MISSION GREEN was born in the mind of a young girl who loved to climb trees and became curious about the critters that lived up there. For Meg Lowman, this passion deepened when she went to college to pursue degrees in Biology, Environmental Studies, Ecology, and ultimately moved to Australia to complete a Ph.D. in Botany. Her journey into the world of tree canopy research was launched.
Until the late 1970s, tree research was conducted from the ground. There were few methods or equipment to ascend into the treetops to conduct research. Undaunted, Meg became an “arbornaut,” joining a handful of scientists who pioneered the design and use of ropes, harnesses, hot-air balloons, and walkways to conduct research in the treetops. An arbornaut explores the millions of species and their communities just above our heads in the canopy. It is a whole different world up there which is why scientists refer to this world as the eighth continent. In 1985, Meg became one of the arbornauts who developed the first canopy walkway in Australia. “Whole tree” research was born!
Fifty percent of the land-based plants, insects, and animals live in our treetops. Scientists estimate that only 10% of them have been discovered to date. But what we do know is that the canopy is the essential machine which keeps our planet humming. Meaning, it is the source of pollinators, productivity, medicines, climate control, flowers, fruits, timber, and carbon storage that keep us alive.
Meg’s career has spanned 40+ years of groundbreaking biodiversity research and conservation work conducted in 46 countries and all seven continents – co-chairing five international canopy conferences and co-authoring over 150 scientific publications and nine books on forest science and sustainability.
Meg’s pioneering scientific work has expanded into causes that reflect her values and deep beliefs, including mentoring women and girls in science; human rights, especially among indigenous people; and education of the importance of this work via storytelling to “K through gray” global audiences.
In 2009, Meg’s friend and renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle launched MISSION BLUE. In Earle’s model, special places in the ocean that are designated as critical to the health of the earth are designated as Hope Spots. These Hope Spots are championed by local conservationists in collaboration with MISSION BLUE. As of 2021, MISSION BLUE has formally identified 127 Hope Spot locations globally.
In 2016, Harvard University biologist and professor emeritus E.O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life,” worked with a small group of scientists, including Meg, to identify the most important global biodiversity “hot spot” locations for forest conservation. In “Half-Earth,” Wilson stated that the selection process was based on identifying the “high number of species at greatest risk that could be saved by the protection of the area in which they live.”
Using MISSION BLUE’S “spots” approach combined with the locations designated in Wilson’s book as the most critical, MISSION GREEN will leverage the work of these two conservation visionaries to focus tree canopy research and conservation efforts in the world’s most critical biodiversity locations — through the building of canopy walkways.
Creating local leadership and sustainable economic opportunities, especially for women, girls, and indigenous people, are core MISSION GREEN values and a proven method for establishing a successful, sustainable operation. Engaging local Coptic Church leaders in Ethiopia, for example, was key to saving the last forest fragments in that country. Partnering with local leadership to engage them in becoming canopy stewards was key to success with the early canopy walkway projects built in southwest Florida (2000), the Amazonian Peru (1994), and Penang, Malaysia (2017). This is the formula for future success as well.