Interim Director's Message

One of the “fun” elements of being the interim director has been observing the diversity of interests and accomplishments of our newer faculty members.  Since 2006, as the result of strategic planning focused on our future directions, 14 new faculty have joined us, energizing programs and weaving together research linkages across the School and the UW.  Our new faculty —  Ernesto Alvarado, Stanley Asah, Jon Bakker, Renata Bura, Sharon Doty, Greg Ettl, Dean Glawe, Soo-Hyung Kim, Josh Lawler, Monika Moskal, Sergey Rabotyagov, Christian Torgersen, Sandor Toth, and Aaron Wirsing come to us from across the globe and span a wide range of disciplines.  They have degrees that come from as close as the UW and as far away as universities in the Republic of Cameroon, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea.  Interestingly, many have degrees from Canadian universities — Ryerson, Simon Fraser, British Columbia, Calgary, Regina, Toronto, and Waterloo.  Two were undergraduates at Bowdoin College in Maine (we have a long tradition of attracting graduate students from small liberal arts colleges like Amherst, Bowdoin, Carleton, Middlebury, Swarthmore, and Williams). 

What research and teaching initiatives have these new faculty embarked on?   The examples below illustrate the expertise and exciting promise of our new cohort:

  • Dean Glawe, like recently retired faculty member Don Hanley, exemplifies our longstanding partnership with WSU.  A plant pathologist working closely with Bob Edmonds, UW Biology’s Joe Ammirati, and UW Tacoma’s Erica Cline, Dean has helped create a critical mass of faculty in fungi and pathology.

  •  Christian Torgersen, leader of the USGS Cascadia Field Station at SFR, is a landscape ecologist whose recent projects have included research on the Elwha River and ecological monitoring of aquatic ecosystems. Christian joins longtime faculty member and USFS Research Scientist Dave Peterson, in exemplifying our collaborative relationship with federal agencies

  • Stanley Asah is interested in human-environment interactions spanning from how to connect people, especially children, to the outdoors to the impact of smoke from wildland fires on small communities in eastern Washington.  He is working with Clare Ryan and Research Scientist Kathy Wolf on grant proposals spanning a range of social science inquiry.

  • Ernesto Alvarado, a longtime member of the USFS PNW Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team, has long researched the role of fire on a wide range of ecosystems from the boreal forest of Alaska to the dry tropical Amazon forest of Brazil.  Most recently, he has teamed with Research Scientist Larry Mason to explore tribal knowledge of fire in the western U.S.

  • Renata Bura, Sharon Doty, and Monika Moskal are interested in bioresources and the possibility of producing a wide range of chemical, energy, and fiber products from biological material from trees to agricultural waste products.  They have teamed with Rick Gustafson and Kris Vogt and the College of Engineering’s Dan Schwartz and Joyce Cooper through a bioresources NSF IGERT.  Unique to this IGERT is the extent of tribal involvement (Graduate students in the program include tribal members and program partners include the the Confederated Tribes of the Colville, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana, and the Yakama Nation). 

  • The themes of biodiversity, conservation biology, and restoration ecology are being explored by Jon Bakker, Josh Lawler, and Aaron Wirsing.  Jon is teaching our Introduction to Restoration Ecology course, supporting Kern Ewing’s effort to bring restoration coursework to the three UW campuses.  Jon’s research spans from prairie and Garry oak restoration on Whidbey Island and on the eastside of the Cascades, respectively, to the effects of cattle grazing and conversion of grasslands to forests in Uruguay.  Josh has been working closely with The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service to document natural resource conditions and to understand the present and future threats to these conditions.  Aaron Wirsing is researching snowshoe hares in the northeast Cascades and Columbia Highlands, using his previous research on predator-generated fear on the feeding behavior of herbivores to study how this knowledge might be used in restoring degraded marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

  • Finally, a group of new faculty are focusing on the impacts of climate and climate change on forested landscapes. Soo-Hyung Kim is using the urban-to-rural gradient to study plant responses to changes in carbon dioxide concentrations and elevated temperatures.  Greg Ettl, Sergey Rabotyagov, and Sandor Toth have received a $.5 million grant to explore an e-Bay-like market system for ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity enhancement, in which landowners are compensated for loss of traditional timber values if they manage their lands for ecosystem services. Their work adds to SFR's expertise in the area of climate change, including the work of Dave Peterson, who was among scientists recognized in 2007 when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore.

During these economically and environmentally challenging times, these new faculty, through their individual work and the teams they have formed that span across the School and the UW, are continuing our 100 plus year legacy of excellence.


Tom Hinckley