A lifelong interest and concern for trees led Nalini to an academic career to study and understand trees, and to innovate activities and programs that raise awareness of the importance of trees and nature to others.
Nalini’s research interests are on: community and ecosystem ecology of tropical and temperate forest canopy organisms and interactions; the effects of forest fragmentation on biodiversity and community function; and the development of database tools for canopy researchers. Her long-term field sites are in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and the Olympic rainforest, Washington State.
Nalini has pioneered bringing science education, conservation projects, and nature imagery to the incarcerated. In 2003, she co-created the Sustainability in Prison Program in Washington State, and in 2011, created the Initiative to bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE). These programs bring multiple benefits for inmates, scientists, correctional institutions, and the community.
Nalini believes that part of the scientific enterprise is to communicate the results of research to other scientists and to people outside of academia. Her major focus in public engagement is to bring science and scientists to people who do not or cannot gain access to science in traditional science educational venues.
Meet The Team
Caitlin earned her M.S. in Natural Resources with an emphasis on Conservation Ecology from the University of Michigan. Her graduate work focused on documenting the ecological impacts of invasive species management on islands in the Aegean (Greece). Caitlin currently serves as the Program Manager for the STEM Ambassador Program where she manages scientist trainings and public engagement programs. Caitlin works closely with the STEMAP team to guide scientists in identifying and implementing innovative public engagement activities in a range of venues (e.g., correctional facilities, senior centers, cafes, community council meetings). She is also responsible for representing the Program at conferences and assisting with the preparation of publications and project reports. Caitlin joins STEMAP after working as an Environmental Policy Analyst at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, where she worked with legal and technical experts to develop and communicate policy positions on state and local environmental issues.
Laura earned her M.S in the Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah. As a master’s student, Laura focused on reformation of youth environmental education to make it more inclusive to underserved populations as well as to those who don’t typically think of themselves as interested in or capable of participating in science through the inclusion of place-based interdisciplinary content. Laura currently works as the Program Manager for Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE) and STEM Community Alliance Program (STEMCAP) for Youth-in-Care. These two programs bring local scientists to adult and juvenile incarcerated populations to provide informal science education. While INSPIRE, the adult program, focuses mainly on science lectures, STEMCAP also includes art-science workshops, career workshops, and agency science presentations. Both programs also include conservation projects that allow incarcerated people to contribute to a specific conservation effort. Laura was drawn to these programs by their effort to engage underserved populations with science while expanding participants’ perception of science through interdisciplinary work and in-person contact with local scientist.
Meg earned her BS in Anthropology from the University of Utah. She is a Program Coordinator for INSPIRE and STEMAP. She works with both programs to help provide public engagement of science training to scientists, and coordinate workshops at youth and adult corrections facilities. Meg joined the Nadkarni Lab after working in the non-profit field in Salt Lake as a community engagement coordinator.
Fiona received her BA in Art History from Lewis & Clark College. She has worked in non-profits since 2018, starting at the Natural History Museum of Utah, where she learned about and facilitated Science Communication programs.
Since then, she has worked in domestic and sexual violence prevention and response, accompanying many incarcerated and underserviced populations while learning about the cyclical patterns of incarceration and abuse. She now serves as the Program Coordinator for STEMCAP, helping youth in custody gain access to educators and helping to pave career pathways. She strives to elevate community understanding of the carceral system.