Dr. Bill Libby, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley, Forest Genetics

Index to Interview Questions:
0:15 – How did you choose forestry as a career?

0:51 – Was there a defining event 
which inspired you?

1:46 – Tell us about your time at 
University of Michigan.

4:08 – What is a forest geneticist?

5:25 – What are your thoughts about 
genetic modification?

7:13 – Give us a few highlights or challenges 
from your career.

9:12 – What was your Ph.D thesis subject?

10:14 – How do you conduct studies of trees 
considering the long times required
 for traits to become apparent?

13:04 – What are some of the positive aspects
 of being a forester?

14:14 – Talk about your involvement with SAF.

15:03 – What are your thoughts about 
diversity – stability?

19:10 – What are your thoughts about 
the SAF mission, its past, and
 relevance in the future?

20:13 – What do you see as 
the future of forestry?

23:44 – What advice would you give someone 
considering a career in forestry
 or natural resource management?

25:14 – In a perfect world, what is your 
vision of an ideal forest?

27:51 – Lignochemicals?

29:12 – What are your concerns for 
the future?

30:11 – Explain the idea of 
assisted migration?

33:48 – What are your thoughts on 
climate change and species adaptation ?

37:16 – Tell us about your work with the 
Save the Redwoods League.

38:42 – What are your perspectives on 
global forestry?


9 thoughts on “Dr. Bill Libby, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley, Forest Genetics

  1. There are some Giant Sequoias in Carson, WA. The open grown ones in town did well as you would expect. The PNW Research Station was located here and planted about 75 in a burned area from the Yacolt Burn. About 20 years I went looking for them. There were maybe 25. They had been out competed by the native trees and were not very big.

  2. Dear Dr. Libby:

    I recently came across the article in Click On Detroit about the Giant Sequoia, which stuck a fine chord for me, as I have been about trees all my life, and have been planting Sequoias and Redwoods here on Orcas Island Washington with great success. I too believe these two trees are extremely important to the world given our current climate trajectory. I believe that right now is the time to be planting a lot of trees from other parts of the world in an effort to establish “an” ecosystem that will serve us and the planet, and this will take a lot of work far over and beyond what we are now engaged in. We need far more foresters, gardeners, and workers of the land in a foreword-looking effort to transition to the coming paradigm. We can and should be a positive force upon the land. If you can recommend a book or two or an organization with this kind of positive message and agenda, please let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll keep planting redwoods and protect them from the rampant deer population. -Thanks! Jeff Bossler

    1. Jeff, I saw on our California SAF website your request for information addressed to Dr. Bill Libby. Your note has been forwarded to him. Hopefully you will hear from him directly. If you don’t hear from him by the end of the month let me know and I will see if I can get your questions answered.
      David Bakke

  3. I am reaching out to you from One Life One Tree, a UK project with the aim of helping to safeguard Giant Sequoia as a species by planting and protecting 100,000 trees in the UK by 2030. Since we don’t have wild fires in the UK, although who knows what the future will bring, we hope that we can mitigate that risk to the species whilst not threatening local biodiversity, since the seeds don’t release without fire. We plant 3 native species alongside each Giant Sequoia and only plant on previously felled monoculture sites.

    We believe that one of the best ways to promote our project is by explaining the enormous advantage in carbon sequestration Giant Sequoias offer in comparison with our fastest growing native trees. Unfortunately, I’m really struggling to find sufficiently detailed data on growth rates. Of course, we can point at the amazing venerable giants that are in California but the oldest specimens we have in the UK are 170 years old and they were planted by hobbyists so we don’t have great (any) data on them.

    I see that you have been planting Giant Sequoias for a while so I thought I would contact you. I am hoping that you may either already have some growth rate data on Giant Sequoias or be able to point me in a good direction to look. Very grateful for any help you can give

    1. Jill, I have forwarded your message to folks at the University. You should hear back directly from someone there, perhaps Bill Libby or Rob York. Let me know if you do not hear anything by the end of March.
      David Bakke, Webmaster

  4. Dear Dr. Libby,
    I was an undergraduate student majoring in Genetics at UC Berkeley, 1972-1974 (B.S., Genetics, 1974). As an undergrad, I was intrigued by your genetic work on forest trees, and I met with you by appointment prior to applying to grad school. As you know, faculty in the Genetics Dept. at that time were working on fundamental organisms like Neurospora, yeast, and Drosophila, but that work did not interest me. But your work did. Our meeting was about 11:30am, and as I was describing my interests and questions, you asked me, “What do you like to eat?” I was a little confused and thought you were going to ask me to lunch. I said “fish”. You replied, “So why don’t you work on fish?” I said, “I can work on fish?”, and you said something like, “Sure, why not, fish have genes too.” Your guidance and suggestions during that 30-min meeting led me to the University of Washington (M.S., Fisheries Biology, MS thesis: Populations Genetics of Cutthroat Trout) and subsequently to UC Davis (Ph.D., Genetics, Dissertation: Quantitative Genetics of Mosquitofish) and a career as a “fish geneticist (University of Florida, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).” I’ve told this story about our meeting to colleagues countless times over the past 50 years. I just retired in 2022 from a very rewarding career. Thank you very much for all the guidance you gave me as a neophyte undergraduate student back in 1973. You really steered me in the right direction. Sincerely, Don Campton (UC Berkeley, Class of 1974).

  5. I just saw an article about a Giant Sequoia in Michigan. It read that this is a very important tree because of its location. I believe that I have 3 of these trees in my yard in south west Michigan. They were planted in the late 1950s by the previous owner of the home. If you have interest in these trees I would be happy to share any information I have.

    1. Thanks for the comment Bob. Could you please explain the significance of the tree as explained in the article?
      David Bakke
      California SAF Website Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *