Margaret Lowman, a.k.a. Canopy Meg
for her scientific, educational and advocacy work globally to protect and restore forests
What causes Meg Lowman to leap out of bed each morning is the opportunity to explore, research, and conserve global forests; mentor the next generation (especially women and minorities) in sustainability and forest stewardship; and educate diverse audiences through storytelling. Her personal goals include mentoring 10 million kids, selling 10 million books, speaking in front of 10,000 corporate leaders, conserving 10 million acres of forest, and establishing ten walkways in ten high biodiverse forests, where women and indigenous families can earn a sustainable income from ecotourism and not logging. Meg is driven to educate leaders about the value of trees and welcomes opportunities to address corporate directors, CEOs, politicians, and decision-makers/disruptors to communicate the importance of healthy forests.
Her passion for science and exploration began as a little girl and subsequently defined her life’s work. She became a pioneer in the field of forest canopy science and is now considered one of the world’s first “arbornauts” or explorers of the canopies. Founding a new science, Meg designed hot-air balloons and walkways for treetop exploration to solve mysteries in the world’s forests, especially insect pests and ecosystem health. She now leverages her international network and exploration, seeking best practices to solve environmental challenges.
The nickname, Canopymeg, was bestowed by Bob Ballard of Titanic fame when Meg was chief scientists for the Jason Project, and spoke to millions of middle school students during virtual expeditions to the canopy and ocean floor, respectively. Meg recently formed Canopymeg Inc. as a platform that spawns science communication activities (e.g., speaking, board roles, books, etc.) as well as non-profit activities (e.g., TREE Foundation and Mission Green). Other nicknames over the years have included “the real-life Lorax” (from Dr. Seuss) by National Geographic, and “Einstein of the treetops” by the Wall Street Journal.
Currently serving as the Executive Director/Founder of TREE Foundation in Sarasota, FL, established in 2000 as a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to link local underserved children to nature and promote tree research, education, and exploration. Meg launched Mission Green to build 10 canopy walkways in the world’s highest bio-diverse forests over the next 5 years. This project partners with renowned oceanographer, Sylvia Earle, who founded Mission Blue to save ocean “Hope Spots,” whereas the individual is focused on conserving rainforest biodiversity “Hot Spots.” Meg’s new book, a memoir called “The Arbornaut: Exploring the 8th Continent In the Trees Above Us,” aims to inspire girls to seek careers in field biology, published in 2021 with Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She recently served as a visiting professor for the National University of Singapore; research professor for the University of Sains Malaysia; adjunct professor at Arizona State University, and National Geographic Explorer.
After completing a Ph.D. program in Sydney in 1983, she remained in Australia for eight years demystifying rural eucalypt dieback epidemics and serving as the co-manager of a fifth-generation family-owned Merino sheep and cattle business. Returning to the U.S. in 1991, Meg became CEO of Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, FL, growing its operation to profitability and then ranked as one of America’s Top Ten Botanical Gardens. Following this, she was recruited into three academic/leadership positions: New College of Florida as the inaugural director of environmental initiatives; North Carolina State University to direct the construction and launch of the Nature Research Center; and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco as Inaugural Chief of Science and Sustainability to “reinvent museum science.” Meg returned to Florida in 2019 to launch Mission Green and focus on global forest conservation with TREE Foundation.
Over the past 40 years, her work in forest canopy science involved groundbreaking work in 46 countries and all seven continents; co-chaired 5 international canopy conferences; and authored over 150 scientific publications and 9 books on forest science and sustainability. Her first book, “Life in the Treetops,” received a cover review in the NY Times Sunday Book Review. Championing an awareness about how forest conservation is critical to the survival of humankind also led her to serve as a sustainability consultant for green business initiatives including Tommy Hilfiger Foundation, Rolex Corporation, and The Habitat (Malaysia). Meg has served on multiple non-profit boards with education or sustainability missions: The Explorers Club, Earthwatch Institute, San Francisco Urban Tree Council, Ecological Society of America, Pacific Forest Trust, New College of Florida, Leadership Florida, Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation, Scientific American, National Science Foundation Advisory Committees, Environmental Change Institute (Oxford University), National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and Williams College.
Meg actively pursues bottom-up conservation activities including community initiatives for schools, corporations, and teams to manage local resources more sustainably: climate change advisor to the Florida cabinet, local tree planting programs in multiple countries, science book distribution to African and Amazonian school kids, and citizen science activities for communities. She loves speaking to all ages – which she refers to as “K-thru-gray” – ranging from webinars, commencement addresses, to “meet-a-scientist” for youth. Her academic training includes Williams College (BA, Biology); Aberdeen University (MSc, Ecology); Sydney University (Ph.D., Botany); Tuck School of Business (Executive Management Program), and Stanford University (Ald0 Leopold Leadership Program). She was selected as a Fulbright Senior Specialist Scholar to both India and Ethiopia.
Her outside interests are diverse. Meg is the proud mother of two wonderful boys who grew up climbing trees around the world with their scientist-mom. Carolyn Shoemaker named an asteroid after Meg, comprising 16 acres circling Jupiter (16304 Lowman). Her explorations across 46 countries has exposed her to amazing insects, including a love of “entomophagy” (yes, cooking bugs!). Meg enjoys birding, beaches, reading non-fiction books, and “all things nature,” with a personal motto of “no child left indoors.”