Professor Sillett climbing a tree.

About Professor Stephen Sillett

Stephen C. Sillett is a scientist who studies the ecology of tall trees and the forests they create. He currently holds the Kenneth L. Fisher Chair in Redwood Forest Ecology and is a Professor in the Department of Forestry and Wildland Resources at Humboldt State University (HSU). He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in botany and forestry at HSU since 1996. Sillett was raised in Pennsylvania and moved to Oregon in 1986 to attend Reed College, where he studied lichens in the canopy of an old-growth Douglas-fir forest. After graduating in 1989, he attended University of Florida, where he studied bryophytes inhabiting crowns of emergent strangler figs in a Costa Rican cloud forest. Sillett resumed his study of Douglas fir forest canopies in 1991 and earned a Ph.D. in Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University in 1995. Sillett’s current research focuses on the five tallest tree species. In addition to dozens of academic publications, Sillett’s work has been featured in books, magazines, film, television, radio, and on the Internet.

Stephen Sillett Biography & Curriculum Vitae

My Biography

Marie Antoine, Sillett's wife, climbing a tree. My wife, Marie E. Antoine, is a botanist and lecturer at Humboldt State University. Together we study the tallest forests on Earth.

I have had a long and abiding interest in what’s happening in the tops of trees. I began climbing tall trees while working on my bachelor’s degree at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. That experience shaped my desire to become a botanist and led me to earn my master’s degree from the University of Florida. I earned my Ph.D. from Oregon State University in 1995.

In 1996, I began teaching at Humboldt State University. Moving to the northwestern corner of California was a golden opportunity: it enabled me to extend my research into redwood forests, whose canopies were largely unexplored.

My research initially focused on the complex communities of arboreal organisms living above the ground in the crowns of tall trees. More recently, my scientific interests have shifted to the trees themselves, particularly the five species with living individuals over 300 feet tall. How fast do they grow, what limits their maximum size, and how will they respond to a changing climate? In addition to ongoing work in the remaining old-growth forests of North America and Australia, my team is also considering how second-growth forests might be managed to accelerate the development of old-growth forest complexity and biodiversity.

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