"The Generative Power Of Disturbance," Dr. Nalini Nadkarni At Mountainfilm!

Based in Telluride, Mountainfilm celebrates its 45th year in the heart of the San Juan mountains, May 25-29, 2023. And one of the most anticipated talks of the Minds Moving Mountains Speaker Series is “The generative power of disturbance in the lives of people and our planet.”  The event features three speakers, all National Geographic Explorers: Tierney Thys, Carroll Dunham – and “Queen of Canopy Research,” Nalini Nadkarni.

Passes to Mountainfilm are here.

Go here for much more on Mountainfilm.

Nalini, photo credit, Niki Chan.

“Deep down, at the molecular heart of life, the trees, and we are essentially identical,” Carl Sagan.

Greenhouse gases that cause climate change are breakfast, lunch and dinner for trees. And, according to The Nature Conservancy, older, larger trees store a lot more carbon than young trees so we need to conserve and protect forest giants.

Scientific studies have shown that a walk among trees positively correlates with a drop in anxiety and depression.

Trees remove particulate matter, so dangerous for our lungs, from the air, thus reducing the risks associated with asthma and heart disease.

Trees also store and filter over half the water supply in the US alone.

They provide vital habitat for a long list of species who love hi-rise living.

And trees gives us shade, a good thing given the increasing heatwaves due to climate change. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter.

In fact human beings would struggle to survive in a world without trees. Fact is many of us would die from starvation, heat, drought and floods.

Small wonder trees then that trees are the love of “Queen of Canopy Research” Dr. Nalini Nadkarni’s life and the focus of her work.

At Mountainfilm 2023 Dr. Nadkarni, along with Tierney Thys and Carroll Dunham, is featured on a panel that will address “disturbance and recovery” and how those phenomena impact our ecosystems, culture and our bodies:

“Disturbances are unpredictable, yet ubiquitous elements in our lives and in our landscapes. We tend to frame them as negative elements within the dynamics of our activities and this negativity is reflected in the language, we describe them… catastrophic hurricanes, devastating wildfires and earthquakes, debilitating accidents and disease.

“However the occurrence of disturbance can also provide portals for changes in the ways we perceive and interact with ourselves and with others. These can offer windows into ways of being, altered states, that would be impossible without disturbance,”  said Dr. Nadkarni.

All three National Geographic Explorers have had intimate personal and professional experiences with disturbances. And they speak from widely different perspectives about the varied effects these disturbances have had on their lives.

A screening of “Between Earth and Sky” (26 min), directed by Nadkarni’s nephew Andrew, takes place before the workshop. In the film, we learn of Nadkarni’s nearly lethal five-story fall to the forest floor from the top of a tree in the Pacific Northwest. We learn how, during her own recovery, she drew insight and parallels from ecosystem dynamics, neuroscience research, traffic engineering, refugee studies, and nature itself.

For more listen to our conversation with Dr. Nalini Nadkarni:

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, still more:

Nalini Looking Up, photo credit Christian Sinbaldi.


Nalini on her platform, credit Sybil Gotsch.

Dr. Nadkarni is, according to Mountainfilm, is a Professor of Biology at the University of Utah, where she studies the interactions of plants and animals in rainforest canopies. Her research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

Dr. Nadkarni has written over 140 scientific articles and three scholarly books, including “Between Earth and Sky,” now a doc, also at Mountainfilm, made by her nephew Andrew Nadkarni. Journals ranging from Science to Playboy Magazine have featured her work. And Nadkarni has delivered TED Talks on “Conserving the Canopy” and “Life Science in Prison.”

Nadkarni has received national awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the AAAS Award for Public Engagement, the Wilson Award for Achievement in Social Justice, the Archie Carr Medal for Conservation and the National Science Foundation Public Service Award.

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