Alumni Focus

dAVE bRIGGS, '80

David Briggs joined the SFR faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1980. He will be retiring this year as a Professor of Operations Research and Forest Products, Director of the Stand Manage-ment Cooperative (SMC), Director of the Precision Forestry Cooperative (PFC), and Director of the UW site of the National Science Foundation's Center for Advanced Forestry Systems (CAFS).

Raised in New Braintree, Massachusetts, a small dairy farming town in the center of the state, Briggs spent a year after high school at the U.S. Air Force Preparatory School, near Ft. Collins, Colorado, where he got his introduction to mountain climbing—which, he says, “became a life-long addiction!” He got his undergraduate degree in forest management from the University of Massachusetts, where he also took wood science courses. His work for a master’s degree from Yale was in wood science, but there he also became interested in economics and operations research. For his PhD, he applied to all of the forestry schools near big mountain ranges and ended up choosing the UW.

While pursuing his doctorate Briggs also worked as a market analyst with Washington Iron Works, a manufacturer of logging machinery. In 1973, he was appointed special assistant to then-Dean James Bethel, and in that capacity served on several projects, including studying the effects of herbicide spraying of forests during the Vietnam War, a Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials study, and a biomass-for-energy study for the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment. He also began teaching undergraduate classes in computer programming and the math sequence in the Center for Quantitative Science in Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife (CQS). In 1980 he received his PhD in operations research in wood products manu-facturing and became a member of the faculty. During his years at the UW Briggs has continued to teach CQS math courses along with courses in wood science, forest products, wood and fiber identification, and engineering economics.

Briggs' research has focused on how forestry, wood science, and forest products interactfor his doctorate, he combined things into systems, looked at how they interacted, and optimized them to provide better information for decision making. He says, "I combined tree shape and geometric features with surface descriptions of knots and other wood quality characteristics to develop the optimal sequence of logs to buck from trees. Today this is a trivial analysis for PCs, but then it took the UW’s mainframe several minutes per tree! This and similar work on how to optimally saw lumber from a log taught me how much measurement systems affect results. This led me to update the publication, Forest Products Measurements and Conversion Factors, in 1994, and to my continuing work on that project. Although I thought my dissertation would lead me in the direction of optimization problems in wood products manufacturing, the growing interest in how plantation practices affect wood quality and product value led me in the direction developing models for evaluating quality and value of managed plantations.

In 1985 the SMC was formed “to provide a con-tinuing source of high quality information on the long-term effects of silvicultural treatments and treatment regimes on stand and tree growth and development, and on wood and product quality”. Briggs participated in SMC's Wood Quality Project, eventually becoming project leader. He was appointed SMC Director in 1996. "The SMC’s work is exciting to me, " says Briggs, "because it integrates all of my research interests and because of the strong involvement of companies and agencies in designing the program and ensuring relevant results. Now in its 31st year, SMC has a total funding level of nearly $22 million.

The cost of establishing and maintaining long-term research on a scale needed to build an adequate regional database, reliable growth and yield models, and better understanding of why treatments work on one site and not another is beyond the capabilities of any single organization. Thus, SMC pools funding and scientific talent to ensure long term continuity. Its research continues to expand with new sets of trials examining response of Douglas-fir to different levels of expected genetic gain when planted at different spacings with and without competing vegetation control. Another new set of installations is examining the response of Douglas-fir plantations to nitrogen fertilizer across a range of parent materials, soils, and other site conditions to improve forest managers' ability to predict which sites respond, which do not, and hopefully to understand why.

Says Briggs, "Today, SMC provides information about a range of topics never imagined by its foundersfor example, how the changing overstory /understory structure of plantations

creates habitat and how plantations store carbon and produce bioenergy potential. Many of these studies involve collaboration with cooperatives at other universities."

In 2005, Briggs became Director of the PFC and was awarded the Corkery Family Endowed Chair. The PFC "uses advanced sensing and analytical tools to support site-specific economic, environ-mental, and sustainable decision making for the forestry sector."  Two of SFR's recent faculty hires have added their expertise to PFC's progams Assistant Professors L. Monika Moskal, in remote sensing and biospatial analysis, and Sandor Toth, in natural resource informatics.

Combining PFC's and SMC's expertise with the work of external collaborators, Briggs has initiated projects on nondestructive evaluation of wood quality in standing trees using acoustic velocity, resistance, and near-infrared spectroscopy technologies.  The objective is to enable managers to routinely obtain preharvest wood quality assessments allowing them to make better informed silvicultural and marketing decisions, and providing an innovative way to link properties from tree to log to product.

The two cooperatives' research contributions led to an invitation to the UW in 2009 to become a member of CAFS, for which Briggs was named Director of the UW site. CAFS membership includes nine universities with major forestry programs who foster collaboration across the U.S. This collaboration has resulted in NSF funding for the part of SMC's nitrogen fertilizer study in which fertilizer containing the N15 isotope is used to allow tracking of the fertilizer within the site.

Student crew members (from left) Alice Drury, Kim Littke Hanff, Melanie Kristoferson, and Paul Footen, '07, '11, conducting vegetation surveys and wildlife habitat assessments on SMC installations near Coos, Bay, Oregon. Photo: Paul Footen.

Briggs says, "All along, one of our major goals has been to attract, train, and graduate students who will become future leaders in their fields. With the assistance of Corkery Endowed Chair funding, we increased the number of graduate students affiliated with the cooperatives as well as the proportion who are pursuing PhDs. Sometimes academia is accused of not doing enough technology transfer, but I believe that turning out top level students is the best form of technology transfer there is."

With all of this, you might ask "Why retire?" Says Briggs, "I've have had so much fun over the years that it is hard to stop. But a number of projects and students are coming to closure now and I felt the right choice was to spend more time with family and to pursue travel and hobby interests. My wife, Anne, and I have a travel list that includes hiking the highlands and sampling the distilleries of Scotland, visiting Mongolia, the Cooke Islands, Costa Rica, the national parks of South Africa… We will also be busy with our "hobby farm"a llama, a miniature horse, chickens, gardens, and who know what else in the future. Coming full circle, Anne’s experiences with cattle and sheep ranching and my experience of growing up in a dairy farming area are very much alive."


John Helms, '60, recipient of the 2010 UW Forest Resources Alumni Association's Lifetime Achievement Award, will receive the Society of American Foresters' (SAF) Gifford Pinchot Medal at this year's annual SAF meeting in November. The award recognizes outstanding contributions by a forestry professional in the administration, practice, and professional development of North  American forestry. Helms is professor emeritus of silviculture at the University of California,Berkeley, where he has taught 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students during his career. His research has focused on regeneration, stand structure control, silvicultural systems, and tree physiology. His publications include 117 articles on forestry, silviculture, and tree physiology in scientific and technical journals and SAF’s Dictionary of Forestry, for which he served as editor.

Helms is a co-coordinator of the International Union of Forest Research Organization’s Working Party on Forest Terminology, a member of California’s The Forest Foundation’s board of directors, and a member of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative External Review Panel.










Alumni news

Glen McDevitt, '77, is a science teacher at Alderwood Middle School in Lynnwood, Washington.

John Sacklin, '77, recently retired after 35 years of service with the National Park Service, most recently serving as chief of planning and compliance and as management assistant for Yellowstone National Park. He was awarded the USDI’s Meritorious Service Award and a U.S. Department of Justice Certificate of Commendation for his work on winter use.

Peter Frenzen, '80, scientist at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, was awarded the USDA Forest Service's 2010 Gifford Pinchot Award for excellence in interpretation and conservation.

Sharon Buck , '82, is the dean of business and workforce education at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington.

Nalini Nadkarni, '83, has recently been appointed professor of biology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where she has been chosen to lead the University's new Center for Science and Mathematics Education.

Ashley Steel, '93, '99, is the station statistician for the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Seattle.

Jeanette Dorner, '99, is the Puget Sound Partnership's program director for salmon and ecosystem recovery. She previously served as the salmon recovery program manager for the Nisqually Tribe.

Lea Gerber, '99, is associate professor of wildlife at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Guy Robertson, '99, is national sustainability program lead for the USDA Forest Service in Arlington, Virginia.

Melissa Keeley, '00, is assistant professor of geography at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Michelle Slavin, '00, is a conservation education trainer for the North Carolina Zoo's Uganda-North Carolina International Teaching for the Environment program. Based in the Kibale National Park region, she helps area teachers integrate conservation education into the curriculum.

Shelley Hall, '00, is chief of natural resources for the USDI’s Cape Cod National Seashore in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.  

Sandra Clinton, '01, is assistant professor in the University of North Carolina's Biology Department in Charlotte, North Carolina.

David Bergendorf, '02, is a program and budget analyst with the USDA Forest Service's National Forest System in Washington, DC.

Karen Black-Jenkins,'03, is director of the Savannah Tree Foundation, in Savannah, GA

Akira Kajiwara, '03, is professor in Otemon Gakuin University's Faculty of Management in Osaka, Japan.

Crystal Raymond, '04, '10, is a research biologist for the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Seattle.

Brian Kertson, '10, is a wildlife biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Boise, Idaho.

Jesse McCarty, '10, is a wildlife biologist for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Kristen McIvor, '11, is the Cascade Land Conservancy’s community garden coordinator for Tacoma/Pierce County, Washington.

Jacob Milofsky, '11, is the stewardship coordinator for Tree Pittsburgh, an urban forestry nonprofit in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.


Roswell Duppenthaler, ‘40
Harry McCormack, ‘40
Robert Ridgeway, ‘40
Harold Medvedeff, '41
Kenneth Morrow, '41
John Allen, '47, '49
Arild Krystad, '50
Robert Northman, ‘58
Kenneth Scott, '67
Daniel Zender, '67
Howard Heiner, ‘73
John Mandzak, ’82, ‘87

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