How to become an ‘arbornaut’

Arboreal evangelist and National Geographic Explorer Meg Lowman shares tips for appreciating trees.

As deforestation occurs worldwide at an alarming rate, what could make us care and act? Perhaps spending time in and among trees, as National Geographic Explorer Meg Lowman does. A biologist, author, and self-described “arbornaut,” Lowman raises awareness of forests’ vital role—and helps developing nations create jobs—by promoting sky-high walkways and tree canopy tourism. “The canopy houses some 50 percent of terrestrial biodiversity,” she notes. Here are some ideas for arboreal appreciation.

Become a leaf detective.

Take a closer look at the characteristics of leaves on the trees in your area. “There are so many adventures on the life of a leaf surface,” Lowman says. “You just need to get out your journals and start recording observations over time.”

Climb trees—safely.

Relive the arboreal ascents of childhood but with today’s technology. Search online for specialized climbing courses to get the training and equipment needed to scale large trees.

Explore a canopy walkway.

Gaze out from a walkway high in the trees, like those Lowman helps build around the world. You’ll find an international map of walkways at treefoundation.org.

Stay in or above trees.

Look online for lists of tree houses for visits or lodging. Another option: fire towers. Now that the U.S. Forest Service is using more technology to aid humans’ fire detection efforts, some former lookouts can be rented for overnight stays at recreation.gov.

For more stories about how to help the planet, go to natgeo.com/planet.

The National Geographic Society has funded the work of “CanopyMeg” Lowman since 1998. Learn more about its support of Explorers at natgeo.com/impact.

This story appears in the May 2022 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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