International scientist to speak at The Woods

October 25th, 2012 | SMWC

4star_-_MargaretLowman.jpgDrawn to the mysteries of tropical rain forests and dedicated to a life of scientific expeditions in the treetops, Margaret Lowman, Ph.D., designs hot-air balloons and walkways for treetop exploration. Lowman, research professor at North Carolina State University and director of North Carolina’s Nature Research Center, pioneered the science of canopy ecology. She will share her experiences at the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Four-Star Series on November 2, 2012, in Cecilian Auditorium at 7 p.m. The presentation is free and open to the public.

According to Lowman, nearly 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,” Lowman said. “Once up there, I discovered that insects eat four times more leaf material than we imagined.”

This type of research is important because many factors stress forests. “With forests becoming warmer, drier and more fragmented, insect outbreaks are predictably one of the first responses to climate change,” Lowman explained. With special expertise on the links between insect pests and ecosystem health, her scientific research spans over 30 years in Africa, the Americas, Australia, Peru and the South Pacific.

Affectionately called the mother of canopy research, Lowman is 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.

At North Carolina’s Nature Research Center, Lowman oversees all aspects of this cutting-edge research center, including research laboratories, technology, strategic planning and integration with existing museum programs. Additionally, she provides leadership for the North Carolina University system partnership and collaborations with various levels of the government and private sector.

An accomplished writer, she has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications. She also co-edited the definitive textbook, “Canopy Biology.” Additionally, she recalls her adventures as a scientist and single parent in the book “It's a Jungle Up There: More Tales from the Treetops.” The book details field biology questions, the canopy access methods, educational components of each expedition and the challenges of juggling parenthood and career.

Her academic training includes Williams College (BA, Biology); University of Aberdeen (MSc, Ecology); University of Sydney (Ph.D., Botany); and Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College (Executive Management). Her numerous awards include the Margaret Douglas Medal for Excellence in Conservation Education from the Garden Club of America, Girls Inc. Visionary Award, the Mendel Medal for achievements in science and spirit, the Lowell Thomas Medal for discoveries in the canopy, Kilby Laureate and Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow.


The Four-Star Series offers a diverse spectrum of performing arts and esteemed speakers who inspire, challenge and stimulate the imagination. Designed to enhance the College’s curriculum and to enrich cultural exploration, the series has presented world-renowned lectures, musicians and productions. All events are free of charge and open to the public.

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