“One of the big questions that we're exploring with the Smithsonian Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) network is what determines global patterns of biodiversity, particularly the latitudinal gradient of species diversity: an increase in the number of species from temperate to tropical latitudes. The ForestGEO network is well positioned to address these questions because it includes 66 large forest plots spanning tropical, subtropical, and temperate latitudes (6 million total trees, 10,000 total tree species). The same field methodology is used to census trees across all plots worldwide. To understand these global patterns of diversity, you need a lot of information about how tree populations and communities change through space, across the landscape. That's why the plots are large. Then we evaluate how and why forests change through time. An important feature of the network is that each plot is re-censused every five years. These data allow scientists to track short-term and longer-term dynamics of forests worldwide.”
Re-censusing every five years! That’s a lot of data collection, how do you help to motivate your team?
“I foster excitement about the big-picture research questions. It's really easy on a day-to-day basis or even an hour-to-hour basis to get bogged down in the details of data collection. I try to be the person on the team that takes a step back every once in awhile and remind everyone what we're doing, why we're doing it, and why it's important. Science is hard work. The key is to stay motivated about the big-picture questions.”