Nalini Nadkarni on Discovering Forest Canopy Microcosms /62

Coast Redwood grove, by Rick Rowland

Coast Redwood grove, by Rick Rowland

Called "the queen of canopy research," Nalini Nadkarni explores the rich, vital world found in the tops of trees. Dr. Nadkarni has spent two decades climbing the trees of Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, the Amazon and the Pacific Northwest, exploring the world of animals and plants that live in the canopy and never come down; and how this upper layer of the forest interacts with the world on the ground. A pioneering researcher in this area, Nadkarni created the Big Canopy Database to help researchers store and understand the rich trove of data she and others are uncovering.

Nadkarni taught biology at Evergreen State College in Washington for twenty years, followed by University of Utah, but her work outside the academy is equally fascinating -- using nontraditional vectors to teach the general public about trees and the ecosystem. She worked with prison inmates to grow moss for the horticulture trade, to relieve the collecting pressure on wild mosses and to inspire a new reverence for nature—named by TIME magazine as “One of the best inventions of 2014.”

She holds a PhD from University of Washington and a BS from Brown University/University of British Columbia. Her numerous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aldo Leopold Fellowship, the Archie Carr Medal for Conservation. She's the author of over 100 scholarly articles and four books, including Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees (read an excerpt or purchase book:

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