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Barbara Bond Oral History Interview, February 19, 2020

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Barbara Bond Oral History Interview, February 19, 2020


Barbara Bond, professor of forest ecology and ecophysiology at Oregon State University, served as Principal Investigator of the Andrews Forest Long-Term Ecological Research program 2008-2014. She begins the interview by outlining her early days focused on the beaches of southern California, reading books, and studying math and sciences. She thought ecology was too descriptive, so she was drawn to genetics, taught science in high school, and made her way to OSU as an older grad student to work with professor Richard Waring. She was very excited to blend physiology, remote sensing, and stable isotope research across a wide range of scales. After a period of supporting herself on research grants, she was given some funding to conduct research at the Andrews Forest. She quickly got a sense of the different science cultures engaged with the Andrews.

She describes her view of the striking differences in perspective of what constitutes an old-growth forest between her mentor Dick Waring and those of Jerry Franklin and his colleagues, but then commends Waring and Franklin for collaborating on an important paper about the forests of the region that appeared in Science in 1979. Next, she discusses the definition of “ecosystem” and the challenge of distinguishing concept from reality and the extent to which it is a matter of what’s of interested to the beholder. To the question of, “Is an ecosystem static, dynamic, ordered, chaotic?” she replies “Yes, yes, yes. All of the above.” That leads to discussion of the need to be comfortable with uncertainty, including how to perceive climate change. On a theme that runs throughout the interview, she discusses the interplay of observations of what exists vs. analysis of the way things seem to work, and she affirms her emphasis on analysis, experimentation, and modeling, which she considers an innate instinct. She discusses the complementary aspects of observational and a modeling approaches to science. She expresses her skepticism about the use of hypothesis testing in science and the notion of their being absolute truth by describing its inadequacies when she was a high school science teacher. “You have to be flexible,” she says. When asked about laws of nature, Bond also speaks in conditional terms and is concerned about terminology that may have different meaning to different groups, especially in ecology. She speaks of objectivity in science as a goal, but that it may present challenges.

Next Bond discusses her motivations, noting her focus on understanding how things work rather than solving problems. She expresses great enthusiasm for engaging arts and humanities in the Andrews Forest program, and she sees elegant science and math as akin to good art. Although she is not oriented to natural history and observational approaches to science in her own work, Bond thinks they should be an integral part of a research program such as that at the Andrews Forest. To the question of the role of hypothesis testing in science, she describes the challenge of balancing long-term observations with the argument that just keeping long-term measurements programs going because they may prove valuable in the future when scientists outside LTER could use those funds for exciting, cutting-edge research. Her response, “Yea, we need it all.” Concerning the role of modeling in research, she distinguishes two types of models – process-based and characterization of past ecosystem performance – and explains why she favors the former.

Turning to the question of major discoveries from Andrews Forest, Bond describes those as coming from the International Biological Program era of the 1970s, but she expects more to emerge in the future. She comments on how sustained funding and especially a sense of shared community commitment keep the program going. Then she discusses the role of community in framing good science questions, which is the cornerstone of a successful program.


Barbara Bond


H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Oral History Collection (OH 28)


Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries


February 19, 2020


Sara Khatib


Born Digital Video




Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Sara Khatib


Barbara Bond


Interview conducted over Zoom.

Original Format

Born Digital Video



OHMS Object

Interview Format


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