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,” says Tom 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 Hajjar developed 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).

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

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.

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

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.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

Whether you grow tomatoes or trees, the biological principles and techniques are similar. The only difference, according to Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke, an assistant professor of silviculture and director of the Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC) at Oregon State University, is the scope of the work.

Working together with associate director Maxwell Wightman, Gonzalez-Benecke manages a VMRC research program that focuses on forest regeneration, including seedling success, plant competition, vegetation control and early growth of forest stands. The goal of the VRMC is to design management systems that integrate the best available science with the practical needs of cooperative members to successfully establish Pacific Northwest forests.

Gonzalez-Benecke carries out much of his work in his greenhouse on campus. With the help of former interim dean Anthony S. Davis, Gonzalez-Benecke transformed the space when he arrived as director of the VRMC in 2015. The greenhouse is designed to ensure seedlings receive what they need to thrive, like water, nutrients and radiation, but is flexible enough to create different growth scenarios for seedlings.

“We wanted to be able to manipulate factors like water, nutrients and radiation in the greenhouse to see how they affected the seedlings,” he explains. “This is why we installed an extensive irrigation system, as well as fixed the roof which allows us to better adjust environmental conditions inside the greenhouse. We can provide more light, or provide a total blackout in certain sections of the greenhouse.”

Gonzalez-Benecke and his team nurture seedlings under various conditions to measure growth, resilience and the effects of different environmental scenarios. Then they turn their focus to tracking performance in the field, studying early seedling establishment and tracking the variables involved in each seedling’s growth pattern. Some of the seedlings Gonzalez-Benecke tracks are ones he has grown himself. Others, he receives from nurseries. The data is used to inform future forest regeneration research.

Another part of his work is in the lab, characterizing genotypes and examining characteristics like their resistance to cold and drought, which, according to Gonzalez-Benecke, is critical information to inform our present and future.

Gonzalez-Benecke also studies how to optimize herbicides for vegetation control, applying mathematical models and algorithms to understand treatment effects. Using a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, he studies how vegetation management treatments impact several aspects of forestry in the Pacific Northwest.

“Vegetation control is very site-specific, and each site has a specific climate, type of soil and varying amount and composition of competing vegetation. The question you ask yourself is: ‘how can I generalize and extrapolate data from each of these sites to inform results and understanding of other sites?’” Gonzalez-Benecke asks.

Studying the specific variables present at each vegetation site produces site-specific results and guidance. Then from those particular results, Gonzalez-Benecke creates a general model.

“It’s almost like a formula or template is produced so that, in the future, for each site, you can answer the specific question: What should I do and what will be the response?” Gonzalez-Benecke explains.

At times, Gonzalez-Benecke feels like a symphony conductor or a musician in the studio because by changing site quality, he can change the “tune” or “song” of the site.

“I can adjust the levers like playing a game or modulating a tune of music,” Gonzalez-Benecke explains. “I can ask how would doing one thing affect the song that’s played or the music that’s heard? What if, for example, we do nothing and just plant? What if we add water? What if we add fertilizer? And what does this all mean in a changing climate?”

The application of techniques and technology that VRMC employs is valuable for growing trees and managing vegetation. It is also vital for other ecological implications, like assisted migration – plants moving geographic location as the climate shifts – as it is deeply centered around the vulnerabilities and probabilities of risk and the biological reaction of responses.

When Gonzalez-Benecke arrived at OSU in 2015, there were twelve members in the cooperative. The VRMC now has seventeen members with additional companies, both large and small, expressing interest in joining.

“The growth in membership over the last few years expanded the area of influence of our research to more than 10 million acres of forests in the western United States,” Gonzalez-Benecke says.

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

When the devastating westside wildfires swept across Oregon over Labor Day, the Oregon State University Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program was ready to respond. The program, created earlier in the year, helps identify landscapes in highest need of strategic focus of resources to reduce wildfire risks and prepare and create fire-adapted infrastructure, communities and landscapes.

One of the program’s key objectives is education and outreach, and extension staff and regional fire specialists immediately provided resources and support to those affected by the Oregon fires.

“The extension fire program immediately pivoted to deliver resources and support to communities,” said Tom DeLuca, Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry. “The innovative, collaborative extension fire program improves our response to fire by leading with relationships and with preventative, proactive, site-specific responses.”

One reason the extension fire program staff members were able to meet community needs quickly is because of the program’s structure. The program’s regional fire specialists live in the communities in which they work, which means they’re uniquely equipped to address and support the concerns of their communities. It also means they are invested in protecting the community’s resources.

Led by fire program manager Carrie Berger, there are currently six regional fire specialists located in different areas of Oregon, including the Southwest, Central, Willamette Valley and the Cascades and the Southeast. The program also includes statewide fire specialist Daniel Leavell. Since Oregon is ecologically diverse, representation across the state is needed to address the different risks and strategies to reduce high severity wildfire. The regional fire specialists intimately understand the specific geographies, fire regimes and climates of their assigned locations, in addition to the social and ecological dimensions. The program plans to add two regional fire specialists in the future, bringing the total areas covered to six.

Tremendous work went into the placement of these regional fire specialists to live and work in strategic focus areas across the state. Multiple partners in Colleges across OSU utilized GIS to determine locations that were at the highest risk for catastrophic fire. The College of Forestry continues this GIS work to develop relative fire risk and situational assessments for each geographical area.

The extension fire program focuses a significant amount of effort on proactive measures, including educating communities, planning, and supporting fire-adapted infrastructure. One component of its educational outreach is developing and integrating fire science into Oregon’s K-12 curriculum. After the recent wildfires, the program proved it can also inform Oregonians on fire ecology and behavior, explain the different types of fire and forest management and provide an opportunity for people impacted by fires to connect.

The program, along with agency and organization partners, facilitated a virtual listening session to hear from those affected by the fires. Over 400 people attended the call to listen, learn and ask questions of staff and partners like the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Health Authority. In addition to obtaining information and resources for next steps, the call acted as a space for people to share their experiences and receive support.

After the listening session, the fire program hosted a series of post-fire recovery webinars, developed tools and educational materials for dealing with the effects of fire and conducted site visits to assist homeowners and landowners.

The recent and extreme fires highlight how the extension fire program can educate and prepare Oregonians and our diverse landscapes to be fire-adapted, resilient and support a safe and effective wildfire response.

“The fires that happened over Labor Day weekend were devastating. Many people lost everything in those fires,” Berger said. “We need to change the culture of fire and be more proactive, not reactive. The fire program will be part of Oregon’s wildfire solution.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

As fast-moving fires tore through Oregon’s forests and communities, causing widespread and destructive impacts, Oregon State University College of Forestry researchers quickly organized to support the state’s response. Faculty and staff worked with partners to produce proposals and share research to help inform future policy decisions and support a systems-based, collaborative approach to recovery.

“The impact to human lives and livelihoods has been tragic,” says Tom DeLuca, Oregon State University’s Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry. “As we plan recovery, it is clear that it is inadequate just to say ‘we will rebuild.’”

Instead, DeLuca continues, the post-fire recovery will best be met by a systems-based approach that integrates water resources, fire-adapted infrastructure, communities and landscapes, and education and adaptation all within the context of a changing climate.

“This approach,” DeLuca explains, “aims to improve the resilience of forests and communities well into the future.”

Though fire has always been a part of our western landscapes, more than a century of widespread fire suppression and land use changes in Oregon have altered fuels, vegetation, and historical fire regimes. The intersection of climate change, drought, extreme weather, natural fire regimes and the ever-expanding human footprint has created a complicated fire equation. Fire seasons are longer, drier and hotter due to climate impacts and increase our risk of destructive wildfire while disproportionately increasing the burden on vulnerable populations. While it’s understandable to want a simple solution to fire concerns, the fire equation is too complicated for one-size-fits-all answers. From ignition to suppression to geography, the variables are constantly shifting.

“Fire is truly a global change issue and there is no single fix that we can invest in for success,” says Meg Krawchuk, associate professor of fire and landscape ecology. “These solution portfolios need to be tailored to particular landscapes and geographies and include the important social and ecosystem dimensions relevant to each place.”

The College of Forestry is world-renowned for its fire-related research, including fire history and ecology, fuels treatment (thinning and prescribed fire), risk analyses, and social dimensions, like work in governance, social justice and equity, and public health. OSU’s world-class Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program is the critical link that distributes information beyond campus, helping communities become more fire-adapted.

Some of the ways the College of Forestry’s fire research work aides Oregonians includes:

• Advising state and federal leaders on appropriate fire policy, including expanding strategic use of commercial thinning, prescribed fires, and managed wildfire as forest management tools.

• Researching impacts on soil and water quality.

• Assisting in post-fire planting and planning, including addressing and discussing questions around seed availability and appropriate seed zones, assisted migration and climate mitigation and availability of seedlings.

• Working collaboratively with agencies and partners to conduct research on prescribed burning versus suppression approaches and initiate activities to improve forest health and keep communities safe.

• Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Indigenous burning practices with emerging research and fire science.

• Launching the Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program in early 2020. The program assists in identifying Oregon landscapes in the highest need of a strategic focus of resources to reduce wildfire and landscape health risks at a statewide scale. It also assists with implementing projects on the ground in priority landscapes and provides education and outreach.

• Assuming a leadership role while working across disciplines with other OSU colleges, including the College of Agricultural Sciences and College of Engineering to support wildfire response and recovery.

The research and expertise within the College of Forestry can contribute to recovery and adaptation, but will not be sufficient on its own. The effort requires integrating emerging research with contributions from the impacted communities who have on-the-ground, experience-based knowledge, professional skills, and insights to apply to the task.

“The forest, the interface and your house are all connected fuel. The future work will include all landowners: homeowners, neighborhood associations, communities, small woodland owners or families, forest industry, Tribes, states and federal partners – all doing their part within their mission to sustain their land,” says John Bailey, professor of silviculture, forest and fire health.

The college is committed to producing science and research that helps guide the way towards a more fire-adapted future.

“Beyond integrating the strategic use of fire and fuels management into a vision for a sustainable future informed by Traditional Ecological Knowledge, we must focus attention and investment on human development patterns and fire adapted housing and communities,” DeLuca says. “We must also pay special attention to issues of social justice, equity and public health. Working together to address these issues will not be easy, but the costs of inaction are too high.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

In a world infatuated with constant change, soundbites and breaking news every few minutes, a commitment to the long term can feel almost out of place.

But real change doesn’t happen overnight – it needs time, commitment and reflection. All of which exists at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, managed by Oregon State University in partnership with the US Forest Service. First established in 1948 as a US Forest Service Experimental Forest, the Andrews, as it’s affectionately known, is a 16,000-acre ecological research site east of Eugene in Oregon’s western Cascades Mountains. The research program is part of the LTER network and one of 28 sites funded by the National Science Foundation.

This kind of commitment to long-term research produces transformative, influential science that has global impacts. The forest and its research have impacted policy and science, yet it’s relatively unknown to the general public.

“Most people in Oregon have never heard of the Andrews Forest and related research. Yet, we can trace many of our current ideas about forestry – the role of dead wood in a system, important work on carbon sequestration, important work on hydrology – directly back to Andrews Forest research,” says Michael Paul Nelson, Ruth H. Spaniol Endowed Chair of Renewable Resources and Lead-Principal Investigator for the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest LTER program.

The work is critical, and at times, surprising. Nelson has nicknamed the exciting research done at the Andrews Forest ‘the ecology of surprise.’

“There are surprises about how complex our system is, but also how theory or observations elsewhere suggest one thing, and over time, we find quite another,” he says.

The breadth and depth of the research that’s present at the H.J. Andrews is impressive. Researchers throughout Oregon State University, across the state and worldwide conduct innovative, collaborative, multi-disciplinary research at the forest. It’s also a place where writers, artists and thought-leaders gather to reflect on the meaning and significance of the ancient forest ecosystem and its ever-evolving relationship to humans by studying ethics, arts, and humanities.

Even the leadership of the Andrews is unique. Instead of a biologist or an ecologist leading the work at Andrews, a philosopher is in charge. Nelson, professor of philosophy and environmental ethics in the College of Forestry, is one of only two non-biophysical scientists ever appointed to this leadership position in the history of the 28 long-term ecological research sites.

Reimagining forest research
In 1980, the HJ Andrews Forest was designated a LTER site by the NSF. Since its inception, it has received continuous NSF funding and in 2020, it received renewed NSF funding another six years.

“This is an amazing accomplishment as renewal is not guaranteed and several sites have been put on probation or lost funding,” says Katy Kavanagh, associate dean for research at the College of Forestry. “It’s indicative of the transformative science that can come from long-term research.”

Long-term research can give us insight into the future. However, as Nelson notes, nothing can predict the future. The Andrews Forest community was painfully reminded of this in September 2020 when fires erupted west of the Cascades burning over 400 acres of the lower part of the forest.

“The fire displaced our staff, burned a portion of the Andrews Forest, and is prompting our research imaginations in new ways,” Nelson says.

As a result, H.J. Andrews scientists are coordinating efforts to use long-term monitoring and new measurements to understand the effects of the fire and forest recovery. The fire is also encouraging scientists to ask more profound questions that are difficult to quantify. This study of fire, says Nelson, is a perfect example of the necessity of interdisciplinary research extending far beyond the sciences.

“Dramatic events like the fire provide us with an opportunity to exercise humility and use our imaginations to ask new questions, ultimately forging a new relationship with the world,” Nelson explains.

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

Oregon State University’s College of Forestry is the new home of a forensics lab that fights timber crime, a $1 billion annual problem for the United States’ forest products industry.

The Wood Identification and Screening Center was previously headquartered in Ashland as a partnership between the Forest Service International Programs office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory. Its move to Corvallis is the result of a $4 million, five-year grant from the United States Forest Service International Programs Office.

Scientists at the center use a specialized type of mass spectrometry for wood species identification to determine if a truckload of logs, a guitar, a dining room table or other wood products are what they are purported to be.

“We are thrilled WISC is here and eager to support their work to fight timber crime and identify illegal timber harvest and trade,” said Tom DeLuca, Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry. “The illegal timber trade devastates livelihoods and ecosystems in Oregon and other parts of the country and world.”

WISC’s relocation to Oregon State allows the center to expand its work through collaboration with the College of Forestry while maintaining the partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The new partnership with Oregon State will allow the center to expand its reference databases to help law enforcement confirm the species and origin of wood products.

As part of the center’s relocation to the college’s Richardson Hall, Beth Lebow, director of WISC for USFS International Programs, has moved to Corvallis. Two WISC scientists, Cady Lancaster and Kristen Finch, have also joined the College of Forestry faculty as assistant professors.

“Many people don’t realize the scale of global illegal logging and its massive economic and environmental impacts,” Lebow explained. “It deprives governments and the legitimate forestry sector of revenue, funds global criminal networks involved in horrible acts and human rights abuses, contributes to climate change and biodiversity loss, and deprives the world’s one billion forest dependent people of their resources and livelihoods. As wood forensic technologies and databases continue to improve, they can play an increasingly important role in identifying illegal wood in trade.”

Since the 2008 amendments to the Lacey Act, it’s been against federal law to import illegally obtained wood into the United States. Importers are required to declare the species and country of origin of the timber they bring into the country.

Wood identification technologies are needed to thwart importers who try to skirt the law by intentionally declaring the wrong species or the wrong place where the timber came from.

WISC uses a method known as direct analysis in real-time of flight mass spectrometry, abbreviated to DART TOFMS. Using just a sliver of wood, scientists can identify the genus and species in minutes.

Oregon companies will benefit from the expertise WISC offers as an added component to their Lacey Act due-diligence systems. WISC expertise will also support Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security and the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection System.

The center expects to become a training ground for scientists from universities, governments and other domestic and international partners.

“By being a service provider, trainer, and developer of wood ID methods that better meet law enforcement needs, WISC is helping the US and other countries use wood identification to verify the legality of wood products in trade,” Lebow said. “This ultimately helps combat global illegal logging and supports the viability and competitiveness of legitimate forest products.”

“WISC adds a critical new tool that we can employ to help Oregon’s forest products industry maintain global competitiveness,” said Eric Hansen, professor of forest products marketing and head of the College of Forestry’s Wood Science & Engineering Department. “The center also adds an exciting new element to our renewable materials bachelor’s degree program as students will have the opportunity to gain valuable work and research experience applicable to their future careers.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

Steve Strauss, Oregon State University distinguished professor of forest biotechnology, focuses his attention on genetic engineering and the modification of genes in trees used in plantation forestry and horticulture. He’s also Director of the GREAT TREES research cooperative, which researches genetic technology to make state-of-the-art advancements in basic methods for genetic modification of forest trees.

“GREAT stands for Genetic Research on Engineering and Advanced Transform­ation of Trees,” Strauss says. “Meaning how we can learn to efficiently modify or insert genes in the important, but often very biologically difficult, trees critical to the global forest industry.”

Most of the GREAT TREES members are major forestry companies worldwide that grow trees like eucalypts as significant pulp and energy sources.

Strauss’ goal is to create major advances in how genes are put into tree cells to modify or insert new functions, and then regenerate those cells into healthy trees with desired properties like pest resistance, better wood for specific purposes, or improved social acceptability. For example, trees that are improved for industrial uses but will not spread into wild populations should find wider acceptance.

“This work,” Strauss says, “requires a basic understanding of how plants naturally develop their embryos and shoots, and using that knowledge to help prod the cells to do what you want them to.”

Recently, Strauss’ published research from field trials at OSU that showed that poplar could be genetically modified to reduce negative impacts on air quality while leaving their growth virtually unchanged.

Poplars are fast-growing trees that are a source of biofuel and other products, including paper, pallets, plywood and furniture frames. These trees are also a significant isoprene producer, the critical component of natural rubber, and a pre-pollutant. Poplar and other trees, including oak, eucalyptus and conifers, produce isoprene in their leaves in response to climate stress, such as high temperatures. Increases in isoprene negatively affect regional air quality and lead to higher atmospheric aerosol production levels, more ozone in the air, and longer methane life. Ozone and methane are greenhouse gases, and ozone is a respiratory irritant.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are important because poplar plantations cover 9.4 million hectares globally – more than double the land used 15 years ago. A research collaboration led by scientists at the University of Arizona, the Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology in Germany, Portland State University and OSU participated in this work.

“As the world faces increasing challenges to keep forests productive and healthy given new pests and rapid climate change, companies are looking to all the technologies for help, and genetic modification is a big option,” Strauss says.

There are barriers to pursuing gene modification work, however. First, says Strauss, it is complicated and expensive work, which is where GREAT TREES research cooperative comes in. The second barrier is fear and distrust.

“The public has been educated to fear modern genetic modification across the board, so regulations and market restrictions are very stringent,” Strauss says. “In many cases, the restrictions are impossible obstacles for even the largest companies to deal with as common market restrictions exclude any possibility for research with genetically modified trees in their forests or products.”

One part of GREAT TREES’ work, albeit a small part, says Strauss, is to try and influence policy and regulations about genetic modification of trees and crops to make them much more science-based and research-friendly.

“If something is GMO, it’s guilty until proven safe in the minds of many and in our regulations today,” he says. “These technologies are new tools that require scientific research to evaluate and refine them on a case-by-case basis. Blanket exclusions go against international scientific consensus. We have a huge need for expanded production of sustainable and renewable forest products and ecological services, and biotechnologies can help meet that need.”

Over the past few years, Strauss has received around $4 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to develop new phenomic and genomic insights into genetic diversity in the capacity for regeneration of new shoots and roots in poplar. In short, phenomics means to take data on plant growth in a precise, rapid, and computer-assisted manner. Genomics is the same idea, but applied to large-scale determination of DNA sequences.

Working with professor Fuxin Li in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at OSU, Strauss and his team have created and submitted for publication a new annotation tool, using machine learning, to enable researchers to rapidly and precisely code images of plant material. These data are then used in machine vision models to estimate regeneration rates in thousands of samples used in genetic analysis. Work at this scale was previously not possible using existing techniques. So far, they have completed and edited machine vision-derived data for two regeneration experiments involving about 1,300 replicated genotypes each, and a third experiment is nearly complete and another one starting up.

“After years of work to develop and test our phenomic systems, then apply them to quantify regeneration rates in literally tens of thousands of stems and Petri dishes containing wild black cottonwood plants whose genomes were previously sequenced, we are poised to identify some of the major genes that affect the capacity for regeneration of shoots, roots and modified tissues from single cells,” Strauss says. “It will be an exciting next couple of years for our laboratory.”

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.

As Oregonians grow increasingly interested in learning about the source of their drinking water, they turn to the college’s forest soils and watershed hydrology research group to understand more about watershed processes and disturbances in our forested ecosystems and the effects forest management has on soils, and water quantity and quality.

The research group addresses essential questions like: What effects does forest harvesting have on stream flow or the soil’s ability to capture carbon? How do large wildfires affect water quantity, quality and aquatic ecosystem health? And how do forest management activities affect our drinking water?

Led by associate professor Catalina Segura, associate professor Kevin Bladon, assistant professor and extension specialist Jon Souder, and forest engineering, resources and management department head and associate professor Jeff Hatten, the research group provides knowledge that contributes to sustainable soil and water resources and supports informed forest management and policy decisions related to wildfire, salvage harvesting, and forest harvesting. It also helps support healthy, resilient forests and soils and helps ensure the communities that rely on them have access to clean drinking water.

Segura, who studies forest hydrology and fluvial geomorphology and received the prestigious National Science Foundation Career Award for her work, utilized data from the long-term Alsea Watershed Study in the Oregon Coast range to show summer streamflow in industrial tree plantations harvested on 40- to 50-year rotations was 50% lower than in century-old forests.

The research is an essential step toward understanding how intensively managed plantations might influence water supplies originating in forests and downstream aquatic ecosystems, especially as the planet becomes warmer and drier.

“Industrial plantation forestry is expanding around the globe, and that’s raising concerns about the long-term effects the plantations might be having on water, especially in dry years,” Segura said.

Together with other regional studies, the findings indicate that the magnitude of summer streamflow deficits is related to the proportion of watershed area in young (30- to 50-year-old) plantations. The findings also highlight the need for additional research and the value of long-term data.

Hatten, a soil scientist, conducted research in partnership with Weyerhaeuser Company that found conventional timber harvesting has no effect on carbon levels in the western Pacific Northwest’s mineral soils for at least 3 1/2 years after harvest.

The study is important because soils contain a large percentage of the total carbon in forests. Understanding soil carbon response to clear-cuts and other forest management practices is vital in determining carbon balance in any given stand and the overall landscape. Stable carbon levels in the ground mean less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Concern about rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations has heightened interest in the role that forests play in carbon sequestration, storage and cycling,” Hatten said. “Living trees sequester and store carbon, but less recognition has been given to soils’ role. We have plans to resample these sites in coming years and decades to look at the longer-term impacts.”

Bladon’s research focuses on the effects of wildfire and various post-fire forest management strategies on our water supply and aquatic ecosystem health. He explained that the effects of large, high severity wildfires on water quantity and quality could last for decades.

“Smaller, low severity fires can have positive outcomes for aquatic ecosystems,” Bladon said. “However, the larger fires, which we’ve seen more of in recent years, are the ones that cause us the most problems in terms of impacts on water.”

High severity fire can lead to increased annual streamflow, peak flows, and shifts in the timing of snowmelt to streams to earlier in the year. Additionally, large fires can raise stream temperatures, sediment, nutrients, and heavy metals in streams, negatively impacting aquatic ecosystems, recreational values, and drinking water sources.

Bladon and collaborators are currently developing a model of the Pacific Northwest to identify resilient or resistant streams to wildfire effects, which will enable informed prioritization of lands for active forest management.

Souder led the Trees to Tap project, a science-based summary of forest management’s impacts on community drinking water supplies, commissioned by The Oregon Forest Resource Institute (OFRI). Bladon, assistant professor Emily Jane Davis, assistant professor Bogdan Strimbu and Jeff Behan of the Institute of Natural Resources collaborated on this report.

Three hundred thirty-seven public water providers service almost 3.5 million Oregonians and rely on surface waters for some or all of their water supply. These providers may own their source water watersheds, but many do not. As a result, they have little control on activities occurring in their source watersheds, many of which are forested and managed by a diversity of owners. This report details the effects forest management has on these source watersheds and the future of Oregon’s drinking water.

“Oregonians value water produced from forests and rank water quality and quantity as primary concerns with forest management. Oregon’s extensive and diverse forests generally produce high-quality water and supply the majority of the state’s community water systems,” Souder said.

This story was part of the College of Forestry’s 2019-2020 Biennial Report.