Chief of Science and Sustainability
California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco, California, USA
Presentation Title: “Life in the Treetops: Challenges of a Woman Arbornaut”
Nicknamed the “real-life Lorax” by National Geographic and “Einstein of the treetops” by The Wall Street Journal, Meg Lowman pioneered the science of canopy ecology. 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. Lowman 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.
Formerly a professor at North Carolina State University and the founding director of North Carolina’s innovative Nature Research Center (NRC) at the Museum of Natural Sciences, Lowman oversaw the creation, construction, staffing, and programming of this research wing in partnership with NCSU. She was subsequently hired by the California Academy of Sciences to lead its 21st-century strategy integrating research with sustainability initiatives both local and global. As the external voice for the academy’s collections and research, she promotes its mission to groups ranging from elementary school classes to corporate executives to international conferences.
Lowman’s academic leadership has included vice president of the Ecological Society of America; treasurer of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation; founder of the TREE Foundation; member of the board of directors for The Explorers Club and Earthwatch; and climate change advisor to Alex Sink, former CFO of the Florida cabinet. Previously, she served as director of environmental initiatives at New College of Florida, CEO of The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and professor of biology and environmental studies at Williams College.
Lowman’s academic training includes Williams College (BA, biology); Aberdeen University (MSc, ecology); Sydney University (PhD, botany); and Tuck School of Business (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 canopy exploration, Kilby Laureate, and Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow. She has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed scientific publications, and her first book, Life in the Treetops, received a cover review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Working tirelessly on sustainability initiatives at home and abroad, “CanopyMeg” was a Fulbright Senior Specialist Scholar to both India and Ethiopia, and National Geographic funds her conservation work on Ethiopian church forests. She is the proud mother of sons Edward and James, both science majors from Princeton University.