After several weeks of ghostly quiet in Anderson 223, it’s high time for the return of the SEFS Seminar Series (SEFS 529b) this Wednesday, January 7, starting with Professor Susan Bolton and her talk, “Greening deserts for health and well-being: An interdisciplinary design program.”
We’ll continue from there with a wonderfully varied line-up of speakers, ranging from other SEFS and visiting faculty, to potential future faculty members, to professors in other departments on campus. We’ll be exploring everything from mountain pine beetles to environmental restoration, biofuels and green building, and it’s a terrific opportunity to support your colleagues and learn about incredible research going on in our school.
Like last quarter, the seminars will be held on Wednesdays from 3:30-4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223. We’ll also have a casual reception in the Forest Club Room after three of the talks—January 7, February 4 and March 11—so mark your calendars for the talks below and come out as often as you can!
Week 1: January 7
“Greening deserts for health and well-being: An interdisciplinary design program.”
Professor Susan Bolton
Week 2: January 14
“Restoration resources in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences”
Professor Kern Ewing
Week 3: January 21
“Synergies, feedbacks and tipping points: Mountain pine beetle’s rapid range expansion threatens invasion of North American boreal pine forests”
Professor Allan Carroll
Director, Forest Sciences Program
Department of Forest & Conservation Sciences
University of British Columbia
Week 4: January 28
“Novel feedstocks for fuels and chemicals production: Technology, economics and environmental sustainability”
Professor Renata Bura
Week 5: February 4
“Interaction Pattern Design for urban sustainability”
Professor Peter Kahn
Week 6: February 11
“Understanding species interactions to improve wildlife conservation and management”
Week 7: February 18
“Moving beyond just population size: advances in abundance and occurrence modeling of wildlife populations”
Week 8: February 25
“Adaptive restoration of Western Washington prairies”
Professor Jon Bakker
Week 9: March 4
North Carolina State University
Week 10: March 11
Few of our graduate students at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) arrive here by following the exact same script. After all, the very nature of pursuing scientific training—always asking questions, always refining methods and ideas—tends to favor detours over simple, direct routes.
That’s why many of our students make their way here more like a pinball than an arrow; not out of aimlessness or lack of dedication, by any means, but by seeking diverse experiences and allowing those to shape and guide them. These students come with an appreciation that some of the most exciting discoveries and decisions can happen on the go, firsthand and unplanned, and that being open to the world is often the best way to find your place in it. In many ways, that’s how Cameron Newell found his way to the Master of Environmental Horticulture program at SEFS a year ago.
Newell grew up about an hour northwest of Melbourne, Australia. After earning a bachelor of science with majors in botany and zoology at Monash University in Melbourne, he spent a few years exploring an assortment of jobs, from driving seeding drills and rouseabouting on farms in the west, to working for the Victorian state government one summer as a firefighter. “It was the wettest summer in 100 years,” he says, “so I ended up filling sandbags more than putting out fires. It was a good thing, I guess, but you don’t make as much money that way.”
For one 18-month stretch, Newell hooked up with a filmmaker who was looking for a camera assistant on a documentary. The project involved capturing a year in the life of crocodiles, following them from babies and nesting mothers on through to mating. Newell didn’t have any experience as a cameraman, but before he knew it he was spending weeks in the field filming up around Darwin and other remote reaches of the country. “It was kind of scary most of the time,” he says, “sitting in a little flat-bottom boat filming crocodiles.”
At the end of that string of jobs, Newell set off with his brother on a seven-month backpacking adventure through South America. They flew into Santiago, Chile, and then trekked through Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador before spending a short time in Colombia. Near the tail end of the journey, while still in Ecuador, Newell met Susan North—his “soul mate, an amazing woman from San Diego,” he says. “My plans changed a bit from there.”
So after their last stop in Colombia, the brothers headed their separate ways, with Newell traveling up to the United States with Susie. From there, they would spend the next two and a half years dating long distance while Newell worked on several other documentaries—including films about kangaroos, flying foxes and red crabs—and applied for a green card to live in the country. When he was finally able to join Susie in San Diego full-time, he spent about two and a half years working in environmental consulting.
During that time, he’d been thinking about ways to get more engaged with environmental restoration and sustainable farming. “My parents had a nursery growing up,” he says, “so I was always growing plants. I had my own little side business doing small-scale stuff on farms, putting in windbreaks, things like that. But sustainable agriculture has become a bigger interest of mine through time and jobs, and I wanted to work out a way to pair agriculture and restoration.”
He started digging into potential graduate programs that would give him the flexibility and hands-on field application he wanted. That’s what attracted him to the Master of Environmental Horticulture degree program with SEFS, where he’s now working with Professors Kern Ewing and Jim Fridley. His research focuses on habitat restoration for pollinators in small agricultural areas in Seattle and surrounding communities, including Duvall and Carnation. “Pollination is a big thing at the moment with the collapse of the honey bee populations,” he says. “There’s going to be an increased need for native pollinators.”
He has about a year left in his program, and after that Newell says he’d eventually like to work in Africa or somewhere else in the developing world. What happens in the meantime, of course, is all part of the adventure—and could end up leading him in another direction entirely!
Traveling is still very much in Newell’s blood. In fact, he just got back from 10 days in Canada with his father. “My old man came out,” he says, “and we rented an RV in Vancouver and drove up to Banff and Jasper.”
A 2.2-acre urban forest located in the northeast corner of campus, Kincaid Ravine is currently dominated by invasive species and deciduous trees that are coming to the end of their natural lifespan. It is a declining forest that is gradually losing the ability to perform important ecological functions.
As part of the process of restoring this forest to health, the first event of the quarter—organized by SER-UW—will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, along the Burke-Gilman Trail under the 45th Street Viaduct. You’ve probably walked or cycled through there countless times, and now you have a chance to get involved and remove some invasive plants. Tools, gloves and refreshments will be provided, so all you have to do is show up ready to dig in!
After this kick-off work party, EarthCorps has partnered with the UW Campus Sustainability Fund to line up five additional opportunities at Kincaid Ravine for the winter and spring quarters. Among the other key partners in this effort are Martha Moritz, a graduate student in Environmental Horticulture who is serving as the student project manager, and SEFS Professors Kern Ewing and Jim Fridley (as well as administrative support from UW Botanic Gardens).
As before, tools, gloves and refreshments will be provided for each event, but EarthCorps asks that you sign up beforehand if you’re able to come.
Saturday, Feb. 22: EarthCorps work party from 10 a.m-2 p.m. Invasive plant removal. Sign up now!
Saturday, March 1: EarthCorps work party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Planting and mulching. Sign up now!
Thursday, March 6: EarthCorps work party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Invasive plant removal. Sign up now!
Saturday, March 15: EarthCorps work party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. This will be the last work party in winter quarter. You’ll be doing a lot of planting and mulching. Sign up now!
Saturday, April 19: EarthCorps Earth Day work party from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. to kick off spring quarter. Sign up now!
An oft-used metaphor for graduating students is seeds scattering to the wind, and the comparison is certainly apt: We wonder where they’ll land, and where they’ll take root. At the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), our students develop an enormous range of interests and specialties, and they often branch into dozens of disciplines around the country—some going on to graduate school, others beginning their careers. Wherever they end up, though, one of our greatest rewards is hearing from them and learning about their growth.
One such update recently came from Randi Adair. She graduated in 2005 as part of the first class with an Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) degree, and later earned a Master’s in Environmental Planning from UC Berkeley. Originally from Portland, Ore., Adair is now working in Napa Valley as a senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). “We’re midway up the Napa Valley, surrounded by mountains and vineyards,” she says. “It’s pretty nice.” (Their office was originally part of a game bird farm, hence its somewhat unlikely address in the heart of wine country.)
Adair has now been with CDFW for three and a half years, has just bought a house the next valley over in Sonoma, and despite being accustomed to Pacific Northwest greenery has gradually fallen in love with the sun-roasted hillsides and oak woodlands of California. Through it all, she’s thoroughly enjoyed her work and been thankful for the classes and professors who’ve helped her achieve along the way.
She says her background in forest resources has definitely served her well with CDFW. In her first role, Adair wrote Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreements (a type of permit) and California Endangered Species Act permits for development projects, participated on the technical advisory boards for a couple of regional conservation plans, reviewed environmental disclosure documents, and dealt with public inquiries on a range of topics from creek restoration to burrowing owls. With her office chronically shorthanded, she says she was kind of a “one-man band” for a large geographical area, and she spent long hours writing letters and filling out paperwork. Yet she still got to spend some time in the field reviewing projects with engineers and planners, and the end result was worth it.
Adair later moved into her current position supervising the Bay Area Timberland Conservation Program. She heads out as part of a review team—which includes members of the departments of forestry and fire protection and other state agencies—for pre-harvest inspections. She helps evaluate the harvest plans for a range of factors, such as trails, roads, wildlife and creek crossings, and then makes management recommendations. She also supervises other permitting staff and works on a range of department policy issues.
“I did a lot of that in my undergraduate degree,” she says. “From the survey classes, I got a pretty good background in a wide range of topics—water quality sampling, stream flow, things like that that I use all the time in my current job.”
Adair also credits her course and field work through the Urban Ecology Program (UrbanEco), which was funded through the National Science Foundation as a training grant. It lasted for about 10 years and is no longer running at SEFS, but at the time UrbanEco gave students tremendous hands-on opportunities to shape community and environmental planning. Some of the lead professors included John Marzluff and Clare Ryan, and Adair’s research group looked at the Seattle Shoreline Master Plan, focusing on areas where public access to the shoreline was or should have been provided pursuant to development permits (she received a small tuition stipend and a Mary Gates scholarship for taking part in the program).
Other professors who made a big impact on her time at SEFS were Gordon Bradley and Tom Hinckley, and she says Kern Ewing’s restoration class was one of her favorites (even though she had walking pneumonia for nearly the whole quarter!). “I’m very grateful for the excellent education that made it possible for me to be where I am today,” she says. “I feel pretty lucky.”
As part of a tripleheader coming up tomorrow on Thursday, May 30, Eric Delvin will be defending his dissertation at 2 p.m.: “Restoring Abandoned Agricultural Lands in Puget Lowland Prairies: A New Approach.”
In his official public defense, Delvin will discuss his five years of research, share results of seeding and companion planting experiments of Castillej levisecta, and highlight a research design feature of the project called Staged-Scale Restoration.
Delvin’s committee chair is Professor Jon Bakker, and other members include SEFS Professor Kern Ewing along with Peter Dunwiddie, Sarah Hamman and Janneke Hille Ris Lambers.
You can catch his talk at the Center for Urban Horticulture (Isaacson Classroom), so mark it down for 2 p.m.!
There’s a thesis doubleheader this Tuesday, May 28, so after Lauren Grand kicks things off at 8:30 a.m., head over to the Center for Urban Horticulture to see Lindsey Hamiltonpresent her Master of Environmental Horticulture research at 10:30 a.m. in the Isaacson Classroom!
“Skokomish Savanna Fire Restoration and the Effects on Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinium) and Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Olympic National Forest, Wash.”
All along western Washington, fire has been used for thousands of years by Native American tribes in order to maintain open landscapes that in effect promote particular plant communities and grazing habitat. This study takes place in the southeast Olympic Peninsula, on land that was traditionally burned, likely every 2 to 10 years by the Skokomish Tribe. In this moist Mediterranean climate, a fire regime not imposed by humans would have occurred only every 90 to 300 years. With fire suppression beginning in the late 1800s, a Douglas fir – salal (Pseudotsuga menziesii – Gaultheria shallon) forest established in a once prairie/savanna/ woodland matrix. In 2002, the Olympic National Forest began to restore a 32-acre portion with the intent to enhance landscape and biological diversity and to restore a culturally significant ecosystem.
Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinium) and salal plants were once managed by the use of fire by the Skokomish Tribe in this matrix ecosystem, because of their important food value. Studies suggest that they can co-dominate a fire-managed system in the Pacific Northwest. The objective of Hamilton’s research is to understand how restoration efforts using controlled fires have affected the distribution of bracken fern and salal with respect to environmental factors in order to better understand how to manage for a savanna with a co-dominant understory of both.
Hamilton’s committee chair is Professor Kern Ewing, and other members include James Fridley and David Peter.