The Dean’s Dinner is a yearly celebration of our scholarship recipients, donors, and college community. With student recruitment and enrollment in the College of Forestry at an all-time high with over 1000 undergraduates and over 250 graduate students there was a lot to celebrate this year!

Dean Tom Deluca started the formal awards ceremony by recognizing professor emeritus Richard Waring for being the recipient of the 2020 International Marcus Wallenberg Prize for his work in developing a revolutionary computer model to predict forest growth in a changing climate.

Randy Rosenberger, Associate Dean for Student Engagement, acknowledged the work of the student clubs and organizations: Xi Sigma Pi, SAF Student Chapter, Forest Utilization Society, the Forestry Club, the Natural Resources Club, and the International Forestry Students Association. The College of Forestry Ambassadors help us recruit prospective students, represent college academic programs to legislators and key stakeholders, work with alumni groups, and represent the College at many on and off campus events. Randy recognized them for their service to the College, which is in addition to their outstanding academic performances, involvement in extracurricular activities, family responsibilities, jobs, and community connections.

The winner of the Pack Essay Award was ecampus student Duane Ackley, senior in natural resources. His essay was titled “Dying Mens’ Future”. The Photo of the Year award went to Kelly Lynne Burke, a natural resources student, for their picture titled “Patagonia Rainbows.” Each year the College of Forestry is honored and privileged to award graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships to deserving new and returning students.  These awards are made possible through the generous contributions and continued support from our scholarship and fellowship donors. The College of Forestry’s Scholarship Committee reviewed 316 applications, and 215 students were selected to receive scholarships scholarship offers totaling $774,250 for the 2022-2023 academic year.  The students who were able to attend came up in small groups for congratulations with the Dean, pictured below.

At the virtual 2022 Oregon Society of American Foresters (OSAF) Annual Meeting on April 28, 2022, Jacob Putney received the Forester of the Year Award. This award is given annually to the OSAF member who has been recognized by his or her peers for contributing to both the profession and the public through application of his or her professional skills to the advancement of forestry in Oregon and through public service that benefits his community or some larger segment of society. 

“Although Jacob is new to his position in the OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension program, he clearly has already stepped up as a leader and collaborator, helping coordinate programs to best meet the needs of the community,” says Lauren Grand, the forestry and natural resources extension agent for Lane County. “He is the team leader for a carbon publication, has hosted numerous podcasts on forest management, and is one of the lead organizers of Tree School Eastern Oregon and Life on the Dry Side.”

A graduate of Oregon State University, Putney is an active OSAF member, serving as secretary and chapter chair for the Blue Mountain Chapter, delegate-at-large for OSAF in 2021, general chair for the 2021 OSAF Annual Meeting, program chair for the OSAF 2022 meeting and is OSAF chair-elect for 2023. He is also on the SAF National Quiz Bowl Committee member.

Additionally, Putney is an associate member of Oregon Small Woodlands Association, secretary for the Northeast Oregon OSWA Chapter, and has been instrumental in reviving, restructuring, and revitalizing the Baker OSWA Chapter. He is an inspector for the American Tree Farm System and co-chair for the Baker Resources Coalition. He participates in several collaboratives including the Blue Mountain Forest Partners, Northern Blues Forest Collaborative and ‘My Blue Mountains Woodland’ partnership. Not to waste a spare moment, Putney is also a volunteer firefighter for the Baker Rural Fire Protection District.

OSAF and its 15 local chapters represent all segments the forestry profession within the state. The society includes public and private practitioners, researchers, administrators, educators, and forestry students. Its mission is to advance the science, education, technology, and practice of forestry; to enhance the competency of its members; to establish professional excellence; and to use the knowledge, skills, and conservation ethics of the profession to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems and the present and future availability of forest resources to benefit society.

Hannah Proffitt has received the Oregon State University (OSU) Outstanding Student Award from the Oregon Society of American Foresters (OSAF). Proffitt accepted the award at the virtual 2022 OSAF Annual Meeting on April 28, 2022.

The OSU Outstanding Student Award is to be presented annually to an Oregon State University forestry student who is a member of the Society of American Foresters; participates regularly in OSU SAF activities, including a leadership role of some kind; represents the OSU SAF Student Chapter at state or national SAF gatherings; and who demonstrates good academic standing, good citizenship, and excellence in extracurricular and professional work activities. 

Proffitt is a graduating senior in the College of Forestry who has been active in the student chapter throughout her academic career. She was part of the team that salvaged the remainder of the Christmas Tree Farm and has led the efforts out there for two years, even through COVID. In addition to being a solid student, Proffitt has worked for the College Forests and stays involved with university functions like the Career Fair.

John Bailey, a professor in the department of forest engineering, resources & management at OSU who nominated Proffitt, shared, “During a recent maintenance work party weekend on the Christmas Tree Farm, I worked with Hannah mowing for a couple of hours along with another student. Her commitment and energy are infectious even in these odd times.”

In recognition of Proffitt’s award, a donation was made in her name to the OSU Student Chapter.

OSAF and its 15 local chapters represent all segments the forestry profession within the state. The society includes public and private practitioners, researchers, administrators, educators, and forestry students. Its mission is to advance the science, education, technology, and practice of forestry; to enhance the competency of its members; to establish professional excellence; and to use the knowledge, skills, and conservation ethics of the profession to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems and the present and future availability of forest resources to benefit society.

After a two-year Covid-19 hiatus, OSU relaunched 11 faculty-led programs abroad and 5 were from College of Forestry! One group of 15 students traveled to the Aysén Region of Chile, part of Northern Patagonia.

Associate professor Carlos Gonzales-Benecke and Ph.D. student Claudio Guevara from the department of forest engineering, resources and management, along with assistant professor Daniel Soto of the Universidad de Aysen in Coyhaique, Chile, led the program that explored the diverse forests and dramatic landscapes of the area. Chilean newspaper El Divisadero featured the trip, interviewed the students, and shot a documentary.

Bri Rose participated in the trip and loved learning about the native species of Chile. Her advice? “As a student, there are many scholarships and grants to apply for that will help cover travel expenses. So, my advice is to go. Apply for those trips. Leave the country. Get out of your comfort zone and see the world, you will grow so much as person.”

Next up? Borneo, Italy and New Zealand. The College of Forestry International Programs office offers study and internship programs from the biodiverse rainforests of Borneo to state-of-the-art wood manufacturing facilities in the Austrian Alps, and frequently host interns and exchange students from around the world.

On April 27, 2022, Beavers everywhere came together for Dam Proud Day, a 24-hour online event dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of the Oregon State University community. As part of this event, we raised over $72,000 for College of Forestry scholarships, which help ensure all of our students can afford this world-renowned education.

The amount raised is equivalent to over 23 additional scholarships for College of Forestry students. For many students, scholarships are life-changing, and financial gifts of all sizes can help. For example, $120 in scholarship support is equal to more than 10 hours of work at $12/hour – that’s 10 more hours a student can use to study or to participate in professional organizations, leadership training or other opportunities, making the most of their time at Oregon State.

Thank you to the 81 generous donors who gave anywhere from $5 to $25,000!

No one loves mushrooms as much as Ray Van Court loves mushrooms.

Their favorite food? Matsutake mushrooms. Their favorite hobby? Mushroom hunting. Their favorite time of the year? Mushroom season.

In fact, Van Court loves mushrooms so much they quit their corporate job to pursue ways to make the world a better place through fungi.

As a PhD candidate in wood science and graduate research assistant, Van Court is working on a project with assistant professor of forest-based bio-products Gerald Presley. Together, they use ectomycorrhizal fungi to bioremediate heavy metal-treated wood waste.

“Preservatives are critical to retaining the structural integrity of wood, but disposal of treated wood is problematic,” Van Court says. “Wood treated with metals including arsenic and copper is disposed of in landfills, often unlined, where these toxic metals can move into the environment. Preventing the migration of these metals, and potentially recovering them, could reduce the ecological impact of these contaminants.”

Certain species of ectomycorrhizal fungi are known to tolerate high metal environments, and initial work has shown that they may reduce metal toxicity. These mechanisms include binding them, transporting them, and producing compounds that stabilize the metals. Introducing fungi particularly adept at immobilizing metals in contaminated sites could reduce the environmental impact of toxic metal migration. The resulting retention of bound metals may also allow for reclamation.

This, says Van Court, represents a long-term solution to the problem of treated wood waste with little required inputs – all ectomycorrhizal fungi need is trees to associate with.

To test this idea, Van Court and Presley are performing a multi-stage lab experiment, screening 20 different species of ectomycorrhizal fungi in plate culture against three toxic metals.

“This screening will identify which species best tolerate and uptake metals used in wood preservatives and is an enormous increase in species and metals compared to previous research,” says Van Court.

In the second stage of the research, trees will be inoculated with the best performing fungi and planted in heavy metal-treated mesocosms, controlled containers that replicate natural environments. Trees and fungi will grow together in the metal contaminated system for a few months, after which their effect on metal will be measured. This initial work will test the effectiveness of the fungal system and pave the way for future field research.

While doing the research, Van Court was surprised by the scarcity of technologies related to ectomycorrhizal fungi and the limited knowledge on fungi growth. The fungi are usually in symbiosis with trees and for many species very little is known regarding how to replicate what the tree or other organisms in the ecosystem typically provide to the fungus.

“Admittedly, they are much harder to grow and maintain than decay fungi, but they represent a lot of untapped potential,” Van Court says. “As all kinds of products – from medicines to packaging material – have come from decay fungi, what new sustainable products might come from ectomycorrhizal ones? With new analytical and genetic tools, I think we are poised to learn much more about these fungi, and I am excited to see where this research and other projects can go.”

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

Nathan Vega, an undergraduate student double majoring in renewable materials and forestry, has always had an interest in the fields of renewable energy and forest-based bioenergy.

“I am especially interested in biochar for its potential to help with wildfire prevention, energy production and agricultural management,” Vega says.

Biochar is a carbon-rich, charcoal-like substance made by burning organic material, like agricultural or forestry waste, at low oxygen levels in a process called pyrolysis. Biochar can be used as a soil enhancer or as a way to sequester carbon. The energy or heat created during the conversion can also be captured and used as clean energy.

“Biochar is part of something called the circular economy,” Vega says. “And the foundation of this economy is a transition to renewable energy and materials.”

An alternative to the traditional linear economy, the circular economy is restorative or regenerative by design. It seeks to reduce waste and material use, recover resources at the end of a product’s life, and channel them back into production, significantly reducing pressure on the environment.

Vega jumped at an opportunity to work within the circular economy, assisting Scott Leavengood, director of Oregon Wood Innovation Center, in testing Portland, Oregon, based Sankofa Lumber’s new line of panel products known as “SecondStory.”

“SecondStory” panels are unique in that they are composed of reclaimed structural building materials, including lumber, oriented strand board (OSB) and plywood. Sankofa refers to these panels as architectural surfaces and advises using them for purposes like flooring, casework and wall cladding. “SecondStory” panels are currently installed in the Oregon State women’s gymnastics facility locker room.

Leavengood and Vega tested the panels to determine qualities like hardness, bond and bending strength and moisture performance. They measured the panels’ performance based on comparable products like
particleboard, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and hardwood plywood. The Cascadia CleanTech Accelerator, powered by VertueLab and CleanTech Alliance, funded the testing.

“For entrepreneurs working with any kind of new material or new product, the first question they always get from potential customers is ‘what’s it like?’ or in other words, how does the product compare to what’s on the market now?’ says Leavengood. “We were able to help Sankofa Lumber answer these questions since Nathan put the product through a workout.”

Bond strength is critical for composite products. Leavengood and Vega found the strength excellent even after products were exposed to high humidity and water submersion for several days.

Focusing on his classes and assisting Leavengood with his research projects provided Vega with support and something to focus on during the pandemic.

“Everyone at the College of Forestry was very welcoming and friendly,” Vega says, “Plus, this job was a great part of the last year-and-a-half as it let me get out of the house and listen to music while I did the experiments.”

Vega is a recipient of the Friends of Renewable Materials Seneca Scholarship, Powers Scholarship, and Presidential Scholarship from the College of Forestry. He said receiving the scholarships has been essential to ensuring his success at Oregon State.

“These scholarships have allowed me to pursue my education without distraction or worry,” Vega says. “It’s been such a relief to find that I am so supported.”

When Vega is not studying, he likes to spend his free time reading, gardening, cooking, listening to music, hiking and playing the drums. He also likes to spend his time with his friends and family and he recently joined the college’s logging sports team.

After graduation, Vega wants to work in bioenergy, specifically biochar production from forest biomass as a carbon-negative energy source.

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

Christopher Still, a professor at the Oregon State University College of Forestry, studies forest ecology and the physiology of trees. His research spans from a singular leaf on a tree to entire ecosystems. He also studies carbon cycling and forest-climate interactions.

So, when the temperatures rose to unprecedented levels in the summer of 2021 and a heat dome descended upon Oregon, Still knew the scorching heat and intense energy from the sun would stress the trees, scorch the foliage and impact Oregon’s forests. Especially after two years of state-wide drought. But at what scale? And what would that mean for the long-term health of the trees?

“The ‘heat dome’ led to numerous reports of foliage scorch and leaf drop in westside forests of the Coast Range and Cascades,” Still said. “Western hemlock and western red cedar seemed to be impacted the most, but Douglas-fir and various alders and maples were affected, too. Notably, trees and saplings with direct solar exposure and on south-facing slopes seemed to suffer the worst foliage scorch.”

With help from citizen scientists, researchers like Still spent months documenting the heat dome’s effects on Oregon’s trees. Using a website created by the Oregon Department of Forestry, community members and researchers reported their observations to map and analyze the foliage scorch.

Still then organized a symposium to share information and begin piecing together what the heat dome event might mean for the long-term health of trees.

“Researchers do not know what the near- and long-term physiological causes and consequences of foliage scorch and heat stress will be, at either leaf or tree scales. The impacts could range from impaired metabolism on surviving leaves, to reduced stem diameter growth, to eventual tree mortality,” Still says.

The symposium served as a central place for tree experts like foresters, silviculturists and botanists to meet and discuss their findings and plan for the next steps to monitor the impacts of the heat dome.

“I think there are many challenges for forest management. The challenges range from trying to help forests become more resilient to climate change impacts, to working on assisted migration and planting of new genotypes and identifying species that can better handle a warmer and drier climate in the future,” Still says.

Still says we should expect more intense heatwaves in the future, and we should all work urgently to lower our carbon footprint to mitigate future climate change.

However, he said the data shows there is much to learn about heat stress physiology and how different genotypes, species and forest types will respond to future heat and drought extremes.

“I think the scale of the impacts – both the spatial scale and the range of species and forest types affected – was surprising. I think the resilience shown by some species and forests was also a pleasant surprise,” Still says.

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

Swiss needle cast, a foliage disease specific to Douglas-fir resulting in needle loss and reduced growth, is perhaps the most well-studied foliage disease globally. Knowledge about this disease, caused by the native pathogenic fungus Nothophaeocryptopus gaeumannii, is used to study other foliage diseases worldwide.

This is due to the influence of the Swiss Needle Cast Cooperative at Oregon State University. “Since 1996, the cooperative has been focused on research and management of Douglas-fir in zones where Swiss needle cast occurs,” says professor and forest health specialist Dave Shaw, the current director of the cooperative.

Now, a quarter of a century later, the cooperative has published an article in the Journal of Forestry, summarizing their current understanding of Swiss needle cast based on twenty-five years of research.

Swiss needle cast, considered one of the top threats to Douglas-fir plantation health and productivity in western Oregon, Washington and SW British Columbia, was first identified on Douglas-fir growing in Switzerland in the early 20th century. Forest pathologists in North America found the fungus was common in native Douglas-fir stands but was not causing problems.

The disease emerged in Christmas tree plantations in Washington and Oregon in the 1970s, and by the 1990s, it had intensified in coastal Oregon and Washington Douglas-fir plantations. In January 1997, in response to the disease epidemic, the Swiss Needle Cast Cooperative was formed by private forest landowners, federal and state agencies, and the Oregon State University College of Forestry to conduct research and address management practices.

“The more we learn, the better we will be able to sustain the productivity of our forests,” Shaw says. “However, this is a native disease that has a role here in the PNW, and we have some ability to manage forests effectively in the presence of the disease.”

Swiss needle cast symptoms include chlorotic, yellowish foliage, low needle retention, thin crowns and reduced tree growth. The fungus occurs wherever its only host, Douglas-fir, is grown. Disease, however, is only expressed when the fungus causes significant defoliation of two and three-year-old needles.

This, says Shaw, is an essential point for managers. The fungus may be present and yet have no effect on Douglas-fir productivity.

The fungus lives inside the needles of Douglas-fir. It only impacts needle function when fungal fruiting bodies called pseudothecia emerge into and plug the stomates, or air pores, on the underside of the needle, blocking gas exchange. When too many stomates on a needle get plugged, the needle dies and is cast, or dropped, from the branchlet.

Pseudothecia on two year foliage.

Even after twenty-five years of research, Shaw says the science can still be surprising.

“We recently found that Swiss needle cast is distinctly a young tree disease, and older stands, except in extreme examples, are not as affected. There is something unique about young stands that makes the disease more prevalent,” Shaw says. This work was based on collaborations between graduate student Sky Lan, Shaw, and scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency who climbed mature and old-growth trees over two hundred feet tall to get samples and measure microclimate.

While Shaw and others do not yet know why this disease affects younger trees more often, they hypothesize the difference may be due to temperature dynamics within the canopy.

According to Shaw and Gabriela Ritokova, the associate director of the cooperative and a forest pathologist with the Oregon Department of Forestry, the management of Swiss needle cast is nuanced and site-specific. A “Guide to the Silviculture of Swiss Needle” is available on the Swiss Needle Cast Cooperative website.

Shaw explains that future challenges include understanding how climate change will influence the disease.

“Epidemiology-wise, winter temperature, and late spring-summer leaf wetness control disease,” Shaw says. “As we continue to increase winter warming, we may see the disease spread from the core areas now impacted to higher elevations and the western Cascades.“

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

The amount of carbon stored in soils is about three times that in living plants and double that in the atmosphere.

But, we often overlook soils’ powerful ability to store carbon.

“Concern about rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations has heightened interest in the role that forests play in carbon sequestration, storage and cycling,” says Jeff Hatten, associate professor of soil science and head of the forest engineering, resources and management department at the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “Living trees sequester and store carbon, but we give less recognition to soils’ role.”

But what happens to the soil’s carbon levels after forest harvests?

According to published research by OSU and Weyerhaeuser Company, conventional timber harvesting has no effect on carbon levels in the mineral soils of the western Pacific Northwest for at least three-and-a-half years after harvest.

Historic in its scope, a collaborative and long-term effort between Hatten and Scott Holub of Weyerhaeuser monitored nine managed Douglas-fir forest stands in Oregon and Washington before and after traditional timber harvest and replanting, analyzing more than 50,000 soil samples from 2700 sample points.

“Our original hypothesis that timber harvesting would decrease soil carbon in the short term was disproven,” Hatten says. “Even where you have the highest soil temperatures and the highest soil moistures – the strongest environment for decomposition that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – harvesting doesn’t seem to have an impact in the areas we studied.”

Across all the sites combined, after harvest, the scientists found little change (+2%) in mineral soil carbon content and a 184% hike in forest floor carbon, the result of harvest residue.

“We should not overlook the importance of the 184% increase in forest floor carbon,” says Katherine McCool, a master’s student in Hatten’s lab who is researching forest soil and watershed processes. “We can expect this increase because the branches, needles and bark that fall to the ground as harvest residue, in addition to the dead roots and stumps from harvested trees, will provide much of the future carbon that will infiltrate into the soil.”

The study, the most extensive sampling ever conducted to determine if harvesting has an impact on soil carbon, is essential because of soil’s ability to store carbon to mitigate and prevent increased greenhouse
gases and maintain a stable carbon balance in the soil for sustainable forest management.

“Soil carbon also is useful in establishing a suitable microbiome for plant and fungal growth,” says McCool. “Without ample soil carbon, new seedlings in post-disturbance areas will not be able to grow.”

Hatten had plans to resample these research sites in coming years and decades to look at the longer-term impacts. Then the 2020 Holiday Farm fire occurred, tearing through some of the research sites near Eugene, Oregon, and dramatically altering the forest landscape. The research continues, but now Hatten and McCool are also studying the role and effect of fire on soil carbon dynamics, examining one of the nine research sites which burned and assessing how soil changes after a severe wildfire in a harvested stand.

“The existence of this preestablished soil carbon site provides an excellent opportunity to study the difference between pre- and post-fire soil carbon, which is often hard to come by due to the spontaneity of wildfire,” says McCool.

Hatten and McCool found a 97% decrease in forest floor carbon within the research site, which equates to 14-times less forest floor carbon than in the pre-harvest stand. The fire’s impact on the mineral soil carbon is still undetermined, but given that 90% of the soil’s carbon lies below the forest floor, the results will have big ramifications for the total carbon budget of the site.

“These initial results show that disturbances like fire can reduce carbon sequestration progress,” says McCool. “Therefore, management activities need to include a focus on fire-safe landscapes if we want to prioritize carbon containment.”

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.