John Marzluff to Kick Off Winter Lecture Series at Henry Art Gallery

This winter, Seattle Arts & Lectures is hosting a five-part series at the Henry Art Gallery, “Thinking Animals: Species, Power and the Politics of Care in the World.” Held on Friday evenings from January 9 through March 6, the talks will explore the histories, politics and cultural dynamics of how humans see and do not see animals in the world. Bringing expertise from wildlife sciences, animal welfare, geography, anthropology, literature and political science, the speakers will explore human-animal connections in a range of global and historical contexts, including Renaissance France, contemporary Peru, and urban and rural spaces in the United States.

At 7 p.m. on Friday, January 9, Professor John Marzluff will be giving the first talk of the series, “Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing our neighborhoods with wrens, robins, woodpeckers, and other wildlife.” Drawing from his latest book, Professor Marzluff’s lecture will feature an “optimistic discussion of the vast diversity of birdlife that has adapted to living in populated areas, and a variety of things we can do to create more hospitable environments for our winged neighbors.”

Other speakers include Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States; Dr. Kathryn Gillespie (Geography, UW); Dr. Louisa Mackenzie (French and Italian Studies, UW); Dr. María Elena García (Comparative History of Ideas and International Studies, UW Seattle); and Dr. Tony Lucero (International Studies, UW Seattle).

This lecture series is presented in partnership with the University of Washington’s Critical Animal Studies working group, and it will be held in conjunction with an exhibition by Ann Hamilton that touches on themes of human and non-human animals. Tickets are $100 for admission to all five lectures, or $20 at the door for a single talk (box office opens at 6 p.m.). A 15 percent discount is available to SEFS attendees, as well, so contact Karl Wirsing for the discount code.

Visit Seattle Arts & Lectures for more background on each talk and ticket information.

SEFS to Host Wolf Research Panel on Lethal Management

The School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), in partnership with the Pacific Wolf Coalition, will be hosting a research panel on Wednesday, October 29, to explore the impacts lethal management may have on wolves, and to facilitate a discussion about how to apply that knowledge to wildlife management in the Pacific Northwest.

Organized by SEFS Professors John Marzluff and Aaron Wirsing, the research panel will highlight the current issues managers face in California, Oregon, Washington and the Northern Rockies as wolf populations have or are in the process of recovering. Panelists will share research findings and the most current science on how various management strategies might impact wolf ecology, pack structure, habitat connectivity, social acceptance and recovery.

Wolf Panel

Wolf caught on a stationary camera near Republic, Wash.

“Our hope is that this panel, which is the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, will help to shape policy in Washington that facilitates wolf recovery while minimizing impacts to those who are coming into contact with these top predators,” says Professor Wirsing.

Drawing top researchers from around the region and country, the panel will include Dr. Doug Smith of the National Park Service; Professor Jeremy Bruskotter from Ohio State University; Professor Rob Wielgus from Washington State University; Dr. Scott Brainerd from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Professor Adrian Treves from the University of Wisconsin – Madison; Dr. Donny Martorello from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; and Mike Jimenez from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Due to limited space, the panel is invitation-only and not open to the public, but you can contact Professors Marzluff and Wirsing to learn more about the event and how to access materials and findings afterwards.

Generous support for the panel has come from the University of Washington, Wilburforce Foundation, Conservation Northwest, and the Pacific Wolf Coalition.

Photo © SEFS.

Wildlife Science Seminar: Fall Schedule!

Next week we kick off another quarter of the long-running Wildlife Science Seminar, starting with Professor John Marzluff for the first talk, “Living with nature in your backyard.”

Professor Marzluff is leading the seminar this fall, and he’s put together an outstanding slate of speakers, from visiting professors and experts, to faculty in other departments around campus, to a couple of our own graduate students.

You can catch the seminars on Mondays from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Kane Hall 120. (Undergraduate students may register for credit under ESRM 455; graduate students under SEFS 554.)

The public is invited, so check out the full schedule below and mark your calendars!

Wildlife SeminarWeek 1: September 29
“Living with nature in your backyard”
Dr. John Marzluff
, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 2: October 6
“Patterns of evolution among New World birds”
Dr. John Klicka
, Burke Museum and Department of Biology, UW

Week 3: October 13 
“Brain mechanisms of vocal learning in songbirds”
Dr. David Perkel
, Departments of Biology and Otolaryngology, UW

Week 4: October 20
“Tigers in Malaysia”
Dr. Fred Koontz
, Woodland Park Zoo

Week 5: October 27
“Wildlife issues on the UW campus”
Dr. Charles Easterberg
, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, UW

Week 6: November 3
“Monitoring raptors on the Washington Coast”
Dr. Daniel Varland,
Coastal Raptors, Hoquiam

Week 7: November 10
“Outdoor recreation and the still unlovely mind”
Dr. Richard Knight
, Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

Week 8: November 17
Talk TBD
Dr. Gordon Orians, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biology, UW

Week 9: November 24
“American crows use funerals as an opportunity to learn about dangers”
Kaeli Swift
, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 10: December 1
Talk TBD
Clint Robbins, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Undergrad Spotlight: Julie Hower

Julie Hower, a senior Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) major, split her childhood between the two coasts: first out west in the Los Angeles area, and then back east near Tampa, Fla., for her high school years. By the time she started looking at colleges, though, she felt the call of the West once again.

“Because I grew up in LA,” she says, “my dad would take me to Yosemite and Sequoia, so I really missed the West Coast.”

She considered a number of schools, including a few in California, but a University of Washington campus tour in 2008 sealed it for her. “It felt like a great fit,” she says.

Julie Hower

“Each national park is different, but Yellowstone is something else,” says Hower, who has also worked on summer projects at Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks.

Hower arrived on campus originally interested in studying marine biology and fisheries, but later in her freshman year she attended a seminar with Professor Aaron Wirsing involving his research with tiger sharks and dugongs, and wolves and elk. She loved the concept of predator-prey ecology and quickly shifted her focus to the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). “I knew I wanted to be a wildlife major,” she says.

In the next few years, she took advantage of a wide range of field courses, including Spring Comes to the Cascades (ESRM 401) with Professor Tom Hinckley, and Wildlife Research Techniques (ESRM 351) with Professor Steve West. Then she took “Wildlife Conservation in Northwest Ecosystems” (ESRM 459), which begins during spring break with an intensive week in Yellowstone National Park. Led by Professors John Marzluff, Monika Moskal and Wirsing, the course focuses on a range of wildlife and management issues in the park, including corvid distribution and wolf predation.

The experience really resonated with Hower, and this past winter she signed up to take part in a long-running study of the wolves in Yellowstone as part of the Yellowstone Wolf Project.

Back in 1995 and 1996, after decades of wolves being completely absent from the ecosystem, 31 were reintroduced to the park. Since then, the Yellowstone Park Foundation has worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to research and closely monitor the wolves, including carrying out two 30-day winter surveys every year—one at the start of the season, and one at the end. Technicians receive a small stipend and free housing, and they operate as volunteers for the NPS.

Julie Hower

Hower sizes up a wolf track in Yellowstone.

This year marked the 19th winter of observations. From the beginning, one of the project leaders has been Rick McIntyre, a biological technician for the Yellowstone Wolf Project who’s been involved with monitoring the park’s wolves since 1996. McIntyre is famous for the countless hours he’s invested in these observations, at one point logging more than 3,000 consecutive days heading out to look for wolves. The survey crews who work with him don’t quite have to match that standard, but they don’t fall too far off that pace.

Each volunteer is assigned to follow one specific pack. Hower and the other members of her crew—which included two graduate students, one from South Dakota and another from Wisconsin—were charged with tracking the seven wolves of the Junction Butte Pack.

For 30 days in March, their weekly schedule involved six days in the field and one day off. Using radio telemetry, they’d drive through their pack’s territory along the main park road and try to locate the wolves, and then hike out for a closer view when they zeroed in on the pack. Their job was to record a number of behaviors, including monitoring interactions with elk, bison and bears, as well as predator-prey encounters: the chase and the attack, noting which wolves did what, whether it was a pup that initiated or the alpha took the lead. They also performed field necropsies of prey to determine the age, sex and condition of the individual.

Julie Hower

Her crew once spotted a grizzly and a wolf in the same area, and Hower says they were jumping up and down with excitement—albeit from a safe distance.

They’d routinely put in 13-hour days, topped off by some paperwork at the end of it. “It’s not a glamorous job,” says Hower, “and the days get very long and tiring. But it’s an awesome and rewarding experience seeing these amazing animals in the wild.”

Of course, finding the wolves in the first place was no easy task. “A lot of people have this ideal that you’re going to see wolves every day,” she says. Yet you’re talking about tracking 80 or so wolves—or actually seven, in the case of this one pack—ranging through Yellowstone’s nearly 3,500 square miles.

Numbers aren’t the only challenge, either. During Hower’s first week in the park, the temperature was about -22 degrees, and the wind was howling with 50-60 mph gusts. Toting their equipment, her crew spent hours hiking to the top of a ridge in pursuit of the wolves, and they didn’t get their first glimpse until the third day. They set up their tripod and spotting scopes, hands shaking in the bitter cold, bracing against the wind and hoping they weren’t blown off the mountain—but they had finally located the pack. “It was a grand introduction,” she says.

From then on, Hower never got tired of seeing the wolves. The excitement was fresh each day, because during the undisturbed quiet of a Yellowstone winter, you never know what’s lurking around the next bend.

“On my very last day, I was getting ready to leave the park and drive back to Seattle, and I decided to reminisce with a drive out to the Lamar Valley,” she says. “Right as I made the turn out of the Tower Ranger Station, a wolf crosses in front of my car about 10 feet ahead of me.”

Julie Hower

After a winter of surveying the wolves from a distance, Hower got to see 889F saunter across the road right in front her on her last day in the park.

It was a female, 889F, that used to be part of the Junction Butte Pack but had separated in February to go with a lone male, 755M. “I was just in shock and laughing,” says Hower. “I couldn’t believe it was happening as I was ready to leave the park.”

That was a fine send-off after five incredible weeks in the park, and she’s now back on campus wrapping up her final quarter before graduation this June. Graduate school might be down the road, yet for now she wants more field experience. In fact, she just accepted a position as a Wildlife Biological Sciences Technician with Helena National Forest, where she’ll be surveying wolverines, Canada lynx and snowshoe hares. She’ll be living in Lincoln, Mont., and can’t wait to get started shortly after graduation.

Given her many field courses and hands-on research training, as well as field tech jobs and internships at Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, Hower has put herself in an excellent position to thrive as a wildlife researcher—and she’s already well on her way!

“I’m so happy I came up here,” she says. “It’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Photos © Julie Hower.

Julie Hower

SEFS Seminar Series: Spring 2014!

With the Spring Quarter now under way, we aren’t just excited for those first skin-tingling days in the 60s—like today—when the sunshine starts burning moon-sized holes in our motivation. We also can’t wait for the return of the SEFS Seminar Series, which kicks off tomorrow, April 1, at 3:30 p.m. in Anderson 223 (that’s right, Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays this quarter)!

We have to say, this quarter might feature the most diverse slate of speakers and topics yet, with talks from authors and artists mixed in with professors and agency professionals. So mark your calendars today and join us for as many Tuesdays as you can!

Also, we’ll have a casual reception in the Forest Club Room after the first seminar of each month—April 1, May 6 and June 3—and students can register for 2 course credits as ESRM 490C for undergrads or SEFS 550C for grads. (Contact Michelle Trudeau or Amanda Davis is you have any questions about registering.)

Spring 2014 SEFS Seminar SeriesApril 1
“The trouble with murrelets: Discovering and recovering a rare bird”
Maria Mudd Ruth
Author, Rare Bird
*Reception to follow in Forest Club Room

April 8
“More to crow about”
Professor John Marzluff, SEFS

April 15
“Climate change adaptation in forest ecosystems: Principles and paradigm shifts”
Dave Peterson, USFS

April 22
“Reforestation and the role of meadows in preserving biodiversity in China”
Professor Steve Harrell, SEFS/Anthropology

April 29
“Diversifying finance mechanisms for protected areas in the developing world”
Nabin Baral, SEFS

May 6
“Spatial optimization of forest roads, edges and harvest scheduling on WA DNR lands”
Professor Sándor Tóth, SEFS
*Reception to follow in Forest Club Room

May 13
“Burnscapes: An artist observes fire ecology”
Suze Woolf, artist

May 20
“Clear-cutting and even-age silviculture and its relevance today for public land management”
Angus Brody, WA DNR

May 27
“Assessing the impact of domestic wood”
Professor Ivan Eastin, SEFS

June 3
“Differential life stage niche modeling: Can we construct species fitness landscapes from SDMs?”
Tom Edwards, Utah State University
*Reception to follow in Forest Club Room

Feathered Fun

On Wednesday, March 5, 4th grader and avid birder Hudson Brown sat down for some lively discussion about all things avian with Professor John Marzluff of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).

Marzluff

Hudson Brown, Richard Lasser and John Marzluff outside of Anderson Hall.

Brown, who is 9 years old and lives in Queen Anne, has already developed a remarkable knowledge of birds. His family—including his grandfather Richard Lasser, who joined him at SEFS—has been fanning that curiosity by taking Hudson to visit other experts in the area, including a stop to meet with Professor John Klicka at the Burke Museum (who tested, and was apparently duly impressed by, Hudson’s ability to identify hundreds of specimens in the museum’s collections and tucked in basement drawers).

For this visit, Marzluff toured Hudson around his lab and then showed him the vast corvidae family, from ravens and magpies to nutcrackers, in his massive Handbook of the Birds of the World. The aspiring ornithologist, in turn, had plenty questions of his own. His family had recently returned from Hawaii’s Big Island, and Hudson was curious about how the Hawaiian crow got so endangered, and if there was any way to get rid of mongoose on the islands—to which Marzluff responded that he’d once caught and grilled mongooses (though he didn’t recommend it).

We ran out of time long before Hudson ran out of questions, but Marzluff gave him several ideas for how to continue exploring and developing his interest in birds. We also sent him home with a new SEFS t-shirt and hope to see him again soon!

Photos © SEFS.

Hudson and Marzluff

 

Exploration Seminar: Costa Rica!

For the past five years, Professor John Marzluff has led a group of 15-20 students on a month-long exploration seminar to Costa Rica. The course, “Natural and Cultural History of Costa Rica,” is equal parts expedition and cultural immersion, and students get to learn about everything from local history and ecology to language and tourism.

Costa Rica

One of the group’s activities involves a day following one of four monkey species (including this white-faced capuchin monkey).

The day-to-day itineraries often vary slightly from year to year, but the trip generally begins in central Costa Rica around the city of San Jose. From there, the class heads south to higher-elevation oak ecosystems, then back down to low elevations and the rich tropical rainforests of south-central Costa Rica.

The next destination is the far southern Pacific coast along the border with Panama, including Corcovado National Park. “It’s quite a wild area,” says Marzluff, “and it involves a full-day hike along the beach to get into it. All the big cats are there.” They haven’t seen one yet, but the chance to spot an ocelot or puma is always there. This year, though, they did come face to face with several rare Baird’s tapirs on the trail. “There aren’t many places left in the wild to see them,” he says.

After a few days in and around the park, they start working their way back up the coast while exploring sea turtle breeding and other sorts of coastal recreational development (students and instructors also find time to fit in a bit of fishing, waterfall hiking and surfing here and there).

Marzluff’s co-instructors for the course are Professor Marc Miller from the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and SEFS doctoral student Jack DeLap. Marzluff focuses on the birds, natural history and tropical ecology of the region. Miller approaches the social dimensions of the area, including sustainable tourism along the Pacific coast, and DeLap works with the students on scientific illustration techniques—paying special attention to field characteristics while drawing the plants, animals and habitats they’re seeing and studying. Marcos Garcia, a local Costa Rican, attends to language lessons for the students and provides unique color commentary. (One other fun SEFS connection is that Robert Tournay, a grad student in Professor Sharon Doty’s lab, is the travel coordinator for the trip. He works with Tropical Adventures in Education, and he helps arrange local contacts and set up accommodations.)

Costa Rica

This year, the group came face to face with several rare Baird’s tapirs.

Course Takeaways
While traveling the country, students get thorough exposure to tropical ecosystems, learning firsthand how they function and the incredible diversity within them. In terms of wildlife, you’ll have a chance to see close to 300 species of birds, all sorts of snakes, sea turtles laying eggs on the beach, maybe even another tapir. You’ll gain experience identifying a wide range of plants and animals, including close observations of hummingbirds, and a day following one of four monkey species. “You never know what you’re going to see,” he says.

Central to the course, as well, is cultural immersion, and students spend a lot of time learning how people live in different parts of Costa Rica, including the use of sustainable, low-tech operations (human- and animal-powered machines), composting toilets and other creative innovations. “There’s a lot of ingenuity as an everyday part of Costa Rican life,” says Marzluff.

Spanish language education is another component, and Garcia travels with the group to provide general language support and Spanish lessons every day. You don’t need to have Spanish language experience coming into the program; the lessons are flexible to suit beginners up through fluent speakers looking to hone their skills.

Costa Rica

Don’t expect a cushy stay in Costa Rica on this trip, as you’ll be doing a ton of hiking and getting incredible access to remote ecosystems.

What It Takes
“It’s a great class, no doubt about that,” says Marzluff, but it definitely requires a serious commitment. It can be seriously hot and humid in Costa Rica, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so you need to be in pretty good physical condition—or at least be willing to get in shape in the months before the class begins. You’ll be engaged full-time from early in the morning until late in the evening, from longer treks and night hikes to other tours and projects. You won’t be camping, but your lodging will vary from fairly high-end to rustic, as well as a homestay with a local Costa Rican family for up to a week. You should expect periodic heavy rains and unpredictable floods, and even a possible earthquake. All of which is to say, if you’re willing to live and travel with a group of students in these conditions, and you have a bit of an adventuresome spirit, you’ll be all set—and have one sensational experience to recall at the end of it!

How to Sign Up
Organized through the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and the UW Study Abroad office, the field seminar runs from the August 28 to September 19, just before the start of the fall quarter. Most participants are undergrads, but occasionally graduate students come along as well.

Registration is open now, and the deadline to apply is March 1. The course cost is about $4,000, which is essentially all-inclusive when you’re there, but students are responsible for airfare to and from Costa Rica. You can check out a more detailed description of activities and sites you’ll visit, as well as the overall application process and schedule.

So take a closer look, and sign up for an unforgettable month in Costa Rica!

Photos © John Marzluff.

Costa Rica

Jack DeLap: An Artist Among Us

If you’ve ever seen Jack DeLap lead a bird walk, you can’t help but feel his passion for everything avian. Watch him parse the sounds of the forest—bending his ear for the beat of a wing, squinting for each feathered clue—and it’s impossible to tell a line between work and play for him.

Jack DeLapDeLap is a doctoral student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). He’s been working with Professor John Marzluff for the past few years, and his dissertation research focuses on bird community structure and change through time in response to localized deforestation and suburban development in Western Washington.

Yet as much time as DeLap has invested studying birds, he says that’s only one of his two lifelong passions. The other isn’t exactly a hidden talent, but it’s certainly not as obvious from his present line of work: Drawing.

We’re not talking about doodling during a meeting, either. DeLap started drawing as a small child, and his father, Tony DeLap, was an artist and professor of fine art and architecture at the University of California at Irvine. He initially followed his dad down that road, studying fine art at Pitzer College in California, and then at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. His next stops, though, marked a gradual merging of his interests: studying scientific illustration at the University of Washington, and then earning a master’s in wildlife biology from Colorado State University.

Now, as a Ph.D. student at SEFS, DeLap has found a perfect outlet for both passions at once. Not only does he get to study birds full-time, but he’s also working as an illustrator for Marzluff’s upcoming book, Subirdia (Yale University Press, 2014), which will contain about 40 of DeLap’s drawings.

Jack DeLapOne of those illustrations for Subirdia is the drawing to the right of a juvenile (recently fledged from nest) American Robin (Turdus migratorius). If you look closely, you can see the bird has a tiny radio transmitter and antenna resting on its lower back above the tail, or synsacrum, and held in place by a loop of thread around each leg. The depiction illustrates a component of the research Professor Marzluff’s lab is working on with urban songbirds—specifically the dispersal and survival of juvenile birds in suburban and exurban areas.

We wish we had room to showcase more of DeLap’s fantastic drawings, but at least we can offer a glimpse of his artistic touch!

All images © Jack DeLap.

Jack DeLap

John Marzluff to Give Talk at TEDx Event in Seattle

Coming up on Saturday, November 9, Professor John Marzluff of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences will be one of the featured speakers at the 4th annual TEDxRainier Conference!

John Marzluff

Professor Marzluff talks about his crow research with young scientist Olivia Rataezyk.

TEDxRainier 2013, an independently organized TED event, is a gathering of thinkers, entrepreneurs, academics, artists, environmentalists and engaged citizens. It’s the largest TEDx event in the Pacific Northwest, and this year’s program will explore and challenge the audience to “ReThink” our world.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at The 5th Avenue Theatre in downtown Seattle. All of the talks will be broadcast globally, and tickets are still available for $65 to attend in person.

Check out the full line-up of speakers, and make sure to tune in for Professor Marzluff’s talk (specific start time TBD)!

Photo © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

Wildlife Seminar Kicks Off Today

This afternoon, the long-running and much-esteemed Wildlife Science Seminar (ESRM 455/554) begins for the Autumn Quarter! The seminars are open to the public, and you can enjoy the talks on Mondays from 3:30-4:20 p.m. in Bagley Hall, Room 131. Check out the full schedule below and mark your calendars!

Fall Schedule

September 30
Introduction to Class and Why Crows Matter
John Marzluff, SEFS

Brian Kertson

Brian Kertson and a captured cougar in western Washington.

October 7
Shifting Paradigms and New Challenges for Conserving Washington’s Large Carnivores in the 21st Century
Brian Kertson, Carnivore Research Scientist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (for more background on Kertson, check out a profile we did of him a few months ago!)

October 14
David Lack and the Significance of Clutch Size in the House Sparrow
 
Ted Anderson, Emeritus Professor of Biology, McKendree University

October 21
Models, Mortality and Policy: Approaches to Urban Bird Conservation
Travis Longcore, The Urban Wildlands Group, Spatial Sciences Institute, University of Southern California

October 28
Living with Wolves in Ranch Country 
Suzanne Stone, Western Wolf Conservation Representative for Defenders of Wildlife

November 4
European Rabbits or Seabirds—Which Would you Choose?
Scott Pearson, Senior Research Scientist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

November 11
No class, Veteran’s Day Holiday

November 18
Assessing the Compatibility of Fuel Treatments, Wildfire Risk and Conservation of Northern Spotted Owls in the Eastern Cascades: A Multiscale Analysis
Martin Raphael, Senior Research Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Forest Service

November 25
Aren’t Parks Protected Habitats? So Who Turned the Chainsaws Loose in Our State Parks?!

Robert Fimbel, Natural Resources Stewardship, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

December 2
Courtship in a Noisy World: Using Robots and Acoustic Arrays to Study Sexual Selection and Noise Impacts in a Threatened Bird
Gail Patricelli, Associate Professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis

Photo © Brian Kertson