SEFS to Host Wood Identification Workshop

Next week, the Center for International Trade in Forest Products at SEFS—in partnership with the World Resources Institute’s Forest Legality Initiative, World Wildlife Fund and the U.S. Forest Service International Programs—will be hosting a two-day workshop, “Development and Scaling of Innovative Technologies for Wood Identification.” Held in the Forest Club Room on February 28 and March 1, the workshop will feature short thematic presentations, as well as breakout groups centered on the different technologies, in order to dive deeper into the methodologies and challenges of the taxonomic and provenance (origin) identification of wood and forest products.

The remains of illegally harvested trees in Ghana.

Workshop Context
In many parts of the world, illegal logging continues to drive deforestation and poses a significant threat to biodiversity, the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities and the rule of law. As part of an international effort to combat illegal logging, the U.S. Lacey Act was amended in 2008 to require that an importer must declare the species and origin of the forest product they are importing. Since then, government and academic labs have been working to develop methods to identify the species and origin of timber and wood-based products. However, the ability to scale these methods and make them available to enforcement officials and the private sector has yet to materialize.

One of the problems for enforcement agents tasked with Lacey compliance is an inability to quickly and accurately verify the information in customs declarations. For all but the most experienced wood scientists, timber and forest products are nearly impossible to identify to species. Additionally, there is little to aid an agent in verifying a timber or wood product’s origin.

This workshop will convene academic, government and enforcement sector entities to help map out the biggest challenges, and set up partnerships and collaborations to resolve these challenges in the United States. Participants from SEFS include Professors Ivan Eastin and Indroneil Ganguly, Research Associates Daisuke Sasatani and Francesca Pierobon, and alumnus John Simeone. Other core participants will include scientists who have built methods in wood identification using mass spectrometry, stable isotope, wood anatomy, genetics and near-infrared spectroscopy; scientists who employ these methods on non-wood based materials; and state and national enforcement agents who will provide insights on their needs.

For more information about the workshop, contact John Simeone or Meaghan Parker-Forney.

Photo © Jane Atkins.

Alaska Airlines Takes Flight Using Forest-Powered Biofuel

This past November, Alaska Airlines made history by completing the first commercial flight using an alternative jet fuel made in part from forest residuals, the limbs and branches that remain after the harvesting of managed forests. The first-of-its-kind renewable biofuel comprised 20 percent of the jet fuel blend, and it helped power the demonstration flight on a Boeing 737-800—carrying several elected officials and a number of researchers involved in the project, including Professor Indroneil Ganguly and SEFS doctoral candidate Laurel James, among the 163 passengers—from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. This cross-country flight on November 14 provided a triumphant culmination to a five-year USDA-funded project, led by Washington State University (WSU).

The wood used in the jet fuel came from Washington, Oregon and Montana, including forests managed by Weyerhaeuser, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe.
The wood used in the jet fuel came from Washington, Oregon and Montana, including forests managed by Weyerhaeuser, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe. (© 2016 Washington State University)

Nearly lost in the press coverage and excitement, though, were some of the contributions SEFS researchers made as key partners in this bio-jet fuel development, including leading the overall environmental, community and deep soil carbon impact assessments of this bio-based alternative energy.

Guiding the cutting-edge research on this alternative jet fuel has been the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), a partnership of public universities, government laboratories and private industry. NARA received a $40 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture in 2011 to develop bio-based alternatives to traditionally petroleum-based products such as jet fuel. Led by WSU, NARA organized a comprehensive approach to building a supply chain for aviation biofuel with the goal of increasing efficiency in everything from forestry operations to conversion processes. The project aimed to create a sustainable industry to produce aviation biofuels and valuable co-products, all while empowering rural economies, increasing America’s energy security, and reducing aviation’s environmental impact.

At SEFS, Indroneil and Dr. Francesca Pierobon led a team of researchers evaluating the overall environmental footprint of the bio-jet fuel using a cradle-to-grave life-cycle assessment (LCA). To meet the U.S. Energy Independence and Securities Act standards, it was critical to be able to show that using this renewable biofuel could achieve at least a 60 percent lifecycle Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction threshold. Impressively, their LCA demonstrated the potential for as much as a 72-percent reduction in lifecycle GHG emissions using NARA’s jet fuel, which is chemically indistinguishable from regular jet fuel.

“If Alaska Airlines were able to replace 20 percent of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of communications and external relations. “This is equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.”
“If Alaska Airlines were able to replace 20 percent of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of communications and external relations. “This is equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.” (© 2016 Washington State University)

Typical forest harvest operations in the Pacific Northwest, after all, leave behind a considerable volume of unused residual woody biomass, most of which is collected into piles in the forest and burned. “So in my opinion,” says Indroneil, “the most important environmental benefit associated with producing this bio-jet fuel is the avoided slash pile burns, which improves local air quality and reduces the local health impacts caused by the harmful pollutants generated from burning.”

Through a community impact assessment (CIA), Professor Ivan Eastin—who led SEFS’ overall involvement in the project—and Research Associate Daisuke Sasatani evaluated the potential economic impacts, including job creation, of a bio-jet fuel production facility located in the Pacific Northwest. They found that establishing a commercial-sized bio-jet fuel production plant, located in southwestern Washington and producing 35 million gallons of woody biomass-based jet fuel per year, could generate approximately $650 million in industrial output while directly creating 173 jobs within the production facility—and indirectly leading to the creation of an additional 1,200 jobs within the supply chain.

For the soil carbon impacts assessment, Professor Rob Harrison led stump decomposition, deep soil carbon retention and nutrient sustainability studies. He and his team concluded that Pacific Northwest forests—particularly moist coastal coniferous forests—are highly productive due partly to high belowground resource stocks and availability. They further concluded that these resource stocks are likely to be resilient to additional biomass harvest removals that would provide feedstock for a biofuels and biochemical industry.

These findings, coupled with the successful demonstration flight, highlighted some of the enormous potential of viable alternatives to replace conventional fossil fuels for aviation.

“By creating an advanced drop-in biofuel from residual woody biomass, which is generally disposed of by open burning,” says Indroneil, “we are not only addressing the global warming issue by displacing fossil fuel, we are also presenting an economic alternative for forest-dependent communities.”

Photo below © USDA/Lance Cheung/USDA.


SEFS Seminar Series: Spring 2014!

With the Spring Quarter now under way, we aren’t just excited for those first skin-tingling days in the 60s—like today—when the sunshine starts burning moon-sized holes in our motivation. We also can’t wait for the return of the SEFS Seminar Series, which kicks off tomorrow, April 1, at 3:30 p.m. in Anderson 223 (that’s right, Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays this quarter)!

We have to say, this quarter might feature the most diverse slate of speakers and topics yet, with talks from authors and artists mixed in with professors and agency professionals. So mark your calendars today and join us for as many Tuesdays as you can!

Also, we’ll have a casual reception in the Forest Club Room after the first seminar of each month—April 1, May 6 and June 3—and students can register for 2 course credits as ESRM 490C for undergrads or SEFS 550C for grads. (Contact Michelle Trudeau or Amanda Davis is you have any questions about registering.)

Spring 2014 SEFS Seminar SeriesApril 1
“The trouble with murrelets: Discovering and recovering a rare bird”
Maria Mudd Ruth
Author, Rare Bird
*Reception to follow in Forest Club Room

April 8
“More to crow about”
Professor John Marzluff, SEFS

April 15
“Climate change adaptation in forest ecosystems: Principles and paradigm shifts”
Dave Peterson, USFS

April 22
“Reforestation and the role of meadows in preserving biodiversity in China”
Professor Steve Harrell, SEFS/Anthropology

April 29
“Diversifying finance mechanisms for protected areas in the developing world”
Nabin Baral, SEFS

May 6
“Spatial optimization of forest roads, edges and harvest scheduling on WA DNR lands”
Professor Sándor Tóth, SEFS
*Reception to follow in Forest Club Room

May 13
“Burnscapes: An artist observes fire ecology”
Suze Woolf, artist

May 20
“Clear-cutting and even-age silviculture and its relevance today for public land management”
Angus Brody, WA DNR

May 27
“Assessing the impact of domestic wood”
Professor Ivan Eastin, SEFS

June 3
“Differential life stage niche modeling: Can we construct species fitness landscapes from SDMs?”
Tom Edwards, Utah State University
*Reception to follow in Forest Club Room

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.

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!

Thesis Defense: John Simeone!

Simeone Thesis Defense
An 18-wheeler carrying roundwood in Dalnerechensk, Russia.

SEFS graduate student John Simeone, who is working on a joint degree at the Jackson School of International Studies, will be defending his thesis for the latter program this coming Friday, May 3, at 10:30 a.m. in Anderson 22.

While the Russian forest sector languished for much of the first 15 years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, beginning in 2007 the Russian government instituted a set of policies designed to develop and modernize the Russian forest sector. This thesis is a policy analysis of Russia’s 2007 and 2008 forest sector initiatives—principally export taxes on roundwood and investment subsidies for value-added processing.

If you can’t make this Friday’s defense, then keep an eye out for Simeone’s SEFS defense later in August. His faculty advisor is Professor Sergey Rabotyagov, and he is also working closely with Professor Ivan Eastin and CINTRAFOR on Russia’s role in the timber trade. Should be great stuff!

Photo © John Simeone.

Chinese Forestry Delegation Visits SEFS

Chinese Delegation at SEFS
Members of the Chinese forestry delegation join SEFS faculty in front of Anderson Hall.

Last week, a delegation from the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) visited the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) for two hours of short presentations and discussions on April 3. The delegation included members from the research section of the State Forestry Administration (the equivalent of the U.S. Forest Service), and from the Gansu Province Forestry Department.

Organized by Professor Ivan Eastin and the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR), the meeting included a series of talks on forestry issues—first from SEFS faculty members, and then from members of the Chinese delegation.

On the agenda, SEFS presentations included introductions from SEFS Director Tom DeLuca and Professor Indroneil Ganguly; Professor Greg Ettl (“Sustainable Forest Management at Pack Forest”); Professors Stevan Harrell and Tom Hinckley (“Forest Expansion onto Meadowlands, U.S. v. China”); and Professor David Ford (“Overview of Sustainable Forest Management at the Olympic Natural Resources Center”). Madam Hu Zhangcui from CAF then followed with “PRC-GEF Partnership on Land Degradation in Dryland Ecosystems: Current Progress, Achievements and Prospects” before a final discussion session.

SEFS in China
Professors Tom Hinckley, foreground, and Steve Harrell coring trees in Yangjuan-Pianshui villages, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, August 2008.

SEFS’ collaboration with Chinese researchers began in 1999, when the UW established a joint program to study environmental challenges in the two countries. Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley had joined several exploratory trips to Sichuan around that time, visiting a future research site at Jiuzhaigou National Park in the northwestern part of the province.

When the university began an undergraduate student exchange, Professor Hinckley joined Anthropology Professor Steve Harrell and Biology Professor Dick Olmstead in leading a multinational team to Yangjuan Village in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in the summer of 2002 to conduct joint research on forest ecology, agriculture, plant biodiversity and local history. Several SEFS (and previously CFR and SFR) students have since conducted research there.

Photos © SEFS.

Student Spotlight: Peter Gill

Peter Gill
Peter Gill, in his Carleton t-shirt, during a training session on tree nurseries in rural Senegal.

In Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest, it can be easy to think of forestry in terms of towering evergreens, and mountainsides carpeted with conifers. But for Peter Gill, who spent the last two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in a tiny village in Senegal, he worked with trees on a much smaller scale—on the margins of farmland, planted not for lumber but for sustenance, as erosion control or for fencing.

The son of two former Peace Corps volunteers, Gill grew up in Nepal and later attended school at Carleton College in Minnesota. He moved to Seattle and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) in 2009 as part of the Peace Corps Masters International (PCMI) Program, which prepares students with three quarters of course work before heading off on their Peace Corps assignment. After two years abroad, PCMI students then return to SEFS to complete their thesis and earn a Master of Forest Resources degree.

Gill just completed his two years in Africa and has returned to Seattle. He’s working with Professor Ivan Eastin, his faculty adviser, to finish his final research paper—which, like his work in Senegal, focused on deforestation and agroforestry.

Peter Gill
Gill works with a women’s garden to plant an intensive strip of moringa as erosion control.

Living in his village of 600 people, Gill worked with 24 local farmers and two women’s groups on projects to integrate various tree species with their crops and gardens. His goal was to create a better environment for agriculture in a way that also provided direct, sustainable use of the trees. That work could include growing nitrogen-fixing trees as a windbreak, or addressing erosion control by planting native moringa trees, whose leaves are nutritious and are made into a sauce eaten with millet.

Planting intensive rows of trees or other edible shrubs has another advantage. In the largely open countryside of rural Senegal, fencing is crucial because it allows farmers to grow year-round crops such as cassava—rather than farming only in the rainy season—by protecting their crops from cattle, goats, sheep and other livestock passing through with nomadic herders.

Yet most local farmers can’t afford metal fencing, says Gill, and adding wooden posts would mean cutting down more trees and further contributing to deforestation. A good way to solve both problems cheaply and sustainably is to plant “live fences” of thorny hedges, which can potentially serve double duty as a food source.

Gill often worked side by side with farmers and their families, and he was thoroughly immersed in his village. “I enjoyed it a lot,” he says. “It was a great learning experience and very challenging, but overall I think there’s not a better way to learn than getting your hands dirty—and I certainly got my hands very dirty.”

Peter Gill
Gill with his host family in Senegal.

Far from discouraging Gill, the challenges in Senegal helped cement his long-term plans. “I feel like it provided me with more of a sense of what I want to do after school,” he says. “I’m really excited about working in forestry and conservation in developing countries, and specifically agroforestry.”

Now that he’s back at SEFS this quarter to complete his thesis, Gill is also participating in another important aspect of the PCMI program: mentoring the incoming class of PCMI students and helping them prepare for their own experiences.

So far, he’s attended a few Q&A sessions, which cover everything from the process of applying to the Peace Corps to living conditions in developing countries. Every situation is different, of course, and the next class of PCMI students won’t necessarily end up in Senegal. Yet Gill says there are definitely some general lessons and philosophies for Peace Corps volunteers to keep in mind—including being highly adaptable to new situations, and learning as much as possible about a place before trying to change it.

“A good place to start when you’re looking to get involved in your community is to ask people about their strengths,” he says. “You can really get them engaged and build their confidence, which is really what development should be about. That’s a better recipe for successful work.”


Carrie Hessler-Radelet
Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler Radelet, front right, with Ivan Eastin and past and current PCMI students at SEFS.

PCMI is a professional degree program designed to allow students to complement a rigorous program of academic study with intense hands-on experience during their overseas Peace Corps assignment. Students generally complete one year of academic coursework prior to beginning their 27-month Peace Corps assignment. Following the conclusion of their Peace Corps duty, PCMI students generally return to their university to complete their degree requirements for graduation.

The SEFS PCMI program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. So far, 18 students have been admitted into the program, and SEFS students have served in Tanzania, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Senegal and Paraguay.This year, as well, the University of Washington ranked #1 among larger universities for alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps, and Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet visited SEFS on February 5 to recognize PCMI students for their service and contributions.

Learn more about the PCMI program today!

Photos from Senegal © Peter Gill; photo of Carrie Hessler-Radelet © SEFS.