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Director named for new Museum wing; NC GSK awards Museum $1.5 million

Contact: Emelia Cowans, Asst. Communications Director
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
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RALEIGH — The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences today introduced Margaret D. “Meg” Lowman as Director of their new wing, the Nature Research Center. For 30 years, Lowman has helped pioneer the science of canopy ecology, designing hot-air balloons and walkways for treetop exploration while studying the links between insects and ecosystem health. In her new role, Lowman will oversee the new wing’s research agenda, participate in fundraising efforts and assist with the integration of existing Museum programs.

According to Museum Director Betsy M. Bennett, “Meg’s international network and passion for science have continually led her into leadership roles where she seeks best practices to solve environmental challenges. We are delighted to have her at the helm of our new wing.” Lowman, affectionately called the “mother of canopy research,” was one of the first scientists to explore this “eighth continent” and has spent the majority of her career mapping the canopy for biodiversity and championing forest conservation around the world.

NRC Press ConferenceAs her first order of business, Lowman accepted a $1.5 million grant from the NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, awarded to support health and science exhibits, educational programs and a hands-on micro-investigation laboratory within the Nature Research Center. The NRC, due to open in fall 2011, is the Museum’s innovative new wing designed to bring research to the forefront and highlight current scientific issues that affect our daily lives. The NRC will also provide students, teachers and the general public with a unique opportunity to meet and directly learn from scientists in an effort to help demystify what can be an intimidating and confusing field of study. In the NC GSK Foundation-funded lab, for example, visitors will learn how to view DNA samples using state-of-the-art technologies, study sequences, structures and interactions, learn how to isolate a DNA strand from the nucleus of a cell and even compare with other DNA to confirm or deny species identity. Marilyn Foote-Hudson, executive director of the NC GSK Foundation, said the Foundation is pleased to support the Nature Research Center. “This innovative and exciting project will advance science education in North Carolina, which is key to our mission at the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation and at GlaxoSmithKline.”

Additionally, Lowman will hold a joint appointment as research professor of Natural Sciences at NC State University, where she will focus on initiatives involving communicating science to the public. “Having scientists who are comfortable communicating about their work and a public that is interested and engaged in science is vital to informing public policy as we attempt to solve many of society’s greatest environmental challenges,” said Daniel L. Solomon, dean of NC State’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. “By participating in the NRC, our faculty and graduate students can achieve this goal.”

The NC Museum of Natural Sciences documents and interprets the natural history of the state through exhibits, research, collections, publications and educational programming. Hours: Mon.-Sat., 9 am to 5 pm, and Sun., noon to 5 pm. FREE. Visit the Museum online at naturalsciences.org.  The Museum is an agency of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary.