Scientific Staff

Chuck Cannon, PhD

Director, Center for Tree Science

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As Director of the Center for Tree Science, Chuck Cannon brings a wealth of knowledge and a broad perspective on forest evolution, wildlife, and conservation to the Arboretum.

Throughout his career, Chuck has become increasingly interested in the biology and behavior of individual trees and unique access that the living collections provide to researchers. Currently, his work is centered on four main topics:

  • The evolution of tree species through natural selection and hybridization, using both theoretical and empirical study.
  • The application and invention of advanced and effective technologies for tree science, particularly for on-demand sample and observation collection.
  • The development and implementation of a “tree observatory” platform for the simultaneous collection of many different types of data on tree behavior, growth, and status.
  • The strategic design and administration of a Biology Integration Institute.

Chuck’s work has taken him to more than a dozen countries and involved a wide range of scientific endeavors, from new species discovery to creating forest management policy. He not only leads a group of accomplished tree scientists at the Arboretum—he also connects and motivates a large network of global collaborators in the shaping and expansion of our knowledge of trees and forests around the world.

Creating opportunities for the training, mentoring, and professional development of students and scientists at all stages of their careers is also a major priority. Chuck directs the Integrated Mentorship Program in Tree Science, which offers a wide range of proposal-based research fellowships and internship activities.

Chuck has published more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific articles and professional reports in many leading journals, including Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy. He has received fellowships and consultancies from a wide range of institutions, including Harvard University, The Mellon Foundation, University of Malaysia – Sarawak, the Boren Foundation, the National University of Malaysia, The Nature Conservancy, The Smithsonian Institute, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.  

In 2007-2011, he was recruited as a full Professor in the Chinese Academy of Sciences to create and lead a new research group in Ecological Evolution at the Xishaungbanna Tropical Botanic Garden in Yunnan, China. Funding agencies for his work include the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, the Yunnan Provincial Government (China), the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Natural Science Foundation of Science (China), and Conservation, Food, and Health, Inc.

He has been involved in the teaching and training of forest scientists since 1989, including the creation of the annual course “Advanced Field Course in Ecology and Evolution” at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, China in 2009 and the funding of the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program site on “Integrative Tree Science for the Anthropocene” at The Morton Arboretum.


PhD, Botany

Duke University
Durham, NC

BA, Anthropology

Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

Projects (8)