Predicting near real-time post-fire debris flows along ODOT corridors.
Landslides can have major environmental, societal and economic impacts — and they often occur in conjunction with extreme events, like heavy precipitation, wildfires and earthquakes.
In mountainous, forested terrain across the West, like in Oregon, shallow landslides are a persistent hazard that can impact aquatic ecosystems and the structure of a forest. But despite the prevalence of this hazard, much remains unknown about the interplay between a landslide, the forest structure, and events like heavy rainfall and wildfires.
Richardson Chair in Forest Engineering, Resources and Management, Ben Leshchinsky is leading a team to learn more about landslides in forested environments — which will help provide new insights into how the dynamics of a forest and its vegetation affect the size and rate of landslides. This group is developing models to predict the susceptibility of future slides in mountainous, forested regions and evaluate the importance of forest vegetation on landslide size and rate. These efforts will provide insights into how vegetation may influence shallow landslides, particularly following wildfire.
The team is using climate monitoring stations, remote sensing and field testing of burned and live roots across the Cascades to better understand how factors like slope vegetation influence the likelihood of landslides and debris flows, as well as the timing at which these hazards are critical. Understanding more about slope stability and susceptibility will also provide valuable insights into how extreme events like heavy rainfall might initiate slope failure — especially how forests and their associated root strength may control post-wildfire mass movements.
Oregon State University researchers are collaborating with many agencies on this project including the Oregon Department of Forestry, the United States Forest Service, the United States Geological Survey, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, and Oregon Department of Transportation.
Nearly a century of data provides knowledge for the future.
Since 1926, Oregon State University has conducted hundreds of studies across the College of Forestry’s 15,000 acres of research forests. These studies have contributed impactful solutions to the everyday and real-world challenges of sustainably managing forests for many uses.
Cat Carlisle who is pursuing a graduate degree in the Forest Engineering and Resource Management department, is adding her own study to the mix, examining the potential for Oregon’s forests to contribute to carbon storage and sequestration. Carlisle is analyzing the inventory of carbon stock in the McDonald and Dunn Forests — and projecting how different forest management strategies might shift carbon levels in the forests over the next 150 years.
“The hope is to find ways to use forest management to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequester it in biomass, to contribute to climate change mitigation. I hope this project sheds light on how to manage a sustainable working forest in a way that considers ecological factors like carbon stock, especially as the climate changes,” Carlisle explained.
Because Carlisle is conducting this work in the research forests, she was able to immediately jump in and access a wealth of existing data.
Edmund Hayes Professor in Silviculture Alternatives, Klaus Puettmann, manages a long-term research study in the McDonald-Dunn and facilitates opportunities for students to learn in the forests. His study investigates alternatives to clearcutting and examines whether features of mature and old-growth Douglas-fir forests could be retained through a variety of types of timber harvests. He is a staunch advocate for the research forests and their value as a long-term resource.
“The research forests offer examples of a wide range of forest conditions and hold great value for researchers and teachers who want to consider a multitude of forestry approaches,” Puettmann says, “We don’t have many examples of different silviculture treatments that are this close to campus and accessible to students.”
Puettman says one of the greatest benefits of performing his research project on the McDonald and Dunn research forests is the wealth of long-term data available. “Researchers and educators investigating various studies can potentially launch their project with the help of decades of data,” he said.
Denning, who graduated in 2022 from the College of Forestry with his bachelor’s degree in tourism, recreation and adventure leadership, with a double minor in natural resources and leadership, has been in a wheelchair since 2011, after a spinal injury when he was 15. With the guidance of his major professor Ashley D’Antonio, he focused his final capstone project on ways to make Peavy Arboretum more accessible to those with physical disabilities. That project launched him into a short-term position with the research forests.
“I believe there needs to be more people who are disabled making decisions about accessibility because we are the ones with the real-world experience and know what needs to change,” said Denning. “On many occasions, I have visited a local, state or national park that is deemed ‘accessible,’ when in fact, it is not.”
Accessibility, according to Denning, is “not a one-shoe-fits-all type of problem to address.”
“One of the greatest barriers or obstacles to accessibility is the lack of knowledge about the vast amounts of disabilities that exist,” said Denning.
His work in the research forests will include providing trail information to people with disabilities so they can be empowered to make the best and most informed decision for themselves about whether they can navigate the trail. Information like trail length, width, travel surface, grade, elevation gain, location of the steepest pitch, as well as trail conditions, will be posted on the research forest website.
As the research forest team and volunteers perform trail maintenance and work on new trails, Denning will provide input and guidance and review processes like entrance and gate accessibility.
“Most people don’t think of the research forest as a place for people with physical disabilities. But it needs to be,” said Stephen Fitzgerald, director of the Oregon State University Research Forests. “Peavy Arboretum has shorter trails with less elevational pitch that have the potential to be modified easily. Trevor had a plan, ideas, expertise and the lived experience to help us begin to make these changes.”
“Navigating a nondisabled world is tough,” said Denning. “Restaurants, grocery stores, bookstores, classrooms and housing are some of the many things that need to be made more accessible. The first step is having people who are disabled in a position to make these changes. For the longest time, I have wanted to be one of those people.”
And now he is. After his work in the research forests, Denning hopes to work for a federal agency such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service or the Army Corps of Engineers, helping give people with physical disabilities greater access to the outdoors.
When the State of Oregon needed to increase revenue for outdoor recreation facilities and maintenance, they turned to Oregon State University for answers to their questions and scientific data to help inform their decisions.
A study completed by Randy Rosenberger, professor and College of Forestry associate dean for student success, connected outdoor activities on trails to health savings by utilizing and recalibrating a tool called the Outdoor Recreation Health Impacts Estimator. The tool was initially developed to focus on transportation decisions (walking, cycling or using public transportation instead of driving) to estimate changes in life expectancy and quality of life.
The tool converts positive health effects into a monetary unit and even includes the cost of treating certain diseases and the loss of productivity illnesses cause.
The study became part of the 2019-2023 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).
“In my research, I quantify things that aren’t normally quantified,” Rosenberger says. “Things like recreation aren’t traded in markets with prices. They don’t have voices. This study gives them a voice and people are starting to realize that recreation is at the nexus of everything. It’s not just something we like to do if we have the time. It’s creating healthier communities and saving those same communities money on health services.”
Rosenberger replicated the study for the McDonald and Dunn Forests, two of the College Research Forests. The college owns more than 15,000 acres of working forests around the state utilized for research, outreach and education, with some open to the public for recreation. He found that recreation on the Research Forests saved $754,395 in cost of illness savings in 2017 alone. Private and public agencies can now use this data for planning, budgeting, assessment and grant applications.
The OSU Research Forests also serve as living laboratories and outdoor classrooms for OSU students, researchers, and generations of Oregonians, reimagining how people learn and relate to their natural resources and forest ecosystems. Over 145,000 annual visitors hike, bike, run and explore the trails of these working forests. All operations on the forests – including recreation and trails – are self-funded through timber harvests.
For OSU students, the Research Forests are an invaluable opportunity to experience hands-on education, where they can put the research and techniques they’re reading about in their textbooks into action. Whether it’s measuring precipitation, stream flow, or practicing timber harvesting skills, OSU students can learn the work by doing.
“I think this is the best time to be studying within the College because we are at such a turning point when it comes to how we are going to work with our forests,” says Allison Starkenburg, a recent graduate of the college’s natural resources program. “There’s an intersection between recreation and the constant new opportunities to learn and conduct research.”
OSU offers tours and demonstrations within the Research Forests and, in 2020, also launched the Forest Discovery Trail. This trail is dedicated to the memory of Dr. William Ferrell, the OSU College of Forestry’s first forest ecologist hired in 1955 who went on to study forest carbon capture and storage. His groundbreaking research paved the way for forest management as a climate change mitigation tool and continues to impact old-growth conservation. Dr. Ferrell’s family and friend made contributions to the Forest Discovery Program fund to support The Forest Discovery Trail and encourage students in grades K-5 to explore a wide range of forest concepts, including ecology, wildlife and the Indigenous history of the land.
The popular research forests had to temporarily close in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, staff quickly adapted and reopened in May 2020 with precautions and guidelines in place.
Though Rosenberger was able to quantify the monetary value of outdoor recreation’s impact on health savings, the impact of having these forests accessible to local communities in 2020 during a global pandemic felt immeasurable. The OSU research forests proudly served as a refuge for the community to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities, connect with nature and connect with each other.
By the Numbers Recreation Visits In 2017, the McDonald-Dunn College Research Forests saw 17,271 individual recreation visitors who accounted for more than 155,000 total visits.
Health Benefits Recreation visits to the McDonald and Dunn Forests resulted in $754,395 in cost of illness savings, or health benefits, associated with eight chronic illnesses; and accounted for 14 percent of the total health benefits estimated for all of Benton County ($5.4 million).
The OSU College of Forestry is leading an international effort to advance the technology needed to construct much taller, environmentally friendly buildings made primarily from wood. At the center of this effort is COF’s new state-of-the-art facility, the Oregon Forest Science Complex (OFSC).
Home to the College, the complex’s two newest buildings are primarily made and grown in Oregon. The new George W. Peavy Forest Science Center (PFSC) and the new A. A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory (AWP) highlight an entirely new way of thinking about building and design.
The buildings feature innovative materials and products throughout the 95,000-square feet of new space, from cross-laminated timber and mass plywood panels to Accoya wood cladding and View dynamic glass windows. The project highlights how mass timber and structural wood products building solutions can increase the value of Oregon’s natural resources and enhance our communities.
Thanks to the vision, support and work of former dean Thomas Maness, the leadership of former interim dean Anthony S. Davis, the State of Oregon, OSU Foundation and numerous donors, faculty, students, staff, and alumni, the complex provides a learning environment that is one of a kind.
“This building showcases how renewable materials can be used to create beautiful, innovative buildings that positively impact our education, research, and outreach work, reduce our carbon footprint and support the sustainable management of Oregon’s natural resources,” says Tom DeLuca, the Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry.
The complex features 20 classrooms and several computer rooms and laboratories, including the FERN Student Center and the Peavy Arboretum. In these spaces, faculty, students and researchers can participate in active learning and discovery while utilizing cutting-edge technology.
“This building is a product of collaboration and the leadership at OSU and the college. Students, faculty, donors, and partners all came together to create this wonderful space. This is what collaboration and consensus look like and highlights what we can accomplish together in the future,” says Destiny Pauls, a Natural Resources major.
Designed by Michael Green, a leading innovator in high-rise wood construction, the OFSC is an excellent example of how sustainably managed forests can create beautiful buildings out of wood and reduce the carbon footprint of new building construction while establishing a connection with outdoor landscapes.
Built in partnership with others, the building also demonstrates the power and impact of a shared vision of sustainability.
“To the donors and the industries that all came together, I just want to say thank you,” Pauls says. “We are going to show you what we can do with all of this together.”
By the Numbers Total Size: 95,000+ square feet
Project Funding: A public-private partnership that brought together four lead donors, gifts from more than 100 others and matching bonds from the State of Oregon
Incorporated Wood: Baltic birch, black walnut, Douglas-fir, juniper, maple, red alder, and white oak
AWP Specifics Opened: May 2019 Size: 15,000 square feet Constructed with: MPP Features: Structural testing bay, advanced wood products manufacturing bay, offices, meeting space
INNOVATIVE CONSTRUCTION The cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels that make up the sheer walls and the floors are Oregon Douglas-fir processed by D.R. Johnson Wood Innovations, LLC in Riddle, Oregon. Mass plywood panels (MPP), created by Freres Lumber Company, Inc. in Lyons, Oregon, are heavily utilized throughout the AWP and are used as the roof for the PFSC.
A LIVING LAB 381 sensors are installed throughout the PFSC and will monitor wood moisture content, indoor and outdoor weather conditions, heat transfer, long-term movement of walls and floors, tension in self-centering rods and building and floor vibrations.
LAND RECOGNITION Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, is located within the traditional homelands of the Mary’s River, or Ampinefu, Band of Kalapuya. Following the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855, Kalapuya people were forcibly removed to reservations in Western Oregon. Today, living descendants of these people are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians.
EDUCATIONAL SPACES Formal and informal classroom and lab spaces range from small capacity to large capacity, and will allow students to study all aspects of the forest landscape.
STRONG WALL A 60’-x-80’ foot strong wall and reaction floor system within the AWP facilitates testing of up to three-story wood structures. Oregon State and TDI researchers use the facility to conduct seismic tests, connection tests, loading tests and more.
During early September 2020, as fires erupted throughout Oregon, a powerful east wind drove a wildfire down the McKenzie River valley near Eugene. This fire, the Holiday Farm Fire, destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses and ultimately burned 173,000 acres of forest land, including approximately 400 acres of the lower part of the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. The fire displaced HJ Andrews staff, burned in sites over 450 years old and destroyed some critical research infrastructure and instruments.
“Even though Andrews staff were grieving the loss of their community, and in some cases, their homes, they demonstrated resilience. They responded to get instruments running and collecting data through a critical post-fire period,” said Katy Kavanagh, associate dean for research for the College of Forestry.
As Andrews Forest scientists coordinated efforts to use long-term monitoring and new measurements to understand the effects of the fire and track post-fire recovery, the wider community initiated an outpouring of giving, raising over $12,000 in two days to help displaced staff.
“The generosity of the Andrews community moved me to tears,” said USFS Science Liaison Cheryl Friesen, who lost her home in the fire.
“The kind words and generous donations mean so much to every employee impacted by this fire, thank you,” said Brenda Hamlow, the Andrews Forest site manager.
The efforts to protect Andrews forest and support the displaced and affected staff was a community effort. Over the years, the work to strengthen relationships between the Andrews Forest, the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the US Forest Service and the Willamette National Forest facilitated a rapid response and an understanding of the resources at risk.
Coordination between Willamette National Forest firefighters and Andrews Forest staff concerning fire suppression and containment activities was essential in protecting research installations and managing safety issues for fire crews. As efforts begin to repair the effects of the fire and fire suppression activities, Willamette National Forest personnel, some of whom were either evacuated from their homes or lost them entirely to the fire, are partnering with Andrews staff to perform this work.
“This is a deep and long-standing partnership; we are colleagues, friends, co-workers, the response was much like you would see from a family helping one another out in a time of tragedy,” said Michael Paul Nelson, the Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Renewable Resources and Lead Principal Investigator for the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest.
The College of Forestry also stepped in to help people affected by the Oregon wildfires. The college quickly organized a donation drive for displaced families and emergency responders, filling four large vehicles with food and shelter items. The donations were distributed to Linn and Benton county evacuation shelters, and firefighter items were taken to the Oregon Department of Forestry in Sweet Home.
The Governor’s State Employees Food Drive at Oregon State University has a long tradition of success. Every year during the month of February, the University comes together and plans a wide variety of food and fund-raising activities to help the hungry. Proceeds from the Corvallis campus benefit the non-profit agencies served in Linn-Benton Food Share. These agencies include local food pantries, the OSU food pantry, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, day care centers, shelter homes and gleaning groups in Linn and Benton counties.
To support the university wide food drive, the College of Forestry raises money in partnership with staff, students and faculty through bake sales, weekly soup lunches, donations, payroll contributions, raffles and other events.
Due to the efforts of our generous and enthusiastic supporters, the college once again received the Top Banana award in 2019 and 2020. The Top Banana is awarded to the college or unit that contributes the most money during the annual food drive. Since it’s difficult to ensure food donations are fresh and not expired, the college focuses on raising money for Linn Benton Food Share. For every dollar raised, the Food Share is able to provide three meals for community members in need. In 2019, the college raised $14,876, the equivalent of 44,628 individual meals. In 2020, the college successfully raised $15,314, the equivalent of 45,942 individual meals. As an added bonus, our friends at Stahlbush Island Farms donated 15,600 pounds of canned food to the Food Bank on our behalf.
“The food drive effort is personally important to me. Not so many years ago I was a single mom of three kids with little income,” said Jessica Fitzmorris, outreach and administrative manager at the college and co-chair of the college Food Drive Committee. “Food insecurity in my life was a real problem and it was programs like the food bank that made it possible for me to provide enough food for my family. I’m extremely proud to be a part of the college’s efforts each year to raise so much money for community members in need.”
Terralyn Vandetta, director of forestry computing resources for the college and co-chair of the college Food Drive Committee has actively volunteered on the Food Drive Committee for over 20 years. She attended her first Food Drive meeting in 1999 after joining the Forest Science Department as a way to get more involved with the college. The rest, according to Vandetta, is history. “While the people have changed over the years, the College of Forestry’s commitment to community has never wavered. I am so proud to be a part of this community that helps to ensure that everybody eats,” Vandetta said.
Special Thanks 2020 Food Drive Committee Madison Dudley, Chelsey Durling, Christina Fierro, Jessica Fitzmorris (co-chair), Lindsay Golly, Michelle Greene, Angela Haney, Allison Starkenburg, Faith Sully, Juliet Sutton, Terralyn Vandetta (co-chair), Sharon Whalen and Adrienne Wonhof
Transforming commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion into action The College of Forestry focuses on creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where staff and students, regardless of race, culture, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation are valued, supported and know they belong.
“We want to support and facilitate increased participation in DEI learning and action among the College of Forestry faculty, staff and students,” saysTom DeLuca, Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the OSU College of Forestry. “By increasing awareness of how many among us participate in and gain influence from systems of privilege and oppression, we can be better equipped to counter these systems and create a more diverse, equitable and welcoming community in our college, university and nation.”
Responding to the events of the past few years, including the murder of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, the College of Forestry has made a strong commitment to building awareness and breaking down the barriers that oppress and suppress Black, Indigenous and other people of color within our country, the college and the broader fields of natural resources and forestry.
In the Fall of 2019, the college restructured the DEI committee into a seven-member workgroup to advance the actions in the DEI strategic plan and provide learning opportunities for the entire college. The college also established three taskforces to address curriculum and pedagogy, community building and inclusion, and recruitment and retention. Now, in addition to the college leadership team, 25 people are actively involved in achieving shared DEI goals. Led by Michele Justice, DEI Workgroup Lead, they have coordinated numerous events for college stakeholders to expand knowledge and change the college’s institutional culture.
Sampling of DEI accomplishments AND IMPACTS • In June 2020, Bill Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology and Richardson Chair, generously funded the purchase of an anti-racist book for any staff member who requested one and distributed over 125 books. The college also launched a Commitment to Change scholarship, providing funds for DEI-related professional growth activities for all employees and graduate students.
• Michelle Maller, WSE internship and education coordinator, helped create “Breaking the Grain,” a women’s group designed to encourage networking and mentoring for females working in the forest products industry in the Pacific Northwest. Members meet quarterly for discussion and interaction with students from the Wood Science and Engineering program.
• The College of Forestry established new relationships with Hampton, Florida A&M and Tuskegee (all Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Kootenai Salish College as part of a submission to USDA’s Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) for a Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates Fellowships programs.
• The college designed and positioned outside the Dean’s office in the George W. Peavy Forest Science Center a statement acknowledging that the land currently occupied by OSU is the traditional homeland of the Kalapuya.
• Faculty have been working to incorporate DEI in meaningful ways into classes and mentoring. Associate professor Meg Krawchuk included a new syllabus statement on pronouns and an open discussion of pronoun use with her classes on the first day. Assistant professor Ashley D’Antonio and Troy Hall, professor and Forest Ecosystems and Society Department head, hosted joint lab group discussions around diverse perspectives, such as the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
• Assistant professor Reem Hajjardeveloped modules on decolonizing methodologies for her research methods class.
• Every request for proposal issued by the College of Forestry Research Office for internally-funded projects now requires a description of how the project addresses equity and inclusion of diverse perspectives.
• The Research Forests faculty, staff and student team developed and engaged in informal pieces of training focused on understanding Oregon’s history of racism, white privilege and implicit bias. The training focused on what they can do as land managers, teachers, and students to advance the representation of BIPOC in outdoor recreation.
Student Groups & Organizations • College of Forestry ambassadors participated in the Equal Opportunity and Access responsible employee training program, the Social Change Workshop with Community Engagement and Leadership, and helped with the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Bridge program.
• The Traditional Ecological Knowledge Club (TEKC) was formally established in Spring 2020 and hosts events to educate student peers and the wider community on Indigenous ways of understanding the natural world.
Student Recruitment & Admissions • International students bring diversity to the College of Forestry, comprising more than 30% of the college’s graduate student population.
• Female students now represent 39 percent of the college undergraduate student population while underrepresented minorities (self-reported) make up 12 percent of the student body. Over the past five years, enrollment of female students is up 49 percent, while enrollment of underrepresented minorities is up 30 percent.
• 10 percent of COF students are Veterans or military-connected (compared to 3 percent of OSU’s student population), and 32 percent self-identify as the first in their families to attend college (compared to 24 percent of OSU’s student population).
The College of Forestry is committed to addressing personal and systemic forms of privilege and oppression, adopting anti-racist practices and engaging in teaching, learning and research that supports the eradication of racism and the pursuit of equity in higher education and the field of natural resources.
To engage students in this important work,Eric Jones, a faculty instructor with Ecampus, created a course called Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Natural Resource Management for students enrolled in the Master of Natural Resources program (MNR). The College of Forestry’s MNR program, offered through Ecampus, is consistently recognized as one of the top natural resources programs in the country and provides a platform for equity in higher education, serving a non-traditional student demographic who often have additional commitments, such as family obligations, job responsibilities and financial constraints.
Jones’ course examined the systemic dynamics of historical inequality and power differentials in natural resource management. It covered concepts like implicit bias, structural racism, assimilation, cultural competency, intersectionality, agency and social justice.
Jones’ goal with the course was to help students understand how the many different pieces that encompass DEI can be brought together in a cohesive framework to analyze real-world problems and recommend solutions that support the principles of DEI. Jones also wanted students to recognize and challenge their own cultural biases and learn listening and facilitation techniques to identify, understand and manage diverse and conflicting views of individuals and groups.
“This class was full of amazing people,” Jones says, “and every participant came to the class already equipped with an understanding of pieces of DEI principles.”
Jones’ original plan was to co-develop and co-teach the course with a colleague that identifies as an underrepresented person. He began the initial planning stages with that colleague and then COVID-19 turned the world upside down, forcing him to scale back and create the first version of the course himself.
“However,” Jones says, “I do not want to be a gatekeeper that isn’t open to fresh perspectives and energy or somebody else teaching the course altogether.”
Jones explains that it wasn’t hard to identify critical topics essential to include within the course, but distilling their complexity and fitting them all together into a meaningful eleven-week term for students proved far more challenging and time-consuming than anticipated.
“For one, I had to be positive that how I understood issues reflected current scholarly thinking, so I did an extensive literature review and read more than I had since graduate school,” he explains. “I drew inspiration and courage from the never-ending headlines of hate, inequity, and injustice that characterized spring and summer 2020. I appreciated the positive public messaging and reassurance from OSU administrators, colleagues, and students during this time.”
Jones’ interests and professional experience helped him develop and teach the course. In 1997, Jones was a fellow in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Community-based Environmental Protection Program, which closely aligned with the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. In 1998, he co-founded and co-managed the now-retired Institute for Culture and Ecology for 13 years, which had the explicit mission of bringing social science to natural resource problem-solving.
“Analyzing systems of power, justice, and equity to protect and promote cultural diversity and inclusiveness were commonplace in our projects,” he says.
Jones had reservations about teaching this course online because the subject matter can be emotionally taxing. He places a premium on fostering discussion spaces where people feel safe and supported to express critical thinking and share experiences and was unsure if he could create that kind of environment online.
“I feel safer teaching these kinds of emotionally charged subjects on-campus, but I’m not sure that is justified,” Jones says. “I’ve come to learn over the years that some students thrive in the online environment. What I’ve found is that it is better for me to actively participate in the online discussions, letting students have space to interact with each other, but also for us to interact as a community.”
Jones was impressed with the thoughtful responses and high engagement from students.
“I wanted the class to feel that they could engage deeply with difficult and often tragic subject matter such as systemic racism, unethical science, and cultural appropriation and come out the other end feeling more hopeful and more empowered,” he explains.
“Did this happen? Based on the feedback I received, it seems participants generally felt hopeful and empowered, but while that is nice, what matters to me is what they do in the future. Lasting social change takes a long time. It is tough to measure the underlying catalysts, but I will say the students are extraordinary individuals. They give me great hope for a future where someday DEI principles are woven into the way people think, and societies work.” Learn more about DEI in the College of Forestry.
Often referred to as Oregon State University’s “front door” for outreach to the wood products industry, it’s only fitting that some of the work the Oregon Wood Innovation Center (OWIC) performs involves door testing.
OWIC, created in partnership with the OSU College of Forestry and Forestry and Natural Resources Extension and housed within OSU’s Department of Wood Science and Engineering (WSE), works to improve the competitiveness of Oregon’s wood products industry. OWIC accomplishes this goal by fostering innovation in products, processes and business systems through testing and technical assistance. It also serves as a “clearinghouse” to connect manufacturers to the research community and other organizations that assist businesses and facilitate networking within the forest industry.
“OWIC’s role is to connect people, ideas, and research,” says Scott Leavengood, professor and director of OWIC.
Some of the technical assistance and applied research OWIC performs includes helping firms with new product development and improving market opportunities for lesser-known wood species. The Center also hosts workshops, creates publications and provides experiential learning opportunities for students.
“For many industry professionals, their first contact with us, and in fact, with OSU, is through participation in a workshop,” Leavengood says. “And particularly for workshops on campus where participants see our facilities first-hand, many participants then follow up to request assistance with innovation in the form of product improvement or product development – things like ways to make their products stronger, more durable, more competitive, or their manufacturing processes more efficient.”
Much of the products tested within OWIC are non-structural wood products like doors, windows, cabinets and flooring. However, with the addition of the TallWood Design Institute (TDI), the combined efforts of OWIC and TDI also support computer-aided manufacturing, timber engineering and structural design.
Testing takes place in various locations on campus and one of the more popular resources in recent years has been the environmental conditioning chambers that test wood products’ performance in varying moisture levels, temperature extremes and levels of UV exposure. OWIC also runs tests to support product durability, strength and protection, including assessing insect and decay resistance.
Leavengood explains that when people visit OWIC, they often are impressed to see the wide range of product development and testing capabilities available.
“For example, we can explore the microscopic properties of wood, measure density profiles with x-ray, create products like composite panels and materials impregnated with chemicals,” Leavengood says. “We can densify products, and with TDI, we produce mass timber panels as well. And we can machine all these products and put them through a wide array of tests including measurement of strength properties, resistance to UV, insulation value, performance in temperature and humidity extremes, and durability.”
Some of the tests Leavengood has been involved with recently have focused on moisture performance, including coatings on structural panels, performance of a new line of exterior doors, testing additives for improving moisture resistance of particleboard, and testing moisture performance of new mass timber products. But he also works on collaborative, multi-stakeholder projects.
OWIC has a long history of working to foster an industry utilizing western juniper. In 2020, Business Oregon, via their High Impact Opportunities program, funded a collaborative effort between Sustainable Northwest and OWIC to explore opportunities for value-added products from juniper sawmill residues and non-merchantable timber. Tomas Pipiska, a post-doctoral scholar with WSE, conducted the work, sourcing materials from several juniper entrepreneurs, a start-up firm producing environmentally friendly wood adhesives and the State’s existing composite panel producers.
That kind of multi-institution collaboration is common for Leavengood and his work at OWIC.
A member of the OSU community since 1994 and director of OWIC since 2006, Leavengood is a mainstay in the wood products testing industry and has spent over 15 years with OWIC building trust and credibility. If a client wants a service that OWIC cannot provide in an efficient and cost-effective way, he will recommend another institution or place for them.
“A relationship that revolves around testing is based on trust. So, I am transparent and upfront with everyone about everything,” Leavengood says.
This means if the power goes out while testing wood products or if water leaks occur, Leavengood accounts for that. It also means if he knows a certain test or idea is already filled with pitfalls before the work even begins, he will let clients know.
“We have to maintain confidentiality at OWIC because the products we are working on are sometimes competitor products,” Leavengood explains. “But because we have built that trust, companies know that their products and technologies are safe with us.”