National Geographic Spotlights Tall Trees Professor

Professor Stephen Sillett has accomplished much in his career. He’s pioneered techniques that have made him a tree-climbing legend; he has been named the first professor to hold HSU’s Kenneth L. Fisher Chair in Redwood Forest Ecology …

Professor Stephen Sillett in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. / Humboldt State University

… and his work has even inspired Richard Preston’s best-selling book, “The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring.”

Now Sillett’s research into California’s redwoods is highlighted in the October National Geographic cover story (and also in the next Humboldt Magazine, to be published later this month).

For six months Sillett worked with National Geographic photographer Nick Nichols and writer Michael Fay, capturing images, video and stories that Sillett calls “mind-blowing.” The resulting work is featured in both the magazine and an accompanying hour-long documentary, “EXPLORER: Redwood Giants”, to be aired on National Geographic Channel in late September.

For Sillett, the magazine story marks the end of his year-long sabbatical and a return to the classroom. In the field, he says he’s done cataloging the world’s tallest trees—they’ve all been found. Instead, Sillett and his team are turning their focus to affects of climate change on these highly adapted trees.

The research involves identifying several research plots in all the major parks and reserves for coast redwoods and giant sequoias, and determining how redwoods might look after rising temperatures and dwindling water resources take their toll.

For scientists, the data Sillett hopes to collect is useful in not only understanding how these ancient giants have survived for millennia, but also how society might deal with a changing climate.

The October issue of National Geographic will be available on newsstands everywhere in mid to late September.

Look for Humboldt Magazine in locations throughout campus and in mailboxes sometime in the next few weeks.

You can learn more about Sillett and his work at