Susan Cordell


Pacific Southwest Research Station

Headshot of Susan Cordell.

My favorite science experience is returning to our tropical dry forest restoration experimental plots and seeing native species thrive. A decade ago, most people thought we were crazy to attempt restoration in Hawaiian dry forests. They believed that fountain grass, a highly invasive grass from Africa, would out-compete native seedlings. Fountain grass had already displaced most of Hawaiian tropical dry forests. When we first removed fountain grass in areas where goats were kept out, native species flourished while the fountain grass took a long time to recover. Science allows us to ask questions and challenge ideas and, in this case, we learned that, with a lot of effort, tropical dry forests can be restored.

One of my favorite science experiences was when I was working on my doctoral research. I had the great privilege of working in tree canopies in Hawai’i. Every day I would spend my time on a tower 50 feet above the ground asking questions about how trees do all that they need to do to survive and thrive in one place—never moving—for so long. On some days birds would visit the trees and me, but other days it was so peaceful and quiet.

Additional Resources

  • USDA Forest Service: Susan Cordell

    Learn more about Susan Cordell's research at her Forest Service profile page.
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