Lowman, Margaret D. 1953–

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Lowman, Margaret D. 1953–

(Margaret Dalzell Lowman, Meg Lowman)


Born December 23, 1953, in Elmira, NY; daughter of John (an educator) and Alice (an educator) Lowman; married Andrew Burgess (marriage ended); married Michael Brown (an attorney), October 25, 1997; children: (first marriage) Eddie, James. Education: Williams College, B.A. (cum laude), 1976; attended Duke University, 1976-77; University of Aberdeen, M.Sc., 1978; University of Sydney, Ph.D., 1983; also attended Tuck School of Business, 2002. Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: Cooking, reading, climbing trees, birding.


Home—Sarasota, FL. Office—New College of Florida, 5800 Bay Shore Dr., Sarasota, FL 34243. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected].


Biologist, educator, ecologist, writer, editor, and public speaker. Burgundy Wildlife Camp, science teacher, 1969-75; University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, lecturer in adult education department, 1978-81; Ruby Hills (sheep and cattle ranch), Walcha, Australia, co-owner, 1983-90; University of New England, faculty member in the Department of Botany, 1988-89; Williams College, Williamstown, MA, professor of biology and environmental studies, 1990-92; Selby Gardens, Sarasota, FL, director of research and conservation, 1992-99, appointed to Jessie B. Cox Chair in Tropical Botany, beginning 1993, CEO, 1999-2003; New College of the University of South Florida, began as adjunct professor and became professor of biology and environmental studies and directive of Environmental Initiatives, 2003—; also science advisor for Climate Change to Florida's CFO. Canopy Construction Associates, founder, 1992. Russell Sage College, Geneva Sayre Lecturer, 1995; West Georgia College, Professor Lampton Annual Lecturer, 1995; adjunct professor at Williams College, and University of Florida, University of South Florida, and Ringling School of Art & Design, beginning 1992; speaker at colleges and universities, including University of California, Santa Barbara, Pennsylvania State University, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Carleton College, Northfield, MN. Earthwatch, member of board of directors, 1990—; Massachusetts Tropical Conservatory, member of board of education, 1991—; Jason Project in Science Education, chief scientist, 1994, 1999, and 2004; Monteverde Institute (Costa Rica), member of board of directors, 1996; TREE Foundation, member of advisory board, 1998—, executive director, 2002—; International Canopy Network, member of board of directors, 1999. Work featured in Heroes of the High Frontier, a National Geographic television special, 1999.


Association for Tropical Biology (member of council, 1987-89), Explorers Club (fellow; elected to Board of Directors, 2005; vice president for research and education).


Smithsonian visiting scientist fellow in Panama, 1993; Woman of the Year Award, Girls, Inc., 1994; Margaret Douglas Medal, National Garden Club of America, 1999; "Books Every Teenager Should Read" Award, New York Public Library, 2000; Margaret Douglas Medal, National Garden Club of America, 1999, for conservation education; Educators' Award, Phi Delta Gamma, 2000, for Life in the Treetops; Williams College Bicentennial Medal, 2000, for achievements in tropical botany; Visionary Award for Public Science & Education Outreach, Girls, Inc., 2000; AABGA Award, American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, 2001, for Program Excellence for creating two elevated canopy walkways; Eugene Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education, Ecological Society of America, 2002; Kilby Laureate Medalist, 2002, honoring work as a rainforest canopy expert; Woman in Power Award, National Council of Jewish Women, 2003; Disney Leadership Institute for Biodiversity, 2004; Aldo Leopold Leadership fellow, 2006; Gaia Award for Excellence, Florida Society of Botanical Artists, 2007; Mendel Medal for science achievement, Villanova University, 2007; also Asteroid (10739) Lowman named by Carolyn Shoemaker of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Numerous grants, including grants from National Science Foundation, Australian Research Grants Committee, Earthwatch, Elf-Serepco, World Wildlife Fund, Seacology Foundation, United Nations Environmental Program, and National Geographic Society.


Some Aspects of the Fabric of Life, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (Washington, DC), 1974.

(With Harold Heatwole) Dieback: Death of an Australian Landscape, Reed (Frenchs Forest, New South Wales, Australia), 1986.

(Editor) Ecology of Hopkins Forest, Williams College (Williamstown, MA), 1992.

(Editor, with N.M. Nadkarni, and contributor) Forest Canopies, Academic Press (San Diego, CA), 1995.

Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1999.

(With sons, Edward Burgess and James Burgess) It's a Jungle up There: More Tales from the Treetops, foreword by Sir Ghillean T. Prance, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2006.

Contributor to books, including Forest Decline in the Atlantic and Pacific Regions, edited by R. Huettl and D. Mueller-Dombois, Springer-Verlag, 1993; and Ecosystems of Disturbed Ground, edited by Lawrence Walker, Elsevier, 1998. Contributor of about seventy articles to scholarly journals, including American Naturalist, Journal of the Bromeliad Society, Window on the Tropics, Australian Journal of Ecology, American Biology Teacher, Endeavor, and Diversity. Regional editor, Tropinet, 1989—; editor, Selbyana, 1992—. Some writ- ings appear under the name Meg Lowman. Reviewer for many scientific journals and periodicals, including Science, Oecologia, Biotropica, Australian Journal of Ecology, Conservation Biology, Selbyana, Phytologia, Ecological Monographs, Journal of Ecology, European Science Foundation, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Journal of Tropical Ecology, and National Geographic.


Margaret D. Lowman, who is also published under the familiar name Meg Lowman, is a biologist and ecologist who has become well known for her thirty-year effort to explore the world's forests. An expert in the links between insect pests and ecosystem health, Lowman has designed hot-air balloons and walkways as a means to explore high into forest crowns. Sometimes affectionately referred to as the "grandmother of canopy research," Lowman is among the pioneers of canopy research as she works to "map" the canopy for biodiversity. She is also a forest conservationist.

Lowman has written or edited several books, including two memoirs. Forest Canopies, published in 1995 and edited with N.M. Nadkarni, focuses on the research into forest canopies and is organized into four parts: "Structure and Function of Tree Canopies," "Organisms in Tree Canopies," "Processes in Tree Canopies," and "Human Impacts on Canopy Research." Writing in Ecology, Evan H. DeLucia noted that the author "succeeds in presenting a synthesis of several diverse aspects of the function of tropical forests," adding: "The authors' passions are evident in many of the chapters, and most of the book is enticing and stimulating to read."

Lowman's 1999 book, Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology, is a combination memoir and science book about forest canopies. The author writes about the flowers and fruits, growth and mortality, patterns of diversity, and plant and animal interactions in various forests. She also discusses the different canopy access techniques she has developed or used and writes about them within the context of the scientific hypotheses she was addressing while using each technique. Throughout her scientific discussions, the author also writes about her own life as a field biologist, especially from a woman's perspective as she juggles a demanding career with marriage, motherhood, and, at one point, single parenthood.

Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Liesl Schillinger commented that the author "gives a funny, unassuming and deeply idiosyncratic chronicle of her trials and triumphs as a field biologist of tree canopies and other ecosystems in Australia, New England, Belize, Panama and elsewhere." The author tells her story chronologically, beginning with her days running a sheep ranch in Australia. "Bleak, limited and frightening in her telling, the Australian outback boasted an abundance of poisonous snakes and flesh-burrowing flies, rough weather and a culture where having children is ‘a woman's most important achievement,’" wrote Valerie Jablow in the Women's Review of Books. Lowman goes on to write about her research in Africa using hot-air balloons and details her construction of treetop walkways in areas as diverse as Massachusetts and Belize. The author's two sons also contribute an essay each about growing up with their mother's adventures and their subsequent interest in scientific research. The book includes line drawings and halftones.

"How Lowman succeeded in a male-dominated field makes for inspiring reading," wrote Nancy Bent in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "Readers will empathize with Lowman's struggles to balance family and career, but it is her fascinating research and amusing adventures … that will keep them turning pages."

Lowman is also coauthor of another memoir, this time with her sons, Edward and James Burgess. It's a Jungle up There: More Tales from the Treetops recounts the family's many adventures in remote parts of the world, including Samoa, West Africa, Peru, Panama, India, and even Biosphere 2. Along the way, they encounter everything from anacondas to snacks made from crickets. For each expedition, the authors include information concerning questions of biology, canopy access techniques, and conservation. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, called Lowman "a nimble writer, several cuts above many of her popular-science contemporaries." Library Journal contributor Margaret Henderson called It's a Jungle up There a "wonderful book."

Lowman told CA: "I wrote about animals and plants as a child—Gertrude the Grosbeak was one of my favorites—she had adventures that I probably invented watching grosbeaks at my family bird feeder. Later, my work was influenced by the challenges and hardships that I experienced as a woman in field biology, and also as a single mom juggling family and career. I was so naive! I hope that—by writing about my challenges—it would allow other young men and women to benefit from my own ‘boo-boos’!

"I dream of going to Yaddo and writing in a beautiful place without interruptions," Lowman continued. "In the past, much of my writing was sandwiched in between making dinner for my kids and putting them to bed, or when they were at Sunday School or some other type of balancing act. Some of Life in the Treetops was written at the kitchen table while they were noisily playing with Legos on the floor."

When asked about the most surprising thing she has learned as a writer, Lowman replied: "That true stories seem more exciting to people than fiction, and that most people don't really know very much about nature, ecology, or how the planet works."

Lowman went on to comment that her favorite book of her own was Life in the Treetops, as it had been a cover review in the Sunday edition of the New York Times Book Review, and that her goal in writing is "to inspire girls in science, to conserve forests, and to give parents a family conservation ethic as a model for family fun."



Lowman, Margaret D., Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1999.

Lowman, Margaret D., Edward Burgess, and James Burgess, It's a Jungle up There: More Tales from the Treetops, foreword by Sir Ghillean T. Prance, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2006.


Booklist, May 15, 1999, Nancy Bent, review of Life in the Treetops, p. 1651; December 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Life in the Treetops, p. 678; March 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of It's a Jungle up There, p. 12.

Ecology, July, 1996, Evan H. DeLucia, review of Forest Canopies, p. 1645.

Geographical Review, October, 2001, Sally P. Horn, review of Life in the Treetops, p. 737.

Journal of Environmental Education, fall, 2001, Susan K. Jacobson, review of Life in the Treetops, p. 37.

Library Journal, May 15, 1999, Margaret Henderson, review of Life in the Treetops, p. 122; March 15, 2006, Margaret Henderson, review of It's a Jungle up There, p. 95.

New York Times Book Review, August 8, 1999, Liesl Schillinger, review of Life in the Treetops.

Publishers Weekly, May 10, 1999, review of Life in the Treetops, p. 50.

Science News, August 26, 2006, review of It's a Jungle up There, p. 143.

Women's Review of Books, October, 1999, Valerie Jablow, review of Life in the Treetops, p. 12.


Margaret D. Lowman Home Page,http://www.canopymeg.com (June 26, 2008).