Meg Lowman

California Academy of Sciences

Research Focus: Canopy biodiversity and a champion of forest conservation around the world

Meg Lowman

Meg Lowman climbs trees for a living. Over the past three decades, “Canopy Meg” (a nickname bestowed by middle school kids who email her) has earned an international reputation as one of the world’s first arbornauts, pioneering the field of forest canopy science. National Geographic dubbed her “the Real-life Lorax” and the Wall Street Journal labeled her “the Einstein of the treetops.” She has devised innovative methods – including walkways, ropes and slingshots, and hot air balloons – to explore this “eighth continent,” home to about half of life on earth.

Equipped with degrees in biology, ecology, executive management, and botany, Meg transformed her childhood passion of trees and building tree forts into mapping canopy biodiversity worldwide and spearheading the construction of the world’s first canopy walkway.

Throughout her career, she has passionately linked girls to science in many developing countries where she works: Ethiopia, Mozambique, India, and most recently, Malaysia. As the mother of two boys, she believes families need to link their kids to nature to inspire stewardship of our environment.

Meg’s work to save global forests brings diverse stakeholders to the decision-making table, including religious leaders in Ethiopia and corporate donors in Malaysia. 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.


Using Canopy Science to Foster Global Forest Conservation

Despite millions of dollars, extensive time, and extraordinary intellectual capital, the degradation of tropical rain forests is accelerating. Scientists continue to dedicate their technologies, passion and entire careers to reversing this global trend, without apparent success. How can we re-tool our research trajectories to increase rain forest conservation?

In this talk, Meg will summarize her pioneering efforts to study whole forests including the treetops, not just the forest floor as was the conventional approach in forestry for the past two hundred years. By expanding exploration into forest canopies, scientists gain a better assessment of forest health, as well as inspire new measures to conserve global forests.

Meg will discuss four case studies whereby forest science was re-invented with innovative and new approaches to conservation:

  1. Using the toolkit of forest scientists, in particular canopy walkways, not just for scientific research but also for education and ecotourism so that indigenous people can create income without logging;
  2. Expanding our field research expeditions to include students of all ages via live-streaming and other virtual technologies that are now relatively inexpensive and far-reaching;
  3. Inspiring girls in developing countries to become environmental stewards of their local forests through local trust-building and inclusivity; and
  4. Including diverse stakeholders in forest conservation efforts, such as priests in Ethiopia or corporate leaders in Malaysia.

Meg’s talk includes illustrative case studies for these actions, and how we as scientists can expand our strategic approaches to promote conservation.