Dr. Nalini Nadkarni
Meet the "Queen of the Forest Canopy"
March 6, 2013

Climate Solutions Annual Reception and fundraiser is happening in Olympia on April 25. We’ll also be celebrating our 15th anniversary! To mark the occasion, we have invited a very special guest speaker: Dr. Nalini Nadkarni.

Dr. Nadkarni is a forest ecologist, sometimes known as “Queen of the Forest Canopy” for her pioneering work in understanding the ecological dynamics up in the treetops. She is also incredibly creative and committed to fostering public understanding of science and nature.


A great example of Dr. Nalini’s innovative work is the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP), which she created with Dan Pacholke, then a prison superintendent, now Assistant Secretary of Corrections for Washington and co-director of the SPP. The program, a partnership of The Evergreen State College and the Washington Department of Corrections, brings science and nature into prisons, and engages prisoners and prison staff in sustainable practices.

Why teach sustainability to prisoners? In a profile by CNN’s “The Next List,” Dr. Nadkarni says, “I think prisoners, as all of us, need to learn about sustainability because it’s about being mindful of one’s life, about being mindful of limited resources, and of taking action and participating in conserving those… (and) that gives them a sense of responsibility. It might give them some skills when they get back out."


The SPP in Washington is now co-directed by Dr. Carri LeRoy (Evergreen) and Dan Pacholke (Washington Dept. of Corrections), who have extended the list of collaborating partners to enhance the project’s reach.  Operating in all 12 Washington prisons, the program has about 500 prisoners participating in composting, organic gardening, beekeeping, raising horticulture and native plants, and a variety of ecological restoration and energy and water conserving activities.

These prisoners are not only helping save hundreds of thousands of dollars, they are shrinking our prisons’ carbon footprint by saving energy and by building more biocarbon-rich soils and landscapes.


Meanwhile, Nalini has initiated a Sustainability in Prisons Project in Utah (she’s taken a position at the University of Utah) with an emphasis on science and math education within prisons in the Beehive State.

Learn more about Dr. Nadkarni and her efforts in her 2010 TED Talk.  

Then come meet her live at the Climate Solutions Annual Reception on April 25!

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Author Bio

Rhys Roth co-founded Climate Solutions in 1998, and left the organization in July 2013 to create the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure.

To connect with the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, contact Rhys Roth at or 360-867-6906.


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