Please join us in wishing a happy retirement to Gary Lovett, Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and co-PI of the Hubbard Brook LTER.
Gary first came to Hubbard Brook in 1988, when the site originally joined the LTER program. At the time, Gary's research focused on atmospheric deposition—and particularly dry deposition, which had never been measured before at Hubbard Brook and was an important piece of the larger puzzle of acid rain and its impacts on the forest ecosystem. Gary distinctly remembers the type 2 fun of the associated fieldwork, which involved hauling sections of steel through the woods to set up a tower at the top of Watershed 6.
Over the next three decades, the scope of Gary’s research at Hubbard Brook expanded alongside the enterprise itself. “I’ve enjoyed watching the project evolve from what was a small, close-knit group early on, to a much larger, more diverse organization now,” he says. “The Hubbard Brook community made that shift, and that’s not an easy thing to do...it’s been gratifying to watch the project evolve to what it needs to be in order to function into the future.”
One of Gary’s favorite memories of his time at Hubbard Brook comes from an annual Cooperators’ Meeting in the 1990s. Sitting on the lawn with Charley Driscoll and Myron Mitchell, the conversation turned to the difficulty of regional-scale research. By 2000, with the help of Lindsey Rustad, that casual lunchtime chat had grown into the Northeastern Ecosystem Research Cooperative (NERC), a regional organization of scientists, policy makers, and land managers concerned with ecosystems of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Though the organization eventually lost funding, it produced many important papers and inspired regional scientific collaboration during its more than 15-year run.
Gary has been a co-PI of the Hubbard Brook LTER since 2015. His recent work has largely focused on the question, in his words, “Why is the nitrogen cycle not behaving the way we expect it to behave?” and the issue of invasive forest pests.
“I was trying to run these long-term studies in the Catskills and at Hubbard Brook, and the trees were dying. But they weren’t dying of acid rain or the other things I was studying, they were dying from forest pests," Gary says. “I got sick of watching these trees die and not seeing any policy implemented that would help solve the problem. It was frustrating, both as a scientist and as a forest lover.”
Inspired to take action, Gary worked with Kathy Fallon Lambert and Marissa Weiss at the Science Policy Exchange to increase public awareness for invasive forest pests and advocate for policy solutions.
Gary’s new title at the Cary Institute will be Emeritus Scientist, and he'll continue working on new communications and policy initiatives related to forest pests, along with a forest ecosystem model that investigates how introduced pests will impact ecosystem processes in the future.
“Outside my office door at the Cary Institute, all the hemlocks are dying of hemlock woolly adelgid; the ash in my yard here in Clinton Corners are dying of emerald ash borer; we have a camp in the Adirondacks, and all the balsam fir are dying from balsam woolly adelgid,” Gary says. “It’s personal. And as a forest ecologist, I think it’s the biggest threat to forests in the Northeast.”
With his continued work on forest pests and a recent decision to chair his town’s Comprehensive Plan Committee, Gary’s retirement calendar is booking up. But don't worry—he intends to have some fun, too. More hiking and cross-country skiing are on the agenda, and when it’s safe to travel again, Gary and his wife hope to visit the Canadian Rockies and Alaska.
Basically, he says, “I plan to get outside a lot.” Hauling steel towers through the forest, however, will remain firmly in the past.
A few of Gary's colleagues shared some words of appreciation and reflection for the occasion:
"Gary has many talents, but you probably did not know that he was also a world class sprinter! Many years ago, we were out sampling soil on the Cannoo Hills at the Institute for Ecosystem Studies when all of a sudden Gary sprinted past me—clocking about 10 seconds for the 100-meter dash. It turns out he had just cored into a ground nest of wasps. Who knew he could run that fast?! He returned about 15 minutes later (I think he ran all the way to Poughkeepsie) slightly out of breath, a number of wasps stings visible, but ready to get back to work collecting soil; Gary takes his nitrogen work very seriously. Gary: you taught me how to persevere through anything! You are the best."
"Something that always struck me about Gary is how much he relishes taking time to carefully think about things...with a real open mind about ideas and hypotheses. He has a distinguished career, but he still treats science like he's new to it."
"Gary has been a curious, thoughtful explorer of Northeastern forests, an encouraging mentor for decades’ worth of students and colleagues, and an advocate against forest threats from air pollution and invasive pests. He advanced understanding of forest dynamics, he founded collaborative science networks the Northeast, and he lobbied to save our unique tree species from all ranges of forest pests. He’s a treasured colleague and inspiration for many of us at Hubbard Brook and beyond."
"As a non-scientist swimming in a sea of academic researchers, Gary always made me feel valued and heard. His knack for listening to and considering my ideas and opinions meant the world to me and, on more than one occasion, gave my confidence a boost. Gary's unusual openness to different perspectives is special—one of the secret ingredients that make him an accomplished scientist, a skilled communicator, and a remarkable human being!"
"Gary has made major scientific contributions throughout his career to many ecological topics, including forest dynamics, nutrient cycling (biogeochemistry), air pollution, interactions with invasive species, and ecosystem function. His recent leadership with the Hubbard Brook LTER was outstanding—great job! Wishing Gary all the best as he enters this next phase of his distinguished career."