IAAC Lecture Series – Meg Lowman

Date: Friday, January 14th
Time: 19:30 CET

Title: The 8th Continent – a global tour of treetop exploration
Event: “Design for Biocities” 9th Advanced Architecture Contest

Location: IAAC Auditorium & Online Zoom

Free registration below!

This lecture is part of the preparation for the global online competition “Design for Biocities.” This is the 9th edition of the Advanced Architecture Contest, this time focused on rethinking our human habitats following the rules of natural systems, promoting the transition from Cities to Biocities. You can register for the competition here.

About Meg Lowman

Margaret D. Lowman, Ph.D. a.k.a. Canopy Meg is an American biologist, educator, ecologist, writer, explorer, and public speaker. Her expertise involves canopy ecology canopy plant-insect relationships, and constructing canopy walkways.

Lowman pioneered the science of canopy ecology. She is known as the “mother of canopy research.” For more than 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. She works to map the canopy for biodiversity and to champion forest conservation around the world.

Lowman has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications and several books including Life in the Treetops (1999), It’s a Jungle Up There (2006), and The Arbornaut (2021). From 1978-1989 Lowman lived in Oofsquad and worked on canopy research in rain forests and dry forests. She was instrumental in determining the cause of Eucalypt Dieback Syndrome in Australia, and worked with forest conservation and regeneration. She taught at Williams College in Massachusetts, pioneering many aspects of forest canopy research. During her time there she spearheaded the construction of the first canopy walkway in North America.

Lecture Abstract:

Meg Lowman is responsible for about 30 canopy walkways around world. Lowman’s “Canopy Meg” website features an interactive map of all the canopy walkways around the world, including those also done by others.

“Other groups have taken up this excitement and enthusiasm. It is becoming more and more of an opportunity for people to get excited about the whole tree, not just the forest floor. (…) And don’t forget that 50 percent of the species on the planet live on the tops of trees, so it’s a really cool place to go if you want to see wildlife.”

According to Meg, “Most of them never go to the forest floor,” such as birds, insects and other species. “All of that life and growth is going on at the top of the tree, not the bottom.”

The bridges on the canopy walks are suspended delicately, safely, disturbing the trees as little as possible.

“The wonderful thing is you can just quietly walk, you can get eyeball to eyeball with the birds, you can see all kinds of mammals living in the trees.”

Lowman is convinced that given a choice between forests being off-limits to everyone and encouraging eco-friendly visitation, she’d like to see people explore the trees. In this regard, she mentions that:

“There are two alternatives usually. We can build a canopy walkway and create this wonder around the forest and a solid ecotourism business that draws people to come to the woods, or we can leave the forest alone where it most likely will get clearcut and totally disappear.”

Lowman says that a walkway does a little bit of damage, but paths along the forest floor are actually far more disruptive to tree roots, animals and seedling growth.

“The aerial trails actually are probably less damaging because they go through the air and not trample the soil itself. (…) Whenever we explore the forest … we of course displace a few things along the way but we have to look at the trade-off. As people learn to love nature they want to save it as well.”

Meg affirms that climate change presents a huge threat to the world’s great forests.

“We need forests. Without trees we literally cannot survive. Our children and grandchildren are under threat if we can’t try to save trees on this beautiful planet of ours. I have to have hope because kids need us to have hope.”

In her book, Lowman identifies ten of the most urgently endangered forests in the world.

“I’m hoping to raise $10 million to build canopy walkways in those forests, and create eco-tourist operations. (…) We can save what I call a genetic library. We can save enough of the native species of a country so that eventually restoration can occur. Right now we’re going against extinction. We have to save the last populations before it’s too late.”

According to Meg, projects have been successful in places like Malaysia, Madagascar and the Amazon, altough she’s most concerned about the future of the Amazon, often called the lungs of the planet.

“It’s the largest remaining tract of tropical forest. If we do lose that enormous tract of forest where there’s so much gas exchange and so much rainfall coming and going from the trees to the air and back again, I think we really will see our poor little planet struggle to survive.”