Sophomore Seminars

Partner with Trees


We’re surrounded by magnificent trees on the Stanford campus. This course is an invitation to pause, marvel at and learn about trees! We will explore several aspects of these natural wonders. Accompanied by guest lecturers and experts, we will wind our way around campus, using Ron Bracewell’s unique Trees of Stanford and its Environs as a guide. Our walks will let you discover, appreciate, and recognize unique tree species on campus and even how to safely climb trees, helping you gain a higher perspective and find your inner child. We will learn the fascinating science and ecology of trees, their importance in sustaining the Earth’s environment and how indigenous peoples have protected trees. Alongside, we’ll explore how trees have inspired poetry, song, fiction, photography, and painting. The course will introduce you to tree-enthusiasts from around the world. You will develop a short project related to trees, based on your own interests in art/literature, science, or the environment. Ideally, we want you to walk away with an appreciation for the importance and majesty of trees or to agree with Thoreau who wrote “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”

Meet the Instructor(s)

Devaki Bhaya

"I am a Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science with a courtesy appointment as Professor in the Department of Biology. My childhood memories are of small towns in India, climbing trees and marveling at nature. I got a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Biochemistry and returned briefly to India. I got hooked working with 'green' microbes when I was a visiting Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at the Carnegie Institution. I am fascinated by the ability of tiny microbes such as cyanobacteria, to perceive and evolve in response to a continual onslaught of environmental stresses and signals. These microbes have been around for billions of years and make our earth habitable! We investigate microbial diversity and viruses in extreme environments, such as in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. Of the several IntroSems I have taught, two of my favorites have been Facebug: The Secret Life of Microbes and Party with Trees, which was my first attempt to learn about trees around campus ( Although I may be accused of 'treeson' by microbiologist colleagues, I am looking forward to walking around campus after a long isolation."