Podcast: An interview with the ‘real-life Lorax’

October 2, 2015

Meg Lowman dangling from a Great Kapok tree along the Amazon River in Peru – Photo Provided by Meg Lowman

Meg Lowman dangling from a Great Kapok tree along the Amazon River in Peru
– Photo Provided by Meg Lowman

Meg Lowman didn’t grow up with the internet. She didn’t grow up with apps for species identification, with drones or with satellite imagery. She grew up climbing trees. And that is what has made all the difference.

Nicknamed the “real-life Lorax” by National Geographic and “Einstein of the treetops” by Wall Street Journal, Meg Lowman pioneered the science of canopy ecology.

For more than 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. Today, she is Chief of Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences and sat down with me to talk about her work blazing a trail for canopy research and for women in science.

“An astronaut studies outer space,” said Lowman. “Technically, an arbornaut studies the upper reaches of the forest, otherwise known as the canopy. It’s a pretty new field, and there have been only say 30 or 40 years of pretty intensive exploration of forest canopies. It is sometimes called the eighth continent of the world.”

She estimates only about 5% of the world’s canopy has been explored.

“It’s pretty low, and the technology has been slow in coming,” she said. “Only lately are we starting to catch up with really amazing tools like LiDAR and probably drones as they emerge.”

Soaring atop the canopies of French Guinea in a canopy inflatable sled, “trawling” for biodiversity in the treetops – Photo Provided by Meg Lowman

Soaring atop the canopies of French Guinea in a canopy inflatable sled, “trawling” for biodiversity in the treetops
– Photo Provided by Meg Lowman

Yet the lack of technology has never slowed Lowman. She’s traveled the world looking to reveal the health of forests by exploring their furthest reaches. During our conversation, she shares her experience in Ethiopia, Peru and French Guinea.

And she’s an advocate of encouraging other women to do the same.

It was a pleasure to have Meg, the arbornaut, scientist, and trailblazer, as the 16th guest of freshwater Talk.

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#Academy of Sciences    #Amazon River    #canopy ecology    #climbing    #ecosystem health    #environmental podcast    #forests    #Lorax    #Meg Lowman    #National Geographic    #Peru    #real life Lorax    #science    #treetop exploration    

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