Local author and Hoyt Arboretum neighbor Phyllis Reynolds will be interviewing Hoyt Arboretum’s staff over the coming weeks to introduce you to the people who make up Hoyt Arboretum’s team. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Mandy Tu, Plant Taxonomist and Herbarium Curator at Hoyt Arboretum. She’s been working with Portland Parks & Recreation since 2016.
Born in Taiwan, Mandy has been in this country since she was one—first for a couple of years in New York and then in Seattle since she was four. Her undergraduate degree is in botany from the University of Washington and her PhD in plant biology is from UC Davis—thought to be one of the best plant science schools in the country.
Mandy’s first work after her doctorate was with The Nature Conservancy on the UC Davis campus. Another event that took place on this campus was meeting her future husband, who was also a Davis student. His job offer from Intel brought the couple to Oregon.
Mandy lives with her family in Hillsboro and has two daughters 9 and 14. For almost ten years Mandy worked for The Nature Conservancy in Portland advising invasive species management (including biocontrol and herbicide use), but the 2008 recession caused her whole group to be laid off. For the next eight years Mandy was, among other things, a stay-at-home mom, a consultant, and an adjunct professor at Pacific University. Then in 2016 a friend told her that the arboretum needed a taxonomist and introduced her to Hoyt’s curator Martin Nicholson. And lo and behold Hoyt got Mandy in a part-time position that fits well with her family-life needs.
I asked Mandy about her progress with the herbarium, which is, of course, a never-ending project. She estimated she was one-quarter to one-third through the present plants, and she has yet to tackle the conifers. How does she like her job? “It’s great—I actually get to look at plants, which is awesome.” Some botanists end up behind desks writing grant requests, etc.
She likes the Arboretum: “It’s so close-in . . . A little piece of nature taxonomically grouped and all found in one place.” A magic wand for Mandy would vastly increase the space at the Visitor Center to accommodate many things, including Hoyt’s herbarium.
The one outside activity for Mandy these days is Taekwondo. After studying three and a half years she just got her first degree black belt. In these COVID-19 days her dojo is a computer, and, dressed in her gi, she does it online about three days a week.
It’s not all that easy to find Mandy at Hoyt Arboretum—she’s always off somewhere on the 200 acres collecting.
About the Author
Phyllis is a Portland native who has written two books about Portland trees and a history of Hoyt Arboretum. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology.