Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, in arrangement with WOMADelaide Festival’s Planet Talks Program


Pioneering scientists Brian Pickles and Monica Gagliano explore the fascinating hidden world of tree communication, plant cognition and the healing powers of forest bathing. Gagliano’s research has uncovered ‘thinking plants’ while Pickles’ work surrounding mycelium communication networks, dubbed the ‘Wood Wide Web’, has exposed a world where plants and trees share, trade, care for family, display altruism and even wage war.

Books by Monica Gagliano will be available for purchase after the presentation in the foyer.


Dr Brian Pickles is one of the lead researchers of the University of British Columbia’s Mother Tree project alongside Suzanne Simard. He is behind the ground breaking research that has found that trees communicate with each other.

A pioneer of this aspect of plant science, Prof Suzanne Simard, has dubbed this the “wood wide web”. She has observed that trees pass both information and nutrients to each other through the mycorrhiza. What’s more, they can distinguish between related and unrelated trees, and, for example, send more carbon to their kin than to strangers! It seems to be that trees really do have a preference for sharing with kin, and that it’s the tree making that choice, not the fungus. 

Brian was almost a fighter pilot or an astrophysicist, but instead he got dengue fever and became an ecologist. His biggest influences are The Cult, sea turtles, and Kung Fu. He plants trees, teaches students about reptiles and dinosaurs, and has a PhD in Plant Science from Aberdeen University.

YouTube: TED Talk, How Trees Talk to Each Other (Suzanne Simard)
YouTube: Nature's Internet: How Trees Talk to Each Other In a Healthy Forest (Suzanne Simard)


Monica Gagliano is radically transforming our perception of plants and more generally, nature. Inspired by her personal encounters with nature and indigenous elders from many parts of the world, she has pioneered the brand-new research field of plant bioacoustics by demonstrating for the first time that plants emit their own ‘voices’ as well as detect and respond to the sounds surrounding them. She has extended the concept of cognition to plants by demonstrating experimentally that plants can learn just like animals do, re-igniting the discourse on plant subjectivity and ethical standing. Her progressive and holistic approach to science interfaces with areas as diverse as ecology, physics, law, anthropology, philosophy, literature, music and art, and spirituality. By re-kindling a sense of awe for this beautiful place we call home, she is creating that fresh imaginative space which inspires truly innovative solutions to arise.

Monica Gagliano is a research associate professor of evolutionary ecology and currently based at the University of Sydney, where she is a senior research fellow at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. She has pioneered the new research field of plant bioacoustics, for the first time experimentally demonstrating that plants emit their own “voices” and detect and respond to the sounds of their environments.

Monica Gagliano: website
Twitter: @Monica_Gagliano
Forbes Magazine: A Mind Without a Brain
YouTube: Plant Intelligence and the Importance of Imagination in Science
YouTube: Are You Smarter than a Plant


Professor Chris Daniels is currently a Governor of the World Wildlife Fund, and Patron of the Friends of Woorabinda (Stirling Linear Park), the Marine Discovery Centre, the SA Junior Field Naturalists Society,  among many other board, community and science roles. Chris Daniels is Director of Cleland Wildlife Park and holds Adjunct Professorships in Biology at the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide. In 2018 he was awarded a DSc from the University of Adelaide for 30 years research work into  "The lives of Animals and animals in our lives" . He is also involved in many other environmental leadership activities focused on conserving wildlife and connecting people with nature. 

Chris has published 9 books, a DVD and over 250 scientific and community publications. Books include Adelaide Nature of a City (2005) and Adelaide Water of a City (2010). Awards for these books include the Whitley Award, and awards from the Planning Institute of Australia, Stormwater Industry and Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. Chris won the South Australian Premiers Science award for communication (2007) and the Medal for natural history from the Field Naturalists Soc SA (2010). 

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Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre in arrangement with WOMADelaide Festival’s Planet Talks Program

While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy -Valuing our Diversity - and Building our Future.

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