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Published on Sep 6, 2013
The term "diversity" evokes ideas and images of a multitude of plant species, community structures, or habitat types in a landscape. However, the term can also apply to the variety of ways and audiences to which we communicate our science. As society grows increasingly removed from natural settings and from science and scientists, biologists need a greater breadth of communication scenarios to keep people aware of the importance, wonder, and fragility of plants and their habitats. Drawing upon my own three decades of ecosystem research in forest canopies on four continents, I will describe the botanically diverse world of epiphytes, arboreal animals, and canopy soils. I have learned that canopy biota play critical roles in rainforest nutrient and water cycles, in sustaining wildlife, and in sequestering carbon. Many of these canopy plants and animals are vulnerable to disturbances created by humans, including ecotourism, harvesting, and global climate change. In recent years, I have communicated her work to non-scientists, forging partnerships with others to communicate this research to non-traditional public audiences such as at-risk youth, legislators, incarcerated men and women, artists, and faith-based communities to raise awareness and understanding of forests and their values to humans. I also created the "Research Ambassador Program", whose goal is to provide guidance, contacts, and rewards to other scientists who wish to disseminate their own research to non-traditional public audiences in synergistic ways.