Staff Q&A: McKenzie Huber

You’re an OSU alumna, right? How did you end up here at the College of Forestry?

I graduated with my degree in merchandizing management in 2010. During college I was a START leader and worked in New Student Programs. I was involved in Greek life on campus and held leadership positions for my chapter and Panhellenic council. When I started to think about life beyond college, I knew I didn’t want to enter the corporate world. I loved my own academic advisor, and I attribute the fact that I didn’t fail out of college to her, so I went straight to grad school in the college student services administration program. After that, I advised the design program as it moved from PHHS to COB, then sociology and now natural resources.

What’s different about being an advisor in the College of Forestry than anywhere else on campus?

Our group is well-respected across campus. I love the people I work with, and I love the students I advise. They are often nontraditional students, veterans or active military, and they care about a wide range of issues that are important to me as well.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I chase my 19-month-old daughter around. My life has changed so much since becoming a parent. Right now I am enjoying watching her experience new things like swimming and going to the beach. It’s fun to see her excitement and joy!

Watching anything good on Netflix?

I love Grace and Frankie. I’m a Netflix binger for sure.

 

What about books? Are you a reader?

Right now, I read a lot of parenting books, but I did just finish Michelle Obama’s book and was able to see her speak in Portland. She also spoke at my graduate commencement. It was an honor to be able to see her twice in one lifetime.

 

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

A pickled pig’s tail. I’m pretty sure it gave me an infection.

Graduate Student Q&A: Raquel Albee

  • How did you end up at Oregon State as an undergrad? Why did you decide to stick around? What’s it like being a graduate student?

I grew up in a family of Beaver fans, so even though I’m a first-generation college student, I always saw myself here. I love the College of Forestry and the community of Corvallis. It’s a really nice place to stick around. Being a graduate student is extremely busy, but rewarding.

  • What’s your favorite part of studying wood science?

I really like that the program is technical-science focused, with a focus on industry, research and development. Hands-on experiences, in addition to industry exposure, have been crucial. The program itself has faculty and students with many diverse interests and areas of study, which provides unique perspectives and experiences.

  • What do you do when you’re not studying/working? (You could talk about your hobbies, family, friends and/or what you do for fun!)

When I’m away from campus, I enjoy hiking, fishing, and running wherever I can get away to with friends and family. I grew up around a lot of animals, so I enjoy a lot of time with my dog, Rogue, who often goes hiking with me. I enjoy watching sports, especially any Oregon State team.

  • When will you finish your program? What’s next? What’s your dream job?

I will be finishing up my master’s this June, then I will spend the summer traveling around Europe and the United States. After summer, I will be starting my career within forest products. My dream job and my eventual career goal is to be an executive on a forest products board of directors, where I can combine my knowledge, skills, and experience to benefit the company.

  • If you could be an animal, what animal would you be and why?

I would be a dog because loyalty, friendliness, ability to learn fast, fast-speed, and an adventurous spirit are great traits to have, which a dog already possesses.

TallWood Design Institute: building the future

TallWood Design Institute reaches out

Based at the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, the TallWood Design Institute (TDI) is the nation’s leading research collaborative focused on the advancement of structural wood products and mass timber design.

The institute represents a unique interdisciplinary partnership between OSU’s Colleges of Forestry and Engineering and the University of Oregon’s College of Design. The institute is at the forefront of mass timber research and real-world relevance. Its core tenets are the importance of industry collaboration, through outreach, education and feedback from professionals.

“Our goal is to conduct meaningful research and engage with the building community to help validate and highlight how these products and building systems work,” says Outreach Coordinator Evan Schmidt.

During FY 2017 and 2018, TDI focused on outreach by developing avenues of collaboration with community partners including product development, testing with manufacturers, educational seminars for students and designers and applied research projects with engineering firms.

Connecting with industry

TDI worked with the Freres Lumber Company in Lyons to test and develop an entirely new engineered wood product, mass plywood panels (MPP), in 2017 and 2018. TDI funded the second-phase of Freres’s testing, and continuing work with Freres includes optimizing MPP’s layup through modeling, structural testing, life cycle analysis, acoustics and architectural design applications.

MPP, like CLT, can be used as a substitute for conventional building materials. Now certified by the APA for structural use, MPP was installed for the first time in the U.S. as sheathing on Oregon State’s new A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory in Corvallis.

“We are a good example of a family business working within our rural community to come up with something new and innovative,” Tyler Freres says. “It’s also been great to have the experts and the researchers at OSU and the TallWood Design Institute working with us on this project. We have a very close relationship, and appreciate all the extra hands involved in producing MPP.”

Advanced wood products for the next generation

Judith Sheine, TDI’s director of design and professor of architecture at the University of Oregon, focuses on another application for MPP. MPP-based modular construction was the focus of her most recent undergraduate architecture and engineering design studio. Focusing on mass timber applications allowed Sheine to partner with Modular Building Systems and Clackamas County to discuss a partnership project using MPP for Oregon highway rest stops.

The modular MPP project isn’t the first time Sheine’s mass timber design studio has resulted in a public-private partnership. SRG Architecture and KPFF Engineering worked intimately with TDI and the City of Springfield on a CLT parking garage after it was the focus on of Sheine’s studio classes in 2016.

Architects and engineers across the United States have expressed interest in creating similar structures. Lane County has also participated in the design studio process, and hopes to build its new court house from mass timber based on one of the award-winning designs that came out of the classroom.

Schmidt says he’s excited about continuing to engage with TDI’s industry partners.

“Research advancing mass timber is a time sensitive effort,” he says. “The private sector moves at a different pace and under different logistics than academia, so it’s essential that we continue to engage the design community. That’s what keeps us relevant, while our research is what lends credence to mass timber as a solution.”

New facilities will aid industry tests

TDI’s access to state-of-the-art testing facilities helps it accomplish its innovative research. The new A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory builds on the strengths of existing facilities. The lab is scheduled for completion in summer 2019, and will have both a three-story structural testing bay, as well as an advanced manufacturing lab. In addition to research applications, the manufacturing lab will contain a hands-on educational space for students, skilled workers and design professionals looking to learn more about mass timber applications.

Another research space in the design and development phase is a full-scale acoustic-testing facility that will be built in the Willamette Valley. The lab will be one of only a few certified acoustics testing facilities along the West Coast, and will offer TDI’s industry partners the opportunity to rapidly test and prototype mass timber assemblies based on their acoustic properties. The lack of a facility like this is often a limiting factor when it comes to utilizing mass timber, and TDI is excited to fill that gap for its industry partners.

Portland meetups a success

Part of TDI’s outreach approach includes holding educational and networking events geared toward bringing various stakeholders together to learn, collaborate and problem solve all things mass timber. To accomplish this, TDI hosts a monthly event in Portland called ‘Mass Timber Meetups.’ These are casual, network-focused events that are designed to stimulate discussion on a specific subject within the world of mass timber.

“We discuss topics like acoustics, fire, building information modeling (BIM) and more,” Schmidt says. “It’s a place where people who have worked with mass timber, or are just curious, can discuss their experience or ask questions.”

These conversations help to build a community around mass timber construction and educate construction professionals from a variety of areas. About 15-30 people from various backgrounds typically attend. These events are free and open to the public and will continue in 2019.

Fire summit brings experts together

In March 2018, Oregon State hosted the inaugural Fire Summit in Portland. This event aimed to identify viable forest management practices that could help mitigate the risks and impacts of high-severity fire events in the West.

About 30 scientists, land managers and forest policy experts were in attendance. They came from five states and British Columbia, and represented six universities, seven federal land management agency offices, departments or research units, four private forestland management entities, and two cities.

The summit closed with a call to action from Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

“It has been a great opportunity for us to reflect on the challenges our region has faced and the challenges to come, to share best practices, exchange data and research and discuss insights we learn from fighting wildfires,”

Brown said. She went on to discuss the prevalence of wildfire in the West and the risk to communities, economies and livelihoods. Brown said that collaborations – like the Fire Summit – will be key in preventing devastating wildfires.

“By taking an ‘all-lands, all-hands’ approach and committing to work together across jurisdictional boundaries, we can sustain robust rural economies and preserve our natural resources for future generations,” Brown said.

Anthony S. Davis, interim dean of the College of Forestry agrees, “The Western USA is home to the world’s leading scientists who focus on fire on our landscapes. The Fire Summit was a unique opportunity for those scientists to interact with the policymakers who are asking for guidance in addressing this phenomenal challenge.”

The collective remarks of the panelists and speakers offered a big-picture perspective of the intertwined views of fire in the West, from the variety of jurisdictions, landscapes and vegetation types, and cultural experiences and expectations.

The experts compiled their feedback and made specific recommendations:

• Expand strategic use of commercial thinning, prescribed fires, and managed wildfire as forest management tools.

• Improve coordination across jurisdictions and ownership boundaries.

• Develop and implement cross-boundary ‘pre-fire response’ plans and strategies.

• Address inequities associated with liability for cross-boundary fires.

• Invest in data mapping, risk assessment, and applied research that directly supports cross-boundary management and suppression.

Oregon State officials recognize discussions like this are critical for encouraging stakeholder engagement when it comes to wildfire issues.

Work is also underway to identify opportunities to directly and regularly inform federal elected officials and staff in Washington, D.C., about summit outcomes and subsequent efforts. Direct dialogue and discussion of the opportunities for real progress is an important goal of Summit participants seeking to inform policies designed to help mitigate the risks and impacts of high-severity fire events in the West.

“The scale of our fire problem is likely measured in decades and centuries, not a handful of years, and across millions of acres, not localized forests and landscapes,” says Davis. “To address this serious challenge, we have to step out of our own way and not go back to the false promise of landscape stability maintained through unsustainable practices. The Fire Summit served to bring the widest range of partners to the table for a first conversation in this direction.”

Training for the future

The simulator has prepared you for the task ahead, yet sweat starts to drip from your brow, and the controls feel stiffer than they should. The first lever is pulled harmoniously. The second seems to stutter before falling into place. The last one brings a hard feeling to your gut, and you look out to the landscape full of logs in front of you. You have successfully replicated the simulator and moved around your first tree.

Since the 1980s, The Student Logging Training Program (SLTP) has been a part of the College of Forestry, according to Jeff Wimer, a senior instructor with the Oregon State University College of Forestry. The program allows students to experience real-world logging systems up close.

Connecting with the community and getting into the field is forest engineering student Dean Maben’s favorite part of being a member of the SLTP crew.

“I love getting the chance to get into the field and apply the things I’ve learned in the classroom,” Maben says. “It enhances my education as I am able to bridge the connection between the real world and what I am taught in class.”

Maben credits the SLTP with molding him into the person he is today.

“I’ve developed relationships I’ll have for my entire life,” he says “It’s taught me to be professional and to never stop learning.”

Maben says lifelong learning is something Wimer preaches to the crew, as he educates the next generation of professional foresters who will leave Oregon State and lead the industry.

“We have the ability to slow everything down and take the time to better teach how the various systems work. The technology we utilize is real world,” Wimer says. “We are fortunate that various machine manufacturers donate to us, on an annual basis, brand new equipment. On the crew, we continue to explore the rapidly changing technology of our industry.”

Equipment in use includes a Koller 501 Yarder, Link Belt loader and a John Deere skidder.

The SLTP also provides students the chance to participate in unique outreach experiences. In 2018, the student logging crew participated in the Pacific Logging Congress’ (PLC) Live In-Woods Show. The event invited the public to participate by viewing the latest forest industry technology in the woods.

“The show gave SLTP students a chance to interact with audiences they might now work with on a daily basis,” says Wimer, who also serves as president of the PLC. “It provided them the unique opportunity to educate other students, teachers, government representatives, loggers and the general public on the positive and sustainable methods used in the forest industry today.”

The SLTP helps Oregon State meet its land grant mission and reaches to a variety of audiences for education and training purposes.

“The program is quite unique in that there are very few universities that have such a program,” Wimer says. “The students who go through the program tend to have a leg up with their class work. Their field experience with the program gives them a frame of reference and hands on experience which allows them to excel in many of their classes.”

Herbicide research answers questions

The use of herbicides in forests is a controversial topic in Oregon, throughout the country and the world. For the past eight years, Oregon State professor of landscape and wildlife ecology Matthew Betts and his research team have studied them closely, in a study partially funded by the college’s Institute for Working Forest Landscapes. The research team paid close attention to the effects on wildlife and timber production.

“This study is relevant locally because herbicide use is commonly-used on Oregon Department of Forestry and industrial lands,” Betts says. “In the Pacific Northwest, it’s the primary silvicultural method that follows clearcutting.”

Betts says the topic is becoming relevant globally as herbicides become more popular in plantation forests worldwide. Currently, about 35 percent of timber comes from plantations, and in the next 50 years, experts project that most timber will come from this source. Betts believes now is the time for forest managers to have adequate scientific information to inform decisions about whether or not to use herbicides.

His study on intensive forest management is the largest of its kind in the world. The research team worked together with industry and the State of Oregon to study 32 stands of 15 acres or more with four different levels of herbicide treatments ranging from no treatment at all in the control group through more heavily treated stands similar to those in a commercial setting, and an extreme treatment that exceeds current spray practices.

Stands that have or haven’t been treated with herbicides can usually be recognized based on the amount of vegetation growing at the foot of young forests whose canopies haven’t yet closed. Untreated forests tend to have green floors, whereas heavily treated forest floors are initially quite bare.

Eight years into the experiment, Betts says the saplings they started with are huge in relative terms. The research team has also learned how herbicides affect various species of plants and animals within the forest.

“There’s little doubt that on the timber side, trees grow faster when herbicides are sprayed,” Betts says. “Our study shows that the most heavily sprayed stands produce up to 30 percent more volume, but there is an effect on biodiversity.”

The study measured herbaceous plants, birds, pollinators such as bees, deer, elk, moths and other insects.

“There were more bird species in areas where we didn’t spray herbicides,” Betts says. “Wilson’s Warbler was one of the most affected species. We also saw depressed numbers of pollinators. Surprisingly, we did not detect much of a change in populations of deer, elk and moths.”

Betts says that around year five of the study, for the most part, the number of species began to equalize and recover.

“Even the heavily-sprayed stands began to turn green,” he says. “In the end, some species responded negatively, some species have been resilient and some responded negatively and then recovered.”

Land managers pay up to $200- 250 per acre for herbicide spray. Money is spent up front and not returned until stands are harvested at age 40-50.

On the economic side of the study, the research team concluded that herbicide isn’t cheap, and that spraying does not always generate additional financial value.

“You could spend $250 per acre now, or invest that money in a bank somewhere. If your expectation is a financial yield of seven percent or greater, we’ve found that it doesn’t make economic sense to spray, all other things being equal,” says Betts.

He emphasizes the study saw no failed stands or plantations, and valuable biodiversity tended to increase without herbicide use. The research team will continue to monitor the stands up to the 15-year mark when the canopy will start to close, limiting sunlight to shrub species. They also plan to survey the general public about aspects of the study and perceptions about herbicide use.

That’s where Mark Needham, Oregon State professor of social science, policy and natural resources, comes in.

“We began surveying in early 2019,” Needham says. “We’re focusing on a number of small, rural communities in the coast range near the stands in the study. We plan to ask residents about their knowledge, attitudes and perceptions associated with the herbicide issue. We hope to survey at least 400 people.”

Instead of asking one-off questions, Needham says that in this context, it’s important for survey respondents to make tradeoffs and prioritize their interests.

“This study spans so many different areas including wildlife, soil, water, pollinators and economic impacts, so it’s important to make sure we look at the tradeoffs people are willing to make within the context of herbicide use,” Needham says.

Betts agrees land managers and the general public need to decide if they want forests with more biodiversity but less timber growth per acre, or less biodiversity and high rates of timber production.

“Without spray,” he offers, “you need to spread out forestry operations to get the same amount of lumber. With spray, you have more tightly-packed and intensely managed stands, which can potentially free up land for conservation.”

Betts realizes these are hard decisions. “The results of this study are just not as straightforward as we expected them to be,” Betts says. “We hope this science will help managers and the public make educated decisions about herbicide use amid the controversy.”

Creating a safer future for foresters

Cable-assisted harvesting systems are gaining popularity in the Pacific Northwest. Stewart Professor of Forest Operations Woodam Chung says there are about 20 systems in use in the Pacific Northwest already, and that number is growing.

The systems are undeniably safer than traditional cable yarding systems and manual cutting, because, thanks to mechanized harvesting, cameras and other technology, no one has to be on the forest floor near falling trees.

“One worker sits at the top of a hill with a camera,” explains Graduate Student Preston Green. “He can see where his grapples are and grab the logs at a safe distance.”

Chung says this process eliminates the need for choker setters and fellers – some of the most dangerous jobs in the forest industry.

The technology for cable-assisted harvesting was developed in Europe about 20 years ago, and recently adapted by Oregon State for use on steep slopes in the Pacific Northwest.

Once the tree is cut by a cable-assisted cutting machine, the machine swings and piles the tree along the skyline corridor, where it will be picked up and transported to a mill for processing.

In addition to the safety of the system, Chung is looking at other aspects including soil impact. His research team has already completed two studies on soil impact. He says industry professionals and members of the public perceive large equipment causes soil compaction, but two initial studies, one in the McDonald-Dunn Forest and one on Lone Rock Timber’s land, concluded that, depending on soil types and moisture content, loosening may occur after machine traffic.

“Now the question is, what does this mean in terms of erosion or soil moisture content?” asks Chung. “That’s what we’re looking at now.”

Chung and his team will continue to study interactions between soil, machine and water.

“We will use silt fences to look at erosion and measure the amount of erosion we collect,” Chung says.

Researchers want to learn what kind of impact this erosion might cause on water quality in streams and rivers at the base of logging operations.

Another aspect of the study is the economic impact.

“Cable-assisted mechanized harvesting is more productive than manual cutting, especially on steep slopes,” Chung says, “But the machine is expensive. Timber companies will have to weigh the costs and benefits for themselves and decide how to harvest.”

Green agrees, “If these systems can produce more timber at a reduced cost, then it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

A strong wall to bring forest to frame

Construction of the A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Lab is underway on the Oregon State University campus. The new lab will add 15,000 square-feet of structural testing space to the Oregon State College of Forestry, which already boasts some of the best technical research facilities in the nation.

A new state-of-the-art space

The laboratory will also be home to a 2,500 square-foot advanced wood products manufacturing area, a flexible demonstration and classroom area and the TallWood Design Institute offices.

“There are a variety of ways research and teaching can intersect in this new space,” says Arijit Sinha, associate professor of renewable materials at Oregon State. “When we complete large-scale tests, we will need an army of undergraduate helpers. It will be a great experiential learning opportunity for students, while at the same time offering us new, world-class capabilities to test buildings at full scale.”

Juliana Ruble, former advanced wood products lab manager and project engineer for Andersen Construction, agrees.

“The new lab will provide space for architects, engineers, wood products manufacturers and researchers to come together and develop new products and new building systems designs,” she says.

A CNC panel processing center will be capable of creating large panels and straight beams as well as curved beams and other, smaller wood products. Another robotic machine will expand architectural fabrication opportunities.

A strong floor for large tests

A 60-by-80-foot strong wall and reaction floor system will facilitate testing of up to three-story wood structures.

The strong floor and accompanying reaction wall are composed of  four-foot thick concrete. Anchors are attached to the floor and wall on a four-by-four-foot grid. Each anchor has a 60-kip capacity for a total of 240 kips for each cluster of four anchor points. The reaction wall is capable of withstanding a 150-kip reaction while the floor can withstand 500-kip compression across a twelve-inch diameter area.

“Our strong floor will be one of the largest related to wood and timber research in the U.S.,” Sinha says. “We will use the floor and reaction wall to test materials and structures. The strong base of the floor mimics a rigid surface during tests.”

Oregon State and TDI researchers anticipate using the facility to conduct seismic tests, connection tests, wall connection tests, loading tests and more.

“We do these tests now on a smaller scale,” Ruble says. “This new facility will more than double our research capacity while increasing our manufacturing research capabilities and our ability to bring in industry, students and stakeholders to learn in an applied research environment.”

Making connections, continuing research

Sinha researches connections within mass-timber buildings, and will continue this work inside the new lab. His current project focuses on nondestructive evaluation of mass-timber by exposing connection materials to extremes of modular and biological exposure on two different species of CLT.

Sinha will also assess how wood buildings react to biological attack including fungi. The research project is funded by the USDA, and the team includes collaborators from Portland State University.

“The results will be incorporated into building codes,” Sinha says. “This project is important because it will tell us how things play out overtime in wood buildings with intrusion of moisture.”

Welcoming art, welcoming everyone

Blank walls in the Richardson Hall knuckle inspired the first College of Forestry art contest in 2017. Temporary walls replaced the connection point to old Peavy Hall, as construction began on the new Oregon Forest Science Complex.

The college’s faculty and staff found themselves scattered throughout other campus buildings including Richardson, Snell and Strand Hall and needed a reason to come together.

The first art contest and show with the theme, ‘The Other Side,’ was held February 17, 2017, and diversity was key to organizers and participants.

All faculty, staff and students were invited to participate, and art mediums chosen were as diverse as the people creating them. The contest saw paintings, sculptures, wood working, photography and more. The pieces were judged by representatives throughout the college and campus.

With the College of Forestry’s commitment to equity, inclusivity and diversity, 2017 also saw the formation of the college’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. The college and committee are devoted to addressing DEI issues in the realm of forestry and natural resource management – through education, research and public engagement. The committee will draw fully and inclusively on the power and force of human imagination, experience and creativity to meet the needs of today’s world.

With this in mind, the art show continued in 2018 with the theme of ‘Innovation.’

Assistant Professor Seri Robinson requires students in the art and design option within the renewable materials program to participate in the art show each year.

“It gives the students a chance at expression using media they are familiar with,” Robinson says. “Because they all have a deep science background in wood and forests, they can apply deeper meaning to art created with the art show’s theme in mind.”

Robinson thinks the art shows have been a great success. “We’ve had some really great work submitted,” Robinson says. “And it’s been a great opportunity for students to talk about their feelings about the college climate, especially in terms of diversity, in a more public forum.”

Exploring ecotourism in Chile

One important task of the College of Forestry’s Office of International Programs is connecting Oregon State students with hands-on learning experiences abroad. This includes internships that provide educational opportunities and practical experience for students.

Shelby Knight, a natural resources student at Oregon State University-Cascades in Bend, gained all of this and more during an internship experience in Chile.

“From a professional-development perspective, I learned how to better navigate language and cultural barriers. I improved my understanding and use of the Spanish language and learned about the Chilean culture.”

Growing up in Central Oregon, Knight fell in love with natural resources, but was never sure exactly what she wanted to pursue as a field of study or career.

“I love that the natural resources major is broad, diverse and offers opportunities to explore different aspects of the natural sciences,” she says. “Since coming to OSU Cascades, I’ve become interested in the interface between humans, human development and ecosystems.”

Through her involvement in the Natural Sciences Club at OSU Cascades, Knight met other students who participated in study abroad opportunities.

“I had no idea that this was even a possibility for me as a Cascades student, and I began to look for opportunities to go abroad through OSU,” Knight says.

She found and applied for a short term, faculty-led study abroad opportunity in Chile. During the application process, she learned about the option to stay behind after the experience to complete an internship.

“I loved the idea of staying in Chile for a longer period of time,” she says. “I chose to intern with Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve because they had a relationship with OSU, and their eco-tourism and conservation model really interested me. Plus, it looked like the most beautiful place to spend two months – and it was.”

Knight worked in the excursions department of the biological reserve where she helped deliver environmental, cultural and outdoor education to guests. She also tracked and mapped ‘illegal’ trails within the reserve, assisting Huilo Huilo with their trail interpretation plan, which will help the organization develop replanting and recovery strategies for illegal trails.

Knight also helped develop a nature-driven children’s program for the Reserve’s called Los Pequeños Exploradores or The Tiny Explorers. This experience inspired Knight to pursue research abroad after graduation.

“I learned a lot about myself by entering an unfamiliar situation,” she says. “I can’t wait to keep learning and exploring.”