Two Alumni Partner to Harness Citizen Science for Owl Research Project

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

A little more than three years ago, two of our alumni, Stan Rullman (’12, Ph.D.) and Dave Oleyar (’11, Ph.D.)—both of whom worked with Professor John Marzluff—started new roles at two different organizations. Stan accepted a position as research director for the Earthwatch Institute in Boston, Mass., and Dave was hired as senior scientist for HawkWatch International, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey and their habitats. Working closely together while at SEFS, Stan and Dave always hoped they’d get a chance to collaborate professionally on a raptor project somewhere, and last year they found the perfect partnership for their two organizations: a research project in Utah and Arizona to study the ecology of small forest owls.

Dave Oleyar banding a nestling northern saw-whet owl. Before he came to SEFS, he completed a master’s at Boise State University studying how ski area development for the 2002 Winter Olympics affected the breeding ecology of flammulated owls in northern Utah.

“Despite owls being as culturally popular as they are at the moment,” says Dave, “there are still quite a few knowledge gaps on the breeding ecology and habitat relationships of many small owl species.”

So the project he’s leading aims to document and better understand how populations of small resident and migratory owl species are influenced by climate change and different forest types in western North America—specifically, in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeast Arizona, and the Wasatch mountains in northern Utah. His study species include flammulated owls, northern saw-whet owls, northern pygmy owls and western screech-owls at both research sites, as well as southwestern-specialty elf owls and whiskered screech-owls in Arizona—all of which are usually only five to six inches tall. In all, the Arizona site hosts 12 of North America’s 19 native owl species, making it one of the richest owl hotspots in the world.

The other half of this research involves learning more about the tree cavities, or hollows, these owls depend on for roosting and nesting. “I’m excited about filling in some of those black holes or knowledge gaps about the ecology of these small owl species, and also the contribution of looking at tree cavities as a study ‘organism’ in and of themselves,” says Dave.

Yet surveying for small owls and tree cavities across two mountainous forest areas is intensive work, requiring a lot of time on the ground, eyes on the trees and ears in the night, and that’s how Stan and Earthwatch got involved.

Stan Rullman with a flammulated owl. In addition to being cavity nesters, flammulated owls are migratory and primarily insectivorous, characteristics that could render the species particularly sensitive to forest management and climate change impacts.

Founded in 1971, the Earthwatch Institute specializes in supporting “field research expeditions” that enable volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to work as citizen scientists on research projects around the world. They partner with scientists on important studies and then recruit volunteers to help with data collection in the field. Volunteers commit to one or two weeks at a time and pay their own way to participate, with the majority of fees going to cover the equipment costs in the field, accommodations and food (as Earthwatch is a nonprofit, those contributions to support the research are tax deductible). Right now, Earthwatch has about 60 active projects around the globe, with more than 1,000 volunteers participating in the field every year.

Partnering for the first field season of this owl project last summer, Earthwatch recruited a total of 56 volunteers—ranging in ages from 15 to 83—to take part in six expeditions at sites in Arizona and Utah. Two of the groups came from high schools in Los Angeles through a program called Ignite; other volunteers ranged from a retired NASA scientist to agency biologists, science teachers and even people who had never spent 10 minutes off a trail. “One thing a lot of these folks have in common is that they want a vacation where they’re immersed in something that isn’t just sitting on the beach or jet skiing,” says Dave. “They want an experience. They do this and feel like they’re contributing to important scientific research, and they are.”

Fledgling northern pygmy owl.

From May to July, these citizen scientists helped search for and map tree cavities; survey for, trap and band adult owls; monitor owl nests found in cavities; and measure vegetation around the cavities. They gathered more owl and cavity data than expected the first season, in fact, and spaces are already filling for eight expeditions this coming summer, along with eight more in 2018.

That continuity has Dave excited for the long-term potential of this study. On average, Earthwatch is able to support projects for around seven years, so Dave plans to conduct these surveys multiple times to get a strong estimate of productivity for each owl species and the different forest types they use, ranging from high-elevation sky islands to riparian canyon forests and old-growth aspen, among others. He’ll also start developing a clearer picture of how frequently the same owl individuals are encountered over the years, and how the timing of these events is shifting in response to climate change.

For Stan, the broader scientific impact of these expeditions is hugely important. Earthwatch volunteers have contributed data to more than 2,000 peer-reviewed publications, and the projects often directly influence management plans at all scales, from local park or species up to national and international-level policy decisions. “As a scientist,” he says, “I’m passionate about being able to use this model at Earthwatch to support scientific research that is rigorous, relevant and impactful. With more than 45 years of supporting researchers through this model, we’ve got an amazing track record of scientific and policy impacts in very diverse areas of science.”

Volunteers checking a tree cavity with a camera on a pole.

Stan also loves seeing the changes in volunteers after an expedition. “The experience they have in the field when they’re with someone like Dave, lifting a camera and poking it in a hole 20 feet up in a tree, and suddenly they can see a little face looking back at them—I bet they never look at tree cavities the same way,” he says. “The transformation of that experience gets them better connected to the world around them, and hopefully gets them better connected to those policies, decision makers and other stakeholders who are influencing that species and landscape.”

The same feeling drives Dave, as well. “I know I’ve done my job when multiple people yell out that we have to stop to take a look at a hole in a tree as we’re driving down the road—and it happens each trip. They’ve been reprogrammed to think about tree cavities as an important habitat feature, and they’re leaving with a little bit better picture of forest systems and the different owls that live in them. Conservation is 30 to 40 percent science, and the rest is a conversation you have with people to get them to buy into the science and why it matters. That’s just as important as the data we’re collecting.”

Want to Get Involved?
Earthwatch expeditions are open to people of all interests and backgrounds (ages 15 and up), and they can be terrific opportunities for undergraduate students, for instance, to gain valuable field research experience. If you’d like to learn more about upcoming owl research opportunities with Dave and his team—or other projects around the country—feel free to contact Stan anytime, and also check out either the HawkWatch International or Earthwatch website. Similarly, scientists interested in partnering with Earthwatch can be added to the annual RFP announcement list by sending an email to research@earthwatch.org.

Photos © Stan Rullman and Dave Oleyar.

Professor John Marzluff (left) and his lab several years ago, including Stan (second from left) and Dave (second from right). “I thinks it’s wonderful that Stan and Dave are working together,” says John. “Their collaboration shows how important connections made during grad school are to our future professional endeavors, and in this particular case they highlight the attainment of our program’s goal to promote joint problem solving. Learning to work together as grad students kindled a love of collaborative research that both Stan and Dave are now in position to capitalize on. I couldn’t be prouder.”

 

 

Science and a Movie with Anna Simpson

Two nights ago, SEFS grad student Anna Simpson was one of two speakers at Central Cinema’s “Science and a Movie” night, featuring the classic Aliens. Anna gave a short presentation before the screening and then answered some audience questions afterward—including explaining what it might take for extraterrestrial life to be compatible for interactions with humans. She learned about this fun outreach event through the Pacific Science Center (where she participated in the Science Communication Fellowship program in 2015), and we hear Professor John Marzluff will be part of the next “Science and a Movie” night on April 17. The film that night? Naturally, The Birds!

Anna, at left, discussing space microbes and why extraterrestrial life, if intelligent, might not be so friendly to humans.

Wildlife Seminar: Fall 2016 Schedule

The Fall 2016 Wildlife Science Seminar kicks off this coming Monday, October 3, and topics range from songbirds in Texas to Cooper’s hawks in Seattle. Professor John Marzluff is leading the seminar this quarter, and you can catch the talks on Mondays from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Kane Hall 120. The public is always welcome, so mark your calendars and come out for some terrific seminars!

(Undergraduate students may register for credit under ESRM 455; graduate students under SEFS 554.)

Wildlife Science SeminarWeek 1: October 3
“Introduction to class and UW crow research”
Dr. John Marzluff
SEFS

Week 2: October 10
“Scavenging as a foraging strategy by peregrine falcons during the nonbreeding period in coastal Washington”
Dr. Daniel Varland
Coastal Raptors, Hoquiam, Wash.

Week 3: October 17
“Woodpeckers and other wildlife issues on a managed forest”
Amber Mount
Wildlife Scientist, Green Diamond Timber Group

Week 4: October 24
“DDT Wars”
Dr. Charlie Wurster
Department of Biology, SUNY, Stony Brook

Week 5: October 31
“Seattle’s amazing adaptable Cooper’s hawks”
Ed Deal
Seattle Cooper’s Hawk Project

Week 6: November 7
“Adventures of a working wildlife conservation biologist: stories and lessons from the field (and office) within the public, private and nonprofit sectors”
Glenn Johnson
Harris Environmental Group, Tacoma, Wash.

Week 7: November 14
“Climate-driven phenological shifts and their consequences”
Dr. John Withey
Graduate Program on the Environment, The Evergreen State College

Week 8: November 21
“Golden eagles in western Washington”
Leif Hansen
SEFS graduate student

Week 9: November 28
“White-eyes and black-caps—how two songbirds respond to the challenges of life in Texas?”
Michael Heimbuch
SEFS graduate student

Week 10: December 5
“American crow thanatology”
Kaeli Swift
SEFS doctoral student

Wildlife Seminar: Fall 2015 Schedule!

The long-running Wildlife Science Seminar (ESRM 455 & SEFS 554) gets rolling this coming Monday, October 5, and as always the line-up features an incredible range of subjects, from conserving seabirds to coexisting with wolves and cougars in Washington (as well as two speakers yet to be announced). Professor John Marzluff is leading the seminar this fall, and he’ll be kicking off the quarter with the first talk on Monday.

You can catch the action weekly from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Kane Hall 120. The public is welcome, so mark your calendars and come out for some animal intrigue!

Wildlife Science SeminarWeek 1: October 5
“Hot topics in wildlife science”
Professor John Marzluff, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 2: October 12
“DDT Wars”
Affiliate Professor Charlie Wurster, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 3: October 19
“A helping hand to nature: humans and cavity-nesting birds along the urban-to-wildland gradient of the Seattle area”
Jorge Tomasevic, doctoral candidate, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 4: October 26
“Interactions between wolves and deer in a managed landscape in Washington”
Justin Dellinger, doctoral candidate, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 5: November 2
“Streaked horned lark: The role of research in listing and recovery of an endangered species”
Dr. Scott Pearson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Week 6: November 9
“Coping in a human-dominated environment: good, bad, or indifferent?”
Dr. Chris Whelan, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, Ill.

Week 7: November 16
“Coexisting with wolves and cougars in Washington”
Carol Bogezi, doctoral candidate, Wildlife Science Group, SEFS

Week 8: November 23
“Conserving seabirds: from islands to hemispheres”
Professor Peter Hodum, University of Puget Sound

Week 9: November 30
Talk TBD

Week 10: December 7
Talk TBD

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.

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