Quirks & Quarks

Genetic changes in the lifetime of individual trees

Vincent Hanlon climbs giant Sitka spruce in B.C. to evaluate possible genetic differences between the top and bottom of the tree.
Climbing the so called 'Party Tree' in the Carmanah. (Matthew Beatty)

Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is located in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island.  It is home to old growth trees including groves of giant Sitka spruce, which include some of Canada's tallest.  Vincent Hanlon is a Master's student in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia.  He spent much of this summer in the Carmanah looking for genetic mutations that occur in the lifetime of individual trees.  Part of his research involved the adventure of climbing to the very top of these giants - 84 metres high in once case - to take samples. Future research will reveal if needles taken from the top are different genetically from bark samples taken from the bottom.  This will help scientists understand how individual trees are coping with climate change. 

Related Links: 

Vincent Hanlon blog

Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, UBC

Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park