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Jerry Franklin Oral History Interview - Part 2, September 13, 1996

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Max Geier: I was just curious, did you ever schedule pulses out on the Andrews itself?

Jerry Franklin: Yes and no. We never called them pulses, but we scheduled intense periods of activity. We did things like Andrews Day [HJA Days; public, researchers, educators, etc.]. And we got everybody together. So, what I would call those today is mini-pulses.

Geier: Okay.

Franklin: We did a number of those on the Andrews. And, we would take field trips as a group. I remember in '85-'86 when I was working a lot on synthesis, and I remember taking two or three days and a group of us going to Cascade Head to work on a review of coarse woody debris. We learned early on, the value of 00:01:00getting away as a group for two or three days. Going someplace and just getting out, flashing around, grooving on stuff, because we learned sometime by the mid '70s, that we really got insights when we were just out with each other talking. And I really learned that, it was about that time when I went, "Holy shit, you're really having the basis in terms of integration when you're out here sitting on a log with these people, or out there sitting on a boulder in the middle of a creek. And you just need time to go out and share perspectives." And so, I think the group has tried to do that periodically.

Geier: Those are things that just sort of gradually evolved. Initially, it was 00:02:00just something that people were getting together out there because they were there working together on a project?

Franklin: Yeah. I can remember in, by 1980 people saying, "We haven't been out in the woods together for a while. We need to all get in a van and go someplace. Spend a couple of days." And we'd do it.

Geier: Was this different there than in other places you've worked?

Franklin: Oh, I've never found another place like it. I think that maybe a few other places are like it. I think that maybe Coweeta, in some ways, is like it. But, it's a voluntary association of very bright people who fundamentally feel they learn more by working with each other than by working by themselves. And, 00:03:00it's extraordinary. I've never seen anything like it, anywhere else, except perhaps, Coweeta.

Geier: Must be a little satisfaction knowing you had a part in putting that together there.

Franklin: Oh, that was extremely satisfying! And, I don't have any doubt at all that my creations are totally a product of my interactions with other people. Most of my contributions effectively are integrations with other people's information. In administering the program and in synthesizing the program, I learned that what was most important was for me is to listen to other people. I 00:04:00said I was a benevolent dictator, and what I did was to listen to the people, and see what they were interested in, and try to craft a program to capture as much of that as possible, but still, it was sufficiently integrated that the foundation [NSF] was going buy off on it. That was kind of what I was constantly doing, and that was one of the differences between Dick Waring and I. Dick always had an idea that he thought was important. He likes really simple, crisp, hypothetical constructs. But, if you go that way, you leave most of the people out. So, I learned what I was doing, intuitively, was listening to the people and sort of optimizing a career program that captured the best of the ideas and 00:05:00the best of the people, but still you couldn't have odd pieces. You had to be able to bring those into some kind of an integrated or linked form. It was the same way at the other end of the process, of the learning process. You know, listening. And, Wow!!! Right on!! I hadn't thought about that. That fits! I give my father a tremendous amount of credit for that.

Geier: Why?

Franklin: Yeah, he modeled that behavior. I didn't realize it until the mid '80s, about which time he died. But, that's exactly what he did.

Geier: You mean in family situations?

Franklin: No, with other men.


Geier: Oh really?

Franklin: He was a leader. He would have been a top sergeant, that's the kind of a person who was. He was a person that other men admired. He listened to them. And they responded to him. I probably didn't explain that well.

Geier: No.

Franklin: But, people lead in different ways.

Geier: Sure. Yeah.

Franklin: In effect, what he modeled was leading by listening. By sensing where a group of people needed to go, and integrating as much of their interests and motivation as possibrle in that process. They knew that he was genuinely interested and committed to them. That's what the people at the Andrews knew 00:07:00about me. I think, that's why the science came, because they knew what I did. It was, "Ultimately, he's a dictator, but he's our dictator, and he's got our best interest at heart, and he's done a pretty good job."

Geier: I'm curious about your father. Was he involved in union activities or what was he leading?

Franklin: Yeah, he became a union leader, and ultimately, became a foreman, which is not surprising.

Geier: Yeah.

Franklin: But. Yeah.

Geier: That's fine. So growing up around the mill, right?

Franklin: Yeah. He became shop steward, a labor leader. Ultimately management wanted him in a foreman position. That's kind of equivalent to a top sergeant. Although, it could also be seen as equivalent to lieutenant, I think, in terms 00:08:00of hierarchy.

Geier: That's an interesting irony there, where your ideas of cooperative research which became so important in the old-growth controversy has its roots actually in the timber mill, your father's. Franklin: The model came from my father. He was a laborer in the mill.

Geier: That's interesting. This is my last question by the way. I wanted to run by you to get your reaction to my perception, at least, is the Andrews really leaped into public awareness with the controversy of the 1980s, and what about the Andrews group put it in a position where it became that significant in what was going on?

Franklin: Well, the most obvious thing is that it was generally the only group of people that did any significant (laughing) research on old growth, so, it's pretty obvious. But in addition to that, the nature of the research program at the Andrews, the ecosystem research program, its power, and we see it at 00:09:00Coweeta, we see it at Hubbard Brook, is its ability to turn in any direction. That is to say, you may construct a program that addresses perceived problems with timber management, or with global warming, or with pollutants, or with whatever. But a program like the one at the Andrews, looks basically at the processes, the structures and the organism,s in an integrated fashion, which turns out to be extremely powerful in that it can be used to address a tremendous variety of questions, including questions that are totally unasked. And so, we started some of the Andrews work looking at nutrient cycling, looking 00:10:00at impacts on productivity. But it turns out, that same information is very useful when you begin to assess and model global warming. So, the power of the ecosystem program is generality in the relationships that they give you insight that turns out to be relevant to a whole train of questions. Some recognized, some are not. We had a program we'd been working on natural forests, old-growth forests, and associated streams. But, you also had a program by its structure, that was set to answer a variety of questions about old growth. Want to know about productivity? Want to know about effect on water quality? Want to know how it's going to respond to a disturbance? Any of it. And you see it at the Coweeta 00:11:00program. Same way. You see it at Hubbard Brook. Same way. Somehow, that kind of science is just so problem relevant that it can be used in a tremendous variety of ways. That's why I say, it can turn to face almost any direction. The challenge comes from one side, turns around, and comes from another end. How do you preserve old-growth forests? And address that.

Geier: So, the adaptability of the group is built into the structure of the group, in other words?

Franklin: Built into the kind of science they do.

Geier: I guess I should probably let you go here.

Franklin: You've got one more, do you? (Laughing)

Geier: No, I think I'll probably have to get back in touch with you again.

Franklin: Well, I anticipated you would. You said you wanted a couple of sessions anyway. I like to talk about this stuff.

Geier: Oh, this is really fascinating. I've got good material here. I'm working 00:12:00on putting the proposal together right now and getting into the framework of the study together, and starting next spring I'm doing a second series of interviews where people can see more narrowly on particular issues. This is a good kind of general overview of your involvement. I'll get back in touch with you probably in December or so.

Franklin: Fred may have recorded the seven lives or the nine lives of Jerry Franklin. It was a seminar I gave on my retirement, and, at his suggestion, I went through the episodes of my professional life.

Geier: He mentioned that. I'll have to ask him about that.

Franklin: I think he's got it on tape.

Geier: The seven lives of -- ?

Franklin: -- The seven lives or the nine lives of Jerry Franklin; the "research natural area" life, and the biome life, and the old-growth life........

Geier: Yeah. The question I was kind of getting ready to ask, but held off on 00:13:00was, I was just curious if you have any regrets for not being involved? You still work with the group obviously, but you're not as directly involved now as you had been?

Franklin: I miss them. But, life's a linear process, and you move on. I've maintained my contacts with them, and hopefully I'll get a chance to do more work with them again, but (sigh), I miss them, but I think I don't regret the decision that I made.

Geier: This is the end of the interview with Jerry Franklin. The interview was actually held in his cabin on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Wind River.