Director's Message: Spring 2018

In my first quarter as director of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, I am so grateful for the warm welcome, and for opportunities to meet the committed students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends that make up the SEFS community. As I do, I learn more about the many ways in which the mission that attracted me here in the first place—“generating and disseminating knowledge for the stewardship of natural and managed environments and the sustainable use of their products and services”—inspires your work. I’m also energized as I learn about the opportunities we have to collaborate within the College of the Environment, the University of Washington, Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest region. We have an important mission, and together, we’re well positioned to make a big impact through our collective commitment and strong partnerships.

Trained as a geographer and landscape ecologist, my research program takes a systems approach to understanding human-environment interactions and their implications for landscape and societal change. From that background, I’m particularly drawn to how scholars in SEFS confront the challenges of managing and stewarding environmental resources and their products using multiple strategies, perspectives, and disciplines. Our forests and landscapes are called upon to provide an increasingly diverse set of services in a globalizing, urbanizing, and warming world, and as a society, we face increasingly challenging choices about how to balance forest products, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, environmental justice, outdoor recreation, and human health, among others. I’m excited to work within the SEFS community as we lead efforts to advance knowledge discovery, application, dissemination, and integration, across science and engineering, natural and social processes, and many audiences of learners, to address these environmental challenges and support societal decision-making.

SEFS graduate programs are superb platforms for developing scientific and engineering expertise, as are our undergraduate tracks within the ESRM and BSE curricula. Importantly, the ESRM degree has long been structured to provide a foundation for integrated understanding of sustainability across economic, environmental, and social dimensions. My own experience with systems thinking has drawn me to sustainability science as a lens through which such integration can productively occur, and I am inspired by the leadership SEFS has shown in curricular innovation on this front. Further, SEFS and College of the Environment are also leaders in immersive learning, getting students into the field, into labs, and into internships so they can work on real problems, and in critical efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the environmental sciences. Our engagement with state, federal, tribal, and community partners, numerous field facilities, and partnerships with EarthLab and other units of the College of the Environment provide many avenues for SEFS faculty and students to confront complex social, environmental, and economic issues and sets the stage for innovative sustainability thinking and problem-solving.

It is the commitment of communities like those in SEFS, College of the Environment, and the UW that keep me hopeful in the face of big challenges. I’m so happy to be a part of them, and invite you to join us.

Dan Brown, Director