Ilawye the Great Grandparent Whitebark Pine Tree

Photo: NPS

Just in time for the new year, you can now tune into the first episode of the brand new season of Glacier’s podcast. Headwaters is a podcast from Glacier National Park, made possible thanks to your donations to the Glacier Conservancy.

Season Two Available Now

Chapter One of Headwaters Season Two: Whitebark Pine is now available wherever you get your podcasts. For more info and to listen to full episodes, visit the park’s website.

Podcast cover artwork featuring an artistic rendering of a whitebark pine tree, mountains in the background and text reading "Headwaters Glacier National Park"

Artwork: NPS

From NPS: Over the course of five chapters, this season documents the generational effort to restore a species. It’s also a story about the purpose of national parks and our relationships with the places we love. Whitebark ask us, can people have a positive impact on nature?

Season Two: Whitebark Pine Trailer

by Glacier National Park

Meet The Podcast Team

The Glacier Conservancy recently had the opportunity to catch up with some members of the Headwaters podcast team, where we learned about production stories and behind-the-scenes moments from the new season of the podcast. Before we dive in, let’s get to know Glacier’s podcast team.

Peri Sasnett smiling, holding a loon.

Peri Sasnett 

Peri started working for NPS in 2013, after finishing her Masters in Geology. She has held a variety of interpretive and scientific roles in Glacier, Joshua Tree, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite. She specializes in science media and outreach, especially video and writing projects. Peri is an avid birder, hiker, and old time fiddler.  

Andrew Smith waving on skis in snow.

Andrew Smith

Andrew has been working at Glacier National Park since 2017, first as an interpretive ranger and now as a member of the media team. Andrew was a host and producer on season one of Headwaters. He loves climbing, wildflowers, and photography. Andrew can often be found on mountaintops photographing rare plants.

Michael Faist stands in front of blue background

Michael Faist

Michael started at Glacier in 2014, answering the phones at the front desk of park headquarters in what he later learned was the lowest-paid position in the park. After that foot in the door, he worked as an Interpretive Ranger giving public programs, a winter Education Technician leading snowshoe field trips, and finally as a media team member for the park. When not working on the podcast, you’ll find him exploring Glacier to find good skipping rocks.

Full podcast credits and acknowledgements can be found here. We thank this outstanding media team for producing the Headwaters podcast.

What can listeners look forward to in this new season?

Unlike season one, which featured many different stories from all around the park, season two will tackle one big story. Whitebark pine is the star of this season—an incredible tree that most people have never heard of, let alone noticed on a visit to the park.

This season will also expand beyond the park’s boundaries, exploring Glacier’s place in a larger landscape by taking listeners to new locations throughout the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

We’ve also brought on a new host to join Michael and Andrew for season two: Peri Sasnett! Peri specializes in telling complex scientific stories, so she’s a perfect fit to help us (and our listeners) get our heads around the twists and turns of whitebark pine ecology and restoration.


Any fun teasers you can share with us for the second season?

One of the highlights so far has been visiting Ilawye, a whitebark pine tree on the Flathead Indian Reservation that is over a thousand years old. We went with ShiNaasha Pete, a CSKT restoration forester, who introduced us to the massive, sacred tree. Among other surprising moments was the realization that Ilawye’s long-dead trunk rivals the size of trees found on Trail of the Cedars—far larger than any of us expected for an alpine tree!

Another adventure was planting baby whitebark pines at Whitefish Mountain Resort, in which a leading expert coached Peri through planting her very own whitebark pine seedling!

What is the best thing about creating this podcast? The most challenging?

Last season, we often only had the opportunity to talk with one person—or conduct one interview—for each story we worked on. This year, we’re meeting dozens of experts from all over Northwest Montana that are involved in every step of whitebark pine restoration. We’ve all fallen in love with these trees, and have gained a much deeper understanding of their story.  

The challenge? There’s a lot of awesome tape so far! Figuring out how to weave it all together in a way that invites listeners to join us on this journey is a whole lot of work—but it’s work we’re glad to be doing.

Can you elaborate on the theme for season 2 surrounding whitebark pine, and why that’s so significant?

Whitebark pine is such a significant tree—dozens of species (including people) rely on their seeds for food, their canopies shade the snowpack and slow spring runoff, and they are often the first tree to take root after fires. Unfortunately, they’re at risk from an invasive fungus called blister rust, along with mountain pine beetles and climate change. Most of the whitebark pine trees in Glacier are already dead or dying.  

In one sense, this is a tragic tale. But there is hope for whitebark pine! The threat of extinction is a common thread in environmental stories these days, but thanks to the group of dedicated people we’ve met through this story, there is genuine hope for the future of whitebark.   

Finally, while this season focuses on whitebark pine trees, it’s also about a lot of other things: How is the world around us connected? What does conservation mean? How do we fit into the natural world? The story of whitebark pine is an opportunity to ask these big questions that are relevant to every part of the park and the broader ecosystem. 

Your Support Makes A Difference

This project and many other critical projects would not be possible without your donations to the Glacier Conservancy.

Learn more about how your support is making other projects possible in Glacier National Park!