still got quite a bargain at $113 a quarter.

He started his freshman year in 1966. San Francisco was alive with “Flower Power,” an age of social upheaval and revolution, and West sported the requisite long hair and beard (made all the more feral by his hair being blond and his beard red). “Coming from Montgomery,” he says, “it was the most stark social change you could imagine. It was fabulous being there, but socially I was maybe 30 years behind the times. I spent the first two years of college catching up on many things other than academics.”

West

West in the mid-1970s (he says he still has this shirt).

On the school side, the first class that really caught his attention was animal ecology in the fall of his junior year. After the class was over, he went in and asked his professor, Dr. Oscar Paris, if there was another similar class he could take as a follow-up. Paris narrowed his eyes at West and asked, “You’re not another [expletive] med student, are you?” When West assured him of his ecological intentions, Paris suggested he try a two-quarter graduate-level course, “Analytical Field Ecology.” It would be field-intensive and limited to eight students, and acceptance into the course would be highly competitive.

As West showed up at the informational meeting, he quickly realized he was surrounded by 35 to 40 graduate students, including a couple who were teaching assistants for his own classes. Just as he was feeling pretty hopeless, in walked this imposing figure, about 6’2” with spectacles. It was Frank Pitelka, chair of the zoology department. Professor Pitelka gave a quick rundown of the course, then started walking around the room, orally interviewing each student—for all others to hear—about his or her qualifications and interest in the course. West could feel the growing inadequacy of his resume, and he assumed he’d get hugely embarrassed when his turn came. Yet when Pitelka got to West and heard his name, he cast a knowing glance over at Professor Paris, who nodded in recognition. Pitelka moved on without any further interrogation.

The class ended up getting filled with eight graduate students—and West. “I was running in place for six months to catch up,” he says. Between the field exercises, hypothesis testing, collecting data, writing up and analyzing, it was full-time work. But he was sold on wildlife research. “I learned more in those two classes than I did in everything else the four years I was there,” he says.

An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse

Feeling galvanized about his future, West decided to go to grad school. He wasn’t initially interested in teaching, so he envisioned getting a master’s and perhaps looking for a position with an agency or research program. He applied to the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, and though they lost his application for months, they ultimately offered him a spot in their program.

This was no ordinary offer, either. They were willing to pay him $12,000 a year, which in the 1970s was a lot of money for a graduate student, ultimately to earn a Ph.D. in wildlife management and then come work in the Institute of Northern Forestry, run by the U.S. Forest Service, as an animal ecologist, dealing with the population ecology of small mammals. They were literally going to create a position for him as a wildlife biologist and pay all the costs associated with his doctoral research. Then when he was done, he’d come back on their staff full-time.

West

West, pictured here on a bird walk at ONRC, traces many of the lessons he later taught his own classes to Professor Pitelka at Berkeley.

That was too tempting to refuse, so he called up Professor Pitelka to see if he could do his doctoral work back at Berkeley. He even got exempted from the teaching requirement since he was heading in a different career direction to work for the Forest Service, and the primary focus of the Ph.D. program was to train professors and academics. “I used to give my officemates all sorts of grief,” he says. “I was making so much more than they were, and they had to teach all these courses.”

With few distractions, West completed his dissertation—on the relationship between small mammals and natural forests—in only three years, including his field work. It was the spring of 1977, he had handed in his dissertation to Pitelka and was waiting to hear from his future employers in Fairbanks. He was due to start work in July.

That’s when President Carter ordered a federal hiring freeze, and suddenly West’s job was stuck in limbo for at least a year. So he skulked back into Pitelka’s office. “I go back in and Frank starts laughing before I say anything,” says West. But Pitelka rescued him by saying he’d set his dissertation aside for a while—meaning West could remain at Berkeley as a graduate student until his job came through, with one major change from before: He’d have to start earning his keep as a teaching assistant.

After that, he taught every quarter. And when President Carter extended the hiring freeze another year, West got so much experience teaching he became a teaching associate. Yet when the hiring freeze got extended a third year, West couldn’t stand the purgatory any longer. He contacted the Institute of Northern Forestry and was released from his obligations there.

Right about that time, a position opened up at the University of Washington in the College of Forest Resources. Thanks to the teaching experience he had never intended to develop, West ended up landing the academic job he had never planned to get. He joined the faculty in 1979 initially as a research assistant professor, not tenure track, but eventually found his way onto the permanent wildlife faculty after the program’s founder—Dick Taber, who had been the last graduate student Aldo Leopold accepted —left for a position in Montana.

The Last Word
We’ve left out dozens of other breadcrumbs in West’s story, but we’d be woefully remiss if he didn’t mention the story of how he met his wife. Back at Berkeley, one of West’s TAs in a plant ecology class had been a graduate student named Pam Yorks. West remembers being particularly proud of one of his class projects, for which he earned an A, but he never got his paper back.

West

West with his wife Pam and daughter Tracey at the Salmon BBQ this past October (naturally, he is manning the beer table).

Years later, not long after West had accepted his position at UW, he ran into Yorks on the steps by a side entrance to Anderson Hall. “That was a big surprise to find her here,” he says. She had graduated with her Ph.D. in Botany from Berkeley and was teaching at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. After that, she and West would occasionally cross paths on campus when she was coming up for seminars—and she eventually returned that paper to him, confessing that she had held onto it to share with future students as an exemplary project!

Yorks later joined UW as a graduate student, earned a master’s in information science and became head librarian for the Physics/Astronomy library  (along the way, she even did a stint in the forestry library in the basement of Bloedel Hall). They got married, had their daughter Tracey, and settled into Seattle for the long haul.

Now, after logging 30-plus years together on campus, they both retired this fall. They certainly haven’t mothballed their purple and gold, though, and you have a good chance of running into them at most major Husky sporting events, from women’s volleyball to basketball and football.

If you do run into West and want to toast his career and retirement, you could do worse than clink glasses with one of his favorite cocktails, The Last Word, which he says is the unofficial drink of Seattle. It’s a gin-based drink from the days of Prohibition that has experienced a bit of a cult revival locally. The drink itself has a lime-green color and a tart, intense herbal boldness (in large part from the Chartreuse). Some love it; others give up after a few sips. For West, though, it’s an assertive tribute to the senses, and it has just the kick to get some of his best stories flowing!

Photos from younger years © Steve West; all other photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

Steve West

Emeritus Spotlight: Dave Manuwal

“I’ve known what I wanted to do for an awfully long time, probably more than 60 years,” says Professor Emeritus Dave Manuwal of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). Growing up in South Bend, Ind., he remembers when his parents bought a cottage on a lake in southern Michigan. One of their neighbors had a bird bath, and he loved watching all the colorful visitors—cardinals, orioles, blue jays—come there to splash and drink. “I watched them and thought, ‘Wow, these are cool animals!’”

Dave ManuwalManuwal quickly realized he had a real knack for ornithology. If he heard a bird song once, he could remember it, and by the time he finished high school, he says he knew virtually all the birds you could find in Indiana. But he can trace it all back to those first trips to Michigan. “I was 9, 10 years old,” he says. “I never really wavered since then.”

Now, after 41 years as part of the SEFS community, Manuwal is officially retired and no longer teaches, but you’ll find his indelible fingerprints all over this school and the history of the wildlife program. We caught up with him the other day to learn more about his lifetime of teaching and studying birds and forest ecology.

Career Beginnings
Manuwal went to the same high school one class below SEFS Professor Bruce Bare, and they both stayed in Indiana and attended Purdue University. Bare decided to study forest production, and Manuwal earned a degree in wildlife conservation in 1966 (years later, as it happened, they would have offices next to each other at the University of Washington).

Before graduating, Manuwal had landed a job as an undergraduate research assistant in Manitoba, Canada. Another researcher there—a graduate student at the University of Montana—told him that if he was interested in studying wildlife after Purdue, he really ought to contact Professor Richard (Dick) Taber.

Dick Taber

This past August, Manuwal spent several hours catching up with Dick Taber, now 92, under a huge ponderosa pine tree in the Lubrecht Forest, where Taber initiated several studies back in the 1950s and ‘60s. “The Richard D. Taber Outstanding Wildlife Conservation Student Award,” which Manuwal created, is given each spring to an exemplary SEFS wildlife student.

So he did. Manuwal wrote Professor Taber and expressed his interest in continuing his ornithological studies in Montana. Taber accepted him as a graduate student in 1966, and off he headed to Missoula to earn a Master’s in Wildlife Management.

Two years later, word of mouth once again steered Manuwal farther west. By that time, he had developed an interest in studying marine birds, and two members of his master’s committee suggested he consider contacting Professor Thomas Howell at the University of California at Los Angeles. So he wrote Howell, expressed his interest and ended up getting accepted there as a doctoral student in zoology.

When he completed his Ph.D. work in 1972, Manuwal didn’t have long to savor the peace. One of the last jobs he had applied to that summer was for an assistant professor of wildlife science with the College of Forest Resources (now SEFS). He was offered the position but was hesitant at first because he still wasn’t sure he wanted to teach. As an undergrad at Purdue, in fact, he says he was “deathly afraid of standing in front of people.” That pretty much held until he started graduate school and was appointed as a graduate teaching assistant. “All of a sudden I realized, ‘I know this stuff,’ and then I wasn’t afraid to talk about it.”

But did he want to make a career doing it? He’d find out awfully fast, because when he accepted the position he learned he’d be teaching his first class within a few weeks of arriving on campus. “It was pretty scary,” he says, and he still vividly remembers that first lecture in September 1972.The course was WS 401, a “Wildlife Biology” class for wildlife science and fisheries majors—and Manuwal was almost starting from scratch. “This was long before the advent of the personal computer,” he says. “I spent a lot of time in journals and libraries, and it took me almost seven hours of research to create those lectures.”

Dave Manuwal

Manuwal organized the first SEFS field trip to Yellowstone National Park back in 1994. “I felt our students needed a broader wildlife experience than what they could get in western Washington,” he says. The annual weeklong trip continues today, now led by professors John Marzluff, Monika Moskal and Aaron Wirsing.

As the 65 or so students filed into Winkenwerder 201 on the first day, Manuwal sat inconspicuously in the second row and listened to some of the chatter speculating about the new wildlife professor. Nobody had seen him yet, and of course he didn’t have an online profile to search. “I was 29 years old and looked pretty much like the majority of the male students,” says Manuwal. “When the bell rang, I got up and walked to the podium. One of the students who had sat next to me rolled his eyes as if to say, ‘Oh no!’”

Alaskan Adventures
The next summer, from June to August 1973, Manuwal was invited to take part in the Noatak Expedition in Alaska’s Brooks Range. The federal government knew very little about the new Noatak National Preserve, and Manuwal was part of an 11-man crew to catalog wildlife in the Noatak River Basin. They traveled by float planes into incredibly isolated and unexplored wilderness areas, where they encountered wolves, grizzlies, caribou, many species of tundra birds, and hordes of mosquitoes on calm days. They worked long hours with nearly constant daylight, and even got caught in a snowstorm in August. “That’s the way it is in the Arctic!”

A few years later, Manuwal secured funding to return to Alaska to study seabird colonies and island vegetation in the remote Barren Islands from 1976-1979. There were five people in the research crew, including Manuwal’s wife Naomi, who earned a bachelor’s in biology from California State University at Northridge, and later a master’s in forest ecology from the College of Forest Resources. Their team focused on the biology of Fork-tailed Storm Petrels, Rhinoceros Auklets and Parakeet Auklets (hence the “auklet” in Manuwal’s email address). They were trying to obtain basic information on the ecology and population sizes of birds nesting there in case of an oil spill—and their data proved helpful in understanding the effects of the Exxon Valdez spill, which reached as far as the Barren Islands.

Dave Manuwal

In the late 1970s, Manuwal got to take part in several seabird studies in Alaska, British Columbia and Washington, including on Smith Island (pictured here). “Being in these seabird colonies is a unique environment,” he says. “There’s a tremendous about of activity, birds are coming and going all the time—lots of noise, especially in a big gull or tern colony.”

A Gaggle of Grad Students
At the College of Forest Resources, Manuwal was now a colleague of his former advisor and mentor, Dick Taber, who had recently come over to start the wildlife program. “One day, I heard a commotion in Dick’s office,” he says. “I looked over there in time to see him rush out with a very agitated look on his face. That was the first and only time I saw him like that. Later, he came back and told me that one of the associate deans had accepted, on our behalf, 13 new graduate students.”

Despite a new policy of the wildlife faculty accepting their own graduate students, the acceptance letters had already been mailed; there was no going back. So at one point in the next year, Manuwal had 11 graduate students, and Taber had around 15. It was a pretty hectic time trying to find research support for all of those extra students, he says, but amazingly all of them made it successfully through the program. “That’s the phenomenal part of it. Kind of funny in retrospect, but it wasn’t funny at the time!”

The shock of that story may linger, but Manuwal would never trade the relationships he developed with his graduate students—bonds that have endured long past the last paper or degree. “Perhaps the highlight of my time at UW was interacting with my graduate students,” he says. “Helping them with their research, visiting them in the study areas, offering advice at important times.”

In total, he had 51 graduate students during his time with SEFS. Forty-nine of them completed degrees, and all but two of them entered the wildlife ecology/conservation field (one became a medical doctor, the other a computer specialist).

With so much invested in his students, he knew retiring wouldn’t be easy. Yet after four decades of teaching scores of courses, from wildlife research techniques to field ornithology to wildlife biology and conservation, Manuwal stood in front of his last class in the fall of 2012.

Dave Manuwal

In August 2008, the year he officially retired, Manuwal invited all of his former grad students to a reunion in Ocean Shores, Wash. Not all of them could make it, but some came from as far away as Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, California and Hawaii. “That was a great time,” he says.

“That last lecture was hard,” he says, “and I didn’t realize how much I’d miss teaching. The day-to-day interactions with students, helping them understand some concepts we discussed in class, people coming in and talking to you about their career choices, what courses to take. I just miss all that—it’s hard to leave.”

Next Chapters
As an Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Science, though, Manuwal hasn’t exactly kicked up his feet just yet. His first move after retirement was to head back into the field as an affiliate professor with the University of Montana. It had been 40 years since he first collected data as a graduate student in the Lubrecht Experimental Forest, about 30 miles northeast of Missoula. His research had concerned songbirds associated with riparian vegetation along three streams where he had originally done surveys in 1967 and ’68, and then in 1980. This time, he wanted to see how bird populations might have changed, and also do a second study on the pattern of territory establishment along those streams.

So, just as he had done 40 years earlier, he borrowed a little trailer and placed it near his study areas. He had a black Labrador with him back then, and he brought a black Labrador with him this time. He also had his whole family participate in the study at various times, and they’re all authors on a manuscript he has in review right now. “That was a blast to go back there and do it again,” he says. “It was a good way to go out.”

Dave Manuwal

Manuwal with a class in the Skagit Valley.

But not all the way out. Back in Seattle, Manuwal has a new research project under way, but this time not involving wildlife. He’s been preparing a tribute to military veterans who became professional wildlife ecology and conservation professionals, whether in academia, government agencies or with nonprofits. He’s read more than 2,000 obituaries and talked to several veterans in person and by email, and he’s identified about 190 veterans so far. Manuwal placed an advertisement in several outlets to gather more information, and if you happen to know of anyone who might fit this description, he would love to hear from you.

Research, clearly, is in his genes, and he still exudes the same infectious energy and curiosity that has defined his career as a scientist and educator. Just ask his students, like SEFS undergrad Tara Wilson, who was in Manuwal’s final ESRM 350 class a year ago: “You could just tell he’s passionate about what he does, and that he’s excited to get us passionate.”

That seems like a fitting tribute—and a pleasant irony—for someone who was once terrified of  standing in front of an audience, yet ended up inspiring hundreds of students to share his love for birds, research and all things wild.

Photos © Dave Manuwal.