Archive for the ‘Julia Bradley-Cook’ Category

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]

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Greetings from Washington DC! Gifford, Alexandra and I are in the capitol for a 10 day crash course on science policy that is hosted by the American Meteorological Society.


We have joined 33 other participant to learn the fundamentals of science policy, meet with experts, and learn through hands-on exercises.

The participants make for a dynamic group. We have a very wide variety of backgrounds, including: grad students, post-docs, climate modeling research scientists, social scientists studying climate and extreme weather, a science education expert, professional forecasters, and NOAA administrators. The diversity of experiences and perspectives make for lively discussions during our meetings and interesting conversations during breaks and over meals.

What is science policy anyway? In short, it captures two key concepts: (1) “science for policy,” meaning science that is used to assist or improve policy decisions, and (2) “policy for science,” meaning policy that determines how to fund or structure the systematic pursuit of knowledge (science!). For instance, science for policy includes carbon models that are used to project future greenhouse gas emissions and the risk that our activities pose for the future. On the other hand, policy for science determines how much money is given to science and technology and how it is prioritized among areas of research.

After morning presentations and discussions, we spent the first two afternoons of the Colloquium visiting Capitol Hill for meetings with staffers and experts in the Senate and House of Representatives.


The group of participants taking the bus to The Capitol building

The Capitol Building, home to the Senate and House of Representatives

The Capitol Building, home to the Senate and House of Representatives


The AMS Colloquium participants in the House of Representatives

Meeting with majority and minority staff of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee

Meeting with majority and minority staff of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee

It is exciting to be around people who are learning and talking about science policy. More than anything, these first days of science policy “boot camp” have taught me that there is so much more to learn about how policy and politics(!) are connected to science.

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How Many IGERTeers Does It Take To Haul 1,000 Pounds of Water?

When I applied to graduate school, I had my heart set on studying how pesticides bio-accumulate in squid after being carried from one side of Costa Rica to the other via the seasonal trade winds. After many false starts and dead-ends (and almost five years later) the focus of my dissertation is on the effects of altered flowering phenology on plant-pollinator interactions and plant reproduction. To say I changed course would be a major understatement. Would my squid idea have worked out?  Probably not.  Had I done any research into the topic?  Pfft, of course not! It just sounded like a fun idea. So how did I go from a crazy, squid-based research idea to a more interesting, practical, and basic-science oriented question?  Through a lot of trial-and-error and helpful advice from my committee and advisor.  Thanks, guys! But chasing kooky, quixotic ideas and getting pulled back to earth is all part of the graduate school experience. And it’s a healthy experience, I think.  I have to admit it is satisfying to look back and see the progress that I have made, and it is equally satisfying to see the progress that the other members of my cohort have made.

Julia Bradley-Cook teaches us about carbon in soils and the atmosphere near her field sites in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Julia Bradley-Cook teaches us about carbon in soils and the atmosphere near her field sites in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Julia Bradley-Cook, a friend and fellow IGERTeer, has just wrapped up a field season here in Greenland.  We were lucky enough to spend some time with her in the field before she finished what will likely be the last field season of her dissertation. It was an amazing experience for me because Julia and I are in the same cohort in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) program at Dartmouth, and I have seen her research develop over the past four years through her talks and presentations at Dartmouth. But this was my first time seeing Julia’s science first hand, in the field. And while my research dramatically changed directions (several times) during my first couple years as a graduate student, Julia is literally doing the polar opposite of what she had initially set out to study.


Julia laughs as Ross breathes into the infrared gas analyzer, increasing the CO2 levels.

I clearly remember Julia’s first talk at Dartmouth, in which she proposed studying soil carbon flux in the dry valleys of Antarctica. She went to Antarctica, tried out her ideas, and like most graduate students failed to generate data that would turn into a dissertation.  Sad, but true.  Then she decided to follow a similar line of research in an environment that was better matched to her research question: in the arctic rather than the Antarctic. Julia’s current work focuses on how arctic soil respiration will respond to an increase in precipitation.  She explained to us that the atmosphere contains about 750 gigatons carbon. Soils, on the other hand, have about 3,200 gigatons globally.  That means that soils hold over four times as much carbon as the atmosphere! Mind blowing.  What’s more, about half of all that carbon is in arctic soils, if you include boreal forests.  Climate change models predict that precipitation in Greenland will increase by 15% by 2050 and by 50% by 2100. How are the arctic soils going to respond to this increase in precipitation?  That is one of the main focuses of Julia’s dissertation, and to investigate the question she is adding water to 18 plots, each paired with a control plot, and then measuring soil respiration using an infrared gas analyzer.


Alden takes some soil respiration data!

So far she has been adding 6 liters of water to each plot, which reflects a realistic increase in precipitation over the next 90(ish) years.  Her results have been quite interesting thus far, although some could argue that the results are a bit ambiguous.  So she decided that she needed to take a sledgehammer approach: add an enormous amount of water, and see how soil respiration is affected. That way there would be no ambiguity as to the response to water itself, and then she could use those data to help interpret her more realistic water additions. For the sledgehammer approach, she decided to add 24 liters of water to each plot over the course of a very short period of time and then take soil respiration measurements every ~12 hours over the following few days. 24 liters of water * 18 plots = 432 liters of water total.  Remember that 1 ml of water has a mass of 1 gram, so 432 liters of water has a mass of 432 kilograms.  What’s more, the water needed to be hiked up to her sites from a lake.  Woof.  That’s a lot of work. And it would have been nearly impossible for Julia and her hard working assistant Leehi to have done it by themselves. Luckily, IGERT cohort 4 (later named “Totally Awesome Cohort” by Ross) was there to help!

I practice the spraying technique.  If I do it right, 12 pumps = 1 liter of water!

I practice the spraying technique. If I do it right, 12 pumps = 1 liter of water! photo by Leehi Yona

Once we hiked up to the sites carrying a backpack filled with five gallons of water, we needed to get the water onto the plots.  We used two techniques for this, one slightly higher tech than the other.  The first was to dump the water, one liter at a time, through a colander.  The colander helped to spread the water out as it fell, much like a sprinkler.  The second approach was to use a backpack with a pump-sprayer attached.  I have used similar backpacks before, but this was a new design for me.  Apparently the one we were using is made for firefighters.  I have to say, I feel bad for those firefighters.  The backpack would leak about a third of its water down the back of the wearer, and using the pump spraying was surprisingly draining! But technical difficulties aside, we managed to haul all the water up and apply the treatments to her plots. The next few days were an insane push for Julia to take all of the necessary measurements and prepare for her departure, but she managed to pull it off. Congratulations, Julia, on wrapping up another field season, we can’t wait to see how the data turn out!

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Leaving behind days (weeks) of rain, members of Cohort 4 and friends head to the Air National Guard Base for another deployment to Greenland. See you in August!


(Left to right) Alden Adolph (C4), Kristin Schild (C4), Ben Kopec (C2), Gifford Wong (C1), Leehi Yona, Julia Bradley-Cook (C1), Ross Virginia, and Mary Albert (in front). Thanks to expert packing by Gifford, the cargo all fit too!

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Last summer, several IGERT fellows had the serendipitous and rare opportunity to witness a warming climate’s effect on Greenland first-hand. Julia Bradley-Cook was stationed in Kangerlussuaq collecting data on carbon cycling in soil when the bridge over the Watson river collapsed from anomalously high flows of meltwater (see https://dartmouthigert.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/glacial-melt-threatens-town-water-supply and https://dartmouthigert.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/update-the-river-powers-on). Days later, the 3rd cohort of Dartmouth IGERT students flew up to Summit Camp, Greenland’s highest point, and observed features of the ice sheet-wide surface melt. Fellow Kaitlin Keegan, Thayer Professor Mary Albert, and their collaborators study the frequency of such melt events; their work at the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) sight has suggested that such an event last transpired in 1889 and, therefore, is unprecedented in the satellite record. (See https://dartmouthigert.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/new-summit-melt-layer).

A new Nature publication on Greenland climate authored by the NEEM community, which includes Albert and Keegan, prompted an entry on the scientific blog site RealClimate.org. RealClimate was started and is maintained by “working climate scientists” who “aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary.” Check out the discussion on Greenland’s 2012 summer conditions, how they compare to those 125,000 years ago, and what we can learn about past temperatures and sea level rise from an ice core! I was particularly excited about the conclusion of the entry since author Dr. Steig mentioned the significance of a new ice core from West Antarctica. I just returned from a field season on Roosevelt Island assisting with the drilling of this core, which will help scientists understand the sensitivity of the Ross Ice Shelf and, thus, of the West Antarctic ice sheet to changes in climate. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/01/the-greenland-melt/

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During the 2012 IGERT Field Seminar in Greenland, the all-female cohort 3 was introduced to this promotional video, put out by the European Commission as a part of a campaign to inspire more young women to get involved in science.

The controversial video has since been taken off the European Commission campaign website, but not before sparking some lively debate.  The discussion in Greenland amongst cohort 3 about the video and the role of women in science inspired us to make our own version of Science: It’s a girl thing!.

And so we proudly present:  Science in Greenland: It’s a Girl Thing

What do you think about the European Commission video and our take on women in science?  Despite the controversy surrounding the video, the European Commission has a really cool website for their Science: It’s a girl thing!  campaign.  Check it out: http://science-girl-thing.eu/en.

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*written by Ross Virginia*

Today was the First Annual Running of the Muskus (Musk ox) in Kangerlussuaq. Conceived by Audrey Jo Mills and her friends at Polar Services and the community members, this 5K and half marathon run raised about $3,000 for the local school. My role as a volunteer was to help set up the BBQ that followed the race and to cheer for the finishers, who ranged from IGERTs in panda and unicorn attire to a woman pushing a baby buggy with a beaming passenger. The runners were transported on the road leading to the ice edge with a staggered start to allow everyone to finish at about the same time. The weather was perfect and all runners were accounted for.

Team IGERT claimed first in the women’s divisions for the half marathon and the 5K! (I need to brag here, they are both members of my lab group- way to go Pandas). I’ve witnessed many polar races at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. It’s wonderful to see a new tradition born at Kangerlussuaq. The event brought together scientists, the Air National Guard, and the community for fun and a good cause.

Another great day in Greenland.

Team IGERT comes together at the finish line!

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