(1954, Bethesda, Maryland USA)
Known as the “Queen of the Forest Canopy”, forest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni is a pioneer in the study of canopy ecosystems in tropical and temperate forests. In particular, she studies the survival of epiphytes, non-parasitic plants that grow on other plants, as well as the effects of forest fragmentation on biodiversity. She is co-founder of the International Canopy Network, a non-profit organization that fosters the creation of communication tools for researchers, educators and conservationists concerned with forest canopies.
Nadkarni uses mountain climbing techniques, construction cranes and hot air balloons to explore forest canopies, among the last biotic frontiers on Earth. She has studied trees on every continent, undertaking long-term projects in the forests of Costa Rica and the Pacific Northwest in Washington State.
Nadkarni is also an activist and a passionate communicator of nature and science. While exploring the canopy of a Costa Rican forest, the shrill noise of a chainsaw encouraged her to step out of academia to engage and raise awareness among all kinds of people and communities about the fragility of forests and the future of the Earth. She has pioneered conservation projects in prisons, demonstrating that everyone can contribute to biodiversity conservation. She has invited rappers, dancers, writers and visual artists into the forests to find inspiration for particular works, some of which have been met with acclaim. She has reached out to religious communities through talks on the role of trees in the symbolism of almost all faiths, and has collaborated with the manufacturer of Barbie dolls to create a series of scientific models: the forest canopy explorer, the astrophysicist, the biologist, and the entomologist, among others.
Nalini Nadkarni is a professor of biology at the University of Utah and at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She has written nearly 130 scientific articles and half a dozen books, some specialised as well as popular books for adults and children. Her work has been showcased in several documentaries and in magazines such as Playboy, Glamour, National Geographic and Natural History. Nadkarni’s endeavours have earned her some fifteen awards, including the Public Engagement with Science Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice from Washington State University, and the Women of Discovery Award from WINGS WorldQuest.