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Friends of Pando

Science Committee

Pando in a time of discovery...

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.

Pando, the unknown tree

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.

The Friends of Pando Science Committee

 

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:

  • What research in each domain of the natural sciences should should we expect and need
    more research from?
  • What types of research work in each domain should be prioritized to address
    the most pressing matters (ex: disease)?
  • What insight from emergent scientific methods (EX: Phenol studies, mycology) might be applicable to the study of Pando?
  • How can we organize our findings in a way to encourage more research, promote cross-domain collaboration and inspire the next generation of scientists?


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.

Meet the Scientists

Lindsay Chaney

Biology (Genetics)

Lindsay Chaney Pando Science Committee
My research interests are plant evolutionary genetics. I am particularly interested in understanding how plants are able to adapt to changing and/or stressful environments. I am a biology professor at Snow College, where I am passionate about bringing a high quality education for rural and underserved populations. I teach non-majors general biology, and genetics courses. Aspen are my favorite tree. I have many found memories of hiking, camping, and skiing through these majestic trees. I find their genetic story very fascinating and spent some time during my post doc researching aspen genomics.

Scott Meek

Geology

scott meek pando science committeee
Scott Meek is an Associate Professor in the Geology Department at Snow College. He studied geology at Brigham Young University and the University of Arizona with an emphasis in sedimentology and stratigraphy. His graduate research focused on the internal organization of sedimentary rocks deposited in ancient river systems in Utah and Wyoming. Scott loves exploring and studying the spectacular geology in Utah, especially on the Colorado Plateau. He first visited the faulted and glacially-eroded volcanic rocks that hold Fish Lake and Pando in 2020 and now regularly returns with students. Scott lives in Santaquin, Utah with his wife and two children where they enjoy reading, hiking, and road-tripping anytime they can. 

Richard Walton

Ecology and Paleobotany

Richard Walton Profile Picture

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.

Ryan Thalman

Chemistry

Ryan Thalman, Treasurer

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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