Pack Forest Spring Planting: March 23-27!

Each spring for more than 75 years, SEFS students have been spending a week down at Pack Forest as part of the annual spring planting tradition. This Spring Break, March 23-27, you can leave your own mark on the forest and help shape it for future generations!

Pack Forest Spring PlantingWhile staying at Pack Forest, you’ll roll up your sleeves and work on forest establishment, including planting, regeneration surveys and reports. Your housing (and some food) will be covered, there’s a kitchen at your disposal, you’ll earn a $200 stipend, and one course credit is also available. It’s a tremendous opportunity to contribute to a sustainable working forest, all while living in a beautiful setting only a short distance from Mount Rainier National Park.

Need more inspiration? Check out the great video below from last year’s crew!

Contact Professor Greg Ettl to learn more and apply. Preference is given to those who apply early, so act fast!

Field Work Day at Pack Forest

Two weeks ago, right after the first snow of the season, SEFS graduate students Matthew Aghai and Emilio Vilanova joined Dave Cass and Pat Larkin down at Pack Forest for a field work day at the Canyon Loop site within the “Through-fall Exclusion” project.

Pack Forest

Dave Cass climbs a tower near the Canyon Loop site to work on a frozen component.

The main goal of this research is to simulate the conditions of drought and its effects on managed forests with different stand conditions, and several members of Professor Greg Ettl’s lab—mostly led by Kiwoong Lee—have been installing panels and collecting detailed measurements of many bio-climatic variables, including soil moisture, tree growth, precipitation and temperature, among other factors.

While working at the site on December 1, Vilanova took advantage of the first snow and open skies to snap a few shots of the action, including the awesome view of Mount Rainier below, taken a few yards from the Canyon Loop site!

Photos © Emilio Vilanova.

Pack Forest

SEFS Students Present Forest Stewardship Plan to King County

This past spring, 14 SEFS students had the unique opportunity to partner with King County to write a forest stewardship plan for the 645-acre Black Diamond Natural Area, south of Seattle near Maple Valley. Writing the plan was the focus of a new course set up to provide applied, real-world forest management opportunities for students: Applied Forest Ecology & Management (SEFS521/ESRM490).

Black Diamond Natural Area

Black Diamond Natural Area

King County had purchased this forested land through a series of acquisitions during the past decade as part of the King County Open Space Plan. These forests, which were previously managed as industrial plantations, needed a long-term stewardship plan that aligned with King County Parks’ goals of providing recreational opportunities to the public while maintaining the social, ecological and economic functions of the forests. King County has recognized that these dense, 15- to 30-year-old Douglas-fir plantations need active management to provide quality, long-term habitat and recreation. Yet the land is right in the middle of a rapidly developing area where managing forests presents a major social challenge. So to facilitate that planning process, the county partnered with SEFS on this course—co-taught by Research Associate Derek Churchill and Associate Professor Greg Ettl—that would give students direct experience designing a stewardship plan.

Specifically, students were tasked with designing a stewardship plan and stand-level prescriptions for Douglas-fir plantations where the major uses have now shifted to mountain biking, horseback riding and trail running. The quarter was split between field sampling and inventorying forest structure, and also class sessions covering stand dynamics, variable-density thinning, logging systems, FVS modeling and landscape analysis, among other topics. With the heavy field component, students gained hands-on experience with a number of forestry concepts, including mastering the Relaskop, using density diagrams, installing inventory plots and cruising timber, as well as how concepts from forest ecology directly apply to designing forest management treatments. Throughout the quarter, students were able to draw on the expertise of Professor Emeritus Peter Schiess and several SEFS alumni, including Paul Wagner, Paul Fisher and Jeff Comnick.

Sean Jeronimo

SEFS grad student Sean Jeronimo measuring tree heights in the project area.

Students also engaged and interacted with neighboring communities in Maple Valley that are adjacent to the project area—a sensitive social dimension that is essential to successful forest stewardship in the proximity of urban growth boundaries. These neighborly considerations hit especially close to home for one of the students, Mary Starr, who has lived in Maple Valley for four years and knows firsthand the close relationship these communities have to their natural areas. “If you can work with stakeholders to do forestry successfully here, you can do it anywhere,” says Churchill.

While each student was assigned to write a section of the final stewardship plan, Abraham Ngu, a Master of Forest Resources candidate, coordinated and edited the final plan as part of his capstone project. The course then culminated with the students giving a formal presentation of their management recommendations to county officials, including the lead environmental coordinators.

Feedback from the county was immensely positive. Officials praised the students and, perhaps most importantly, gave a sincere indication they would like to continue the collaboration. In his post-presentation email to the course instructors, Dave Kimmett, program manager of King County Parks, wrote, “Is it too soon to think about the next class? The students made a very good impression today. ”

Not too soon at all, in fact, as King County Parks administration had a follow-up meeting with SEFS Director Tom DeLuca, Ettl and Churchill this past July, paving the way for another class in the spring of 2015.

Nice work!

Photos © Sam Israel/SEFS.


Join the Pack Forest Summer Crew!

Every summer, a hardy crew of SEFS students heads down to Pack Forest for two months of hands-on field training in forest management. It’s one of our oldest field traditions, and also one of the most memorable, so take a look at the opportunities coming up this summer!

There are five internship positions available for undergrads during the 2014 Summer Quarter, which runs from June 23 to August 22. Each position is eligible for 5 ESRM credit hours, as well a $200 weekly stipend and free housing.

* Four spots are open for Forest Resource Interns, who will assist with the management and stewardship of Pack Forest’s timber resources, research installations, roads and trails. These students will develop forest mensuration skills, practice species identification, participate in research programs, and learn about sustainable forest management.

* One additional position is available for an Outreach & Education Intern, who will actively participate in public outreach, environmental education and natural resource management. This student will develop skills in communications, public outreach and curriculum development, as well as gain exposure to natural resource management.

The deadline to apply is this coming Wednesday, April 9. If you’re interested, send your resume and a cover letter describing how the internship will fit into your program of study to Professor Greg Ettl.

Also, for a glimpse of the Pack Forest experience, check out the video below—produced by Katherine Turner of UW Marketing & Communications—from the Pack Forest Spring Planting a couple weeks ago!

Charles Lathrop Pack Essay Competition

In 1923, Charles Lathrop Pack had the foresight to establish an essay competition so that students in the College of Forest Resources would “express themselves to the public and write about forestry in a way that affects or interests the public.” His original mandate continues today at SEFS—as does the unwavering value of good written communication—and we are pleased to announce the 2014 edition of the Charles Lathrop Pack Essay Competition!

Charles Lathrop Pack

Charles Lathrop Pack

The prize for top essays is $500, and this year’s prompt addresses biofuels:

There are great hopes of converting woody biomass into liquid transportation fuels. What are the likely economic, social and ecological ramifications of pursuing a wood-to-liquid fuel strategy in the Pacific Northwest?

Entries are due by Tuesday, April 1, 2014. If you have any questions about the competition, or if you’d like to see if your essay idea sounds promising and appropriate, email Professor Greg Ettl. Otherwise, review the rest of the guidelines below, and get busy thinking and typing!

Essay Criteria
In responding to the prompt, you must justify your answer from a political, ecological and economic point of view. You are expected to provide a technical perspective, addressing a diverse and educated audience that needs further knowledge of natural resource issues. Writers are expected to clearly state the problem or issue to be addressed at the beginning of the essay, and should emphasize a strong public communications element. Course papers substantially restructured to meet these guidelines are acceptable; however, no group entries are permitted. References and quotes are acceptable only when sources are clearly indicated; direct quotes should be used sparingly.

Entries should be typed, double-spaced (one side of paper only), and may not exceed 2,000 words. Include a cover page with student name and title of the essay, then print your submission and deliver to Student and Academic Services in AND 116/130 no later than April 1, 2014.

The competition is open to juniors, seniors and graduate students enrolled in SEFS during Spring Quarter 2014 who have not yet received a graduate-level degree from any institution. Undergraduate and graduate essays will be judged in separate categories.

A Judging Committee will be selected to assess originality, organization, mastery of subject, objectivity, clarity, forcefulness of writing, literary merit and conciseness. The Committee will reserve the right to withhold the prize if no entry meets acceptable standards. The Committee may also award more than one prize for outstanding entries if funds permit. Winning papers will be posted on the Center for Sustainable Forestry at Pack Forest website, and might also be featured on the SEFS blog, “Offshoots,” and in the School’s e-newsletter, The Straight Grain.

Charles Lathrop Pack © SEFS.

Students: Pack Forest Beckons You!

Coming up this spring and summer, SEFS graduate and undergraduate students have a chance to take part in two hallowed traditions down at Pack Forest: the annual spring planting (March 23-27), and the two-month summer crew (June 23 to August 22)!

Check out the two opportunities and application deadlines below; you can apply to either one, or even try for both:

Spring Planting: Why Veg When You Can Plant?
For more than 75 years, students have been putting down roots at Pack Forest, helping to shape it for future generations. This Spring Break, you can leave your own mark by taking part in the annual spring planting, March 23-27!

While staying at Pack Forest, you’ll roll up your sleeves and work on forest establishment, including planting, regeneration surveys and survey reports. Your housing (and some food) will be covered, there’s a kitchen at your disposal, and you’ll even earn a $200 stipend. Two course credits are available, as well.

Contact Professor Greg Ettl to learn more and apply. Preference is given to those who apply before Monday, February 24, so act fast!

Tara Wilson

Tara Wilson, a senior ESRM major, gets into the swing of things as part of the Pack Forest Summer Crew in 2012.

Pack Forest Summer Crew
Every summer, several SEFS students head down to Pack Forest for two months of hands-on field training in forest management. As an intern on the summer crew, your weekends are generally free, so you can venture to a number of local attractions, including nearby Mount Rainier. On top of that, you’ll receive 5 ESRM credit hours to go with a $200 weekly stipend and free housing!

For the 2014 Summer Quarter, which runs from June 23 to August 22, there are five ESRM internship positions available.

Four spots are open for Forest Resource Interns, who will assist with the management and stewardship of Pack Forest’s timber resources, research installations, roads and trails. These students will develop forest mensuration skills, practice species identification, participate in research programs, and learn about sustainable forest management.

One additional position is available for an Outreach & Education Intern, who will actively participate in public outreach, environmental education and natural resource management. This student will develop skills in communications, public outreach and curriculum development, as well as gain exposure to natural resource management.

The deadline to apply is April 9. If you’re interested, send your resume and a cover letter describing how the internship will fit into your program of study to Professor Ettl.

Photo © Tara Wilson.

Advanced Silviculture Seminar

For the Advanced Silviculture Seminar (SEFS 526) this quarter, Professor Greg Ettl has organized a truly continental line-up with speakers from Canada, Mexico and the United States. This winter’s theme, “Single Tree and Small Gap Selection Forestry Systems of North America,” will explore responses to selection systems where one to a few trees have been removed at regular intervals from forests (in some cases for decades). And thanks to the videoconference facilities in Kane Hall, the speakers will be able to present live from eight different locations without making the long flight out to Seattle!

The seminars are open to the public and are held on Fridays from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in Kane Hall, Room 19 (with time afterward for Q&A). Check out the full schedule below, and come out and join us—starting this Friday, Jan. 10—for an incredible series of talks from experts across North America!

Advanced Silviculture SeminarJanuary 10
“Introduction to single-tree and small gap selection systems: Potential applications in the Pacific Northwest.”
Greg Ettl, SEFS

January 17
“Selection methods for loblolly and shortleaf pine: Lessons from the Good and Poor Forty Demonstration established 1937, Crossett Experimental Forest, southeastern Arkansas.”
Jim Guldin, USFS, Southern Research Station, Hot Springs, Ark.

January 24
“The application of partial harvest systems for the southern boreal forests of Québec in the context of natural disturbance-based management.”
Brian Harvey, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue

January 31
“Long-term dynamics and emerging trends associated with selection-based systems in Lake States northern hardwood forests.”
Anthony D’Amato, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota

February 7
“Response of mature trees versus seedlings to gaps associated with group selection management: The Blodgett Forest, Sierra Nevada, California.”
Rob York, University of California

February 14
“The effects of selection system harvesting on longleaf-slash pine forests: light availability explains regeneration, and understory composition.”
Kimberly Bohn, University of Florida, Milton, Fla.

February 21
“Single-tree selection in Acadian mixed conifer forests: the balanced, multi-aged stands of the Penobscot National Forest.”
Laura Kenefic, USFS Center for Research on Ecosystem Change, Bradley, Maine

February 28
“A dominance of shade tolerant species following 60 years of single-tree selection cutting in upland mixed-hardwood forest of the southern Appalachian Mountains.”
Tara Keyser, USFS, Southern Research Station, Asheville, N.C.

March 7
No seminar.

March 14
“The success of the ‘Mexican Method’ of selection forestry in pine and pine-oak forests.”
Martin Mendoza, Colegio de Postgraduados, Mexico

“Climate of Change” Video Series Features Pack Forest, UW Farm

The University of Washington Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability office recently released its “Climate of Change” video series, which showcases a variety of sustainability programs, activities and research taking place at UW. Through four half-hour episodes, covering everything from soil to wetlands to recycling, the film series explores a number of projects on campus and at remote facilities—including, in the second episode (“Modeling Sustainability”), Pack Forest and the UW Farm!

The whole episode is very much worth watching (see below), and you can pick up the Pack Forest section about sustainable forestry around the 10th minute. After spending several hours shooting there on a sunny day this past April, the film crew captured some gorgeous footage. The final cut prominently features Professor Greg Ettl, along with a cameo from Julie Baroody, who earned her master’s from SEFS this past summer. (The UW Farm coverage begins shortly afterwards, right around the 20:50 mark, in the final section on the Campus Sustainability Fund.)

The other three episodes include “The University and the World,” “Living the Sustainability Experience,” and “Commitment to the Future.” All four videos are hosted on YouTube and are being aired on UWTV—Channel 27 in the Puget Sound region—on Sundays at 9:30 p.m.

So take a look at a couple of our programs in action!

Video © UW Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability.

Mount Rainier Institute Welcomes First Students

This past October, after a year of planning and preparation, the Mount Rainier Institute successfully conducted its first two pilot programs down at Pack Forest!

The idea first germinated with Professor Greg Ettl and the National Park Service several years ago. Since those early meetings, one of the driving forces behind the program has been John Hayes, environmental education program manager at Pack Forest. Working in close partnership with the park service and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Hayes has been drawing up the blueprint for a residential environmental learning center that uses the natural and cultural resources of Mount Rainier National Park and Pack Forest to nurture the next generation of environmental stewards and leaders.

Kevin Bacher/NPS

Students from Sequoyah Middle School in Federal Way conduct forest surveys around Pack Forest.

The program would invite school students from all backgrounds—and especially from diverse communities with limited access to parks and other natural spaces—to spend three nights at Pack Forest.

With hands-on experiments and projects within Pack and at Mount Rainier, the goal would be for students to explore science and nature, build confidence in being outdoors, generate interest in careers involving resource management, and generally cultivate a greater appreciation for resource management, national parks and the environment.

Taking Root
After so much work getting the curriculum ready for a test run, Hayes and other project partners were especially excited to welcome the first pilot group from First Creek Middle School in Tacoma—22 students, mostly 7th and 8th graders, and their teachers, Donna Chang and Deb Sanford—for a three-night stay at Pack Forest.

They arrived on October 14, and because of the government shutdown at the time, they were not allowed to visit Mount Rainier until their final morning. But the students had plenty to keep them busy in and around Pack Forest. They visited Alder Dam on the Nisqually River to see hydroelectric power in action, practiced taking photos in the forest, wrote poems, did other journaling and cultural projects, and also conducted a few forest ecology experiments. One group, for instance, looked at plant diversity in old growth compared to younger forests, while another compared wildlife between the two forest types, including doing bird surveys.

“What was special about that is they really went through the scientific process,” says Hayes. “They were given a question in the morning, developed a hypothesis, came up with some methods, collected and analyzed data, and then gave a presentation at the end of the day. They had a great time with it!”

Kevin Bacher/NPS

With three overnights at Pack Forest, each group got to spend plenty of time around the campfire.

And that was just while the sun was shining. In the evenings, in addition to enjoying campfires and songs, students learned about the history of the region, from the park service to local tribes and other historical figures, like Fay Fuller, who in 1890 became the first woman to summit Mount Rainier. On the second night, they presented their research findings at the science symposium, and on their final night they went for a night hike to explore adaptations of nocturnal animals—and also how humans react to low visibility. “It was really exciting for a lot of them to be out in the woods without flashlights,” says Hayes.

A week later, the second group, led by teachers Dan Borst and Amy Heritage, arrived from Sequoyah Middle School in Federal Way. Their experience was similar to the first group, except this time Mount Rainier National Park was fully open again, so students got to talk to park staff, visit Paradise and experience much more of the mountain. “For many of them, it was the first time they’d been to the park, and that was a pretty amazing experience,” says Hayes.

Greatly enhancing that experience were several folks from Mount Rainier National Park, starting with Park Superintendent Randy King, who has been a strong supporter from the beginning. “Our National Park Service partners were working along with us shoulder to shoulder throughout the program,” says Hayes, including education specialist Brandi Stewart, education program manager Fawn Bauer, and volunteer program manager Kevin Bacher (who took the wonderful photos featured in this story!), as well as Casey Overturf and Maureen McLean.

Another important component of the curriculum was teaching the kids about different ecosystem services nature provides, from forest products to recreation, building houses and providing jobs, cultural, spiritual and other aesthetic functions. One of the most poignant demonstrations to that effect involved doing a timber cruise and calculating the value of a stand of timber. “That was a real eye-opener for a lot of them,” says Hayes. “They never thought about how valuable forest products are to people, and how much, in a practical sense, it’s worth to cut down and harvest timber. That was contrasted throughout the week with other choices we make in managing our resources.”

Kevin Bacher/NPS

Students didn’t just get to conduct experiments in the forest. On the second night, they got to present their findings at a science symposium.

Early Returns
“Given that it was pilot, nothing was perfect,” says Hayes. “We actually only did about a quarter of what we had planned to do, and there are a lot of things we will change and refine in the future. But the teachers were very positive about the experience, and many of them are already trying to organize a trip to come back next year, which is what we’re hoping for.”

Yet for a program designed to train and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, perhaps the most promising result of the pilots was the enthusiastic reaction from the students. By the end of their few days at Pack Forest, many were openly wishing they could stay longer or come back in the summer. And in interviews with students afterwards, a number of them expressed—nearly verbatim—the messages planners hoped they’d take home.

As one student said of the overall experience: “Now that I have done this Sequoyah to Mount Rainier Institute test run thing, I won’t look at the mountain the same. I used to just look at the mountain like it was just there, and it didn’t like mean anything. But now that I’ve like actually been there and done this, I’ll like always remember the things I’ve done and that I also want to come back here, but I don’t think I can because I’m going into high school. But I want to go back to Mount Rainier someday, and I actually want to climb to the top.”

Kevin Bacher/NPS

For many students, this was their first visit to Mount Rainier, and they had a great time exploring the mountain (and having snowball fights, of course).

Or as another student reflected on the science projects they completed and presented at the symposium: “I liked that we put purpose to what we did. We didn’t just do it and forget about it. We like actually did something when we got back, so it wasn’t like we were just doing it, we did something with it.”

That kind of feedback has Hayes and the rest of the institute team fired up to get the program fully up and running. They’re hoping to kick off the first full season in the fall of 2014, with the target of reaching about 1,000 students in that first year.

“It’s a daunting goal,” says Hayes, “but one we’re going to push hard to try to make happen!”

Want to learn more or get involved? Contact Hayes today!

All photos © Kevin Bacher/NPS.

Photy by Kevin Bacher/NPS

Grad Student Spotlight: Julie Baroody

In the world of forest management, the stakes are usually pretty high. Short-term decisions and long-term planning can have huge environmental and ecological impacts—on everything from wildfires and wildlife habitat to local jobs and sustainable construction materials. When Julie Baroody started her field research in Mexico, though, the situation was put more simply (and a bit more personally): Do a good job, or a local villager goes to jail.

“Oh man,” she remembers thinking, “that’s a big responsibility.”

Julie Baroody

Julie Baroody down at Pack Forest.

Baroody, a graduate student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), had just arrived at a village in the highlands of Mexico’s Chiapas state. Lázaro Cárdenas is a self-governed indigenous community, or ejido, based on subsistence farming and the milpa system of crop rotation. As the population has grown in recent years, the demand for new households has put greater pressure on the available timber stock, and also led to more permanent agriculture.

Each year, villagers have had to travel farther and farther to find oak for firewood—their primary source of energy, including for cooking. Community leaders were concerned they would soon run out of firewood entirely, and that only pine would remain in their traditional pine-oak forest

“Pine takeover” of the pine-oak forest is common in the highlands of Chiapas, but Baroody wanted to know how much was due to firewood harvest and how much to villagers’ prioritization of pine, which can be used as timber. So began the field portion of her thesis project—with a little more than a degree on the line!

The Root of It All
Baroody moved to Seattle to start graduate school in the fall of 2011 after six years working with the Rainforest Alliance on sustainable land use. She had helped launch a program to enhance their work mitigating climate change, and part of her role involved traveling to different sites around the world.

During international trips, Baroody says she would walk through all sorts of forests and wonder about their dynamics and health—why one forest needed thinning, for instance, while another was not dense enough. Those questions eventually triggered a new plan: Find a graduate program where she could deepen her understanding of how forests work. She didn’t necessarily want to be a forester, she says, but Baroody wanted a practical background in forestry to inform her project management experience.

Julie Baroody

Baroody coring a tree in her study area in Chiapas, Mexico.

She was living in Portland, Maine, at the time, not far from where she grew up in Blue Hill along the state’s coast. Baroody then started reaching out to SEFS students and faculty who were doing work similar to what she had in mind. She ended up connecting with Jason Scullion, who was wrapping up his Master’s project in Mexico (and is now working on his Ph.D.), as well as Professor Kristiina Vogt. Those conversations eventually led her to Professor Greg Ettl. “I wanted to learn about sustainable forest management, and I thought Greg would be the best person to teach me that,” says Baroody. Just as important, he took her on with the understanding she would be looking for a research site abroad.

Working through her Rainforest Alliance contacts, Baroody explored a few potential options in Ghana and Peru but eventually decided on the firewood project in Mexico.

It seemed like the best opportunity for her research to have an impact on how forests are managed, but the program almost never got off the ground. Baroody often waited through long weeks of radio silence from her contacts and barely had any details finalized before flying down for several months of field work. Yet in the end the arrangement came together, and Baroody says Ettl was extremely patient and gave her the space—even when the plan seemed on the verge of collapse—to set up the project. “Greg has been really terrific,” she says. “He stood by me the whole way.”

Far Afield
Independent by nature, Baroody says she has a knack for stranding herself in tricky situations with minimal support—and then making the best of it. First there was an iffy study abroad program she survived in Peru, but a stiffer test came after she graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont.

Julie Baroody

Several community members assisted Baroody with her field research, including helping with translation and interviews.

Following an internship in her hometown with the Marine Environmental Research Institute, she arranged to teach Spanish literacy to kids on a local coffee farm in the Dominican Republic. Julia Alvaraz, a Dominican author of magical realism, and her husband had purchased Café Alta Gracia to transform it into a sustainable coffee business and writing retreat. It certainly sounded like a romantic adventure.

The reality for Baroody, however, was that she found herself teaching out of a shack for several months, cut off from nearly all communication with home and the outside world. Back copies of The New Yorker were her only English-language reading, and she remembers riding a guagua (basically the back of a truck) down to town to find out the results of the 2002 elections back in the United States.

She discovered a few things about herself, including that teaching might not be her true calling. Yet Baroody says she also got to live in a beautiful place near the Haitian border and came away with a memorable experience. So in the end, definitely worth it.

For this next project in Mexico, Baroody was relieved to know she would have a more extensive support network. In addition to her contacts at ProNatura Sur, the NGO she originally worked with to set up the research, Baroody would be collaborating with a local university, ECOSUR, the Colegio de la Frontera Sur. One of their professors, Dr. Neptali Ramirez Marcial, was an expert on the region’s ecology and ecological transition, and he would sit on her graduate committee and assist her research.

So with her project mostly organized, Baroody arrived in Mexico in April 2012. Professor Greg Ettl flew down to Chiapas shortly after to spend a week with her and give her a crash course in field research and equipment training. Then she had her first meeting with the community leaders in Lázaro Cárdenas, the study village. “They were very concerned about their firewood use and wanted to know when it was going to run out,” she says, and they were looking to her for analysis and answers. ProNatura Sur had established the relationship with Lázaro Cárdenas through a staff member who was an ejido member, and it was his freedom on the line if she made any missteps. Though the community leaders approved of the project (and sealed the deal with a shot of local liquor), it was an intimidating experience.

Julie Baroody

For Baroody, field season meant long hours in the woods or interviewing locals, and then long evenings transcribing and entering data.

The Research Grind
Lazaro Cardenas is fairly isolated and self-managed, which Baroody says made the project a good laboratory experiment. Her research primarily took two forms: data collection in forest plots, and interviews with local residents to see how they use the firewood (how often they harvest, where they gather wood, how much they use, etc.).

For the latter task, she had four village elders assigned to be her research assistants and facilitate the interviews (in some cases, people they encountered only spoke the Maya language traditional to Lázaro Cárdenas, so they also served as translators from tzotzil to Spanish). Since Baroody wasn’t living in the village—she rented a room in the nearby city of San Cristobal and commuted up to Lázaro Cárdenas every day—she felt the elders were indispensable for earning trust and legitimizing her work. “I couldn’t have done it without them,” she says.

Each morning, she and her team would head out into the field from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Later that evening when back in her room, Baroody would then set to work transcribing the day’s interviews and entering data. It was an exhausting, around-the-clock schedule, and just about her only socializing came via Skype with her boyfriend back in Maine.

By June, Baroody had completed her field work and headed back to Seattle. In her final assessment, she wasn’t able to tell the village exactly how long their firewood supply will last, but she collected enough information to help them create a plan to start reforesting some of the oaks, and to do more selective harvesting. She believes that as the town becomes more accessible by road, as well, increased availability of propane—which has a comparable cost of firewood—will additionally reduce some of the ecological pressure on the forest.


“Beatrice is definitely a teenager, putting everything in her mouth and barking when you don’t pay attention to her,” says Baroody.

Jail time, in the end, was averted, and Baroody says she came away far more confident in her research and interviewing, and feeling capable of leading a team in her field. “It was trial by fire,” she says, and there were times she grew frustrated with hitches and challenges beyond her control. “But I learned to be more patient and go with the flow a little bit.”

This summer, Baroody is putting the final touches on her research and will be defending her thesis, “Firewood Extraction as a Catalyst of Pine-Oak Forest Degradation in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico,” on Monday, August 12 (the public portion of her defense begins at noon in Anderson 22). She’s also completing a final class before earning a nonprofit management certificate from the Evans School of Public Affairs.

After that, she plans to move back to Portland early this fall. She’ll be taking her new puppy—a 7-month-old hound mix named Beatrice—and rejoining her boyfriend on the East Coast. The only questions left by then will be, ‘Which organization will she be running, and when?’

Photos © Julie Baroody.