Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Oregon Woodland Cooperative: Using non-timber forest products in creative ways!

Date of Visit: July 20th, 2016
Type of Event: Study Tour
Topic: Non-timber forest products from small woodlands
Organization: Oregon Woodland Cooperative (OWC)
Location: Beaverton, OR
Host: Neil and Ardis Schroeder
International Fellows: Adam Wasiak (Poland), Ana de Miguel (Spain), Andrea Cornejo (Nicaragua), Karishmaa Pai (India), Samantha Kwan (Malaysia), Yu Lei (China)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager

On this day we visited Neil and Ardis Schroeder's home office in Beaverton. They welcomed us with warm smiles and fresh grape juice from their backyard's vines. Neil is the president of the Oregon Woodland Cooperative (OWC), an organization founded in 1980 that currently has 70 members, all private forest landowners who own and manage family forest farms.

The Coop educates its members on forest best management practices and non-timber forest products development for extra revenue. The cooperative also provides support with the marketing and distribution of these non-timber forest products.

Neil Schroeder from OWC showing the WFI fellows
the different products of the Coop
Following are some of the products distributed by the Coop: bundled firewood, essential oils, decorative wood pieces and fresh-vine arrangements which are sold in local stores around the Portland metro area and Salem. The bundled firewood are bundles of 16 x 9 x 9 inches wood pieces. The fresh-vine arrangements also called “evergreen boughs” are sold for decorative purposes to florists.

Each OWC firewood label showcases a brief story of 
the woodland owner where the wood originates

Currently, the Coop is commercializing 6 kinds of essentials oils in 5 ml bottles: western red cedar, douglas fir, incense cedar, ponderosa pine, grand fir and noble fir. The bottles have a beautiful label paired with an information flyer on the attributes and uses of these evergreen oils.

The Coop's marketing strategy focuses on finding niche markets that already offer local, fresh, organics products to their customers (people that already care about consuming local and sustainable products). The Coop uses strategies like 'story telling' of 'where the product comes from' to connect the final consumer to the product/producer. For example: Each firewood bundle showcases a different forest farm story, and people like them so much they started to collect them.The work of this small cooperative is really inspiring!

Non-timber forest products: Six coniferous essential oils
My research project at the WFI focuses on identifying environmental, social and economic benefits of organizing private forest landowners.

In Nicaragua, forest management practices that provide economic benefits to the landowner are critical to reduce the pressure for land conversion to agricultural land.

Small forest landowners have a hard time making a living by managing their land for timber. Timber production is a game of scale and the smaller the land the harder it gets! This is why organizing small forest landowners for developing and commercializing non-timber products sounds like a very enticing model for the small Nicaraguan forest landowner.

Lessons from OWC cooperative:
  • Creativity is a key ingredient in innovation. The Coop is looking for ways to use otherwise residues, defective or overlooked parts of trees to make products that are useful for certain audiences.
  • Sound marketing is a vital part of any business. The Coop looked for the support of marketing professionals and designers to assist them in creating a strong brand. Even as a small business Coop their label designs, packaging and marketing strategy are first class.
  • Dedication and continuous improvement are required to achieve success. The Oregon Woodland Cooperative has leaders dedicated to making their business model a success for all their members. Neil, Ardis and their colleagues are continuously looking for ways to improve their products quality and variety as well as exploring potential new markets for their products.

For more information about the Oregon Woodland Cooperative, please visit

Thursday, August 18, 2016

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest

Date of Visit: August 18th, 2016
Type of Event: Study Tour
Topic: Long term data collection in forestry research
Location: Western Cascade Range, Blue River, OR
Host: Mark Schulze
International Fellows: Ana de Miguel (Spain), Karishmaa Pai (India), Rebecca Hsu (Taiwan),  Yu Lei (China),
WFI Staff: Chandalin Bennett/ Sr. Programs Manager, Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager

The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest: A Great Example of Forestry Research

This day we visited H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. Mark Schulze the director gave us an introduction to the organization and showed us the different long term data collection stations.

The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest:
  • Established in 1948
  • Area covers Lookout Creek entire basin (15,800-acre/ 6,400-ha)
  • Elevation ranges between 1,350 and 5,340 feet (410 to 1,630 m)
  • Managed in partnership between the US Forest Service and Oregon State University
  • Funded by The National Science Foundation (NSF) (US$ 300k per year)
  • One of 26 Long-Term Ecological Research Stations and one of 81 USDAExperimental Forests
According to the Mark Shulze's introduction,  H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest research focuses on Pacific Northwest tree species like -Douglas-fir as well as over 500 vascular plants. Besides species richness,  H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest has various types of geo-ecological systems that researches.

Over the decades many different types of research has been conducted at H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. Current research includes watershed dynamics, forest development, carbon dynamics, remote sensing and landscape ecology. Research findings support American forestry.

In addition to research projects, H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest has an education program. This education program is meant help deepen the understanding of forestry science for people from different backgrounds and ages. This program's goals are:
  • Promote understanding on how ecosystems function
  • Foster the next generation of scientists, natural resource managers, and informed citizen leaders
  • Create programs that help capture scientists and natural resource managers while they are in their K-12 years
The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is equipped with high tech equipment to meet long and short term research needs.

Chinese Fellow's Reflection:

China also counts with experimental forests for long term research and the government allocates great importance to them. And thus experimental forests are great in numbers in China, experimental forests like H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest are rare. The main issue that limits research is the lack of data sharing that enables unnecessary research replica that hinders research advancements. 

Some take home lessons from H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest to bring back to China:
  • Reduce the numbers of ecological station to maximize utilization of resources 
  • Establish a data sharing system
  • Allocate importance to research and also to science education
  • Build a network of Long-Term Ecological Research or Experimental Forests

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Poplar Tree Farm and Sawmill

Date of Visit: August 16th, 2016
Type of Event: Study Tour
Poplar plantation
Organizations: GreenWood Resources and Collins 
Location: Boardman, OR
Lee Jimerson/ Product Manager at Collins Wood and Austin Himes/ Harvesting Manager at GreenWood
International Fellows:
Abiodun Solanke (Nigeria), Andrea Cornejo (Nicaragua), Karishmaa Pai (India), Samantha Kwan (Malaysia), Yu Lei (China), Ana de Miguel (Spain).

WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager, Chandalin Bennett/ Sr Programs Manager

Hybrid poplar tree farm
Boardman Tree farm was a 25,000 acres poplar plantation in eastern Oregon. This plantation, as other hybrid poplar (Populus ssp.) plantations, was established in the early 1990’s for the pulp and paper market. In 2007 GreenWood Resources purchased 17,000 acres of Boardman Tree farm and subsequently the rest of itSolid wood markets were developed due to the low prices of the wood-chipsThe poplar tree farm is a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified plantation and the wood is marketed as Pacific Albus.

GreenWood Resources has conducted years of research on genetic improvement through controlled hybridization and clonal selection to increase: 
  • yields
  • quality 
  • diseases resistance  
The genetic improvement research was paired with silviculture research to find the best growing techniques and breeding program to provide improved material for the plantation.
Harvesting site, Boardman tree farm,OR

Polar at the Boardman farm was grown on a 10-12 years rotation bases and was used to produce lumber, veneer and pulp chips.

Collins has been processing the wood at a mill located in the middle of the plantation and then managing the lumber sales. Collins was able to improve the historically bad reputation of poplar in the lumber industry. Proof of it is that Pacific albus is now an industry desired lumber.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The frontline of forests: forest canopy and climate change impact

Date of Visit: June to August, 2016 
Type of Event: Field study 
Topic: Canopy microclimate monitor
Organization: EPA
Location: Soap grass, Tall creek, Woods creek (NSFS)  
Host: Peter Beedlow, Ron Waschmann and Sky Lan
International Fellows: Rebecca Hsu (Taiwan)

EPA climatologist Ron Waschmann 
working at a weather station on 
an old-growth noble fir tree
A vast area of the Pacific Northwest (west of the Cascade Mountains) is comprised by Douglas-fir associated in moist forests, which is Oregon's main timber specie. Recent studies indicate that canopy structure and microclimate might influence the degree of Swiss needle cast (SNC) incidence on Douglas-firs, which impacts significantly the local timber industry. It turns out that water dynamics are important because leaf wetness during May- August drives the success of needle colonization. During current climate change, research related to 'the dynamics of canopy microclimate with this emerging disease' is urgently needed.

During my fellowship at WFI, I was invited to do field work with EPA, installing weather stations, and measuring canopy allometry on old-growth Douglas fir trees.
Following are the lessons learned during the past few months.

How to rig a tree
Peter using a crossbow to
shoot a fish line to the canopy 

To access the canopy of a 'wild tree' (a tree that has never been climbed before) the first step is to rig it. This is usually the most difficult part of canopy research. First, old-growth forest are always very dense, making it hard to see through the canopy and very difficult to shoot the rope to the canopy. EPA researchers use a crossbow (150 lbs or bigger) to shoot a fish line into the desired branch, connect it to a thicker line, and then to a climbing rope.

My husband Brian Chiu helped to 
get leaf samples from old-growth 
Douglas during his visit
The tree canopy is always an unknown. When you ascend a rope there are many obstacles to overcome, and in my opinion: pulling ropes is certainly a much harder task than climbing. Very often, when you arrive to the supporting anchor you find out that you are hanging of a dead or broken branch, and then is when it get really scary.     

How to climb a 'wild tree' by using a single rope system

Using rope wrench & prusik hitch to 
climb tree, a new skill I learned 
I learned a convenient climbing technique from a professional arborist  in Portland Oregon, Brian French. And I was able to practice the newly learned climbing technique doing field work with EPA. The single rope system is lighter weight than other systems and it will be of great benefit on my long hiking expedition in Taiwan.
The first time I used this technique for a long descending the rope was burned black! I went back to Brian and he told me how to improve the 'prusik hitch'. Using borrowed gear can be tricky but once I learned to work with it field work became much more enjoyable.      
Sky Lan conducting canopy allometry measurements

How to measure canopy allometry

For me the canopy allometry measurements probably were the hardest part of that field work. Thus, it is the only (and cheapest) way to understand the canopy structure of an ancient tree in the old-growth forest. I hope Lidar technology improves in the future to eliminate this step. But until then we will have to hang on the canopy for hours to days to measure a tree girth every 6 feet, and branch characteristics (eg. angle, direction, width, leaf ration etc). Imagine a 200-feet tree with more than 100 branches! Then science stops being romantic!

How to install a weather station

My main research interest is in monitoring canopy microclimate. The EPA climatogist Ron was so kind to demonstrate how he installs a weather station and shared his tricks on modifying weather sensors and other equipment's. EPA has been collecting high quality climate as well as tree data for more than 20 years! As a field ecologist, I know how devoted and determined those guys are. I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet these serious scientists in the Oregon!

Ron demonstrating how to install a simple and short-term weather station 

International Fellow Reflection
  • Microclimate and canopy structure are crucial for knowing the whole picture of healthy forests
  • Experience and practice are crucial for improving climbing technique
  • Accuracy and luck are crucial for rigging a tree
  • Patience and fitness are crucial for measuring canopy allometry
  • Calibration and custom modification are crucial for monitoring long-term climate change

The Making of Engineered Wood (Glulam)

Study tour to the Mill: Between the Forest and Frame!

Date of Visit: August 5th, 2016
Type of Event: Study Tour
Topic: The Making of Engineered Wood (Glulam)
Organization: Zip - O - Log Mills, Inc
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Host: KayCee Hallstrom/ Sales/Scheduler at Zip-O-Log
International Fellows: Abiodun Solanke (Nigeria), Adam Wasiak (Poland), Karishmaa Pai (India), Samantha Kwan (Malaysia), Yu Lei (China)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery/ International Fellowship Manager, Chandalin Bennett/ Sr Programs Manager

The Pacific Northwest is well known for its forestry and lumber industry which are the mainstay of its construction industry. A prominent part of the supply chain is the processing of these logs into timber products needed for all types of building projects. Our study-tour goal was to gain firsthand knowledge in the processing capacity and handling of logs to dimensional lumber.

Zip-O-Log Mills is a 3rd generation family-owned business founded in 1944 based in Eugene Oregon (2hrs south of Portland). The company has made its great reputation producing high quality products and on-time delivery. The tour was conducted by KayCee Hallstrom, a fourth-generation family member, daughter of one of Zip-O- Log's current owners.


The Mill prides itself in its zero – waste, fully automated production line, capable of processing up to 52 feet long logs. The logs are sourced from SW Washington and NW to Central Oregon throughout the Willamette valley, mostly from private forests. When selecting the logs, ring count and aesthetics matter the most.
Dimensional Lumber ready for shipping

The logs (timber) are delivered to Zip-O-Log log yard where they are scaled and graded by the Columbia River Log Scaling & Grading Bureau (a third party). 

The sawn lumber is graded by Zip-O-Log graders following The Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau (PLIB) grading guidelines (third-party). Grading allows to segregate boards according to their overall quality: grain direction, length, width, knots presence and defects as well as general appearance.

The logs are singly picked and loaded by a giant grapple machine into a log in feed deck. Each log is milled using scanners and optimization software to determine the most efficient way to cut the log for pre-ordered dimensional lumber.

Through a series of chain conveyors, the log is rolled into step feeders into the de-barker where it is first sprayed with water to remove of dirt and debris as well as to help cooling the debarking machine. After debarking, boards are cut by laser cutting blades. The process is repeated further through four other laser cutting blades until the desired lumber size is achieved while cutoffs are rolled over into the grinder for biomass fuel.

The lumber is trimmed by length and size for final grading and rolled over through a 16 level sorter based on length and grade. Then detailed measures of quality controls are involved. With the forklift the lumber is stacked according to its size and tag. The grading is based on three broad categories: Green, rough and surfaced. Some of the lumber is kiln dried.


Picture showing Finger Joint Timber
‘Glulam’ as is popularly called is manufactured by finger joining lumber along its length and applying adhesive among the ply/members either liquid to liquid or liquid to powder under high pressure. The 'glulam' then undergoes various quality checks and standard testing for strength.


Understanding the processing of a log to dimensional lumber was very intriguing. This adventure left me with the following thoughts:
  • Zip-O-Log milling process is very efficient resulting in a zero – waste operation
  • As the push for environmentally friendly product advances, engineered wood continuously give architects and engineers one less thing to worry about in creating structurally stable and aesthetically alluring designs (innovative mass timber buildings).
  • Developing countries should embrace the unlimited possibilities of engineered wood in creating environmentally friendly designs as well as be open to continuous research in surmounting the inherent challenges in the use of local resources for construction.

Abiodun Solanke is an architect from Nigeria promoting the adaptation of timber framed buildings in his home country. For more information contact him at or after ending the fellowship program in November 2016 at