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The Willow Project Team


Timothy Volk PhD - Senior Research Associate, Project Director 

Senior Research Associate at SUNY-ESF and Codirector of the SUNY Center for Sustainable and Renewable Energy. Dr. Volk has over 20 years of experience working in the fields of forestry, agroforestry, short-rotation woody crops, bioenergy and phytoremediation in the Northeastern United States and Africa. He holds degrees from the University of Guelph (BS (Agr.), Guelph, Ontario) in Natural Resources Management, Cornell University (MS, Ithaca, NY) in Forest Science and SUNY – ESF (PhD, Syracuse, NY) in Forest and Natural Resources Management. He is responsible for a series of research projects focused on the development of shrub willow biomass cropping systems as a feedstock for bioproducts and bioenergy and the use of willow as an alternative cover for industrial waste sites. He is also actively involved in research and development of sustainability assessments of bioenergy systems, life cycle assessments of willow biomass crops and woody biomass from forests, assessments of woody biomass availability from natural forests, economic modeling of short rotation woody crops, living snow fences, regional woody biomass resource supplies, and harvesting systems for short rotation woody crops. He chaired the ad hoc committee at SUNY-ESF that developed and is now implementing the curriculum for a minor in Renewable Energy Systems and a major in Sustainable Energy Management. He currently teaches courses on Energy Systems and Biomass Energy. Email - Faculty Website - Google Scholar

Larry Abrahamson PhD - Senior Research Associate 

Lawrence P. Abrahamson, Emeriti, Senior Research Associate at SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), holds a BS in Forest Management from Michigan Technological University, MS and Ph.D. in Forest Entomology from University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Prior to joining the Faculty at SUNY-ESF in 1977, he worked for 9 years as a Research Scientist/ Pesticide Specialist for the USDA Forest Service in Stoneville, MS, Atlanta, GA and Ogden, UT. He worked for 2 years with the Applied Forestry Research Institute, SUNY-ESF, Syracuse, New York on applied research in the fields of forest entomology and pathology as well as with herbicides in silvicultural use. For 4 years he was the Director of the Northeast Petroleum - Forest Resources Cooperative (NEP-FRC). Presently he is retired, but holds has a part-time joint appointment between the Faculty of Forestry and the Faculty of Environmental and Forest Biology SUNY-ESF and was the Director of the Salix Consortium, Syracuse, New York. Presently engaged in research projects involving pest management (vegetation, insects and diseases) in intensive culture of fast growing hardwoods (hybrid poplar and willow); vegetation management/plant dynamics on electric utility Right-of-Ways in New York; and the development of high-yield wood energy crops (willow dedicated feedstock supply system). He is author and coauthor of over 160+ publications. Email

Mark H. Eisenbies PhD - Research Scientist

Mark is an interdisciplinary environmental scientist with a background in forestry, soil science, and hydrology. He joined the willow project in 2011 and has been conducting research on harvesting logistics and efficiency for Short Rotation Woody Crops, feedstock quality, and willow cultivar performance. He earned his PhD from Virginia Tech in 2004 studying forest and soil productivity and recovery in response to wet-weather harvesting disturbance. He also holds degrees in soil science from the University of Tennessee, and a BS in Forestry from Virginia Tech. Email - Google Scholar

Justin Heavey - Senior Research Support Specialist

Justin has been managing intrerdisciplinary energy and sustainability projects in higher education since 2008. Currently he provides extension services to the expanding bioenergy industry and contributes to research studies on shrub willow for bioenergy, bioremediation and multifunctional sustainable vegetation systems. He also has appoinments with the Sustainability Office at ESF and the USDA funded NEWBio Project. He holds a B.S. in environmental studies (renewable energy) and an M.S. in natural resource management from ESF. Email - LinkedIn

Karl Hallen - Senior Research Support Specialist 

Cornell ’83. Thirty years of entrepreneurial experience in the farm and forestry businesses including dairy farming, commercial applicator, sawmills, biomass boiler sales and service, farm and forestry consulting. Specializing in a systems approach to troubleshooting and unconventional solutions design. Currently involved in support services for willow biomass research, biomass boiler systems design, hydronic consulting, silvopasture development, and soil health projects. Email

Associated Faculty

Thomas Amidon PhD - Associate Professor

Thomas Amidon is Professor and former Chair of the Paper and Bioprocess Engineering Department at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). He is experienced in industrial processes, commercial scale-up of pilot operations, regulatory aspects, process design, and quality improvement. He worked with International Paper from 1976 to 2000 finishing his career as the manager of the Corporate Research Center in Tuxedo NY. On returning to academia in 2000 Dr. Amidon began working on developing a commercially viable Biorefinery process to make valuable chemicals and novel industrial materials from woody biomass. He includes biomass willow in the process development work as it can significantly increase the economic impact of commercial applications of Biorefinery technology. He teaches Management of People, Fiber Processing and is the Academic Advisor for the SUNY Graduate Certificate Program in Bioprocessing. Email - Faculty Website

Philippe Vidon PhD - Associate Professor

Dr. Vidon is a watershed hydrologist and biogeochemist and his research focuses on how to best manage watersheds to optimize water quality and quantity without jeopardizing crop yields. His work on willows focuses on the assessment of the impact of commercial shrub willows on water quality (nitrogen, phosphorus), water quantity (water table height, soil moisture), and water related ecosystem services (erosion, sedimentation, greenhouse gases emissions). His interests also include assessments of the potential use of shrub willows as best management practices either in riparian zones, buffer strips, and as an alternative crop on marginal cropland. Email - Faculty Website

Melissa Fierke PhD - Associate Professor

Dr. Fierke is a forest entomologist and her main research focuses on invasive forest insects, however, she is broadly interested in entomology with a recently recruited graduate student interested in pollinator diversity and abundance associated with willow. Email - Faculty Website

Tristan R. Brown JD, PhD - Assistant Professor of Energy Resource Economics 

Tristan Brown is an Assistant Professor of Energy Resource Economics at SUNY's College of Environmental Science & Forestry. His research focuses on quantifying the economic viability of sustainable energy pathways with an emphasis on bioenergy production. Furthermore, he has published several papers on the RFS2 mandate and how policy and energy market developments affect its long-term feasibility. Email


Daniel de Souza - PhD Candidate and Research Project Assistant

Research Project Assistant, working on his PhD at SUNY-ESF, researching harvesting logistics and efficiency for Short Rotation Woody Crops (SRWC). Earned a BS degree in Forest Engineering from Universidad de Los Andes (Venezuela) in 2011 and a MS degree in Forest Operation from Auburn University in 2015. He has been working with Short Rotation Woody Crops since the 2011, helping in projects aiming to establish Eucalyptus plantations in the SE United States. Prior to coming to the US, he worked as a Research Forester at DEFORSA, in Venezuela, with Eucalyptus. Email

Obste Therasme - PhD Candidate and Research Project Assistant

Obste is a PhD student in Forest and and Natural resources. He joined the group in August 2015, and is interested on Harvesting and Logistics of Short Rotation Woody Crops, feedstock quality and process design. He holds a MS in chemical engineering from Syracuse University (May 2015) and a BS in chemistry from the State University of Haiti (December 2010). Email

Sheng Yang - PhD Candidate and Research Assistant 

Sheng Yang joined the willow project in August 2013 contributing to multiple projects with his strong technical and research specialties in GPS and GIS. He is also a PhD candidate majoring in GIS with the research and professional interests in building geodatabase and monitoring forest resource dynamics through spatial and statistical analysis. He holds an M.S. in GIS at SUNY-ESF and a B.S. in GIS at Nanjing University in China. He was awarded graduate assistantship in the STEM Mentoring Program funded by Outreach office of SUNY-ESF when he taught STEM classes as a science mentor in Van Duyn Elementary School in Syracuse. Email

Zainab Tariq - PhD Candidate and Research Project Assistant

Zainab is a PhD student in GPES particularly focusing on Ecosystem restoration at SUNY ESF. She has done a BS in Biological sciences and MS in Environmental sciences with a background of research work in heavy metal determination in biomass substrate and developing environment friendly renewable ways for green fuel commercial production. She started building her professional career as academic coordinator (2008-2011) managing advance placement level in Environmental sciences, later in 2012, she joined a multi-investigation firm working on Renewable energy power projects as an Environmental Analyst. She is more focused on central policy for energy independence and cause for carbon neutral biofuel/bioproducts concern with greater efficiency in general business environment, endorsing rural habitat with environmental sustainability securing aboriginal feedstock for biomass based energy fuel. LinkedIn

Yang Qiu - M.S. Candidate and Graduate Assistant

Yang Qiu is a 2014-fall master student in Division of Environmental Science in SUNY-ESF. He joined the Willow Project in Fall of 2014. In the woody bioenergy field, the competing for land between food and bioenergy crops has always been a question with a lot of debate. Taking advantage of the difficult soil to grow willow will largely alleviate this situation. His academic interest lies in the phytoremediation side of willow biomass. He is trying to figure out the growth and yield of willow biomass in difficult soils and the effect of organic amendment on biomass production of willow. Yang is also a graduate assistant in the STEM Mentoring Program funded by Syracuse City School District and Outreach office of SUNY-ESF. In this program, he works as science mentor in Dr. King Elementary School in Syracuse. Yang holds a B.S. in Forest Resources Conservation and Recreation from Beijing Forestry University. Email - LinkedIn

Giuseppe Tumminello - M.S. Candidate and Research Assistant

Giuseppe began to pursue a Masters at SUNY-ESF with the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology in August 2014. He started working with the Willow Project in the Fall of 2014. His project focuses on the value that Willow Biomass crop can provide for pollinators. The project will characterize the insect pollinators that visit the willow, describe willow characteristics important for pollinators, and observe if willow used for phytoremediation puts pollinators at risk. His academic interests are in invertebrate conservation, with a focus on insect pollinators. He acquired a BS at Cornell University in Entomology and Biological Sciences. Giuseppe is also a Teaching Assistant for SUNY-ESF. As a TA, he has assisted ESF’s General Biology course and led ESF’s Ichthyology course laboratories. Email

Drew Grandmont - M.S. Candidate and Research Project Assistant

Drew joined the Graduate Program in Environmental Science in August 2015. His focus area is in Ecosystem Restoration, and his research will be an analysis of planted riparian buffers in the Susquehanna watershed of Central New York. He joined the willow team in the fall of 2015, and is primarily assisting in field sampling and data processing. Drew is from southern New Hampshire, where he acquired a BS at Keene State College in Occupational Health and Safety. Email

Allison Rutherford - Undergraduate Bioenergy Scholar

Allison Rutherford came to ESF as an undergraduate student in Environmental Science, concentration in Renewable Energy, after working in the private renewable energy and home performance industry for 8 years. She started working with the willow biomass project in February of 2016. Allison is an avid gardener and board member of Alchemical Nursery, a non-profit organization that builds and maintains urban edible forest gardens in Syracuse. Email

Previous Students

Nathan J. Sleight - Senior Research Support Specialist 

Nathan joined the graduate program at SUNY-ESF in August 2013. His academic interests are in the fields of environmentally sustainable production and use of energy resources. On the willow team, Nathan analyzes data for biomass yield, examining how yield changes across rotations and the factors causing this change. He is also involved with compiling a biomass inventory for the different components of the willow with special attention given to belowground biomass. He did his B.S. at SUNY-ESF in Environmental Science with a renewable energy focus graduating in 2013 as departmental scholar. Nathan is a native of the Syracuse area, living in the Town of DeWitt. He has been active in his town: working for Energy Initiatives Inc, completing his eagle scout project at a local park, attending a local Christian church and academy, and working with the town as an intern developing a climate action plan. Email

Alison Bressler - M.S. Candidate and Research Assistant 

Alison is a Masters student in Wetland and Water Resource Studies. She started working on the willow project in the Fall of 2014 and is focusing on shrub willow’s impact on local water quality in Cape Vincent, NY and the greenhouse gas flux from shrub willow soils. Alison holds a B.S. in Political Science and Earth and Environmental Sciences from Furman University in South Carolina where she studied the effectiveness of LID features in reducing eutrophication in suburban man-made lakes in Southern Appalachia. Email

Lukas Vogt - Undergraduate Research Assistant

Lukas enrolled as Undergraduate at ESF in 2012 and is expected to graduate in May of 2016. He is pursing a B.S. in Sustainable Energy Management holding minors in Economics, General Management Studies, and Sustainable Construction. He began working on the willow project in February of 2016 and primarily assists with yield trials in the greater Syracuse area. Email

Obed Varughese - Research Assistant

Senior at ESF pursuing a degree in Environmental Science with a specialization in Watershed Hyrdrology. From Poughkeepsie.

Started working on willow in the fall of 2014, focusing on how shrub willow impacts soil water quality versus traditional monocrops. Interested to see if willow can be profitable and sustainable while improving water quality. In my free time, I enjoy being active and play soccer for the Mighty Oaks. Email

Amanda Dioszeghy - Undergraduate Research Assistant

Amanda Dioszeghy is a transfer student from Montgomery County Community College who is now pursuing a B.S. in Sustainable Energy Management from SUNY-ESF. She orients her studies to biomass energy in preparation to be a biomass plant manager. She credits her love of nature and appreciation for the under appreciated for her interest in energy studies. On-campus, Amanda is involved in the Sustainable Energy Club. Off-campus, she volunteers at CNY Humane Animal Shelter. Sightings of Amanda are common in Moon Library, The Gateway Center, Starbucks on Marshall St., and hidden in willow fields of Tully and Solvay. Email

Tyler Mock - Undergraduate Research Assistant 

Tyler obtained his A.A.S. in Environmental and Natural Resources Conservation from the SUNY ESF Ranger School in Wanakena, New York in 2014. He was also a Teaching Assistant at the SUNY ESF Ranger School for the courses Tree and Forest Biology and Trigonometry for Natural Resources Technicians, where he facilitated 45 hours of field-based laboratory exercises emphasizing biological themes. Tyler is currently a senior at SUNY ESF pursuing a B.S. in Sustainable Energy Management. He started working for the Willow Research Group in the summer of 2015, facilitated by the Northeast Woody/Warm-season Biomass Consortium (NEWBio), where his work is focused on commercial-scale crop monitoring in northern New York state. Email