As a kid, Nalini Nadkarni would run home after school, climb into one of the maple trees in her home’s backyard, and spend a day there with a book and an apple.
That time in the treetops set the path for the rest of her life. Today, she’s a forest ecologist at the University of Utah who’s devoted her career to studying rain forest canopies.
She’s always looking for new methods to get individuals involved in science, from fashion created with nature imagery to science lessons at the state jail.
Her childhood memories made her curious about reaching children. After her 6-year-old daughter requested for a Barbie, Nadkarni decided to re-model the barbie dolls as a scientist-explorer in boots rather than high heels.
That was about 15 years in the past. Nadkarni stated Barbie manufacturer Mattel wasn’t in the idea then, so she decided to remodel dolls herself, using gear she collected.
She searched thrift stores and eBay for Barbie dolls and enlisted help from volunteer sewists. She called the creation “Treetop Barbie” and started selling them at a price on her website.
In 2018, Mattel started working with National Geographic to create a new fleet of scientist Barbies. Nadkarni has a longstanding association with National Geographic Group, so when the channel reached out for help, she immediately agreed.
Nadkarni joined a group of female scientists advising Mattel because it made the fleet of dolls that features a marine biologist, astrophysicist, photojournalist, conservationist, and entomologist.
Sales started in the summer. As an appreciation, Mattel sent Nadkarni an exclusive doll with a tree-climbing kit and full dark hair woven with strands that made the doll look like the scientist.