Extension and Ag Research News


Dakota Gardener: Between the pages

The science of tree rings, forest ecology research, and the search for the world's tallest tree are just a few of the topics discussed in the books read by NDSU Extension Forester, Joe Zeleznik.

By Joe Zeleznik, forester

NDSU Extension

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year. So, I haven’t broken any resolutions this year!

We are three months into 2023, and I’m bringing up resolutions. Why?

In January, a lot of my friends on Facebook were posting about the books they had read in the previous year. The lists were quite impressive. People were reading about leadership, self-improvement and philosophy. And they read quite a few books.

I didn’t want to share my list of adventure stories and shoot-‘em-up books. I felt rather shallow and embarrassed.

With some reflection, I realized that I actually have read a number of books in recent years that go beyond the fiction that I sometimes lose myself in. Here are five tree-related books I’ve read that you might find interesting.

  • “The Search for the Mother Tree” by Suzanne Simard. Professor Simard reflects about her life, both within her family and professionally as a forest scientist. It’s a fascinating journey, linking science and her experiences as a woman in a highly male-dominated profession. Her groundbreaking research over the past 30 years has changed our view of forest ecology and the relationships between individual trees through the underground fungal network of mycorrhizae.
  • “10,000 Days in the Woods” by Russ Danielson. If you do the math, 10,000 days equates to more than 27 years. Danielson’s story is that of a field forester, beginning as a teenager and working throughout the northern United States. It includes a two-year stopover in Bottineau, North Dakota, as he earned his associate degree in forestry. This book is a collection of short essays – two to five pages each – and is much less technical than Professor Simard’s book.
  • “The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring” by Richard Preston. This is the tale of the search for the world’s tallest tree. Northern California’s coastal redwoods serve as the backdrop for a storyline that reads like a novel. The journey recounted by Preston mixes the personal history of the scientists and the fascinating ecosystem they find in the forest canopy, well over 300 feet above the forest floor.
  • “Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Rings” by Valerie Trouet. This is an amazing book. Professor Trouet describes the science of tree rings, dendrochronology, through stories of the history and ecology that have been uncovered over the years. The book includes a glossary of technical terms and a citations list for those wanting to learn more about this fantastic science. It also includes a “playlist” with songs by Toto, Neil Young and REM, among others. How cool is that!
  • “The Tree Farm” by Robert Treuer. This is the book that made me become a forester. I re-read it recently and I find it as inspiring today as I did in the mid-1980s. The story follows Treuer’s experiences following World War II that led him to a northern Minnesota tree farm in the 1960s. There are challenges to life in the north woods, both personally and ecologically. Nevertheless, life continues and good can come from persisting through hard times.

In addition to these tree-related books, I also read two textbooks about the ecology of rivers and streams, plus one about brain function in bees. Maybe I’m not as shallow as I thought.

What have you been reading?

NDSU Agriculture Communication – April 4, 2023

Source: Joe Zeleznik, 701-730-3389, joseph.zeleznik@ndsu.edu

Editor: Kelli Anderson, 701-231-6136, kelli.c.anderson@ndsu.edu


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