The Nature of Things visits the Aitken lab

Seeing people at work creates a deeper understanding than just seeing the final product. And more heartfelt appreciation, too. A CBC crew from “the Nature of Things” visited our lab to report on our current research: we use genomic information about tree adaptation to climate to  predict effects of climate change on tree growth and suggest mitigation policies. Countless e-mails flew back and forth about the timing and practical details. And then, the Big Day arrived: February 8. Skies were blue and excitement hung in the air.

The team (most of it…) – with Jennifer Gardy, sound technician Keith Henderson, and cinematographer Michael Sweeney.

While Sally Aitken was answering Jennifer Gardy’s questions in the idyllic (but freezing cold) setting of the forest in Pacific Spirit park, her lab crew waited, and waited. But, hey, we were indoors, so no complaining! Meanwhile, in the forest, the log on which the ladies were sitting began to defrost and… well, you can imagine. I have no idea how they managed to stop shivering for each take, on demand!

Jennifer Gardy and Sally in Pacific Spirit Park

Around 3 pm, the film crew had enough footage in the forest, and came to the Forest Sciences Centre.

Welcome to the Forest Sciences Centre

Director Liam O’Rinn and the crew chatted with various lab members to figure out interesting angles, stories and tidbits, and a  good setting.

Several takes were needed. Sometimes, speakers stumble over a word, or something unexpected happens in the background. We couldn’t close down the lab fume hood without setting off the alarm. The resulting white noise will need to be edited out at a later stage. These are just a few of many details complicating the real life of a film crew.

If you ever wondered how many hours of filming on site it took to end up with a seven minute movie, the answer was: ten hours. Patience is a virtue. Often underappreciated these days. The crew possessed it aplenty. Perhaps, if they think about us making bud break observations on small seedlings day after day after day, they are similarly intrigued by our persistence? I can’t wait to see the end result, which will be airing sometime in the fall. We will keep you posted on the final date, of course!

Joane may not be on the final cut, but used the time to get her wood cores mounted for analysis…

Tongli’s maps and models are central to what we do, but may not make the final film cut…


Robin didn’t get any camera time, but his cute little lodgepole pines were stars of the show…


Ian and Tongli managed to make progress on statistical analyses while waiting for the filming to get going.



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