UW School of Forest Resources E-news
September 2010  |  Return to issue home

Welcome from the Interim Director

Tom Hinckley indicates new growth in a naturally regenerated spruce tree, Sichuan Province, China.

Tom Hinckley indicates new growth between June 2007 and July 2010 in a naturally regenerated spruce tree, Jiuzhaigou National Park meadow, Sichuan Province, China.*

The active pursuit of global engagement and connectedness, one of the core values of the University of Washington, has been part of our school’s many legacies. Early UW forestry alumni went on to become leaders in forest management in the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Switzerland and worked for international agencies such as the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. 

In 1960, the Fifth International Forestry Congress, with nearly 2,000 participants representing 65 countries, met at the University of Washington. In Henry Schmitz’s history of forestry at the UW, The Long Road Traveled, he says the Congress, "… perhaps more than any other single event exemplifies the long road traveled by the College of Forestry from the initial offering of one course in general forestry by the University of Washington in 1894 to the international reputation for excellence in forestry research and education held by the College today …”  The Congress, with its emphasis on the multiple use concept of forest management, also exemplified some enduring qualities of international forestry research and education—the continual transformative effects of new discoveries and the core necessity of integrating social, economic, and ecological perspectives into the quest for sustainable environmental and natural resources.

Forest Resources faculty in the 1960s were involved in the formative years of the Organization of Tropical Studies; William Hatheway and Kenneth Turnbull were two of the original four executive directors and Forest Resources Dean Jim Bethel served as the organization’s third president.  In 1969, Forest Resources partnered with Professor Richard Walker and the UW Department of Botany in hosting the International Botanical Congress. Our faculty and students were key participants from 1970-'78 in the International Coniferous Forest Biome Project, which by 1972 had extended to include more than 100 scientists from 15 universities, national laboratories and government agencies.  Members of our community have carried out research all over the globe and our alumni from recent decades are working around the world in silviculture, forest engineering, natural resource policy, ecological restoration, conservation biology, plant exploration, paper science and wildlife management. 

Our students have participated in field studies in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia through international exchange programs and through the UW’s IGERTs on Bioresource-based Energy, Environmental Multinational Collaborations and Urban Ecology. SFR is a participant in the Peace Corps Master’s International Program, a professional degree program in which students complement a rigorous program of academic study with intense hands-on experience during their overseas Peace Corps assignment.  And recently, our faculty participated in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

A few examples, just from the past year, will give a flavor of the wide-reaching initiatives that make SFR a place where global connectedness is part of our everyday life:

  • Graduate students Keala Hagmann and Steve Rigdon, ’02, traveled to China with a team of students from the UW’s IGERTs on Bioresource-based Energy and Environmental Multinational Collaborations; the project involved evaluating forest resources for a small, subsistence community.
  • Professor Susan Bolton collaborated with the UW’s Department of Global Health (where she now has an adjunct appointment) on a study of HIV/AIDS and the environment focusing on Kenya and partnering with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Planned Parenthood Foundation and the University of Nairobi.
  • Associate Professor Greg Ettl traveled to Harbin, China this summer to lecture on sustainable forest practices and Professor Kern Ewing was invited to Japan by Chiba University’s Graduate School of Horticulture to give a series of lectures on ecological restoration.
  • I traveled, as a tourist to Mongolia and then to China, where I visited the International Research Laboratory at Jiuzhaigou National Park, revisited 2007 study plots with  Ziyu Ma,’10, participated as a team member in the evaluation of UW IGERT PhD student Amanda Henck’s Fulbright research proposal, and hosted the Park’s Science Department to a dinner. This was my seventh trip to Jiuzhaigou, where we have participated since 2005 in a wide range of research projects. On my way back to Seattle, I spent half a day visiting with the dean and faculty at Beijing Forestry University; we discussed potential collaborative efforts, as well as the UW’s participation in the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation.
  • For the second year in a row, an SFR student received the Bonderman Fellows Travel Award. Last year it was MS student Melissa Maxa, ‘09. This year it is Alex Win, who is among seven undergraduate Bonderman Fellows. The award of $20,000 specifies that each recipient must travel solo for eight months, to at least six countries in at least two regions of the world, during which they are not permitted to pursue academic study or research but are to simply travel and explore. Win will visit Papua New Guinea, Panama, Belize, Indonesia, China and Mongolia.
  • We also heard from alumni around the world. Erin Hagen, ’05, ’09, a research biologist and project leader for Oikonos studying the Juan Fernandez Firecrown, an endangered hummingbird species on Robinson Crusoe Island off the southern coast of Chile, was in the town of San Juan Bautista when the devastating Feb. 27, 2010 earthquake occurred. Erin and colleagues had sufficient warning to move up hill, but five people in the community lost their lives. It was days before we learned that she was okay, although devastated because she knew people who hadn’t survived. And Emil Cherrington, ’94, wrote from Panama, where he is a senior scientist with the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean: "You might recall that for my thesis defense I suggested that Belize should use remote sensing to monitor the progress of the $19 million Debt-for-Nature Swap between the Governments of Belize and the U.S. Six years later, my colleagues and I have completed a study that addresses some of what I was getting at. Without a top-notch thesis advisory committee, I might not have arrived at the same conclusions I did, and I l might not have stayed interested in the topic six years later…"

I’m proud of our continuing global engagement and even more gratified that our undergraduate and graduate students are committed to making contributions to the conservation, management and sustainability of forest and other ecosystems around the world.


Tom Hinckley signature


Tom Hinckley

* UW students, including SFR’s Julie Combs, Ziyu Ma, Alicia Robbins and Lauren Urgenson measured the meadow’s biodiversity in June 2007. Hinckley and others believe that these more than 3,000 year old, human-formed meadows will disappear if active management is not initiated. Ideally, he says, the historical disturbance regime might be reinstituted, but political and cultural barriers are steep.

September 2010  |  Return to issue home