All of the researchers lived to tell the tale, however, due to proper training, planning, and preparedness — as well as good luck.
Lowman said that her "secret sauce" in building teams is to involve local researchers, students, and others as much as possible. She was amazed by the "intrepid enthusiasm" of young Malaysian women on the team who — wearing heavy, traditional clothing — still managed to climb trees, set "banana traps" for animals, and perform additional field work alongside the scientists.
"I was blown away by their determination," said Lowman, who also expressed pride over the fact that 65 percent of her team consisted of women.
She continued: "I've become used to being the only woman on certain teams, so it is tremendously hopeful to see women, particularly in other countries, show such an interest in science."
The work can be lucrative too, as Lowman is helping to develop orchid farming for locals in another rainforest-rich country, Costa Rica. As an active member of Church Forests of Ethiopia, Save the Redwoods League, and many more organizations and projects, Lowman continues to strengthen efforts that not only protect the environment, but also help to boost local job growth and incomes.
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Wheelchair users are not left out, as she has developed methods that enable those with arm mobility to conduct canopy research high in the trees using pulleys and other special equipment.
Ecotourism can provide yet another source of revenue for locals. The Habitat Penang Hill aims to promote environmental consciousness and conservation awareness tourism at the Malaysian site, which Lowman describes as "pristine" because it is "beloved by the Malaysians, has undergone no tragedies such as an oil spill, and benefits from good local stewardship." Its condition is all the more remarkable considering its location close to a major metropolis.
Allen Tan, managing director of The Habitat, told Seeker that he and his colleagues are "working with the Penang State Government to list Penang Hill and other parts of Penang Island as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve."
"Furthermore," he continued, "we are also working to establish a Rainforest Research Center on Penang Hill that, it is hoped, will act as a catalyst for more scientific research and activity both on the Hill and in Penang as a whole."