Saturday Morning Rounds December 12th, 2020 - What can trees teach you about networking? A lot, as it turns out

Posted by BossB, MD on December 12, 2020
BossB, MD

Saturday Morning Rounds

A weekly round-up of career & negotiation content for women physicians

What got our attention

The Social Life of Forests

Uplifting journalism pieces are few and far between nowadays, so we'll take 'em where we can get 'em - and this one is great.

It's the story of a scientist - Dr. Suzanne Simard, PhD, RPF - who discovered that trees communicate with each other (and almost everything else on the forest floor, for that matter).

Her love of forestry started young, growing up in the Canadian woods among a family of low impact horse loggers. She went on to undergrad and grad school, where she bucked the trend of studying forestry yield and other directly commercial questions, turning her attention instead toward an intuition she had that the forest was more alive and interconnected than we ever thought.

"By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors."

In taking this chance, she changed the entire field of forestry, became a leading authority, and launched what's been a long, successful, and presumably meaningful career - and paved the way for woman scientists to be taken more seriously.

"Although Simard’s peers were skeptical and sometimes even disparaging of her early work, they now generally regard her as one of the most rigorous and innovative scientists studying plant communication and behavior."

It's not often that we get to celebrate such a legend while they're still living and working in their field - and learn something fascinating about the natural world to boot. Definitely worth a read.

Who we're following

We've long followed Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, MD (@DrPoorman) for her mix of thoughtful and humorous Tweets - one she posted this week is getting some hilarious replies:

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BBMD tip of the week

If trees, fungi, and other presumably inanimate forest organisms have such strong networks, there's no reason for you not to as well.

And you can take a page from their book!

Just like the trees communicate to each other through another organism, rather than directly, the best way to get a job is often by taking advantage of 2nd degree connections using your network's network. 

This strategy takes advantage of what's called "the power of weak ties" - here's a sample of how we teach it in our curriculum:

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Quote we're contemplating

"Maybe you are searching among the branches,

For what only appears in the roots"

- Rumi

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Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!