Episode 121: Ho Do You Tell the Age of a Tree?

Meet the Expert:  Alexandra Siy, Award-winning science author and photographer

Alexandra Siy

Alexandra Siy is a science writer for kids, merging STEM and art to make STEAM! Many of her titles use primary source scientific imagery to reveal both outer space and the microscopic, inviting young readers to enter worlds that can only be visited using science and technology. Worlds where spiders are superheroes, insects are much more than bugly, a simple sneeze is a micro-second adventure through the body, and the interstellar age is now. Alexandra is also a photographer and the creator of instastem.com, a STEM inspired photography workshop that gets kids reading writing, and creating their own science-as-art photographs. As a visiting author, she travels to schools and libraries nationwide, sharing her passion for science, books, and photography. She’s also worked as a teacher in diverse communities, including Alaska and Colorado. Alexandra lives in New York State on her 73-acre sustainable family forest with her teenage son and their cat. Please visit her at www.alexandrasiy.com


Alexandra’s research to find out more about the Bristlecone Tree:

As a kid, I knew that by counting tree rings you could find out the age of a tree. I’ve been a tree-lover since childhood (grew up in the woods). My SCBWI nonfiction work-in-progress research grant enabled me to visit and photograph ancient bristlecone pines in two locations where the oldest trees on Earth survive (some are more than 5,000 years old).

At the outset I knew the stories–that people who were close to bristlecones died young (there was a “King Tut” kind of mythology surrounding these trees). Edmund Schulman who discovered them to be the oldest trees (he cored the Methuselah tree in the late 1950s and counted the rings all night using a microscope and a lantern in his forest camp) died at 49, two months before his National Geographic article was published. The article and other stories are posted on my website www.bristleconebook.com

What I eventually learned from my research is that tree rings store climate information in their rings. Scientists are using tree rings to understand climate change and they have created a chronology dating back 10,000 years using living trees and preserved dead wood from bristlecones.


More information from the National Park Service about Bristlecone Trees HERE




Go out in your neighborhood and find a pinecone or two. Compare the pinecones to each other and to the trees. Notice any differences. Draw a picture of them or just have a discussion with your family!

Send us a picture or leave a comment below.We LOVE hearing from you!! If you liked this episode, leave a comment below OR share with us on our Twitter , Instagram or Facebook page.



Bristlecone book

Highlighted Book for this Episode! 

Bristlecone: The Secret Life of the World’s Oldest Tree
Alexandra Siy (Author) Marlo Garnsworthy (Illustrator)








Book List: 

Can You Hear The Trees Talking?: Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest  by Peter Wohlleben

Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Trees by Patricia Daniels

The Book of Amazing Trees by Nathalie Tordjman (Author), Julien Norwood (Illustrator), Isabelle Simler (Illustrator)

Mosquito Bite Alexandra Siy (Author) Dennis Kunkel (Illustrator)

1 comment on “Episode 121: Ho Do You Tell the Age of a Tree?
  1. Thank you for having me on the podcast! Listeners, please send me your pictures of the pine trees and cones you find! You can email me from my website: http://www.alexandrasiy.com. Have a great time getting outside and exploring. When you just stop for a minute and think…aren’t trees totally amazing? The way they can stand up, even in strong winds, and live off of the carbon in the atmosphere? They give us so much: shade, wood, food, beauty, and inspiration! That’s why we have “tree huggers!”

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