As Director of North Carolina’s new Nature Research Center (NRC), Meg oversees all aspects of the technology/research/education center including staff supervision; research laboratories; technology; fund-raising; strategic planning; and integration with existing Museum programs. To learn more about the opening of the Nature Research Center and the events surrounding the opening, click here.

1. Describe yourself in one word.

Lorax.

2. How did you get the nickname, Canopy Meg?

Middle-school kids labeled me when I did a global distance learning program, broadcasting live from the Amazon canopy to schools and institutions around the world–it was infectious and it stuck!

3. Any special talents?

Sheep-shearing; tree-climbing; culinary expert on entomophagy (cooking bugs!).

4. Where is your favorite place to travel?

The Amazon.

5. How can visitors make the most of their trip to the museum?

PLAN ON A WHOLE DAY! See some of the cool exhibits, stop and eat/enjoy/ask questions, then see a bit more. Don’t miss the tropical rain forest, the biodiversity lab and the amazing new Daily Planet!

6. What are the five “do not miss” parts of the new wing?

  • The ribbon of life and light in the front foyer.
  • The Daily Planet theater where scientists will broadcast their discoveries.
  • Walking up the stairwell with all its natural light (great for a special event!)
  • The science cafe, modeled after a sports bar but where eight TV screens will broadcast live science feeds (hopefully fun for legislators to come and have a drink after work).
  • The Postcards from Space exhibit and the Biodiversity Wall exhibit.

8. Are you planning to stay up all night during the opening?

Yes!!! I will be hosting scientists in the Daily Planet, including a few whom we will meet “virtually” using our new technologies.

9. Where would you like to visit that you haven’t already?

I would love to spend a week at a gorgeous beach along the coast of North Carolina and hear the waves, write my newspaper columns and smell the invigorating salt-air.

10. What is your other favorite Raleigh attraction (besides the NCMNS)?

I love The Pit BBQ, the N.C. Art Museum with its fabulous grounds and a walk at Hemlock Bluffs park in Cary.

11. What is your vision for the NRC five years from now?

That every student in North Carolina will have met a scientist, either real or virtual, through our programs; and that those scientists will be role models for the next generation.

12. What is your advice to young would-be scientists, especially girls?

To do math and science in school, to learn technology and (for girls) to remember that we represent over half of the brain cells on this planet, so we need to use them!

13. What was your first science project/experience as a child?

In fifth grade, I won second prize in the N.Y. State science fair, surrounded by boys. I was so shy that I did not even dare speak, due to the gender disparity, but it also made me determined to pursue what I loved.

14. What was the last book you read?

Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristoff and Sherry WuDung

15. Where is your favorite place to dine in Greater Raleigh (Wake County)?

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Raleigh restaurants–they are one of the greatest attributes of this area. My favorite special dining is Second Empire, and my favorite sushi is Sono, and my best always-good-food is Italian, 518 West.

16. What fascinates you the most about canopy ecology?

The amazing “eureka” element. Until recently, when a few of us climbed into the canopy, no human being knew that half of the biodiversity on our terrestrial Earth lived in the treetops. For centuries, foresters had assessed forests by looking at the very bottom of the tree. It is almost as if we had been trying to gauge the health of people by just looking at someone’s big toe but ignoring the rest. It is also humbling to realize that a kid can come from a small, underserved town (as I did) and make a cool discovery in science, because there is so much left that remains unknown.

17. What is the most unforgettable thing you have seen/learned on an expedition?

Unforgettable–trillions of army ants on bivouac in the African jungles (translation: scary!!!).
Learned–that every plant has a medicinal use, but you have to work with the shaman in each village to share this knowledge.

18. What do you see as the biggest threat to forest conservation?

Lack of science education in America. Our “buying power” is threatening the rainforest, but people do not understand that what they buy has the ability to make a difference. If American products had labels explaining where the product was harvested, and if forest was logged to produce the goods, we would probably not purposefully buy things that came from killing the very forests that keep us alive.

19. Where do you take your friends when they visit Raleigh?

The NCMNS and Nature Research Center, of course. Then we wander down Fayetteville Street for a drink and appreciate the architecture, head over to Glenwood Avenue to see the amazing nightlife as well as the Contemporary Art Museum on First Friday, walk around Lake Johnson, have lunch at the Art Museum and see the Audubon portfolio, check out some of the amazing trees on the NCSU campus, walk in Hemlock Bluffs and dine out in Raleigh with a fabulous bicycle-taxi home.

20. Who is the most famous person (or scientist) you have ever met?

I worked with Bob Ballard for over 10 years (he discovered the Titanic); I taught Jeff Corwin (Animal Planet) to climb trees; I hosted the Duke of Edinburgh in his first canopy expedition; and Tommy Hilfiger was my next-door neighbor growing up in rural, upstate New York. But I firmly believe that the most famous persons I have ever met are the kids who visit the NRC and are inspired to grow up and solve scientific problems… I am honored to meet them every day in my job.

21. What’s on your iPod?

AC/DC (I love rock music, especially when flying on long plane flights); Enya (for relaxation); 1,500 bird songs (yes, that many!); and a bunch of other amazing music that my two sons programmed for me so I could relate to their taste in music!

22. What are your “can’t miss” TV shows?

I am a huge CSI fan (and have invited Emily Proctor to the NRC).

23. If you were on a desert island, and you could only take three things, what would they be?

Oreo cookies, my headlamp (soooo cool for any nocturnal events) and a journal to write about nature.

24. What’s your Destination ID? (Adrenaline Junkie, Creative Genius, Fashionista, Foodie, Free Spirit, Music Maniac or Lifelong Learner)

A hybrid of Adrenaline Junkie with Lifelong Learner (meaning I hope that I won’t have to sleep too much, because there is so much living to do!).

Photo courtesy of the Nature Research Center Facebook page.