SEFS Grad Students Contribute “Tree Truths” to Art Exhibition

This summer, local artist Cheryl A. Richey is showcasing a selection of her abstract “tree spirit” paintings and charcoal drawings in the UW Tower’s Mezzanine Gallery. Her show, Arbor Intelligence, explores the subtle power and mystery of trees, and the exhibition includes 30 printed “tree truths” that capture a range of scientific facts and interpretations about trees and forests.

One of Cheryl's "tree spirit" paintings, Pyrophyte 2 (acrylic, collage, burned canvas)

One of Cheryl’s “tree spirit” paintings, Pyrophyte 2 (acrylic, collage, burned canvas)

Cheryl drew from several sources to create the “tree truths,” including Tree:  A Life Story, by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady. For 12 of them, though, she partnered with SEFS graduate students—including Sean Callahan, Sean Jeronimo, Caitlin Littlefield , Korena Mafune, Allison Rossman and Jorge Tomasevic—to produce “truths” from their own research and experiences!

Arbor Intelligence opens today, Tuesday, July 5, and will run through the end of September. The UW Tower is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it is accessible to anyone with a Husky card.

We encourage you to stop by and visit the exhibition this summer, and also to take a look through the “tree truths” that will appear with the show (with our graduate students listed in bold below next to the truths they provided!

Tree Truths

1. Trees are the “lungs” of the earth.
2. Trees often have lifelong – ‘best friend’ – relationships with mycorrhizal fungi. Without these fungi, woody plants may never have evolved on land.
3. Forests absorb more than 25 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities.
4. Forests constantly replenish Earth’s supply of fresh water.
5. Forests influence weather patterns.
6. Trees are communal and share sun and water resources via their root systems.
7. Riparian forests are critically important to river ecology, which benefits fish and wildlife. 8. Chlorophyll and hemoglobin are similar in structure with only one atom difference between them: chlorophyll’s one magnesium atom enables plants to capture light, whereas hemoglobin’s one iron atom allows blood to capture oxygen.
9. Trees’ “dynamic spiral” growth pattern is similar to other patterns found in nature, like spiral galaxies and DNA coils.
10. Lodgepole pine cones can wait 50 years for fire to open the cones and release the seeds.
11. Mature Douglas-fir trees can tolerate fire because of their nonflammable, thick bark (up to 12 inches thick).
12. It can take 36 hours for water to move from roots to canopy in a mature Douglas-fir tree.
13. Needles contain little sap, which makes them more resistant to freezing.
14. When invaded by disease, a tree seals off the infected area to control its spread.
15. Because of its smaller surface area, a needle transpires less water than a broadleaf, so conifers do better than deciduous trees in sunny environments with long dry periods.
16. Some evergreens, like the monkey puzzle tree, keep their needles for up to 15 years. 17. Rainforests lift and transpire huge amounts of water every day, creating great rivers of mist that flow across the continent. This water condenses and falls as rain.
18. Bristlecone pine trees regularly keep their needles for 20 to 30 years, and occasionally as long as 45 years. (Sean Jeronimo)
19. Bristlecone pine is the oldest known non-clonal organism in the world. One specimen is older than 4,800 years, and another is older than 5,000! (Sean Jeronimo)
20. The only living tissues of a tree are its foliage, buds and inner bark—which usually make up less than 1 percent of a tree’s biomass. (Sean Jeronimo)
21. The lodgepole pine spans an elevation range from sea level to higher than 10,000 feet, and ranges from swampy wetlands to the near-desert pumice plateau. (Sean Jeronimo) 22. Most trees are monoecious, meaning each individual bears both male and female reproductive organs. However, some tree species, such as Pacific yew, have separate male and female individuals. (Sean Jeronimo)
23. High above the forest floor, organic soils form on branches of Washington’s old-growth rainforests. These ‘canopy soils’ promote habitat for a wide array of unique organisms. It’s a whole new world that has barely been explored. (Korena Mafune)
24. The endangered marbled murrelet spends most of its life at sea, but the bird exclusively nests on mosses growing high in the canopy of coniferous trees near the coastline. (Sean Callahan)
25. About 80 percent of vegetative diversity in a forest lies in the “understory,” including saxifrages, grasses, biscuit roots and roses. These beautiful and unique plants complement the “overstory” structure and composition. (Allison Rossman)
26. Stick your nose into a black crevice between the red-orange bark plates of a big ponderosa pine. Smells like vanilla! (Caitlin Littlefield)
27. In autumn, deciduous trees respond to shorter days and cooler temperatures with colorful foliage caused by the breakdown of green chlorophyll in leaves. But with warmer temperatures and drought conditions lasting longer, some trees are dropping their leaves before they change color. (Caitlin Littlefield)
28. In a forest under attack by a pest or pathogen, you may actually count more trees—lots of young ones—than before the outbreak, because some species make a last-ditch effort to reproduce before death. (Caitlin Littlefield)
29. Dead trees are important for biodiversity. They are a source of food and shelter for insects, fungi, spiders, and many bird species, as well as small mammals, snakes, lizards, and bats. Dead trees are rich with life, and we should celebrate them, too! (Jorge Tomasevic)
30. Pyrophytes are plants, including trees (some species of pine, oak, eucalypts and giant sequoias) that have adapted to tolerate fire. In some species, fire aides them in competing with less fire-resistant plants for space and nutrients.

Painting © Cheryl A. Richey

SEFS BioBlitz Team Featured Nationally!

This past weekend, a team from SEFS participated in the Olympic National Park BioBlitz, which was one of dozens of BioBlitzes held across the county as part of the National Park Service’s centennial celebration this year (another event down at Mount Rainier included Professor Laura Prugh and her ESRM 351 class!). The Olympic National Park team included Research Scientist James Freund and Affiliate Professor Robert Van Pelt, along with graduate students Russell Kramer, Sean Callahan and Korena Mafune.

In preparation for the BioBlitz, they put together a video of some of their tree-climbing work high up in a 401-year-old Douglas-fir in the Hoh River Valley. The video captures them roped in and measuring the tree’s characteristics, including documenting the moss, lichen and other plant and animal communities in the canopy. It’s a great five-minute video, and also a terrific window into some the research going on in our school.

Even cooler, too, is that the National Park Service chose this video as one of only three across the country to show on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this past weekend!

Nice work!

Video © National Park Service.

Olympic National Park BioBlitz

Grad Student Spotlight: Korena Mafune

Korena Mafune, who earned her master’s last spring working with Professors Dan and Kristiina Vogt, has continued on at SEFS this year with her doctoral studies. Her project involves researching plant-fungal relationships in Washington’s temperate old-growth rain forests, with a specific focus on canopy soils and host tree fungal interactions. Her main goal is to learn which fungal species are associating with the host plant’s adventitious roots in canopy soils, and also to collect any fruiting mushrooms.

Korena Mafune 'hanging out' in the canopy.

Korena Mafune ‘hanging out’ in the canopy.

“The temperate old-growth rain forests we work in are rare and unique,” she says. “If we disregard the interactions going on in the canopies, we have an incomplete understanding of how these ecosystems function.”

The results from her master’s thesis laid a strong foundation for additional exploration, and Korena just received two grants to support her doctoral research—one for $9,300 from the Daniel E. Stuntz Memorial Foundation, and the other for $1,900 from the Puget Sound Mycological Society.

“With the support of these grants, we are ready to hit the ground running!”

Nice work, Korena, and good luck!

Photo © Korena Mafune.

Korena Mafune Receives Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Innovation

Korena Mafune

Korena Mafune collecting canopy soil samples last spring along the Queets River.

On December 18, 2012, Korena Mafune was officially named the very first recipient of the Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Innovation. Selected by the University of Washington College of the Environment Scholarship Committee, Mafune will receive $1,000 for research materials and supplies, and a $1,500 scholarship for tuition and fees, for a $2,500 total award.

Mafune, a senior Environmental Science and Resource Management major in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), says the award will allow her to continue exploring her growing fascination with soil and plant ecology.

“While collecting and analyzing samples and data on my current capstone project—analyzing microbial communities in prairie restoration plots—I developed a strong interest for fungal associations, specifically mycorrhizal associations,” she says. “Thanks to the great opportunity provided by the Dean’s award, I will now be able to further my interests and expand the scope of my capstone project. It is an honor to be granted the award. Not only will it allow me to enhance my knowledge in the field, but it will allow us to become familiar with the (mostly) unknown mycorrhizal fungal communities on the prairie restoration plots.”

The Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Innovation funds are competitively awarded to support College of the Environment undergraduates engaged in research, as well as community-based projects or experiential learning, combining academic content and skillset learning with innovative applications to particular issues or problems within an environmental context. These funds are designed to support students not just in completing the level of projects they might already be required to complete for their degree programs, but also in taking their projects to a higher level, significantly adding to the depth, quality, creativity and impact of their work.

The research funding, to be administered by Professor John Bakker, Mafune’s faculty advisor at SEFS, will be dispersed in Winter Quarter 2013.

Congratulations, Korena, on this terrific achievement!

Photo © Korena Mafune.