On Tuesday, May 16, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Forest Club Room, you are invited to the first SEFS Women in Science panel, featuring accomplished women from diverse STEM fields to discuss the challenges and opportunities they’ve faced along their journeys!
The distinguished panelists include Dean Lisa Graumlich from the College of the Environment; Professor Monika Moskal from SEFS; Bernease Herman, a data fellow with the eScience Institute; and Dr. Kathayoon Khalil, principal evaluator with the Seattle Aquarium. The event is free and open to the public, and snacks and drinks will be provided. RSVP by email to help them plan for the right number of attendees!
Also, the week before the panel on Tuesday, May 9, there will be a bonus Brown Bag Lunch Discussion in the Forest Club Room from noon to 1:30 p.m. You’ll get to learn more about the SEFS Women in Science group, and also contribute potential questions for the panel the following week.
Hope you can join this fantastic panel and discussion!
The schedule is set for the SEFS Seminar Series this fall, and we’ve pulled together an especially diverse line-up, ranging from a hands-on workshop about capturing great video of your field research, to talks about drones, the Northwest Forest Plan, resource management in southwest China, and much more!
Held on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. in Anderson 223, the talks are always open to the public, and the first seminar of each month will be followed by a casual reception down the hall in the Forest Club Room. Students can register for course credit under SEFS 529A.
Check out the schedule below and join us for as many talks as you can!
Week 1: September 30
“The Trees By the Stream are Your Uncle: Traditional Knowledge and Resource Management in Southwest China”
Professor Stevan Harrell, SEFS/Anthropology
Week 2: October 7* (Distinguished Alumni Speaker)
“Integrated Pest Management Application to Future Forest Health”
Will Littke, Retired Forest Health Researcher, Weyerhaeuser
Week 3: October 14
“Constraints and Drivers of Bark Beetle Outbreaks: And How We’ve Made a Difficult Lifestyle Easier”
Professor Ken Raffa, University of Wisconsin
Week 4: October 21
“How to Shoot Usable Video of your Research”
Ethan Steinman, Producer/Director, Daltonic Films
Week 5: October 28
“Climate Change Adaptation on Federal Lands in the Western U.S.”
Dr. Jessica Halofsky, Research Ecologist, Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Lab
Week 6: November 4*
“What Do Faculty Know About Undergraduate Curricula? Some Insights From Faculty Leadership at UW”
Michelle Trudeau, Director, SEFS Student & Academic Services
Week 7: November 11
No Seminar (Holiday)
Week 8: November 18
“Nature’s Services: Advancing Frontiers in the Communication, Science and Practice of Ecosystem Services”
Dr. Anne Guerry, The Natural Capital Project
Week 9: November 25
No Seminar (Thanksgiving)
Week 10: December 2 *
“To Drone or Not to Drone: UAS for Ecological Applications”
Professor Monika Moskal, SEFS
Week 11: December 9
“Real Changes? 20-year Interpretation of the Northwest Forest Plan”
Professor Bernard Bormann, SEFS
Aaron Johnston, who earned his Ph.D. from SEFS in spring 2013, was recently awarded a prestigious, two-year postdoctoral research position with the U.S Geological Survey’s Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program! Johnston studied competition between eastern and western gray squirrels in the Puget Sound lowlands for his dissertation (working with Professor Emeritus Steve West), and he will be moving to Bozeman, Mont., after the winter holidays to begin the fellowship.
Selected through a competitive proposal process, Mendenhall Fellows help USGS staff conduct concentrated research around a number of important areas. Johnston’s proposal, “Extinction dynamics and microrefugia of the American pika,” will pair him with Dr. Erik Beever in Bozeman to explore the effects of climate change on pikas in the Cascades and Northern Rockies, though he hasn’t finalized his study area yet. He’ll have a research budget and be able to bring on a couple assistants to help with the project.
American pikas (Ochotona princeps) are a smaller relative of rabbits and hares. They’re an herbivorous alpine species that spread south with the last ice age, and now they’re holding on in high-altitude mountain areas in western North America. Their dependence on colder temperatures and preferred habitat—talus fields and rock piles at or above the tree line—has generally restricted their range to “sky islands” at the tops of mountains, where movement from one region to another can’t happen quickly, if at all. As a result, a warming climate threatens to shrink or eliminate the habitable range of pikas in the coming decades, and some estimates already suggest that 40 percent of American pikas in the Great Basin have disappeared in the last century, with the remaining populations retreating to even higher elevations.
Johnston says there are competing hypotheses about why this large-scale extinction is occurring. One widely supported theory revolves around the fact that pikas can’t survive prolonged exposure to high temperatures (more than a couple hours above 80 degrees, in fact, can kill them). Yet in a few regions, where temperatures far exceed that maximum—such as Craters of the Moon and Lava Beds national monuments—some pika populations have found a way to survive using microrefugia to escape the heat. Other hypotheses focus on phenology, and whether changing temperatures will reduce available vegetation for pikas, or if warmer winters will reduce available snowpack for insulation and expose pikas to extreme cold.
To address these questions and help design effective conservation strategies, Johnston’s project will involve modeling and mapping pika habitat topography using LiDAR. He’s been working in Professor Monika Moskal’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Lab, and he sees powerful applications of LiDAR for wildlife management. “I think it’s a really exciting new technology that has enormous potential we’re just starting to realize,” says Johnston.
Project Summary The objectives of this study are to:
1. Develop broad-scale maps of talus at high-resolution through fusion of LiDAR and multispectral imagery;
2. Develop predictor variables for untested hypotheses about substrate, snowpack and phenology;
3. Evaluate regional variation in extinction mechanisms by incorporating new data on extirpations outside of the Great Basin; and
4. Evaluate differences in habitat and connectivity maps created by models with and without microclimate and microhabitat variables.
This project will use limited field work to characterize substrate at selected sites for development of talus maps, and supplement existing data on pika persistence at historical sites of occurrence. Results of this study will increase understanding of pika responses to climate change, inform conservation strategies, and provide map products widely applicable to many research areas, including wildlife ecology, plant ecology, geomorphology, hazard assessment and hydrology.
Congratulations, Aaron, and good luck with this tremendous opportunity!
Julie Hower, a senior Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) major, split her childhood between the two coasts: first out west in the Los Angeles area, and then back east near Tampa, Fla., for her high school years. By the time she started looking at colleges, though, she felt the call of the West once again.
“Because I grew up in LA,” she says, “my dad would take me to Yosemite and Sequoia, so I really missed the West Coast.”
She considered a number of schools, including a few in California, but a University of Washington campus tour in 2008 sealed it for her. “It felt like a great fit,” she says.
Hower arrived on campus originally interested in studying marine biology and fisheries, but later in her freshman year she attended a seminar with Professor Aaron Wirsing involving his research with tiger sharks and dugongs, and wolves and elk. She loved the concept of predator-prey ecology and quickly shifted her focus to the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). “I knew I wanted to be a wildlife major,” she says.
In the next few years, she took advantage of a wide range of field courses, including Spring Comes to the Cascades (ESRM 401) with Professor Tom Hinckley, and Wildlife Research Techniques (ESRM 351) with Professor Steve West. Then she took “Wildlife Conservation in Northwest Ecosystems” (ESRM 459), which begins during spring break with an intensive week in Yellowstone National Park. Led by Professors John Marzluff, Monika Moskal and Wirsing, the course focuses on a range of wildlife and management issues in the park, including corvid distribution and wolf predation.
The experience really resonated with Hower, and this past winter she signed up to take part in a long-running study of the wolves in Yellowstone as part of the Yellowstone Wolf Project.
Back in 1995 and 1996, after decades of wolves being completely absent from the ecosystem, 31 were reintroduced to the park. Since then, the Yellowstone Park Foundation has worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to research and closely monitor the wolves, including carrying out two 30-day winter surveys every year—one at the start of the season, and one at the end. Technicians receive a small stipend and free housing, and they operate as volunteers for the NPS.
This year marked the 19th winter of observations. From the beginning, one of the project leaders has been Rick McIntyre, a biological technician for the Yellowstone Wolf Project who’s been involved with monitoring the park’s wolves since 1996. McIntyre is famous for the countless hours he’s invested in these observations, at one point logging more than 3,000 consecutive days heading out to look for wolves. The survey crews who work with him don’t quite have to match that standard, but they don’t fall too far off that pace.
Each volunteer is assigned to follow one specific pack. Hower and the other members of her crew—which included two graduate students, one from South Dakota and another from Wisconsin—were charged with tracking the seven wolves of the Junction Butte Pack.
For 30 days in March, their weekly schedule involved six days in the field and one day off. Using radio telemetry, they’d drive through their pack’s territory along the main park road and try to locate the wolves, and then hike out for a closer view when they zeroed in on the pack. Their job was to record a number of behaviors, including monitoring interactions with elk, bison and bears, as well as predator-prey encounters: the chase and the attack, noting which wolves did what, whether it was a pup that initiated or the alpha took the lead. They also performed field necropsies of prey to determine the age, sex and condition of the individual.
They’d routinely put in 13-hour days, topped off by some paperwork at the end of it. “It’s not a glamorous job,” says Hower, “and the days get very long and tiring. But it’s an awesome and rewarding experience seeing these amazing animals in the wild.”
Of course, finding the wolves in the first place was no easy task. “A lot of people have this ideal that you’re going to see wolves every day,” she says. Yet you’re talking about tracking 80 or so wolves—or actually seven, in the case of this one pack—ranging through Yellowstone’s nearly 3,500 square miles.
Numbers aren’t the only challenge, either. During Hower’s first week in the park, the temperature was about -22 degrees, and the wind was howling with 50-60 mph gusts. Toting their equipment, her crew spent hours hiking to the top of a ridge in pursuit of the wolves, and they didn’t get their first glimpse until the third day. They set up their tripod and spotting scopes, hands shaking in the bitter cold, bracing against the wind and hoping they weren’t blown off the mountain—but they had finally located the pack. “It was a grand introduction,” she says.
From then on, Hower never got tired of seeing the wolves. The excitement was fresh each day, because during the undisturbed quiet of a Yellowstone winter, you never know what’s lurking around the next bend.
“On my very last day, I was getting ready to leave the park and drive back to Seattle, and I decided to reminisce with a drive out to the Lamar Valley,” she says. “Right as I made the turn out of the Tower Ranger Station, a wolf crosses in front of my car about 10 feet ahead of me.”
It was a female, 889F, that used to be part of the Junction Butte Pack but had separated in February to go with a lone male, 755M. “I was just in shock and laughing,” says Hower. “I couldn’t believe it was happening as I was ready to leave the park.”
That was a fine send-off after five incredible weeks in the park, and she’s now back on campus wrapping up her final quarter before graduation this June. Graduate school might be down the road, yet for now she wants more field experience. In fact, she just accepted a position as a Wildlife Biological Sciences Technician with Helena National Forest, where she’ll be surveying wolverines, Canada lynx and snowshoe hares. She’ll be living in Lincoln, Mont., and can’t wait to get started shortly after graduation.
Given her many field courses and hands-on research training, as well as field tech jobs and internships at Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, Hower has put herself in an excellent position to thrive as a wildlife researcher—and she’s already well on her way!
“I’m so happy I came up here,” she says. “It’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”
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.
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.
SEFS Professor Monika Moskal just returned from a week-long trip to China, which included giving a keynote address—“LiDAR for the Measurement and Monitoring of Forest Ecosystem Services”—at the 2013 SilviLaser conference in Beijing, October 9-11 (the “13th International Conference on LiDAR Applications for Assessing Forest Ecosystems”).
During her trip, Professor Moskal had the opportunity to catch up with one of her former graduate students at SEFS, Guang Zheng, who is now an associate professor of remote sensing at Nanjing University. Guang’s Ph.D. work, which resulted in five peer-reviewed publications, was funded by Moskal’s grant through the National Science Foundation’s Center for Advanced Forestry Systems. Guang is continuing his work with terrestrial LiDAR, and one of his students presented a paper—with Moskal as a collaborator—about classifying point cloud data into ground, leaf and trunk points. This is a breakthrough in LiDAR analysis, says Moskal, as the method is not sensor dependent and can be applied to any 3-D point cloud data (including aerial LiDAR).
Another presenter at the conference was Zhongya Zhang, who was a visiting student in Moskal’s lab for two years. Zhongya presented their work in collaboration with another SEFS student, Alexandra Kazakova, on using hyperspectral imagery and LiDAR to classify forest tree species. This work was funded by McIntire-Stennis funds, as well as the Precision Forestry Cooperative.
Also, a day before the SilviLaser conference, Moskal was invited to address a group of students and faculty at the University of Geosciences in Beijing. She spoke about the hyper-resolution remote sensing research that is a big focus and specialty of her Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory at SEFS.
Before the crack of dawn this past Saturday morning, March 23, a caravan set off on the long, long drive to Gardiner, Mont., at the edge of Yellowstone National Park. On board were 15 students and three faculty members from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), all heading out to spend roughly a week of field study in the northern Rockies as part of a spring course, “ESRM 459: Wildlife Conservation in Northwest Ecosystems.”
Led by SEFS Professors John Marzluff, Monika Moskal and Aaron Wirsing, the group will be using the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park, between Gardiner and Cooke City, as a staging area to explore patterns of corvid, and especially raven, distribution; elk anti-predator behavior (vigilance); and wolf predation. The class also addresses regional management issues, including wolves and bison leaving the park.
It’s a glorious time to be trekking through the Yellowstone backcountry. The group has special access to remote research areas, tourists are few and far between, scores of bison are out hoofing through the snow, and students occasionally catch glimpses of wolves, grizzlies and other wilderness gems.
Of course, it’s a working research visit, and students spend long days trudging through the park—often at the mercy of the elements, which at this time of year can be ornery, if not downright savage. Then, after they return to campus on March 30, they begin working on group projects based on data collected. They will present their findings to the public at the end of spring quarter.
But even in the worst weather conditions, when even your expedition thermals can feel threadbare and drafty, how could you say no to this kind of hands-on experience in the wilds of Yellowstone?
Semi-arid wetlands might sound like an oxymoron—until you are wading into one surrounded by snow (see right).
Field verifying the condition of such wetlands in the sage-shrub steppe of Douglas County, Wash., is part of a research project led by Meghan Halabisky of Professor Monika Moskal’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Lab (RSGAL). The goal of Halabisky’s research is to inventory wetlands in the Pacific Northwest and understand what will happen to these vulnerable ecosystems as the climate changes. These understudied yet ecologically important ecosystems are critical habitat for amphibians, migratory birds and rare plant species.
It can be challenging to study wetlands at the landscape scale because they occur on both public and private lands and can be difficult to access. In addition, little is known of their dynamic hydrology as it requires frequent monitoring. That’s why remote sensing is a key tool in understanding the spatial and temporal relationships of wetlands across the landscape.
Through the of use of high-resolution aerial imagery, multiple years of Landsat satellite imagery and cutting-edge remote sensing techniques, the RSGAL team—which also includes Chris Vondrasek, Lopamudra Dasgupta, Michael Hannam and Stephanie Kong—is able to both identify wetlands and reconstruct historical changes in wetland function. This function includes changes in wetland hydrology, surrounding land use and water pollution of wetlands.
The RSGAL team’s field verification work includes measuring water depth of depressional wetlands and placing multiple sensors (ibuttons) at different wetland elevations to measure the seasonal fluctuation of water levels.
This research is part of an interdisciplinary project to develop hydrologic projections for diverse wetland habitats (e.g. forest wetlands, wet meadows, small ponds and riparian wetlands) across the Pacific Northwest for the 2020s, 2040s and 2080s. The projections can be used to support ecological and landscape-based vulnerability assessments and climate change adaptation planning.
This past summer, a five-person crew from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) set out to conduct research along the Rogue River in Oregon. Working as part of Professor Monika Moskal’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory, the students collected data of red tree vole habitat for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from May to September.
Their research proposed to answer several questions, including whether survey grade GPS can be used to accurately acquire individual tree location from LiDAR data (light detection and ranging), and whether ground-based inventory and leaf area measurements can be used to drive LiDAR-based empirical habitat models for the Rouge River site. The project will ultimately help the BLM develop a method of analyzing LiDAR data for forest inventory and management.
“Spending the summer in the Rogue River Valley working with amazing people and learning useful techniques taught me the importance of fieldwork, our forests and the animals that inhabit them,” says Tessa Putz, an undergraduate ESRM major with the SEFS crew.
“Working for BLM this summer was a great experience,” says PhD candidate Gonzalo Thienel, another member of the SEFS team. “I learned many things about nature, remote sensing and teamwork.”