I grew up in a big family that lived all around the country. When I was seven years old, we spent part of a summer night in our basement because of a tornado that came close to our community. Ever since then, I was hooked on weather and understanding how weather influences our world. I have degrees in Meteorology, Agricultural Meteorology and Soil Science / Climatology. I started out college in North Carolina and kept moving west and north, going to Nebraska, Minnesota and then Alaska for my first job post doctorate. It was in the subarctic that I got a first-hand appreciation for the impact of climate change on our environment. After seven years there, I came back to Nebraska to work on issues related to climate in the Great Plains. What interests me the most in my profession is applying the science of weather and climate to enhance decision-making.
What is your position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
I am the State Climatologist for Nebraska and direct the Nebraska State Climate Office, which houses the Nebraska Mesonet (a statewide weather network and one of the first of its kind in the country). I am also an associate professor of Applied Climate Science in the School of Natural Resources where I teach an introductory level course on our changing climate (NRES 104). We cover the science, the symptoms and solutions to this grand challenge. In my role as State Climatologist, I get to talk with a wide range of people and groups in this capacity, both within and outside of the university. I have provided a tour of a Mesonet weather station to a preschool class and later the same week briefed Senator Deb Fischer on emerging climate issues facing Nebraska.
What drew you to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?
I like what the community of Lincoln has to offer with a focus on quality of life (parks, libraries, arts, etc), it’s relatively small size. I also identify with the mission of the land-grant university in its teaching, research and extension areas. My specific role works in all of these areas. Being a meteorologist, I also really enjoy the diverse weather we experience in Nebraska.
What aspect of working in an education setting do you enjoy the most?
Interacting and learning from a diverse array of students, understanding their story and what drew them to Nebraska. I love their enthusiasm and energy, their passion for climate change and solving this grand challenge. They encourage and motivate me every semester.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I work in an area that can be considered controversial, in terms of belief and finding solutions. My strategy is to understand other’s points of view and determine pathways for meaningful dialogue on the topic of our changing climate. When I can connect with someone who is a climate skeptic and see their understanding of climate change transition from doubtful to concerned and wanting to know solutions, that I consider to be my greatest professional achievement. Personally, and as a mom, I strive to raise empathetic and thoughtful people and when they illustrate that in their words or actions, I am overjoyed.
What is something that most people don't know about you?
I tell people I am from Nebraska (which I am), however, I and my four older siblings were raised all across the U.S., moving and traveling quite a bit. Case in point, I took my first Greyhound bus ride across the U.S. at ten months of age. This is probably why I really enjoy learning from and about other people as it is what I grew up doing.
What is your life like outside of work?
I am a mother of two active boys (8 and 6), so a lot of my time outside of work is spent with them. We do a lot of what they like to call ‘nature exploring' outside on our acreage. Identifying new plants, searching the creek for frogs, catching lightning bugs, picking apples in the fall, and sledding in the winter. They are very into LEGOS and have been since they were quite young. I am getting to be a pro at freeform LEGO construction.