A Tribute to Dr. Alex Shigo
My educational background lies in Forestry going back to 1974. I, like so many forestry students, had
notions of standing in a fire tower in the Rockies protecting the mighty resource from harm.
But real life offers other paths. Beginning in the late seventies I made my way with forestry consulting -- helping
private landowners understand their woodland resource and their options for management. I assisted them in
multiple ways, from deed research to boundary line location, from cruising and recording timber volumes
and stand densities, to marking timber for sale and contracting its harvest.
All the while though, the essence of forestry seemed foreign. By definition forestry involves the management of the resource for
ultimate harvest, the treatment of trees as a crop. Hence the logic of the U.S. Forest Service falling within
the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture.
I was evolving -- I no longer accepted the day-to-day relegation of trees to the commercial world, to human consumption alone.
So what does all this have to do with Dr. Alex Shigo - father of Modern Arboriculture? It was his influence
combined with my change in consciousness that swung me wholesale into the lifelong pursuit of
I'll do my best to round out the man. His core burned with a deep, human warmth
partnered with the scientific mind. He lived to forever question accepted convention and to share his
He studied the progression of decay in trees in his role of scientist with the US. Forest Service in Durham,
NH. He discovered and exposed the primary wound defensive systems of trees: the four vascular 'walls' of CODIT (Compartmentalization of Decay in Trees) leading to the
elimination of the 'painting' of wounds. He led the way to the demonizing of 'topping', aided the utilities in
understanding sound management of trees near power lines, wrote of his many discoveries related to tree
physiology, and shared his knowledge with many throughout the world. His books, papers, and articles have been translated in many languages--his influence spread across the globe.
Following my involvement over the years in many of his one and two day workshops in Portsmouth, NH, and
upon my request to bring my 12 year old son Kieran, to one of his 2-day dissection labs, he announced a 'yes'
and added that he felt that we must teach our children to have any hope of the
continuation of the blend of the human heart with the science around us. He knew of the profound need for scientific
and technological advancements and feared the human heart and conscience would be undermined. In the end he pronounced we disciples 'worthy', with some hesitance.
So to him I owe much. He ended up allowing my daughter Audrey to attend his microscope lab as well. He
inspires me to this day, though gone from this world now for years.
He was in big ways a teacher, friend, mentor, scientist, humorist, writer, and eye-at-the-top-end-of-the-microscope. He used simple tools, an astute mind, and common sense to change the world of
Arboriculture forever - right before my eyes.
Thank you Alex.