Alumni Spotlight: Melody Mobley

A few months ago, we reconnected with Melody S. Mobley, who graduated from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) in 1979. Mobley was the first black American woman to earn a bachelor’s in forest management from the University of Washington, and though the landscape has improved markedly since she graduated, the importance of diversity in natural resource fields has never been greater.

Fifty-two percent of students at SEFS are now women, and almost 30 percent represent minority populations, including Asian and Native, among others. Yet there are still many underrepresented groups, and Mobley believes the stakes are too high to leave anybody out of the decision-making process.

Melody Mobley and her rescue pooch, Raina Elise, at Great Falls Park in Virginia.

Melody Mobley and her rescue puppy, Raina Elise, at Great Falls Park in Virginia. Mobley is part Cherokee Indian, and her middle name, Starya, is derived from Cherokee words that mean “stay strong.”

For her, the value of diversity isn’t about checking boxes or political correctness. Diversity is about being inclusive of different ethnicities, ages, regions, cultures, beliefs and ideas, and bringing all those variables into the discussion. It’s about mining every mind for potential solutions to achieve a sustainable balance with a changing climate and world. “It’s so important everybody contributes their voice, their brains, their perspective to formulating alternatives to managing the natural resources on our planet,” she says. “They have to. That’s the only way we’ll formulate the best plan.”

There’s also tremendous career opportunity in these fields. Starting as an undergrad in Seattle, Mobley worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 28 years. Her assignments took her from Skykomish, Wash., to California, Florida, Nevada and Washington, D.C., Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments in Africa and South America, the Smithsonian National Zoo and the World Wildlife Fund, and exposed her to countless experiences and a life of constant learning. “There’s really something for everyone in natural resource management,” she says. “Attorneys, teachers, accountants, foresters, range managers, fire managers, hydrologists, soil scientists. You can find your niche.”

So while Mobley retired in 2005 and now lives in Arlington, Va., she has no desire to disengage. In fact, she’ll be giving the keynote address for the SEFS commencement ceremony on Friday, June 12. With incredible positivity and sense of purpose, she wants to share her story to help others achieve what she was able to achieve, and more. She wants to remove some of the barriers that made her own education and career more challenging, and to grow the diversity of people and ideas in the environmental community. “I wanted to just be myself and still be accepted and allowed to succeed,” she says. “I know we are strongest and bring the most to the table when we can be ourselves.”

Southern (Up)Roots
“My mother wanted to make sure we had the strongest educational foundation possible, and that we weren’t bored,” says Mobley, who grew up Louisville, Ky., in the 1960s and ‘70s. Her mom enrolled her in a predominantly white middle and high school, and Mobley—who is also part Cherokee Indian—excelled in her studies at an early age. She progressed so quickly that her mom pushed her to skip a couple grades, and she still ended up graduating third in her class of more than 500 students.

Before she finished high school, though, she had learned her mother was diagnosed with terminal throat cancer. “I was crazy with grief and needed a diversion,” she says.

Mobley waiting for a bus outside of Terry Hall (in the background), her first dorm at the University of Washington. Terry Hall housed students from 1953 to 2013, and a brand-new residence hall bearing the same name is set to open this year.

Mobley waiting for a bus outside of Terry Hall, her first dorm at the University of Washington. Terry Hall housed students from 1953 to 2013, and a brand-new residence hall bearing the same name is set to open this year.

While she had initially planned to attend the University of Louisville, Mobley channeled her sadness into a more ambitious and far-flung dream. She had fallen in love with the films and martial arts of Bruce Lee, who had passed away before Mobley saw his first movie. Yet she located a martial arts instructor who had supposedly studied with Lee. With the hope of training under this instructor, she made the bold move to head west and enroll at the University of Washington.

Her quest to learn from a Bruce Lee disciple didn’t last long. “He was such a pompous buffoon and a braggart,” says Mobley, “and I knew more about Bruce Lee than he did just from my reading.”

She gave up on him after one class, but there she was, alone, across the country from her family. And since she had jumped ahead in high school, Mobley felt much younger than her fellow students, and generally out of place. “I was 16, just turned 17 when I graduated from high school,” she says, “and I felt too young, too black, too Southern, too everything.”

As she tried to find her footing, Mobley ended up gravitating toward a long-time love of animals and the outdoors. “My mom got me interested in nature,” she says. “She would always take us out for rides in the country instead of being in the city so much.”

Mobley wasn’t sure how to direct that interest until she discovered the College of Forest Resources. She’d been waffling between majors from zoology to wildlife biology, but financial concerns from home—where her mother and grandmother were struggling with cancer—convinced her to be as practical as possible. A degree in forest management, she decided, would keep her active and connected to the outdoors, and also give her a strong opportunity to find permanent employment.

Even with her studies decided, Mobley still felt stranded and lonely as an undergrad. “I’m 57 years old and have never gotten married,” she says. “When you’re 17, 18, 19 years old, you would like to have a date every once in a while, but no one wanted to date me, and that was hard.”

Mobley modeling her uniform while for her first position with the Forest Service. This photo was part of a series taken for a promotional brochure.

Mobley modeling her uniform from her first position with the Forest Service. This photo was part of a series taken for a promotional brochure.

She survived through invaluable friendships with several faculty members. One of the first to help her settle into the city was Professor Stewart Pickford, who had earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. from SEFS—the latter in 1972—before joining the faculty. She found a friend and mentor in Professor Emerita Linda Brubaker, and Mobley especially enjoyed working with Professor Kristiina Vogt, with whom she remains good friends. “My family when I was up there was Kristiina,” she says. “I worked in her lab for a few years, and she was with me on my 21st birthday. I even got flowers from her on my last birthday. I love her with all my heart.”

Mobley credits those three professors with guiding and motivating her through school. “I would never have succeeded, or been able to graduate, without Stewart and Kristiina and Linda,” she says. “They were instrumental to my success. I’m so grateful to them.”

Forestry Futures
In addition to helping Mobley feel more at home at college, Professor Pickford introduced her to his friends Diane and Al Becker, who immediately took an interest in helping her career. One night they took her to a Society of American Foresters meeting, where she made a connection with Lyle Laverty, who was a district ranger in Skykomish at the time. That night, Laverty decided he was going to recruit her into the Forest Service, he later told Mobley.

“Until I moved to Seattle, I had not even heard of the Forest Service,” says Mobley, “and I had never intended to be a forester.” Yet soon she had a job offer to join the agency in 1977, and she would end up working there for nearly three decades.

Armed with a machine gun, Mobley tracks down illegally grown marijuana—which you can see behind her—in Nevada’s Toiyable National Forest.

Armed with semiautomatic rifle, Mobley tracks down illegally grown marijuana—which you can see behind her—in Nevada’s Toiyable National Forest.

She spent her first five years in Skykomish, including the first two while still finishing up school. Those were tough years, she says, juggling her work and studies, bouncing between the extremes of a big city and a tiny community—all with no car or easy way to get around on her own. After Skykomish, though, Mobley began exploring the country through a variety of posts, from a public affairs position in San Diego with the Cleveland National Forest; to a temporary assignment as an assistant district ranger with the Klamath National Forest in northern California; to a stop with Florida’s Ocala National Forest; and then to the national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Along the way, she spent time as a trainer, doing public speaking, working on program and performance reviews, and representing the Forest Service at a number of events. She was promoted multiple times, and during one stint in Nevada’s Toiyabe National Forest she even had the memorable opportunity to participate in helicopter marijuana raids. (Mobley was part of a team assigned to find remote, hidden sites where people were illegally growing pot on national forest lands. “Oh, they were fun,” she says, “and I got to carry a semiautomatic rifle—I couldn’t believe it.”)

Race and Role Models
Throughout her education and career, and nearly everywhere she moved or traveled, Mobley felt the weight of her identity, and how often she stuck out from her peers and surroundings. She remembers when she arrived in Skykomish for that first job with the Forest Service, and being told she was probably the only black person within 70 miles. Or several years later, when she attended a reforestation workshop in Darrington, Wash., and was informed she was probably the first black person ever to spend the night there.

Mobley with F. Dale Robertson, chief of the Forest Service from 1987 to 1993

Mobley with F. Dale Robertson, chief of the Forest Service from 1987 to 1993

Those memories are hard to shake, she says. They make you acutely aware of your skin color, and what it feels like to be singled out and in the overwhelming minority. As a result, she felt a constant pressure to push herself to succeed, and to give no one an excuse to doubt or deter her. “I moved nine times in 11 years, because I wanted to learn a lot,” says Mobley. “I didn’t want anybody to honestly be able to say I got promoted because I was a black female. I got promoted because I knew my science.”

Now, she wants to encourage and inspire more women and diverse students to pursue careers like hers. One of the biggest hurdles to expanding diversity, after all, is drawing students into a field where they might not have recognizable role models. Mobley wants to make it easier for them, to give them confidence and let them know there’s a place in natural resource fields for everyone—and for everyone to make a real impact. “I didn’t have a lot of black people or people of color who helped me, because there weren’t many black people or people of color in a position to help me,” she says. “My goal is to make a difference so there are 1,000 Melodys.”

Photos © Melody Mobley.

Melody Mobley

“Don’t ever try to get by on being a unique gender, race or ethnicity,” says Mobley. “Have the strongest work ethic, and be the best student you can possibly be.”

 

New Faculty Intro: Bernard Bormann

We are extremely pleased to welcome Dr. Bernard Bormann as the new director of the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) in Forks, Wash., and as a professor of forest ecology and physiology for SEFS! His first official day in the office was April 1, and we hope you’ll join us in welcoming him to our community.

Bernard BormannProfessor Bormann spent most of his childhood in New England, including Hanover, N.H., and near New Haven, Conn., and he joins ONRC after a 34-year career as a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service. Since 1989, he has led the Long-Term Ecosystem Productivity Program for the Pacific Northwest Research Station, and he brings a strong interest in adaptive management. He is looking forward to upholding the original intent of ONRC to serve as a hub of collaborative research—a neutral forum that unites researchers, students, professionals and the public to solve critical issues in forestry and marine management throughout the Olympic Peninsula. He is also excited to develop and study multiple creative, win-win solutions that can reverse declines in both ecological resilience and rural community well-being across the region.

Professor Bormann has a long history in the Puget Sound region. He received his B.S. in plant ecology from Evergreen State College in 1976, his M.S. in plant ecology from the University of Washington in 1978, and then his Ph.D. in forest physiology from Oregon State University in 1981.

You can reach him at his ONRC office at 206.685.9477 and by email at bormann@uw.edu.

Welcome, Bernard!

Photo © Bernard Bormann.

Jim Furnish: Toward a Natural Forest

On Friday, April 10, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Forest Club Room, we are very pleased to host a special seminar featuring Jim Furnish, former deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service, who recently published a memoir about his career, Toward a Natural Forest: The Forest Service in Transition.

Toward a Natural ForestThe program will include a brief talk and reading by Furnish, who spent 34 years with the Forest Service and now works as a consulting forester in the Washington, D.C. area. We’ll also be viewing of a short documentary film by Seattle videographer Alan Honick, Seeing the Forest, which captures 20 years in the Siuslaw National Forest (where Furnish served as supervisor from 1992 to 1999).

Then, following the book and film presentations, Mike Anderson, a senior policy analyst with the Wilderness Society, will moderate a panel discussion about themes from the video and memoir—and their implications for public land management. SEFS Director Tom DeLuca will be joining Furnish and Honick on the panel, and we’re looking forward to a lively discussion!

You can check out a four-minute trailer for Honick’s video to get a look at his work, and Furnish’s memoir, published by Oregon State University Press, will be released on April 1.

The presentation is free and open to the public, so come out and join us!

From the Publisher
“Jim Furnish joined the U.S. Forest Service in 1965, enthusiastic and naive, proud to be part of such a storied and accomplished agency. Nothing could have prepared him for the crisis that would soon rock the agency to its foundation, as a burgeoning environmental movement challenged the Forest Service’s legacy and legitimacy.

The Forest Service stumbled in responding to a wave of lawsuits from environmental groups in the late 20th Century—a phenomenon best symbolized by the spotted owl controversy that shut down logging on public forests in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. The agency was brought to its knees, pitted between a powerful timber industry that had been having its way with the national forests for decades, and organized environmentalists who believed public lands had been abused and deserved better stewardship.

Toward a Natural Forest offers an insider’s view of this tumultuous time in the history of the Forest Service, presenting twin tales of transformation, both within the agency and within the author’s evolving environmental consciousness. While stewarding our national forests with the best of intentions, had the Forest Service diminished their natural essence and ecological values? How could one man confront the crisis while remaining loyal to his employer?

In this revealing memoir, Furnish addresses the fundamental human drive to gain sustenance from and protect the Earth, believing that we need not destroy it in the process. Drawing on the author’s personal experience and his broad professional knowledge, Toward a Natural Forest illuminates the potential of the Forest Service to provide strong leadership in global conservation efforts. Those interested in our public lands—environmentalists, natural resource professionals, academics, and historians—will find Jim Furnish’s story deeply informed, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring.”

Photo © Jim Furnish.

Jim Furnish

Alina Cansler Earns National Wilderness Award

Last year, SEFS doctoral candidate Alina Cansler collaborated on a paper that recently won the 2013 Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Research Award, which will be presented at a ceremony for the National Wilderness Awards in Missoula, Mont., on January 28!

Alina Cansler

Cansler measuring shrubs in Yosemite.

Co-sponsored by the International Journal of Wilderness and the U.S. Forest Service, the award recognizes the contribution of a timely research endeavor that informs and responds to wilderness stewardship challenges. Cansler and her coauthors won for their 2013 paper, “Latent Resilience in Ponderosa Pine Forest: Effects of Resumed Frequent Fire,” which was originally published in Ecological Applications and addresses forest structure and composition in the Bob Marshall Wilderness following the reintroduction of fire after decades of exclusion.

Andrew Larson, the lead author on the publication, earned his Ph.D. from SEFS in 2009, and the SEFS connections don’t end there, as Affiliate Professor Don McKenzie and Jeremy Littell won the award in 2011!

Congratulations, Alina and Andrew!

Winning Publication
Andrew J. Larson, R. Travis Belote, C. Alina Cansler, Sean A. Parks, and Matthew S. Dietz 2013. Latent resilience in ponderosa pine forest: effects of resumed frequent fire. Ecological Applications 23:1243–1249.

Photos © Alina Cansler.

CINTRAFOR Scores Major Victory for Pacific Northwest Timber and Forest Products Industry

This past December, Professor Ivan Eastin of the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR) successfully teamed up with Dr. Daisuke Sasatani at Auburn University, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, and the Softwood Export Council to have Douglas-fir designated as a “local species” under a new softwood lumber subsidy program recently introduced in Japan. This is great news for the U.S. timber industry, ensuring that Douglas-fir grown and harvested in the U.S. Pacific Northwest maintains its access to the Japanese market.

Ivan Eastin

Douglas-fir logs being prepared for delivery to a local sawmill in Hiroshima.

The Wood Use Points Program, or WUPP, is a program designed to provide the domestic forestry and sawmill sectors in Japan with a competitive advantage by subsidizing the increased use of “local wood” species—such as sugi, hinoki and Japanese larch—in residential home construction. Homeowners and builders who use more than 50 percent of a “local wood” species in structural and non-structural end-use applications can receive as much as ¥600,000 in points. While the points don’t have a cash value, they can be redeemed for other products, such as energy-efficient windows or wooden furniture. “The size of the subsidy is huge,” says Eastin, the director of CINTRAFOR and lead author of the U.S. “local wood” submission. “The U.S. forest products industry stood to lose substantial market share as a result of these subsidies.”

While Douglas-fir is not indigenous to Japan, it is highly popular with local builders because of its unique combination of high-bending strength, durability, aesthetic appeal and reliability of supply. Douglas-fir is widely used in horizontal beam applications in traditional post and beam houses in Japan. In fact, more than 90 percent of the softwood products exported from the U.S. to Japan are Douglas-fir. Without gaining the “local wood” designation for U.S. Douglas-fir, the WUPP subsidy would have sharply reduced the demand for Douglas-fir products in Japan. A recent CINTRAFOR analysis estimates that the WUPP could have cost U.S. forest products exporters as much as $36 million over the 18-month duration of the subsidy program.

Ivan Eastin

Douglas-fir precut lumber that will be used in traditional post and beam housing in Japan.

CINTRAFOR, an internationally recognized center of excellence located within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington, worked closely with Dr. Sasatani, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the Softwood Export Council to demonstrate that U.S. Douglas-fir complied with the criteria established by the Japan Forestry Agency for gaining recognition as a “local wood” species. To make their case, CINTRAFOR needed to document that U.S. Douglas-fir satisfied three conditions: 1) that it is sustainably grown, 2) that it is legally harvested, and 3) that Douglas-fir wood products provide economic benefits to rural and mountain communities in Japan.

The first two conditions were fairly easy to demonstrate using forest inventory data provided by the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program of the U.S. Forest Service. To demonstrate compliance with the third criterion, an economic model was developed to estimate the economic contribution derived from processing Douglas-fir logs to lumber in sawmills located within four prefectures in Japan. Each of the “local wood” submissions was translated into Japanese by Dr. Sasatani with support from Tomoko Igarashi, the director of the American Softwoods Office in Tokyo.

It took three submissions—one in August, another in October, and then a third in December—before Japan’s National Land Afforestation Promotion Organization finally approved the inclusion of U.S. Douglas-fir under the WUPP program on December 17. This recognition marks the first, and only, case where an imported wood species has received “local wood” status under the WUPP program, and the designation will help U.S. forest products exporters maintain, and potentially increase, their market share within the Japanese market.

Photos © Ivan Eastin.

Advanced Silviculture Seminar

For the Advanced Silviculture Seminar (SEFS 526) this quarter, Professor Greg Ettl has organized a truly continental line-up with speakers from Canada, Mexico and the United States. This winter’s theme, “Single Tree and Small Gap Selection Forestry Systems of North America,” will explore responses to selection systems where one to a few trees have been removed at regular intervals from forests (in some cases for decades). And thanks to the videoconference facilities in Kane Hall, the speakers will be able to present live from eight different locations without making the long flight out to Seattle!

The seminars are open to the public and are held on Fridays from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in Kane Hall, Room 19 (with time afterward for Q&A). Check out the full schedule below, and come out and join us—starting this Friday, Jan. 10—for an incredible series of talks from experts across North America!

Advanced Silviculture SeminarJanuary 10
“Introduction to single-tree and small gap selection systems: Potential applications in the Pacific Northwest.”
Greg Ettl, SEFS

January 17
“Selection methods for loblolly and shortleaf pine: Lessons from the Good and Poor Forty Demonstration established 1937, Crossett Experimental Forest, southeastern Arkansas.”
Jim Guldin, USFS, Southern Research Station, Hot Springs, Ark.

January 24
“The application of partial harvest systems for the southern boreal forests of Québec in the context of natural disturbance-based management.”
Brian Harvey, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue

January 31
“Long-term dynamics and emerging trends associated with selection-based systems in Lake States northern hardwood forests.”
Anthony D’Amato, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota

February 7
“Response of mature trees versus seedlings to gaps associated with group selection management: The Blodgett Forest, Sierra Nevada, California.”
Rob York, University of California

February 14
“The effects of selection system harvesting on longleaf-slash pine forests: light availability explains regeneration, and understory composition.”
Kimberly Bohn, University of Florida, Milton, Fla.

February 21
“Single-tree selection in Acadian mixed conifer forests: the balanced, multi-aged stands of the Penobscot National Forest.”
Laura Kenefic, USFS Center for Research on Ecosystem Change, Bradley, Maine

February 28
“A dominance of shade tolerant species following 60 years of single-tree selection cutting in upland mixed-hardwood forest of the southern Appalachian Mountains.”
Tara Keyser, USFS, Southern Research Station, Asheville, N.C.

March 7
No seminar.

March 14
“The success of the ‘Mexican Method’ of selection forestry in pine and pine-oak forests.”
Martin Mendoza, Colegio de Postgraduados, Mexico

Winter SEFS Seminar Schedule Announced!

As soon as finals are done tomorrow, things are going to get eerily quiet around here for a couple weeks as folks scatter for the holiday break. But just about as soon as the calendar turns to 2014, we’ll start firing up the academic boilers once again, and that includes the return of the SEFS Seminar Series!

SEFS Seminar ScheduleFor the Winter Quarter, we’re moving the seminars back to Wednesdays, but the hour and place remain the same: 3:30-4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223. We’ll be hosting a casual reception after the first seminar of each month—January 8, February 5 and March 5—and all students, staff and faculty are welcome to attend.

We have a terrific line-up, starting on January 8 with Teodora Minkova from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, so mark your calendars and join us each Wednesday!

(Students: To receive course credit, you may enroll in ESRM 490F or SEFS 550C as a 2-credit course. Contact Michelle Trudeau or Amanda Davis with any questions.)

Week 1: January 8
Teodora Minkova, WA DNR: “Monitoring riparian and aquatic habitat in the Olympic Experimental State Forest—first results and research opportunities”

Week 2: January 15
Martin Nie, University of Montana: “Decision-making triggers, adaptive management, and natural resources law and planning”

Week 3: January 22
Bruce Lippke, SEFS: “Life-cycle analysis of green and conventional buildings”

Week 4: January 29
Steve Sillett, Humboldt State: “A tree-level approach to understanding growth potential of the six tallest species”

Week 5: February 5
Don McKenzie, U.S. Forest Service: “Climate change and wildfire: Why we need ecology”

Week 6: February 12           
Indroneil Ganguly, SEFS: “Modeling the role of carbon sequestration in Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA)”

Week 7: February 19
Marnie Route, University of North Texas: “The role of the plant microbiome in invasion ecology—a case study”

Week 8: February 26
Kathy Wolf, SEFS: “Ecosystem services in the city? The evidence for expanded definitions and values”

Week 9: March 5
Joe Mayo, Mahlum Architects: “Wood architecture: Innovation, technology and re-connecting with a culture of wood”

Week 10: March 12
Derek Churchill, SEFS: “Managing for resilience at multiple scales: applying landscape ecology principles to silviculture”

Wildlife Seminar Kicks Off Today

This afternoon, the long-running and much-esteemed Wildlife Science Seminar (ESRM 455/554) begins for the Autumn Quarter! The seminars are open to the public, and you can enjoy the talks on Mondays from 3:30-4:20 p.m. in Bagley Hall, Room 131. Check out the full schedule below and mark your calendars!

Fall Schedule

September 30
Introduction to Class and Why Crows Matter
John Marzluff, SEFS

Brian Kertson

Brian Kertson and a captured cougar in western Washington.

October 7
Shifting Paradigms and New Challenges for Conserving Washington’s Large Carnivores in the 21st Century
Brian Kertson, Carnivore Research Scientist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (for more background on Kertson, check out a profile we did of him a few months ago!)

October 14
David Lack and the Significance of Clutch Size in the House Sparrow
 
Ted Anderson, Emeritus Professor of Biology, McKendree University

October 21
Models, Mortality and Policy: Approaches to Urban Bird Conservation
Travis Longcore, The Urban Wildlands Group, Spatial Sciences Institute, University of Southern California

October 28
Living with Wolves in Ranch Country 
Suzanne Stone, Western Wolf Conservation Representative for Defenders of Wildlife

November 4
European Rabbits or Seabirds—Which Would you Choose?
Scott Pearson, Senior Research Scientist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

November 11
No class, Veteran’s Day Holiday

November 18
Assessing the Compatibility of Fuel Treatments, Wildfire Risk and Conservation of Northern Spotted Owls in the Eastern Cascades: A Multiscale Analysis
Martin Raphael, Senior Research Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Forest Service

November 25
Aren’t Parks Protected Habitats? So Who Turned the Chainsaws Loose in Our State Parks?!

Robert Fimbel, Natural Resources Stewardship, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

December 2
Courtship in a Noisy World: Using Robots and Acoustic Arrays to Study Sexual Selection and Noise Impacts in a Threatened Bird
Gail Patricelli, Associate Professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis

Photo © Brian Kertson

SEFS Students March into the Methow Valley

Two weekends ago, a group of eight SEFS students headed out to the Methow Valley, north of Lake Chelan in eastern Washington, for two days of focused field study with Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley.

Methow Valley

Students coring a Ponderosa Pine.

Helping to lead the course (ESRM 491B) were two SEFS alumni: Susan Prichard, a fire and landscape ecologist stationed in Winthrop, and Connie Mehmel, a forest entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service at the Forest Insect and Disease Service Center in Wenatchee. Prichard and Mehmel worked with the students to understand eastside forest dynamics and the roles that climate, introduced and native insects and diseases, fire and fire suppression have on forests—from the stand to the landscape level. Students contrasted an unmanaged stand with a stand undergoing a recent forest restoration prescription, and how these two different stands would have different vulnerabilities to fire, insects and pathogens.

The next day, students met with Brian Fisher of the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation to learn about riparian systems and human impacts (positive and negative) on these systems.

It was the first time Hinckley had organized this particular field trip, which he offered as an offshoot of his long-running “Spring Comes to the Cascades” course. The crew drove out late Friday afternoon and returned Sunday evening, and the goal was to focus more intensively and comprehensively on one study area.

“Usually, when I do field trips and we’re out walking, we don’t ever stay in one place for more than 20 minutes,” says Hinckley. “But we stayed in this one location for close to four hours. We cored trees, looked at the soil, measured and identified all the trees and seedlings, and identified all the coverage of the understory plants. Students really gained some firsthand knowledge in how to do a study.”

The class represented a wide range of backgrounds and majors, as well as undergrads and graduate students. Depending on their feedback, Hinckley says there’s potential to expand the course in the future, or to venture to new regions of the state—such as the North Cascades Base Camp.

Photo © Tom Hinckley.

This Friday: Graduate Student Symposium!

Graduate Student SymposiumThe 10th Annual Graduate Student Symposium (GSS) begins bright and early this Friday morning, March 8! It’s an all-day affair from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. in the Forest Club Room, so come early and stick around if you can.

The event kicks off with breakfast and presentations from this year’s panelists, and we are excited to welcome Dale Blahna, a research social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station; Phil Rigdon, deputy director of natural resources with the Yakama Nation; and Laura Six, a plant ecologist working in international environmental research with Weyerhaeuser.

Following the panel discussions, we will have the main event: our graduate student presentations, along with some special activities this year to celebrate 10 years of GSS. The theme is The Future of Forestry (which of course includes natural resource management, environmental science and the full range of the work we do here at SEFS).

We invite you to join us, relax, enjoy yourself and catch as many sessions as you can. We will be serving a pizza lunch at noon along with the poster presentations. Check out a tentative schedule of events, and we hope to see on Friday!