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Event Detail (Archived)

Lewis Thomas Prize Presentation and Lecture: Suzanne Simard, Ph.D.

  • This event already took place in April 2023
  • Caspary Auditorium

Event Details

Lewis Thomas Prize
Suzanne Simard, Ph.D., professor of forest ecology, University of British Columbia
Event URL
Speaker bio(s)

Suzanne Simard, Ph.D. majored in forest management at the University of British Columbia (UBC), with her summers spent working for a logging company. During that time, she began to question standard forestry practices, which were based on the belief that individual trees vie with one another for resources. Silviculturists cleared swatches of vegetation and then planted monocultures of commercially profitable trees, but Dr. Simard knew that this approach was not sustainable. Forests are interlaced communities of diverse organisms, not patchworks of single-species ghettos. Furthermore, she had a growing suspicion that an underground fungal web might be essential for arboreal health.

To probe her ideas, she embarked on a research career. Her Ph.D. thesis at Oregon State University upended the notion that trees hoard carbon, and it was the first in a series of reports that demonstrated the importance of mycorrhizal connections to forest health. These intricate plant–fungus networks transfer resources and chemical signals. Ancient “mother trees” function as hubs, playing crucial roles in fostering the flow of nutrients and messages.

In 2002, Dr. Simard joined the faculty of UBC, where she is now a professor of forest ecology, leading The Mother Tree Project. This multisite experiment in British Columbia aims to guide renewal practices that ensure forest resilience as the climate changes. She also co-directs the Belowground Ecosystem Group.

Dr. Simard has earned a global reputation for pioneering research on tree connectivity and communication, studies that hold significance for the long-term productivity, health, and biodiversity of forests. She has published more than 170 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Nature, Ecology, and Global Biology, and co-authored the book Climate Change and Variability. Her 2021 book, Finding the Mother Tree, a New York Times bestseller, knits together her personal and professional stories, drawing parallels between humans and trees that touch on interdependence and mutual support in the struggle to survive.

Open to
Refreshments, 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., Abby Reception Hall and Dining Room
Dasha Lochoshvili
(212) 327-8967
Dasha Lochoshvili
(212) 327-8967

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