As society continues to face growing climate and sustainability crises, the Oregon State University College of Forestry aims to create a better future through education, research and outreach programs that address the most pressing issues related to forest conservation and management. To advance that mission, Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of State Lands are working collaboratively to develop a vision for transforming Oregon’s famous Elliott State Forest into a publicly owned world-class research forest.

The Elliott is a critical oasis for several imperiled species such as the marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, elk and coho salmon. Twenty-two percent of Oregon wild salmon come from its streams and coastal old growth in the Elliott is prime nesting habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet.

“We look forward to furthering our work with the State Land Board, the Department of State Lands, Oregonians and stakeholders on the next steps to create a research forest plan that will provide benefits to all Oregonians,” said Tom DeLuca, the Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry. “From a scientific standpoint, the Elliott would provide OSU the ability to conduct large, landscape-level experiments that can endure time and be practical, relevant and collaborative.”

As an 80,000+ acre living laboratory, the Elliott will help the College of Forestry answer the fundamental question: What is the best landscape-scale approach to providing society with sustainable wood resources without compromising biodiversity, ecosystem functions, climate resilience and social benefits?

Located in Oregon’s coastal range near Reedsport, the Elliott is currently managed to benefit the Oregon Common School Fund.

In December 2018, the State Land Board requested that OSU, in partnership with the Oregon Department of State Lands, explore the Elliott’s potential transformation into a state research forest managed by OSU and the College of Forestry.

Since then, OSU has worked with Department of State Lands and a range of stakeholder groups and community members to develop a vision for turning the forest into a world-class research location while also benefitting important public values such as recreation, conservation and local economies.

The proposal, consistent with the Land Board vision for the forest, includes:
• Keeping the forest publicly owned with public access.
• Decoupling the forest from the Common School Fund, compensating the school fund for the forest and releasing the forest from its obligation to generate revenue for schools.
• Continuing habitat conservation planning to protect species and allow for harvest.
• Providing for multiple forest benefits, including recreation, education, and working forest research.

In December 2020, after receiving an update from OSU on the research forest plans and process, the Oregon State Land Board voted to continue evaluating how to transform the Elliott into a research forest.

“We are appreciative of the support Governor Kate Brown and the rest of the State Land Board have expressed for the College of Forestry’s research vision for the Elliott State Forest,” DeLuca said. “The Elliott provides a unique opportunity to conduct needed research that can address challenges and inform decisions that will help us sustain ecosystems and economies.”

Over the past two years, efforts have included the work of an OSU-led exploratory committee; extensive input from an advisory committee of stakeholders convened by the Department of State Lands; multiple public forums; and conversations with tribal governments, local governments, stakeholder groups and other interested Oregonians.

The university and the state will continue to engage with constituents to refine and develop details of the research forest concept. The planning will consider governance and financial issues that must be resolved before OSU would approve assuming management of the Elliott.

To learn more about the Elliott State Forest and the research forest exploratory process, visit the Department of State Lands and OSU websites.

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

Justin Ariah Fasana has always loved nature, especially the forests of the Pacific Northwest. As a natural resources major with an individualized specialty option in Indigenous environmental policy, he wants to do his part to protect the forests and the communities that rely on them.

“When I realized the importance of natural resources like timber and how communities like my hometown of Willamina rely on them, I knew that I wanted to do my part in making these resources accessible to those that need them the most,” Fasana said.

After graduation, his dream job would be to work in a natural resources department for a native tribe somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

“I am a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and growing up, I got to see how natural resources have provided so much opportunity for our Tribe to grow into what it is today from almost nothing,” Fasana said. “My uncle worked in CTGR’s natural resources department for many years, and I would love a job very similar to his.”

When it came time to choose a college, OSU’s College of Forestry appealed to him because the courses and degrees offered aligned with what he needed to learn to start his chosen career path.

“Being able to live close to home, study forests I am familiar with and meet people from all over with many different interests in forestry and natural resources were all part of my decision to come to OSU,” Fasana said. “Being so close to home has also allowed me to spend time with family, which is important to me. My dad and I are very adventurous and go on hikes, ride motorcycles, or snowboard together.”

One of his favorite experiences at OSU has been studying abroad at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, an opportunity available to students thanks to the college’s international programs office. Aside from the many traveling experiences and close friends he made during the five months he spent there, he had the opportunity to study similar topics in natural resources and forestry from a completely different context and learn about New Zealand’s indigenous culture.

Another powerful experience has been the opportunity to work on a research project with a PhD student in the college.

“Being able to see the practical application of all of the things we learn in the classroom has allowed me to better consider what I can do in the future and how I might achieve my career goals,” Fasana said.

When not in class, he can often be found at OSU’s Craft Center, throwing pots.

“Since freshman year of high school, I have been in love with ceramics, particularly wheel throwing,” Fasana said. “I have been working in the pottery studio of OSU’s Craft Center for the past two years, which has been an awesome pastime in between classes.”

Fasana was a recipient of the Finley Academic Scholarship and received an Intertribal Timber Council scholarship, which the college matched.

“These scholarships have made my learning experience much less stressful since I do not have to worry about paying for school as much. I would highly recommend applying for every and any scholarship you come across, in and outside of the College of Forestry, as it can make a world of difference.”

As Fasana looks to the future and towards the end of his undergraduate experience at OSU, he encourages other students to tap into the connections and opportunities available to them at the college.

“I believe I am speaking for everybody in the College of Forestry when I say that we are passionate about what we do,” Fasana said.

“Do not be afraid to talk to professors, test out job and internship opportunities and make friends with people in your major,” Fasana advised. “The college can have a huge impact on your life.”

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

When Kathleen Gissing, class of 2021, found herself at a point in her life where she could dedicate time to finish her academic pursuit, she chose Oregon State University Ecampus to complete her educational goal.

“OSU is one of the top-ranked schools in the field I wished to study,” says Gissing, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in natural resources with an emphasis in policy and management. “I wanted to do something to help with climate change and threatened and endangered species – this program fit perfectly.”

As a non-traditional student, Gissing says Ecampus allowed her to obtain her degree, something she says she would never have done if she had to attend class in a traditional on-campus setting.

Gissing is currently a Federal Government Pathways Program Intern and hopes to continue her career in ecological services with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service following graduation.

“I hope to continue to gain knowledge about how to use regulations, policy, and laws to help threatened, endangered and species of concern and their habitat in addition to developing trusting collaborations with partners and stakeholders involved,” Gissing says. “I also hope to show how climate change is affecting species.”

Before her internship with the federal government, Gissing worked two jobs. One of the jobs was managing her own business, and the other was working as a Park Ranger intern with the National Park Service. She also volunteered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That busy lifestyle didn’t leave much time for other things, but she always managed to find time to spend with her husband hiking, biking or playing with her dogs.

Her favorite Ecampus courses have been natural resource decision making and biology, as well as any course that has to do with range management and watersheds. These topics, she says, apply to where she lives and where she hopes to continue working.

“I live in Grand Junction, Colorado, with public lands, mostly BLM managed, surrounding me,” Gissing says. “It is high desert-climate located at the most northern end of the Colorado Plateau region and makes for an interesting mix of people and culture. It also creates challenges for managing the lands to meet the needs of the resource and those who use it.”

As an older, non-traditional student, she admits it can be intimidating to return to school or to start for the first time. Technology and applications change quickly, and it can be challenging to adjust and adapt to new systems and processes while also getting back into the swing of things with academics. Her advice to incoming Ecampus students is to speak up and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Often others will have the same problems but won’t ask, she says, but will be glad you did. She found the instructors on Ecampus supportive and the content engaging.

“I am a non-traditional student, and being able to learn all I have learned on-line is amazing,” Gissing says. “The instructors have all been great, and I am thrilled to be an OSU student, soon to be alumni!”

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

As director of the Mechanized Harvesting Laboratory for the College of Forestry, Kevin Lyons, the Wes Lematta Professor of Forest Engineering, spends a lot of time thinking about the sophisticated machinery involved in mechanized forest harvesting systems. He also spends a lot of time thinking about the people who operate them.

“Forestry is, of course, about the forests,” Lyons says. “But it’s ultimately about the people. Competing demands for forest resources drives the need for management, and this relies on knowledgeable professionals.”

The mission of the Mechanized Harvesting Laboratory (MHL) is to increase the knowledge of modern mechanized harvesting systems. It does this by combining state-of-the-art computer-based forest harvesting machine simulation, mechanical analysis, operations research and field-based research. By increasing knowledge, the MHL hopes to reduce environmental impacts due to harvesting forest products, increase worker safety, reduce the cost of harvesting and increase the value of the products.

In addition to Lyons, the MHL includes faculty members Woodam Chung, professor and Stewart Professor of Forest Operations, Francisca Belart, assistant professor and extension specialist, John Sessions, Distinguished Professor, Strachan Chair of Forest Operations Management and Jeffrey Wimer, senior instructor and Strachan Faculty Scholar of Logging Technology.

“A lot of the work is about dealing with people and behavior,” Lyons says. “It’s about protecting people on the ground but also working with people to train their decision-making and reactions.”

Over the years, great advancements have been made in the development of computer-based forest harvesting machine simulators. The MHL recognized the potential for these systems in research and education, and in 2019 and 2020 partnered with John Deere to add one John Deere frame simulator and ten John Deere desktop simulators to the MHL’s existing Ponsse frame simulator.

The MHL has the capacity for virtual 3D visualization in addition to traditional viewing screens. The simulators include wheeled cut-to-length forest harvesting systems and tracked full-tree systems. The John Deere terrain editor can quickly generate a 3D simulation of the terrain and populate it with a variety of stand conditions, roads, and other features. The desktop simulators are portable and can go on the road for workshops and off-campus research.

The MHL is currently taking advantage of the harvesting machine simulators in two research projects. Lyons’ team is conducting research to determine how to effectively use the simulators to optimize learning and to deliver distance education to forest professionals. In addition, the research group is examining issues related to worker safety and risk assessment.

“It is difficult to conduct research in hazard recognition and worker risk assessment on active logging sites,” Lyons explains. “It is expensive and time consuming to set-up staged events and hazardous to be near active machinery in a forestry setting.”

The harvesting machine simulators combined with the terrain editor provide Lyons the opportunity to simulate many safety incidents quickly to a level that research subjects find sufficient to see the hazards and to assess the risk.

“The combination of being able to build terrains and forests, visualize the machine operating in the forest, and actually run the machine controls provide valuable experiential learning opportunities,” Lyons says.

Lyons compares the experiential and interactive teaching he does in the MHL to coaching soccer.

“People learn by doing,” he says. “Coaching soccer is about creating age and skill-appropriate opportunities for people to experience success and to learn by playing. The same is true for the harvesting machine simulators utilized in the lab.”

While the traditional use of harvest machine simulators is to train machine operators, explains Lyons, the MHL believes the harvesting machine simulators have the potential to reach a much broader audience.

“Foresters and engineers can work with the simulators and terrain builder to better recognize opportunities and to improve their road and cutblock designs,” Lyons says. “Landowners can view harvesting their land with various combinations of machinery and silviculture systems. Researchers can use the simulators to create environments in which to conduct research considering machine design, safety and operations.”

The MHL has developed several undergraduate courses that utilize the harvesting machine simulators, including a course that introduces the harvesting systems and develops scenarios for analysis as well as a course covering worker safety that includes both a focus on people and system design.

“One of the challenges with forest engineering and logging is it’s a complicated and uncontrolled environment,” Lyons says. “You have to make on the ground decisions that affect safety.”

Lyons views his job as one that helps people make better decisions.

“At the heart of it, a person is running the system,” Lyons says.

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

Oregon State University College of Forestry PhD candidate Patricio Alzugaray Oswald’s favorite aspect of forestry is growing new life.

“I love being outdoors growing seedlings and planting trees regardless of the objective,” he said. “They can be for restoration, conservation, timber production or wildlife habitat. I just like growing trees and creating a new stand and new life after a disturbance.”

As a PhD candidate majoring in sustainable forest management, Alzugaray has been working with his major advisor, assistant professor Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke, to study how to improve Douglas-fir seedlings’ root morphology and physiology to improve reforestation success.

His current research studies initial root development and physiology of Douglas-fir and western hemlock seedlings grown in two different container types: a standard styroblock versus a new biodegradable, plantable container called Ellepot. The new container is more environmentally friendly than a styroblock because container residues during the nursery production process are minimized.

“Usually, at containerized nurseries, broken styroblocks are a huge pile of debris,” Alzugaray explained. “By using a biodegradable container, you don’t have much residue. Also, you don’t have to sanitize them every season so you save energy.”

Alzugaray’s entire career, including two stints at OSU, has been linked to growing and planting seedlings.

Alzugaray first arrived at OSU in 1999 as a master’s student and graduated in 2002 with his MS in Forest Science. Following graduation, he returned to Chile, where he’s originally from, working initially as a researcher in a government agency and then for a private company, becoming the operations manager of the largest nursery in Chile. His relationship with Gonzalez-Benecke began in Chile when Gonzalez-Benecke and an Oregon based forest company visited Alzugaray at his job and Alzugaray gave them a tour of the nursery. Later that year, Gonzalez-Benecke reached out with questions about Eucalyptus seedling production, resulting in Patricio returning to school to get his PhD with Gonzalez-Benecke at Oregon State.

“I met Patricio back in 2017 when we visited the nursery he was working at in Chile,” said Gonzalez-Benecke. “Nine months later, he moved to Corvallis with his family and started his PhD with us. He is an example of professionalism, perseverance and passion for his career.”

When Alzugaray returned to Corvallis for the second time in 2018 to pursue his PhD, he came with his family, including his wife Claudia and high school-aged triplets Maria Jesus, Benjamin and Sofia. He said it’s been a great experience to be here with his family and have his children get to know a new culture. During 2020, his children had a first-hand view as they watched their father pursue his education goals.

“With the pandemic, my children have witnessed the effort that dad has put into getting his degree,” Alzugaray said. “The entire family has made sacrifices to get on this journey, and every day we are getting closer to a happy ending.”

Alzugaray was recently hired by Weyerhaeuser as the Aurora Nursery Leader. While maintaining a full-time job, he continues as a graduate student working after hours on his PhD project.

Alzugaray plans to graduate from OSU in 2021 and hopes to continue doing what he loves most about forestry, growing seedlings and creating new life, either in research, teaching, conservation or industry.

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

In March 2020, during week 10 of the winter term and shortly after faculty and staff began moving into the newly constructed George W. Peavy Forest Science Center, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic. COVID-19 completely changed the landscape of higher education, and as the pandemic continued to spread and the remainder of 2020 shifted alongside it, the College of Forestry quickly adapted to support students.

“During this challenging time, staff and faculty adapted quickly, working to provide ideas, courses and programs that met students where they were at with real solutions to complete research and support their progress towards their academic goals,” said Tom DeLuca, the Cheryl Ramberg-Ford and Allyn C. Ford Dean of the College of Forestry.

When stay-at-home and social distancing orders came down from the governor’s office in March, Ethan Harris, a senior in forest engineering, had to change course to complete his senior capstone project. Instead of surveying a stand on Starker Forests lands in the Oregon Coast range to appraise its value, develop a harvest plan and coordinate with mills and truckers, he had to cancel his survey work and timber cruises and coordinate team project meetings virtually through Zoom. Woodam Chung, Stewart Professor of Forest Operations, helped Harris find available data and complete the project.

Another senior, Wade Christensen, had a similar experience for his capstone project. Help arrived in the form of remotely sensed LIDAR data from a leading expert in the field, Bogdan Strimbu, assistant professor in forest biometrics and geomatics. Allowing for differences between direct observation and point clouds, Christensen estimated timber volumes and completed his work.

Both Harris and Christensen graduated on time, but they are examples of the stressful scramble brought on by pandemic restrictions last spring. Adjusting capstone projects, jumping into remote classes, recalibrating internships, filling gaps in students’ resources — all fell to faculty, advisors and support staff.

For Nicole Kent, manager of advising & academic relations for the College of Forestry, the shift became all-consuming. She and her team make sure that the college’s nearly 1,000 undergraduates get the courses and experiences they need. They also conduct student orientations and other events.

Only about half of those students are on the Corvallis campus. Others work at OSU Cascades in Bend, at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande or through Ecampus. “We were already doing a lot of remote teaching. That gave the college a head start in adjusting to the pandemic,” Kent said.

Most students in Corvallis are there because they want to learn in person — in the forest, on field trips, in labs, face to face. With COVID restrictions in place, students saw internships and other work-experience opportunities evaporate. Some courses were cancelled and others shifted to the computer screen.

Nevertheless, the College of Forestry prides itself on producing work-ready graduates, so advisors and faculty shifted gears to find alternatives. They determined what courses would provide the required learning outcomes and kept students on the path to graduation.

“I can’t say enough about how wonderful the Student Services team is and how hard they have worked,” Kent said. “They were all at home working remotely. They stepped up to show such great care and compassion for our students.”

Those efforts included finding financial help when income had suddenly dried up. The OSU Foundation led an effort that saw over 3,000 donors contribute over $1 million for Beavers Care, an initiative to make a difference for OSU students, faculty and staff in urgent need of emergency support. College staff navigated the federal CARES Act to determine who was eligible for assistance and who was not. Staff also identified additional university resources to help fill gaps in their personal lives, such as access to groceries and medications.

Even laboratory-based classes, which usually take place in person, transformed to adapt to remote delivery. Wood science and engineering professor Lech Muszynski successfully adapted his renewable materials laboratory class. The class utilized a combination of online lectures, team assignments, video clips with recorded lab routines and procedures, discussions and publicly available web content. Elements of Muszynski’s innovative class strategies were shared with the OSU campus community as part of a best practice webinar series.

Staff in the college’s IT office also made extraordinary efforts to ensure all students had access to computers and the internet at home. During the same weeks the college was moving into the new Peavy Forest Science Center building, IT was assisting students with Zoom meeting software, loaner computers and off-campus access to computer labs.

Throughout the year, OSU and the college communicated with students, sending updates about available resources and helping people who were struggling with isolation.

“As this crisis unfolded and continues to unfold, we believe it is more critical than ever to support each other,” DeLuca said. “Our first priority is the safety and well-being of our community and we will continue to do everything we can to support academic success and the College of Forestry community.”

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

As a renewable materials major with an option in science and engineering, Quinn Smesrud wants to pursue a green building industry career after graduation. She sees the path as a way to combine her knowledge of wood products and her passions for art and environmental stewardship.

This passion for green building and sustainable architecture ignited during the summer of 2019, when she traveled abroad to Slovenia and Italy with the College of Forestry through the “Forest to Frame: Sustainable Manufacturing and Design in Alpine Europe” international program.

“Studying abroad with the College of Forestry was the best experience I have had during my undergraduate career at Oregon State,” Smesrud said. “The opportunity to travel to Alpine Europe and study mass timber in the region where it originated was an incredible experience.”

While in Alpine Europe, Smesrud closely followed the building process from design through construction, which expanded her understanding of the value chain. Touring various places provided her with a holistic view of the industry while experiencing and learning about European culture.

The experience abroad added to her on-campus experience, too. Her favorite class, “Developments of Building Design with Renewable Materials,” allowed her to tour buildings on the Oregon State campus that showcased the engineered wood products students were learning about in class.

“Now, learning about sustainable wood products in class is even more exciting because I can tie what I learn in the classroom to my experiences abroad,” Smesrud said.

Thanks to the generous contributions of college partners, Smesrud has received the Friends of Renewable Materials scholarship since her sophomore year and is actively involved in the campus and Corvallis community.

She worked as a technical assistant for OSU’s Botany and Plant Pathology Department, as a College of Forestry Student Ambassador, and she’s been a member of Kappa Alpha Theta since 2017.

“Being a part of the college has provided me with many opportunities to grow as a leader and be an active member of the Corvallis community,” Smesrud said.

Smesrud’s advice for incoming students is that it is okay not to know what degree you want to pursue as a freshman, and college is the time to explore your interests. As for Smesrud, she hopes to pursue a master’s degree in sustainable architecture after graduation.

“The renewable materials program has shaped me into a well-informed environmentalist with a realistic perspective on the importance of combating climate change,” Smesrud said. “My motivation for pursuing a green career is to be part of the solution to create a more sustainable future.”

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