In biology, the phrase “tree thinking” refers to the way we use phylogenetic trees—depictions of the genealogical relationships among groups of organisms; subsets of “the tree of life”—as the foundation for our understanding of evolution. Colloquially, though, you could imagine using “tree thinking” to refer to everything from the importance of urban tree canopies to the act of leaning up against the trunk of an American beech and daydreaming. You might also consider it an analogue of Aldo Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain”: an orientation towards the intrinsic value of life and its relationships, regardless of their apparent usefulness.

The goal of treethinking, then, is to span this substantial conceptual territory. Every two or three weeks I’ll write something about the way we interpret, value, and interact with the nonhuman world. That is admittedly a vague and academic way to put things, so here are some of my favorite topics, with links to things I’ve written elsewhere:

Sometimes this will mean writing about the technical research literature, sometimes this will mean writing about current events, and sometimes this will mean editorializing. But I hope that no matter how esoteric or complicated the topic, I can convince you of its relevance to the flesh-and-blood world we live in: after all, even the most far-flung branches on a tree share a common trunk.

About Ethan Linck

I’m an evolutionary biologist and ecologist by training. I’m currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology at Montana State University in Bozeman. I did my Ph.D. at University of Washington. I’ve lived a lot of places. I’ve written for High Country News, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Stranger previously, and now I’m looking forward to writing for you.

Subscribe to treethinking

science, environmentalism, society