When world leaders convened in New Delhi for the 2023 G20 Summit, they were handed policy briefs by Think 20 (T20) engagement group to inform their decisions, including one led by Associate Professor Rajat Panwar. As a lead author of one of the policy briefs produced by a T20 taskforce focused on accelerating sustainable development goals, Panwar worked in partnership with four other experts to produce the policy brief, “Aligning G20 Industrial Policies with Biodiversity Conservation.” Panwar is also lead author for the “Bioeconomy Assessment for Latin America and the Carribean” conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with Jazmin Tovar as co-author.

Can you tell me a little bit about your research and why you find it so compelling?
My research focuses on sustainable business practices. Current projects explore two key areas: (i) how business practices impact biodiversity loss and deforestation, and potential solutions, and (ii) building a sustainable bioeconomy.

Growing up in India during a period of rapid economic expansion, I witnessed the development-conservation debate come alive. Within a decade, the natural landscape surrounding my village transformed into monoculture plantations feeding newly built paper mills and plywood factories. The region was subsequently designated a “dark zone” due to critically low water levels. Disappointingly, most villagers seemed content. The belief that environmental loss was an inevitable price for escaping poverty, increasing income, and generating local jobs ran just too deep. I recall an elder in the village saying, with a sentiment I now challenge, “Sustainability comes after breakfast.”

These experiences profoundly impacted me. My academic work is dedicated to finding ways for both sustainability and breakfast to be on the table, ensuring a future where meeting human needs does not come at the cost of the environment. It is both daunting and fascinating.

Did you begin your career studying deforestation or did you pivot from something else?
I did not. Actually, my initial post-MBA job was at Coca-Cola. However, only six months into it, I sensed the need for self-reflection. I went on a brief retreat to a quaint Himalayan town, where I resided in a Buddhist monastery. Although my intention was a week-long stay, I ended up remaining for nine months! Within the first week, I decided to not return to my corporate job.

It was during this period that I became engaged with local community members reliant on locally sourced non-wood forest products (NWFPs). We explored various cooperative models for marketing these products, none of which worked. Later, I transitioned to the Forest Research Institute of India, studying community-based forest management in the northwest Himalayas (across India and Nepal). I also contributed to research on ecotourism social enterprises in Asia and Africa.

And then, as any discerning individual would do, I came to OSU College of Forestry to pursue doctoral studies !! Thus, my entry into the world of forests was both fortuitous and meandering. I consider myself fortunate for the journey though.

You have had many accomplishments in your career, including working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, being a Senior Fellow, Sustainable palm oil initiative, at the Center for Responsible Business in New Delhi, India, consulting for the G20 as a member of T20 (Think 20), acting as the lead author for the business and biodiversity assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and recently being selected as a lead author for the National Nature Assessment being conducted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Which accomplishment or experience was most meaningful for you and why?
Not any of those. The most significant work I have engaged in has taken place within classrooms. I have had the privilege to teach in several countries, spanning various levels and settings — business schools, forestry schools, and liberal arts institutions. Much of what I know stems from the insightful questions posed by students, many of which have evolved into my research endeavors. Moreover, my transdisciplinary research is a direct result of my teaching across diverse disciplines to both traditional students and participants in executive education programs.

Your earned your graduate degree from OSU in 2008 and returned in 2021 as an associate professor of responsible and sustainable business. Can you tell me a bit about what the College of Forestry means to you?
This is home. I felt a sense of belonging when I first arrived here in 2004, and it felt like leaving home when I departed in 2008. Despite Thomas Wolfe’s famous assertion, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” returning in 2021 truly felt like a homecoming. Some things have changed, such as this new building, but the essence of the culture—marked by kindness, compassion, and honesty—has remained steadfast and will continue to endure. Being a member of the College is integral to my identity. That is what the College of Forestry means to me.

Who or what has influenced you the most, either during your career or regarding your research?
My professional journey has been profoundly shaped by a cohort of exceptional mentors. Eric Hansen, in particular, has fostered the development of critical thinking skills within me, encouraging a balanced and objective approach to analysis, despite our spirited disagreements on most things. Alix Gitelman’s guidance instilled the importance of intellectual humility and a commitment to rigorous inquiry. Kathleen Dean Moore’s influence cultivated in me a deep sense of empathy. Rob Kozak honed my pedagogical skills, and Michael Barnett helped enhance my writing abilities. Padam Bhjovaid’s mentorship ignited my creative spark, and Jeffrey Sachs’s passionate advocacy has inspired my commitment to social justice.

However, my most profound and personal growth occurred during my time in the monastery and within the surrounding communities. Reflecting on that period holds a special significance— how many of us have spent their formative period in a monastery!

What’s next for you and your research?
My research is moving towards conservation finance, though the specific research streams are still crystallizing for me. The upcoming two years are packed with commitments to IPBES and National Nature Assessment. It has been several years since I have done a book project, so that avenue might also be on the horizon.

Loren Albert is an assistant professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, who along with her research group is tackling two international projects. The first, funded by NSF, focuses on the ecohydrology of Amazon forests. The other, funded by NASA, aims to advance scientists’ ability to estimate flows of carbon between forests and the atmosphere from space with remote sensing, and includes a partnership with Brazilian faculty to lead a field course for Brazilian graduate students to learn more about concepts in tropical forest ecology and physiology.

In as simple of terms as possible, can you please tell us more about your research?
I study how forest photosynthesis responds to climate change, and I scale up from trees to ecosystems and landscapes to consider how forests can impact climate as well. I study tropical forests since they contain and photosynthesize a vast amount of carbon, as well as forests here at home in the Pacific Northwest.

What question or challenge were you setting out to address when you started this work?
Can we estimate photosynthesis from space? We’re entering a new era of remote sensing with new technology from NASA and private companies that collects massive amounts of data on forest structure and function. Some of these remote sensing signals are linked to photosynthesis, but it remains challenging to estimate photosynthesis from these signals. We set out to integrate remote sensing with models, and measurements of tree anatomy and physiology, to clarify how remote sensing signals are linked to photosynthesis.

Who else is involved in this research?
Our team consists of scientists from Central America, Brazil, Netherlands and Asia, as well as the United States. We’re interdisciplinary as well. We’re integrating plant physiology with ecology and remote sensing, and I’m excited about how we’re building bridges between these fields.

Why does this work matter?
Each year, humans are emitting more than 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Plants on the land are taking up somewhere around a third of that CO2, and whatever CO2 is not taken up by plants and the ocean stays in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. While the causes of climate change are well understood, we need to know more about how much CO2 plants will continue taking up so that we can predict the trajectory of climate change. Of course, forests are key among land plants because they store and take up so much carbon. In other words, how much will plants, especially forests, help us mitigate climate change? This is a big picture question that many scientists are working on. The contribution of my group right now focuses on understanding more about the drivers of photosynthetic carbon uptake in forests across space and through time.

What do you hope the impact will be?
I hope that we can gain a better understanding of the role of forests in Earth’s carbon budget, improve the models that predict future climate (through development of forest physiology in those models), and generally understand more about the flows of carbon, water, and energy between forests and the atmosphere. On the human side, I hope that we can build long-lasting collaborations and friendships with scientists working in the Amazon, train students, and launch careers of the next generation of scientists.

What has surprised you about this research?
We’re learning that individual tree species in the tropics greatly impact the rate and seasonality of photosynthetic carbon uptake. On the one hand, all trees photosynthesize, but on the other hand, the differences in leaf shape, size, canopy architecture, and many other features greatly affect photosynthesis. The tropics are so diverse. There are thousands of tree species in places like the Amazon, and their differences really impact the carbon cycle.

How does this work differ from other work in the field?
We are melding ‘ground data’ (the measurements we make on plants when we do fieldwork) with models to simulate what we expect to see from space. In model parameterization, it is still common to rely on plant physiology data from crops. It is rare to find research that spans scales from individual leaf measurements, to trees, to landscapes, where the research team is making all those measurements across those spatial scales at the same site.

What’s next for this research?
My group is planning a field campaign in the Brazilian Amazon this summer, where we will fly drones, collect leaves to measure leaf traits and physiology, and exchange knowledge with our Brazilian collaborators. We sleep in hammocks in a field station at the edge of the forest, listening to the forest night sounds. We’re looking forward to it.

And finally, is there anything you wish I would’ve asked you about this research that you’d like to share?
I want to emphasize how none of this research would be possible without the welcome and efforts of our international collaborators. We all share an atmosphere on this Earth, and productive forests, whether in the tropics or the Pacific Northwest, are helping shape the future for all of us. The role of these forests in the carbon cycle is a question we all have a stake in.

Rona Bryan graduated in fall 2022, with a degree in Natural Resources with an individualized specialty option in art, education, and outreach in ecology and a minor in fisheries. Those focuses were informed by her previous degree in art, her passion for visual storytelling and human connections in science communication, and a slight obsession with fish.

Why did you choose OSU College of Forestry?
I chose OSU College of Forestry because it was the first time in my academic journey that I felt truly welcome and at home. In my first appointment with my COF advisor, I shared my struggle to find a rigorous program that would enable me to study and eventually work at the intersection of art and ecology. She smiled and said, “Well, you can take a breath, because you’ve found the right place.”

Does one class, teacher or experience really stand out?
I loved any class that had a big term project requiring regular fieldwork. I think we often associate online degrees with being glued to a laptop all day, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth with my Ecampus NR program. I’m still amazed at how much time I spent outdoors while earning my degree!

One of my all-times favorite classes was Urban Ecology (FW 418/518) with Dr. Doug Reese. I designed and conducted a study investigating differences in wetland and aquatic plant species composition in urban, downstream, and upstream habitat on the Willamette River. Doug was super supportive in lending his expertise to help me wrangle all the data into something cohesive, and I had the time of my life spending hours down by the river – mostly in the pouring rain – with my plant ID books, waterproof camera, and quadrat.

How did COF prepare you for your career?
It took me seven years to finish my first undergraduate degree, with lots of stops and starts along the way. I had the privilege of traveling, working, and studying internationally, and I spent over a decade in hospitality and service before realizing that – while I loved the community and human connection aspects of those fields – I was missing the “hook” that would help me bring personal meaning to my work. COF allowed me to find just that, and I went from a student worker position to a staff position with the International Programs office before starting my current (and awesome) event coordinator role just a few months ago!

What is one piece of advice you’d give to current or potential students?
Don’t ignore what brings you joy – even if it’s totally unexpected! I used to avoid science as a rule but eventually had to enroll in something, so I chose ecology – and in that class, I became a different person. I went from dragging myself out of bed most mornings to getting up early to practice identifying tree species. I went from hiding in the back of the class to happily wading into the near-freezing creek behind the school to test pH and dissolved oxygen. At the time, I ignored all of that because I felt obligated and expected to continue with the arts, and I moved an ocean away without knowing that the right school for me was just a two-hour drive from my hometown. With that said, try not to worry too much about accidentally picking the “wrong” path. No matter what I was doing, that fierce joy I felt in nature was a loud and persistent voice whenever I was feeling lost or trying to make a major decision, and eventually – at what I think was exactly the right time – I was ready to listen.

What are your favorite hobbies?
Currently, I’m really enjoying embroidery art, working on improving my graphic design skills, and taking wildlife-watching walks in my neighborhood park.

The 2023 Dean’s Award recipients and retirees were recently honored with an awards ceremony and celebration. Since 1990, the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Achievement have recognized outstanding contributions by our community members that significantly advanced the mission of the College.

The award for outstanding achievement in Graduate Student Leadership went to Nina Ferrari. Nina is an outstanding graduate student, as evidenced by recent awards received, her publications, and her straight-A average in grad courses at OSU. More importantly, Nina has gone far above and beyond the normal expectations of a grad student by: being a teaching assistant in several courses a year; serving on the COF and HJ Andrews DEI committees; leadership of graduate students in both the College of Forestry through her work on Graduate Student Council, and at the HJA via her work as our graduate student representative; and mentoring several undergrads during their time in the field with her.

Matt Powers and Greg Goralogia received the award for Fostering Undergraduate Student Success. Matt was nominated by eight separate undergraduate students who stated that Dr. Powers is an exceptional teacher, one who has consistently shown creativity, inclusivity, and passion in how he utilizes unique and engaging teaching techniques. A nominator noted, “Greg is a superb mentor, and as in most academic research laboratories, senior postdocs such as Greg mentor both undergrads and grads. Greg has been a postdoctoral scientist in the forest biotechnology laboratory for five years and has mentored 12 undergraduates and 11 graduate students. He has also mentored and collaborated with approximately a half-dozen technicians and about a dozen students carrying out work.”

Indy Gerhardt was recognized for outstanding achievement in Contributions as a Student Worker. Indy is a technician in the Forest Ecohydrology and Watershed Science (FEWS) lab in the FERM department and an undergraduate student in Biology. One of their nominators said, “Indy has contributed exceptional support to our research group, to help us accomplish intensive summer-long field campaigns and critical lab work during the school year. They have also pushed the lab group as a whole to be consciously inclusive of underrepresented minority groups by bringing thoughtful conversations and agenda suggestions to our lab group meetings.”

The award recognizing outstanding achievement in the Mentorship of Graduate Students went to Ben Leshchinsky, Elizabeth Swanson, and Loren Albert. About Ben, a nominator noted, “I became aware of Dr. Leshchinsky’s generosity and willingness to go above and beyond before I even became a graduate student at Oregon State. As I was applying for graduate school, Ben offered his time to meet with me to discuss a possible future at OSU. With no expectation that I would become a Beaver or a member of his research team, he offered his time and support without expecting anything in return. As a first-generation college student, the time he took to answer my questions in meetings and over email was invaluable”. A nominator of Eli noted, “I met Eli when I was an e-campus student struggling to attend school and work full-time during a global pandemic. Eli set an atmosphere of positive mentorship, Where I learned to be more comfortable with constructive critique and embrace continuous improvement, which has helped me embrace a learning and growth mindset. It is difficult and sometimes isolating to be an e-campus student when you have limited connections to your peers or campus. Eli spent one-on-one time with me, discussing my educational goals and career interests, and helped me identify classes and topics that would build my educational background and professional skills. Eli regularly checked my progress and feelings as a remote student and was always responsive and an advocate.” One of Loren’s nominators said, “Loren is an exemplary mentor. She advocates tirelessly for student success and happiness, she encourages academic growth through her diligence, time, and attention, and she works assiduously to enable strong networking and collaborative opportunities. It is precisely this kind of mentorship that leads to a thriving, productive graduate student body.”

The award for Outstanding Achievement in Distinction to the College went to the Elliott State Research Forest Team: Shannon Murray, Jenn Bailey Guerrero, Deanne Carlson, Jeff Behan and Katy Kavanagh. These five outstanding professionals have not only maintained but significantly elevated our college’s standards and reputation through their exceptional work on the Elliott State Research Forest’s Forest Management Plan (FMP).

2023 retirees that were honored were Dave Shaw, John Sessions, Carol Carlson, and Steve Fitzgerald. Dr. David Shaw has been a professor at Oregon State University since 2005, and a renowned authority in forest health. He was pivotal in developing and delivering the Extension curriculum for the Master Woodland Manager program, the Oregon Forest Pest Detector program, and the Pest Scene Investigators program. Dr. John Sessions is an alumnus of OSU. He earned his Ph.D. in Forest Management with the late Darius Adams in 1979 and has been a College of Forestry Professor or Emeritus since 1983. John’s accomplishments are numerous. First, John is an OSU Distinguished Professor and an SAF Fellow. He has twice been the recipient of a COF Dean’s Award and has received the Aufderheide Teaching Award 5 times (that’s 12.5% of the time he’s been at OSU). Carol Carlson started working on the Research Forests on April 1, 1997, as an accountant. In 2004 she was promoted to professional faculty and became the Business Manager for the Research Forest. Everyone who has worked with with Carol can attest to her prowess with numbers and appreciate all the things she does to keep the numbers balanced! Stephen Fitzgerald, Extension Specialist and Professor, has served the State of Oregon, Oregon State University, and the College of Forestry for more than 30 years. He is recognized by colleagues and Oregonians as an authority on complex silvicultural prescriptions. His career at OSU has included numerous positions, including Extension Forester on the Southern Oregon Coast and in Central Oregon, Statewide Extension Silviculture Specialist, and Director of the College of Forestry’s Research Forests.

Congratulations to associate professor Mariapaola Riggio, who was recently named the Richardson Chair in Wood Sciences and Forest Products. The Ward K. Richardson Family endowed chairs are directed toward a theme of understanding and explaining the implications of changes in the use and management of forest resources on society. The Chair in Wood Science and Forest Products focuses on the efficient use of forest resources to meet the growing needs of society for wood products. Get to know Mariapaola:

Tell us about your background – what drew you to your specialty area?
My fascination and deep interest in wood as a building material originated during my time as an architecture student in Florence. One of my deepest passions lays in cultural heritage preservation. Most of the projects we were exposed to at school were predominantly centered around masonry buildings. So, the prevailing perception was that our cultural heritage predominantly consisted of stone and bricks. In 1997, a powerful earthquake struck Umbria, a central region in Italy, resulting in the loss of invaluable monuments. During site inspections, a clear observation emerged: many damages to masonry buildings and vaulted structures resulted from interventions carried out in the previous decades. These interventions involved the replacement or supposed reinforcement of original timber roofs with reinforced concrete. The underlying cause of these misguided practices and the prevalent mistrust in wood as a building material became evident – a long-standing educational system that disregarded the importance of traditional materials and exclusively trained designers in the use of modern materials. For my master’s thesis, I began examining a specific traditional timber system: timber vaults. The ingenuity of this technique lies in its light weight and flexibility, that reduces the risk of damage to masonry walls in the event of an earthquake. After graduation, I engaged in the restoration of some of these structures. My interest in pursuing a PhD in the Timber Engineering Group at the University of Trento stemmed from this experience and my objective to enhance diagnostic procedures to avoid invasive interventions on timber cultural heritage.

What courses do you teach / labs do you lead?
WSE 225 “Building design innovation with wood” introduces students to the fundamentals of building design and the relevant technical requirements, the solutions available and the specific applications, with a focus on wood-based products and other ligno-cellulosic materials. The main goal of this course is to help students develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of design and construction principles that facilitate communication between manufacturers, architects, engineers, and clients.

WSE 425/525 “Timber tectonics in the digital age” is an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional effort in collaboration with University of Oregon Architecture enrolls Architecture, Engineering and Wood Science students. The course is designed to prepare future professionals for integrated design practices in modern wood construction, emphasizing experiential learning and soft skill development. In this course, students engage in hands-on project, engaging with real clients and industry partners throughout the learning process.

The faculty-led study abroad program that I lead, Tradition and Innovation in the Wood Construction Industry: A Journey in the Italian Alps, provides an international perspective on tradition and innovation of forest products application and sustainable practices in the built environment. I’ve designed this program to offer students firsthand experience in the working environments and practices of the host country through job-shadowing opportunities with local companies, encouraging them to reflect on practices in their home countries. In the next iteration of the course, I plan to collaborate with local stakeholders in the US to connect students’ international experiences with tasks related to a real project back home.

Another chance to immerse students in both tradition and innovation within the sector, involving them in a tangible project and providing them opportunities for community engagement, is the course on “Structural Health Assessment and Monitoring of Timber Structures“ that I offer to graduate students. During the class offered last spring, for instance, students actively participated in assessing timber trusses at the Arauco facility in Albany. They offered valuable feedback to the client regarding the structure’s conditions and they identified causes of damage. Additionally, the students had a chance to talk about their project during the historical preservation month.

I teach and co-developed WSE 540 Introduction to Wood Science and Engineering. This is the first hybrid introductory course of the new WSE Graduate Core.

Tell us about a recent/current research project you are working on
With the two wood innovation grants received with my colleague Lech Muszynski, our objective was to leverage underutilized wood species to create CLT panels for an untapped market segment: modular deployable units. These units can serve as temporary and transitional solutions, such as post-disaster scenarios, and are designed to be disassembled and reused in other contexts. This exploration aims to optimize resources during the production stage, extend the service life of applications that are typically short-lived, and reintegrate resources into the loop. It aims to support the resilience of the natural and built environments, promote sustainability in forest management, and foster economic development within communities. Since its initiation in 2017, this research stream has garnered significant attention from both academia and industry. As mass timber products represent just one facet of an integrated approach to create a more resilient and sustainable ecosystem, I am currently working on expanding and enhancing our portfolio of alternative wood-based products and construction systems. This involves exploring alternative ligno-cellulosic sources and a dedicated focus on context-sensitive approaches for material and construction method selection. For example, when addressing shelter and housing needs, I am working on developing partnerships with affected communities to develop culturally appropriate solutions that make the most of locally available resources.

What are today’s students most eager to learn?
Students are passionate about learning how to contribute to solutions for a more sustainable future. They thrive on engaging in projects that offer tangible results and address real-world issues.

What’s the one thing you wish people knew about the Wood Science degree program?
One aspect I’d like people to know about the Wood Science degree program is that it’s a rewarding environment for individuals passionate about sustainability, innovation, and global impact.

Learn more about the Wood Innovation for Sustainability Degree and the Wood Science graduate programs!

Micah Schmidt recently got hired as a Regional Fire Specialist, based in the Union county Extension office. Micah graduated from the College of Forestry in March 2023 with a Master of Science in Sustainable Forest Management with a focus in Fire, Silviculture, and Forest Health.

Does one class, teacher or experience really stand out?
One class that really stands out for me was the Prescribed Fire Practicum taught by John Punches, Daniel Leavell, John Rizza, and Jacob Putney. The course had a two-week field session in La Grande and is one of the reasons that I moved here after I graduated. All of those professors were great to learn from, but I will single out John Punches as particularly important in my education. I now work in the same office as him. He is really a stand-out guy that I know will be an excellent resource during my career with Extension. I would also mention Dave Shaw, James Johnston, Andrew Merschel, Eric Forsman, and Jimmy Swingle as people who I learned a ton from during my time at OSU.

How did COF prepare you for your career?
COF definitely helped me build skills to be successful in my career, but I feel like my time working with Marty Main at his consulting forestry company Small Woodland Services, Inc. in southwest Oregon really prepared me the most. Marty was a great mentor to me and gave me an excellent education in forestry for several years before I went on to get my Master’s degree. That experience showed me how beneficial having an experienced mentor to work with day in and day out is for someone trying to break into a natural resources field. I’m hoping I can engage with young people hoping to get into this line of work so that I can potentially have that impact on others.

What are your main duties as a Regional Fire Specialist?
I’m still getting settled into my position and figuring that out myself. I think the most important part of my job is assessing the fire-related needs of the communities in the region I work in and figuring out how to best respond in an effective manner. I’m hoping to utilize my technical skills to assist local partners and stakeholders with their projects, communicate fire science to communities in my region in an accessible way, and help to build and maintain cross-boundary land management partnerships since we all can acknowledge that wildfire does not recognize property boundaries. I’m particularly looking forward to returning good fire on the land through prescribed burning. There’s a ton of interest in that in northeast Oregon, and I hope to help promote it as much as possible. But depending on the needs of the region, my job could look very different year-to-year.

What is your favorite tree?
Until I moved to northeast Oregon, my favorite tree was sugar pine. I still have a great admiration for that tree, but western larch is quickly looking to unseat it as my favorite since sugar pine doesn’t occur in my region. Honorable mentions would include Pacific yew and California black oak.

Anything else you would like to share?
I just feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to fill this position. I interacted with my predecessor, John Rizza, and admired the way he went about things in this role. I’m also lucky to work in the Union County Extension office which is full of great people. I have a lot of support from the northeast Oregon extension foresters and an awesome fire team to work with and learn from. I’ll also give a shout-out to my supervisor EJ Davis, who has been nothing short of fantastic in how she has welcomed me into this position.

Georgia Seyfried recently joined the College of Forestry as an Assistant Professor of Belowground Forest Ecology in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management.

She grew up with two super soil nerds so her path to soil biogeochemistry was not necessarily intentional (what could be more boring than DIRT, she jokes!). However, she always loved getting her hands dirty – with actual dirt and with arts and crafts. Naturally, this led Georgia to a crossroads in college – artist or scientist?? She says, “It’s funny how these decisions get made – I took a horrible ancient art history class and a slightly less horrible chemistry class my freshman year and turned towards science. I never really looked back and have since realized that art and science worlds are not so far apart!”

She did a general biology degree in college and gained a few cool experiences in research, but wasn’t necessarily sure she could see myself in that position – she was ready for adventure! Her mom’s family is scattered all over Australia, allowing her to bump around the country and find friendly faces (and free housing) along the way. She did all kinds of things: WOOF’ed, backpacked, worked as a secretary for an optometrist, found breathtaking beauty and genuinely hoped to encounter that ‘moment of clarity’ you see in the movies (oops, it never happened!). Eventually, she made her way back home to Idaho, found a job as a waitress and was suddenly very motivated to head back to school!

“I wanted to study somewhere ‘cool’ and I was halfway successful – I found myself at a university in central Illinois (very uncool), but had the wonderful opportunity to conduct my fieldwork in the mountains of Western Panama (very cool),” she says. During her time in graduate school, she studied the effects of mycorrhizal fungi on soil biogeochemical processes, beginning a fascination with “zooming in” to the micro scale. Eager to continue learning about soil chemical and biological processes in a different context, she headed to coastal South Carolina for a postdoc working with a landscape scale thinker. This was sweaty and buggy, but ultimately, she learned a lot about gas fluxes and significantly improved her beach volleyball game!

Georgia says she feels absolutely honored to be here at Oregon State University and is excited to continue her wandering scientific journey amongst so many amazing people! She is thrilled to live somewhere with hills again. In her spare time, she loves to rock climb, ski, wander around in the woods, and paint or craft. She is shamefully entertained by almost any reality TV show but will only admit to watching Survivor and the Great British Baking Show. She’s addicted to bubbly water and chocolate chips. Fun facts: her middle name is Storm (she says she is still trying to live up to it!) and she ties her shoelaces in a really cool way!

Mark Swanson has been hired as an Associate Professor of Family Forestry and Starker Chair in the Forest Engineering, Resources and Management department (FERM).

Tell us about your background – what drew you to your specialty area?
During my undergraduate years at the University of Washington (1995-1999), and in graduate school at the same institution (2000-2007), I got to meet and study with some amazing forest scientists, including Jerry Franklin. Jerry and a number of his colleagues gave me opportunities to work on long-term forest research with permanent sample plots, and that interest has stayed with me. In addition, I got to meet and learn from people in the private forestry world, with Steve Stinson and the rest of the Stinson family (of Toledo, Washington) being real mentors, particularly with respect to family landowner needs and approaches. Later, after I had moved to the Palouse to work as a professor of silviculture and ecology at Washington State University, I was mentored by Harold Osborne (professor emeritus, University of Idaho) on a range of topics, including small-scale logging and prescribed fire. I like to think I am part of the legacy of people like Jerry, Steve, and Harold in promoting multiple-value forestry on a range of ownerships.

Where did you grow up/go to school?
My parents both served in the U.S. Air Force, and until I was ten years old, we moved around to follow my father’s military postings. From age ten until I graduated from high school, we were in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I headed to the Santa Cruz Mountains at every opportunity to run around in the chaparral, oak woodlands, and forests. I then left as a college freshman for Seattle, where I studied at the College of Forest Resources (now the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences).

What courses do you teach / labs do you lead?
At Washington State University, I taught a range of courses at different times, including silviculture, forest plants and ecosystems, arid lands and ecosystems, landscape ecology, disturbance ecology, wildland fire ecology and management, practice in forestry consulting and stewardship, and more. This really helped me grow as a professional. I will have a much smaller teaching load at Oregon State, where I will teach a course in forest measurements during fall semester, and possibly the occasional seminar course. My extension appointment, I think, will ensure that my teaching on a range of topics remains current and (hopefully) engaging!

What brought you to the College of Forestry?
The offer to take up a well-respected position like the Starker Chair alone is a powerful motivation (and a great responsibility)! I appreciate families like the Starkers supporting the mission here. And there is a lot more that made the CoF attractive to me, like being closer to long-time colleagues (Meg Krawchuk, Jim Rivers, Matt Betts, to name a few). FERM, with Jeff Hatten at the helm, is a great unit. The leadership of people like Tom DeLuca, Cristina Eisenberg, Holly Ober, Katy Kavanagh, and the rest of the Dean’s Office also gives me great confidence in the course of the College. And just belonging to a world-renowned forestry institution, a real flagship for teaching and research, is a tremendous attraction.

What are your favorite hobbies?
I love rock climbing, trail running, chasing deer and elk around (they usually win), birding, reading (military history, nature writing, and much more), travel with my wife, and enjoying the diversity of beer, wine, and food from the Pacific Northwest. With some of my work involving botany, I also am a true “plant nerd”, and I really enjoy learning new plant taxa.

What are you reading or watching right now?
I am re-reading some of Aldo Leopold’s essays in a compendium called “The River of the Mother of God”, which I highly recommend to people in the natural resources. Also, I am reading Admiral Dan Barbey’s memoirs on the Seventh Amphibious Force in the Pacific “island-hopping” campaign of WW2. My great-uncle Allen Gibbs fought with the US Army in New Guinea during that war, and reading books like that bring me a little closer to his life. And finally, because I can never just focus on a few books, I’m working through Kirkman and Jack (2021), “Ecological Restoration and Management of Longleaf Pine Forests”, an excellent edited book with a lot of lessons for those of us out west who work in ponderosa pine.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I am really excited to serve Oregon State University, and the people of Oregon and the broader Northwest, as a teacher, researcher, extension professional, and member of the faculty here. I want to thank everyone for the warm welcome.

Jessica Hightower is a post-doctoral scholar in the department of forest ecosystems and society, and was one of the leaders of the faculty-led international program Oil Palms and Orangutans: Forest Conservation in Malaysian Borneo.

Students on an early morning bird walk at Deramakot

Tell me a little about the Borneo program – what types of activities did you engage in, what kind of students participated, etc
The Borneo program offers an opportunity to learn more about the unique flora and fauna of Borneo and the threats to their conservation. We visited popular eco-tourism spots, logged forests, oil palm plantations, and undisturbed tropical forests. We spoke to people living in these communities and learned more about what these forests mean to them and what they are doing to protect and restore their forests. We also learned more about oil palm, exploring a truly complex issue. Activities included plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings, including night drives, birding walks, and boat rides, but also included time to talk to people in the community and learn more about their lives. Our last program had a wonderfully diverse cohort, which really strengthened the program. We had both on-campus and online students- the on-campus students were able to share their on-campus learning experiences, while the online students came from all over the US (and even abroad) and contributed their own unique experiences and perspectives. It was a great opportunity for on-campus students to expand their network, while online students were able to establish a sense of community with their peers that can be difficult to do over a screen.

Why were you interested in participating?
My dissertation research was in Borneo, where I investigated how logging and conversion to oil palm impacts bird communities. While I was out in the field I would daydream about how great it would be to bring students over for a study abroad course. While I worked there I lived in a state of constant amazement over the flora and fauna of Borneo and I wanted to share the experience with others. When I moved to Oregon and began working in the department of forest ecosystems and society at OSU, I was offered the opportunity to co-teach the Borneo program, which really was a dream come true!

What is one memory that sticks out?
So many that it is hard to pick! The night drives at Deramakot were a personal favorite and it was exciting to share the experience with the students, instructors, and guides. Going out to look for wildlife is always an adventure, but the sense of adventure is multiplied when you go out at night, driving through beautiful tropical forests with all the accompanying sights, smells, and sounds. Our first night drive we lucked out with an abundance of wildlife; we saw giant flying squirrels, slow loris, and palm civets. But we hit the jackpot with a binturong feeding far up in the canopy. We thought nothing could top that, but then one of the students spotted a colugo (look it up, they’re crazy!) and we got to watch it glide between trees. As we were riding that high and returning to camp around midnight our luck continued and we wrapped up the night with a leopard cat! It was during that drive that some of the students discovered they had a knack for spotting difficult to see wildlife at night!

What advice do you have for students thinking about going on one of our faculty-led international programs?
Have an open mind towards new experiences. It is great to prepare, but leave your expectations behind and be ready to adapt. Traveling abroad is one of the greatest ways to build confidence and discover just how much you can accomplish. The faculty-led international programs offer the experience of traveling abroad, but the knowledge and structure to really immerse yourself in an incredible learning experience.

Anything else you would like to share?
I was really impressed with how much students do and see on the Borneo program. Some people (like me) have worked in Borneo for multiple field seasons and never get to visit some of the places this program takes students. It is a whirlwind of an adventure and you will want to stay at each location for much longer than the time allotted, but it is truly amazing the amount of ground we covered. It was a life changing experience for both the students and instructors.

Heesung Woo recently joined the College of Forestry as an Assistant Professor of Advanced Forestry in the forest engineering, resources and management department. He is a dedicated researcher in the field of forestry and information technology, originally from South Korea. He holds two masters degrees, one in forestry and forest management from Kangwon National University, South Korea, and another in forest engineering from Humboldt State University in California, USA. His academic journey has been driven by a keen interest in the application of information and communication technology (ICT) techniques in forestry to enhance data quality and operational efficiency.

Tell us about your background – what drew you to your specialty area?
During my masters programs, I became deeply intrigued by the potential of ICT in forestry. This led me to pursue a Ph.D. in information technology at the University of Tasmania in Australia. My doctoral research focused on value chain optimization through the integrated use of ICT techniques in the forest supply chain. After completing my Ph.D. program, I had the privilege of receiving national research funding in South Korea. This funding allowed me to embark on an exciting project aimed at developing a multi-functional forest vehicle equipped with robotic, LiDAR, and vision sensors. This project aimed to gather crucial data for forest management through advanced technology. My primary and enduring research interest is centered around the development of autonomous forest machinery systems. I am driven to contribute to the advancement of robotics and automation technologies to enable efficient and sustainable forest management. My specific focus involves the design, construction, and optimization of autonomous machines capable of performing various tasks, including tree harvesting, thinning, and transportation.

What courses will you teach / labs will you lead?
Based on my research background and experiences, I want to teach and lead a lab related to forest operation and harvesting, advanced forestry, forest robotics application, ICT and sensors application in forestry, supply chain optimization.

What are your favorite hobbies?
My favorite hobby is cooking. I am happy to share my food with my family and friends.

Anything else you would like to share?
Currently, there is a significant demand for ICT applications in forestry. Drawing from my research background, I possess a strong foundation in both forestry and ICT technologies. I aspire to serve as a valuable bridge between the realms of forestry and ICT.