Scientific Staff

Chuck Cannon, PhD

Senior Scientist in Ecological Evolution

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As senior scientist, Chuck Cannon brings a wealth of knowledge and a broad perspective on forest evolution, wildlife, and conservation to the Arboretum.

Throughout his career, Cannon has become increasingly interested in the biology and behavior of individual trees and unique access that the living collections provide to researchers. His research currently focuses on two research questions:

How do we maintain resilience and adaptiveness in our tree species, given the challenge of rapidly changing and human-dominated environments? Using systematic, genomic, and theoretical approaches, Cannon and his collaborators are particularly interested in the impact and potential for naturally occurring hybridization and the subsequent exchange of genetic material among groups of interfertile species to enable rapid diversification and adaptation.

Can new technologies generate new insights into tree biology? Trees are very difficult trees to study, for many reasons. Cannon works with a large network of engineers, robotics engineers, and biologists to apply and invent new tools and techniques to gather high-resolution data, on-demand samples, and continuous observations. The Tree Observatory platform is a means to test and evaluate these new technologies.

Cannon also directs The Morton Arboretum’s Integrated Mentorship Program in Tree Science, which offers a wide range of proposal-based research fellowships and internship activities.


Cannon was recruited by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2007 to create a new research group on Ecological Evolution at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in Yunnan, China, where he was a full professor for four years. He then was an associate professor at Texas Tech University. He has worked for Wildlife Conservation International in Cameroon in Africa and for The Nature Conservancy in Indonesia to develop and prioritize management policies and strategies for protected areas.

Cannon has contributed to the publication of over 100 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and technical reports.


PhD, Botany

Duke University
Durham, NC

BA, Anthropology

Harvard University
Cambridge, MA


Associate editor, Global Ecology and Conservation, Elsevier

Deputy coordinator, International Union of Forest Research Organizations, Genetics and Physiology Division

Member, Executive Advisory Board, Alliance for Tompotika, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Member, Expert Advisory Board, Shanghai Engineering Center for Urban Tree Ecology and Applications

Member, Science Advisory Board, Chicago Biodiversity Assessment project

Guest editor, People, Plants, and People

Projects (8)