Dr. Nalini Nadkarni has been called “The Queen of the Forest Canopy.” She has been both a pioneer in forest canopy studies and in fostering the communication of canopy research among scientists and to the general public. Her research concerns the ecology of forest canopies in rainforests of Costa Rica and in Washington State, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.
Dr. Nadkarni's work has revealed that canopy organisms are critical players in such important environmental issues such as maintaining biodiversity, stabilizing global climate, and enhancing sustainability of forests. She pursues research in the cloud forests of Costa Rica and the temperate rainforests of Washington State.
Dr. Nadkarni is deeply committed to public engagement with science. In 1994, she co-founded the International Canopy Network, a non-profit organization to foster communication among researchers, educators, and conservationists. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Natural History, Glamour, Discover, Ranger Rick, and Playboy, and she has appeared in television documentaries, including Bill Nye the Science Guy, Good Morning, America, and National Geographic.
She brings science to diverse public audiences, including church congregations, urban youth, and artists. Her most recent project, the Sustainable Prisons Project, brings science and scientists to prisons to carry out conservation biology projects with inmates. She recently established the NSF-funded “Research Ambassador Program,” in which she trains other scientists to engage public audiences in non-traditional venues.
Dr. Nadkarni has published over 90 scientific articles and three scholarly books. Her recent awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship for excellence in scholarship and creativity, the 2011 AAAS Award for Public Engagement, the 2010 National Science Foundation's Public Service Award, the J. Stirling Morton Award of The National Arbor Day Foundation, and Presidency of the Association for Tropical Biolog.
In 2011, she became the Director of the new Center for Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Utah, where she oversees teacher training programs and innovates informal science education programs aimed at underserved public audiences. She is also a Professor of Biology at the University of Utah. She and her husband, Jack Longino – also a Professor of Biology – have two children who both live and work in South America.