U Professor Promotes Sustainability Awareness


(Photo Courtesy of Nalini M. Nadkarni)


(Photo Courtesy of Nalini M. Nadkarni)
(Photo Courtesy of Nalini M. Nadkarni)

Nalini Nadkarni is a professor in biology and the director of the U’s Center for Science and Mathematics, but most of all, she’s an earth conservationist.


Nadkarni received her bachelor’s in biology from Brown University in 1976 and went on to the University of Washington, where she earned a Ph.D. in forest ecology in 1983. Initially, Nadkarni focused her research on the ecosystems in the canopies of both Costa Rica and Washington. The National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society supported her efforts in these areas. She has since published two books and over 55 articles.

Before coming to the U, Nadkarni taught at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. from 1991 to 2011. But then she decided it was time to make a difference. Nadkarni wanted to teach sustainability issues to a diverse audience.

“I wanted to solve ecological questions that involved the inclusion of others in conservation work,” she said.

In 2005, Nadkarni taught prisoners in Washington about the practices of sustainability and conservation, such as gardening, composting and recycling. She’s applied this project to her work at the U, connecting all departments together to create new sustainability methods.

“More connections to the community concerning these issues will foster more fluid and productive community-academic interactions,” Nadkarni said.

This idea began with her field research in Costa Rica, where she brought together modern dancers, scientists and rappers to work as a team in creating new conservation methods. Nadkarni has now reached out to fashion designers and religious institutions to promote sustainability, generating programs such as Earth U.

Austin Holmes, a junior in environmental science, sustainability and international studies, said he is inspired by Nadkarni’s programs.

“Nadkarni has been incredibly important to both sustainability and diversity,” Holmes said.

As the sustainability ambassador for the Sustainability Resource Center, Holmes wants to support Nadkarni’s aim of making sustainability awareness a goal for everyone on campus, whether in the humanities or the earth sciences.

“More involvement by faculty, students and teachers in understating the values of sustainability and diversity would result in more action needed in and outside of the university,” Nadkarni said.

More information about her accolades and research can be found on the website nalininadkarni.com.

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