Meet Wendy Star, the New SEFS Administrator!

With students flooding in and out of classes every day, and researchers cycling in for various projects and seminars, we’re accustomed to seeing unfamiliar faces around the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). But thanks to a handful of hires in the past month, a few of those new faces will soon be regular fixtures in our halls and memories!

One of the newest additions is Wendy Star, who started as SEFS administrator on Monday, November 25. While Star is new to SEFS, she’s been connected to the University of Washington for much of her life, from when she studied business at UW as an undergrad, to her most recent position as administrator for the Department of Sociology.

There’s so much more to her story, of course, and we sat down with Star at the end of her second week to learn a little more and help introduce her to the SEFS community.

Wendy Star

For Wendy Star, UW is a family affair, as both of her daughters also work for the university!

Seattle Roots
Star was born in Wisconsin, but her family moved to Seattle when she was still a baby. Her grandparents had a home in Ballard, and Star grew up playing around the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, and spending hours exploring the Washington Park Arboretum. “We have lots of pictures of this skinny little kid running around outside,” she says.

These days, though, the tables have turned, and now Star’s shelves and walls are filled with photos of her two young granddaughters. Both of her daughters live in Seattle and work for UW: Jennifer as the curriculum coordinator for the university, and JoAnn as a nurse in labor and delivery at the UW Medical Center. They each have a daughter, and Star says her free time generally revolves around what her granddaughters want to do.

They both started Girl Scouts this year, and Star says she especially loves taking them out on local adventures. “When the weather is nice, we’ll go out in nature and explore,” she says. “One of our favorite things to do is take trips over to Sequim and visit the Olympic Game Farm. You drive through in your car, and you get to see all these animals, buffalo and elk and llamas and yaks, and they come right up to you.”

Book It
Next to the grandkids, one of the easiest ways to get Star gushing is to ask her about what she’s reading. Most mornings, she carpools to campus from Everett with her daughter Jennifer, and then she takes the bus home. That gives her plenty of time to devour all sorts of nonfiction.

She recently finished Last Child in the Woods, which addresses some of the nature deficit many kids are experiencing today, when it’s harder to find open spaces to play outdoors. She doesn’t necessarily recommend that one, but she loved the book before it, The Girl With No Name, by Marina Chapman.

It’s about a 6-year-old girl who grew up in Colombia and was kidnapped. Her abductors ended up leaving her alone into the jungle, where she miraculously survived, in part through the company and protection of monkeys. She’s now grown and has her own daughters, who helped her tell her incredible story. “I couldn’t put it down,” says Star. “It was so fascinating.”

First Impressions
Part of the appeal of the administrator position for Star was the connection to her childhood, and those early days trekking through the Arboretum. She grew up loving these parks and facilities, and now she gets to work on behalf on them.

“I’m excited to learn more about the research our faculty do,” she says, “and to learn about Pack Forest and ONRC and the Botanic Gardens all the centers that are part of SEFS.”

It’s a daunting learning curve, she says, but her first two weeks have been fun, and she’s felt very welcome and at ease. As she familiarizes herself with all the new people and programs in the SEFS community, the hardest part actually might be reminding herself she can’t learn everything overnight—and that all the new science and professors and students are precisely what make the job so exciting. “I’m so tickled to be a part of it!”

You can find Star in Anderson 107D, so feel free to stop by or shoot her an email to introduce yourself!

Photo © SEFS.

Pileated Woodpeckers in Suburban Seattle?

This Friday, October 18, the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) in Forks, Wash., will be hosting the second presentation as part of its new monthly speaker series, “Evening Talks at ONRC.”

Jorge Tomasevic

Jorge Tomasevic

Each month, a graduate student or other regional expert will give a public talk to engage members of the Forks and surrounding communities in exciting research projects throughout the state. SEFS graduate student Laurel Peelle kicked off the speaker series on Saturday, September 21, to great success—and an enthusiastic round of questions afterward!

This next event, which will begin at the ONRC campus at 7 p.m., features Jorge Tomasevic for his talk, “A New Neighbor on the Block: Pileated Woodpeckers in Seattle’s Suburban Areas.”

Part of the Wildlife Science Group at SEFS—and currently working toward his Ph.D.—Tomasevic originally came to the United States as a Fulbright Fellow from Chile. From the cold forests of Patagonia to the arid desert of Atacama, from the native forests and struggling exotic pine plantations to the heights of an island in the Pacific Ocean or up high in the Andes, Tomasevic has participated in several research projects dealing with the ecology and conservation of forest birds and endangered species in Chile—and now in the Pacific Northwest.

“Most of us think of the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) as a mature or even old-growth forest species, right?” says Tomasevic. “That’s why we use them as indicators of forest health. However, they are also using suburban areas in the Greater Seattle region. Why is this? How are they doing? Are they successful, or it is just the remains of a past population that are using what is left of the forest not taken over by housing development?”

Come out this Friday to learn more about what this woodpecker is doing in such an unusual environment!

“Evening Talks at ONRC” is open to the public and is supported by the Rosmond Forestry Education Fund endowment. For more information about the program, contact Ellen Matheny at or 360.374.4556.

About the Speaker Series
In addition to bringing speakers and interesting research out to ONRC, the speaker series also provides a great opportunity for graduate students to gain experience presenting their research to the public, and to a generally non-scientific audience. For participating speakers, ONRC will cover travel expenses and provide lodging for the night, as well as a stipend of $200. The specific days of the events are flexible, and there will be openings coming up for January, March and May. If you are interested in giving a talk or know someone who would be a great fit for this series, please contact Karl Wirsing!

Photo © Ross Furbush.

Laurel Peelle to Kick off New Speaker Series at ONRC

This Saturday, September 21, the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) in Forks, Wash., is organizing a community potluck and evening program, which will highlight the research of Laurel Peelle, a graduate student at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS).

Laurel Peelle

Laurel Peelle and a captured lynx.

The program is the first in a new speaker series out at the ONRC campus. Each month, the plan is to have a graduate student or other regional expert give a public talk to engage members of the Forks and surrounding communities in exciting research projects throughout the state.

For this initial lecture, the Friends of ONRC group will be meeting before the program at 5:30 for a potluck dinner (ONRC will be grilling up barbecued ribs and providing potato salad, and attendees are encouraged to bring a side dish or dessert to share). Then, at 6:30 p.m., Peelle will give a talk about her ongoing research into the predation patterns on snowshoe hares by the endangered Canada lynx and other predators of Washington’s boreal forests.

Working with Professor Aaron Wirsing in the Predator Ecology Lab at SEFS, Peelle recently completed field work that included three years of snowshoe hare live-trapping, deploying radio collars on hares, monitoring survival, documenting predation events, measuring habitat features at kill sites, and attempting to identify the responsible predator species at each kill site using physical evidence, tracks and modern forensics. She hopes her research will help identify the features of successful lynx foraging habitat in comparison to the surrounding landscape, as well as in comparison to “kill sites” attributable to other predators (e.g., coyote, bobcat, pine marten and raptor).

If you happen to be in the area on Saturday, feel free to hop in and catch Peelle’s talk, which is open to the public!

For more information about the potluck and program, contact Ellen Matheny at or 360.374.4556.

About the Speaker Series
In addition to bringing speakers and interesting research out to ONRC, the series provides a great opportunity for graduate students to gain experience presenting their research to the public, and to a generally non-scientific audience. For participating speakers, ONRC will cover travel expenses and provide lodging for the night, as well as a stipend of $200. Future opportunities for SEFS graduate students are coming up in November, January, March and May; the day and time for each event is flexible and will depend in part on the speaker’s schedule. If you are interested in giving a talk or know someone who would be a great fit for this series, please contact Karl Wirsing!

Photos © Laurel Peelle.
Snowshoe Hare

Rosmond Family Expands Commitment to ONRC

Rosmond Family

The Rosmond sisters–Julie (left), Marti and Polly–and cousin Tom Rosmond, who lives in Forks.

In 2007, the three daughters of Fred Rosmond—a local forester and longtime mill owner/operator in Forks, Wash.—provided the initial funding for an endowment, the Rosmond Forestry Education Fund, to honor their late father. Distributions from the endowment provide the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) a steady stream of funds to bring speakers and programs to Forks that are of interest to the community, including the extremely popular astronomy program ONRC hosted in May with UW doctoral students (more than 175 people attended!).

This past week, the Rosmond family agreed to expand the endowment’s original focus on forestry and forest management to include a wider spectrum of topics in science, natural resources, technology, medicine and mathematics.

That’s wonderful news for ONRC, because this endowment makes a big impact on funding outreach activities for local residents and UW students!

To learn more about the fund, contact Ellen Matheny.

Photo of Rosmond family © Ellen Matheny.

ONRC to Host “Forest Owners Field Day”

On Saturday, August 24, the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) in Forks, Wash., will host a day of field courses and exercises designed for family forest owners and managers on the Olympic Peninsula and surrounding areas. Whether you own a small plot or 500 wooded acres, the “Forest Owners Field Day” will offer classes and activities to help you plan and execute your management objectives and be better stewards of the land.

Forest Owners Field DayExperts in forest management, wildlife habitat, fire protection, timber products and other forest stewardship disciplines will be leading courses throughout the day. They’ll cover numerous and wide-ranging topics, from “Chainsaw Safety and Maintenance” to “Shiitake Mushroom Culture” or “Noxious Weed Management.” The field day has not been held on the west end of the Peninsula for more than 10 years, so it’s a great opportunity for landowners to catch up on a decade’s worth of information in one day. (Absentee landowners with property on the peninsula are especially encouraged to attend.)

The gates open at 8 a.m., and the official field day events will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you register before August 19, the cost is $20 per person or $30 for a family of two or more. After that, registration—including on the day of the event—is $30 per person or $40 for a family of two or more. Additionally, if you sign up by August 19 you can order an on-site BBQ lunch for $10 (to benefit a local service club); otherwise, you should plan to pack your own meal.

The Washington State University Extension office, ONRC and the University of Washington, the DNR Forest Stewardship Program, and the Family Forest Foundation are the primary sponsors of the field day, and a host of other organizations and agencies are contributing to the event.

Take a look at a detailed schedule of presentations and activities, and for more information or questions you can contact WSU Extension Forester Andy Perleberg at 509.667.6540 or

See you in the woods!

Mobile Planetarium Draws Stargazers to ONRC

On Saturday, May 4, the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) hosted an astronomy program for the local community, including an afternoon session for families and younger children, and then an evening session for youth and adults.

The main attraction was a mobile planetarium, which looked like a big black igloo from the outside. Three doctoral students from the University of Washington’s Astronomy Department brought the instrument out to the ONRC campus to offer an immersive experience to participants, who were able to view galaxies billions of light years from Earth.

Mobile Planetarium

Members of the mobile planetarium team at the UW Astronomy Department. Doctoral student Phil Rosenfield, standing back left, was one of the three graduate students who came to ONRC for the event.

About 175 people attended the program throughout the day, and the afternoon session included five rotations in the planetarium. While one group was in the planetarium, another group walked a graphical representation of the solar system on the sidewalk outside the administration building, giving folks a tangible sense of the distances between planets.

Later, the evening program kicked off with a one-hour presentation about current thinking in astronomy and a capsule look at cutting-edge research at UW. The doctoral students offered an opportunity for each person to be a citizen scientist and provide help with sorting through the images coming from the Hubble Space Telescope they use in their research. Planetarium showings and solar system walks followed until dark. Then the students set up a high-grade telescope that allowed folks to view planets, including Saturn, up close and personal.

“The enthusiasm of the three students was infectious and inspired people to think very differently and more expansively as they gazed at the heavens,” says Ellen Matheny, education and outreach director for ONRC.

Astronomy Presentation

One of the evening astronomy presentations.

This month is particularly rich with chances to view other planets, and Jupiter, Venus and Mercury will all be visible at various times. In fact, on May 26, those three planets will form a compact cluster in the sky, all visible through binoculars or a telescope about a half-hour after sunset—so mark your calendars for a planetary bonanza!

Funding for the event was provided by the Rosmond Forestry Education Fund, an endowment established at ONRC to provide quality programs on forestry and other scientific topics for the regional community. The astronomy students enjoyed the program so much they said they’d like to organize a similar event next spring. Community members seemed equally impressed.

“Many people approached me during the day with thanks to ONRC for putting this program together,” says Matheny. “The most common comment was, ‘Let’s have more of these events!’”

Photo of mobile planetarium © Mary Levin; photo of astronomy presentation © Ellen Matheny.

A Friday Tour of the ONRC


Derric Kettel, Ellen Matheny and Theresa Santman at ONRC.

This past Friday, I drove out with Professor Aaron Wirsing to visit and tour the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) in Forks, Wash. My goal was to learn more about the center and spotlight some of its facilities for research and education within the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). Professor Wirsing was on hand to shadow the “ESRM 351: Wildlife Research Techniques” class, which Professor Steve West was leading out to spend two days and nights conducting field research on the Olympic Peninsula—using ONRC as the perfect staging ground for lodging, dining, frog hunts, bird walks, newt and salamander searches, stream surveys and a range of other hands-on activities.

It takes about 3.5 hours to reach ONRC from the Seattle campus, depending on your luck with timing the Kingston ferry. When we arrived, the rain was lashing, so we quickly ducked indoors and met our extremely welcoming hosts: Ellen Matheny, education and outreach director; Theresa Santman, manager of program operations, and Deric Kettel, who’s overseen general maintenance of ONRC since its first days in the mid-1990s.

They walked us through ONRC’s incredibly versatile facility, which features a host of lab and conference spaces, a library, social and dining hall with an indoor/outdoor fireplace, dormitories and larger apartments (brimming with ESRM students later that evening), classroom space for distance learning, and even a two-mile walking trail around the property, which locals in Forks use regularly—and who are sure to call in for help whenever there’s a tree or other blockage across the trail!

Depending on the type of event or activity, ONRC provides terrific space for conferences and other professional gatherings; day and overnight trips for class field study; graduate students looking for space to conduct or complete research projects; staging grounds for other projects and meetings; even social events (weddings and reunions are fairly common). The setting is a small field atop a forested hill overlooking Forks and the surrounding area. Tall hemlocks ring the clearing, which is a popular elk grazing ground, and even with the rain and typical cloud cover, huge windows keep the inside feeling bright and cozy. We left excited thinking about more ways we could integrate SEFS classes and research opportunities at ONRC.

Find out how you can get involved and take advantage of this great research and learning center—and the next time you’re in the area, make sure to stop by and visit!

Photo © Karl Wirsing/SEFS.

ONRC Hosts Community Program on Tsunami Debris

Dock Removal

This dock, set adrift from Misawa, Japan, by the tsunami in March 2011, beached on a remote shore of the Olympic Peninsula this past December.

On Tuesday evening, March 19, the Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) invited members of the Forks, Wash., community to a program about the marine debris washing up on nearby coastal beaches.

Some of the debris is a result of the devastating tsunami in Japan two years ago in March 2011, and speakers at the event addressed various angles of the disaster and its ongoing effects. Nir Barnea, regional lead for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, provided an overview of the tsunami’s physical impacts and efforts to track and respond to tsunami debris as it is dispersed across the Pacific Ocean. Coastal biologist Steve Fradkin from Olympic National Park, along with resource protection specialist Liam Antrim from NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, then shared updates on the removal of a large dock that beached last December on a remote shore within the boundaries of both Olympic National Park and the sanctuary.

The dock—which measured 65’x20’x7.5’ and was kept afloat by 200 cubic yards of a Styrofoam-like material in its concrete holds—is currently being sawed up into manageable sections and removed by helicopter. It was one of three docks set adrift from Misawa, Japan, says Rainey McKenna, a public information officer with Olympic National Park.

Dock Removal

Crews work to saw the dock into smaller sections, which are then removed from the beach by helicopter.

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is overseeing the removal project, and they are collaborating closely with Olympic National Park. A subcontractor, Undersea Company of Port Townsend, is handling the actual dismantling and removal of the dock.

Among those who attended the hour-long program were about 35 members of the Port Angeles and Forks communities, including Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon. In addition to learning more about the tsunami debris and removal efforts, attendees also got a chance to connect with the local work and research at ONRC.

Located on the Olympic Peninsula in Forks, ONRC is a research center with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. The facility provides scientific information to address critical issues and solve problems concerning forestry and marine sciences in the region. It serves as a catalyst for interdisciplinary and collaborative work, bringing together expertise from forest resources and ocean and fishery sciences. By integrating research with education and outreach, it unites researchers, students, professionals and the public.

If you’d like to learn more about ONRC or the tsunamis debris event, please contact Ellen Matheny at 360.374.4556, or visit the ONRC site.

Photos of dock removal © John Gussman/National Park Service.