Why I’ll Be on the Roadtrip to Pando: Chief Scientist Paul Rogers

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Paul Rogers.

We’re going on the roadtrip of all roadtrips in late September, to save Pando’s life. Read more about the ROADTRIP TO PANDO here and plan to get your own seat on the bus!

Paul Rogers, chief scientist for the Pando clone and head of the Western Aspen Alliance, will be with us in Utah, leading hikes into the Pando grove and sharing the latest research on this remarkable tree.  Paul shares his thoughts  below on why he’ll be with us over the weekend and what he expects.

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How have you come to the place to where you’re making this ROADTRIP TO PANDO? What’s gotten you here?

I’m a research scientists and science communicator.  One of my highest priorities in life is learning – from myriad sources, but particularly from other people.I’ve spent the past several years looking intensely at the Pando clone, trying to understand the situation, and bring people of differing backgrounds together to help this iconic forest through a difficult time.  I call it Pando triage. 

We’ve had some successes to date, but there’s a ways still to go.  I’d like to help people learn about one of my favorite spaces – perhaps even a magical place – and listen to their thoughts about appropriate solutions.  In a sense, the plight of Pando is the plight of humanity. Will this giant, single being help us all to understand our place in the world?  Let’s give it a try – together.

You’re best known as the chief scientist for Pando. What’s unique about the way you look at Pando and its significance?

I’m known as an ecologist, biogeographer, teacher, and inquisitive student.  I’m hope I’m known as a listener. 

My intimate knowledge of Pando stems from a natural curiosity about making connections – practically a definition of “ecologist.”  However, I’ve quickly found out that the physical, ecological, and plant-animal connections, while incredibly interesting, are not enough.  People play a part.  Humans will determine whether Pando lives or dies…

Ecological links are important to understand, but they mean little if I cannot help to communicate them to citizens, hunters, ranchers, and decision-makers.  

After having spent many days marching, even stumbling, around Pando, I know that he whispers to all of us if we care to listen closely.  The message comes down through the ages; the message is, “Know me to help me.”

What’s your motivation to be on the trip? Why are you going?

I’m inspired by the spirit of Pando Populus.  I wish to connect that spirit, that “can do” attitude, to this special grove of aspen trees – one root system, one origin, not dissimilar to humans – for, hopefully, the good of visitors and permanent residents of this forest.​  Hey, I’ll come right out with it, I get off on introducing people to Pando, but also helping them to understand the issues and complexity of his (yes, Pando is male) situation. 

On the flip side, I know that I will learn a lot from attendees – all good/healthy communication is two-way.  I’m excited to hear more about the greater tasks and ambitions of Pando Populus.  Creating an ecological civilization will surely be enhanced by learning from and being among the 106 acre “community” of Pando the aspen grove. 

Pando meets Pando Populus; learning, experiencing, writing, reflecting,and building together towards a better world!

What’s a private ambition you hope for?

Continue to break personal and societal barriers.  Hell, I’ve decided to run for City Council in my small northern Utah city.  This year I’m going to push the ball forward toward connecting aspen conservation scientists and citizens around the world.  I hope to increase linkages with Pando Populus – if nothing else, as a cheerleader fora healthy planet. 

Does an enormous aspen grove in Utah provide a metaphor for a more connected world?  Surely it does. I aspire to link people to the environment, citizens to scientists, and students to issues that need attention.

What would make the experience one of the most amazing trips you’ve ever been on?

As a teacher, when you experience that “Oh, wow” reaction from students, then it is all worth while.  Just a few of those and my battery is overflowing with charge.  Introducing people to special places, perhaps pointing out some cool connections along the way, is a wonderful feeling.  I hope to be fully present for those moments. 

But really, hearing others reflect on what they are seeing and how they might help – from their unique cultural or professional perspectives – is (for me) where the giving takes place.  Those kinds of exchanges, in this type of environment, will surely provide some “holy shit” encounters of most spectacular kind.  So, in the words of Ken Kesey, Who’s on the bus?

Want to be part of this?  Read more about the ROADTRIP TO PANDO. Get your ticket here.