Since 2008, when Pando’s size was verified by researchers, the world’s largest tree has been the subject of countless headlines and stories that stir wonder, advance scientific debates, and capture the imagination of tree lovers and travelers from around the world. In fact, 300,000 people a year visit the land Pando calls home, not only to experience the tree, but also to enjoy Fish Lake, the largest natural mountain freshwater lake in Utah. Despite Pando’s outsized popularity, we lack a complete photographic record of the tree, a record scientists and land managers need to understand, track and monitor the tree’s health.
Since the 1860’s, photography has played a critical role helping scientists, the public and policy makers understand and protect the majesty of the American landscape. Although it may be hard to believe, scientists still use photos taken in the 1800’s and compare them images taken in our time to better understand change over time; a practice known as re-photography. In an era of satellites, artificial intelligence and GPS, re-photography may seem outdated, but it plays a vital role in forest management and conservation. By creating the first photographic inventory of Pando, our work will provide a baseline image which scientist and land managers can use monitor changes for generations to come.
In Summer of 2021, Friends of Pando gathered a group of students and citizen scientists to embark on creation of the first color image of Pando’s entire 106-acre span using cutting-edge 360-degree cameras and global information systems. Work on the photo survey is ongoing and once complete, will be made freely available for scientists to study and the world to enjoy.
Creating the first photographic survey of the Pando involves not only logistical challenges, but collaboration and coordination. Bridging the realms of art and science, Friends of Pando has brought together a diverse group of people, skills and perspectives to realize this unique document; artists, scientist, community leaders, ecologists and foresters. Employing 23 students from natural sciences, art, film and design programs across the US, students who take part, also enjoy nightly workshops on everything from art and natural history, to forest science and night hikes. By providing students the chance to explore their creativity and their reasoning skills as they make history, participants earn valuable field experience from leading scientists and artists in their domains and we believe, take an accomplishment they will be proud to list as an achievement throughout their careers.
Today, we know immersive experiences with nature play a critical role in cultivating awareness and inspiring stewarship of our shared natural heritage. Despite this, Pando’s remote location, hectic terrain and sheer size create a variety of logistical and natural barriers to many who would like to study the tree or, simply experience it for themselves. The Pando Photographic Survey will not only create the first large scale image of the tree, but it will also be used to help scientists, educators and the world enjoy the tree through two additional programs.
The Pando Photographic Survey Website
A freely available website will host the results of the photographic survey. Featuring all 8,600 360-degree images that describe the tree, the website will host location data and tools allowing scientists, educators and the public to explore and study Pando wherever they are.
Pando: The World Tree Virtual Experience
How do you help people understand a tree that spans 106-acres? That is the question Lead Photographer and Director Lance Oditt is working to answer through the creation of Pando: The World Tree, a virtual land art installation which will allow people throughout the world to experience the tree using their mobile devices. Using footage, stills and audio captured between April of 2021 through September of 2022, this work will blend 360-degree film, still images and immersive soundscapes to provide a uniquely immersive experience with the tree that unfolds across the true scale of Pando.
Snow College’s Resources Program is a field-based program that works closely with local companies to give students real world experience through projects, trainings, and certification in the different types of natural resources. Snow College is the formal fiscal sponsor for the Pando Photographic Survey and community education partner to Friends of Pando. Working with Snow, Friends of Pando provides natural science students with research and field experience on one-of- kind projects.
Lensrental is the largest online rental provider for photography, videography, lighting equipment and accessories in the United States shipping gear to all 50 states providing in-person pick ups and deliveries where professional work.
As a a Friends of Pando partner, Lensrentals provides deep discounts on hard to find shooting rigs, logictical and planning support for Friends of Pando work documenting the Pando tree.
EJF Philanthropies provides support to nonprofit organizations working to solve important challenges, by addressing underlying systemic causes and allocating resources to have a multiplier effect. EJF Philanthropies provides generous grants to hire citizen scientists, fund programming and assist Friends of Pando as we develop our capacity to educate the public, support research and inspire stewardship.
© 2022 | Design : Hope Smith & Lance Oditt