Forest ecologist to speak at Linfield College

Suzanne SimardA visiting forest ecologist will discuss the language of trees in an upcoming lecture at Linfield College, in honor of the legacy of the late Dr. Jane Clair Dirks-Edmunds.

Dr. Suzanne Simard will discuss her research on northwest forest ecology on Monday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Richard and Lucille Ice Auditorium in Melrose Hall at Linfield College. The lecture is sponsored by the Jane Claire Dirks Edmunds Lectureship and PLACE (Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement).

Simard discovered that individual forest trees are enmeshed in a broader network of physical connections and material exchanges, mediated by fungal hyphae in the soil. This can be viewed as an analogy to the digital ecosystem created by individual citizens and their network connections to other individuals and entities, which ties into the 2017-2018 Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement (PLACE) theme, the “Digital Citizen.”

Simard is a professor in the forest and conservation sciences department at the University of British Columbia. Her main research focus is on the below-ground fungal networks that connect trees and facilitate underground inter-tree communication and interaction. Her findings have established that these forest networks mimic human neural and social networks. She works primarily in forests, but also grasslands, wetlands, tundra and alpine ecosystems.

The Jane Claire Dirks-Edmunds series honors Dr. Dirks-Edmunds, a professor of biology at Linfield from 1941 to 1974. The series brings speakers to campus to address critical environmental concerns and biological issues and to support student-faculty collaborative research. Dirks-Edmunds recognized the importance of ecological issues and humanity’s impact on nature long before environmental issues became part of the public agenda.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Chad Tillberg at 503-883-2221 or ctillbe@linfield.edu.