Sussman's quest has taken her to the Mojave Desert (home to what are thought to be 12,000-year-old yucca specimens, fenced off in the middle of an ATV range), the reefs of Tobago (where Sussman dived to find 2,000-year-old coral after earning her scuba certification in a Manhattan pool), and a lab in Copenhagen (where she snapped half-million-year-old bacteria under a microscope). Using a $25,000 grant she received last year from AOL, Sussman will soon visit Iran, site of what has been called the oldest cypress tree (clocking in at at least 4,000 years), and Tasmania, where she'll track down a 43,000-plus-year-old king's holly specimen. "You could walk right past these organisms, thinking they were just scraggly little trees," she says. "It's hard not to be humbled by giant 2,000-year-old sequoias, but you'd barely notice the 3,000-year-old lichens in Greenland that grow one centimeter every hundred years. I'm hoping these portraits will give people a feeling of awe they weren't expecting."
Next: See Rachel Sussman's amazing photography