Science asserts that agroforestry can have many benefits, including increased biodiversity, reduced erosion and healthier trees and crops. But what are people’s attitudes toward agroforestry in the developing world, and who is choosing to implement these mixed land management systems?

Ph.D. student Sonia Bruck is working hard to find answers to these questions. She’s partnered with Anthony Kimaro, Tanzania country representative for the World Forestry Centre (ICRAF) and Peter Matata, environmental scientist at the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, because of their expertise on agroforestry in rural areas throughout Africa.

“I wanted to work with ICRAFbecause their headquarters are in Africa. They’re connected to the people in villages throughout the country and are there to ensure these projects continue,” Bruck says.

She takes comfort in the fact that when she completes the project the data will live with the organization for years to come. So, she set out to live in Tanzania for five months to learn more about agroforestry practices there.

Bruck began her journey by researching the history and socioeconomics of the region she is studying. Located in the northwest corner of Tanzania, the Uyui District was part of the Arab slave trade and later transitioned to a tobacco production region. To cure tobacco, local farmers cut much of the surrounding woodlands to produce charcoal, which resulted in deforestation and soil erosion.

To help combat that problem, ICRAF encouraged the practice of intercropping pigeon pea, a legume-producing woody perennial; cassava, a root vegetable and a tree called Gliricidia sepium.

ICRAF also researched and promoted the use of woodlots for fuelwood and charcoal production.

Bruck says, “Corn is a staple in the region, which requires a lot of nitrogen in the soil. People plant corn in the same place year after year, and that depletes nitrogen stores. Also, many people are undernourished or food insecure. Planting a variety of crops can help people get the nutrients they need.”

When Bruck first arrived in the area, she met with local government officials to obtain a letter explaining why she was there and what her research was.

“I had to meet with the chief and elders of the village as well,” Bruck says. “One thing that stuck with me during those meetings was how much people were interested in seeing the results of my study, so my goal is to eventually provide them with feedback and information about the data we collected.”

During her five-month stay, Bruck used a survey to understand who is adopting agroforestry in the region and the potential impacts intercropping has on food security. Together with five hired enumerators from a local agricultural college, Bruck surveyed 43 households randomly selected from village registries.

“So far, we found that many people are planting cassava. Fewer are planting the pigeon pea, and even fewer are planting Gliricidia sepium,” she says. “Many people report they’ve heard of agroforestry practices, but haven’t fully adopted them.”

She returned in July 2019 to disseminate her full questionnaire to 600 households among 12 subvillages and hold focus groups.

Before jetting off to Africa, Bruck helped plan and attended the North American Association for Temperate Agroforestry biennial conference (AFTA), hosted at Oregon State in June 2019. Bruck’s major professor, senior instructor and program director Badege Bishaw, is the current president of AFTA.

Even though the study region is not temperate, she presented her work on the project so far.

“Agroforestry professionals are interested in all kinds of climate zones, and people come to this conference from all over the world,” Bruck says. “It’s exciting to be able to collaborate with people and organizations who have the same research interests. I’m also extremely grateful for support from the College of Forestry, my advisors, committee members and collaborators in Africa.”

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.

How did you end up at your role here in the College of Forestry?

I’ve been here about three years as the help desk coordinator. I schedule the student workers and manage the help desk to make sure tickets get completed and everything is functional. I’m originally from Portland, and I went to school here at Oregon State. I worked as a student worker for the College of Business. After graduation, I stuck around Corvallis. I love working at my alma mater.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

I like staying relevant in a technological world where technologies are always growing. I get to do research and interact with students – who usually know more than I do. I like to stay relevant.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I play racquetball about three times a week. I also like biking and camping. This summer, I’ve been gardening a lot.

Where do you like to go camping?

Anywhere in the Willamette Valley, really. It’s easy enough to go an hour out and find a slew of spots near rivers or lakes.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

I would say I’m a dog person, but my girlfriend and I have two cats. They’re kind of dog-like. They play fetch.

What’s your favorite Karaoke song?

I sing Karaoke from time to time. Queen songs are great for Karaoke. My favorite is probably ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’

What are you reading right now?

I’m listening to the Dark Tower series on audiobook right now. I’m in an audiobook club. I usually listen to books on my commute to and from Philomath.

If your house was on fire, and you could only grab three objects to save, what would you choose?

  1. A bay of external hard drives with all my media content.
  2. My motorcycle jacket that I’ve had for years.
  3. My backpacking backpack with all my gear.

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.

The College of Forestry received $8.5 million in new and continuing awards.

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 $1.5 million to support collaborative research.

Here are some examples of funded research projects from a portfolio of over 40 new projects:

Resistance or Resilience in Soil Carbon Pools?: Exploring Soil Carbon Dynamics Using a Ubiquitous Forest Organic Matter Removal Experiment
Sponsor: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Principal Investigator Jeffrey Hatten

Collaborative Research: MSB-ENSA: Leveraging NEON to Build a Predictive Cross-scale Theory of Ecosystem Transpiration
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Co-Principal Investigator Christopher Still

Demonstrating Use and Performance of a CLT Modular Building Utilizing Low-Value Ponderosa Pine Lumber from Logs Harvested in Pacific NW Forest Restoration Programs
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service
Principal Investigator Mariapaola Riggio

Fire Performance of Custom CLT Layups Utilizing Ponderosa Pine from Logs Harvested in Western Forest Restoration Programs
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service
Principal Investigator Rakesh Gupta

Multi-Scale Assessment of Wildfire Impacts to Human and Ecological Values to Support Forest Service Fire Management Policy
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service
Principal Investigator Meg Krawchuk

Scaling Juniper Markets:  Sustainable Solutions for Healthy Rangelands and Rural Opportunity
Sponsor: Sustainable Northwest/Oregon Innovation Council
Principal Investigator Scott Leavengood

How did you end up at Oregon State?

My wife got a job at Oregon State in the Crop and Soil Science Department, and we moved to Corvallis in fall of 2009. I worked remotely on my post-doc until 2010, at which point I began a research position the fisheries and wildlife department .  In 2015, I transitioned to a tenure track position with ajoint appointment between Forest Ecosystems and Society and the Department of Fisheries Wildlife. I have to say that I really enjoy working in two departments. Of course, I go to two faculty meetings and serve on more committees, but it’s been a great fit for me in terms of my research interests and potential for collaboration.


What’s your favorite part about your job?

I love working with graduate students. They do amazing work. I love building rapport with them and seeing them going through the learning process where at the end of their time they are writing really stellar thesis drafts.


You won a dean’s award this year, and were recently awarded tenure. How does it feel?

It’s great. Gaining tenure is a weight off my shoulders. I think any faculty member would tell you that there’s no time when you’re not thinking about work and I’m hoping to take at least a bit of a breath next year sometime and start to unwind a little. I won the dean’s award for graduate student mentorship.  I have a great group of students and really all I did was what I like to do the most (talk a lot to students about science).


What are your plans for summer?

I have an NSF grant to do work in Yellowstone. I’m headed out there for a couple weeks. Then I’ll visit family back East, and when we get back to Oregon I’ll catch up on my projects here – one at HJ Andrews and one on managed forest landscapes in the Coast and Cascade Ranges, then back to Yellowstone for a week. I’ll recover after that and spend time with my kids. We hope to spend a few weekends camping on the coast.


What kinds of things are your kids into?

They both do gymnastics at KidSprit, and my oldest is taking riding lessons from Michele Justice’s daughter, which has been a cool College of Forestry connection.


What else do you do when you’re not working?

I’m enjoying experiencing children’s literature again through my kids. I’m reading them lots of Shel Silverstein and Rahl Dahl. We’ve also recently started skiing as a family. I’m looking forward to reclaiming more of my old hobbies like wood working, fishing and playing hockey. Hopefully I can gain better work-life balance in the coming year and start integrating those back into my life.

What was your life like before becoming a Ph.D. student at Oregon State?

I finished my undergrad in 2007 at Georgetown University with a B.A. in Theology. As you can probably guess, theology is a virtually non-marketable degree – theology majors either 1) go to seminary, or 2) earn doctorates, then teach future theology students. I had zero interest in either of those career paths. But at the time I didn’t particularly care about job prospects, since about halfway through college I decided I wanted to go to culinary school, and eventually open my own bakery.

After graduating I moved to New York City, where I was professionally trained in classic French pastry. But after just a few months working in the food industry, I became sadly disillusioned. I realized that, unless you’re extremely talented and extremely lucky, a career in baking means hard physical labor, big egos, low creative freedom and even lower wages.

I stuck with it for a while, but I also started looking around for other opportunities. I spent a fair amount of time trying to market my non-marketable theology degree (fail). Eventually, I suppose around 2011, I gave up the hope of getting myself on any sort of career track, and instead resigned myself to a series of dead-end jobs. Fortunately, since those jobs offered no intellectual stimulation whatsoever, I had plenty of time and mental energy to do some soul searching as well. By 2013, with more than a few oven burns on my arms and way too much retail experience under my belt, I decided to go back to grad school and (hopefully) re-tool myself to work in some field related to environmental conservation and sustainability.

What has your experience been like?

It’s been a challenge, for sure. Coming from a non-science, non-NR background I had a steep learning curve, and I never really found a strong research focus. Generally I concentrate on ethics in conservation, but within that concentration I’ve thought and written on a range of topics, including wildlife management, forest management, and even a little climate change. I’ve also dabbled in conservation psychology, particularly for my dissertation work. So I’m pretty interdisciplinary. Recently I’ve also come to realize that I’m most interested in asking questions that don’t have clear or unequivocally “right” answers. I think I’d argue that many if not most of the ethical issues we face in environmental management and conservation meet that condition…which is really overwhelming, but at least I know I won’t run out of things to think about any time soon.

You work as an instructor. What’s that like?

I really enjoy teaching, and I feel lucky to have had a chance to do a fair amount of it as a graduate student. Right now I’m teaching an online graduate course, SNR 522 Basic Beliefs and Ethics in Natural Resources. It’s been a good term – probably the most diverse and engaged group I’ve had yet.


Will you continue to do that now that you’re wrapping up your Ph.D.? What’s next?

I’ll be starting a post doc position in summer through the HJ Andrews Long-Term Ecological Research program. They supported me throughout my grad program, so I’m happy to have a chance to stay with that community, and hopefully make myself useful. And yes, I’m also hoping to continue teaching my class. I’d gladly accept any opportunities to teach additional classes as well.

Have you read any good books lately?

Lately I’ve been reading some stuff by a local Eugene author, Barry Lopez. He wrote this amazing essay for Harper’s magazine, called “Polar Light” – a mentor sent it to me a few months ago, and it sort of got me hooked. I picked up Winter Count, which is a book of short stories, and I was done with it in one evening. That same night I ordered Arctic Dreams, which is what I’m still reading now (it’s been slow going – I tend to fall asleep after a couple pages). Anyway, this one is non-fiction, and conveys Lopez’ lifelong fascination with the arctic region. It’s such a different place than anywhere else on Earth, so I’ve enjoyed learning a bit of that history and ecology. But more than that I appreciate his ability to translate his observations of the arctic region into these insightful and frankly beautiful reflections on humanity. He’s a great writer.

What’s your favorite food?

Cake. And salad.


If you were one of the seven dwarfs, which would you be?

Some combination of Sleepy and Grumpy…Slumpy?

What’s in the trunk of your car right now?

Sheets (an effort to control the profusion of dog hair in my car…which in actuality is an exercise in futility); reusable grocery bags; and a large pink umbrella, which I bought at an old-fashioned pharmacy in New York City back in 2008.

How long have you been at Oregon State?

I moved here from Alaska in 2008 with eight kids in tow to attend graduate school at Oregon State. I graduated in 2010 with a master’s in adult education and a specialization in virtual learning environments. Soon after that I was hired as an OSU Ecampus advisor for the natural resources program. In 2014, I became the program coordinator for natural resources and I’ve been here ever since.

Awesome. What should people know about the program?

The program has seen steady growth since its inception. We’ve had two big curriculum revisions- most recently in the summer of 2018. Our revisions help us adapt to the changes in the field of resource management, the needs of employers, and the interests of the students. We are constantly analyzing and making sure we’re meeting their needs.


Tell me about the students you advise.

I love our students! They’re on the forefront of whatever is going on in the world. Right now there’s a huge interest in issues like sustainability, climate change, food issues and more. Our students go everywhere and do all kinds of jobs from land management to environmental education to law.

Do you have a natural resources background?

No. My bachelor’s degree is in visual communications. I became interested in natural resources and education while living in rural Alaska for 20 years. I homeschooled my eight children, and we often had moose and other wildlife wandering through our back yard. Most of our family memories are intimately connected with wilderness or wildlife.


Wow. Tell us more about that experience.

Alaska was one of the first states to have a state-funded homeschool program, and I got very involved in a leadership role in alternative education. My kids used an online curriculum and that was how I first got involved with online education. It was great because we lived in the middle of nowhere, but my kids had the opportunity to participate in scientific field studies and communicate with people all over the world.

Tell us about your large family!

The tribe has grown up and I have only one left in the house. She will graduate from high school in 2019. The other seven are either in college or already finished with their degree; four have graduated or are currently at Oregon State, one graduated from the University of Oregon, one from Western Oregon University, one currently taking a gap year.  It’s important to me that they not carry a lot of student debt, so they all worked and paid their own ways through school. I am really proud of my kids.


What do you do when you’re not working?

I love gardening and cooking and spending time with my expanding family as my kids get married. My son is getting married this summer, and his fiancé has a six-year-old son, so I’m becoming a grandmother, and I’m loving it. We are a very nerdy family. We get together on Mondays and play Dungeons and Dragons.


What do you like to cook?

I love baking bread. I’m working on perfecting my sourdough right now.

Robert Rose is a senior studying renewable materials. He landed at Oregon State after growing up in New Mexico, a stint in the Air Force and working in Japan as a Department of Defense contractor.

With his first bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Rose had broad knowledge of the construction industry, but wanted to switch roles.

“A few friends told me about the College of Forestry at Oregon State, which led me to discover the renewable materials program, and it seemed like a good fit,” he says. “I wanted to learn about what renewable materials are and how to apply renewable products to the field of construction.”

The father of three considers school his job right now. He finished his renewable materials coursework and is now focused on business classes for the marketing and management option within the degree program.

Rose says one of his favorite areas to study is mass timber. He says his dream job is working with innovative products within the construction industry.

“I’m hoping I can take the knowledge and experience I gained here and translate it into getting plugged back into the workforce,” Rose says.

He says he’s excited about mass timber because of its unexpected construction potential.

“People just don’t really think about wood as a suitable material for large-scale construction projects,” Rose says. “But once you start learning about the properties behind it, it’s really intriguing and interesting. There’s also an aesthetic piece to it that I really like, so overall it makes for an interesting material to work with.”

During summer 2017, Rose completed an internship with Accsys Technologies. He worked with the College of Forestry’s Office of International Programs to travel abroad to the company’s headquarters in The Netherlands for a week where he observed the manufacturing process for Accoya wood products.

Once he returned home, Rose worked with Scott Leavengood,  director of the Oregon Wood Innovation Center, to test a variety of modified wood products including acetylated red alder similar to the wood that will be used on the exterior cladding of the new George W. Peavy Forest Science Center building.

“Robert is an exceptional student and employee,” Leavengood says. “His natural curiosity; attention to detail and ability to organize, plan and conduct his work independently are strong assets for any researcher.”

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

Senior Vanessa Mckinney is passionate about forestry, natural resources and conservation.

The Eureka, California, native came to Oregon State to study forest management, but after participating in field school decided – with the help of an advisor – that the natural resources major would be a better fit.

“Coming to Oregon felt like a new opportunity for me,” Mckinney said. “Here at Oregon State, and in the state of Oregon in general, everyone encourages students to get out into the woods and into the field and find out how we can make a change for the better.”

Mckinney stays as active as she can, participating in a variety of hands-on learning opportunities.

During summer 2018, Mckinney worked with a graduate student to reopen the greenhouse at the Oak Creek building on the Oregon State campus. The neglected space is now an active research facility again.

“I helped graduate students get seedlings going,” Mckinney says. “It was really rewarding to make that area a productive space for research again.”

Mckinney also participated in the Mentored Employment Program (MEP), which provides College of Forestry undergraduate students paid opportunities to work with faculty members on research projects or to gain field experience.

Mckinney worked with Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke, assistant professor, and Maxwell Wightman, faculty research assistant, on a project for the Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC). She said that before working with the VMRC, she began to question her future and interest in natural resources and forest management.

“I was wondering if I really wanted to be here,” she says. “But getting  into the field with the VMRC gave me a new sense of confidence. I gained real experience with real data that I knew was going to be applied. This added to my OSU experience.”

Mckinney’s data ended up in the lab, and will eventually have real applications for land managers and other scientists.

“Working with her as a mentor through the program was a wonderful experience,” Wightman says. “I worked closely with her in the field and saw her grow in skill and confidence. Her work with the VMRC was so exceptional that we immediately hired her as a student employee once her time with MEP ended.”

In her spare time, Mckinney also volunteers with Oregon State Community Service and has participated in the Polar Plunge event for the Special Olympics. She plans to attend graduate school and eventually hopes to work with children and youth, teaching them about forestry, natural resources and conservation.

“As a child, I was captivated by the outdoors at an early age,” Mckinney says. “If we captivate children at an early age, they can become leaders in managing and protecting our natural resources for the future.”

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

The Oregon Forest Practices Act (FPA) is up for renewal in 2020. According to the State of Oregon, the FPA “sets standards for all commercial activities involving the establishment, management or harvesting of trees on Oregon’s forestlands.

Oregon law gives the Board of Forestry primary responsibility to interpret the FPA and set rules for forest practices.”

Assistant Professor Kevin Bladon has a vested interest in the FPA because of his work in and with harvesting in riparian areas. He says this practice is one of the reasons the act exists. “In the 1950s and 60s, before FPA, logging companies were harvesting next to streams, and a lot of sediment was ending up in the water.”

This had negative impacts on water sources, quality,  temperature and more. To prove this, scientists at the Oregon State College of Forestry conducted a study of the Alsea Watershed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

For six years, scientists made pre-harvest measurements and observations. Next, over a two-year period, they observed harvest and the change that occurred in respect to the nearby streams. Bladon says the stream temperature rose from a standard 13.9 degrees Celsius to up to 29.4 degrees Celsius.

“That’s more than double the original temperature,” Bladon says. “That has major impacts on fish habitat and the laying and survival of eggs. There was also increased sediment. None of the results were good, and all of this information was built into FPA.”

FPA passed in 1971. Major amendments were made in 1992 with added water and geographic classifications.

“It’s cool to look back on that time and the regulations that have been developed and know this study happened just down the road from us,” Bladon says.

He had a chance to return to the Alsea Watershed when it was harvested again in 2009 and 2015 to conduct a one-of-a-kind study. Work like this will influence FPA and other policy decisions in Oregon and beyond.

“Going back to the same watersheds, it’s clear the FPA had a positive impact,” Bladon says. “We were able to show that based on the stream temperature and amount of sediment, FPA regulations are appropriate and working well for the landscape.”

A version of this story appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. Learn more about college research here

In FY 2017 and 2018, the College of Forestry and the TallWood Design Institute helped bring an exciting new engineered wood product to market: the mass plywood panel (MPP).

Freres Lumber Company of Lyons, Oregon, introduced the new-to-market, veneer-based product.

It’s something Tyler and Kyle Freres have been dreaming about since a 2015 trip to Austria.

“We visited a few facilities that were producing cross-laminated timber (CLT) really efficiently, and we felt we could achieve the same kind of product with veneer,” Freres says.

As soon as they returned to Lyons, they started gluing panels together. He says that working with Oregon State University has helped his company refine the product.

Arijit Sinha, associate professor of renewable materials at Oregon State, led the testing.

“During phase one testing, we helped Freres identify the layup pattern they wanted to use,” Sinha says. “And during phase two we tested an optimized layup at different thicknesses that they eventually took to market in 2018.”

Phase two included bending tests to characterize the strength and stiffness of the product. Later, connections,  performance acoustics characteristics, and shear wall application of the product will be tested.

MPP, like CLT, can be used as a substitute for traditional building materials.

The college is committed to working with industry partners like Freres to promote mass timber solutions.

“We are devoted to seeking out innovative partners like Freres Lumber and D.R. Johnson, who want to create sustainable solutions that improve our forest landscapes and ecosystems while also creating economic vitality,” says Interim Dean Anthony S. Davis. Freres says the advantages of MPP are that is uses 20-30 percent less wood than CLT; large format panels can be manufactured at the production facility to minimize waste and labor on job sites; and the light weight of the panels can help save on transportation costs and logistics during construction.

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

A version of this story appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry. Learn more about our renewable materials program here.