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4/23/2012 8:03:00 AM
New eco-documentary reveals cottonwoods central to their ecosystem

The majestic, leafy cottonwoods, for which the city of Cottonwood is named, have helped unlock some of the mysteries of nature. They are the cornerstones of ground-breaking interdisciplinary research that may help scientists find solutions to some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time-from responding to climate change and preserving the planet's biodiversity to gauging the effects of new technologies on the environment.

A new one-hour documentary -- A Thousand Invisible Cords: From Genes to Ecosystems -- tells the story of the 30-year scientific journey and its implications for safeguarding the environment.

The premier screening of the film will take place on Wednesday, April 25, 7 p.m., at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in the Cline Library Assembly Hall. There is no admission fee. Immediately after the showing, there will be a panel discussion featuring individuals interviewed in the film, NAU faculty and administration, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the film's production crew (from NAU's IDEA Lab) who will answer questions from the audience about key issues raised in the film.



Cottonwoods are

a foundation species

Lush cottonwoods, which thrive on the banks of North American waterways such as the Verde River, are central to the health and biodiversity of their ecosystem. They are a "foundation" species.

Researchers have found that a small change in just a few lines of a foundation species' genetic code can have cascading effects on whole communities and even ecosystem processes.

"This genes-to-ecosystems approach offers a simplified way of going after very complex problems because we're concentrating on the genetics of the relatively few foundation species and their interactions that drive the rest of the community-rather than trying to study the genetics of every organism simultaneously," says Tom Whitham, Regents' Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Executive Director of the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research. Whitham is one of the scientists featured in the movie, all of whom are members of the Cottonwood Ecology Group. The Cottonwood Ecology Group is an interdisciplinary research team composed of scientists, universities, and research institutions from across the country and the world.

The name of the documentary draws its inspiration from a quote by the 19th century naturalist, writer, and environmental activist John Muir: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken to everything in the universe."

For more information, visit www.athousandinvisiblecords.org.

Applewood Kennels - renewed 113012 (V0054087)

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2012
Article comment by: Gabriella Bertelmann

Is this film - or any of its related material - available for purchase, lease or online? I missed a large portion of the presentation which showed on PBS 08-11-2012 PM in Colorado and would LOVE to see the whole thing! Seems very worthwhile. thank you for all your good work



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