SEFS Grad Student Hyungmin Rho Presents Research at Conference in Florida

Hyungmin “Tony” Rho, a second-year doctoral student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), recently presented some of his research at the 2013 ASA, CSSA and SSSA International Annual Meetings in Tampa, Fla., November 3-6. A joint meeting of three different societies—the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America—this year’s conference focused on the theme, “Water, Food, Energy & Innovation for a Sustainable World.”

Tony Rho

Tony Rho with rice plants in the Douglas Conservatory at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

Rho, who works with Professor Soo-Hyung Kim in the Plant Ecophysiology Lab, presented his poster, “Bacterial Endophytes Living in Intercellular Spaces of Leaves Lower Leaf Water Potential of Rice (Oryza sativa) Plants,” during the “Crop Physiology and Metabolism” session. His research is funded by USDA-NIFA and is the collaborative work of three labs, including Professors Kim and Sharon Doty at SEFS, both of whom were coauthors for his oral presentation. Other SEFS grad students involved in this research include Evan Henrich and Shyam Kandel.

“I believe these beneficial bacteria could be one of the potential bio-fertilizers in the future that can mitigate the climate change impacts derived from the current agricultural practice of using extensive amounts of nitrogen fertilizers,” says  Rho. “My presentation gave a good glimpse of our novel approach to mitigate climate change impacts, and I got positive feedback from the audience.”

In addition to giving a presentation, Rho attended other sessions about current research trends and got to meet with a wide range of scientists and grad students. “I think it was a perfect opportunity for me to make social and professional connections throughout the conference,” he says, “as well as to introduce myself and my research.”

To assist with the cost of travel and attending the meetings, Rho received financial support from Director’s Student Travel funds at SEFS, and also from the Graduate School Fund for Excellence and Innovation (GSFEI).

Photo of Tony Rho © Tony Rho.

Annual Holiday Paper Sale!

Every fall, using the pilot paper machine in Bloedel 014, several students in the Bioresource Science and Engineering program roll up their sheaves—sorry, 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.

TAPPI Paper SaleThe paper itself is 100 percent non-wood, and you’ll often find holiday flourishes in it, such as ferns added to the slurry to provide festive accents when the paper is printed.

You have two options:

* Five cards and five 8.5”x11” sheets: $10
* Five cards only: $5

TAPPI had a cutting party last Tuesday, so we know the paper is trimmed and ready to go. If you’d like to place an order, email TAPPI Chapter President Seth Jorgensen or call/text 253.439.9498 to arrange a purchase between December 2 and 13. TAPPI will also have a booth at the SEFS Holiday Party this Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 4-6 p.m., so stop by and check out their handiwork!

“Climate of Change” Video Series Features Pack Forest, UW Farm

The University of Washington Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability office recently released its “Climate of Change” video series, which showcases a variety of sustainability programs, activities and research taking place at UW. Through four half-hour episodes, covering everything from soil to wetlands to recycling, the film series explores a number of projects on campus and at remote facilities—including, in the second episode (“Modeling Sustainability”), Pack Forest and the UW Farm!

The whole episode is very much worth watching (see below), and you can pick up the Pack Forest section about sustainable forestry around the 10th minute. After spending several hours shooting there on a sunny day this past April, the film crew captured some gorgeous footage. The final cut prominently features Professor Greg Ettl, along with a cameo from Julie Baroody, who earned her master’s from SEFS this past summer. (The UW Farm coverage begins shortly afterwards, right around the 20:50 mark, in the final section on the Campus Sustainability Fund.)

The other three episodes include “The University and the World,” “Living the Sustainability Experience,” and “Commitment to the Future.” All four videos are hosted on YouTube and are being aired on UWTV—Channel 27 in the Puget Sound region—on Sundays at 9:30 p.m.

So take a look at a couple of our programs in action!

Video © UW Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability.

Track Our PCMI Students Around the Globe!

Most grad students at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) have field sites somewhere in Washington or in surrounding states. Not so for students in our Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program. They’re scattered around the globe right now, some on projects in Africa—including a solid contingent in Senegal—and others at sites in the Philippines and in South America!

Gwen Stacy

Gwen Stacy blogs about her Peace Corps experience in Senegal.

The PCMI program is a professional degree program at SEFS that combines academic study on the University of Washington campus in Seattle with a 27-month Peace Corps assignment. PCMI students complete one year of graduate course work prior to heading overseas, and then afterward they return to SEFS for one final quarter, during which they complete their degrees.

So just what are these students doing abroad? If you’d like a vibrant window into their lives and projects, check out the blogs many of them are keeping. In Senegal, pop in on Alia Kroos, Corey Dolbeare, Gwen Stacy (who, as you’ll see just above, has our favorite blog title of “Gwenegal”), Mikhael Kazzi and Patrick Wauters; see what Cynthia Harbison is up to Cameroon, Seth Kammer and Maggie Wilder in Ethiopia; Kevin and Beth Dillon in the Philippines; and Johnny Bruce in Paraguay.

Our Student & Academic Services blog has a full listing of links in the Blogroll (at the bottom of the right column). And if you’d like to learn more about the PCMI program, contact Professor Ivan Eastin at 206.543.1918 or send him an email!

A Visit to Vashon Island with Professor Ford

A couple weeks ago, on the first Friday of November, a two-car caravan took off from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences to catch an early-afternoon ferry out to Vashon Island. With nine graduate students in tow, Professor David Ford was leading the third field trip for his “Principles of Silviculture” course (ESRM 428).

Vashon Island

Professor Ford, leaning on his cane, touring the first of two forest sites on Vashon Island.

The first trip had taken the students to Pack Forest to see estate forestry, and the second involved an overnight on the Olympic Peninsula to explore wet forests and densely seeded, large-scale operations. For this third excursion, the class would be touring two examples of community forestry, where they’d find small plots, some only a few acres in size, individually owned and managed, and with varying objectives depending on the landowner. Their guide for both sites would be Derek Churchill, a former Ph.D. student at SEFS who now lives on Vashon Island and works as a private forestry consultant.

Vashon Island’s history makes it an especially fertile study site for forest management. At the beginning of the 1900s, old-growth forests of hemlock, firs and red cedars covered most of the island. Smaller trees, such as alder, found room in sunnier open areas along with huckleberries and other shrubs. By the 1920s, though, most of the island’s forests had been harvested and cleared. The story went that you could stand on a high point at one end of Vashon and see pretty much across the entire island—roughly 13 miles long and eight miles across at its widest point—unimpeded by any mature trees.

At the time, Vashon was home to a number of Japanese strawberry farms, but starting in the Great Depression, and then on a broader scale as part of Japanese internment during World War II, many of those farms were abandoned. Fields that had been planted and tended were suddenly left on their own. Into that vacuum, fast-seeding alder began taking hold and spreading across the island in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Vashon Island

Churchill, front left, lives on Vashon Island and works as a private forestry consultant.

Today, roughly 15,000 acres, or about 60 percent of Vashon, have returned to forest. A large portion of that regrowth has involved the rise of alder-dominated forests, which, rather surprisingly, can’t naturally regenerate without human interference—and that presents a tremendous opportunity to test management strategies.

In a more diverse forest, and without the unnatural boundaries of neighborhoods and other development, the ecosystem would likely replenish itself. Yet the sudden abandonment of so much cleared land gave alder, once marginalized, an unusual advantage because they seed and grow quickly. They also tend to promote a thick, tangled understory, which largely prevents new trees from taking root. So as the alder age—often beginning their decline after 60 to 70 years—there aren’t new young trees sprouting to take their place.

In turn, if a landowner did nothing to intervene in an alder-dominated forest, eventually the older trees would die and disappear, and, many years later, they’d be left with an overgrown field—but no forest.

That’s where Churchill gets involved. In his role as a forestry consultant, he advises various landowners about how to manage their forest plots, writing prescriptions for long-term planning and timber harvests. His clients have wide-ranging visions for their land, so each prescription is unique to the landowner. One might care most about wildlife viewing, horse trails or general enjoyment of nature. Some might want minimal thinning, maybe 20-30 percent; others are more aggressive and want a higher percentage of aging trees cleared.

Vashon Island

The class tours the second forest site, where taller Douglas-fir are outcompeting Pacific madrone, resulting in some dangerously spindly, leaning and unstable trees.

In most cases, profit is not the primary objective of these harvests. More important for Churchill and the landowner is keeping the forest healthy and sustainable without overly affecting the aesthetic enjoyment of the land. If there’s a harvest here and there to make a little money, that ends up being a nice perk—and these trees definitely have market value. For a long time alder was considered a junk wood, but in the 1990s it started becoming prized for furniture (a single tree, with the right dimensions and age, could be worth more than $1,000).

As Churchill’s work has gained attention and traction around the island, more residents have recognized the importance of actively managing their forests. In fact, to handle an increasing project load more efficiently and sustainably, several years ago Churchill helped found the Vashon Forest Stewards, a nonprofit community forestry business whose mission is to “restore, enhance and maintain healthy native forest ecosystems, and to manage a sustainable ecological business that provides forestry services and island-grown wood products.” The stewards established a local mill, and they also offer educational workshops on forest planning and management, forest ecology and sustainable forestry techniques.

Showing students some of Churchill’s operation and projects, says Professor Ford, is a great way to introduce them to the viability of smaller-scale forestry. With his clients on Vashon, as well as in Seattle and surrounding communities, Churchill isn’t banking on huge harvests for an income. For him, the forests come in smaller patches and plots, and the work is more incremental and less predictable—but it is certainly viable, and plenty creative!

Check out the slideshow below to see more from their trip to Vashon.

Photos © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

For GIS Day, SEFS Students Help with 3D Printing of Husky Statue

Coming up this Wednesday, November 20, is national GIS Day, and the University of Washington has organized a number of activities around campus to celebrate all things geospatial. Naturally, you’d expect Professor Monika Moskal’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Lab (RSGAL) to have a big hand in the festivities—and they certainly do!

Riley Milinovich and SEFS doctoral student Meghan Halabisky at the UW husky statue.

Riley Milinovich and Meghan Halabisky get ready to scan the husky statue.

A couple weeks ago, two students in her lab, Meghan Halabisky and Riley Milinovich, used terrestrial LiDAR to produce a three-dimensional visualization of the husky statue guarding the main entrance to Husky Stadium. This type of remote sensing involves scanning the object spatially, taking billions of laser readings to create a data cloud. Although Moskal’s lab generally uses terrestrial LiDAR in the forest, they took on this project to support a 3D technology demo on GIS Day.

Funded by the UW Student Technology Fee, the LiDAR equipment they used was the Leica Scan Station 2, and it took them about four hours from set up to shutdown to finish the job. Using that data, they successfully scanned and produced a visualization of the husky (check out the cool video clip below that Milinovich put together!). Now Washington Open Object Fabricators (or WOOF), a student group on campus, will use that data to produce a reduced-scale replica of the statue by 3D printer—which you can see at the demo this Wednesday!

LiDAR started off as a surveying tool used in projects such as looking at cracks in bridges, or topographic mapping and making very fine terrain models that can model environmental impacts like drainage and landslides. RSGAL, though, uses the technology for a range of forest studies, including leaf area index estimation, how many leaves per area of ground to get at evapotranspiration, net productivity, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services.

Husky Statue

The husky LiDAR visualization starts coming together.

Coordinated by UW Libraries, the GIS Day tradition at UW is entering its third year. The School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) is one of the biggest GIS users and teachers on campus, says Moskal, and has been a partner in helping organize the event since its inception.

Other campus activities on Wednesday include a featured speaker, Dr. Sarah Elwood from the UW Department of Geography, as well as a series of “lightning” talks—including a five-minute segment with David Campbell talking about the UW Botanic Gardens interactive maps (in the Allen Library’s Research Commons). There will be a ‘Big Data’ discussion panel, and even a GIS Doctor’s Office from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. that brings in some local GIS experts to help users answer questions.

There’s so much going on around campus, so check out the full schedule of GIS events and get involved!

Images and Video © SEFS and RSGAL.

Mount Rainier Institute Welcomes First Students

This past October, after a year of planning and preparation, the Mount Rainier Institute successfully conducted its first two pilot programs down at Pack Forest!

The idea first germinated with Professor Greg Ettl and the National Park Service several years ago. Since those early meetings, one of the driving forces behind the program has been John Hayes, environmental education program manager at Pack Forest. Working in close partnership with the park service and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Hayes has been drawing up the blueprint for a residential environmental learning center that uses the natural and cultural resources of Mount Rainier National Park and Pack Forest to nurture the next generation of environmental stewards and leaders.

Kevin Bacher/NPS

Students from Sequoyah Middle School in Federal Way conduct forest surveys around Pack Forest.

The program would invite school students from all backgrounds—and especially from diverse communities with limited access to parks and other natural spaces—to spend three nights at Pack Forest.

With hands-on experiments and projects within Pack and at Mount Rainier, the goal would be for students to explore science and nature, build confidence in being outdoors, generate interest in careers involving resource management, and generally cultivate a greater appreciation for resource management, national parks and the environment.

Taking Root
After so much work getting the curriculum ready for a test run, Hayes and other project partners were especially excited to welcome the first pilot group from First Creek Middle School in Tacoma—22 students, mostly 7th and 8th graders, and their teachers, Donna Chang and Deb Sanford—for a three-night stay at Pack Forest.

They arrived on October 14, and because of the government shutdown at the time, they were not allowed to visit Mount Rainier until their final morning. But the students had plenty to keep them busy in and around Pack Forest. They visited Alder Dam on the Nisqually River to see hydroelectric power in action, practiced taking photos in the forest, wrote poems, did other journaling and cultural projects, and also conducted a few forest ecology experiments. One group, for instance, looked at plant diversity in old growth compared to younger forests, while another compared wildlife between the two forest types, including doing bird surveys.

“What was special about that is they really went through the scientific process,” says Hayes. “They were given a question in the morning, developed a hypothesis, came up with some methods, collected and analyzed data, and then gave a presentation at the end of the day. They had a great time with it!”

Kevin Bacher/NPS

With three overnights at Pack Forest, each group got to spend plenty of time around the campfire.

And that was just while the sun was shining. In the evenings, in addition to enjoying campfires and songs, students learned about the history of the region, from the park service to local tribes and other historical figures, like Fay Fuller, who in 1890 became the first woman to summit Mount Rainier. On the second night, they presented their research findings at the science symposium, and on their final night they went for a night hike to explore adaptations of nocturnal animals—and also how humans react to low visibility. “It was really exciting for a lot of them to be out in the woods without flashlights,” says Hayes.

A week later, the second group, led by teachers Dan Borst and Amy Heritage, arrived from Sequoyah Middle School in Federal Way. Their experience was similar to the first group, except this time Mount Rainier National Park was fully open again, so students got to talk to park staff, visit Paradise and experience much more of the mountain. “For many of them, it was the first time they’d been to the park, and that was a pretty amazing experience,” says Hayes.

Greatly enhancing that experience were several folks from Mount Rainier National Park, starting with Park Superintendent Randy King, who has been a strong supporter from the beginning. “Our National Park Service partners were working along with us shoulder to shoulder throughout the program,” says Hayes, including education specialist Brandi Stewart, education program manager Fawn Bauer, and volunteer program manager Kevin Bacher (who took the wonderful photos featured in this story!), as well as Casey Overturf and Maureen McLean.

Another important component of the curriculum was teaching the kids about different ecosystem services nature provides, from forest products to recreation, building houses and providing jobs, cultural, spiritual and other aesthetic functions. One of the most poignant demonstrations to that effect involved doing a timber cruise and calculating the value of a stand of timber. “That was a real eye-opener for a lot of them,” says Hayes. “They never thought about how valuable forest products are to people, and how much, in a practical sense, it’s worth to cut down and harvest timber. That was contrasted throughout the week with other choices we make in managing our resources.”

Kevin Bacher/NPS

Students didn’t just get to conduct experiments in the forest. On the second night, they got to present their findings at a science symposium.

Early Returns
“Given that it was pilot, nothing was perfect,” says Hayes. “We actually only did about a quarter of what we had planned to do, and there are a lot of things we will change and refine in the future. But the teachers were very positive about the experience, and many of them are already trying to organize a trip to come back next year, which is what we’re hoping for.”

Yet for a program designed to train and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, perhaps the most promising result of the pilots was the enthusiastic reaction from the students. By the end of their few days at Pack Forest, many were openly wishing they could stay longer or come back in the summer. And in interviews with students afterwards, a number of them expressed—nearly verbatim—the messages planners hoped they’d take home.

As one student said of the overall experience: “Now that I have done this Sequoyah to Mount Rainier Institute test run thing, I won’t look at the mountain the same. I used to just look at the mountain like it was just there, and it didn’t like mean anything. But now that I’ve like actually been there and done this, I’ll like always remember the things I’ve done and that I also want to come back here, but I don’t think I can because I’m going into high school. But I want to go back to Mount Rainier someday, and I actually want to climb to the top.”

Kevin Bacher/NPS

For many students, this was their first visit to Mount Rainier, and they had a great time exploring the mountain (and having snowball fights, of course).

Or as another student reflected on the science projects they completed and presented at the symposium: “I liked that we put purpose to what we did. We didn’t just do it and forget about it. We like actually did something when we got back, so it wasn’t like we were just doing it, we did something with it.”

That kind of feedback has Hayes and the rest of the institute team fired up to get the program fully up and running. They’re hoping to kick off the first full season in the fall of 2014, with the target of reaching about 1,000 students in that first year.

“It’s a daunting goal,” says Hayes, “but one we’re going to push hard to try to make happen!”

Want to learn more or get involved? Contact Hayes today!

All photos © Kevin Bacher/NPS.

Photy by Kevin Bacher/NPS

News Bulletin … About the Bulletin!

If plants are your passion, and you enjoy incisive articles about invasive species, then you’re probably already familiar with the Washington Park Arboretum Bulletin, the quarterly horticultural journal of the Arboretum Foundation.

Washington Park Arboretum BulletinA benefit of membership in the foundation, the Bulletin features all sorts of stories about Arboretum collections and history, as well as general information for gardeners and horticulturists in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. If you’d like to take a peek inside an issue, you can pick up a copy in the Graham Visitors Center lobby for $5, and you can also browse a selection of stories in the online archive. There’s a ton of great stuff in there!

Speaking of which, the Fall 2013 issue includes a piece by our very own Brian Thompson, manager and curator of the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.

In Thompson’s aptly titled article, “New Books for Pacific Northwest Gardeners (PDF),” he reviews a selection of publications by local authors, including Gardening for Sustainability, by John Albers, and How to Buy the Right Plants, Tools & Garden Supplies, by Jim Fox.

If you’d like to learn more about the Bulletin, or possibly submit an article idea yourself, contact Niall Dunne, communications manager for the Arboretum Foundation!

The Annual Christmas Tree Sale is Back!

With eggnog muscling onto grocery shelves around the city, and holiday jingles taking over the airwaves, it could mean only one thing: Time for the UW Forest Club’s Annual Christmas Tree Sale!

Xmas Tree Sale

Community members pick up their trees from the Center for Urban Horticulture.

The Forest Club is proud to keep up this popular tradition, and they’re offering Noble Firs for $45.

The deadline to order your tree is Friday, December 6. Members of the Forest Club will be cutting the firs on Saturday, December 7, and then you can pick up your tree on Sunday, December 8, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

The trees generally range in size from 6-8 feet tall, though some can be a bit shorter—so come early if you’re hoping for the biggest of the bunch!

As in previous years, all you have to do is print out and mail in the order form to the UW Forest Club (at the address listed on the form). You can also pick up or drop off completed forms—along with payment; cash and checks are accepted—from Amanda Davis in the Student & Academic Services Office, Anderson 130. Your order must be received by December 6 at the latest.

All proceeds greatly benefit the UW Forest Club, the Society of American Foresters UW Chapter, and the Dead Elk Society. So order your Noble Fir for a noble cause today!

If you have any questions, contact Forest Club President Justine Andreychuk at 425.802.6158 or

Happy holidays!

Photo of Forest Club members harvesting firs below © Matt Davis.

Matt Davis

Jack DeLap: An Artist Among Us

If you’ve ever seen Jack DeLap lead a bird walk, you can’t help but feel his passion for everything avian. Watch him parse the sounds of the forest—bending his ear for the beat of a wing, squinting for each feathered clue—and it’s impossible to tell a line between work and play for him.

Jack DeLapDeLap is a doctoral student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). He’s been working with Professor John Marzluff for the past few years, and his dissertation research focuses on bird community structure and change through time in response to localized deforestation and suburban development in Western Washington.

Yet as much time as DeLap has invested studying birds, he says that’s only one of his two lifelong passions. The other isn’t exactly a hidden talent, but it’s certainly not as obvious from his present line of work: Drawing.

We’re not talking about doodling during a meeting, either. DeLap started drawing as a small child, and his father, Tony DeLap, was an artist and professor of fine art and architecture at the University of California at Irvine. He initially followed his dad down that road, studying fine art at Pitzer College in California, and then at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. His next stops, though, marked a gradual merging of his interests: studying scientific illustration at the University of Washington, and then earning a master’s in wildlife biology from Colorado State University.

Now, as a Ph.D. student at SEFS, DeLap has found a perfect outlet for both passions at once. Not only does he get to study birds full-time, but he’s also working as an illustrator for Marzluff’s upcoming book, Subirdia (Yale University Press, 2014), which will contain about 40 of DeLap’s drawings.

Jack DeLapOne of those illustrations for Subirdia is the drawing to the right of a juvenile (recently fledged from nest) American Robin (Turdus migratorius). If you look closely, you can see the bird has a tiny radio transmitter and antenna resting on its lower back above the tail, or synsacrum, and held in place by a loop of thread around each leg. The depiction illustrates a component of the research Professor Marzluff’s lab is working on with urban songbirds—specifically the dispersal and survival of juvenile birds in suburban and exurban areas.

We wish we had room to showcase more of DeLap’s fantastic drawings, but at least we can offer a glimpse of his artistic touch!

All images © Jack DeLap.

Jack DeLap