People of IARC
What has been most significant to you about your current work?
I derive a lot of satisfaction from my work, and from two current efforts in particular. The first involves the design and use of conceptual models that capture large-scale perspective on the dynamics of our climate system. Since the Arctic and other northern regions display conditions that are very distinct from the tropical latitudes around the Equator, it is sometimes convenient to separate the two to study their specific conditions.
By doing so, we can more easily identify the processes and mechanisms that form and affect the climate, such as the circulation of the ocean and atmosphere, in each region.
Secondly, I am proud to be a part of IARC’s great Summer School program. The school provides young scientists with the chance to experience world-class field research, discussion, and perspectives from across their fields.
How is your research important to larger scientific communities or the public?
Regarding climate modeling, it often seems there is a rush to project into the future and make predictions. My focus, meanwhile, is to provide stronger and more sophisticated consideration of these model’s mechanisms and functions. I feel that our ability to properly understand modeling results and their implications rests largely on our understanding of the variables and limitations that we have either built into or eliminated from our modeling systems.
Such considerations can also play an essential role in determining the legitimacy of unexpected results. My own research, for example, has recently shown new details regarding the cooling over northern Eurasia that results from large-scale atmospheric circulation from a warming Arctic—all of which might risk dismissal as anomaly if we were not as confident about the internal mechanisms of the models in question.
What led you to your study of science?
My scientific career developed directly from my affinity for math and physics. In school, I remember spending most of my time solving math problems, even during literature and writing lessons. From there, I developed strong interests in theoretical physics, pursuing study in engineering and fluid dynamics, and thereby found my way to an expertise in the physical modeling of complex systems such as circulation and the climate.
What might interest people about your current work?
Much of my recent work represents a continuation of the ties and affiliations I developed early in my career, to funding agencies such as NSF and educational programs like GLOBE. Over time, through GLOBE efforts, we have been able to engage students in soils, land cover/biology, phenology, atmosphere, cryosphere, and hydrology research in an era of climate change.
Further, we have done widespread recent work through our workshop programs (in Alaska, and around the world) to help and interact with science teachers, to better integrate science education across curricula and diverse learning contexts.
We also work to engage young scientists and learners at K-12 levels, as we feel strongly that early, hands-on participation in the scientific process is key to community environmental awareness and resources management.
Consistent with IARC’s mission, we develop ways to emphasize the Earth as a system of interacting components and cycles, paying special attention to the participation and involvement of humans.
What interests do you have outside of your field of study?
I spend as much time as possible in the Alaska outdoors, skiing, fishing, and camping. I look forward to enjoying the great summer weather as much as I can.