Humboldt State's well-deserved reputation as a top school for forestry has been earned by dedicated professors like Han-Sup Han. His passion for forests stretches back to his youth in rural South Korea where he first became aware of how the forest touches so many aspects of our lives.
"Forestry has a tremendous impact on everything. Forests provide habitats for wildlife, produce clean water, offer recreation and help minimize the impact of global climate change by storing carbon, to list just a few," says Han.
His forestry teachers inspired him to seek more education and now he shares that inspiration with his students, both in the classroom and in the field.
"I was really impressed by my forestry teachers, not only for their knowledge, but for their impact on my attitudes about being a good student and a good person. It made me want to do the same for the younger generation," says Han.
Han's students are exposed to the latest forestry techniques through the department's many lab activities at HSU. While in his research he's helping foresters take a close look at fuels reduction thinning treatments—the sort of thing that can prevent forest fires like the devastating 2008 fire season in California that took more than $1 billion in state and federal resources to combat.
So far, the research is looking good. Thinning crowded forests can also provide the materials necessary to help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuel-based energy sources. Working with the federal government agencies and private landowners, Han and his students are identifying ways forests can make use of slash—broken branches, brushes and small-diameter trees that make up the residues left from logging and fuel reduction thinning treatments. Their research results indicate that slash can be cost-effectively collected and transported to local energy plants.
Today, many schools and hospitals across the American West are reducing their energy bills and generating heat from this forest-derived biomass. This benefits foresters, who for years were forced to simply waste forest residues, and the environment as demand for heating fuel is effectively met.
Whether the forest serves as a wildlife conservation area or is actively being managed, the real key to healthy forests is proper management and that, says Han, is where Humboldt State students can make a career while also making a difference.
From any type of forest management activities, there will always be some residues that are left and not effectively utilized. Han and his students are looking at ways to produce renewable energy from what's known as "slash." It's already at work in schools and hospitals throughout the American West.