Scientist, Author, Educator, Tree Canopy Biologist

New Canopy Walkway in Vermont

A artist’s rendering of the proposed forest canopy exhibition at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, Vt. (Courtesy Vermont Institute of Natural Science)

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The 300-foot-long canopy walk, which would begin behind the raptor houses, would be at an approximate elevation of 40 feet, give or take. It would lead visitors through a classic New England mix of hard-and softwood trees, and would offer views of the Ottauquechee River and Dewey’s Pond.

Along the way, adults and children could experience sitting in a simulated eagle’s nest, romping on a large, bouncy spider web and exploring a treehouse. It will also be accessible to those with limited mobility.

“There will be places to pause, play and socialize,” Rattigan said.

The canopy walk, Rattigan said, is based on similar attractions at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, in the Adirondacks; the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio, near Cleveland; and the Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

At each venue the canopy walk has proven to be transformational in terms of attracting visitors, Rattigan said.

The genesis for forest canopy walks came out of work pioneered by Meg Lowman, now the director of global initiatives at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Rattigan said. (Lowman is also sometimes referred to as “Canopy Meg.”)

Lowman has spent much of her career as a scientist studying life above ground, in the treetops, so that people can better understand the importance of preserving forest ecosystems.

Her ideas have been translated into the kind of hands-on public education initiatives that draw both crowds and attention to the globe’s dwindling forests.

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