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.