Undergrad Spotlight: Haley Lane

It’s not easy to get a close-up of Haley Lane. Between her sailing and surfing and skiing, you’d wear out a good GPS unit just trying to keep up with her. True, some of her passions are more earthbound—gardening, for instance—and Lane doesn’t consider herself a thrill seeker (you won’t find skydiving on her to-do list). But whether she’s taking a year off school to live in Maui and sell shave ice and surf every day, or bobbing in the waves off Westport or Port Angeles, or knifing through the Columbia River in her sailboat, one thing is abundantly clear: Lane is rarely at rest.

Haley Lane

Lane rips along in her Tasar sailboat.

So as she approaches her final quarter at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), we thought we’d share what she’s up to before she slips away to the next adventure!

When School is In
Lane is majoring in Environmental Science and Resource Management at SEFS, and her favorite courses have involved field trips, including tree identification with Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley. Four or five days a week this summer, as well, Lane has been squeezing in a few hours working for Professor Stanley Asah in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management Lab. She’s helped with a few projects, and at the moment she’s involved in assessing and social acceptability of wood-based biofuels.

She started out transcribing conversations from focus groups and working on surveys to find out what community members and family forest owners think about biofuels. Having grown up around Seattle, Lane says you can feel somewhat insulated from strongly divergent perspectives, particularly when it comes to political and social issues. The biofuels project, though, has provided an unvarnished education in the state’s regional and ideological variances. “It’s been really interesting to hear different sides to the story and really see where people are coming from,” says Lane.

Haley Lane

Unless she’s in class or in the lab, you will almost certainly find Lane, left, somewhere outdoors.

The survey work has also inspired her senior capstone project. Lane hasn’t finalized the scope of her research yet, but she definitely wants to focus on responses to the first question community members answer with each survey: What do you think about biofuels made out of wood? It’s purposefully broad and open-ended, she says, to let participants share their unfiltered thoughts and interpretations. As a result, the responses capture a wealth of information about preconceptions, emotional and economic stake, and other reactions to biofuels.

When School is Out
“I first started sailing when I was little kid on my dad’s boat, and then on my own at 10,” says Lane, who grew up on Bainbridge Island. She loves the physical and mental challenge of sailing, especially in small boats, and pushing herself in friendly competition. “Plus, it makes the beer taste better at the end!”

These days, she races a 15-foot Tasar sailboat, and starting this weekend, in fact, she and her boyfriend, Anthony Boscolo, will be competing in the 2013 Tasar World Championship. Hosted by the Columbia Gorge Racing Association, the weeklong racing competition takes place August 10-17 in the Columbia River near Cascade Locks, Ore. It will be Lane’s first time racing in this regatta, and she’s expecting about 60 boats from around the world to be there. It’s a spectacular setting, if a bit windy, and they’ll be sailing three hour-long races a day.

Haley Lane

Lane has been gardening for two years, and this year she hopes to expand into more flowers and ornamental plants.

As a final tune-up, Lane and Boscolo headed down to the Columbia Gorge this past weekend for their last regatta before the Worlds—and they won! Not all of the competitors had arrived yet, but quite a few international teams were already down and testing out the waters. “The out-of-towners will start to figure out the local conditions this week,” she says, “but it was a very satisfying win nonetheless, no matter how we place at the Worlds!”

Next Up
This fall, Lane plans to finish up her coursework and graduate. She’d like to find a job related to her major, but she admits her career future still looks pretty hazy—and isn’t likely to sharpen too much before she’s out of school. Far more tangible on her horizon, though, is a February trip to Mexico for a wedding. A friend down there has a few extra boards, she says, so she hopes to sneak in a little surfing!

Photos © Haley Lane.

Haley Lane

Lane, in sail #505, turns a corner in first place during a Tasar race in the Columbia Gorge.

 

 

Undergrad Spotlight: Tara Wilson

“It’s amazing how much you can learn from looking at poop,” says Tara Wilson, a junior at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). “It totally blew my mind. You can know everything [about the animal]—if they’re malnourished, if they’re breeding, if they’re stressed in any way, what they’re eating.”

Tara Wilson

Tara Wilson working on the Pack Forest Summer Crew in 2012.

Wilson grew up in Detroit and transferred to the University of Washington to start the Winter Quarter in January 2012. She had already earned an Associate’s Degree back home, and she moved out to Seattle with her husband, Shane Unsworth, after he found as job as a data security analyst in the city.

Her adventures in scat began soon after arriving on campus when she attended a wildlife seminar about conservation canines that are specifically trained to sniff out animal droppings. For this particular talk, the dogs were snooping for orca poo. There’s only a small window to locate such scat, apparently, as it floats to the surface briefly before sinking out of reach. So the trainers would hold the dogs at the bow of the boat to locate the floaters as quickly as possible.

“You don’t often see that in a seminar,” says Wilson. “It’s just so out-of-the-box and creative to me—really innovative.”

Inspired by the science of that seminar, Wilson soon landed a weekly lab position with Professor Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology in the UW Biology Department. She and the other volunteer technicians are working on a host of projects, from extracting hormones to analyzing dolphin and polar bear scat.

“What’s special about the lab is that we use non-invasive techniques,” she says. “You don’t have to trap or tranquilize or stress out the animal. You can just follow them around and then collect and analyze their scat.”

Tara Wilson

It didn’t take Wilson long to get into the swing of things at SEFS, and she’s already looking ahead to a graduate degree.

The material they isolate enables scientists to explore a wide range of questions, says Wilson, and there are numerous applications for the research. In one case, an oil company in Alberta, Canada, is having the lab analyze caribou scat from oil sands to make sure the oil drilling isn’t endangering the health of the caribou population.

For Wilson, her lab and course work have quickly cultivated a strong career interest in conservation work, and she’s decided to focus on the wildlife conservation option as an Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) major. Her favorite courses so far have been a class on Pacific Northwest ecosystems with Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley, and also “Wildlife Biology and Conservation” with Professor Emeritus Dave Manuwal. “You could just tell [Professor Manuwal] is passionate about what he does, and he’s excited to get us passionate.”

She’s been so excited about school, in fact, that Wilson says she feels “like a big dork” for all the lectures and seminars she wants to attend around campus. “I’m the first one in my family to go to college, so sometimes I feel a little embarrassed because I’m very much a kid in a candy store here!”

Hard to blame her, as the pickin’s are good at SEFS when it comes to course offerings and research opportunities. Indeed Wilson is already looking ahead to potential graduate programs at UW, and she’s keeping an open mind about where her studies might lead her. “Anything I can do to help wildlife conservation,” she says. “I’d be thrilled to be part of that community in any way.”

Photos © Tara Wilson.

Undergrad Spotlight: Megan James

Megan James, left, and other members of the student TAPPI chapter during the November 28 papermaking project.

Dating back to the 2nd century AD during China’s Han Dynasty, and possibly earlier, the ancient art of papermaking helped transform the way people kept and transferred knowledge, records and language. Gallop ahead a couple thousand years, and that proud tradition is still alive today at SEFS—though with some modern upgrades.

Every fall, using the pilot paper machine in Bloedel 014, several students in the Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program roll up their sleeves to produce a few rolls of handcrafted paper. Organized by the student chapter of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), the annual papermaking fundraiser helps cover student conference fees and support other events. “It’s a social event just as much as a learning event,” says Megan James, a senior BSE major and president of the student chapter of TAPPI. They also host barbecues and bowling events, as well as a resumé café to help students fine-tune their applications.

Papermaking

Students add plumosa ferns to the slurry to create some festive accents in the paper.

James first participated in the papermaking project as a freshman. Now, her favorite part is seeing everybody get a chance to get their hands dirty in the various stages of production, from stock preparation and the pulping of materials, to the final messy day—in goggles—using the paper machine. “It’s a great opportunity for students who are leaning about these things in the classroom to see everything take place, and actually participate,” says James. “Some students have never seen the machine run before.”

The paper itself—which is 100 percent non-wood—is composed of a giant reed (arundo domax), bagasse from sugarcane, and Washington-grown wheat straw. As a holiday flourish, students also added some plumosa ferns to the slurry during production, so you’ll find some festive accents in the paper. (The reeds are native to Egypt, but in this case the materials came from Mark Lewis’ lab; he’s the faculty advisor for TAPPI.)  This year’s crop was produced on November 28 and featured several styles and weights, including card stock, regular 8.5×11-inch copy paper, and greeting cards.

Paper Roll

One of several rolls of paper the students produced.

Papermaking is only a small part of the BSE experience for a handful of students, yet this kind of hands-on training has broader applications in the field. Many BSE graduates go on to work for chemical vendors or pulp and paper companies, and since the curriculum has expanded to include biofuels, students are finding additional opportunities with research positions or graduate school. “The great thing about this major is that it prepares students with a specific skill,” says James. “We’re kind of like specialized chemical engineers, equipped to go into pulp and paper and the emerging biofuels field.”

James is a perfect example of the market value of this skillset, as her papermaking career won’t be ending with graduation. Following a successful internship with Procter & Gamble last summer, James has received a job offer to continue on full-time starting this summer. She’ll be working as a process engineer at a brand-new plant in Bear River City, Utah. The plant, located about an hour and a half north of Salt Lake City, produces toilet paper and paper towels for brands such as Charmin® and Bounty®.

Congratulations, Megan, and the rest of the papermaking crew!

Photos by Dustin Cardenas/BSE