Skip to main content


On a dead still November morning in the Sierra Nevada, two researchers walk through a graveyard of giants. Below their feet: a layer of ash and coal. Above their heads: a charnel house of endangered trees.

This is what a giant Sequoia grove ravaged by wildfire looks like

This story was published with Scientific American

This is Alder Creek Grove, a once idyllic environment for a majestic and massive specimen: the giant sequoia. It is now a blackened monument to a massive wildfire—and humankind’s far-reaching impact on the environment. But these two researchers have come to do more than pay their respects. Linnea Hardlund and Alexis Bernal, both of the University of California, Berkeley, are studying the effects of record-breaking fires such as the one that destroyed large swaths of Alder Creek Grove in the hopes that their findings will inform forest management that might preserve giant sequoias for future generations.


The Vanishing Forest 


Scientific American 


Welcome to Alder Creek Grove, where the giant sequoias once thrived, and where the profound impact of a devastating wildfire and human activity on the environment is laid bare. But Linnea Hardlund and Alexis Bernal, both scholars from the University of California, Berkeley, have come not only to pay homage but to unravel the aftermath and study the consequences of record-breaking fires that have ravaged the grove.

Their mission is to generate insights that can inform forest management strategies, providing hope for the preservation of giant sequoias for future generations. Yet, the researchers’ initial findings paint a grim picture—mortality rates near 100 percent in areas most affected by the wildfires. The once-mighty giants, which stood as sentinels for thousands of years, now remain as charred remnants.

Decades of aggressive fire suppression practices coupled with a warming and drier climate have created a perfect storm, leading to unprecedented fires. The SQF Complex, a convergence of the Castle and Shotgun fires, burned for over four months in 2020, engulfing nearly 175,000 acres. Shockingly, a preliminary report estimated that 10 to 14 percent of all living giant sequoias were lost in the Castle Fire.

Hardlund, who also works with the nonprofit organization Save the Redwoods League, and Bernal fear that without scientifically informed intervention, such destructive fires will persist in the Sierra Nevada region. The once-proud guardians of the forest may become mere memories, casualties of our collective ecological failures.

Our team accompanied the visuals with a custom musical score, aiming to craft a composition that echoes the resonance of the ancient trees, evoking a sense of timelessness that spans thousands of years.

“Guardians” unveils the harrowing reality of a giant sequoia grove ravaged by wildfire. It serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for intervention and a call to action to protect these ancient giants. Witness the resilience of nature and the race against time as researchers strive to preserve these magnificent creatures in the face of ecological adversity.

  • Previous ProjectFALLOUT

  • Next ProjectSave the Redwoods League