Forestry Ink: Canopy Meg; a living legend

Article written by Jim Hilton and taken from

Doctor Margaret Lowman has a number of titles, including Canopy Meg and Einstein of the tree canopy. She is well known for her original work on forests throughout the world, mostly those in the tropics. I first heard about her work when Paul Kennedy interviewed her on the CBC Ideas program last week. She has written over a hundred scientific papers, as well as three books on her work done over the last three decades. She has also participated in many speaking engagements, including a Ted Talk and her own YouTube video.

Her interest in forests started early when she was growing up in a small town in the eastern U.S., and she spent many hours in a tree house with her best friend next door. She married a farmer in Australia and was raising her two boys as well as working on forest research projects dealing with measuring tree leaf mortality in the mid canopy using climbing ropes. She was instrumental in determining the cause of the widespread mortality of the eucalyptus trees in Australia. Because she was being bypassed by people with much less experience, she moved back to the U.S. with her two boys. One of her major accomplishments was to document that almost 50 per cent of life on earth is estimated to live in tree canopies (mostly in the mid layers), yet this was an unexplored region until about 25 years ago. Much of her work has involved solving the challenge of just getting into the treetops. Over the years she has used hot air balloons with suspended platforms, canopy walkways, cherry pickers and construction cranes. Once up there, she discovered that insects eat four times more leaf material than anticipated. She has been instrumental in designing and establishing many forest canopy walkways throughout the world.

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