Exploring the "Last Biotic Frontier": Emerging Trends from Three Decades of Canopy Research in Tropical and Temperate Rainforests
Until 30 years ago, the rainforest canopies –- the upper treetops -- has been almost entirely unexplored. With the advent of canopy access techniques such as construction cranes and hot-air balloons, scientists have been able to document the highly diverse communities of plants, animals, and fungi that dwell 100 meters above the forest floor. Dr. Nadkarni has been a pioneer in exploring this "third dimension" of forests on four continents, supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.
Her lecture documents the development of the field of canopy studies, and her own ecological work to understand this "last biotic frontier." She has also been a strong agent to communicate canopy research to the public, particularly to non-traditional segments of the public such as faith-based communities, urban youth, and incarcerated men and women.
Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is a Member of the Faculty at The Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington, where she teaches in the Environmental Studies program. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Brown University (1976) and her PhD in Forest Ecology from the University of Washington (1983). Her research is focused on the ecology of tropical and temperate forest canopies, particularly the role that canopy-dwelling plants play in forests at the ecosystem level. She carries out field research in Washington State and in Monteverde, Costa Rica with the support of the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.
She has published two books and over 55 scientific articles in scientific journals in the area of forest canopy ecology and forest ecosystem ecology. Nalini has presented a number of endowed lectures at academic institutions around the country.
In 1994, she co-founded and is President of the International Canopy Network, a non-profit organization that fosters communication among researchers, educators, and conservationists concerned with forest canopies. She spends a great deal of energy on public outreach to the general public, children, and policy-makers on matters concerning forest canopies and forest conservation. She has appeared in numerous television documentaries, and was most recently featured as a canopy scientist in the National Geographic television special on tropical forest canopies, titled "Heroes of the High Frontier", which won the Emmy Award for Best Documentary Film of 2001. A new project she initiated involves the creation of a multi-disciplinary Forest Canopy Walkway project on The Evergreen State College campus. In 2001, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue her interests in communication of forest canopy research results to non-scientists with collaborations of artists, musicians, physicians, sports figures, and religious leaders.
Nalini splits a single faculty position at Evergreen with her husband, Jack Longino, who studies tropical insect biodiversity. They have two children, Gus and Erika, who accompany them on research trips to the tropics.
Nalini Nadkarni, professor of environmental studies at The Evergreen State College, describes a program she started that uses prisons to promote environmental causes. She explains that while the program originally started as an attempt to sustainably harvest moss, it quickly grew to involve everything from gardening to beekeeping.