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 was created earlier this year 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.

One reason they were able to meet community needs quickly is because of the structure of the program. 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 and geographies. It also means they are invested in protecting the community’s resources.

Led by fire program manager Carrie Berger, there are currently four 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 Dan Leavell. Since Oregon is ecologically diverse, representation across the state is needed to address the different risks and strategies to reduce catastrophic 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 areas of strategic focus across the state. Multiple partners in Colleges across OSU utilized GIS to determine locations across Oregon that were at 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 the development and integration of fire science into Oregon’s K-12 curriculum. After the recent wildfires, the program proved it also can 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 experience 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,” says Carrie Berger, fire program manager. “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.”

More information on OSU’s Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program is available online. 

As skies turned red and large scale fires tore through Oregon’s forests and communities, Oregon State University College of Forestry researchers stood ready to share research and answer questions from reporters. They also sprung into action to support the state’s response, developing research proposals to help inform future policy decisions.

The College of Forestry produces fire-related research that expands knowledge about fire history and ecology, fuels treatment (thinning and prescribed fire), and risk analyses to help inform future decisions. The College also explores some of the important social dimensions present in fire research, like work in governance, social justice and equity, and how to improve livelihoods.

Researchers are active nationally and internationally, tracking and contributing to science and understanding. They bring this knowledge to their undergraduate and graduate students in the classroom and labs. Meanwhile, OSU’s world-class Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Program is the final, critical link, distributing information beyond the campus and helping communities become more fire-adapted.

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

The research helps guide the way towards a more fire-adapted future and contributes to a more collaborative and productive science-informed conversation about how we co-exist with fire.

The Oregon Society of American Foresters awarded four members of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry with prestigious awards at their 2020 Annual Meeting. Stephen Fitzgerald, Professor and Extension Specialist and Director of OSU Research Forests, received Forester of the Year. Dr. Jim Rivers, Assistant Professor in the College of Forestry, Forest Engineering, Resources and Management Department, received the Research Award. Lauren Grand, Oregon State University Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Agent for Lane County, received the Young Forester Leadership Award. Samuel Zamudio received SAF’s OSU Student Award.

Stephen Fitzgerald, SAF Forester of the Year

This award is presented annually to a member of the Oregon Society of American Foresters who has been recognized by their peers for contributing to both the profession and the public through application of their professional skills to the advancement of forestry in Oregon and through public service that benefits their community or some larger segment of society.

Fitzgerald is a dedicated and experienced forester, manager, and extension specialist. His knowledge of forestry is unique in that he has been with OSU and the Extension Service since the 1980’s in various positions and locations throughout the state. Throughout, he has been able to provide mentorship to OSU forestry undergraduates and graduate students, as well as forestry peers. His research interests include fire ecology, forest health and silviculture and he is now providing guidance through OSU extension to forestland owners affected by the devastating Oregon fires. Fitzgerald has a M.S. in Education and Training, Forest Management from University of Idaho, a B.S. in Forest Biology from the State University of New York, and an AAS from Holyoke Community College.

Dr. Jim Rivers and Stephen Fitzgerald

Dr. Jim Rivers, SAF Research Award

This award is presented in recognition of outstanding achievement in any branch of science leading to advancement in either the science or practice of forestry in Oregon.

Dr. Rivers is lead researcher in early-seral communities and forest management practices effects on multiple species of wildlife and pollinators. These include:

  • Marbled Murrelet reproductive success
  • Post-fire wildlife demographics and recovery
  • Herbicide treatment effects in managed forests
  • Biological diversity trends over time
  • Animal behavior patterns
  • Snags and harvest residue effects
  • Habitat linkages

Dr. Rivers has produced over 50 peer-reviewed publications and numerous outreach publications. He presents frequently, including at the SAF National Convention in Portland, at forest health conferences, at managed forest landscapes workshops, at early seral biodiversity and management workshops, and fisheries, wildlife, and ecology symposia. He has conducted invited talks for the Oregon Forest and Industries Council, Pacific Northwest Reforestation Council, and National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. His work is funded by both large and small grants from a range of sources, for both basic and applied research. 

He has a Ph.D. from University of California, Santa Barbara in Biology and a M.S. from Kansas State University.

Lauren Grand, Young Forester Leadership Award

The Young Forester Leadership Award recognizes “outstanding leadership by a young forestry professional in the development and promotion of an individual program or project, or for a sustained leadership role benefiting the practice of forestry and the Society of American Foresters.” The award is reserved for people under the age of 40. 

Lauren has been the OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Agent for Lane County since 2016. As the OSU Extension Forester for Lane County, Lauren has demonstrated leadership and produced content and tours to benefit the practice of forestry in the county and the state. Lauren has a B.S. in Environmental Science from University of California, Berkeley and a M.S. in Forest Resources from University of Washington.

Samuel Zamudio, SAF OSU Student Award

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

Samuel excelled as the OSU SAF 2020 Student Chapter Vice-President and was responsible for coordinating the Career Fair for the College hosted by OSU SAF. 

Sam graduated in the spring of 2020 with a B.S. degree. 

Congratulations to all of the award recipients!

The College of Forestry’s world-class students and faculty conduct innovative research across the entirety of the forest landscape. Our research happens in labs and outdoors– on public and private lands across the state and in the College’s own 15,000 acres of College Research Forests as well as around the nation and the world. 

The College of Forestry received over $11.2 million in new and continuing awards for FY 2020, an increase of 31% from the previous year and the highest total since FY 2016. The awards support College of Forestry research that advances scientific knowledge critical to the health of forests, people and communities.

Here are some examples of the new awards:

Wood Identification & Screening Center
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service
Principal Investigator Eric Hansen
$1,087,945

Preparing Leaders in Collaborative Forest Management in an Era of Wildfire
Sponsor: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Principal Investigator Troy E. Hall, Co- Principal Investigators Reem Hajjar and Meg Krawchuk
$178,498

CAREER: Unveiling the role of catchment physiography in the hydrologic response of headwater streams
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator Catalina Segura
$757,896

Collaborative Research: MRA: A lineage-based framework to advance grassland macroecology and Earth System Modeling
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator Christopher J. Still, Co-Principal Investigators Daniel Griffith, William Riley, Jesse Nippert, Stephanie Pau, Brent Helliker
$1,489,831 (OSU portion $594,131)

Eager: Using Historic Art to Explore Legacies and Lost Function in Eastern US Forests
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Principal Investigator Dana Warren, Co-Principal Investigators Peter Betjemann, David Shaw, William Keeton, Isabel Munck
$147,490

Evaluation of Maintenance of Post-Fire Forest Cover in National Forests
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service
Principal Investigator Temesgen Hailemariam
$74,000

Effectiveness of Class II Watercourse and Lake Protection Zone (WLPZ) Forest Practice Rules (FPRs) and Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan (AHCP) Riparian Prescriptions at Maintaining or Restoring Canopy Closure, Stream Water Temperature, Primary Productivity
Sponsor: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Principal Investigator Kevin D. Bladon, Co-Principal Investigator Catalina Segura
$694,371

Advancing the characterization and management of community wildfire risk
Sponsor: USDA Forest Service
Principal Investigator Meg Krawchuk
$250,000

Reliable achievement of Douglas-fir stand management objectives using real time precision forestry
Sponsor: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Principal Investigator Bogdan M. Strimbu
$313,263

Assistant professor Catalina Segura has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to Italy.  She will study rainfall-runoff generation response in spring 2021 at the University of Florence. 

Catalina joined the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management in 2013 and runs the Watershed Processes Lab. The goal of her research program is to understand the physical processes that control the movement of water and sediment and the effects that the variability of these processes have on water availability, water quality, and stream ecology.

If you’re interested in a career dedicated to improving our forest ecosystems, learn more about our undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

In this lecture, associate professor Mariapaola Riggio introduces us to the sensor network in the George W. Peavy Forest Science Center.  This new building in OSU’s Oregon Forest Science Complex is a pioneer mass timber building showcasing innovative forest products and novel engineering solutions. Data are currently collected from a comprehensive sensor network in the building and investigated to cross-check assumptions made during the design phase. This truly makes it a living laboratory, and the monitoring data will provide many lessons for students, researchers and the mass timber industry.

Professor Riggio has been with the Department of Wood Science and Engineering since 2015. Her research interests include architecture, structural engineering, structural health, timber mechanics, and building design. Her work has led to important collaborations with the University of Oregon and the advancement of mass timber initiatives. Our undergraduate degree in renewable materials and graduate degree in wood science can lead to a career with innovative products and engineering solutions.

—This lecture was part of the College of Forestry’s Stay at Home lecture series, featuring presentations by College of Forestry professors, students, and researchers.

In “CLT industry enters 2020s (to face a different world than imagined),” professor Lech Muszyński looked into his crystal ball to see how the global pandemic is going to impact the future of this budding industry. Cross laminated timber (CLT) is an innovative wood panel product made from gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together, and has been gaining in popularity.  Will that continue?

Lech Muszyński is professor of novel composite materials and advanced manufacturing in the Wood Science and Engineering department. His work has led to innovations across a number of mass timber products, including cross-laminated timber. Our undergraduate degree in renewable materials and graduate degree in wood science can lead to a career creating innovative products and building a sustainable economy.

—This lecture was part of the College of Forestry’s Stay at Home lecture series, featuring presentations by College of Forestry professors, students, and researchers.

Jim Ayorekire, a visiting Fulbright scholar at the College of Forestry, recently gave a presentation as part of our Stay at Home Lecture Series.  Dr. Ayorekire joined us in November 2019 from Makerere University in Uganda where he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Forestry, Biodiversity and Tourism.  He talked about his research and experiences at OSU.

During his time in the College of Forestry, Jim co-taught a course in the Tourism, Recreation and Adventure Leadership degree program.  In TRAL 354 (Communities, Natural Areas, and Sustainable Tourism), he was able to share Eastern African experiences, giving the students a global perspective. In his research, he studies human-gorilla conflict in the greater Virunga landscape of Rwanda and Uganda.  This was a valuable perspective for our students!  We welcome scholars and students from all over the world to collaborate with us in our classrooms, forests and labs.

–Dr. Jim Ayorekire holds a PhD in Sustainable Tourism Management from the University of Cape Town – South Africa and a Master’s degree in Land Use & Regional Development Planning from Makerere University. His research centers on the role of tourism as a driver for natural resource conservation, and enhancement of community livelihoods and inclusive development. He also has extensive experience in knowledge transfer and curriculum design and has been focusing on innovative program and curriculum development in Tourism, Forestry, and Resource Management.

The annual Western Forestry Graduate Research Symposium (WFGRS) showcases graduate and undergraduate student research. This year, the symposium partnered with the College of Forestry’s Stay at Home Lecture Series to share student’s research through a series of 5-to-12 minute online presentations. Over the course of four webinars, topics such as ecology, forest management, forest products, and human uses were explored.

In the first session, Interim Dean Anthony S. Davis kicked off the symposium with opening remarks, followed by seven presentations ranging from sustainable forest certification costs and benefits to early successional forests of the Klamath-Siskiyou region.

In the second session, students presented their research proposals on topics as broad as riparian restoration, wildfire effects on water quality, timber faller safety, and more.

For the third session, presentations included Tree Mortality in the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest and The Economic Consequence of a Log Export Tax in Oregon.

In the final session, student presentations ranged from the use of low-grade cross laminated timber to comparing the performance of Douglas-fir and western hemlock seedlings in different nursery containers.

-The Western Forestry Graduate Research Symposium is organized entirely by College of Forestry graduate students. The purpose of this symposium is to promote academic excellence by challenging students to present their work to and receive feedback from their academic and professional peers on their proposed and current research from a diverse audience, fostering student engagement, enthusiasm, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

If you are interested in learning more about our education and research programs, please visit our website.

Assistant professor Dr. Jim Rivers was a featured speaker in the College of Forestry’s Stay at Home Lecture Series.  In his talk “Uncovering the hidden world of a secretive seabird,” Jim shared findings from the Oregon Marbled Murrelet Project.  Listen in to hear about the life cycle of this amazing bird and the challenges researchers face in tracking them down.

Jim is the principal investigator of the Forest Animal Ecology lab at Oregon State University.  Members of his lab group work on a variety of organisms, including forest-nesting seabirds, woodpeckers, early-successional songbirds, and native insect pollinators, and much of the research they undertake has implications for applied management issues. If you’re interested in a career dedicated to improving our forest ecosystems, learn more about our undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

–Dr. Jim Rivers is assistant professor of wildlife ecology in the Forest Engineering, Resources & Management department.  His research is centered on understanding the behavioral, physiological and ecological mechanisms that are linked to animal vital rates.