• Professor Emeritus, School Of Biological Sciences

Research Summary

My academic and research interests include the following: community and ecosystem ecology of tropical and temperate forest canopies; the effects of forest fragmentation on biodiversity and community function; the development of database tools for canopy researchers; dissemination of research results to non-scientific audiences; partnering of scientists and artists to enhance conservation of forests.


  • , Honorary Ph.D. Biology, University of Indianapolis
  • Doctor of Philosophy, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
  • Bachelor of Science, BROWN UNIVERSITY
  • Doctor of Philosophy, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
  • Bachelor of Science, BROWN UNIVERSITY


Nadkarni's interest was first drawn to rain forest ecology due to the contradiction offered by its plant life. There was a great abundance and variety of plant life within the rain forest despite its nutrient poor soil, and her goal was to discover how the plant life was sustained. Her studies within the canopy revealed that the epiphytes, which are non-parasitic plants such as orchids and ferns that live on the branches and trunks of other plants, were trapping organic material beneath their root system. This organic material eventually formed a nutrient rich mat, and trees in the rain forest had developed aerial roots, stemming from their trunks and branches, in order to absorb these nutrients as well. The aerial roots growing into the mats aided the rain forest trees by providing the nourishment that they did not receive from the nutrient poor soil.

Nadkarni and her work in the Costa Rican rain forest were featured in the 1988 PBS series, The Second Voyage of the Mimi, starring a young Ben Affleck. She maintains an interest in public outreach, and her work was highlighted on the web page of the National Science Foundation.[2] She is the author of Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees and has delivered TED Talks on Conserving the Canopy and Life Science in Prison. She also wrote some text (foreword and quotes) for a book for young explorers entitled, Kingfisher Voyages: Rain Forest, published in 2006. Her work has included developing moss growing techniques with prisoners [3], as well as bringing artists, like musician and biologist G. Duke Brady, into the forest canopy to write and perform. [4] [5]

An Emeritus Professor at The Evergreen State College, she currently is a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah.