Meg Lowman poses on the canopy boardwalk tower she helped build at Myakka River State Park near Sarasota, Fla. (Photo by: Carlton Ward Jr. http://www.carltonward.com)
This is one of my Observer Sci-Tech feature stories that was published in early March. It’s a profile piece on Meg Lowman, who I’ve written about before here as well as at PLoS blogs (which was then highlighted on Boing Boing). She’s kind of a magnetic personality like that. Instead of simply re-publishing her profile here, I thought it might be a fun exercise to let readers see how the editing process works. I invariably write long, and so my editor at the Observer routinely cuts my stories down to size. Here, I compared the copy I submitted to her with the published piece and then marked the changed areas. The words she removed are in bold red type with a strike-through and the words she inserted are in italicized blue. Enjoy!
a life in the treetops
Margaret Lowman is part Jungle Jane and part mom next door. School kids call her Canopy Meg. She’s an internationally-renowned tropical ecologist who has studied forest canopies on five continents.
She is also the director of the new $56-million Nature Research Center at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh.
For most of her career, Lowman studied the interactions and relationships of species living in the tippy-tops of trees 50 to 200 feet tall. But her new job will require her to descend from the canopies she loves
so dearly,and oversee the center’s research, outreach and exhibits. A key function of the center will be communicating science to the public.
The 80,000-square-foot center will include interactive, hands-on exhibits about the process of science. Museum spokesperson Jonathan Pishney says the center will also house four new research programs: space observation, earth observation, genomics and paleontology/geology. Visitors will get a
voyeuristic look into the world of scientists at work through large glass windows in each program’s lab.
The main attraction will be
SECU’s The Daily Planet, a four-story sphere ical structure that exterior architectural renderings depict as that will look like Earth with a multi-media theater inside. Inside the monumental globe, a multi-media theater will be wired to connect to classrooms across the state, as well as other entities across the nation. Lowman says she hopes that interactive videos here, of scientists at work, will spark children’s interest in science careers.
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Aerial view of a church forest, also called coptic forest, in Ethiopia. (Google Earth)
An article I researched and wrote for the PLoS Blogs network about Ethiopia’s coptic forests published a few days ago. It starts like this:
In America, some fundamental Christians believe that man has a God-given right to use the earth and all its resources to meet their needs. After all, Genesis says so. But across the Atlantic, a different attitude prevails among followers in Ethiopia, which has the longest continuous tradition of Christianity of any African country. Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Churches believe they should maintain a home for all of God’s creatures around their places of worship. The result? Forests ringing churches.
Read the whole piece here.
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Meg Lowman, 2010, in Ethiopia.
I picked up the book Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Biology after interviewing the author for a profile piece in the News & Observer/Charlotte Observer. Several times in the interview when I asked for more specific information, Dr. Lowman said “You should read my book, it’s all in there.” At first, I bristled a little thinking she was trying to make a sale. Later, I realized her career was so jam full of accomplishments and events that she literally didn’t trust her memory to recount dates and place names to me. She’d recorded it once in her book, so why dwell on it any longer?
Meg Lowman is a tireless explorer and science communicator. She’s also funny. At the Science Online 2011 un-conference, she gave the main talk at the banquet. At one point I looked around to see David Dobbs, Steve Silberman, Carl Zimmer and several scientists belly-laughing at her quips. Even the science comedian, Brian Mallow, scheduled to go on after her was laughing his butt off.
So when I picked up her book I must admit I was expecting an element of her public-entertainer personality to shine through. It did, but in an admittedly less polished way than she presents herself today. I attribute this to the fact that she wrote Life in the Treetops a decade ago, when she was just finding her footing as a successful female scientist in a male-dominated field. (Don’t get me wrong, she comes across as a strong character with a firm idea of what she wants out of life and her career, but her humor resonates in a much more self-assured and self-comfortable way today, in my opinion). Ten years later, she’s cemented her place in the field of tropical ecology and forest canopy research, and she’s much more comfortable with what it means to be a female scientist, a mother, and a relentless communicator and teacher. (more…)
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