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Program Outline for Sustainable Forestry (Winter 2010)

What does sustainable forestry mean in 2010? How is it related to global carbon budgets? Can the practice of sustainable forestry lead to proactive solutions to problems related to global warming and carbon balance? What tools, techniques, and foundational concepts are needed to measure and interpret modern forest metrics like carbon stocks?

This one-quarter program will explore forestry in the Pacific Northwest as it relates to sustainability, ecosystem function, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration. Students should be “field ready” for a significant amount of working and learning in “the woods”. Foundational forestry concepts and measurement tools will be combined with learning about techniques for measuring forest carbon stocks and sequestration that are now becoming standard practice in ecological forestry. We will also study historic logging techniques in forested lands of the west cascades, examine proposals for alternative techniques, and investigate traditional silviculture paradigms in the context of modern sustainability initiatives, wood certification programs, small land-owners, family farms, and unknown effects on biodiversity. Through our lectures and readings we will directly address differences in traditional forestry approaches and modern consideration of forestry effects on ecosystem function, biodiversity, and endangered species.

Our hands-on approach in the field will require students to complete a series of labs to gain competence in measuring, mapping, and estimating forest carbon stocks and biodiversity in local forests. Students will complete a series of labs to learn basic map-making proficiency in GIS as it relates to forests. Finally, the human dimension looms large in our field trips to local sawmills, forests, and active forestry operations. Our weekly seminars will cover important texts, films, and recent journal articles in sustainable forestry and forest history of the West cascades.

Total: 16 credits.
Enrollment: 25
Special Expenses: $175 for overnight field trips.


Tuesday (10:00-3:00) – Organic Farmhouse (lecture, guest speakers, seminar)

Thursday (8:00-4:00) – All-Day Field Trips (Meet at Longhouse)

Friday (10:00-12:00) – GIS Lab

Friday (12:00 – 4:00) – Field Lab (Evergreen Campus Forest)

Special Trips/workshops:

Wk 2: Three day over-night field trip to sustainable forest operations (Tuesday-Thursday)

Mid January weekend workshop: “Building an Old-growth Forest in 150 years or less” (with NNRG)

Wk 6: Independent project work for building a forest management plan

A note about the field

Although this program will take place in winter quarter, we will spend a considerable amount of time outdoors. You should be prepared to spend long hours outdoors in cold and rainy conditions. Your final field tests will be outdoors, and more than half of each week with be spent outside. In fact, even just getting to our Tuesday lecture spot (the farmhouse) requires a short walk through the woods.  It will be a blast! Be ready for it!

Field Gear

The field labs are designed so that you can get hands-on experience.  Please come prepared to spend all day in ambient weather conditions.  You will need to purchase a weatherproof field notebook.  You may want to purchase other items such as binoculars or field guides depending on your interests (please feel free to talk to the instructors about equipment/field guides).  You are also expected to carry enough food and water for each day’s outing, along with other personal supplies such as personal first aid kits, etc.

Due to possible exposure to cold temperatures, rain, and/or poison oak, no one should attend lab in shorts and/or sandals.  You will need appropriate clothing for field trips, including raingear such as a raincoat and rain pants (make sure it is truly waterproof ). I recommend pvc bibs and rainjacket since they are cheap and really waterproof. Most “work-wear” shops sell this raingear for less than $40.  We will be spending time in wet and cold habitats, so staying dry and insulated is very important.  Cotton clothing is not insulating when wet, so you should have clothes made of materials that stay warm when wet (e.g. wool, fleece, etc.).  Appropriate footwear is important.  Make sure your shoes can hold up to wet harsh conditions and wear good socks (wool, or synthetic blend hiking socks). I encourage use of caulk boots or other high-traction logging or rubber boots.

What will field labs cover?

Field labs will focus on gaining proficiency in using Trimble GPS units, mapping vegetation types, measuring plant diversity, Using permanent plots to measure carbon storage, variable radius sampling, transect methods, measuring tree, snag, and downed woody debris, soil sampling, assessing stand conditions, natural history of pacific northwest forests, constructing small field studies in forest ecology to understand ecological patterns, and practical skills such as tree felling, bucking, using hand tools, and chainsaw safety. You will keep a detailed field notebook that will be the record of these experiences.

How much of this class will be forestry, how much will be forest ecology, and how much will be forest issues?

We will spend a considerable amount of time learning about forest stand dynamics and silviculture. We will also see forest practices in action. However, we will spend the majority of our academic time on forest ecological science. Specifically, we will spend detailed time learning about measuring components of the carbon cycle, physiological ecology of forest trees, biodiversity in forest stands, and assessing forest succession trajectories. There will be at least one scientific paper assigned each week.  You will also integrate this learning with GIS and a sustainable forest management plan that will be A LOT OF WORK. Our seminar readings and films will be much more human-oriented in the sense that we will discuss forest history, and diverse perspectives in forest management.

Group Dynamics

We will be a small, mobile class. You will be expected to work in a tight-knit group. Be prepared to work across significant differences. You will have to be capable of embracing perspectives that do not match your own. Be prepared to have failures and to help everyone around you through difficulties. We will need a strong learning community this quarter, and so come prepared to be a part of it!

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