SEFS Seminar Series: Winter 2016 Schedule!

The schedule is set for the Winter 2016 SEFS Seminar Series, and this quarter we’ve organized the talks around the theme of “Ecosystem Carbon.” Topics range from carbon nanomaterials to the oil sands of Alberta, and SEFS Director Tom DeLuca will kick off the series on Wednesday, January 6!

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.

SEFS SEMINAR Carbon: Nanotubes to Biome Fluxes  Winter 2016 223Check out the schedule below and join us for as many talks as you can!

Week 1: January 6*
“Why the food yard waste bin is a good thing (carbon accounting for food scraps)”
Professor Sally Brown, SEFS

Week 2: January 13
“Carbon in New Guinea rain forests: Storage, dynamics and community-based conservation”
Dr. John Vincent, SEFS

Week 3: January 20
“Synthesis of carbon nanomaterials from biomass for environmental remediation”
Professor Anthony Dichiara, SEFS

Week 4: January 27
“Ecosystem genetics and riparian forest carbon flux: From common garden experiments to the field”
Professor Dylan Fischer, The Evergreen State College

Week 5: February 3*
“The carbon conundrum for aquatic ecosystems: Where does it all come from?”
Professor David Butman, SEFS

Week 6: February 10
“Soil carbon: A future for sequestration?”
Director Tom DeLuca, SEFS

Week 7: February 17
“Controlling processes of carbon uptake and distribution and their importance for productivity”
Professor Emeritus David Ford, SEFS

Week 8: February 24
“What deep soils can tell us about forest productivity and resilience”
Professor Rob Harrison, SEFS

Week 9: March 2*
“Forest community reassembly with climate change”
Professor Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, UW Biology

Week 10: March 9

“Measuring ecosystem function in the Athabasca oil sands region of Alberta: Problems and solutions”
Professor Derek MacKenzie, University of Alberta

* Indicates reception after seminar

2016 McIntire-Stennis Research Grant Winners

This fall, the SEFS Research Committee awarded five Graduate Research Augmentation Grants through the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research program, totaling $72,209 in funding.

This special round of grants was designed to support graduate student research, with awards targeted for Spring 2016 or Summer 2016 (and with all funding to be spent in full by September 30, 2016). Read more about the funded projects below!

Awarded Projects

1. Nisqually Garry Oak Habitat: Cultural and Ecological Considerations for Successful Restoration in the Nisqually Tribal Reservation

PI: Professor Ernesto Alvarado, SEFS
Co-PI: Professor Steve Harrell, SEFS

Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystems are a designated Priority Habitat for management in Washington State (Larsen and Morgan 1998). Although there are many research projects that examine how to restore Garry oak ecosystems for the purposes of establishing more habitat for endangered and threatened species like the golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) and Mazama pocket gopher (Thomomys mazama), respectively (Larsen and Morgan 1998), there are few studies that look at restoration for the objective of developing an environment for the purpose of cultural restoration, specifically agroforestry. We intend to evaluate whether Garry oak ecosystem restoration for the intended purpose of cultural activities (traditional medicinal and edible plant harvests, inter-generational education) will greatly change the components of the restoration and management plan of the Garry oak ecosystem.

Award total: $13,232

2. How Do Conclusions About the Effectiveness of Fuels-reduction Treatments Vary with the Spatial Scale of Observation?

PI: Professor Jon Bakker, SEFS
Co-PI: Professor Charles Halpern, SEFS

Restoration of dry-forest ecosystems has become a prominent and very pressing natural resource issue in the western U.S. Although mechanical thinning and prescribed burning can effectively reduce fuel loads in these forests, scientists and managers remain uncertain about the ecological outcomes of these treatments. This uncertainty reflects the short time spans of most restoration studies and a limited consideration of how ecological responses vary with the spatial scale of observation. This funding will support graduate student research that explores how ecological responses to fuels-reduction treatments vary with the spatial scale of observation, and will complement ongoing research on the temporal variability of responses.

Award total: $15,114

3. Growth and Physiological Response of Native Washington Tree Species to Light and Drought: Informing Sustainable Timber Production

PI: Professor Greg Ettl, SEFS
Co-PIs: Matthew Aghai, third-year Ph.D. student at SEFS; Rolf Gersonde, affiliate assistant professor with SEFS and Seattle Public Utilities Silviculture; and Professor Sally Brown, SEFS

Intensive management of the conifer-dominated forests of the Pacific Northwest has resulted in millions of acres of largely mono-specific second- and third-growth forests. These forests have simple vertical structure and low biodiversity, and consequently much lower value of non-timber forest products. Research on establishment of underplanted trees in partial light is needed to increase structural and compositional diversification of Douglas-fir plantations undergoing conversion to multispecies stands. However, the ecology of seedling establishment under existing canopies is poorly understood. The general aim of our research is to address the need for improved structural diversity in managed forest systems through a better understanding of species-specific performance potential of underplanted seedlings. This proposal extends ongoing research; in this phase we will document physiological differences in seedling performance.

Award total: $17,004

4. A Novel Reactor for Fast Pyrolysis of Beetle-Killed Trees

PI: Professor Fernando Resende, SEFS

In this project, we will optimize the production of pyrolysis bio-oil from beetle-killed lodgepole pine using a technique called ablative pyrolysis. We developed a novel and unique system for pyrolysis of wood that has the capability of converting entire wood chips into bio-oil. This characteristic is important for mobile pyrolysis units, because it eliminates the need of grinding wood chips prior to pyrolysis.

Award total: $15,887

5. Modeling the Effects of Forest Management on Snowshoe Hare Population Dynamics in Washington at the Landscape Scale

PI: Professor Aaron Wirsing, SEFS

The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) is already listed as Threatened in Washington and, following an ongoing status review, likely to be designated as Endangered because much of its habitat has been lost to a series of large wildfires since 2006. Lynx subsist on snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), and it is widely acknowledged that habitat quality for lynx is tied to the availability of this prey species, so forest management with the goal of promoting lynx conservation requires an understanding of the relationship between silvicultural practices and hare abundance. Accordingly, we are requesting summer 2016 funds to complete the third and final phase of a graduate research project whose objective is to assess the impacts of forest management on hare numbers across a large landscape in north-central Washington. By sampling a network of snowshoe hare fecal pellet transects spanning protected and harvested portions of the Loomis State Forest for a third consecutive summer, we will produce a model of hare relative abundance that will enable managing agencies to tailor their harvest plans such that they promote snowshoe hare availability and, as a result, lynx population persistence.

Award total: $10,972

SEFS Seminar Series: Week 7 Preview

“A sustainable way to keep the Emerald City green, even in the summertime…”

“Letting it all seep in…”

“Every flush you make …”

“Engineers and ecologists—working together…”

Sally Brown
Professor Sally Brown

No matter how you spin it, the next seminar topic is bound to whet your intellectual appetite! So let your curiosity steer you to Anderson 223 this Wednesday, February 20, when Professor Sally Brown presents in Week 7 of the SEFS Seminar Series, “Reintroducing the water cycle in urban areas.”

Also, next week—February 27—is a seminar doubleheader!

First up, from 3 to 4 p.m., Anna Schoettle will be in town to give her talk, “Managing for resilience: Sustaining mountaintop ecosystems in the presence of white pine blister rust.” (She had originally been scheduled for March 13, but a conflict pushed her up a week).

Then, from 4 to 5 p.m., Professor Jerry Franklin will follow with his talk, “Chaos in federal forest policy in PNW: The situation and a proposal.”

Make sure to mark the change on your calendars, and come to both if you can!

The seminars are held in Anderson 223 and are open to all faculty, staff and students. Check out the rest of the seminar schedule for the Winter Quarter, and join us each week for a reception in the Forest Room from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Photo © Sally Brown.

Alumni Spotlight: Kristen McIvor

Kristen McIvor
Kristen McIvor, brandishing a purple cauliflower.

Forget putting a chicken in every pot, or a car in every backyard. Kristen McIvor has a much grander, greener and more sustainable vision for Tacoma: “I would like there to be a garden in every neighborhood that wants one.”

McIvor, who grew up in Kirkland and Spokane, first got involved in community gardening in Tacoma as a Ph.D student with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). Interested in urban agriculture and reconnecting people to their food supply, she came to SEFS to work with Professor Sally Brown in 2005 and later completed her dissertation in June 2011.

One of her first projects with Brown, though, was to spend a summer in Tacoma with TAGRO, the city’s biosolids program, which worked to protect the environment by transforming sewage into user-friendly products for home gardeners, in addition to supporting local agriculture. And as McIvor learned about biosolids, she cultivated a separate grassroots interest on the side—promoting community gardening in Tacoma.

She discovered plenty of interest in neighborhood gardens, yet not a centralized organization coordinating or promoting them. So McIvor soon helped galvanize local excitement around community gardens, and she was then hired to support them officially when the Tacoma-Pierce County Community Garden Program launched in 2010. No longer a graduate student, she now works full-time as the community garden coordinator.

Proctor Community Garden
Proctor Community Garden in Tacoma

The program doesn’t own or oversee any of the gardens, says McIvor, but they provide training to gardeners, help groups build new gardens, organize community events and educational workshops, and generally support gardens across a broad demographic. “It’s really diverse,” says McIvor. “There’s not one type of garden or gardener, and we support them all.”

Some gardens are the size of a backyard or a few raised beds; another covers seven acres and houses a chicken co-op. More than five languages might be spoken at one location, or have as many as 50 gardeners on site, while others might have only two or three volunteers. Most gardens are divided to some degree into individual plots for personal harvest and consumption, but many grow almost exclusively to donate to local food banks. (Their “Share the Harvest” program was designed specifically to help boost food bank contributions; in its first year, the goal was to donate 4,000 pounds, but they ended up topping 12,000.)

Today, the program is a collaborative effort of the city of Tacoma, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Metro Parks, Pierce County, the Pierce Conservation District and other community groups. For the first two years, about 85 percent of program funding came from the city of Tacoma, and other support has come from the Allen Foundation, or through in-kind donations of office space or products.

Green Thumb
Green Thumb Community Garden

With the strong support of Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland—who has set an ambitious goal of Tacoma eventually having the most gardens per capita in the country—the city kicked off the effort by offering seven pieces of property for garden use (four have since been developed). Other gardens came together through local parks districts, churches, schools and private owners, and the program has quickly taken root. In 2010, there were 26 community gardens in Tacoma and surrounding Pierce County, says McIvor. Now, with the program in year three, there are 54.

Getting to work with these various garden groups and their associated neighborhoods is a huge motivator for McIvor. “They’re really committed to making their neighborhoods better,” she says. “It’s fun to be at that intersection where people are coming together, getting to know each other, seeing the possibilities and deciding on a common vision for their neighborhood. There’s a lot of good energy, and we get to be a part of it and support them.”

Part of that support comes from the city through a partnership with TAGRO, where McIvor spent her initial summer of graduate study. The city program provides its products—such as potting soil from residual biosolids, or a manure substitute to blend into soil—for free to participating gardens. Recycling these sewage byproducts helps close the production loop, making for an extremely efficient and sustainable system.

Green Thumb
Green Thumb Community Garden opening celebration.

So far, McIvor has coordinated this dynamic program without a permanent website, but she’s hoping to have one perhaps within a few weeks. They do have a Facebook page, however, and she’s also hired a second staff person to help ease some of the pressures on time and resources. “We’re finally able to put some better systems in place, so this year should be a lot more smooth—but then we do keep launching more things,” says McIvor. In fact, they have three new gardens in the works, and another four requests. They also now offer an Edible Garden Workshop Series; a demonstration/learning garden that opened in 2011; a fruit tree steward program to help people get certified and take better care of their trees; and this year, a community specialist track within the Master Gardener Program.

A community garden for any neighborhood in Tacoma that wants one? At this rate, doesn’t seem that farfetched anymore. “Our growth has been kind of crazy,” says McIvor. “It’s like a rocket ship I keep expecting to settle into orbit and hang out there, but it keeps going!”

Photos © Kristen McIvor.

Katrina Mendrey Awarded AWRA Fellowship

Katrina Mendrey, a full-time master’s student with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS), has just been awarded a $2,000 fellowship through the Washington Section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA).

Katrina Mendrey
Mendrey canoeing on Lake Sawyer with her dog Jude.

Mendrey began her master’s program in January 2012 with her faculty advisor, Professor Sally Brown, and the AWRA fellowship will assist her research into ways of limiting phosphorus leaching from soils used in rain gardens.

The end goal is to develop a simple method that can be used by soil producers to ensure the soils they make for in situ stormwater management will not contribute to eutrophication—a phenomenon causing large losses in aquatic life when algae blooms fueled by nutrients begin to decompose using up available oxygen. Such a method would allow for a greater variety of composts to be used in rain gardens, broadening the market for these local resources while enhancing the potential for such soils to protect aquatic ecosystems from both urban runoff and nutrient overloads.

Mendrey will formally receive the award at an event this January.

Congratulations, Katrina, and good luck with your research!

Photo © Katrina Mendrey.

SEFS Seminar Series: Speakers & Topics Announced

Seminar SeriesStarting on January 9, 2013, Director Tom DeLuca will kick off the SEFS Seminar Series (SEFS 550F) for the Winter Quarter with an introduction and the first topic, “Nitrogen dynamics in boreal ecosystems.” Check out the rest of the schedule below, and mark your calendars today!

The seminars, held in Anderson 223 on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m., are open to all faculty, staff and students. Each week, a reception will follow in the Forest Room from 5 to 6:30 p.m. (Graduate students can receive course credit for attending 9 of 10 seminars by registering for SEFS 550F, SLN 20703. Please email if you have any trouble registering.)

Seminar Schedule

Introduction to SEFS Graduate Seminar Series: Nitrogen dynamics in boreal ecosystems
Tom DeLuca

The really hidden half of the hidden half: The role of deep soil in forest ecocystem processes
Robert Harrison

Suffer the Buffers: Population Growth and Resource Degradation in Pre-Modern China
Stevan Harrell

Cost-effective subwatershed targeting of agricultural conservation practices to address Gulf of Mexico hypoxia
Sergey Rabotyagov

Environmental stewardship, social equity and corporate profitability: Siblings or strangers?
Dorothy Paun

How can we improve the production of fuels and chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass?
Renata Bura

Reintroducing the water cycle in urban areas
Sally Brown

2/27/2013 (Doubleheader)
3 p.m.: Managing for resilience: Sustaining mountaintop ecosystems in the presence of white pine blister rust
Anna Schoettle

4 p.m.:  Chaos in federal forest policy in PNW: The situation and a proposal
Jerry Franklin

No seminar scheduled.

Modeling greenup constraints in spatial forest planning
Sándor Toth