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Faculty Profile — Rob Harrison

Rob showing students a deep seepage water collector at Snoqualmie Pass. The collector’s height keeps the entrance above the snowpack.

Rob Harrison is Professor of Soil and Environmental Science in the Ecosystem Sciences Division. Rob says, “I came to my dream job at CFR in 1987 from the mountains of east Tennessee, getting a send-off from colleagues at Oak Ridge National Lab that included a coon-skin cap and a large mason jar of moonshine that I still haven¹t had cause to completely finish off.

My early knowledge and opinion of CFR came largely from the forest soils graduate program, which was and still is considered to be the best in the U.S. I can remember meetings at the Soil Science Society of America where CFR graduate students and faculty took the lion’s share of awards for ‘best presentation’— a running joke about this still continues. Fortunately, CFR has maintained its reputation for excellent graduate programs, even though the College has and continues to change.”

Rob’s known family roots are all eastern, starting in Virginia in the early 1600s. With his first trip “out west,” he fell in love with the beautiful environment and always had a goal to eventually locate out here. Rob says, “My uncle was a professional forester in North Carolina, and, appropriately, I graduated in 1978 from N.C. State with a forestry degree with a soil science double major. I ‘learned’ my way up and down the eastern seaboard, with a 1980 M.S. at the University of New Hampshire working on nutrient cycling in northern hardwoods, reforestation service in the U.S. Peace Corps in Tanzania in 1981 and 1982, a 1985 doctorate from Auburn University (in Alabama) in soil chemistry (Phosphorus chemistry of soils) and a 1985-1987 post-doc at Oak Ridge National Lab studying the impacts of air pollution on soils.

My research interests include working on the myriad of factors that affect forest productivity. I have been the nutrition project coordinator of the Stand Management Cooperative since 1996, and have made it a personal goal to extract the maximum amount of useful data out of studies begun in the past by other UW researchers, particularly Stan Gessel and Dale Cole. As such, I have worked hard on finishing and adding value to studies begun as long ago as 1969 and finding new funding to establish similar studies. Recent work includes determining the effect of forest fertilization on long-term soil carbon sequestration and the impact of harvesting removals on the long-term productivity of high-productivity soils. The use of soil amendments to ameliorate growth-limiting factors and enhance forest productivity has also been of great interest.”

Rob and family, Marcia, Joseph (9), and Joanna (7) at the Grand Canyon.

Although Rob has concentrated on research since his first days in graduate school, he discovered a passion for teaching after arriving at CFR. “I presently teach or am involved in teaching 12 courses ranging from basic environmental science to advanced soil chemistry and fertility. Some of my courses are entirely lab-and classroom-taught, but I feel most successful and comfortable teaching in the field with smaller classes and high interaction levels. However, I find that I also enjoy teaching lower-level courses with high enrollments, particularly since students in these courses have a variety of viewpoints that normally aren’t found in higher-level courses. My teaching efforts have also extended into public schools, particularly visiting with Seattle schools’ ‘inquiry-based-science’ lessons on soil properties. I have even tried my hand at teaching in Portuguese in Brazil, and this has given me an added appreciation for the challenges faced by UW students using English as a second language.”

Traveling and seeing new places are among Rob’s fondest childhood memories. “When I was very young, my parents put me and my three sisters into a homemade camper and cooked our meals on a Coleman stove. On some days our main course depended on how well the fishing went! Before I was 10 we had twice camped our way across the country from the east to the west coast and made many other trips up and down the Atlantic coast.

My own family carries on this tradition, and Marcia (my wife), Joseph (9) and Joanna (7) are veterans at camping.  We have already made two driving trips to the east coast (as far as the Florida Keys) and many others flying. We always have a plan for a new trip. Since Marcia (a UW professor in biostatics) is Brazilian and maintains her ties there, we have concentrated much of our international travel on doing soils and biostatistics in Brazil, which has worked out very well for us. Brazil is a very large, developing country with extensive, economically important forests and significant environmental problems. All of this spells opportunity for a soil scientist! They welcome U.S. scientists with lots of interesting problems and resources to work on them.” Both Rob and Marcia are planning a half-year sabbatical starting in January 2003 to work on the application of City of Sao Paulo biosolids to highly productive Eucalyptus plantations in Sao Paulo State.

Faculty News

Bruce Bare reports that on November 7, 2001, the CFR faculty voted to accept a proposal to consolidate the College’s seven existing undergraduate curricula into two.  Bruce has appointed an ad hoc Curriculum Transformation Committee to develop a detailed proposal for consideration and adoption by the faculty.  The committee’s deliberations will include the exploration of further consolidation, focusing on the level and nature of integration between paper science and engineering and the proposed new science, design, and management curriculum.

Gordon Bradley reports that the Urban Ecology Initiative, a collaborative effort among several UW academic units, including CFR, was featured in the December 6, 2001 University Week.  See http://depts.washington.edu/uweek/archives/2001.12.DEC_06/. Urban Ecology was also featured in the UW Graduate School’s 1999-2001 biennial report as the most recent UW interdisciplinary program funded by the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program.  Urban Ecology’s goal is to change the culture of doctoral education in four ways: emphasizing teams, providing immediate emphasis on interdisciplinarity rather than disciplinary focus, allowing team determination of desired academic background; and scheduling participation of all core faculty in the classroom at every lecture and discussion session.

Toby Bradshaw spoke at the conference, “A Look at the Opportunities and Impacts of Forest Biotechnology,” on December 4-5, 2001, in Atlanta, GA.  Sponsored by The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, The Society of American Foresters, and The Ecological Society of America, the conference united individuals and organizations with expertise in forestry, forest ecosystems, forest product development, forest policy, and the societal and economic role of forests to share their perspectives on the impacts and opportunities of introducing genetically engineered trees into the environment. Toby was a recently featured profile on the Pew Initiative Food and ­Biotechnology website (http://pewagbiotech.org/buzz/ display. php3?StoryID=23)

Dave Briggs and Bruce Lippke published a report on Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) research in the October 2001 issue of Forest Products Journal.

Ward Carson was appointed Affiliate Professor of Forest Resources in the Management and Engineering Division, effective May 2, 2001.

Linda Chalker-Scott was featured in an August 17, 2001 Salem, OR Capital Press article entitled “UW ecologist: Landscapers should rethink certain ‘rules’.”  The article details research that will change the way landscapers plant and transplant trees.

Bob Edmonds attended a December 4, 2001 forum of international forestry leaders on forestry education, part of the fiftieth anniversary of forestry education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

David Ford was appointed Adjunct Professor of Applied Mathematics, effective September 16, 2001.

Jeffrey Foster was appointed Affiliate Professor of Forest Resources in the Management and Engineering Division, effective May 2, 2001.

Bob Gara was awarded a plaque by alumnus Ben Harrison, ’66, in appreciation for his extraordinary work in teaching and applied research at the College. The bronze plaque, which Ben created, displays a piece of South American amber containing a fossilized wasp on a wooden base.

Robert Gara (left) receiving accolades for his outstanding career from alumnus Ben Harrison, ’66. Pat Cummins, ’50 assists.

Charles Halpern was appointed Adjunct Research Professor of Botany, effective July 1, 2001.

Paul Heilman, WSU Professor and long-time CFR Affiliate Professor, passed away on October 17, 2001.

Kevin Hodgson reports that his Autumn 2001 pulp and paper technology class took field trips to study four aspects of the pulp and paper industry.  The class visited the Kimberly-Clark pulp and paper mill in Everett, WA, a fully-integrated sulfite mill that produces consumer tissue and towel products. A number of CFR graduates have interned and/or work at the mill. Students also visited the Simpson pulp and paper mill in Tacoma, WA, a Kraft pulp mill which also produces linerboard and paper bags and has a recycling plant for old corrugated containers; the Willamette Industries corrugated box plant in Bellevue, WA, that produces corrugated boxboard for shipping containers; and the Weyerhaeuser Company R&D Center, Federal Way, WA, that carries out research in support of the company’s pulp, paper, and solid wood businesses.

Bruce Lippke made a presentation on sustainable harvest methodologies at a December 6, 2001 meeting of the WA Board of Natural Resources.  He was also asked to serve on the WA Department of Natural Resources Technical Review Committee for their Sustainable Harvest Program. 

John Marzluff reports the recent publication of two books: J. M. Marzluff, R. Bowman, and R. E. Donnelly, (Eds), (2001), Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world, presenting a summary of current research on birds in settled environments ranging from wildlands to exurban, rural to urban; and J. J. Millspaugh, and J. M. Marzluff, (Eds), (2001), Radio tracking and animal populations, encompassing the various aspects of animal ecology that may be evaluated using radio tracking technology. John also reports that a film on ravens produced by the BBC aired on PBS on December 23, 2001.  The film featured some of John and his colleagues’ work from the Olympic Peninsula and the Maine woods.

Nalini Nadkarni, ’83, Affiliate Associate Professor and Evergreen State College faculty member, was featured in a November 20, 2001 New York Times article entitled “Something Missing in the Fragile Cloud Forest: The Clouds.”

A goodbye party for Chad Oliver was held on December 5, 2001, in CFR’s Lockwood Forest Club Room. Chad, a long-time CFR faculty member, recently decided to take a new position at Yale University starting January 2001. A gift fund to support graduate research in silviculture is being established in Chad’s name. CFR thanks and celebrates Chad’s many years as a highly valued member of the CFR community and wishes him well on his move to Yale! He was awarded a plaque by Ben Harrison, ’66.

John Perez-Garcia recently made a presentation on the economic impacts of Timber Substitution Rules to a Joint Select Legislative Task Force.  He also gave a presentation on the economic analysis of carbon storage strategies at a workshop entitled “Climate Change, Carbon, and Forestry in Northwestern North America,” held on Orcas Island, WA, November 13-16, 2001.

Dave Peterson participated in a briefing for reporters on November 8, 2001 on the impacts of climate change in the Pacific Northwest. UW sponsors of the briefing included the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and the Ocean, the School of Marine Affairs, and the Climate Impacts Group.  Dave also chaired a discussion at a workshop entitled “Climate Change, Carbon, and Forestry in Northwestern North America,” held on Orcas Island, WA, November 13-16, 2001.

Ken Raedeke was recently featured in several news articles describing his research on the declining population of mountain goats in the North Cascades.  Mountain goats have been a crucial part of life for the Sauk-Suiattle tribe, who now live in Western Washington near the Sauk River and who have requested assistance in studying the declining species.

Sarah Reichard helped organize and moderate an October 2001 symposium on invasive species held at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO, at which about 350 scientists from around the nation heard about the latest research on invasive plant and animal species.  Sarah co-organized a workshop at the Missouri Botanical Garden in December that resulted in national and international representatives from nurseries, botanical gardens, government, landscape architects, and garden clubs developing the “St. Louis Declaration”—a series of codes of conduct for each of the these groups calling for the reduction in introduction and distribution of invasive plants.  The codes will be formally presented in a press event on the first day of spring.  Sarah also gave a talk on “Considerations in Rare Plant Reintroduction” at a native plant propagation and restoration meeting in Eugene, OR in December 2001.

Emeritus Professor Reini Stettler presented the UW Chapter’s Sigma Xi Fall lecture on November 28, 2001.  The lecture, entitled, “The Wild and the Tame: Plant domestication: The case of forest trees,” discussed how 10,000 years of plant domestication have enabled agriculture to feed the world from a fraction of its land and posed the question of whether the same principles can be applied to forest trees.

Kathy Wolf is the author of the Summer 2001 “Treelink” publication of the WA Department of Natural Resources Community Forestry Program.  The summer issue is devoted to “The View from the Road,” a discussion of the urban forest and Washington state freeways.  The article can be found at www.cfr.washington.edu/research.envmind/Roadside/TreeLinkRoad.pdf.

Faculty Reports

Bob Edmonds reports on a November 27-28, 2001 forum convened by the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA)  Industrial Research Cooperative in Wilsonville, OR.  Bob says, “The idea behind this meeting was to provide an opportunity for forestry research coops in the Pacific Northwest to present what they have been doing and to look at ways to increase efficiency, share data, use common research sites and designs, integrate and/or combine efforts, and identify new research opportunities.”  Approximately 100 representatives of universities, industry, and state and federal agencies attended the forum.  The 16 cooperatives located at Oregon State University, University of Washington, University of Montana, University of Idaho, and UC Davis were well represented.

Presentations from the UW were given by Dave Briggs (Stand Management Cooperative), Doug St. John (Precision Forestry Cooperative) and Toby Bradshaw (Poplar Cooperative).  A presentation by Susan Bolton, Director of the UW’s newly created Riparian Cooperative was cancelled due to travel delays caused by snowy weather.   Other CFR faculty and staff attending the forum were Randy Collier, Rob Harrison, and Eric Turnblom.  Bob says, “Congratulations are due to Dave, Doug, and Toby on their excellent presentations. They generated many questions and showcased the high quality research that we are conducting in CFR. There seems to be strong continuing support for cooperative research in the Pacific Northwest and CFR is a leader in this effort.”

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