Tropical forests are diverse ecosystems that offer opportunities to expand ecology in new and exciting directions. I am investigating some of these phenomena as a PhD Candidate in Dr. Steve Yanoviak’s lab at the University of Louisville. My research focuses on two topics that are intrinsically tied to the forest canopy: 1) the role of lightning as a source of tree mortality and damage, and 2) how vertical stratification and nutrient availability influence the cycling and storage of carbon in dead wood. This research takes place on Barro Colorado Island in central Panama where I am a research fellow with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Here I summarize my current research program, along with some discussion of my passion for education.