Yosemite documentary features Berkeley sequoia researchers

A PBS Nature documentary that first aired March 29 and is now available for streaming explores the impact of climate change on Yosemite National Park, and features two UC Berkeley biologists who climb to the tops of giant sequoias to understand what the future holds for these ancient trees.

Anthony Ambrose and Wendy Baxter are shown using ropes and ascenders to study the conditions of these trees hundreds of feet above the forest floor, and how these conditions are changing with a warmer and drier climate.

“The film not only shares the beauty of these majestic places but highlights some of the most pressing environmental issues facing them, particularly the threat posed by climate change to the incredible diversity of plants and animals that call them home,” said Ambrose, who is a tree canopy biologist working as a research scientist with three organizations: UC Berkeley in the laboratory of Todd Dawson, the California Academy of Sciences and the UC Institute for the Study of Ecological and Evolutionary Climate Impacts.

Wendy Baxter

The sequoia studies by Wendy Baxter and Anthony Ambrose are also featured in a BioGraphic multimedia piece called Last Tree Standing. Click on the image to link to the site, which is sponsored by the California Academy of Sciences.

By taking leaf samples, Ambrose and Baxter are able to monitor the water supply in the canopy, and they are finding greater stress levels than ever before. Given the resilience of these trees, Ambrose hopes to determine how much stress they can withstand.

The film, narrated by the actor Kevin Kline, also follows geologists, ecologists, researchers and adventurers who are investigating how the changing climate is affecting one of America’s greatest wildernesses, including its wildlife.

The episode is available for limited online streaming at PBS’s Nature.

“As a scientist studying giant sequoias, I really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of this film because it’s a great way to help educate the public and raise awareness about the beauty, ecology, and threats to these iconic trees and forests, and what is needed to protect them into the future,” Ambrose said.

“I hope the film inspires people and helps contribute to larger efforts to conserve and protect Yosemite and larger Sierra Nevada ecosystems and biodiversity for future generations to enjoy.”

Link to PBS Nature’s website for more information, to view trailers for the documentary or to stream the series for a limited time after broadcast.

PBS Nature website