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'Canopy Meg' Takes to the Treetops for an Evening of Women and Science


Margaret Lowman  got her nickname of "Canopy Meg" at an early age, for her penchant for climbing trees. Pretty soon, she became renowned in scientific circles for her research on the tops of trees - or their canopy.

She's speaking April 30th at the Tampa Theatre with another famous woman scientist, Sylvia Earle.  They will be introduced by WUSF's own Susan Giles Wantuck.

We talk with the Sarasota resident on why canopies are a vital part of the earth's ecology - and how women can succeed in science.

She's been called a "trail-blazing arbornaut" for her research  of studying trees ‘where they live’ – in the canopy.

Dr. Lowman is Chief of Science & Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences and a pioneer in the science of tree canopy ecology. Dubbed the “real-life Lorax” by National Geographic, Lowman has authored more than 125 peer-reviewed scientific articles and several books, including “Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology”, “Treetops at Risk”, and “It’s a Jungle Up There: More Tales of Life in the Treetops”. She is the founder of the TREE Foundation and a Board of Directors member for The Explorers Club and Earthwatch.

Lowman was nicknamed the “real-life Lorax” by National Geographic and “Einstein of the treetops” by Wall Street Journal. For over 30 years, she has designed hot-air balloons and walkways for treetop exploration to solve mysteries in the world’s forests, especially insect pests and ecosystem health.

According to Smithsonian.com:

Almost 50 percent of life on earth is estimated to live in tree canopies, yet this was an unexplored region until about 25 years ago. Much of my work has involved solving the challenge of just getting into the treetops: inventing gadgets, refining hot air balloon design, creating canopy walkways, working from cherry pickers and construction cranes. Once up there, I discovered that insects eat four times more leaf material than we imagined. Meg is affectionately called the mother of canopy research as one of the first scientists to explore this eighth continent. She relentlessly works to map the canopy for biodiversity and to champion forest conservation around the world. Her international network and passion for science have led her into leadership roles where she seeks best practices to solve environmental challenges and serves as a role model to women and minorities in science.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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