Author discusses ecosystem

Margaret Lowman, Ph.D., spoke on Monday, about her life as a rainforest adventurer, author, educator and canopy biologist. Lowman, also known as “Canopy Mag,” has faced many challenges in her life while striving for a better world. Lowman has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, Europe and Australia doing field work on the canopies of rainforests.

As a single mother, she had hard decisions to make about dividing her time between her work and her children. Because she couldn’t find a babysitter, she decided to take her children on her trips with her. When they were older, that actually helped her count insects and measure leaves. Lowman said, “Combining career with family is a great opportunity.”

Back in 1865, Darwin estimated there to be about 800,000 types of species living in the canopies. In 1992, that number has increased to over 100 million species. Lowman said that as of now, they only know about 1percent of what is living in the treetops of rainforests. There is estimated to be about 30 million different kinds of creatures that live in the canopy, including the red-eyed tree frog and the giant stinging tree beetle. The population of animals vary from tree to tree.

Lowman described the various equipment they used in examining the biodiversity in the treetops. First, ladders were used, then they began using climbing equipment. She built the first canopy walkway in North America. After that, the French decided to use a hot air balloon, which could hold about 40 scientists. The newest invention is the canopy crane, which is great for surveying a block of forest.

Along with her work in the rainforests, Lowman served as the chief scientist for the Jason Project, an international science education program. It allows students to work with a scientist. The Jason Project was started 15 years ago by Robert Ballard, founder of the Titantic.

Lowman had three reasons for writing her novel, “Life in the Treetops.” Her first reason was to tell the world exactly why saving our rainforests is so important. Her second reason was to tell about how wonderful the people who worked in the rainforests with her were. Her third reason was so that upcoming students could learn from her mistakes and so the new generation of scientists may benefit from her work.

The value of our ecosystem’s services per year is $39 trillion. Just a few of its many benefits are storing and filtering water, and providing medicine, food and energy. It recycles nutrients and provides a home to 50 percent of all species.

At the end of her presentation, Lowman left the audience with advice. “Educate yourselves and your kids. I support programs, shop smart, share you knowledge with one another, so that everyone can benefit from our progress.” Lowman said that it takes just as much energy to complain about something, than it does to actually try and change it. Lowman also allowed the audience to consider her life motto, which is also the last sentence of her book, “Learning to exclaim instead of complain has been one of my most valuable lessons, she wrote.”