People need trees. Over half of the world’s population now dwell in urban settings, and are often disengaged with the plants and animals that provide our air, food, and shelter – as well as the critical connections to social, psychological, aesthetic, and spiritual needs that nature offers. Trees represent strong ambassadors to nature because of their beauty, their many uses for humans, and the cultural links to nearly all of the world’s cultures. Yet trees are often overlooked when we document nature, providing the backdrop rather than the starring roles in representations and conservation of nature. Because trees require human voices to advocate for them, I have sought insights about trees and humans by communicating my scientific studies of rainforest canopies through collaborations with artists, physicians, urban youth, senior citizens, legislators, and incarcerated men and women. These efforts raise a collective mindfulness and sense of stewardship for trees that must be augmented by input from the sciences, arts, and the humanities.
Known as “the Queen of the Forest Canopy,” Dr. Nadkarni studies treeptop organisms and interactions in rainforests of Costa Rica. She is a Professor of Biology and the Director of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Utah. Her research has focused on the ecology of plants and animals that live in rainforest tree canopies, and their interactions with forest ecosystems, with field sites in Costa Rica and Washington State. She is a passionate communicator about nature and science to people in all walks of life, and had innovated science engagement and conservation programs for non-traditional public audiences such as urban youth, artists, dances, rap singers, legislators, and incarcerated men and women. Dr. Nalini Nadkarni will present this lecture as part of the Institute for Humanities Research Andrew W. Mellon Foundation /Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes funded “Humanities for the Environment” project. Dr. Nalini Nadkarni will be participating in the second of three workshops entitled “Imagining Communities in the Anthropocene: Multi-species Relationships.”The Humanities for the Environment (HfE) project is concerned with various aspects of environmental humanities and will be animated by questions about the role of the humanities in the age of the Anthropocene. Dr. Nadkarni’s book’s Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connection to Trees will be available for purchase before and after her lecture just outside Coor 170. A book signing and light refreshments will follow Dr. Nadkarni’s presentation.