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2015 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 53
ASIA: TOO MUCH!—BURT’S INFLUENCE BEYOND THE BORDERS OF THE USA
Yuka Makino Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Unit Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice The World Bank Washington, DC 20433 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ikuyo Saeki Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences University of Tsukuba Ibaraki, Japan email@example.com
Daniel M. Kashian
Department of Biological Sciences Wayne State University Detroit, MI 48202 firstname.lastname@example.org
Burt Barnes quietly had an active research program that took place in Asia be- ginning in the 1980s that is often overlooked when reflecting upon his career, and relatively little is known about his exploits in Asia. Burt was one of the very first western scientists – particularly amazing because he was a field ecologist – to visit China in the early 1980s (Figure 1). His work during these early years was largely exploratory, but was focused upon identifying sister species that were found in North America and China—that is, species similar in morphology between the two continents that clearly descended from a common ancestor. His work took him to extremely remote areas of China, including the Yellow Moun- tains, all while he was heavily “escorted.” Many residents of these rural areas of China had never seen an “outsider” before, and as Burt stopped to interact with the local children—in one photo, giving them balloons—the expressions on their faces showed it clearly. He found these experiences fascinating, and incorporated them into a lecture about China in his Woody Plants class at the University of Michigan, while fully dressed in a Mao-style uniform he obtained during his time there.
Burt returned to China more formally in the mid-1980s and was a Visiting Scientist there in 1984, when he spent four weeks based at the Nanjing Institute of Forestry studying forest ecosystems and Chinese species of Populus. Burt was well traveled in China during this period, and his field studies took him to north- east China to examine the major regional ecosystems in the Changbaishan Pre- serve and to study ecosystem structure and niche ecology in the Korean pine- hardwoods forests there. His focus was on Chinese Populus species, of course,
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FIGURE 1. Burt Barnes with a new colleague in the field in China, 1982. Photo courtesy of the Burton V. Barnes estate.
and he also made visits to Shenyang and Liaoning Provinces, Beijing, and else- where in western China, and to Nanjing. Burt returned to China again in 1992, and he often spoke of the lectures he was asked to give in front of very large au- ditoriums full of Chinese students anxious to learn about forestry and forest ecology in North America and the United States. The subject of these lectures, more than once, were often “presented” to Burt the night or even hours before he was to give them, including exhaustive topics such as “Forestry in the United States,” with only the slides in his tray and the knowledge in his head to depend upon.
Burt’s work in China in the middle 1980s spurred much interest from Chinese graduate students, and he hosted several of these students at the School of Nat- ural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan. He also developed a lifelong friendship and professional relationship with Fujing Han – known by his domestic graduate students simply as “Mr. Han.” Mr. Han often
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spent many weeks at a time in the United States and at the University of Michi- gan working with Burt on various Chinese forest ecology projects, and Burt at several points helped members of his family to enter and stay in the United States. Burt also hosted several distinguished Chinese professors at SNRE in the mid-1990s. It was this background work in China, in part, that led Burt to de- velop a particular fondness for working particularly closely with graduate and undergraduate students from Asia and Europe throughout the remainder of his career.
I met Burt in 1992 as a Master’s student at SNRE. I came to Ann Arbor from Japan with an undergraduate degree in international environmental law but was determined to embark on a Master’s degree in terrestrial ecosystem management. There was no turning back after I took Burt’s Woody Plants class and was thrown into his wonderful, fascinating world of soil pits, roots, seeds, and twigs. I had to spend four hours a day in the lab to catch up to the same level as my fellow grad- uate students who had done forest ecology as undergraduates, but the guidance of Burt and Professor John Witter, who had taken me on as his advisee, saw me through. In 2005, I had the honor of becoming Burt’s final Ph.D. student.
Burt connected with international students who attended SNRE at an ex- tremely deep level. His passion for teaching was unquestionable; what distin- guished him was his passion of ensuring that the students actually learned. He expected excellence, but went out of his way to help you achieve it. There hap- pened to be several Japanese M.S. students at SNRE during this period, and Burt held periodic tutoring classes for them in his Woody Plants class to make certain that the students understood the concepts. At a more personal level, he helped me fill the gap of 13 years between my M.S. and Ph.D. and used his own time to tutor me twice a week on forest ecology so that I could take my preliminary exams during the first year of my Ph.D. work.
Burt bent over backwards to support his students. Burt was one of the few professors that was willing to take on a student like me who wanted to conduct her Ph.D. research in a remote village in the Indian Himalayan Mountains at an elevation of 2,500–3,000 meters. My research focused on how people use forest resources and how that affected the regeneration capacity of the pine-oak (Pinus–Quercus) forest of the Central Himalayas. The research was to determine the validity of the predominant view that the villagers’ forest-use was exceeding the carrying capacity of the forest and destroying it. Though my research even- tually proved that view wrong and demonstrated that the forest continued to re- generate, it involved living in the village without electricity and running water for a total of eight months and walking for several hours to go to the forest with the villagers every day from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm. I measured the diameter of every tree they climbed and of every oak branch they cut, weighed every bundle that was taken out of the forest, and recorded the age and gender of every single person that I followed into the forest. With Burt’s guidance, I set-up plots on slopes (that were often extremely steep) in a protected forest and in a heavily- lopped forest to compare regeneration and the nutrient content of the soil and
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leaves. Since I had collected the exact same data in 1993, I could evaluate the change in the forests between 1993 and 2006.
When I was getting ready to fly to India to begin my field work, Burt knew that this would be the only chance I would have to collect data because I only had three years to complete my Ph.D. and had very little leeway for mistakes. Burt gave me his calling card number and instructed me to call him collect once a month to discuss the progress of my data collection. Even though he never got a chance to visit my field site, he always gave pertinent advice and guidance on mountain ecosystems and data collection methodology. What made Burt most incredible was that once you were his student, you were forever his student, even after you graduated. After I graduated in 2009 (Figure 2), I spent two weeks each summer until 2013 living in Burt and Dixie’s attic in Ann Arbor to focus on drafting journal articles based upon my dissertation research. Due to the cease- less support from Burt, the first article that I submitted to Mountain Research and Development was accepted within three weeks!
FIGURE 2. Yuka Makino celebrates her Ph.D. graduation with her parents and Burt Barnes, May 2009. Yuka was Burt’s final PhD student. Photo by Yuka Makino.
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Burt’s curiosity and passion for learning reached far beyond North America. His interest in the ecology of forests extended to the diverse ecosystems across Asia. Burt’s experiences in Germany and China are well known, but lesser known is his decade-long research on the threatened Japanese red maple (Acer pycnanthum) in Japan. He began visiting Japan from 1997 and travelled from Hokkaido to Nagano, Gifu, and Aichi. He gave talks to Japanese conservation groups on the ecology of the Japanese red maple and wrote articles for their newsletters. As he did in China in the 1970s, Burt visited remote rural areas and immediately became the center of attention. When he visited Iida-city, Nagano, he stood beside the largest red maple in the city, which had been struck down earlier by a typhoon, and gave an interview to the local newspaper. His photo- graph appeared in many newspapers the next day. In 2004, he gave a presentation on Japanese and American red maples at a small public symposium in Japan. Drawing on his experiences in China decades before, he greeted everyone with “Kon-nichi-wa!” (“Hello!” in Japanese) and received a warm and loud applause from the audience. I helped interpret his talk into Japanese. Because of his friendly personality and hard work, he was deeply respected and loved by every- one he met.
I completed my M.S. at SNRE 1998, and, like most of his other students, I de- veloped a lifelong friendship with Burt. I completed my Ph.D. in Japan while fo- cusing on the ecology of Japanese red maple and its application to conservation in Japan, inspired by Burt’s visits to Japan. Since my university did not formally permit a professor from another university to be on the dissertation committee, Burt informally acted as my advisor throughout my Ph.D. program and helped me with my fieldwork and writing until I graduated in 2006. Burt’s approach dif- fered from that of many Japanese ecologists, and he taught me to view nature be- yond the individual parts of the systems, such as species, at the “ecosystem- level”. He taught me two important lessons: that knowledge is power—an intensive literature review is the first step to doing good research, and that field work is essential to an ecologist. He emphasized that observing nature directly was the basis for new ideas.
Burt’s vast interests and vision transcended borders, and, coupled with his personality and constant curiosity, he inspired research by people from any na- tionality and anywhere in the world. Burt’s spirit continues to grow around the world within all the students he has nurtured. We are greatly honored to have been Burt’s students and to have had the opportunity to be mentored and taught by him. We will forever be grateful for his guidance and his inspiration.