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It’s a Jungle Up There

It’s a Jungle Up There: More Tales from the Treetops

Foreword by Ghillean T. Prance
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    It’s a Jungle Up There
    Book Description:

    Drawn to the mysteries of tropical rain forests and fascinated by life in the treetops, Meg Lowman has pursued a life of scientific exploration while raising her two sons, Edward and James Burgess. This book recounts their family adventures in remote parts of the world (Samoa, West Africa, Peru, Panama, India, Biosphere 2, and others), from the perspectives of both kids and parent. Together they explore tropical rain forests, encounter anacondas and piranhas, eat crickets as hors d'oeuvres, discover new species, and nurture a family ethic for conservation.The chapters of the book focus on field biology questions, the canopy access methods developed to answer the questions, and conservation or education components of each expedition. Lowman enumerates the challenges and joys of juggling parenthood and career, and the children reflect on how their mom's work has affected their lives. A rollicking, inspiring book,It's a Jungle Up Thereis an upbeat portrayal of how a parent's career can imprint children, and how children in turn can influence the success and trajectory of their parent's career.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15341-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Ghillean T. Prance

    Meg Lowman, a pioneer of rainforest canopy research, here brings us more of her adventures in the treetops. She is a renowned scientist who can interpret her findings to a wider audience than just scientific colleagues. This is also the main goal of the Eden Project in Cornwall, England, where I work. Eden, with its five-acre rain forest, is another indoor canopy where we plan to build a walkway. The purpose of Eden is to interpret the importance of plants to people and to promote their sustainable use. I am therefore delighted to introduce this book, whose mission too is...

  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    When asked about their mother’s occupation, my sons usually reply, “Well, she climbs trees for a living.” My two boys were raised single-handedly for many years by a mother who is passionate about science and conservation. As a rain-forest biologist, I have been on many expeditions to remote jungles, and my sons have often accompanied me. We have shared adventures in the Amazon, dangling from trees together, walking on canopy bridges, learning medicinal plants from a shaman, eating insects, spotting scarlet macaws, and just getting muddy. In the course of my scientific exploration, the boys have sampled mud on four...

  3. 1 Why Canopies Are Exciting
    (pp. 8-22)

    Almost thirty-five years ago, when I was in tenth grade, the first Earth Day was celebrated. Almost thirty years ago, when I was in college focusing on environmental studies, I clapped with joy when the Endangered Species Act was legislated. Yet since then, an estimated 800 million or more acres of tropical rain forest have disappeared. Other ecosystems too are disappearing—the Florida coastline, North American old-growth forests, wetlands, and coral reefs.

    I cared passionately about this vanishing natural world, enough to pursue it as a vocation. In 1978, while a graduate student living in Australia, I started climbing rain-forest...

  4. 2 Canopies for Conservation: Climbing in Samoa
    (pp. 23-48)

    February 12, 1994. scene 1. We arrived in Western Samoa at dusk. The airport was situated along a beautiful blue sea, with coconut palms just behind the single runway. We passed through Samoan customs in a crowded, humid hallway typical of most tropical airports. On this trip, Eddie and James stayed home with their grandparents, and I traveled with several colleagues. Our bags arrived—oh joy! We piled into a dilapidated taxi to travel for an hour into Apia, the capital city. Our drive gave us some evening glimpses of Samoan life. Children were walking down the roadside, coming home...

  5. 3 Indoor Canopies: From Baseball to Biosphere 2
    (pp. 49-71)

    1994. This was a year full to the brim with science and family activities, and Eddie and James shared this bounty. Two visits to Biosphere 2 were barely sandwiched in among many other long-term research projects. In addition, the boys’ perceptions were changing daily as their horizons expanded through school and other adventures. Eddie, aged 9, started a special health class in gym, in which he learned various facts of life to supplement his knowledge. I ordered a book entitledWhat Is Happening to My Body: For Boysthat immediately circulated to all his friends. In no time it was chocolate...

  6. 4 Orchid Farming in Africa: Creating Sustainable Canopies
    (pp. 72-80)

    1993–1996. On our successful treetop exploration via hot-air balloon in Cameroon, I had calculated herbivory for many African rainforest canopy trees. We recorded leaf miners in the cardboard tree (Pycnanthus angolensis, family Myristicaceae), caterpillars on the umbrella tree (Musanga cecropioides, family Cecropiaeae), ants in the cola bush (Cola marsupium, family Sterculiaceae), and also spent the night in an emergent tree censusing the abundance of arthropods. Rain poured down during that dark endeavor; nonetheless, lifelong memories of the sights and sounds of the African jungle were created.

    That expedition team consisted of forty-nine male comrades and me, a fairly dismal...

  7. 5 An Emmy Award for the Treetops: Ballooning in French Guiana
    (pp. 81-99)

    November 1996. I awoke at six in the morning, hearing the enormous swishing sound of the dirigible inflating about a mile away. The enthusiastic French team of engineers and dirigible experts had already started their busy day of launching scientists into the canopy. I was not part of today’s lucky team, but instead looked forward to ground reconnaissance in this new flora. French Guiana was reputedly one of the last bastions of undisturbed tropical rain forest in all of South America. For political and physical reasons, its trees far from the coast had been relatively overlooked in the timber quests...

  8. 6 Canopy Walkways: Highways in the Florida Sky
    (pp. 100-124)

    1997–2000. A close friend in my hometown of Sarasota, Florida, was a businessman named Bob Richardson. Bob sold real estate, so it may seem incongruous that we would have anything in common. But Bob was also an ardent conservationist and gave back to the community for any parcel that he took. A naturalist, he enjoyed time outdoors. One Saturday morning Bob and I went bird-watching in nearby Oscar Scherer State Park. The scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens, family Corvidae), one of Florida’s most endangered species, was relatively common in this unique habitat. As we walked along the trail, jays actually...

  9. 7 Of Tarantulas, Teenagers, and Turkey Basters: Distance Learning from the Treetops of Peru
    (pp. 125-148)

    1999. Jason X was sweaty, leafy, buggy, and busy with student questions both live and via headphones. During March, at our remote research site in Amazonian Peru, two teams of twelve students plus four teachers worked in the canopy. In 1999 called ACEER (Amazon Center for Education and Environmental Research) but in 2000 renamed ACTS (Amazon Conservatory for Tropical Studies), this site housed the world’s longest canopy walkway, designed by a colleague named Ilaar Muul. The walkway spanned twelve sections over one thousand feet, and I consider it one of the architectural wonders of the world. Canopy access was unprecedented here,...

  10. 8 International Powwows: The Indian Connection
    (pp. 149-163)

    During July 2001 the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) held its conference in Bangalore, India. Both of my sons were working their first summer jobs as camp counselors so did not accompany me for this long trek. Bangalore was reputedly the technology capital of India, where Indian women with perfect American accents answer toll-free numbers for American computer-help lines. As treasurer of the association, I was proud to have computerized the accounts for the first time in the group’s history, and also set up its first endowment.

    Accompanying me on this sojourn was ATBC’s tax accountant, who was...

  11. 9 Colorful Bodies: Home to the Black Waters of the Amazon
    (pp. 164-187)

    2001. Overnight, our boat steadily motored through the confluence of two rivers that make up the mighty Amazon—the Rio Ucayali and the Rio Maranon. The Ucayali represents water from southwest Peru; the Maranon, from northeast Peru. About 60 miles west of Iquitos they converge and the Amazon begins, some 2,400 miles from its eastern mouth in Brazil, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.

    Throughout its long journey east from Iquitos, the Amazon drops only 300 feet. The complete river system, originating in the Andes in southernmost Peru, spans 4,200 miles in its entirety. The momentum of its initial descent from...

  12. 10 Down from the Treetops: Life in the Padded Chair
    (pp. 188-214)

    November 1999–july 2003. Although the board chair did not know it, I was in a bubble bath at the Beverly Hills Wiltshire Hotel when he called to offer me the directorship of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. I had just flown in from Australia, after groveling for two weeks in the tropical mud of Queensland to survey seedlings as part of a long-term project on rain-forest diversity. Ironically, some agents in Hollywood had suggested meeting on my way home to consider making a movie from my book,Life in the Treetops. Intrigued by the notion of giving rain-forest conservation...

  13. 11 Billions of Needles: Calculating the Consumption of Conifers
    (pp. 215-232)

    September 2002. Over twenty-seven years of botanical research I have avoided conifers. Their long, skinny needles seemed virtually impossible for any leaf detective to measure. It is also difficult to examine their tiny surfaces for damage or, even worse, to follow the growth, survival, and death of a single needle among the millions bundled in one tree. Their lush green needles were displayed collectively in a skimpy, lollipop-shaped canopy many feet overhead—on thin, brittle branches outside the reach of any researcher dangling on a rope. In a nutshell, conifers represented a challenge beyond my ability to design a creative...

  14. 12 Downsizing 101: Dynamics of the Family Ecosystem
    (pp. 233-248)

    October 2002. Alarge, mysterious box greeted me at the front doorstep. Since becoming executive director at Selby Gardens, I found that my days stretched long and hard. I often arrived home in the dark. My only consolation was that my children usually arrived even later, rowing for the regional crew team until well after dark. The exercise did them good. I can’t say the same about my activities, which tended to be restricted to the padded chair; and lately my tasks were increasingly people oriented rather than science oriented.

    The box on the doorstep bore the familiar handwriting of my...

  15. 13 Coming Full Circle: Linking the Green and Brown Food Webs
    (pp. 249-261)

    My destination was the Jason XV Expedition in the tropical rain forests of Panama, similar in scope to Jason V in Belize in 1994 and Jason X in Peru in 1999. The Jason distance-learning expeditions were an excellent platform for me to wear a public scientist hat and advocate for ecology and conservation. Jason XV, aired in 2004, aimed to give several million students and teachers a better understanding of the links between the tropical tree canopy and the forest floor. This theme was also the topic of a National Science Foundation research project that several colleagues and I had...

  16. 14 Global Citizens: An Environmental Ethic for Families
    (pp. 262-268)

    My children are nearing the end of their teen years. At this writing, my elder son is as old as my longest-lived leaf, found in the Australian rain-forest understory. And who knows, perhaps some of its cohorts in different parts of that tree lived even longer. I wonder if a sassafras tree is cognizant of birthing and rearing a nineteen-year-old leaf. Actually, I do hope that trees experience some sense of maternal pride or appreciation of their progeny in their sylvan efforts.

    Trees and mothers have a great deal in common. Trees are the heart of productivity of many ecosystems,...