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Life's work for Suzanne Simard is researching how trees in forests communicate with each other

She is receiving an honorary degree from Royal Roads University.
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Suzanne Simard, a forestry ecologist, is receiving an honorary ­doctorate from Royals Roads University at its spring convocation on June 14. COURTESY DIANA MARKOSIAN, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

Suzanne Simard says she’s too involved in her work to pay much attention to the awards and accolades that keep coming her way.

“I’m so busy, I don’t really have time to think about it very much.”

Among her many honours, the forestry ecologist was recently named to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2024.

But she said it was still a “pleasant surprise” when Royal Roads University announced that she would be the recipient of an honorary doctorate of laws during this year’s spring convocation on Friday, June 14.

Simard, a University of B.C. forestry ecology professor, leads UBC’s Mother Tree project and has more than 200 published scientific articles to her name.

Over the years, Simard and her team have built a body of research documenting how trees in the forest communicate via fungi networks, sharing nutrients and information with each other.

“It’s my life’s work,” she said.

Her memoir, Finding the Mother Tree, debuted on the New York Times bestselling list when it was first published in 2021.

Simard said that book was borne out of a desire to do something different.

“I’ve done all that science. I published in all these great journals, and still it didn’t make a difference to how we were managing our forests,” she said. “I wanted people to know that it’s so much more than that.”

“We need to have literature, we need to have poems about our natural world, because we’ve got to grow beyond this strict, narrow way of seeing the world.”

Three years later, the book still has a long wait-list at the Greater Victoria Public Library.

“Her work shows the importance of conservation efforts and preserving the ecology and biodiversity of our natural world. We admire her commitment to climate action and aspire to emulate this passion in our own climate action efforts,” Royal Roads University president Philip Steenkamp said in a statement.

Royal Roads honorary doctorate recipients have demonstrated visionary leadership and have had a positive effect on society on a national or international scope. Recipients can be nominated any member of the university community and are selected by a committee.

Prior to her convocation, Simard will give a public talk at Royal Roads’ Dogwood Auditorium on Wednesday, June 12 at 4 p.m.

Tickets can be obtained for free by registering at ­royalroads.ca/events/trees-talk-conversation-suzanne-simard.

mjlo@timescolonist.com

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