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.

Science in Prisons

Nalini has pioneered bringing science education, conservation projects, and nature imagery to the incarcerated. In 2003, she co-created the Sustainability in Prisosn 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.

Public Engagement

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.

Science, Humanities, and the Arts

Nalini collaborates with a wide range of humanists, creative writers, poets, dancers, musicians, and visual artists to better understand and communicate the relationships between nature and humans.” image can be of the dance company performing “biome.

Project News

September 11, 2019

How to Go to Prison

People who are incarcerated are a scientifically-underserved group of people who are not able to gain access the internet, let alone science museums and lectures. They  stand to benefit tremendously…
June 12, 2019

STEMAP Published in Bioscience

Beyond the Deficit Model: The Ambassador Approach to Public Engagement NALINI M. NADKARNI, CAITLIN Q. WEBER, SHELLEY V. GOLDMAN, DENNIS L. SCHATZ, SUE ALLEN, AND REBECCA MENLOVE Scientists are increasingly…
April 1, 2019

STEM Ambassador Program Awarded Further Funding from National Science Foundation

The STEM Ambassador Program has received a new round of funding from NSF, extending the program until at least 2021. The scientific enterprise needs transformative ways for scientists to interact…

Meet The Team

nalini nadkarni

Nalini Nadkarni

Ph.D., Director, STEM Ambassador Program (STEMAP), Initiative to Bring Science to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE), STEM Community Alliance Program (STEMCAP)

STEMAP Manager

Caitlin Weber

M.S., Program Manager, STEM Ambassador Program (STEMAP)

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.

Allison Anholt

M.S., Program Manager, Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE) and STEM and Community Alliance for Youth in Care (STEMCAP)

Allison earned her M.S. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University. Her graduate work focused on conservation and management practices of the federally threatened Piping Plover. Allison currently is the Program Manager for the INSPIRE and STEMCAP programs. Both programs focus on delivering formal and informal science programming to incarcerated youth and adults in the Salt Lake Valley through connecting academic and career scientists with incarcerated populations. Programs include science lectures, career panels, conservation projects, focused laboratory-style science workshops, and art/science workshops that match artists with scientists to deliver co-disciplinary programs. Allison’s interest in science communication led her to join the Nadkarni lab after many years working as a nonprofit research biologist, where her main focus was on avian biology and coastal habitat restoration.
STEMAP INSPIRE coordinator

Meg Young

Program Coordinator, Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE) / STEM Ambassador Program (STEMAP)

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.

JJ Horns

PhD, Project Coordinator, Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated (INSPIRE)

Joshua Horns earned his PhD at the University of Utah studying the impacts of global change on bird populations. His research combined long-term field data and community science in order to detect changes in bird populations and migratory behavior. He currently works for the INSPIRE program which focuses on delivering formal and informal science programming to incarcerated youth and adults in Salt Lake Valley through connecting academics and career scientists with incarcerated populations. His work with the program studies how participating in science education shifts inmates’ self-perception as sciences-learners, and how interacting with an incarcerated population shifts academics’ perception of outreach and social justice.