A leading scientist who pioneered the use of suspended treetop walkways to study canopy environments wants to help build one in Nairn and give the Highland community an eco-tourism boost.
Meg Lowman, who studied at Aberdeen University, has travelled all across the world from the jungles of the Amazon to the forests of Ethiopia, studying and protecting trees for more than 30 years.
The 67-year-old was one of the first scientists to build canopy walkways, which are bridges and platforms between the tops of trees, for the purpose of researching the unique ecosystems that are usually far out of reach, great distances above forest floors.
She has helped to build such walkways in forests and woodlands all across the world where they are used for scientific study, education, and recreation.
And now Meg, who has recently been spending her retirement golfing in Scotland, wants to use her wealth of knowledge for the benefit of Nairn.
An adventure ‘full of fun and wonder’
After discussing her plans with locals, including teachers, Meg believes bringing a canopy walkway to a forest in the Nairn area could provide a major eco-tourism attraction for the community, and inspirational education for the region’s young people.
She said: “To go into a canopy is such an adventure, that’s so full of fun and wonder, and it’s really important for building stewardship in kids for the future of forest conservation.
“So if a community like Nairn can create this educational, recreational opportunity, kids could go to the top of trees in a safe, exciting fashion and it would be an incredible way to bring Scotland’s amazing trees into the spotlight.”
She continued: “When I did my MSC in Aberdeen almost 25 years ago, it seemed that nobody was looking at trees in such great detail in Scotland except for the odd forester here and there.
“But now Scotland is on this incredible rebound, and everything is ramping up.
“Nairn like other Scottish communities needs eco-tourism, they need to think, what are the future industries for our children?”
“There’s a lot of interest in the economic and environmental importance of trees throughout the UK, and Scotland can really play a global role here.
“We’ve got Cop26 coming to Glasgow this year, so it’s really exciting to see Scotland take the reigns and be very action-orientated.”
‘She’s some girl, this Meg, let me tell you’
Alastair Noble, chairman of Nairn Improvement Community Enterprise (Nice) in Nairn, said he’s excited to see the potential for Meg’s ambitions.
He, alongside other members of the community, have been discussing the idea of a canopy walkway project with Meg, and the benefits it could provide to the Highland town.
He said: “She’s some girl, this Meg, let me tell you, she’s absolutely world-class.
“She was telling me while we were chatting that she was planning lunch with Jane Goodall, so she’s at that kind of level she’s functioning at, which from Nairn’s point of view is fantastic, and it’s very much supported by the local community.
“We’re a bit like Aberdeen, we’ve had the oil boom, but now we need to reposition ourselves and get the tourism industry here up and running, and make Nairn a nice play to live and stay.
“And, it’s all got to be green and sustainable. So this idea really pushes all the right buttons.
“Meg has been up trees in Ethiopia, and in the canopies of the Amazon, so if she thinks this is something worth doing, it’s worth doing.
“Having someone like Meg who has been all over the world coming and telling us we’ve got fantastic natural assets, and we should use them, is brilliant.
“The schools and youth groups could all be involved in this going forward, it could be a fantastic experience.”
Alastair added: “I think this is a great kick-start, and if it goes on there will be all the nitty gritty discussions to have with the council and government and all the rest of it, but to me, it’s a fantastic opportunity and it would be very silly not to take advantage of it.”
Meg has recently released her latest book The Arbornaut, about her life exploring treetops across the world.
To find out more about the book and her work, you can visit her website here.