Meet the Crew

Ben Bain

From a young age, Ben has been fascinated by trees. Born and raised in Wisconsin, he pursued his interest in Forest Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before working as a Wildland Firefighter in Idaho. It was there that he discovered his true passion for arboriculture, which has driven his work in the industry for over a decade.

As a Certified Arborist and Qualified Tree Risk Assessor, Ben co-founded Rootbound Arborists in 2015 with a strong commitment to providing reliable tree care guidance based on sound research and proper techniques. He’s passionate about training the next generation of skilled arborists while prioritizing safety and education. He values client experience and creates a customized and detailed proposal for every project; working with each client to achieve their goals while also considering the health of each tree.  

When it comes to his favorite trees, Ben has a special affinity for Montana’s Western Larch (Larix occidentalis), although he also loves the Sugar Maple and Black Walnut trees of the Midwest. He’s always excited to prep his arsenal of saws for upcoming projects, with the 540 xp being his favorite saw.

Ben is passionate about the collaborative efforts of the Rootbound Crew and leaving a legacy of well-managed trees in the Gallatin Valley landscape.

Eli Putren

Growing up surrounded by Idaho’s lush forests, rivers, and lakes, Eli developed a deep appreciation for the natural world from an early age and his lifelong dream of climbing huge trees has led him to the practice of arboriculture, and he has been excelling as an arborist apprentice for the last year with Rootbound.

After finishing high school, Eli embarked on a four-year journey of traveling, studying, and working abroad in New Zealand, Nepal, and Vietnam, where he cycled solo through Thailand and Cambodia. In 2022, he settled in Montana with his wife Belle, and together they are dedicated to pursuing a life of rich relationships, new experiences, travel, and big dreams.

Eli has a wide range of talents and interests, including restoring old VWs. He rebuilt a ’69 Bug from the ground up at the age of 16 and has since completed five engine rebuilds. In addition, he is an experienced alpine, rock, and ice climber, having conquered impressive peaks like Mt. Rainier, Devils Tower, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Baker.

Eli’s love for climbing extends to trees as well. His favorite tree to climb is the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), and he is particularly fond of the majestic Kauri (Agathis australis). While Eli dislikes working with messy Green Ash trees, he enjoys using his trusty Silky Zubat hand saw to prune their unruly canopies.

Theresa Gerdin

Meet Theresa, also known as “Tree”. For eight seasons, she worked for the US Forest Service, where she gained valuable experience serving on fire crews and Backcountry Trails crews. Theresa earned her FFT2 Wildland Fire redcard and honed her skills using crosscuts, handsaws, katana saws, and chainsaws to fell trees and clear trails.

While working in a district near Jackson, Wyoming, Theresa learned various tree climbing and rigging techniques, including climbing white bark pines to collect cones for fungus and beetle-resistant regeneration, and securing bear poles in backcountry hunting camps. Theresa has also done some recreational tree climbing in some of Oregon’s monster Douglas Fir trees ascending 220+ feet, for the exhilaration, and  deep connection to nature that can be felt high up in a canopy.  

In 2022, Theresa became a certified Emergency Medical Technician and also moved into the private sector, where her expertise in working with well-managed crews, prioritizing safety, efficiency and ecological considerations have made her a vital and supportive manager on the Rootbound Crew.

When she’s not operating chainsaws and chippers, you can find her teaching skiing at Big Sky or serving as a heli-ski guide in Alaska. She also enjoys exploring Montana’s mountains, hiking, and floating down rivers.

If Theresa could be in the canopy of any tree, she would choose the Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), not just for its size and beauty, but also because many of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest consider it the Tree of Life.

Theresa lives by the motto “Life is for Learning,” and we couldn’t agree more.

Trent McAllister

Trent grew up on the outskirts of the Ozarks in Northeastern Oklahoma, where his appreciation for the wilderness was instilled by his grandfather, who built a farm and worked the forest on land that had been in Trent’s family for generations. Trent completed his bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology from Rogers State University, where he was a member of the Honors College. During his time at the university, he assisted faculty with research projects such as medical lab work involving genetics, cave surveys of bat populations affected by white nose syndrome, and research on amphibian diversity in the Ozarks. For his Capstone research, Trent investigated the impacts of prescribed burning in Oak/hickory forests that his university managed.

The summer before his Senior year, Trent moved to Wyoming to work in Yellowstone National Park where he developed a passion for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and Western forestry. After completing his degree, he worked for three seasons with the Forest Service on a hand crew in the Pacific Northwest, at the base of Mt. St. Helens. Trent also served on a fire helicopter and a Hotshot crew in Northern California, where he saw firsthand the devastating impact that wildfires have had on the West in recent years. 

Trent’s experience makes him a natural fit on the Rootbound crew, as we work to manage and preserve one of the country’s most stunning ecosystems.

When Trent isn’t working with trees, he enjoys backpacking, hunting, skiing, and exploring the Southwest region of Montana on his motorcycle or flying planes. Trent has a special fondness for Aspen groves, but he also holds Oak and Hickory trees from the South in high regard. While Trent is open to working with any chainsaw, starting up a 500i Stihl brings a smile to his face.

Molly Sternke

Molly grew up on a subsistence farm in Wisconsin’s picturesque “Driftless Area.” In 2012, she followed her passion for sustainability and the environment to Bozeman, Montana, where she earned a degree in Sustainable Food & Bioenergy Systems from Montana State University. During her time at MSU, Molly gained valuable experience in integrated pest management, environmental ecology, conservation, and sustainable agriculture.

In 2015, Molly helped launch Rootbound Arborists, where she started out as a member of the ground crew while also handling operations, administration, and managerial duties. Today, she focuses primarily on managerial and administrative tasks, and is the friendly voice you’ll hear when you call Rootbound Arborists.

Molly is deeply committed to improving the positive impact of Rootbound Arborists on the community  and creating a supportive, & friendly working environment.

When it comes to her favorite trees, Molly loves anything in the Prunus family (especially Tart Cherries), as well as the majestic American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).

Zach Maguire

Introducing our crew leader, Zach Maguire. Zach is a Certified Arborist and a “tree man” to the core. He has a deep passion for arboriculture, tree climbing and ecophysiology. Renowned for his thoughtful pruning and deliberate removal techniques, Zach also brings a thirst for knowledge, a positive attitude, and great sense of humor to the Rootbound Crew.

Zach’s love for arboriculture is matched by his studies in ecology and wildlife management. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, he has spent the last decade in Montana where he was a wilderness guide in The Bob Marshall Wilderness before pursuing a Master of Science degree in Fish and Wildlife Management at Montana State University, where he served as a teaching assistant for Ichthyology. His coursework in classes such as Forests and People, Forest Botany, Identification of Seed Plants, and Seminar in Arboriculture, perfectly complement his skill set as a tree advocate and arborist.

Zach has a soft spot for Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Alpine Larches (Larix lyallii) and enjoys working with his ported 562 xp saw.

With his diverse skill set, passion for learning, and commitment to tree care, Zach is an invaluable member of the Rootbound Crew.