The National Science Foundation awarded assistant professor Reem Hajjar $1.6 million through the DISES (Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems) program to research community forestry in Southeast Asia.

Hajjar, with a team of researchers, will study the impacts that community forestry has had on preventing deforestation while enhancing local livelihoods dependent on those forests. Researchers include professor Matt Betts, associate professors Robert Kennedy and Jamon Van Den Hoek from Geography, and assistant professor Samuel Bell from Applied Economics, as well as participating organizations the Spatial Informatics Group and the Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC).

“Scholars and practitioners have long sought answers to the question: what institutional arrangements -such as particular policies, organizational structures, informal norms and rules- are the best way to balance the two, often competing, objectives of rural development and forest conservation?” Hajjar says.

Case studies show that community forest management, where some degree of forest rights and responsibilities is transferred to local communities, can be an effective form of decentralized forest governance but long-term success and sustainability is variable.

“Our project will identify the conditions that lead to positive community forest management outcomes, like increased forest cover, biodiversity, or local incomes, and the contexts and arrangements that lead to substantial trade-offs across Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia,” Hajjar says.

In an unprecedented scale of analysis, this project will investigate and model the impacts of changes in community forest management institutional arrangements on forest conditions and livelihoods.

Using spatial datasets, researchers will test the hypotheses that community forest management is more likely to maintain and restore forest cover and biodiversity and enhance community livelihoods relative to forests that national governments manage. However, they expect that the magnitude of these impacts will be affected by the types of rights that communities can exercise over their forests and how secure those rights are. They also expect that impacts will be affected by baseline social conditions, like poverty levels and distance to markets, and baseline ecological conditions, like forest degradation and agricultural suitability. The researchers are hoping to additionally uncover the feedback mechanisms that drive this social-ecological system towards positive outcomes.

“With our research design, we can test to see if a positive feedback loop is driving social-ecological outcomes. Since communities now have some rights over those forests, we can see if communities are benefiting from more forest products and services associated with improving forest condition,” Hajjar says. “That, in turn, could incentivize them to continue to manage the forest sustainably and lead to better forest conditions.”

The result will be generalizable models that recognize feedbacks between forest conditions and livelihoods under community forest management. The goal is to produce models capable of predicting landscape and livelihood changes at various spatial and temporal scales under changing institutional drivers and ecological conditions.

The project will also train two PhD students, a master’s student and a postdoctoral fellow, in data science, qualitative methods and modeling. Course materials will be developed to bring socio-environmental modeling exercises into the classroom at Oregon State and at partner universities in Cambodia. Open access user-friendly datasets, maps and models will be available for scholars and practitioners working on environmental governance systems in the U.S. and beyond. Finally, policy briefs will be produced to inform ongoing debates about community forestry in SE Asia.

“This work will be of interest to governments and organizations promoting local governance of natural resources, including in the U.S., where forests under community management are increasing in number, and in low- and middle-income countries where communities manage over 25% of forests,” Hajjar says.

Alumna Balkis Bakar, an Oregon State University graduate who received her PhD in wood science in 2019, is adapting wood-based composite manufacturing technology to create a new kind of composite material made from grape cane fibers.

Bakar came to OSU as a sponsored student from the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia. She had a general idea of what she wanted to research, but it wasn’t until a service project with a local Oregon vineyard that she found a suitable material to work with. The company wanted to do something with their agricultural waste, which triggered an interest for Bakar.

“We often see the commercial product produced from the crop or plantation such as wine or cotton fibers. But what happens to the necessary byproduct produced from activities like pruning or harvesting?” asks Bakar.

Bakar says some byproduct is used for fuel, as mulch, left in the field or burned. But there is a growing interest and effort in many countries to use underutilized fibers or non-wood fibers.

“Balkis saw an opportunity to study the resource and then create a product,” says Professor Fred Kamke, the JELD-WEN Chair of Wood-based Composites Science and leader of the wood-based composites center at OSU. “Her greatest contribution is a thorough analysis of the raw material, including anatomical characteristics, cell wall structure, and chemistry.”

Based on her analysis, Bakar devised a process to extract the usable fibers and manufacture a composite using 40% grape cane fiber and 60% polyester.

“No one had done that with grape cane before,” says Kamke. “Grape cane is typically burned as waste.”

“Adapting underutilized fibers like agricultural waste as an alternative material for wood in certain applications can have many benefits,” says Bakar. “It can reduce the demand burden for wood, and growers can benefit if the plantation byproduct has some economic value.”

Bakar, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in bio-composite technology at Universiti Teknologi Mara Shah Alam and master’s degree in the same field at Universiti Putra Malaysia, explains that bio-based composites are not limited to wood fiber and include all plant materials. Previously she studied agricultural waste and byproducts from palm oil plantations.

Bakar sees potential for future grape fiber research, saying that some vineyard owners are already trying to utilize this material. Examples include weaving the cane into containers, creating decorations or converting the fiber into boards.

The Wood and Fiber Science Journal published Bakar’s research in 2020 and the International Society of Wood Science and Technology (SWST) awarded Bakar and Kamke the 2021 George Marra first place award for excellence in writing.

Bakar currently works at Universiti Putra Malaysia as a lecturer in the Department of Natural Resource Industry at Faculty of Forestry and Environment.

Bakar chose OSU because of its reputation in the forestry field and the reputation of Dr. Kamke.

Dr. Kamke has led the Wood-Based Composites Center (WBC) for over 17 years. The WBC is an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center with two main university sites, Oregon State University and Virginia Tech. Partner institutions North Carolina State University, Michigan State University, Auburn University and the University of Nevada Reno also conduct WBC research.

As head of the center, Kamke leads research involving the design, manufacture and performance of wood-based composites. His research group also explores the interaction of adhesives with wood and modified wood in composite applications.

Kamke says many people think of particle board when they hear the phrase wood-based composite, but it is so much more than that. Wood-based composites can be manufactured in various shapes and sizes and include composite lumber, structural panels, and 3D molded parts.

“Even cross laminated timber (CLT) is considered a composite and architects are now designing skyscrapers using CLT,” says Kamke. “CLT is made from lumber, but a companion product called mass plywood panels (MPP) is made from veneer by the Freres Lumber Company. I predict that we will see other types of wood composites used in the mass timber products market.”

There are many advantages to wood-based composites. They are highly uniform in their properties, whereas solid wood varies from piece to piece. Pound for pound, a structural wood composite will have greater strength and stiffness than a solid-sawn beam or column. Perhaps the best advantage of composites is the ability to use nearly 100% of the log (excluding bark) while solid-sawn lumber has a yield of about 50%. In addition, producers cannot create another solid piece of lumber with recycled wood and sawmill residues, but producers can utilize the materials to create a composite.

Both Bakar and Kamke see massive opportunities in the broader field of bio-based composites, adhesives and modified wood composites.

“Wood-based composites and modified wood products can compete against synthetic composites like glass fiber composites, and also with streel and concrete,” says Kamke.

A version of this story appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

Lara Jacobs is bringing into focus the ecological and pathogenic impacts of outdoor recreation using a cultural impact lens.

Jacobs, who is pursuing her PhD in forest ecosystems and society, works collaboratively with a Tribe in Washington to examine how fecal matter from outdoor recreationists may create issues to the Tribe’s food supply.

Jacobs says that most people do not understand that when they deposit fecal matter in parks and protected areas, it may pose issues to watersheds, soils, and animals, including humans.

“We’ve been taught for years just to dig a hole and bury fecal matter,” says Jacobs. “However, this contrasts with the scientific literature that shows how bacteria survive in great abundance across seasons, and depth of burial doesn’t seem to matter. The best practice isn’t to bury your fecal matter unless you plan to put in a lot of work to completely compost it with soil. Outdoor recreationists should be packing out their fecal waste whenever possible.”

This research is vital for multiple reasons, including the Treaty obligations that the U.S. government holds to manage the Tribe’s non-reservation lands in manners that maintain their natural resources, including subsistence foods.

“This research is also critical because the field of recreation ecology has yet to bring in a cultural impact lens,” says Jacobs.

As a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma who also has Choctaw heritage, Jacobs graduated magna cum laude from Oregon State University with a bachelor of science degree in women studies. The degree combined her interests in environmental issues with topics about systems of oppression and privilege. She also holds a master’s degree in environmental studies from Prescott College, focusing on environmental education, conservation science, and sustainability.

After completing her master’s degree, Jacobs wanted to continue researching outdoor recreation science but was more interested in the ecological impacts of outdoor recreation.

“There are five recreation ecology lab groups at universities worldwide, four of which are in the U.S., and one at OSU,” says Jacobs. “Dr. Ashley D’Antonio’s recreation ecology lab group is where the best GIS work is coming from in this field. So, it was a natural choice for me to apply to be in her lab group.”

Her doctoral research centers on the spatial mapping of outdoor recreationists’ behaviors and their associated environmental ecological and pathogenic impacts on Native lands managed by the National Park Service. Jacob’s main objective is to bring an inclusive lens to academia and help transform the academic landscape into a better and brighter place for everyone. While at OSU, she’s worked to build bridges across the college to create spaces for Indigenous students to connect on various topics.

She co-founded the Traditional Ecological Knowledge club and is the current chair and graduate student representative. Jacobs reestablished an OSU chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and currently serves as president. She is secretary of the Indigenous Grad Student Alliance, and for the past year, she served as a member of the Indigenous Involvement Work Group for the George Wright Society. Jacobs is also a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, ARCS Scholar, Cobell Scholar, Native Nations Institute Awardee, Helen J. Harold Gilman Smith Scholar and Thurgood Marshall Scholar.

Jacobs says one of the best things about her graduate program has been working with her advisor, Dr. D’Antonio.

“She provides an excellent example for how mentorship of graduate students can occur through positive and supportive interactions,” says Jacobs. “I model my mentoring of students based on her actions.”

During her spare time, Jacobs loves to hike, backpack, kayak, and explore different ecosystems. She also enjoys time with family.

“Family means so much to me, and so does my culture,” says Jacobs. “I work with a cultural guide to connect with my Tribe and spend time learning our Mvskoke language and histories. I also love to create beadwork that is inspired by my people and our connections with the land. In the summer, I spend my time gardening and harvesting foods and medicines. In fall, I spend countless hours canning, drying, and preparing food for my family and Tribal Elders.”

The College of Forestry has supported Jacobs’ education through multiple scholarships, including covering equipment costs for her research.

After finishing her degree, Jacobs aspires to continue working in academia as a professor.

“My dream is to continue building knowledge about how outdoor recreation impacts Tribal Communities and generate more information about recreation impacts in marine systems,” says Jacobs. “I plan to establish a lab group where I can dedicate space and time to mentoring Indigenous students and others from marginalized communities, including allies.”

Indigenous women make up the smallest percentage of assistant, associate, and full professors nationwide (less than one-half of one percent). Jacobs hopes to use her position to show other Indigenous and marginalized people that they, too, belong in the academy and help them realize their potential and achieve their dreams.

A version of this story appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

For Skye Greenler, a fire ecologist and PhD candidate, fire management has been part of her life from a very young age.

“I grew up on a family farm in Wisconsin that was half organic cropland and half restored tall-grass prairie,” says Greenler. “Conducting prescribed prairie burns was a celebration of the changing seasons, and balancing production with sustainability and conservation was an integral part of working on the land.”

Her family’s prairie management emulated that of upper Midwest and great plains tribes, which instilled a deep interest in the practices of Indigenous fire managers. The farm also taught Greenler to think critically about sustainably using the land, building healthy ecosystems to buffer resources through bad years, and balancing a range of seemingly contradictory objectives— the questions she’s still thinking about today.

Greenler is at the forefront of a more holistic perspective in scientific inquiry. She is working to understand how systemically entrenched bureaucracy, patriarchal mindsets of command and control and injustices to underrepresented communities inhibit adaptation to our current fire challenge.

She arrived at OSU excited about the opportunity to study wildfires in one of the most fire-prone landscapes in the nation, where science, management and policy decisions often drive changes in the region and across the country.

Her dissertation focuses on identifying when wildfires can help restore historical and healthy forest conditions in eastern Oregon and northern California. A major part of her dissertation focuses on developing landscape-scale fire models for northern California that incorporate Indigenous fire management practices into cutting-edge fire modeling and management tools.

“This work is a collaboration with Karuk tribal experts, resource managers and scientists. Working together, we will better understand historical forest conditions, implications of different management decisions, and the changes necessary to build future climate and wildfire resilient ecosystems and communities,” says Greenler.

Greenler says there is an urgent need to reassess how we manage and live with fire in Oregon and many places across the globe.

“Understanding when, where, and how fire is beneficial on landscapes is critical for us to work towards promoting good fire and coexisting with fire rather than needing to fight and fear all fire,” says Greenler.

There is also increasing recognition of the importance of Indigenous fire management in restoring landscape resilience, reducing risk to communities and promoting critical first foods and medicines.

“This work is very place-based and needs to be led by local tribes, not Western scientists, but I see a lot of hope in collaborative work that centers Indigenous fire stewardship and land management,” says Greenler.

Greenler hopes that fire scientists can transition to uplifting Indigenous fire management in the following decade and collaboratively create a tangible and substantial space for cultural burning within fire management and landscape restoration.

“In the western United States, wildfire is a natural process that is foundational to maintaining ecosystem health but is increasingly a destructive event that can result in loss of life, property, and valued natural resources,” says Greenler. “Science, management, and policy that together can reduce the risk of uncharacteristic, destructive fires, while promoting natural fire and forest processes is critical to restore forest resilience and reduce risk.”

Greenler’s major professor John Bailey, professor of silviculture and fire management, says she exemplifies the combination of intellectual ability, talent, drive and heart to advance the College of Forestry’s mission for research, teaching and outreach.

After receiving a Provost Fellowship, Greenler helped found the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Club, which supports Tribal rights and inclusion in natural resource stewardship, including hosting a recurring conference on Traditional Ecological Knowledge in ecosystem sustainability. She served as the President of the Student Association for Fire Ecology and is one of 100 doctoral students in the U.S. and Canada selected to receive the Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood.

Greenler received a master of science degree from Purdue University in 2018 and a bachelor of arts degree in ecology from Colorado College in 2014.

A version of this story appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

photo courtesy of Starker Forests

A group of scientists and forest managers at OSU and the US Forest Service are asking community members who experienced the June 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave event to participate in foliage scorch research. Community members are invited to observe the heat impacts to foliage and report their observations using a website created by the Oregon Department of Forestry to survey drought impacts on forests.

Following two years of drought, many areas of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia experienced unprecedented air temperatures during an extreme heat wave in late June and early July of 2021. 

This event led to numerous reports of foliage scorch and leaf drop in westside forests of the Oregon coast range and the Cascades mountain range. Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) seem to have been the most impacted tree species, but Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and various alder and maple species were also affected. Notably, trees and saplings with direct solar exposure and on south-facing slopes seemed to suffer the worst foliage scorch. 

Researchers do not know what the near- and long-term physiological causes and consequences of foliage scorch and heat stress will be, at either leaf or tree scales. The impacts could range from impaired metabolism on surviving leaves to reduced stem diameter growth to eventual tree mortality. This event provides a unique opportunity to probe the physiological and ecological responses to an extreme heat wave in important tree species of the Pacific Northwest.

Researchers ask that anyone participating in the research please note in the “Description and/or caption information” of the survey that participants are reporting ‘impacts of the June 2021 heat wave‘ and also use the phrase ‘foliage scorch‘ so researchers can retrieve these observations later for mapping and analysis of this extreme event.

https://tinyurl.com/heat-wave-foliage-scorch

Back in late April, OSU Research Forests had the exciting opportunity to plant native pacific aspens along the 600 road in the Oak Creek area of the McDonald Forest, as well as at the Marchel Tract near the Willamette River. Several were also planted near the new Peavy building on campus at OSU. College of Forestry Professor Steve Strauss and others used DNA sequencing to show that the aspens in the Willamette Valley, and nearby Washington and British Columbia, belong to a distinctive variety that grows in wet areas in the lowland Pacific. These types of areas were likely to be more abundant prior to the draining and leveling of the Willamette Valley for agriculture.

The DNA studies showed that these trees are clearly distinct from aspen in the Cascades, the Rocky Mountains, and the eastern USA and Canada. Strauss and others published these findings last year in the journal Ecology and Evolution. The authors inferred that the likely origin of this aspen was in an ice-free Pacific refugium during the last ice age.

Through a collaboration with the wholesale tree nursery, J Frank Schmidt & Son, the Strauss team’s aspen collections are currently being tested for release as a native variety. The trees planted on campus and on the Research Forests were mostly the result of samples taken by CoF staff member Anna Magnuson (supported by grant funds from Schmidt). The plantings include native trees from as close by as Peoria and the Calapooia River near Corvallis, Killen Marsh near Banks, and the Nature Conservancy’s Camassia Natural Area close to East Linn. Several other Willamette Valley origins are also represented in the plantings.

These aspens will be studied as they grow to see if they are better adapted to local conditions than the mountain aspens that are now commonly planted. J Frank Schmidt & Son plans to have them ready for distribution in a few years. Hopefully this beautiful looking, beautiful sounding, and formerly common tree in the Valley becomes more widely enjoyed by everyone. Educational materials will be installed near some of the trees once they become established.

The OSU College of Forestry’s Research Forests include network of ten forest tracts spread throughout Oregon, totaling 15,000 acres. Subscribe to their newsletter to receive monthly newsletters as well as trail updates.

Skye Greenler, a PhD candidate and Provost Fellow in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, is one of 100 doctoral students in the U.S. and Canada selected to receive a $20,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood.  She was sponsored by Chapter A of Portland, Oregon.

Skye, originally from Stoughton, Wisconsin, is a fire ecologist whose work focuses on collaborative science that bridges fire management and ecology to develop ways to better live with and manage wildfire into the future. She received an MS from the Forestry and Natural Resources Department at Purdue University (2018) and BA from Colorado College (2014). 

Greenler is at the forefront of a more holistic perspective in scientific inquiry, working to understand ways that systemic entrenched bureaucracy, patriarchal perspectives of command and control, and injustices to underrepresented communities inhibits adaptation to our current fire challenge.  Her dissertation focuses on identifying when wildfires can help restore historical and healthy forest conditions in eastern Oregon and working to develop landscape-scale fire models for northern California that incorporate Indigenous fire management practices into cutting-edge fire modeling and management tools.

Her dissertation is linking new concepts in planning, large-scale quantitative modeling, and the voices of Indigenous Peoples to inform new policy and management directions that embody the best hope for a more resilient future. 

Greenler has served as the President of the Student Association for Fire Ecology at OSU, and helped found the Traditional Ecological Knowledge club which supports Tribal rights and inclusion in natural resource stewardship, including hosting a recurring conference on Traditional Ecological Knowledge in ecosystem sustainability.

The P.E.O. Scholar Awards were established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral-level degree at an accredited college or university. Scholar Awards recipients are a select group of women chosen for their high level of academic achievement and their potential for having a positive impact on society.

The P.E.O. Sisterhood, founded January 21, 1869, at Iowa Wesleyan College, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, is a philanthropic educational organization dedicated to supporting higher education for women.  There are approximately 6,000 local chapters in the United States and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members.

Landslides are a global hazard that take the lives of over ten thousand people a year and dramatically reshape our landscapes.

“The loss of lives is the most tragic consequence,” says Ben Leshchinsky, Richardson Chair in Forestry and associate professor of geotechnical engineering. “More often, however, the impact of landslides is economic and related to the costs of repairs or mitigation or moving people as well as impacts to emergency access.”

Leshchinsky studies various topics relating to geotechnical engineering, with a primary emphasis on landslides, slope stability, reinforced soil, and applying remote sensing techniques to assess geohazards.

Leshchinsky does some of his work in partnership with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“They have lots of concerns about accessibility and emergency response, particularly following a big earthquake, rainstorm or change in climate,” Leshchinsky says.

When most people think of a landslide, they think of a sudden, abrupt failure and slope or hillside collapse. While those types of landslides exist, some landslides move more like a glacier than an avalanche.

“We do quite a bit of work monitoring slow-moving failures,” Leshchinsky says. “Understanding if there’s a pattern to their movement, like when they will move, how they will move, and how it might impact infrastructure. We also work to understand the risk or likelihood of an event.”

Determining the risk is key to planning and protecting communities and infrastructure. To support that effort, Leshchinsky and colleagues developed an approach to take landslide inventories, analyze their failure mechanism, understand their mechanical properties and use this data for regional-scale landslide hazard, susceptibility and risk assessment. These tools advance how we can use landslide databases to predict landslide hazards, which is essential to planners, engineers and scientists.

“The problem we were seeing before creating our tools is that people develop these databases that were missing key pieces of information,” Leshchinsky says. “I could, for example, see trends and other data in the database, but was missing information like how to mitigate landslide impacts, or how to evaluate how likely it is that a slope will fail.”

Leshchinsky is working with PhD student Nick Mathews to generate different potential landslide scenarios, like earthquakes or significant storm events, in the Oregon Coast Range to evaluate the susceptibility and vulnerability of infrastructure to damage or closures from landslides.

“One of the things I do is take inventories of landslides and back out information like shape, volume and strength to determine how slopes might fail,” Mathews says. “I also ask questions like does this location have ‘weak’ geology or ‘strong’ geology? I use those numbers to evaluate, in terms of forecast and predictive measures, to help determine what will fail next.”

“Documenting past slope failures gives us an idea of what will happen in the future,” Leshchinsky says.

Leshchinsky says we often associate landslides with human activities. While those can speed up or accelerate landslide activity, the fact is wherever there is a slope, there has likely been a landslide at some point in the past.

“These are natural processes connected to the environment, and they are the reasons our mountains, valleys and sea cliffs are the shape they are,” Leshchinsky says. “Landslides are the source of sediment and gravel that fish love to spawn in. They are one of the disturbances that work to produce a classic old-growth forest with a patchwork of vegetation and different types of trees.”

Landslides serve a role in our environment that’s not fully understood or appreciated. Leshchinsky says that while we know the basics of what drives landslides, there is incredible uncertainty in trying to predict where and when they will occur in the future.

“I tell my students that people say space is the final frontier. I don’t see it this way,” Leshchinsky says. “Down beneath our feet is the final frontier, and geological conditions we don’t know or can’t see often drive these landslides. Being able to take data from the surface and convert it to something meaningful from a perspective of understanding how things work is valuable worldwide.”

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

More than a billion people, many of them the world’s poorest, rely on forests and trees for their livelihoods. About a third of the world’s remaining intact forest landscapes are on Indigenous lands.

Assistant professor Reem Hajjar’s research examines how to support and create resilient, equitable forest-dependent communities and sustainable ecosystems.

“Particularly on Indigenous lands and lands that have been managed by local communities for generations, figuring out how we can best devise policies, practices, and interventions that respect local rights and values is crucial. Our goal should be to provide opportunities that support and empower local visions of development while also sustainably managing forests and conserving forest ecosystems that provide us all with critical services,” Hajjar says.

Hajjar’s research is at the nexus of conservation and development.

“I ask questions like, which mechanisms are best suited to ensure that we can use forests as sustainable pathways out of poverty and towards broader prosperity and a more resilient future? What are the livelihood and landscape impacts of various environmental policies, and how might that change related to who manages the forest? How do power dynamics affect governance mechanisms and equity in outcomes?”

Her research primarily focuses on low- and middle-income countries, but she’s starting to apply some of these questions in the western United States.

In 2020, Hajjar was a contributing member of the Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Poverty, organized by the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO). The panel synthesized existing knowledge related to forests, trees and eradicating poverty, producing the Forests and Poverty Global Assessment.

“The assessment comprehensively pulls together research on forest-poverty dynamics and the contextual factors that shape them, the tools we have for alleviating poverty, and how we see these dynamics being affected by global forces of change,” Hajjar says.

Hajjar served as coordinating lead author for a chapter within the assessment that identified all the forest-related “levers,” like policies, programs and interventions, that could conceivably alleviate poverty. She led a team of authors that then evaluated the available evidence for the effect that each lever has on reducing poverty.

“Essentially, this chapter asks, what has worked to alleviate poverty in forests and tree-based systems? How strong is the evidence for that?” Hajjar explains.

Hajjar says the potential impact of the assessment is substantial. It synthesizes the current understanding of how forests and tree-based systems can contribute to poverty eradication – the first of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDG1). The work also uncovers knowledge gaps where more research is needed and includes several policy recommendations to help inform decision-makers as they navigate potential synergies and trade-offs concerning forests and poverty alleviation.

“IUFRO uses these kinds of reports to get information to policy-makers,” Hajjar says. “Before COVID-19, this report was supposed to be presented at the 2020 UN General Assembly. That didn’t happen, but IUFRO has set up several webinars and created shorter ‘implications for policy-makers’ documents to ensure that the information gets into the right hands.”

Hajjar says it’s necessary to figure out what just governance of natural resources looks like so that forests can help to alleviate poverty in an equitable way and support community resilience. “Moving forward, just outcomes need to be a part of how we define sustainability in social-ecological systems.” 

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.

When the Oregon State University (OSU) College of Forestry had to fill the knowledge gap created by the departure of emeritus professor Jeff Morrell, it turned to Gerald Presley, who joined the college in 2019 after earning his PhD at the University of Minnesota and completing postdoctoral research at Oak Ridge Laboratory.

“The opportunity at Oak Ridge gave me a chance to work in a new field, bacterial genetics, where I worked on a project aimed at making value-added chemicals from biomass. At Minnesota, my work focused on the biology of wood decay,” says Presley, assistant professor of forest-based bioproducts. “OSU has been a leader in wood durability research for years and I plan to continue that program now that I am in a position here.”

Since joining the college, Presley finds himself performing a wide variety of research, the bulk of which is related to his role as leader of the Utility Pole Research Cooperative and the Environmental Performance of Treated Wood Research Cooperative.

“The Utility Pole Research Cooperative focuses on research to improve the durability of utility poles,” Presley says. “Many of the studies we perform are designed to compare different treatments that can be done to utility poles to extend their service life and improve their resilience.

This research, Presley says, can benefit the treated wood industry and utilities by improving the durability of commodities produced and used by these industries. It helps make wood products more competitive with carbon-intensive alternatives such as steel, which is important in the overall effort to reduce carbon emissions across all sectors.

The Environmental Performance of Treated Wood Cooperative studies how preservative chemicals leach out of treated wood. The cooperative also looks at ways to prevent leaching into the environment and provides outreach to the broader public. Data collected from this research is used to model the impacts of treated wood on the environment which helps builders determine whether treated wood structures are appropriate for a specific environment.

“The cooperative has performed extensive validation efforts for treated wood best management practices, which are voluntary procedures for manufacturers that can reduce leaching from treated wood products,” Presley says. “We also are embarking on a significant research effort to measure the impact of treated wood used in agriculture and are developing an accelerated leaching and migration test to look at preservative movement from different types of treated wood with different types of water exposure.”

The research the cooperative pursues improves our understanding of these wood products’ environmental dynamics. The work provides insight into the pathways treated wood interacts with in the environment. The efforts can inform mitigation efforts that will improve products and reduce impacts to the environment.

The Creosote Council and several wood-preserving industry partners gave OSU a gift to study the environmental pathways of creosote-treated wood in recognition of Presley’s research capabilities and publication efforts.

The widely used wood preservative is used to preserve critical wood infrastructures such as utility poles, railroad ties, and marine pilings. It has a long history of practical use and is the oldest wood preservative originating from the industrial age.

This gift will fund a master’s student, Skyler Foster, for two years and support a mixture of lab-based and field research studying the migration of polyaromatic hydrocarbons from creosote-treated wood with an intent to quantify the environmental impacts.

“This generous gift will allow us to perform research that will improve our understanding of how creosote treated wood impacts the environment,” Presley says. “We all rely on creosote-treated wood in some capacity, whether it be for the delivery of goods by rail or pilings that support a pier. Knowing the impacts of these commodities on the environment is essential for ensuring their continued use.”

Moving forward, there are many questions on the horizon the research cooperative will address.

“Opportunities will develop in the utility pole market due to the looming loss of pentachlorophenol (penta) as a utility pole treatment and our cooperatives will play an important role in assessing the viability of alternatives for western utilities,” Presley says. “These changes will come with questions about the environmental impacts of penta substitution, something we will continue to investigate as these changes unfold.”

A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.