FY 2018 research awards

The College of Forestry’s world-class students and faculty conduct ground-breaking research within the subjects of forestry, natural resources, tourism and wood science and engineering. Our research happens in labs and outdoors– on public and private lands across the state and in the College’s own 15,000 acres of College Research Forests as well as around the nation and the world.

Contributing to Oregon State University’s second-best year ever in competitive grants and contracts for research, the College of Forestry received $11.04 million in new grants and awards. As Oregon’s largest comprehensive public research university, OSU earned a total of $382 million in the fiscal year ending June 30.

Industry and agency partnerships thrived via the college’s 10 research cooperatives, with more than 100 private industry and government agency members providing an additional $2.18 million to support collaborative research.

Here are some examples of newly funded research out of a portfolio of 40 new projects.

The Role of Managed Forests in Promoting Pollinator Biodiversity, Health, and Pollination Services to Wild Plants and Agricultural Crops

Jim Rivers
Awarded by: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Amount: $1,000,000

This project will provide new information on how managed forests support healthy pollinators including bees, flies, butterflies, beetles and hummingbirds. Other objectives of the project include determining how pollinator health is influenced by forest management intensity, evaluating whether management changes to pollinator communities alters pollination of wild plants and testing whether forests serve as source habitats for pollinator populations within agricultural landscapes.

CRISPR/Cas9 Mutagenesis for Genetic Containment of Forest Trees

Steve Strauss
Awarded by: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Amount: $500,000

The goal of this project is to develop and test systems to edit floral genes of poplar and eucalyptus trees.  The edited, non-functional genes should prevent the release of pollen or seeds of these species because their genetically engineered forms are considered undesirable. These trees are often propagated from cuttings, making fertile flowers unnecessary for commercial use. These tools are expected to simplify regulatory decisions, promote public acceptance, and avoid unintended effects from exotic or genetically engineered trees in wild or feral environments.

Automated Landslide “Hot Spot” Identification Tool for Optimized Climate Change and Seismic Resiliency

Ben Leshchinsky
Awarded by: Oregon Dept of Transportation
Amount: $425,090

Landslides are increasingly frequent hazards that affect the operation, maintenance, and construction of Oregon highways, resulting in negative economic, environmental and social impacts for Oregon communities. This project will develop approaches towards creating enhanced means of assessing landslide risk considering topography, rainfall, and seismicity, primarily through the creation of mapping tools. Through these endeavors, planners will be able to maintain the safest and most efficient transportation system possible.

Inventoried landslides used for future projections of landslide hazard.

Monitoring Recreation Use in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Troy Hall
Awarded by: USDI National Park Service
Amount: $344,078

This project is developing protocols to monitor recreation use across 21 units of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the most heavily used National Park in the US.

Multiscale Investigation of Perennial Flow and Thermal Influence of Headwater Streams into Fish Bearing Systems

Catalina Segura
Awarded by: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Amount: $221,271

The impacts of timber harvesting and other land uses on water quality have been an environmental concern for many years. This project will assess the effectiveness of the rules currently applied in California. These rules are aimed at identifying headwater streams that require special protection given their likelihood to influence stream temperature in downstream watercourses.  This project will assess the vulnerability to temperature increases after timber harvesting of fish-bearing streams draining different geologic units.

SusChEM: Naturally Produced Fungal Compounds for Sustainable (Opto)Electronics

Seri Robinson – Co-Principal Investigator
Awarded by: National Science Foundation
Amount: $190,580

The project will explore fungi-derived pigments as a sustainable optoelectronic material for organic photovoltaics.  Wood stained fungi native to the Pacific Northwest will be explored for potential incorporation into solar cells.  Fungi-derived pigments are abundant and represent a largely unexplored resource for organic electronics and renewable electricity generation.  The project is in conjunction with principal investigator Oksana Ostroverkhova in the College of Science.

Lidar- and Phodar- based modeling of stand structure attributes, biomass, and fuels

Temesgen Hailemariam
Awarded by: USDA Forest Service
Amount: $ 164,000

This project will support the growing need for land managers to fully utilize Lidar products to obtain timely and accurate information. The project integrates traditional measures of fuels with remotely-sensed point cloud data to provide estimates of pre- and post-fire fuel mass, volume, or density in physical measurement units and in 3D within the same domain as physics-based fire models, and to scale up observations from fine-scale inputs to physics-based models to coarse scale fuels characterization required by smoke models. Hierarchical sampling across a range of spatial scales will also provide an important sensitivity analysis at varying scales.

Multi-scale analysis and planning to support Forest Service fire management policy

Meg Krawchuk
Awarded by: USDA Forest Service
Amount: $146,511

The purpose of this research is to investigate management policies to address wildfire impacts to human and ecological values. Current suppression policies are not financially sustainable and not desirable from an ecological standpoint.

Towards Resilient Mass Timber Systems: Understanding Durability of Cross-Laminated Timber Connections

Arijit Sinha
Awarded by: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Amount: $489,793.00

This project will test moisture intrusion and biological decay in cross-laminated timber connection systems to help architects, contractors and product supplies understand how connections in wood buildings will fair over time.

Northwest Hardwoods donates $25,000 of lumber

OFSC construction

Northwest Hardwoods, Inc. (NWH), the leading manufacturer of high quality hardwood lumber in North America, donated $25,000 worth of lumber to the new Oregon Forest Science Complex. The lumber donation of alder wood will be used as cladding for the outside of the new building.

“The Oregon State University College of Forestry is an internationally-recognized leader in education, research and policy for managing and sustaining working forest ecosystems,” says Don Barton, vice president of sales and marketing for Northwest Hardwoods. “It’s a natural fit for us to be a part of the next metamorphosis of forestry management and sustainability.”

Oregon State University and the College of Forestry officially launched a $79.5 million initiative in January 2015 to build the Oregon Forest Science Complex. Once completed, the state-of-the-art facility will provide current and future students with a transformative educational experience across a full range of forestry and natural resources degree programs.

“Northwest Hardwoods’ gift and in-kind donation will enable us to build a new, engineered wood facility that will inspire students and create a beautiful, inviting and healthy space for them to learn,” says Acting Dean Anthony S. Davis. “Grown and made in Oregon, the facility will reinforce our status as a place where students go to find innovative solutions to complex challenges, so they can improve our forest landscapes, ecosystems, and communities.”

Practical applications discovered for Western Juniper

Scott Leavengood, director of the Oregon Wood Innovation Center, began his career at Oregon State twenty three years ago as a Klamath County extension agent. Back then, he answered many phone calls from county residents asking what they could do with their western juniper trees.

The wood is strong and durable, and extremely common in Eastern Oregon.

Due to changes in land management practices, wildfire suppression in particular, western juniper acreage in the western United States has increased dramatically in the past 100 years. Thinning juniper stands helps restore rangelands and habitats for animals like the sage grouse, but until recently, there’s been no practical application for the use of this resilient and durable wood species.

“A lot of people were interested in using western juniper in building projects, but for use in structural applications, engineering design values have to be published,” Leavengood says.

Throughout the years, inquiries about western juniper continued, but there were no funds to study juniper-based materials and their market potential until 2015.

USDA Rural Development, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Business Oregon provided funding for juniper testing. Sustainable Northwest managed the project and graduate student Byrne Miyamoto stepped in to do the legwork for the project including small-scale bending, compression and shear tests.

“I spent the entire first summer of the project in the wood shop just cutting samples and making sure there were no defects,” Miyamoto says.

Juniper is a species often riddled with knots and imperfections, making the work difficult, but Miyamoto and Leavengood prevailed and testing was conducted in the summer of 2016. A few durability tests will continue in years to come.

“I have some posts set up in Yaquina Bay in Newport, so we’ll see how well it holds up there and if shipworms attack it,” Miyamoto says. “We examine the samples one a year, and so far we have not seen any attack.”

The results of the western juniper certification project will be published in the National Design Specification in 2018.

“Many key market opportunities couldn’t exist for juniper without published values,” Leavengood explains. “We think that the ability for engineers to use juniper for things like sign posts and guardrail posts will have implications for everything from land management to job creation.”

Miyamoto is focusing on finalizing the focus for his Ph.D. research at Oregon State this fall, and he looks forward to seeing western juniper in use someday soon.

“I’ve spent two years of my life coming up with five values that engineers will be able to use to decide if juniper can be helpful in their projects,” he says. “I’ve spent a lot of time with my juniper samples in the lab, but soon I hope I’ll be able to see the values we produced  in use and say, ‘that was me.’”

Kendall Conroy

Wood science graduate student Kendall Conroy is focused on sustainability. She says the issue has been a hot topic in the Pacific Northwest her whole life. Conroy grew up in Hillsboro in a family of Oregon State graduates. Attending Oregon State as an undergraduate was an easy decision, she says. Picking a specific area of focus, however, was a bit more difficult.

“Oregon State has so many great options that I felt OK about coming here, even with no idea of what I wanted to do,” Conroy says. “Initially, I was kind of interested in forestry, but I didn’t actually want to work outside. When I learned about the renewable materials program, and that I could kind of marry a forestry degree and a business degree, it seemed perfect.”

Conroy was awarded a scholarship from the Dean’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation and chose to major in renewable materials and later added a second major in sustainability to further explore her life-long interest in sustainability. She participated in the SEEDS (Strengthening Education and Employment for Diverse Students) program, which matches students with a mentor and gives them opportunities to participate in hands-on research as an undergraduate.

Conroy was matched with Professor Eric Hansen and worked on a project researching gender diversity within the forestry industry.

“I learned a lot through that research project,” Conroy says. “Within the wood science program we have quite a few female students, but when you look at the industry and when you do internships, there aren’t as many. Experiencing this during an internship I experienced made the study more real and relevant to me.”

During her undergraduate experience, Conroy participated in a short-term, faculty-lead study abroad experience in central Europe. During her time in Slovenia, Conroy connected with a researcher there, and returned the summer after graduating to complete a research-focused internship.

“I got to help out with a literature review for them and a few other ongoing projects,” Conroy said.

Conroy enjoyed Slovene culture, learning a bit of the difficult language and enjoy a different culture in an international environment.

“Everyone in Slovenia was so nice, and I really enjoyed being part of a research team there,” Conroy says. “It seemed like every other week someone would visit from another country, and I was able to travel to Austria and Hungary to attend conferences. It was an amazing experience.”

Encouraged by her professors, Conroy returned to Oregon State in the fall to begin working toward her master’s degree.

Her research will determine architects’ perception of wood products in terms of general knowledge and sustainability.

“From this we will be able to better understand material choice and potentially how we can get more information to the people making choices about implementing wood as a building material,” Conroy says.

Conroy says that after completing her graduate degree, she would like to work with architects and designers as a consultant on sustainability and material choice.

“When contractors want to build a green building and they want to use wood, I want to be the person who can show them the sustainability of the timber they’re using,” Conroy says. “We don’t have very advanced ways of explaining that right now, so it’s my goal to tell the story of the sustainability of wood in the built environment.”