Guest Seminar (5/11): William R. Burch

On Thursday, May 11, at 10:30 a.m. in the Forest Club Room, we’re very pleased to host a visiting talk with Professor Emeritus Bill Burch from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences: “Taking charge: A human ecosystem approach for joining rural and urban communities in sustaining their legacies and future hopes.”

Bill is renowned forest sociologist whose work with urban and community forestry has spanned the country and world, from the Baltimore Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network to projects in Asia, Europe and South America. In addition to teaching and advising at Yale, he has served as the first director of the Yale Tropical Resources Institute and the Yale Urban Resources Initiative, and as PI for a five-year restoration monitoring and evaluation effort for five stream valley park systems in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Parks. More broadly, Bill was an early pioneer in theoretical efforts to integrate ecology and community—using parks and forests to revitalize communities and ecosystems, and developing a unified ecosystem management approach that fully includes humans as part of the ecosystem. He has also been a leader in researching recreation behavior and ecotourism in wild, preserved and urban places.

This seminar is free and open to the public, and it kicks off the Spring 2017 Governor’s ONRC Advisory Board meeting on campus. The board is wrestling with how to deal with the rural-urban divide in concepts of sustainability and has sought out Burch’s insights to jump-start this initiative. There will be an extended discussion period after the talk.

We hope you can join us!

RAPID Response: Brian Harvey to Study Re-Burned Yellowstone Forests

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

In 1988, wildfires burned about a third of Yellowstone National Park’s forests. Most of those wooded areas hadn’t burned in 100 to 300 years, largely within the average burn cycle for those forests, and they bounced back really well from the disturbance. But what happens when the next fire comes far sooner than the average? With shorter-interval burns and changing climate conditions, will the younger trees and forest be as resilient to a severe fire? Along with collaborators at the University of Wisconsin, Professor Brian Harvey will try to answer those questions, among others, this summer as part of a new National Science Foundation grant for Rapid Response Research (RAPID).

A lodgepole forest in Yellowstone that naturally reseeded after the 1988 fires.

RAPID grants are a special category for funding research that needs to be carried out immediately. They provide a one-year pulse of money for time-critical projects that can’t wait for the usual funding cycle. In this case, more than 10 thousand hectares of forest in Yellowstone did in fact re-burn last summer—only 28 years after the 1988 fires—so this summer will be the first and best opportunity to observe how these forests respond to the short-interval disturbance. “This grant provides an awesome opportunity to get there as soon as the forest is likely to show signs of resilience, or if it is not going to be as resilient,” says Brian. “This is the key time and place to be testing these questions.”

Natural disturbances, of course, are integral to forests worldwide, but conifer forests in western North America are facing warmer temperatures and larger, more severe wildfires than at any time in recorded history. Changing climates—with hotter, drier summers—are increasing disturbance frequency in some areas, and disrupting long-established patterns of forest regrowth and succession. In Yellowstone’s forests, the dominant species is lodgepole pine, which has closed, serotinous cones that release their seeds only in response to fire. Nearly all of the seedlings then establish one year after a fire; historically, they’ve then had many decades to grow and start producing cones (and seeds) of their own before the next burn. But instead of a fire interval of 150 to 300 years, these Yellowstone forests could start seeing new fires within a matter of a few decades. “Some systems are used short-interval fires,” says Brian. “But throughout much of Yellowstone, that’s a novel thing.”

The ecological consequences of these changing fire regimes are unclear and could be profound in the next century. The results of this study, in turn, could be widely relevant for understanding abrupt changes in forest ecosystems across the globe.

“This project is a unique opportunity to test what’s going on at the leading edge of climate change and changing fire regimes in these areas,” says Brian. “We’re really seeing the start of conditions in Yellowstone that may be heading outside the range we’ve seen in the paleo-ecological record. No matter what we find, it’s going to be extremely exciting, and very important. On one hand, these ecosystems can always surprise us in their resilience. On the other hand, as many times as we’ve been surprised by their resilience, we may be heading toward a state where things could be changing pretty rapidly.”

Similar to the sites Brian will be studying this summer, this lodgepole pine forest—originally burned in the 1988 fire—was re-burned in 2012 (with this photo taken in 2015).

Starting this July, Brian will head out to the burned sites in Yellowstone with his incoming master’s student, Saba Saberi, along with an undergrad field intern. They will meet up with a team from the University of Wisconsin, and together they’ll be investigating and measuring a number of factors for how the shortened fire interval is affecting the forest, including burn severity, post-fire tree seedling establishment and carbon storage.

A major component of this research, which Brian’s master’s student will be leading, involves studying how well satellites can measure burn severity in forests that are still very young since the last severe fire. “We have well-developed satellite indices to measure burn severity in forests, but most of these indices have really only been tested on older forests with much greater live biomass,” says Brian. “However, when fire burns through a dense stand of 25-year-old trees, we don’t know how accurately the satellite can detect burn severity. This is a big part of what Saba will be testing in her master’s research at SEFS. “Calibrating these satellite indices will allow us to investigate spatial patterns of burn severity over much broader scales, and gain insight into how fire regimes may be changing right before our eyes.”

The RAPID grant provides a total of $200,000 in funding, with just under $60,000 coming to Brian for his role in the project, and the rest supporting his collaborators at the University of Wisconsin.

Also joining the crew in the field will be a freelance writer from the New York Times to spend a weekend a write a store about the project. The Discovery Channel will be sending a team, as well, as part of documentary about the research on climate change and fire. Brian and his collaborators plan to produce a series of mini-documentaries (5-8 minutes in length), in English and Spanish, to explain effects of increased fire activity and climate warming on western forests to a wide audience.

It’s going to be a packed July for Brian and his partners, and we look forward to hearing reports from the field!

Photos © Brian Harvey.

Guest Seminar (5/10): Paul Armsworth

On Wednesday, May 10, we are very pleased to welcome Professor Paul Armsworth from the University of Tennessee to give a visiting seminar in Anderson Hall 223 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.: “The ecological benefits and economic costs of protected areas.”

Paul is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he is also affiliated with the National Science Foundation’s National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. A modeler by training, Paul has worked on numerous topics in conservation science. He has a particular emphasis on how ecology and economics can be combined to make more effective conservation decisions.

About the Talk
Protected areas provide a cornerstone in efforts to conserve biodiversity in the face of ongoing habitat loss and degradation. Existing protected area networks need to be greatly expanded if we are to meet species and habitat conservation goals. However, available funding to support the establishment of protected areas is limited, and it is imperative that what funds are available are targeted in ways that provide the greatest conservation gain per dollar invested. To do so, conservation organizations need to consider both the economic costs and ecological benefits of protecting land. Using as a case study areas protected in the United States by The Nature Conservancy, Paul examines how considering costs and benefits of protected areas together changes recommendations regarding what locations should be priorities for protection, and how protected areas should be designed. He also shows how recommendations one would arrive at regarding protected area design depend on the “quality” of cost and benefit data used, and the particular choice of conservation target. Finally, he outlines ways that the science behind conservation planning can become more relevant to the practice of land protection moving forward.

Paul’s talk is open to the public and no RSVP is required. We hope you can join us!

Guest Seminar (4/27): Brett McClintock

Next Thursday, April 27, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Anderson 223, you are invited to join a special guest seminar with Dr. Brett McClintock from the NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory: “Hidden Markov models of animal movement: integrating more ecological realism and common challenges associated with telemetry data.”

Brett McClintockBrett is a research statistician (biology) at the NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle. He earned a Ph.D. in wildlife biology and an M.S. in statistics at Colorado State University. His research focuses on the development and application of statistical models for ecological data, with a primary focus on marine mammals. He is the creator and maintainer of the animal movement R package ‘momentuHMM’ and the capture-recapture R package ‘multimark’. He also recently co-authored the book, Animal Movement: Statistical Models for Telemetry Data (CRC Press).

About the Talk
Discrete-time hidden Markov models (HMMs) have become an immensely popular tool for inferring latent animal behaviors from telemetry data, largely because they are relatively fast and easy to implement when data streams are observed without error and at regular time intervals. While HMMs of animal movement typically rely solely on location data, auxiliary biotelemetry and environmental data are powerful and readily available resources for incorporating much more behavioral realism and inferring ecological relationships that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to infer from location data alone. However, there is a paucity of generalized user-friendly software available for implementing (multivariate) HMMs of animal movement. Furthermore, measurement error and temporally irregular or missing data are often pervasive in telemetry studies (particularly in marine systems), and the incorporation of uncertainty attributable to location measurement error, temporally irregular observations, or other forms of missing data typically requires fitting HMMs using custom and computationally demanding model-fitting techniques. This is unfortunate because complex analyses requiring novel statistical methods, and custom model-fitting algorithms are not practical for many of the biologists and ecologists who collect telemetry data. Using several real-world examples, including African elephant and marine mammal telemetry data, Brett will demonstrate how a recently developed R package (momentuHMM) addresses these challenges and facilitates hypothesis-driven analyses of animal movement by non-statisticians.

Brett’s talk is free and open to the public, and we hope you can join us!

We hope you can join us!

Photo © Brett McClintock.

Stinging Nettles and Traditional Ecology

Tom Hinckley

On Saturday, April 15, Cynthia Updegrave and Joyce LeCompte-Mastenbrooks led students on a field trip to the Harvey Manning trailhead on Cougar Mountain. Cynthia is the instructor for the class Traditional Foods and Engaging Local Ecology (AIS 275B), and Joyce teaches Ethnobiology: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity (ENVIR 495E), and also joining the group from SEFS were Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley and doctoral student Eve Rickenbaker.

Following background discussions on the cultural and natural history of the area, the students engaged in lots of botanizing and the collection of stinging nettles. The collected plant material was then taken home, prepared and frozen so that it would be available for the meals that will be prepared for The Living Breath Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium, coming up on May 5 and 6 at the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House.

Learn more and register for this great symposium (including a chance to taste those nettles yourself)!

Native Plant Sale: May 7!

Our Native Plant Nursery, part of the Society for Ecological Restoration – UW Chapter (SER-UW), will be hosting a public plant sale on Sunday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Held at the Douglas Research Conservatory, the Native Plant Sale will feature more than 40 different species, from vanilla leaf to Douglas-fir, so come pick out your favorite plants and support your local student-run nursery!

Most of these plants are grown and propagated by students for other students’ projects and classes. Your support helps to keep them going and growing!

Learn more about SER-UW and the Native Plant Nursery, connect with them on Facebook, and feel free to contact the nursery managers, Derek Allen and Kimmy Ertel, by email anytime.

Hope you can make the sale!

Ashley Ahearn to Emcee UW Climate Change Video Awards

We are excited to announce that Ashley Ahearn, award-winning environment reporter with KUOW, will be the emcee for our 2017 UW Climate Video Awards show on Friday, June 2, at Town Hall Seattle! This is our third year hosting the UW Climate Change Video Contest, and this year’s award show and screening will feature high school students across the state of Washington who created two-minute ads addressing the prompt, “How do you convince a climate change skeptic to take action?”

In addition to her role as a reporter, Ashley is the host of a new national podcast called Terrestrial, which focuses on the choices we make in a world we have changed (the podcast launched on May 2). Or, as Ashley refers to it, it’s the “we’re f#@ked, now what?” podcast. “We, as a generation, have grown up with some level of awareness and understanding of climate change and what our emissions are doing to the planet,” says Ashley. “And we’re going to be the generation that has to figure out what to do about that—and how to live and adapt in a changed world. That’s why we’re making this podcast.”

Ashley says she’s honored to emcee the award show, and that the way she approaches an episode of the podcast might not be very different from the way these young filmmakers unpack the issue of climate change for audiences, visually.

She earned a master’s in science journalism from the University of Southern California and has completed reporting fellowships with MIT, Vermont Law School, the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island, and the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. She has covered numerous multimedia stories around Washington and the Pacific Northwest, from the Elwha River recovery to an interview with our own Carol Bogezi. In her spare time you’ll find her riding her motorcycle or hiking and snowboarding in the Olympic and Cascade mountains.

Submissions for the 2017 Climate Change Video Contest are due by April 30, and we’ll soon have more details to share about the award show, four judges and opening speaker!

Photo of Ashley Ahearn © Melanie Moore.

Ashley Ahearn at the Duwamish

Donated Diploma: Noal F. Caywood (’13, B.S.)

A couple months ago, we received an inquiry from Rob Lohrmeyer, who is dean for Career & Technical Education at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho, about whether we’d be interested in an old framed diploma from one of our early alumni, Noal F. Caywood, who graduated with a bachelor’s in forestry in 1913. Rob didn’t attend SEFS—though he did earn a bachelor’s in forestry from the University of Montana—but he had purchased the diploma at an auction in Lewiston, Idaho, in the late 1970s and was looking to clear some storage.

We were immediately intrigued, and earlier this week Rob and his wife passed through Seattle and dropped off the diploma. The glass on the frame broke and was removed years ago, and the paper is in fairly rough shape, but it is still clearly legible—including the signature of Thomas Kane, president of the university at the time.

Rob had done some searching to try to learn more about Noal, and the most recent record he found was an August 23, 1936 issue of The Salt Lake Tribune announcing that Noel, with an “e,” and his wife were relocating to Salt Lake City from Spokane, Wash. We were able to find a record of his graduation, his membership in the Xi Sigma Pi forestry honor society while in school, and a possible note about him working as a logging engineer in Everett around 1922. We are fairly confident, as well, that he was born in Avon, Ind., in 1889 and lived until 1976. Then there’s a 1940 U.S. Census record of a Noah F. Caywood—also from Indiana, and also 50 years old, as Noal would have been—living with his wife Gertrude in Spokane. He lists his occupation as a “forest engineer” working in “government forestry.” Certainly sounds like Noal, though beyond that we haven’t had much luck.

All of which is to say we’re very grateful to Rob for generously donating this piece of our history, and we hope we’re able to track down more of Noal’s story!

New Faculty Intro: Sarah Converse

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

This March, we were enormously pleased to welcome our newest faculty member, Sarah J. Converse, who joins us as an associate professor and the new leader of the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. The Cooperative Research Unit program was founded in the 1930s to enhance graduate education in fisheries and wildlife sciences, and to facilitate research between natural resource agencies and universities. In Washington the Coop is a partnership between federal and state government agencies, the University of Washington, and the Wildlife Management Institute. While Sarah’s position is technically funded through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), her role operates in all other ways as a non-tenured faculty member—with her home department in SEFS and a joint appointment with the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

Sarah with a sandhill crane at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Sarah, who grew up in Battle Creek, Mich., brings tremendous experience as a quantitative population ecologist with a strong interest in decision analysis and decision science, conservation biology, demographic estimation, hierarchical modeling, integrated population modeling and reintroduction biology. “I build models of wildlife populations, and then I help land managers use those models to make management decisions,” she says.

That element of her research—working with land managers and seeing real-world applications of her models for different species—really clicked for her during graduate school.

Coming out of her bachelor’s in fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University, Sarah thought she’d probably end up being a lawyer. Then she went on to a master’s program in natural resource sciences at the University of Nebraska, where she got to work on a project she loved involving box turtles and the pet trade. “That really cemented it,” she says. “By the end of my master’s, I knew I would be continuing on and working as a research scientist.”

Her next move was to complete a Ph.D. in wildlife biology from Colorado State University, where she got heavier training in quantitative methods, before accepting a postdoc position at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. Two years later, she accepted a permanent position at Patuxent. For the next 10 years, Sarah worked there as a research ecologist with projects that stretched across the country from Washington to Florida, and also internationally. Most involved studying threatened species, including whooping crane recovery and conservation, management of avian reintroductions in New Zealand, and design and analysis methods for albatross population studies.

Sarah and her husband relocated from Washington, D.C., to Seattle in mid-March, and they have just moved into their new home in Green Lake. Here, she has her hands full with a waved albatross in the Galapagos.

“I really enjoyed my time at Patuxent—so many great people there, an amazing place to work—and 10 years went by really quickly,” she says.

Still, she always thought she’d end up back in academia, and this Coop faculty position struck her as a perfect fit and opportunity. “I like the environment and the energy of a university,” says Sarah, “and I love working with students. I also love the Northwest and always wanted to live here, so when this job came up, I was really excited.”

After the national-level focus of her time at Patuxent, Sarah is also excited to be a whole lot closer to some of her study areas and species in Washington. “For 10 years, my closest project, in terms of where I was working, was in Wisconsin, about 1,000 miles from my home,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know the state of Washington—ecologically, socially, politically, all those things—so I feel I’m working where I live. To be more immersed in a place is going to be great.”

As that immersion begins, we are thrilled to have Sarah as part of our community, and we encourage you to stop by her new office in Anderson 123A (at least part of the time) or introduce yourselves by email.


Photos © Sarah Converse.

Captured here working on a Florida manatee survey, Sarah will stay involved with a postdoc working on lesser prairie chickens, another with polar bears, and a new one working on marine birds in Europe—so even with her new home in the Pacific Northwest, she’ll have plenty of other national and international projects.


Xi Sigma Pi Research Grants: Apply by May 1!

This spring, the Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honor Society will award two grants of up to $1,000 each to support graduate and undergraduate research for students currently enrolled at SEFS. These grants are based on merit and financial need and will be applicable for research activities and/or equipment that is otherwise unattainable by the student.

The deadline to apply for these grants is Monday, May 1, by 11 p.m., so learn more about the application process below and get your packets together!

To apply, please include the following items in the grant application packet:

  1. A resume no longer than 2 pages, single-spaced. It should include the following information:
    1. Education history
    2. Work history
    3. Achievements
    4. Volunteer work
  2. Letter of recommendation from an advisor, committee member or influential faculty member. The author must email this document separately to before May 1, 2017, at 11 p.m.
  3. Current transcript (unofficial or official).
  4. Proposal for Research Grant that does not exceed 3 pages, double-spaced (excluding works cited)
    1. Title
    2. PI and Co-PI with contact information
    3. Project description:
      1. Objectives and significance of project
      2. Methods to be employed
      3. Anticipated outcome and effect of project fulfillment
      4. Broader impacts associated with the project
      5. Timeline of the project completion and deliverables
      6. Works cited
    4. Statement of financial need with budget of the specific proposed project

Include in the budget ONLY the expenses for your project, which are to be funded by the XSP grant, including but not limited to: equipment, travel, lodging, material, supplies and/or any other pertinent research activities. If you have received any scholarship or funding to fund the rest of your research, make sure to mention it here. You may want to include a brief narrative of expenses along with a table of individual cost components.

This year the grants are worth up to $1,000 dollars each, and the application process will run until May 1, 2017 (11 p.m).

The complete grant application packet can be dropped off in person to David Campbell or Lisa Nordlund in Anderson Hall rooms 116/130, OR uploaded directly onto catalyst by the due date.

If you have any questions about the grant process, email!