I have answered this question more times than I can count since September. My colleagues, friends, and family members have been curious as to why someone who studies plants, can suddenly switch to studying fish for a semester.
Science & research
For the last two years I have been studying decision making in winter wheat farming in the Southern Great Plains. I want to help forecasters provide seasonal climate forecasts that do a better job of warning farmers of upcoming bad conditions, such as drought, extreme rainfall, or heat.
Now, seasonal forecasts are nothing new. The National Weather Service has been issuing them for decades. But farmers don’t use them very much because they are hard to understand and overall don’t contain the sort of information farmers need to make decisions.
Coral reefs often go unnoticed because they’re underwater; but even though we don’t regularly pay much attention to them, they’re an extremely important part of our everyday lives. Coral reefs have been estimated to provide support for over a quarter of all marine species and this extreme biodiversity makes them a frequent source of discovery for new medicines that can help fight cancer and other diseases. They also protect our coastlines from storm surges, and provide millions of individuals with a source food and income.
Our infrastructure is designed for the climate in which it was developed; engineering standards and logistical procedures are based on historical weather patterns, and as environmental conditions change, some of these systems may need to be re-configured.
“Why would you spend 35 days on a boat just to filter seawater?”
This was the most common question (second most common was: “Don’t you get seasick?”) that I received as I explained what I would be doing during the GOMECC trip to my friends and family. The biology component of the GOMECC trip does include lots of filtering of water onto specialty glass fiber filters, but the research does not stop there!
Summer ‘tis the season of studies from geology to ornithology and everything in between. I study wild berry species to try to find what environmental factors have the strongest influence on berry productivity. With no other wild fruits in Alaska, berries are an important natural and cultural resource, one that is becoming increasingly variable.
For three weeks every summer, undergraduate students from the South Central United States, representing a wide range of cultural backgrounds participate in the “Undergraduate Summer Internship for Underrepresented Minorities” program to visit and learn about climate impacts in the South Central Climate Science Center Region (SC CSC). This year participants spent the balmy month of July starting at Louisiana State University, moving to the University of Oklahoma, and finally ending their trip at Texas Tech University.
This summer, I spent two weeks on a seabird research island as part of my internship with the Northeast Climate Science Center, Five College Coastal & Marine Sciences Program, and Audubon Project Puffin. Project Puffin, based out of Bremen, Maine is a seabird restoration program founded by the National Audubon Society in 1973. Each summer, Project Puffin sends volunteers to seven research islands to monitor nesting seabirds.
Public opinion and scientific consensus are not always on the same page.
On getting climate model projections in the hand of managers.
In the past several decades, climate scientists have developed robust models that simulate past climate conditions and provide meaningful projections for the future. In the past several years, researchers have developed downscaled climate projections that provide the kind of local guidance resource managers have been demanding. And now all those managers are making climate-informed decisions.