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Nat Geo names tree canopy ecologist Nalini Nadkarni Explorer at Large

In recognition of her pioneering study of Costa Rican rainforest canopies, University of Utah ecologist Nalini Nadkarni has been selected to serve as an ambassador for the National Geographic Society. In her role as an Explorer at Large, Nadkarni will receive support for her research and in bringing accessibility to science and nature across communities.

Nalini Nadkarni at work in a rainforest canopy.

Nadkarni is a professor emerita in the U’s School of Biological Sciences and a renown science communicator who had led outside organizations connecting people with nature and has collaborated with preachers, policy-makers, artists and the incarcerated. The National Geographic Society supported her work in studying the positive effects of nature and nature imagery on the incarcerated, focusing on men in solitary confinement.

“I’m thrilled to weave my threads of discovery about trees and forest canopies into the tapestry of life that the National Geographic has helped describe and celebrate for over a century,” Nadkarni said. “Their unique set of resources serves as a loom to integrate the multiple values of nature – ecological, aesthetic, social and spiritual – which our increasingly fragmented world so greatly needs.”

Explorers at Large hold the highest distinction within the National Geographic organization. They are preeminent leaders in their fields who also serve as mentors to other National Geographic Explorers. The title is bestowed upon a few select global changemakers, including storyteller Shahidul Alam, oceanographers Bob Ballard and Sylvia Earle, artist Maya Lin and ecologist Rodrigo Medellín. Other U faculty who have been named Nat Geo explores are curator William Newmark, paleoclimatologist Sarah Crump, biologist Cagan Sekercioglu and communication graduate student Megan Cullinan.

“At the National Geographic Society, we often say science and exploration are our foundation, and storytelling and education are our superpowers. Nalini’s career embodies this sentiment,” said Jill Tiefenthaler, Nat Geo CEO. “Nalini is passionate about sharing her work with people of all backgrounds to foster a greater understanding of and care for the natural world. This is key to our mission and among the many reasons we’re thrilled to name her a National Geographic Explorer at Large.”

Read Nat Geo’s complete announcement here.