SEFS to Host Wood Identification Workshop

Next week, the Center for International Trade in Forest Products at SEFS—in partnership with the World Resources Institute’s Forest Legality Initiative, World Wildlife Fund and the U.S. Forest Service International Programs—will be hosting a two-day workshop, “Development and Scaling of Innovative Technologies for Wood Identification.” Held in the Forest Club Room on February 28 and March 1, the workshop will feature short thematic presentations, as well as breakout groups centered on the different technologies, in order to dive deeper into the methodologies and challenges of the taxonomic and provenance (origin) identification of wood and forest products.

The remains of illegally harvested trees in Ghana.

Workshop Context
In many parts of the world, illegal logging continues to drive deforestation and poses a significant threat to biodiversity, the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities and the rule of law. As part of an international effort to combat illegal logging, the U.S. Lacey Act was amended in 2008 to require that an importer must declare the species and origin of the forest product they are importing. Since then, government and academic labs have been working to develop methods to identify the species and origin of timber and wood-based products. However, the ability to scale these methods and make them available to enforcement officials and the private sector has yet to materialize.

One of the problems for enforcement agents tasked with Lacey compliance is an inability to quickly and accurately verify the information in customs declarations. For all but the most experienced wood scientists, timber and forest products are nearly impossible to identify to species. Additionally, there is little to aid an agent in verifying a timber or wood product’s origin.

This workshop will convene academic, government and enforcement sector entities to help map out the biggest challenges, and set up partnerships and collaborations to resolve these challenges in the United States. Participants from SEFS include Professors Ivan Eastin and Indroneil Ganguly, Research Associates Daisuke Sasatani and Francesca Pierobon, and alumnus John Simeone. Other core participants will include scientists who have built methods in wood identification using mass spectrometry, stable isotope, wood anatomy, genetics and near-infrared spectroscopy; scientists who employ these methods on non-wood based materials; and state and national enforcement agents who will provide insights on their needs.

For more information about the workshop, contact John Simeone or Meaghan Parker-Forney.

Photo © Jane Atkins.

SEFS Grads Begin Alaskan Adventure

A few weeks ago, we heard from two of our recent graduate students, John Simeone and Erika Knight, who each earned a master’s from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) this past year. They actually met and started dating while undergraduates at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.—they’re now engaged—and this past September they loaded their Volkswagen, hitched up a small U-Haul trailer and set out on the 2,400-mile drive to try life in Anchorage, Alaska!

Knight and Simeone

Knight and Simeone on a hike up to Flattop Mountain, about a 20-minute drive from their apartment in Anchorage.

Simeone grew up outside of New York City, and Knight is originally from New Hampshire, so Alaska would open a totally new frontier for them. And since they weren’t in a hurry, they decided to soak up the scenery on the way, including making a couple memorable stops at the Liard Hotsprings in northern British Columbia, and then the Kluane Lake area in the Yukon. They ended up taking almost six days to complete the journey before pulling into their driveway in Anchorage on October 3 (some make the drive in three days, says Simeone, but what’s the fun in that?!).

Since then, they’ve been reveling in the outdoor offerings in and around Anchorage, finding great hiking and ski trails within minutes of their apartment. “The autumn seems to have sped by quickly,” he says, “and by early November the snow started flying, which we were very glad of since we were excited to get out on the extensive cross-country ski trail networks in town—not to mention getting out into the mountains to backcountry ski!”

Erika Knight

As snow and ski lovers, Knight and Simeone have moved to the right place!

The only downside is that as the snow gets heavier, the days keep getting shorter. “The darkness is certainly hard,” says Simeone, “but the abundance of snow makes up for it! For instance, as I write this email at 10 a.m., it is basically pre-dawn light right now. But the days are already starting to get longer!”

Gobbling up some of those precious daytime hours, of course, are their jobs. Knight has been working for a consulting firm as a full-time environmental scientist, and Simeone has been piecing together some part-time contract consulting work from places as far reaching as Washington, D.C, and Russia. As he continues looking for a full-time position, he has a new contract starting that will involve working on Russia-Alaska king crab trade issues for the World Wildlife Fund’s arctic office.

The real fun, though, has been exploring their new city and state, and they’re just getting started. If you’d like to get a peek at their Alaskan adventure so far, Simeone and Knight shared some of the photos they took during their spectacular drive and first autumn in Anchorage. We put a selection of them in a gallery below, so check it out!

Best of luck to both of you, and stay in touch!

All photos © John Simeone and Erika Knight.

Thesis Defense: John Simeone!

Simeone Thesis Defense

An 18-wheeler carrying roundwood in Dalnerechensk, Russia.

SEFS graduate student John Simeone, who is working on a joint degree at the Jackson School of International Studies, will be defending his thesis for the latter program this coming Friday, May 3, at 10:30 a.m. in Anderson 22.

While the Russian forest sector languished for much of the first 15 years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, beginning in 2007 the Russian government instituted a set of policies designed to develop and modernize the Russian forest sector. This thesis is a policy analysis of Russia’s 2007 and 2008 forest sector initiatives—principally export taxes on roundwood and investment subsidies for value-added processing.

If you can’t make this Friday’s defense, then keep an eye out for Simeone’s SEFS defense later in August. His faculty advisor is Professor Sergey Rabotyagov, and he is also working closely with Professor Ivan Eastin and CINTRAFOR on Russia’s role in the timber trade. Should be great stuff!

Photo © John Simeone.

Grad Student Spotlight: John Simeone

Two summers ago in 2011, John Simeone was working on the summer crew at Pack Forest with Professor Greg Ettl. He was a first-year graduate student with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), and he spent his daylight hours working on long-term site surveys, trail maintenance and other research projects. Simeone loved it.

“Pack Forest is a beautiful plot of land,” he says, and just about every weekend he’d hop over to Mount Rainier National Park to hike and camp.

That summer also fed another of Simeone’s outdoor passions: photography. He had picked up the hobby pretty seriously in high school, and he eventually even had his own black-and-white dark room. So with endless days deep in the woods, and faced with spectacular forest and mountain settings on all sides, he took scores of photos on his Nikon D60.

© John Simeone

John Simeone’s winning photo entry from Pack Forest, “Stand of Red Alders (Alnus rubra).”

Months later, while researching the new European Union Timber Regulation, Simeone stumbled across a photo contest with the European Forest Institute (EFI). For all of his years snapping pictures, Simeone had never submitted one of his images to a competition. But this time he decided to send one of his shots from Pack Forest. “It was a fluke, totally a whim,” he says.

EFI planned to select one photo to showcase for each month of 2013 as part of their 20th anniversary celebration. And last month, for February, they rewarded Simeone’s whim—and made his month—by featuring his entry: “Stand of Red Alders (Alnus rubra)!”

Photography, of course, is only a side pursuit for Simeone at the University of Washington. He grew up outside of New York City and attended Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and in 2010 he ventured to Seattle to begin working on a Master’s Degree at the Jackson School of International Studies (Russian Studies). A year later he made it a dual degree by adding forestry at SEFS.

The two fields—forestry and Russian—may seem like an unusual pairing, but for Simeone it’s a rather natural fit.

He first started studying the Russian language in high school, and after graduation he spent a gap year living in the small Russian city of Vladimir, about 115 miles northeast of Moscow. He was only 18 and 19 at the time, and the experience sealed his interest in the country and language. “It was amazing,” he says. “It made me fall in love with Russia.”

Simeone and Knight

Simeone with his fiancé Erika Knight in the North Cascades; a fellow SEFS graduate student, Knight is working on her MS with Professor Rob Harrison in the Forest Soils lab.

During the same time abroad, he began cultivating a deeper interest in forestry and conservation. “Russia contains a quarter of the world’s forests,” says Simeone, and the nation is opening up vast areas of virgin forest for logging—with a host of implications ranging from impacts on sensitive wildlife populations to natural resource management and trade policy.

As a graduate student, Simeone’s research interests now include the emerging markets in forest trade and production in the Russian Far East and Siberia, and the extension of trade to China. His faculty advisor at SEFS is Professor Sergey Rabotyagov, and he is also working closely with Professor Ivan Eastin and CINTRAFOR on Russia’s role in the timber trade. (He presented on some of his research at the Graduate Student Symposium a couple weeks ago on Friday, March 8.)

Simeone has been balancing his economic and trade studies with on-the-ground forestry training, including taking Professor David Ford’s silviculture class, Professor Jerry Franklin’s course on old-growth forest management, and the summer internship at Pack Forest. Though he’s not sure where he’ll end up career-wise, he says his “pie in the sky” dream would be to put his Russian and forestry background to work as a trade analyst with the United Nations, or possibly with the Forest Service in their international division.

In the meantime, he’ll be keeping his camera plenty busy, and you can check out some of his other great photography on his Picasa page!

(Also, Simeone recently co-authored a short photo essay on his summer travels to Vladivostok, Russia, for UW’s Ellison Center Winter 2013 Newsletter. Half of the photos are his, and the other half were taken by Taylor Zajicek’s, who is also working on his MA in Russian Studies.)

Photos courtesy of John Simeone.