The arbornaut A life discovering the eighth continent in the trees above us

Margaret Lowman

Book - 2021

As a graduate student exploring the rain forests of Australia, Lowman sewed a harness from an old seat belt, gathered hundreds of feet of rope, and found a tool belt for her pencils and rulers. Up she went, into the trees, in order to be a better monitor. Over the years she planned one of the first treetop walkways, and helped create more of these bridges through the eighth continent all over the world. Here she launches us into the life and work of an ecologist and conservationist, and offers h...ope, specific plans, and recommendations for actions that will make an immediate and lasting impact against climate change. -- adapted from jacket.

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New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2021.
First edition
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
xi, 350 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Main Author
Margaret Lowman (author)
  • Foreword /
  • by Sylvia A. Earle
  • Ten tips of field biology for every aspiring arbornaut
  • Prologue: How to see the whole tree (and what that means for the forest)
  • From wildflower to wallflower : a girl naturalist in rural America
  • Becoming a forest detective : first encounters with temperate trees from New England to Scotland
  • One hundred feet in the air : finding a way to study leaves in the Australian rain forests
  • Who ate my leaves? : tracking - and discovering! - Australian insects
  • Dieback in the outback : juggling marriage and investigations of gum tree death in Australia's sheep country
  • Hitting the glass canopy : how Strangler figs and Tall poppies taught me to survive as a woman in science
  • Arbornauts for a week : citizen scientists explore the Amazon jungles
  • Tiger tracks, tree leopards, and Vedippala fruits : exporting my toolkit to train arbornauts in India
  • A treetop bioblitz : counting 1,659 species in Malaysia's tropical forests in ten days
  • Building trust between priests and arbornauts : saving the forests of Ethiopia, one church at a time
  • Classrooms in the sky - for everyone! : wheelchairs and water bears in the treetops
  • Can we save our last, best forests? : promoting conservation through Mission Green.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Lowman's contributions to ecology are numerous, as a professor, science communicator, international collaborator, and leader in conservation organizations. In this science-oriented memoir, she details a lifetime of experiences, starting with her childhood in rural New York, where she pressed wildflowers and measured eggshells. Early in her career, as a field biologist studying Australian rain forests, she realized that she couldn't truly observe trees and leaves from the ground; she decided to climb up into the forest canopy using slingshots, ropes, and a homemade harness. Soon, she was building aerial walkways on multiple continents, to bring researchers, students, and tourists into the tree canopy. Lowman organized international conferences to bring attention to biodiversity, build partnerships across national borders, and train the next generation of canopy explorers. In this memoir, she takes readers along as she meets biologists and ecologists and studies forests around the world. She also relates ongoing rampant racial and gender discrimination in science careers. VERDICT Lowman connects her life to her research in chronological chapters, interspersed with short histories of various tree species. A highly engaging read for fans of popular science or ecology titles, and budding (or experienced) scientists.—Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib. Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Conservationist Lowman (Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology) takes a passionate look at the "unexplored wonderland" of trees in this vivid survey of life among forest canopies. Over half of all land creatures live "about one hundred feet or more above our heads," Lowman writes, and notes that, historically, information about trees has focused from "trunk-level," despite the fact that the dark ground is vastly different from the sun-filled canopy. A self-professed "arbornaut," Lowman recounts research experiences high in the foliage in Australia, where she studied leaves; India, where she learned about the canopies above endangered tigers; and Scotland, where she got her start as a master's student in ecology. She offers snapshots of her childhood—born in Upstate New York, she collected wildflowers, twigs, bird nests, stones, and feathers—and mentions the difficulties she has faced as a woman working in field biology. Lowman shines in her ability to combine accessible science with exciting personal anecdotes that effectively convey the "thrill of aerial exploration" and bolster her case that trees—and sustainable ecosystems—are worth studying, protecting, and preserving. Nature lovers will find much to consider. Agent: Jessica Papin, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Aug.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Biologist, botanist, and conservationist Meg Lowman-aka "CanopyMeg"-takes us on an adventure into the "eighth continent" of the world's treetops, along her journey as a tree scientist, and into climate action"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

One of the world’s first tree-top scientists—a pioneer in her field—chronicles her story, taking us around the world and launching us into the life and work of a scientist and ecologist who offers hope despite devastation across the world. 50,000 first printing. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“An eye-opening and enchanting book by one of our major scientist-explorers.” —Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper’s WifeNicknamed the “Real-Life Lorax” by National Geographic, the biologist, botanist, and conservationist Meg Lowman—aka “CanopyMeg”—takes us on an adventure into the “eighth continent” of the world's treetops, along her journey as a tree scientist, and into climate actionWelcome to the eighth continent!As a graduate student exploring the rain forests of Australia, Meg Lowman realized that she couldn’t monitor her beloved leaves using any of the usual methods. So she put together a climbing kit: she sewed a harness from an old seat belt, gathered hundreds of feet of rope, and found a tool belt for her pencils and rulers. Up she went, into the trees. Forty years later, Lowman remains one of the world’s foremost arbornauts, known as the “real-life Lorax.” She planned one of the first treetop walkways and helps create more of these bridges through the eighth continent all over the world. With a voice as infectious in its enthusiasm as it is practical in its optimism, The Arbornaut chronicles Lowman’s irresistible story. From climbing solo hundreds of feet into the air in Australia’s rainforests to measuring tree growth in the northeastern United States, from searching the redwoods of the Pacific coast for new life to studying leaf eaters in Scotland’s Highlands, from conducting a BioBlitz in Malaysia to conservation planning in India and collaborating with priests to save Ethiopia’s last forests, Lowman launches us into the life and work of a field scientist, ecologist, and conservationist. She offers hope, specific plans, and recommendations for action; despite devastation across the world, through trees, we can still make an immediate and lasting impact against climate change. A blend of memoir and fieldwork account, The Arbornaut gives us the chance to live among scientists and travel the world—even in a hot-air balloon! It is the engrossing, uplifting story of a nerdy tree climber—the only girl at the science fair—who becomes a giant inspiration, a groundbreaking, ground-defying field biologist, and a hero for trees everywhere.Includes black-and-white illustrations