The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees Above Us

by Meg Lowman

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on August 10, 2021

“The easy solution, according to Hal, was to visit the local pubs with a slingshot and tell a few good tree-rigging yarns.”

As this quote attests, this is a humble memoir of understated accomplishment.  As you learn about her work as a scientist, field biologist, educator, and conservationist, you also uncover not only the scientific challenges but the many gender-based obstacles she needed to overcome in order to progress in her career.   And did she ever.  Most people would declare a career successful with one of her discoveries or contributions, but not Dr. Lowman.  (Yes, I am calling her Dr. Lowman because although ‘Canopy Meg’ seems very approachable, after reading her story, I believe she deserves as much respect as we can show including the use of her honorific.)

As Lowman systematically studies the world’s canopies, she must define the scientific questions, develop study methodology, design new equipment, deal with disrespectful faculty, raise a family, educate the masses, encourage young women to enter the sciences, improve access for the disabled, and tackle climate change.   Why hasn’t this woman won a MacArthur Genius Grant?

Anyone interested in science, the environment, innovative thinking, or women’s history will not only admire her grit but also enjoy her story.

I have read Dr. Lowman’s previous books, Life In the Treetops and It’s a Jungle Up There.  If you have as well, you might recognize some of the narratives but this does not detract from this tale’s freshness.  It might even give you the sense that you are visiting an old friend that you haven’t heard from in a while.  

Dr. Lowman ends her memoir with a call to action regarding climate change.  She knows that her beloved trees are threatened.  As I write this, I cannot stop looking at the treetops outside my office window. I wonder about their health and what kind of insects reside within the crown.  If Dr. Lowman intends to make us care about trees, I believe she has succeeded extraordinarily well.  

Why you should not miss this one:

  • No matter how well-versed you are in the subject of trees, you will effortlessly learn something new
  • Dr. Lowman’s story is a masterclass in ingenuity, perseverance, and inclusiveness
  • If you’d like to know what is likely to be the most common creature that lives in the tree canopy, you need to read the book.  The answer may surprise you!

Thanks to NetGalley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and the author, Dr. Meg Lowman, for the opportunity to read a digital copy in exchange for this review.   

#NetGalley  #TheArbornaut @canopymeg

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