The story of Pando’s discovery, is the story of a world still being discovered. Until 1976, the massive tree hid in plain sight until
its outline was observed during an aerial flyover of the Fishlake Basin by Botanist Burton Barnes and his research peer, Jerry Kemperman. Following on Barnes work, Michael Grant and his team dubbed the tree “Pando” (Latin for I spread) in 1993.
Using new research methods, in 2008, Jennifer DeWoody, Karen Mock, Valerie Hipkins and Carol Rowe confirmed the tree’s massive size via genetic testing. Since 2008, Paul Rogers has conducted extensive field research in Pando applying his adaptive management models to articulate how we might work to protect the tree. Beyond this work, we know little about Pando, and the natural dynamics that play a role in the tree’s life.
If you were just learning about this magnificent tree, you would be surprised to learn how much we do not know. We know nothing of the subterranean dynamics of Pando’s massive root system that could span up to 12,000 miles if laid end to end. We know nothing of the underlying hydrology that feeds Pando despite the fact we know nearby Fish Lake is fed by natural springs and, the tree has endured droughts that have lasted 300 years.
We know Pando is suffering multiple infections which have destroyed nearby aspen groves, but have no direct studies on Pando’s pathology, nor, how we might help Pando heal. We also lack a high-resolution geology map of the earth below Pando, while an incomplete map of glacial sediments tantalizes us with the story of the land before the Pando seed set down sometime in the last 8,000 to 13,000 years. As we near the end of the first generation of research since Pando was named, we lack a well-rounded view of this botanical wonder and the land it calls home.
In 2022, Friends of Pando will convene the Pando Science Committee, a first of its kind effort bringing together an interdisciplinary team of scientists to evaluate existing literature on the tree and identify gaps in the scientific record critical to developing a well-rounded picture of the tree.
An effort that will bring together scientists working in the fields of geology, botany, genetics, organic chemistry, biology, global information systems and recreation sciences who will work on their own, and work in
collaboration with one another to explore and answer questions like:
In this time of discovery, when do not know what we do not know, it is our hope that this effort will not only inspire stewardship, but might serve to inspire broader interest in the tree in the scientific community, and, in advance our human
concept of a tree that redefines everything we thought we knew about trees.
Ecology and Paleobotany
I have a background in Plant Biology (BSc), Environmental Science (MSc), and Conservation Biology/Paleoecology (PhD). My research interests are in plant ecology, with specific focuses on plant-pollinator relationships, community ecology, and understanding the long-term impacts of humans on ecosystems. My current work is as a research associate at Newcastle University in the UK studying flood histories and human impacts on aquatic ecosystems in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta, the Mekong Delta, and the Red River Delta. I lecture on aquatic-terrestrial linkages, aquatic science, and taxonomy.
My interest in Pando spans several decades from when I first learned about the aspen clone as a teenager and spending time in the Fish Lake basin. It was rekindled when my cousin got involved as a member of the Friends of Pando in their digital documentation project, and I was able to join my cousin in the clone to obtain photographic documentation of the clone in the summer season in 2021.
I have always enjoyed the out of doors and have paired that into my work in Natural Resources here at Snow College, based in Richfield. My background is in Air Quality, specifically Analytical, Environmental, and Atmospheric Chemistry. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work in the field and in the lab on isoprene oxidation chemistry, measurements of trace organic molecules, and measurements of cloud condensation nuclei. I have traveled to Hawaii (ship based campaigns in the Pacific), Toronto (Canada), Los Angeles (ground and air based measurements in the LA basin), Manchester (UK), Valencia (Spain), and Manaus (Brazil) as part of my work over the years. I helped plan the Pando Photographic survey and have loved seeing the impact of time in the mountains and in Pando have had on our student participants. My current research involves measurements of air quality in rural areas and developing instruments for measuring trace gases.
I am looking forward to understanding and exploring more about the biosphere/atmosphere interactions of aspen and Pando in particular!
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