New Faculty Cohort

Strengthening and Broadening SFR’s Expertise

Recruitment of a new cohort of faculty with a new and diverse set of disciplinary skills has been one of the steps taken by SFR over the last three years, as it navigated changes in curriculum, organizational structure, and a broadened research focus.  As the School welcomed its student body in Autumn 2009 as a founding unit in the UW’s College of the Environment, 14 new faculty hired since 2006 strengthened the School’s historic, one-hundred year legacy of leadership and innovation in environmental and natural resources and broadened its expertise in emerging disciplines.  The faculty hires were the outcome of strategic planning that identified areas needing focus in the future — for instance, areas like plant biotechnology, natural-products chemistry, remote sensing, and landscape ecology. The new faculty cohort’s collaborative research and educational leadership, within the School, across the UW, and with agency, nonprofit, academic, and corporate partners, are a vital resource in ensuring innovative leadership and world-changing discovery by future generations of leaders and scientists. A snapshot of our new faculty faces….


(1) Ernesto Alvarado, a longtime member of the U.S. Forest Service’s Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team in Seattle,  has teaching and research interests that include a wide variety of topics in the forest fire sciences — wildland fire science, fire ecology and management, combustion and fire behavior, carbon emissions, fire and climate change, quantitative modeling, and international forestry. His research spans the Americas, including Alaska, the western states, the Brazilian Amazon, Mexico, and Bolivia.  

(2) Stanley Asah’s expertise in the human dimensions of natural resource management includes water resource management, managing change and uncertainty in effective environmental conservation, and outdoor recreation policy and planning. He is currently researching the role of childhood experiences in enduring involvement in nature-based activities and environmental stewardship.

(3) Jon Bakker’s expertise in ecosystem restoration and management strengthens the School’s focus on sustainability in urban and wildland landscapes. One of his current projects is working to restore prairie and savanna ecosystems in western Washington. Participating in the UW’s Restoration Ecology Network, managing the Union Bay Natural Area, and engaging in sponsored restoration research, the School is a leader in sustaining valued forest and urban landscapes.

(4) Renata Bura, natural products chemist and Denman Professor in Pulp and Paper Science, is researching the conversion of biomass into ethanol, an emerging field in bioresource science and technology. The Professorship, along with the Denman Chair in BioresourceScience, supports the School’s new center of excellence that is discovering how to use renewable raw materials as a source of energy, fuel, and chemicals.

(5) Sharon Doty’s work on phytoremediation — using plants to suck up toxic materials in contaminated sites — supports the School’s expanding new initiatives in bioresource science. She is also working on increasing the efficiency of biofuel production from non-food crops.

(6) Greg Ettl directs the Center for Sustainable Forestry at Pack Forest. With expertise in silviculture and forest ecology, he is developing the Center’s programs in sustainable forest management through research, demonstration, and technology transfer.

(7) The School shares Dean Glawe’s expertise in plant pathology with Washington State University (WSU), where he also holds a faculty appointment. With research focusing on mycology and taxonomic databases, Glawe also edits the online journal Pacific Northwest Fungi and is a co-founder of the Pacific Northwest Fungi Project.

(8) Soo Kim is discovering management practices that use less water and reduce runoff in urban landscapes, and is researching  plants’ adaptation to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Using the Washington Park Arboretum as the research site, he is estimating the carbon budget of urban forests to assess their ecological benefits and costs in the context of climate change.

(9) Josh Lawler’s expertise in conservation biology and landscape ecology contributes to the School’s integrating theme of sustainability. His work focuses on how human activities affect ecological systems at large spatial scales, including improving conservation tools and studying the effects of climate change on species distribution.

(10) L. Monika Moskal’s work with the Precision Forestry Cooperative focuses on applied spatio-temporal multi-scale modeling of forest and vegetation characteristics, patterns, and processes, using remote sensing, GIS, and geospatial techniques. The cooperative works to ensure that the practice of forestry produces economic as well as environmental benefits.

(11) Sergey Rabotyagov contributes to the School’s international leadership in natural resource economics. His interests include designing pollution permit markets, mitigating uncertainty in agricultural soil carbon offsets, and developing technologies to solve nonpoint water pollution. Collaborating with the Center for International Trade in Forest Products and the Northwest Environmental Forum, the School’s natural resource economists are helping to sustain the region’s rural, resource based economies.

(12) Sandor Toth’s expertise in natural resource informatics supports the School’s expanding leadership role in developing  quantitative decision support tools to aid forest and natural resource managers. He focuses on building and testing mathematical models that can quantify and visualize the resource trade-offs and production possibilities between conflicting management objectives, including nontimber forest benefits.

(13) Christian Torgersen leads the Cascadia Field Station of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center. He studies spatial heterogeneity in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems to identify how scale of observation influences our understanding of ecological patterns and processes. The field station, housed at the School, is an example of  longstanding collaboration with public agencies that strengthens the School’s research and education programs.

(14) Aaron Wirsing is interested in the ecological role played by predators — how they affect prey population mortality and how they act as agents of change in prey behavior. Adding to the School’s expertise in wildlife science, studies of animal behavior have great potential to inform the practice of biological conservation; the development of behavioral indicators that can be feasibly collected and used will help shape meaningful conservation recommendations.

Photos: Mary Levin