SEFS Student Leads Mission One Science Camp

This August, SEFS doctoral candidate Isabel Carrera Zamanillo is leading the first-ever Mission Earth Scout One science camp, which will guide more than 35 middle and high school students through four weeks of hands-on STEM activities and exploration.

The idea for the camp came from her time living in Chicago a few years ago, when she created an outreach project called Jugando con la Ciencia (“Playing with Science”) at the Evanston Public Library. Every weekend, the program would invite Hispanic scientists to the library to talk about their work and research with kids and their parents. Isabel, who grew up in Mexico City, also helped with science outreach in the Latino community through the Field Museum and Adler Planetarium, and she had been looking for a similar opportunity in Seattle.

On their first day of the Mission Earth One camp, students ... at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

On their first day of camp on August 1, 2016, the students were out observing birds at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

So when she was offered a chance to help organize the first summer camp for the Northwestern Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (which is supported by the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium), she accepted and got approval this past May to host the camp in August. She then began reaching out to underrepresented communities to recruit students who haven’t had as much exposure to science. Mission Earth has an emphasis on bilingual students, as well, and Isabel’s outreach attracted participants from a wide range of backgrounds, including Latino, African, Bosnian and Asian Indian, among others.

“My idea was to create a theme that will combine physics, math, chemistry, engineering, biology and environmental sciences,” she says, so she settled on climate change as the unifying subject.

The students will now get to spend the month learning about climate change through a variety of fun hands-on experiments and field trips. They’ll visits campus labs and the UW Farm, go on excursions to Whidbey Island to look at glaciers, and Tacoma to look at a wastewater treatment plant and learn about biosolids. They’ll start the camp by focusing on understanding nature, interacting with soils and plants—touching, feeling and sensing—and learning the principles of an ecosystem. From there they’ll move on to technology and more abstract concepts, building to the final week, which will feature drones and rockets, remote sensing and GIS. Through everything, the students will get a chance to work closely with scientists and see how science connects to their daily lives.

In addition to Isabel as the main instructor, several other members of SEFS are participating as guest scientists and leading one-day sessions, including Professors Dan and Kristiina Vogt, Sally Brown and Renata Bura; Research Associate Azra Suko and Paper Science Center Manager Kurt Haunreiter; and graduate students Shawn Behling, Catherine Kuhn and Jessica Hernandez. All of them are volunteering their time and materials, which helps remove financial obstacles for students attending the camp. The cost per student, in fact, is only $5 per week, with grant funding covering the rest.

The day camp runs from August 1 to 26, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s going to be an exciting month of discovery for these students, and keep an eye out on August 18 when they’ll be visiting SEFS!

Photo © Isabel Carrera Zamanillo.

Undergrad Spotlight: Samantha Mendez

For someone about to graduate with an engineering degree, SEFS senior Samantha Mendez got hooked on her program through a surprisingly mundane product: a popcorn bag.

Sam grew up in Sacramento, Calif., until she was 13, when her family moved to Spokane, Wash. That’s where she attended part of middle and high school, and it’s also where she met Tom Wolford, executive director of the Washington Pulp and Paper Foundation (WPPF) at the time.

Tom was giving an info session on the Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program at SEFS, and one of his demonstrations—involving that popcorn bag—struck Sam immediately. Tom spoke about how something as ordinary and overlooked as that bag was the product of a lot of people spending a great deal of time making it perfect. Sam liked the buzz about scholarships and internships and job opportunities, too, but she found the popcorn story particularly entrancing. “That was my first introduction to the industry, and I really liked it,” she says. “It was a turning point for me.”

Sam and her mom at the annual WPPF luncheon, where she was honored with the UW TAPPI Award.

Sam with her mom at the annual WPPF luncheon, where she was honored with the UW TAPPI Award.

Sam graduated high school in the spring of 2011 and enrolled at the University of Washington the next fall. The summer after her freshman year, she decided to take some classes at a community college back in Spokane. She wanted to catch up on a few prerequisites—including linear algebra, differential equations and organic chemistry—and she ended up extending at Spokane Falls Community College for the whole next year before returning to SEFS in 2013.

As soon as Sam settled into the BSE program, everything clicked. She felt at home with the small class sizes and close contact with professors, and she loved knowing all of her classmates by name. She got involved in the UW student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), including attending the 2015 TAPPI Student Summit in Savannah, Ga., and serving as chapter president this past year. She spent countless hours working with the paper machine in Bloedel Hall, attended PaperCon this past May in Cincinnati, Ohio, and also gained tremendous hands-on experience through several internships.

Her first was a three-month stint with the Ponderay Newsprint Company just north of Spokane in the small town of Usk, Wash. Sam worked as an engineering intern and got to assist with a range of projects, from statistical analysis and validation of testing equipment, to helping reallocate jobs for the workers. Her schedule involved four 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday, while she stayed at her aunt and uncle’s place along the Pend Oreille River. She’d come home after work, go for a run and then jump in the river to cool off. Then on Fridays, she’d head to her parents’ home in Spokane and work about 20 more hours over the weekend at an orchard. “It was really fun, and I learned a lot,” she says.

Sam, at work here in the paper lab, cites the small class sizes and accessibility of professors as huge reasons for her success. “Renata [Bura] is such a mom,” she says. “She’s fantastic.”

Sam, at work here in the paper lab, cites the small class sizes and accessibility of professors as huge reasons for her success. “Renata [Bura] is such a mom,” she says. “She’s fantastic.”

The next summer, she started what would become a 15-month internship with NORPAC in Longview, Wash. Working about 50 hours a week, Sam spent the first nine months on the paper machines, and then six months in the pulp mill.

Now, in a week she will head to Ashdown, Ark., for her third and final internship—this time with Domtar as a process engineering intern. WPPF had invited Domtar to campus earlier this year for an info session, and Sam scored two interviews and then a job offer in the same day.

She thoroughly enjoyed everyone she met with the company, and she’s looking forward to her first experience in the South. She’s also keen to work for a company that’s launching a new fluff pulp machine (used primarily for diapers). “It’s a rare opportunity to get to start up a new machine,” she says. “That’s what I’m most excited about.”

Perhaps the best part about this internship—like the two before it—is that it is fully paid. In fact, between her internships, the Del Rio Environmental Studies Scholarship she won her freshman year, and other WPPF support, Sam has been able to pay for most of her education. That’s a fairly remarkable achievement in today’s college environment, and Sam will head into her Domtar internship for what is essentially an extended interview process, with the potential to stay on permanently.

Before she leaves SEFS for good, though, Sam has one course to complete this fall with Professor Rick Gustafson. But first, she will be walking with the 17 members of her class at this Friday’s graduation as a worthy send-off for so many years of studying and working so closely together. “It’s such a great group of students,” she says, “and I’m proud and excited to be walking with them.”

Photos © SEFS.

Sam (back middle) and some of her BSE classmates.

Sam (back left) and some of her BSE classmates at the WPPF banquet on May 26.

 

Institute of Forest Resources Announces Four Research Grant Winners

This March, the Institute of Forest Resources awarded four grants through the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research program, totaling $374,877 in funding. After final approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these projects will begin during the 2016 Fall Quarter and last two years, wrapping up by September 30, 2018.

Read more about the funded projects below!

Awarded Projects

1. Sustainable Development of Nanosorbents by Catalytic Graphitization of Woody Biomass for Water Remediation

PI: Professor Anthony Dichiara, SEFS
Co-PI: Professor Renata Bura, SEFS

The present research proposes the development of a simple, sustainable and scalable method to produce high-value carbon nanomaterials from woody biomass. As-prepared carbon products will be employed as adsorbents of large capacity and high binding affinity to remove pesticides from hydrological environments. This project will (i) help mitigate forest fires by limiting the accumulation of dry residues in forest lands, (ii) create new market opportunities to transform the wood manufacturing industry and reinvigorate rural communities, and (iii) minimize potential exposure to hazardous contaminants.

Award total: $109,869

2. Trophic Relationships of Reintroduced Fishers in the South Cascades

PI: Professor Laura Prugh, SEFS

In 2015, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began reintroducing fishers (Pekania pennanti) to the South Cascades. The west coast fisher population has been proposed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (decision due by April 2016), and fisher recovery is thus a high priority in Washington. Fisher habitat use has been studied with respect to denning and rest site characteristics, but effects of forest management and stand characteristics on establishment success of reintroduced fishers remains unknown. In collaboration with agency partners, we propose to study how forest structure and management impact prey availability, competitor abundance and fisher establishment in the South Cascades.

Award total: $99,679

3. High-value Chemicals and Gasoline Additives from Pyrolysis and Upgrade of Beetle-killed Trees

PI: Professor Fernando Resende, SEFS
Co-PI: Professor Anthony Dichiara, SEFS

In this project, we will convert beetle-killed lodgepole pine into fuel additives and valuable chemicals (hydrocarbons) using a technique called ablative pyrolysis combined with an upgrading step. We developed a novel and unique system for pyrolysis of wood that has the capability of converting entire wood chips into bio-oil. This characteristic is important for mobile pyrolysis units, because it eliminates the need of grinding wood chips prior to pyrolysis.

Award total: $109,861

4. Bigleaf Maple Decline in Western Washington

PI: Professor Patrick Tobin, SEFS
Co-PI: Professor Greg Ettl, SEFS

We propose to investigate the extent and severity of a recently reported decline in bigleaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, in the urban and suburban forests of Western Washington, and to differentiate between possible abiotic and biotic drivers of the decline. Specifically, we propose to (1) survey the spatial extent of bigleaf maple decline (BLMD) and record associated environmental, anthropogenic, and weather conditions that are associated with BLMD presence and absence; (2) use dendrochronological techniques to analyze and compare growth rates of healthy and symptomatic trees to further differentiate the potential roles of abiotic and biotic drivers of the decline; and (3) to link the data collected under Objectives 1 and 2 with previous  records of BLMD collected by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to ascertain the spatial-temporal pattern associated with BLMD in Western Washington.

Award total: $55,468

SEFS Seminar Series: Spring 2015

In case your seminar withdrawal symptoms start setting in early, we’ve got you covered! Check out the fantastic line-up for the SEFS Seminar Series this spring, which kicks off in just three weeks on Wednesday, April 1!

Once again, the seminars will be held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223, and we’ll host a casual reception in the Forest Club Room after the first seminar of each month (April 1, May 6 and June 3). Students can register to take the seminar for course credit as SEFS 529A.

So mark your calendars and come out for as many talks as you can!

SEFS Seminar - Spring 2015Week 1: April 1*
“Where on Earth are we going: health risks of climate change”        
Professor Kris Ebi, UW Department of Global Health

Week 2: April 8
“Innovations in the forest products industry and the role of a scientist/engineer”
Amar Neogi
Research Scientist, Weyerhaeuser Company

Week 3: April 15
“How green is a building? Using life-cycle assessment to quantify the environmental impact of construction”
Professor Kate Simonen
UW Department of Architecture

Week 4: April 22
“Social media as data on impacts of environmental change on nature-based tourism and recreation”
Spencer Wood
Senior Scientist, Natural Capital Project

Week 5: April 29
“Remote sensing perspectives on climate-induced physiological stress in western forests”
Warren Cohen
Research Forester, U.S. Forest Service

Week 6: May 6*
“Assessing ecological resilience and adaptive governance in regional scale water systems”
Professor Lance Gunderson
Emory University, Department of Environmental Sciences

Week 7: May 13
“The importance of water, climate change and water policy for potential biorefineries in Washington State”
Professor Renata Bura, SEFS

Week 8: May 20
“Fires on the hills, fires in the forests: Peri-urban and wildland fire regimes in Mediterranean-type ecosystems and climates”
Professor Jack Hayes
Kwantlen Polytechnic University, British Columbia

Week 9: May 27
“A mixed species clearcut silviculture system to restore native species composition and structure of old-growth forests in western Washington”
Professor Greg Ettl, SEFS

Week 10: June 3*
“Site Work: Community Design Engagement—the Forks RAC Project”
Professor Rob Corser
UW Department of Architecture

* Indicates reception after seminar

SEFS Seminar Series: Winter 2015 Schedule

After several weeks of ghostly quiet in Anderson 223, it’s high time for the return of the SEFS Seminar Series (SEFS 529b) this Wednesday, January 7, starting with Professor Susan Bolton and her talk, “Greening deserts for health and well-being: An interdisciplinary design program.”

SEFS Seminar Poster_Winter 2015We’ll continue from there with a wonderfully varied line-up of speakers, ranging from other SEFS and visiting faculty, to potential future faculty members, to professors in other departments on campus. We’ll be exploring everything from mountain pine beetles to environmental restoration, biofuels and green building, and it’s a terrific opportunity to support your colleagues and learn about incredible research going on in our school.

Like last quarter, the seminars will be held on Wednesdays from 3:30-4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223. We’ll also have a casual reception in the Forest Club Room after three of the talks—January 7, February 4 and March 11—so mark your calendars for the talks below and come out as often as you can!

Week 1: January 7
“Greening deserts for health and well-being: An interdisciplinary design program.”
Professor Susan Bolton

Week 2: January 14
“Restoration resources in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences”
Professor Kern Ewing

Week 3: January 21
“Synergies, feedbacks and tipping points: Mountain pine beetle’s rapid range expansion threatens invasion of North American boreal pine forests”
Professor Allan Carroll
Director, Forest Sciences Program
Department of Forest & Conservation Sciences
University of British Columbia

Week 4: January 28
“Novel feedstocks for fuels and chemicals production: Technology, economics and environmental sustainability”
Professor Renata Bura

Week 5: February 4
“Interaction Pattern Design for urban sustainability”
Professor Peter Kahn

Week 6: February 11
“Understanding species interactions to improve wildlife conservation and management”
Laura Prugh

Week 7: February 18
“Moving beyond just population size: advances in abundance and occurrence modeling of wildlife populations”
Beth Gardner

Week 8: February 25
“Adaptive restoration of Western Washington prairies”
Professor Jon Bakker

Week 9: March 4
Talk TBD
Rahel Sollmann
North Carolina State University

Week 10: March 11
Talk TBD
Chris Sutherland
Cornell University

SEFS Seminar Series: Week 6 Preview

Biofuels Slide

Lignocellulose, or dry plant matter, is the most abundantly available raw material for the production of biofuels. But how can we improve the production of fuels and chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass? And how do we deal with heterogeneous biomass?

Join Professor Renata Bura this Wednesday, February 13, as she tackles these questions in Week 6 of the SEFS Seminar Series!

The seminars, held in Anderson 223 on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m., are open to all faculty, staff and students. Check out the rest of the seminar schedule for the Winter Quarter, and join us each week for a reception in the Forest Room from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Additional Background:
Professor Bura is part of the Biofuels and Bioproducts Laboratory (BBL), which includes Shannon Ewanick, Brian Marquardt, Rick Gustafson, Erik Budsberg and Jordan Crawford. Here’s what she says about the lab’s work and her seminar presentation:

Improvements in individual processes (pretreatment, saccharification and fermentation) have been ongoing, but few researchers have considered the effect that the incoming heterogeneous raw biomass can have on the process. Even within the same species, biomass is physically and chemically very heterogeneous due to the agronomy practices, water and nutrients management, weed control, harvest and storage, seasonal changes, and age. Rather than designing a biorefinery around an ideal source of a given feedstock, it is preferable to understand how we can process heterogeneous feedstock. How can we alter the heterogeneous biomass to provide the maximum yield of hydrolysable and fermentable sugars from whatever is available?

In this presentation we discuss how by preconditioning of biomass, online reaction control, techno-economic and life cycle analysis we can deal with heterogeneous biomass such as switchgrass, sugarcane bagasse and hybrid poplar. We will present that by improving the uniformity of heterogeneous biomass in terms of moisture content, we could improve sugar yields by 28 percent. Another means of dealing with heterogeneous biomass is to improve overall process control by increasing the level of data collection. We will show how Raman spectroscopy could provide early detection of feedstock heterogeneity, leading to increased real-time awareness. Finally, when processing heterogeneous biomass, overall results of the techno-economic analysis have to be incorporated into life cycle assessment work to estimate life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from mixed lignocellulosics.

Join us on tomorrow to learn more!

BBL Graphic © Renata Bura. 

SEFS Seminar Series: Speakers & Topics Announced

Seminar SeriesStarting on January 9, 2013, Director Tom DeLuca will kick off the SEFS Seminar Series (SEFS 550F) for the Winter Quarter with an introduction and the first topic, “Nitrogen dynamics in boreal ecosystems.” Check out the rest of the schedule below, and mark your calendars today!

The seminars, held in Anderson 223 on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m., are open to all faculty, staff and students. Each week, a reception will follow in the Forest Room from 5 to 6:30 p.m. (Graduate students can receive course credit for attending 9 of 10 seminars by registering for SEFS 550F, SLN 20703. Please email sefsadv@uw.edu if you have any trouble registering.)

Seminar Schedule

1/9/2013
Introduction to SEFS Graduate Seminar Series: Nitrogen dynamics in boreal ecosystems
Tom DeLuca

1/16/2013
The really hidden half of the hidden half: The role of deep soil in forest ecocystem processes
Robert Harrison

1/23/2013
Suffer the Buffers: Population Growth and Resource Degradation in Pre-Modern China
Stevan Harrell

1/30/2013
Cost-effective subwatershed targeting of agricultural conservation practices to address Gulf of Mexico hypoxia
Sergey Rabotyagov

2/6/2013
Environmental stewardship, social equity and corporate profitability: Siblings or strangers?
Dorothy Paun

2/13/2013
How can we improve the production of fuels and chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass?
Renata Bura

2/20/2013
Reintroducing the water cycle in urban areas
Sally Brown

2/27/2013 (Doubleheader)
3 p.m.: Managing for resilience: Sustaining mountaintop ecosystems in the presence of white pine blister rust
Anna Schoettle

4 p.m.:  Chaos in federal forest policy in PNW: The situation and a proposal
Jerry Franklin

3/6/2013
No seminar scheduled.

3/13/2013
Modeling greenup constraints in spatial forest planning
Sándor Toth

3/20/2013
TBD