What is your job?

It’s an eclectic mix of things.

I am the administrative director for the Northwest Fire Science Consortium, which is a regional outreach program funded by the Joint Fire Science Program. The consortium is responsible for the dissemination of recent and relevant fire science to federal and state agencies in Washington and Oregon.

I’m also the director of the Master of Natural Resources program, our online master’s program within FES.

I also teach a senior capstone course for natural resources majors and advise graduate students.

What is your favorite part of your job(s)?

I love the variety, even though there’s a lot of moving parts, and a lot of trying to keep up and make sure that I’m up to date and meeting expectations. It certainly isn’t boring. It is a lot of variety. I really like interacting with students, that’s one of my favorite parts. They are so bright and interesting and different than I was as an undergraduate. They have a lot of passion.

You came to Oregon State in 2010. What was that journey like?

In my first life I was an actor, but I went back to school in my 30s and got my master’s in wildlife biology. After that I worked for the Washington State University Cooperative Extension, the University of Arkansas, then back to WSU as a regional extension specialist in Spokane. From there, a position opened up here. Originally, it was a collaboration between the PNW Research Station and College of Forestry Extension, and the development of the Consortium started from there. 

What was it like making such a big change from acting to wildlife biology?

Well, I started acting when I was 12 in community theater, but it’s a very difficult career, and I had a lot of other interests. When I reached a certain point, I knew that if I didn’t explore them, then I never would, and that’s when I went back to school.

Do you miss acting?

Sometimes, but I don’t have any time to do it right now. I appreciate all that it taught me. For example, since acting isn’t stable and you’re never sure what your next job will be, I became very comfortable with that lack of stability, which helps me now in my position, which is funded mostly by soft money.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I like to ski, hike, kayak, cook. I’m also a Jazzercise instructor. Some people are surprised to hear that Jazzercise is still around, but it is, and it has been for 50 years!

What’s our favorite kind of food to cook or eat?

I love Italian food.

What have you been reading lately?

Right now I’m into everything and anything by neurologist Oliver Sacks. He writes about the neurological challenges people deal with in their lives. His work is an exploration of the human condition and who we are as people. He was a wonderful and sympathetic writer, and a true humanitarian.

Is there a skill or talent you’ve always wanted to learn?

I always thought it would be fun to play the cello. I took guitar lessons when I was a kind, but I don’t play any instruments now.

Are you a sports fan?

I love to watch women’s soccer and football. I follow the Beavers, but if the Beavers are playing Washington State, my alma mater, I try to remain neutral. I also follow the Patriots and the Packers.

What are you studying?

My project is on dwarf mistletoe in western hemlock. Dwarf mistletoe is an aerial parasite of trees. I’m working to quantify how it changes the structure of hemlock crowns and sapwood area.

How did you end up studying tree diseases at Oregon State?

I learned to climb trees as an undergraduate at the University of Washington. After that, I worked as a forester and arborist. I wanted to keep climbing trees. I found Dave Shaw online and told him that I knew how to climb trees and do canopy research, so we came up with this project because he wanted to do more with dwarf mistletoe and western hemlock. Part of the project is canopy mapping, and I’d done that before as well. We thought we could incorporate forest pathology into this canopy study, which isn’t done very often in big trees.

You’ll finish up in June. What’s next?

I’m not totally sure, but something to do with forest health. I’ll probably do public work. I’m on the search right now.

What do you do now when you’re not studying or working on your thesis?

I like to hike and go out and climb trees for fun. My goal is to get out at least once a week. I started drawing recently, which has been kind of cool. I want to get to a point where I could put a drawing in a paper I publish. I mostly draw trees and mushrooms.

What’s the biggest tree you’ve climbed?

I’m not sure. I have climbed a giant sequoia that was over 300 feet tall, but I’m not exactly sure how high up I got. The hemlocks I study are about 50 meters tall.

What’s the scariest part of tree climbing?

You shoot the anchor into the tree with a crossbow, and the first few times you do it, you’re never sure if you’ve done it right, but you just have to do it. When you get up there, you might realize that a tiny branch or a dead branch was holding all of your weight.

Have you traveled much?

When I graduated from undergrad, I did a tour of almost all of the national parks in the west. I lived out of my car for three months until I ran out of money and hiked and climbed trees.

What trees will you climb next?

I want to climb a redwood and a really tall species of Eucalyptus tree in Australia.

What’s your favorite national park?

Grand Tetons. It’s so beautiful. When I was there, I saw bears, moose and a few different types of deer. Being in the mountains is crazy. It’s very rugged, but there are also a lot of flowers. The flowers might be my favorite part of national parks.

What are you studying?

I’m currently working on my Masters with Dr. Ashley D’Antonio. Our lab uses mixed-method, interdisciplinary approaches to understand human behavior and their social/ecological impacts within parks and protected areas. For the past two years, my research has been in Grand Teton National Park where I conducted a visitor use and experience study at a popular lake destination. 

How did you end up studying tourism and recreation management?

My path to this point has certainly not been linear! My undergraduate degree is in History, specifically 20th century European history, so pretty hard to make a connection there. But I loved my liberal arts education and still am a total history buff. During the summers in college, I did trail work and trail design in Colorado. This experience catalyzed my interest in outdoor work, recreation management, and conservation. After college I worked for an ecological research unit in Fairbanks Alaska which further ignited my interest in science, data collection and analysis. After that I worked in communications and program management for local non-profits. 

What I’m doing now is a perfect combination of all these experiences: ecological research, social science, communications, and outdoor recreation. 

What do you love about your work now?

I love how dynamic and applied the work is. I have the opportunity to work with a diversity of data types: spatial data, ecological data, survey data, etc.  This work inspired me to get a GIS certificate in tandem with my Master’s. And I appreciate that most of our work directly informs management decisions in outdoor spaces. 

What do you do when you’re not working?

Well, I just had a baby, and my partner is in school for Mechanical Engineering, so we have been busy! But outside of that, my interests are simple but make me happy: hiking, reading novels, gardening, laughing and trying to craft all my Christmas gifts.

Have you watched any good shows lately?

I just watched the Canadian show, Working Moms. The show was irreverent and refreshing to watch. Oh and I recently binge watched Derry Girls – takes place in Northern Ireland in the 1990’s. So good.

Tell us about your family.

My partner, Marshall and I just joyfully welcomed a new baby into our lives, Hudson James. Marshall and I have been together for nearly a decade. He is definitely the yin to my yang: calm, steadfast, and easy going where I can be excitable, impulsive, and just a little uptight! We make a well balanced team. 

What’s your favorite place to nap?

I think hammock napping takes the cake: being outside on a warm day under a tree with a gin and tonic (or two). So happy, so sleepy thinking about it.

Do you have a favorite snack?

It has to be cheese. And not even fancy cheese. I could eat my weight in cheddar cheese.

What are you studying?

Wood Science. I just defended my Master’s thesis. My project looked at the possibility of using salvaged lumber from Portland deconstruction for the manufacturing of structurally rated cross-laminated timber panels. I collected a bunch of salvaged lumber from Portland and made nine panels in the high bay lab and tested them.

What were your results?

All panels were stiff and strong enough to meet the standard performance ratings, but they struggled with Delamination. One of my panels made with 100% salvaged lumber passed all the criteria, which is promising, but we didn’t have a large sample size.

How did you end up at Oregon State?

I was born in South Florida and finished high school in South West Georgia. Almost six years ago, I was hit by a car while riding my moped and in the hospital for about six months. That time helped me realize a lot of things, and I had a lot of ‘me time’ to think about problems related to energy and waste. I decided recycling and wood had to be a part of the solution to waste problems. When I went back to school at the University of Georgia, I had a stronger purpose. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, and one of my professors knew Laurie Schimleck. I emailed him and told him I was interested in recycling and we figured out a project.

Now that you’ve defended your thesis, what’s next?

I’m not sure. If anyone out there knows of any opportunities, that would be great. I have an application out for a job I really want. I like connecting with people and finding solutions to problems. 

Will you stay in the Pacific Northwest?

I’ll go where opportunity takes me, where I can make the most impact. I love it up here even though it’s a little cold and rainy.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I like to cook, and I’m working on starting a chili oil business. I also love to hang out with my dog and friends, travel, explore the outdoors, make art, invent things, tinker, and play soccer and foosball.

What do you use your chili oil for?

It can be used as a cooking oil or topping. It’s good when cooking chicken and sea food, but I don’t eat that much meat. I usually put it on top of pizza and baked potatoes. You can add it to rice, ramen or pho. You can use it for dipping with bread a cheese.

Have you been watching any good shows lately?

I like The Good Place. It’s just a funny take on the afterlife.

What do you do here in the College of Forestry?

I’m a research associate. I finished my Ph.D. in Portugal and worked for two years as a corporate scientist for a company there. I found my postdoc position thanks to a connection I made at the U.S. Forest Service, and from there became a research associate. I’ve been here about five years.

What I do is mostly wildfire and landscape modeling. We run these landscape models to do what-if scenarios and see how a particular landscape would change if you ramp up forest management, increase wildfire under climate change, increase population density.

Did you know about Corvallis before you landed here?

Not at all. I had to google it. I spent one year here during my Ph.D., but I was in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, so that kind of environment is what I had in my head when I came here, and it was a shock, but the people are nice and the work is great. I’ve made friends and found community.

How did you become interested in studying forestry, and specifically wildfire?

Portugal has a lot of wildfire. One year when I was in school was particularly bad, and that term, I had my first class in fire ecology. The professor of that class ended up being my Ph.D. supervisor. He came in and debunked all of these crazy theories about wildfire and explained the social and ecological aspects of it. I found it really interesting, and I decided it was what I wanted to do: help people understand how things work based on data, provide them information, and let them make up their own minds about it.

What is your favorite part of the work you do now?

I like when the results show something I wasn’t expecting. There are instances where we think things might go one way, but they go another way. Surprises are the best part!

What do you do outside work?

My family is in Portugal, and I have friends all over the world, and in different time zones, so I spent some time chatting with them. I like true crime podcasts, embroidery, Netflix, gardening…

What are some true crime podcasts we should know about?

One of my favorites is called ‘Crime Writers On…’ They comment on upcoming podcasts or TV shows and give their reviews. Based on that, I decide what to listen to or watch. I like stories that give you an overarching view of a problem. One, called ‘Missing and Murdered’ explored an indigenous girl in Canada that disappeared, and that led to exploring issues of Canada’s residential schools and reparations with first peoples.

How did you learn to embroider?

I taught myself by following Instagram accounts. I can’t paint or draw, but embroidery comes naturally to me. I started by upcycling sweaters or sweatshirts, and now I’m making a lot of architectural ones, like the lookout where my partner works and my parents’ house. I like hobbies where I can create something to hold in my hands and show people.

What are you studying?

I’m a Ph.D. student. I finished my coursework, and now I’m exclusively focused on my research. I’m studying how to improve root morphology and physiology of Douglas fir seedlings in order to improve reforestation success with Dr. Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke. 

What was your journey here to Oregon State?

I first came here as a master’s student in the former Forest Science Department in fall 1999 and graduated in spring 2002. Back then, Richardson Hall was a brand, new building. It still looks like that. After that, I returned to Chile, where I am originally from, and I worked as a researcher in a government agency for four years. After that, I was recruited by a private company and became the manager of the biggest nursery in Chile – and maybe in all of South America. One day, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke came to visit with some people from an Oregonian forest company. I gave them a tour of the nursery I was working on, and later during that year, Carlos started asking me questions about some details in Eucalyptus seedling production and eventually encouraged me to come to work with him here at Oregon State.

This time, we decided to bring our whole family. When I got my master’s here, it was just my wife and me, and back in Chile, we had triplets. They are 16 now and attending Corvallis High School. We wanted to give them the wonderful experience of living here in Corvallis and getting to know a new culture.

What’s your favorite part of your work?

I like growing seedlings. It seems like I’m producing new life with benefits for the entire world. It doesn’t matter the purpose of the seedlings. They can be for restoration, conservation, timber production, wildlife habitat. I just like growing trees and creating life, living organisms.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I like watching sports. I like sports, but I really don’t spend much time practicing sports anymore, so I would rather watch them on TV. I like basketball; I like the NBA. I went to a couple basketball games during my Master’s program. I do like American football too. I also like riding my bike around campus, even if it’s cold. In Chile I didn’t have the opportunity to ride my bike regularly, and here, I ride my bike every day.

Are you a morning person or a night person?

Morning. I would rather wake up early. Sometimes I work late, and I don’t sleep much, but I always feel more productive in the mornings.

Is coffee part of your morning routine?

Yes, I like instant coffee. Instant coffee is very popular in Chile. Brewed coffee is getting more popular with the arrival of Starbucks and Gourmet coffee shops, but I prefer instant.

What’s your favorite food?

That is a difficult question, because I’m a food addictive, but I’ll say fried empanadas with a pisco sour. I like seafood empanadas with shrimp and melted cheese, but you can have them with only cheese, or with beef.

Is there anything you’re really terrible at?

Drawing. I’m not an artist. I have tried! I had to do it when I was at school, but I had the worst grade in drawing and art.

For her dissertation, Rebecca Sheridan, who recently received her Ph.D. in sustainable forest management, studied Douglas-fir seedlings. Her research on this famous tree is specific and based on the latest technology available in the Western world, but the Oregon native says one of the essential parts of her graduate school experience takes place 6,500 miles away in Armenia.

“When I started graduate school, I wanted to do research that could be applied and helpful in solving restoration and reforestation issues,” she says. “The work I’ve done in Armenia is a reminder of the tangible outcomes research can have. It helps me stay grounded.”

Sheridan’s major professor was Interim Dean Anthony S. Davis, who has collaborated with the International Programs office of the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations to complete seedling-related projects. In 2016, Sheridan joined him for the first time in Armenia.

During Sheridan’s first visit, the U.S. team worked with a nonprofit organization to build a greenhouse and start the first growing season for seedlings with the goal of restoring the depleted landscape.

Sheridan says understanding Armenian culture, the history of the country and the greater region is important when it comes to the forestry and natural resources industries. For example, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was an oil and gas blockade, so tree harvests increased to supply heat to homes.

“Deforestation rapidly increased during that time,” Sheridan explains. “I’m not sure what the landscape looked like before the blockade, but these days, it looks like Eastern Oregon with rolling hills and lots of juniper trees. It’s higher and dryer there, and the goal of this project is to reintroduce native species to the land.”

Sheridan says many of those species are wild versions of edible plants like pear, apple and almond.

“It’s cool to work with species that are familiar to us as food, but are native, wild plants in another region of the world,” she says.

Culturally, Sheridan says Armenia is an exciting fusion of West and East with diverse food and kind people.

During her three trips to the country, Sheridan relied heavily on local knowledge while gathering materials and planning her workshops. The first growing season in 2016 yielded about 200 plants, while during the
2018 season, production increased to about 5,000 seedlings. Now, Sheridan says, the greenhouse is at capacity.

“The biggest challenge is working in such a rural, agricultural community,” she says. “People there have experience with food crops and orchards. We do our best to be respectful of the knowledge of our in-country partners while also highlighting how and why we’re training them to grow container seedlings for restoration in a different way than they might be used to.”

Sheridan says they will plant the seedlings in challenging environmental conditions, without irrigation or long-term maintenance of competing vegetation, so they need to be ready for the conditions they will face. Wildfire is also becoming prevalent in the area, adding a new twist to the project, as Sheridan and her in-country partners consider whether the landscape is fire adaptive.

Sheridan says the international work experience inspired her, and even though she’s not sure what her future holds, she hopes to continue visiting Armenia.

“It doesn’t matter if I understand every detail about how plants grow,” she says. “But, if I don’t understand how fertilizer gets shipped into different parts of the world or the cultural norms that influence what time of day you
can get people to water at our greenhouse, I’ll be less effective in helping solve these problems.”

A version of this story appeared in the fall 2019 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. Learn more about international programs within the College of Forestry here.

What is your job?

I’m an assistant professor here in the Wood Science + Engineering Department. I’ll also be taking over the Utility Pole Research Cooperative and the Environmental Performance of Treated Wood Research Cooperative. I’ve just been here for about two months so far.

How did you end up here at Oregon State?

I got my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, and my advisor actually did a job really similar to this one. I studied biofules and fungal biology. After that, I did a postdoc at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is a Department of Energy Laboratory that mostly focuses on nuclear energy, but there were a few biofules people like me there.

Are you a morning person or night person?

Morning. I’m also horribly addicted to coffee. In my office, I have an espresso maker, French press and drip brew to help keep me awake.

What does life look like outside work?

I have my wife and my 11-month-old daughter at home. We haven’t done too much yet other than explore the area since we’re still new around here.

Have you watched anything good on Netflix lately?

Every Friday night we’re watching the new episode of the Great British Baking Show. We really enjoy that. My wife is from Ireland, and we enjoy British humor.

Do you like to bake?

I do bake bread sometimes, but you really have to be sure you eat it before it goes bad, so I go in and out of those phases. I’m not baking right now because I felt like I was throwing away too much bread. I also enjoy cooking.

What is your job?

I manage the recruitment efforts for the undergraduate programs in the College of Forestry. Much of the time I’m on the road talking to high school and community college classes. The rest of the time, I’m here meeting one-on-one with students and families, hosting group visits, leading tours, and answering questions about CoF and OSU.

Do you have any crazy stories from the road?

One time I was heading down I-5 and a golf ball came out of nowhere and hit the windshield of the car I was driving. Another time I found myself in Fresno with a few hours before my flight, and a colleague from the College of Agricultural Sciences suggested we go to the zoo, so we went in our business casual clothes.

What was your path to this position?

A meandering one! In what seems like a past life, I was a drug & alcohol rehabilitation counselor and taught life skills to folks in an in-patient rehab. When I moved to Oregon, I started working in central enrollment management at OSU, and really wanted to get into a college environment and start doing something more creative.  I knew CoF was one of the coolest colleges to work for, and I’m pretty outdoorsy, so it matched my interests.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Outside of work, I do a lot of outdoor adventuring, and I’m really getting into gardening. My husband is a professional brewer, so we like to go to different breweries and sample beers. We have a dog who keeps us active and entertained. I also play music, and I love to learn new instruments.

What instruments do you play?

Guitar, piano, violin and a little banjo. I’m slowly learning to play the mandolin.

What’s your favorite podcast?

I really love the Ologies podcast by Alie Ward. Each episode focuses on a different -ologie – a scientific study of something. Some of my favorite episodes are on myrmecology (ants), etymology (word origins), and somnology (sleep). 

You work with groups of students. What’s your favorite icebreaker question to ask?

It’s a weird one… If one of your hands had be a never-ending sandwich, what kind of sandwich would it be? My answer is a caprese sandwich.

Welcome to the College of Forestry! What do you do around here?

I’m an instructor in the Wood Science + Engineering Department. I’m teaching some of the art and design classes.

What was your journey to this position like?

I lived and worked in Denver for the past 25 years. I designed and made custom furniture there and also taught art and design classes. I landed in that career after earning a history degree and working in construction. After that, I gravitated toward fine woodworking and furniture making. Years later I went back to school to get my master’s degree in furniture design, and that’s when I shifted to academia.

What’s your favorite part of your work?

My favorite part of teaching art and design is helping students solve problems- giving them a space where they can find solutions to their design problems. I especially like when I can facilitate an “ ah-ha” moment.

What do you do outside work?

I don’t know yet! It was a challenge to get caught up and start classes so soon after moving to a new place, but I’m looking forward to learning about the rivers in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Back in Denver, I also trained in traditional Japanese martial arts. I also like to play soccer and make things when I can.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

We have a cat and a dog. I’m an animal person! I also really love horses. My wife grew up on a cattle ranch in Utah, so we both love to ride when we can.