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Jared Farmer
SUNY Research Foundation, Stony Brook (Stony Brook, NY 11794-0001)
The Latest Oldest Tree: Survival Stories for a Time of Extinction

A meditation on the challenges that humans face in thinking about long spans of time, the book narrates the history of various searches for the oldest living tree in the world and explains the scientific developments that enable us to measure extreme biological age.

The oldest trees have lasted longer than any civilization. Determining the location and age of these biological record holders is a modern fixation. In my book, I’ll narrate the never-ending search for the oldest living tree in the world, as definitions of “oldest” and “living” and “tree” and “world” have changed over time. I’ll examine individual and clonal longevity, and the tools--including dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating--scientists have developed to measure extreme biological age. Along the way, I’ll ponder scientific-cum-philosophical questions: What does it mean to be young and old? Living and dead? Without minimizing the global environmental crisis, my project stresses persistence amid loss, devotion amid destruction. Arboreal survival stories are vital for contemplating the future of oldness in an anthropogenic epoch.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
History of Science; History, General; Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2017 – 7/31/2018