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Each year, one of the highlights of coming to Greenland is working with American, Danish, and Greenlandic high school students in the Joint Science Education Project (JSEP). JSEP is collaboration among the three nations, and aims to further the students’ interest in science, introduce them to science projects occurring in Greenland, and teach them about the cultures of the three nations. During their two weeks in Kangerlussuaq, the students get to interact with the scientists – glaciologists, botanists, geologists, ecologists – working in this area. I am always jealous of the wide range of activities the students get to experience while here.

Teaching American, Danish, and Greenlandic high school students out in the field.

Teaching American, Danish, and Greenlandic high school students out in the field.

Although this is the third year I’ve worked with JSEP, this was the first year I led a project based on my own research. This made the experience both more challenging and rewarding, since I felt so invested in teaching the students about the importance of soil erosion. In planning the activity, I wanted to give the students a feeling for all parts of my research – from big picture questions to hands-on data collection to computer-based analysis. Fortunately, lichenometry data doesn’t need a lot of processing, so we were able to collect and analyze our data in just one afternoon!

Setting up a lichenometry transect for the students to measure.

Setting up a lichenometry transect for the students to measure.

We started with the big picture – observing some eroded areas and thinking about the implications soil erosion might have for carbon cycling, plant growth, and herbivores. As the pictures show, it was quite a blustery day, so it wasn’t too hard for the students to grasp how important wind can be in shaping the landscape we see around Kangerlussuaq.

Thinking about the different events that shaped this landscape.

Thinking about the different events that shaped this landscape.

The big picture led us to my methods, and I introduced lichenometry, a dating technique that uses the diameter of Rhizocarpon lichen to estimate age of rock exposure. Each group got to experience what Phoebe and I do everyday – we set up five transects perpendicular to the active edge of the eroded areas, and the students measured lichen diameters along each transect.

Helping one group with their lichen measurements.

Helping one group with their lichen measurements.

Back in town, we graphed the results, combed through the data, and made some calculations to come up with a rate of soil erosion for each transect. I really had no idea what to expect for, so I was blown away when the students’ results were all within the range of soil erosion rates I had measured last year. Success! Not only had they collected and analyzed data, but they had done so with enough accuracy to produce meaningful and useful results!

Wrapping up after each group had calculated a rate of erosion, in centimeters per year.

Wrapping up after each group had calculated a rate of erosion, in centimeters per year.

As always, it was such an inspiring experience working with these motivated and curious students. As we drove back to camp for the evening, I felt exhausted, yes, but I also felt uplifted by their energy and driven to continue teaching. Many thanks, JSEP!

This week it felt hard to decide what to write a blog about. “Nothing has changed,” I thought, “I don’t have anything new to say.” But that’s when I realized that simultaneously, everything and nothing had changed. And that seems like a good thing to blog about.

By saying that everything has changed, I mean that five new people have joined us; three will be staying at camp with us until I leave.

So many new people have joined us! It's great to be out in the field with everyone and hear about so many different projects. Here Lauren tells us about nitrogen isotope sampling.

So many new people have joined us! It’s great to be out in the field with everyone and hear about so many different projects. Here Lauren tells us about nitrogen isotope sampling.

We have an enormous palatial tent at camp now where we can sit and relax, eat, and enjoy each other’s company without the company of so many mosquitoes.

The big new tent at camp required a new sketch. What luxury!

The big new tent at camp required a new sketch. What luxury!

And the biggest change for me is that Phoebe has joined me as my field assistant. I now have a companion all day in the field – work goes so much more quickly with another person!

It hailed on Phoebe's first day of fieldwork! She didn't seem to be too upset about it.

It hailed on Phoebe’s first day of fieldwork! She didn’t seem to be too upset about it.

But in most ways, nothing has changed. And although this may seem boring, it is actually a good thing. My science depends on repetition, and this means that most days feel exactly the same. While Becca was still working with me, we took some pictures to document what we do at each site. Although it may seem tedious to do the same thing again and again, there is something soothing about it as well – while things at camp may be changing and hectic, I know exactly what to expect when I walk up to the next deflation patch.

 

Step One: Take numerous photos of the deflation patch. I'll use the photos back at Dartmouth to create a three-dimensional model of the patch. From this, I'll be able to calculate the volume of soil loss due to wind erosion.

Step One: Take numerous photos of the deflation patch. I’ll use the photos back at Dartmouth to create a three-dimensional model of the patch. From this, I’ll be able to calculate the volume of soil loss due to wind erosion.

Step Two: Set up a transect running perpendicular to the active margin of the patch. We collect soil samples and measure lichen diameters along this transect.

Step Two: Set up a transect running perpendicular to the active margin of the patch. We collect soil samples and measure lichen diameters along this transect.

Step Three (A): Collect samples of the biological soil crust that develops within the eroded patches. Measure the thickness of the crust at each sampling location.

Step Three (A): Collect samples of the biological soil crust that develops within the eroded patches. Measure the thickness of the crust at each sampling location.

Step Three (B): At each soil sampling location, measure the strength of the soil crust with a handy soil penetrometer. The soil crust strength may determine how the crust helps or inhibits plant growth within the eroded area.

Step Three (B): At each soil sampling location, measure the strength of the soil crust with a handy soil penetrometer. The soil crust strength may determine how the crust helps or inhibits plant growth within the eroded area.

Step 4 (A): Record lichen diameters along the transect. The diameter of the lichen tells us how old it is -- this in turn can tell us about the age of the eroded area and how quickly the erosion occurred.

Step 4 (A): Record lichen diameters along the transect. The diameter of the lichen tells us how old it is — this in turn can tell us about the age of the eroded area and how quickly the erosion occurred.

Step 4 (B): Record all the lichen diameters in the lichenometry binder. I'm sure looking forward to entering the hundreds of pages of data we've generated this summer! And that's just the beginning...

Step 4 (B): Record all the lichen diameters in the lichenometry binder. I’m sure looking forward to entering the hundreds of pages of data we’ve generated this summer! And that’s just the beginning…

The best part about nothing changing is the knowledge that with each new deflation patch, I’m adding a site to my collection. By doing the exact same thing at each patch, each and every day, I can compare patches and look for patterns. And the patterns I find won’t be a product of anything I’ve done differently at different sites; I can be confident that they represent a real part of the landscape. So yes, it’s nice to have new people in camp, the new tent is rather lovely, and it’s great to be spending the day with Phoebe, but I’m glad my days haven’t changed one bit.

Tundra Gardens

This time of year, I love walking across the tundra, seeing buds turn into flowers, new growth spring from dried plants, and the hills change from brown to green. In the past two weeks, we have seen summer arrive to the Kangerlussuaq tundra: the ice is gone from Long Lake, baby birds are begging for food in their nests, and new flowers are appearing every day.

Baby Lapland longspurs in their cozy nest: one of the many signs that summer has arrived to Kangerlussuaq.

Baby Lapland longspurs in their cozy nest: one of the many signs that summer has arrived to Kangerlussuaq.

Although I am here to study soil erosion, I easily get excited by the flowers – the erosional features I visit daily never visibly change, yet new flowers emerge overnight, transforming the landscape. Each year I’m here, I am delighted to find my first patch of Arctic Bell Heather – an old favorite, but rare – and each year, I seem to discover a new flower. This year, flame-tipped lousewort seems to be everywhere I go, even though I never noticed it before.

Cassiope tetragona * Arctic Bell Heather * Issutit One of my all-time favorite arctic flowers.

Cassiope tetragona * Arctic Bell Heather * Issutit
One of my all-time favorite arctic flowers.

Flame-tipped Lousewort * Pedicularis flammea * Ulannerusaq This flower keeps catching my eye everywhere I turn!

Flame-tipped Lousewort * Pedicularis flammea * Ulannerusaq
This flower keeps catching my eye everywhere I turn!

I know that flowers change quickly (Christine, who actually studies the plants here, is racing against the clock, trying to accomplish everything before berries form and seeds disperse), but it always startles me when flowers seemingly appear out of thin air. Since I return to the same sites every few days, I notice when something new opens. Or then there was the day we returned to camp and niviarsiaq (Greenland’s national flower) was blooming between our tents and camp chairs.

Alpine Catchfly * Viscaria alpina Just days before I took this photo, there were no signs of these striking pink flowers.

Alpine Catchfly * Viscaria alpina
Just days before I took this photo, there were no signs of these striking pink flowers.

River Beauty * Chamerion latifolium * Niviarsiaq The niviarsiaq around camp is just waiting to be captured by camera or sketchbook.

River Beauty * Chamerion latifolium * Niviarsiaq
The niviarsiaq around camp is just waiting to be captured by camera or sketchbook.

When we arrived, Lapland rosebay dominated the landscape, setting the hills ablaze. Now, not even three weeks later, the flowers are wilted, making way for other flowers to take center stage. The timing of when buds form and flowers open – the plant phenology – is something that I try to key into each year. Although I think I know what to expect, the tundra always surprises me, new flowers appearing when I least expect them. This is what makes each hike exciting; each discovery, each new flower, invigorates me as I walk across the hills to my field sites.

Lapland Rosebay * Rhododendron lapponicum * Oqaasaq When we arrived, the fields of Lapland rosebay were breathtaking.

Lapland Rosebay * Rhododendron lapponicum * Oqaasaq
When we arrived, the fields of Lapland rosebay were breathtaking.

Building off of Alexandra’s and Julia’s excellent posts about our 10-day immersion into the world of science policy, I thought I would share some thoughts from our climate legislation group exercise. I felt this practical experience – like the others indicated in Alexandra’s post – was adroitly woven into aforementioned conversations with prominent experts. In particular, this legislation exercise provided us with an opportunity to reinforce some of our earlier fundamental policy lessons through a mock Senate committee markup and vote on climate change risk management legislation, cementing the notion of thoughtfulness as being essential in any policy making endeavor.

The multi-day exercise began on a Wednesday with a review of H.R. 2380, the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2009 (111th Congress), which was introduced on May 13, 2009 (but never enacted). The language can be found here. Essentially, this bill was a revenue-neutral amendment to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, placing a tax on combustible fossil fuels and using these “carbon tax” revenues to offset social security taxes. The idea was for the cohort to introduce amendments in a Thursday session and hold a final vote during a Friday session.

Stated goals for the participants, through the experience of doing, included developing a practical understanding of the potential political views of and landscape for the offices we respectively represented, as well as those of our fellow committee senators, and organically establishing an informed strategy for building consensus. With 36 graduate students, faculty, and professionals in the field of atmospheric sciences divided into nine small groups, each representing one member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources committee (113th Congress), the activity seemed a touch audacious. Then again, how hard could this be?

"Senator" groups discussing how to interpret and respond to proposed amendments. [photo courtesy Julia Bradley-Cook]

“Senator” groups discussing how to interpret and respond to proposed amendments. [photo courtesy Julia Bradley-Cook]

It turns out the process of building consensus is hard. To start, four people had to come together and figure out how best to represent the constituents of their newly adopted state, which turned out to be our first lesson in compromise and diplomacy. Add to the “consensus of four” dynamic a reasonably imagined balance between ideology and constituency, such as “how would a Democrat from coal-friendly West Virginia react to this bill,” and I started to feel the very real weight of possible scenarios overload.

The committee markup exercise itself, streamlined for the purposes of the colloquium, allowed each “Senator” to offer one first-degree amendment to the bill and one second-degree amendment (an amendment to an amendment). Possible amendment strategies, also streamlined for the purposes of the exercise, ran the spectrum from actual, substantive improvements to the language and/or outcomes contained in the original bill to suggestions that, for all intents and purposes, makes it impossible for the altered bill to pass.

To say our cohort approached this with zeal may be understating the fervor with which we embodied our respective committee members. Every “Senator” offered a first-degree amendment as well as one second-degree amendment – an unofficial first in the 14-year history of the colloquium. Every “Senator” used at least 8 of their 10 allotted total minutes of speaking time to explain and advocate their amendments. Yes, there were amendments that split states along energy production criteria. Yes, there were amendments that split states along demographic criteria. Yes, there were impassioned floor “speeches” and exuberantly titled amendments (e.g., the “Reinvesting in Secure Energy (RISE) for America” amendment – RISE for America(!)). One amendment even had a catchy slogan!

The impressive moment of the exercise, in light of all that led up to it, predictably occurred near the end of the exercise. Over the course of three days, we collectively discussed and debated the virtues and failings of all the amendments. During the last day, a growing comprehension amongst the cohort began to fill the room. As we marched through each “yay” and “nay” vote, arguably complicating an already arguably elegant (i.e., simple and straightforward) bill with our amendments, a simultaneous desire for consensus emerged. The nine chosen “Senators” included four Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent. Just before the vote on the final proposed amendment, a request for a short recess to confer with our respective party caucuses was called. This move may have even surprised our esteemed moderator, Paul Higgins (Director AMS Policy Program). This presented an opportunity to find common ground amidst our challenging sea of amendments. But how? A strategy emerged out of the hurried recess that somehow resulted in an amended bill we all were able to vote on (and pass).

Realistic? Perhaps not, but the process we experienced contained rich lessons in diplomacy, compromise, and the importance of relationships. We never would have come close to our (perhaps) fanciful bill without conversations with each other. Overall, this simplified exercise illuminated the complexity and nuance of legislation creation (and ratification). It also echoed the concept of knowing what your audience (e.g., constituents, fellow committee members) wants. Judy Schneider, Specialist on Congress at the Congressional Research Service and one of our esteemed speakers, discussed the important “P’s” underpinning governance: policy, politics, procedure, and patience. I would say our legislation group exercise experience emphasized the truth in her statement.

Class photo on the grounds of beautiful Mt. Vernon. [photo courtesy AMS]

Class photo on the grounds of beautiful Mt. Vernon. [photo courtesy AMS]

I spent June 12 – 15 in Microsoft’s appropriately-named NERD Center near MIT in Cambridge, MA. In its third iteration (but only second national one), ComSciCon trains 50 graduate students selected by application to be better communicators of their science. This workshop is unique in that it is put on by graduate students for graduate students; the workshop was directly tuned to the needs and interests of graduate students and was organized flawlessly and enthusiastically. We participated in speaking exercises, interacted with panel speakers invited to speak on various topics, and received expert feedback on science writing for submission to a non-academic publication.

 

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Introduction to giving constructive feedback to each other’s ~800 word writing submissions.

I could probably write separate entries on each of the 5 panels, the 2-hour improve session, the peer editing process followed by feedback from science writing professionals, and the day-long workshop with local K-12 science teachers. But I’ll restrict myself to a few of the speakers, concepts, and activities I found particularly valuable. Interested readers can find the whole program with speaker bios here

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Improving Diversity Through Communication Panel: L-R Dr. Monica Feliu-Mojer (Mgr. of Outreach Programs for Biostatistics Dept, U Washington); Dr. Renee Hlozek (astronomer and TED fellow); ComSciCon moderator; Dr. John Johnson (Harvard Astronomy Professor, diversity advocate); Dr. Brindha Muniappan (Director of Education and Public Programs at the MIT museum).

The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Bassam Shakhashiri, is a chemistry professor at UW Madison who has been a staunch proponent of science education; he personally gives chemistry demonstrations in settings ranging from school classrooms to shopping malls. In the 1980s, he served as Assistant Director for Science and Engineering Education at the National Science Foundation, and more recently he has served as President of the American Chemical Society (ACS, 2012), formed the ACS Presidential Commission on Grad Education in the Chemical Sciences, the ACS Climate Science Working Group, and the ACS Global Water Initiative Working Group. He generously attended the entire workshop, participating in discussions and exercises with the graduate students; at the workshop conclusion he gave his address, challenging all of us to think about our role as scientists in society.

In his lecture, “Enlightenment and Responsibilities of the Enlightened,” Dr. Shakhashiri called us to become citizen-scientists, using the freedom we have to pursue our scientific curiosity to fulfill our responsibility to the earth and to humanity. He pointed out that the gap between the science-rich sector and the science-poor sectors of society is widening and that we don’t need to impart scientific competence and expertise upon everyone but rather engender science literacy and a sense of appreciation for science. Although the social, political, and economic implications of a changing climate and changing cryosphere motivated my return to school, I spend too little time thinking about scientists’ responsibility to serve society. I found his talk thought-provoking, boundary-pushing, and inspirational.

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Keynote speaker Dr. Shakhashiri closed his talk with a demonstration he often gives to school groups and public audiences.

Another speaker who challenged my basic conception of science communication was Jennifer Briselli, who studies the failures and difficulties in science communication. Communication with scientific facts alone is often ineffective because a person’s values and cultural worldview influence how receptive they are. She looks at science communication from the lens of the non-scientific audience member rather than from the perspective of the scientist; she provided valuable insight into the roadblocks associated with communication and how to address them.

Other speakers who stand out were: Dr. Ana Unruh Cohen, Director of Energy, Climate and Natural Resources for Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA); Soren Wheeler, Senior Producer at Radiolab; Dr. Donna J. Nelsen, organic chemistry professor at U Oklahoma and science adviser for TV hit series Breaking Bad; and Jeff Lieberman, who provided an artist’s perspective through sharing his work relating science, art, consciousness, and the human experience. Seldom do we hear people talk about emotion as a tool for communicating science, but he does so with astounding brilliance.

ComSciCon isn’t just about how to communicate with different audiences, it is also about practicing! Each participant had to give a 1-minute “pop-talk” about his or her work without using any scientific terms. The audience held up “JARGON” or “AWESOME” cards throughout the pop-talks to let the speaker know how well he/she was achieving this. There was no option to extend past the 1-minute (a loud noise went off), and doing justice to a dissertation topic in just one minute required some practice.

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Pinar Gurel, PhD Candidate in Dartmouth’s Microbial and Cellular Biology program, and I holding up the signs for the pop-talks.

I found it stimulating to be around 49 other PhD students who were genuinely excited about pursuing research across a wider range of topics than could be found at any other conference: soil microbes to planetary formation, pancreatic cancer to lizard reproduction, and nose stem cells to napping.

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Dr. Todd Zakrajsek, executive director at the Academy of Educators, UNC-Chapel Hill, giving the Keynote address of Sunday’s session on K-12 STEM education.  On this last day of the workshop, graduate students, teachers, and education professionals participated in a series of lectures, discussions, and curriculum development exercises.

I left Cambridge with better scientific writing and speaking skills, a network of colleagues across scientific disciplines who are all highly motivated and deeply committed to sharing their work, and a deeper conviction about why communicating science well is not only important but absolutely necessary. 

“Is it enough for a scientist simply to publish a paper? Isn’t it the responsibility of scientists, if you believe that you have found something that can affect the environment, isn’ it you responsibility to actually do something about it, enough so that action actually takes place? … If not us, who? If not now, when?” – F. Sherwood Rowland

Coming to Kangerlussuaq for the third summer in a row, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I was excited to be back in Greenland and to see all of the familiar sights. I never would have guessed that what makes the third time most exciting (at least thus far) are the new discoveries, new perspectives, and unexplored territory.

The first new experience: spending the night in Goose Bay, Labrador! I should have known not everything would be routine!

The first new experience: spending the night in Goose Bay, Labrador! I should have known not everything would be routine!

There are, of course, many things that feel much more comfortable the third time around. I know exactly how to arrange everything in my tent and daypack for maximum coziness and comfort. Driving the stick-shift truck on one of the bumpiest roads ever is much less nerve-wracking. And my tundra legs came back quickly this year – I no longer feel like I might twist my ankle on each tundra hummock. I am thankful that each time I return these things become easier.

Setting up my cozy tent felt much easier this time around -- I already knew where everything belonged!

Setting up my cozy tent felt much easier this time around — I already knew where everything belonged!

But what surprises me is how much feels new and different. Even after being here for only 10 days, I feel like I have a new perspective on the landscape and on my research. Just by coming back again, by wandering over the hills of Kangerlussuaq, I’ve gained more insight than any amount of data analysis could provide.

For instance, over the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not a deflation patch can fully recover and become revegetated. Just two weeks ago, I had a hazy notion of what such a patch would look like. A few days ago, walking around close to town, I started seeing recovering patches everywhere. The vegetation is taking over, obscuring the telltale features of a deflation patch, but I’m now fairly certain that yes, this landscape can recover from soil erosion. Although I had walked the exact same paths many times before, something had changed in my perspective, allowing me to see through the layers of vegetation to the landscape’s history.

Becca posing in one of the many recovering deflation patches I've spotted recently.

Becca posing in one of the many recovering deflation patches I’ve spotted recently.

My curiosity about recovering deflation patches also took me to a new area even farther from the ice sheet than the town of Kangerlussuaq – unexplored territory. Although I knew that soil erosion was less active farther from the ice sheet, I had never really walked around beyond town. Exploring this new landscape has been the highlight of my time in the field thus far – after a morning wandering new ridges, discovering new viewpoints, lakes, and erosional features, I felt incredibly inspired and motivated.

One of the new views I've seen on my explorations of new territory.

One of the new views I’ve seen on my explorations of new territory.

More than for any samples I collect or data I write in my field notebook, this is why fieldwork matters. New perspectives and new discoveries, for me, don’t happen in my office. They happen in the field, after returning to the same place for the tenth time, or after exploring a new ridgeline and looking at the landscape from a new angle.

In its 14th year, the American Meteorological Society’s Summer Policy Colloquium boasts an impressive curriculum (last year’s is here), arguably the most comprehensive introduction to U.S. politics, the relevance of science and policy to each other, and the legislative process that is possible in 10 days. 

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Participants of the AMS Summer Policy Colloquium (SPC) in front of the Capitol Building.

The first two days of the program focused on policy fundamentals; each day we had morning lectures on the basics of U.S. politics and policy, the inner-workings of the congressional and executive branches, and the details of the U.S. budget and scientific funding.  Notable among our list of speakers was Judy Schneider, who conducts orientation for all of the new members of Congress when they arrive in Washington.  Her cold-calling approach was intimidating for most of the members of our cohort; few of the grad students and scientists had much (if any) knowledge of the rules of procedure for the House and Senate!  However, it was the perfect introduction to Washington, and when we met with representatives from the Senate Finance Committee and the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, we knew the difference between committees and subcommittees, how their heads are determined, and how members’ offices and staffing typically work. 

The third day was focused on international policy.  As international development and multinational scientific collaborations are areas of personal interest and career goals, I found this day particularly exciting.  We heard from Dr. Tegan Blaine, the Senior Climate Change Adviser for Africa at the US Agency for International Development, first.  She shared that three departments oversee international development with respect to climate change adaptation: State, Treasury, and USAID, although other offices like USDA help with projects.  The State Department’s efforts are focused on international partnerships around specific development initiatives such as clean energy, whereas the treasury funds projects such as REDD (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).  USAID’s mission is distinguished in its incorporation of science and decision analysis and its focus on bilateral relationships.  In her position as a specialist for Africa, she has to make funding allocations and prioritize various projects based on impact vs. need considerations, the United States’ international agenda, the host country’s priorities, and in-country capacity.  Often she faces the question of where the investment (which is on a 3-5 year timeframe) will have the most lasting impact and where program implementation is most likely to be successful. 

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Lecture.

Following Dr. Blaine, we were addressed by Dr. Jonathan Pershing, the Principal Director of EPSA and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Change Policy and Technology in International Affairs at the Department of Energy (what a title!).  He spoke of his involvement with the Montreal ratification profess and the IPCC, as well as the U.S.’ role in the Copenhagen Accord.  I found it refreshing to hear his optimism regarding follow-up to the Copenhagen Accord, which is a non-binding document of carbon emissions reductions produced through Obama’s leadership at the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference.  But what I found most thought-provoking were his distinctions between the ways that scientists and politicians think, distinctions of which I must be acutely aware if I end up pursing a career in Washington.  He said that science, at its most fundamental level, is about what we don’t know.  Policy takes what we do know and turns it into action.  Scientists are focused on the best solution, whereas the best available solution is necessarily used in policy decisions.  He also shared his thoughts on pursuing a career as a government scientist, sharing the perspective that scientists who generate good ideas alone make great professors and that those who come up with good ideas by working with 1,000 other people can be effective players in policy.  Our final international speaker was Dr. Norman Neureiter, the Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy and Center for Science Diplomacy of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (turns out few of our speakers’ titles were short).  He spoke passionately about science as something countries can agree on even when they agree on just about nothing else.  He highlighted the US-Russia collaboration on space, the 2001 US-Iran science collaboration on foodborne disease and air pollution, and the recent collaboration with North Korea on reforestation.  Science, he argued, is transboundary in nature and is easier to communicate than politics.  We also had an extended, dinnertime lecture delivered by Dr. Andrew light, a George Mason professor.  He spoke of his role as Senior Adviser to the Special Enjoy on Climate Change at the State Department and provided an insider’s view and optimism about the U.N. climate negotiations.  I had not thought so critically about science as a tool for international diplomacy prior to these lecture, although I left feeling energized about a potential career as a scientist in international relations and development.

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Group work.

The rest of the colloquium was filled with similarly compelling speakers and engaging exercises.  (Gifford’s forthcoming entry will focus on our exercise in passing climate legislation.)  Science communication instructors from the American Geophysical Union joined us on Thursday June 5 for exercises (storytelling, improv, bringing an “ask” to a congressional staffer, communicating with journalists, etc.)  We also engaged in discussion with invited speakers on connecting with a public audience in general and to journalists and policy-makers in particular.  On subsequent days, we focused on science opportunities in the military (I was not previously aware these existed), the leadership and funding of the National Science Foundation and its pertinent divisions, and the role and image of the National Hurricane Center.  We also heard climate perspectives from the Senior Adviser for Infrastructure Resilience (Department of Housing and Urban Development) and a representative from the American Red Cross.  A case study on water supply and scarcity illuminated the necessity of but systemic difficulties associated with collaboration between the US Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, and the USGS.

The productive week culminated on an extremely high note, with four program alums speaking about their work.  The closing speaker of the program, Dr. Ahsha Tribble, is a meteorologist who directly advised the President and his senior staff during hurricanes Sandy and Irene, among other disasters.  She was an engaging and inspirational speaker who talked about the importance of taking opportunities when they arise, being open to learning something new, and not confining one’s self to pre-existing career paths. 

In short, it was an illuminating and formative 10 days in which we had the privilege of interacting with accomplished and driven program participants, compelling speakers, and guests who have used their PhDs in the sciences to advance onto highly successful and impactful careers in policy. I left feeling grateful for the opportunity and feeling a little more certain that I’ll be moving ~500 miles south on I-95 after my time in Hanover comes to a close.

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Julia Bradley-Cook receiving her Certificate of Achievement from Dr. Bill Hooke, Senior Policy Fellow and Associate Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society.

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