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September 15, 2011 | When I started work at UCAR in early June as the new director of the GLOBE Program, I knew that it would be a busy and exciting time. GLOBE was launched back in 1995, by then–Vice President Al Gore, to engage students around the world in scientifically recording their local environments and then sharing data over the Internet, to create visualizations of the planet measured by its children. It was a cool concept back in 1995, and it still resonates strongly today.
Although I’m new to UCAR, I’ve actually been involved with GLOBE in the United Kingdom since 1997 as the U.K. Country Coordinator. In this role, I raised funds to support our activities and then trained teachers across the U.K. in GLOBE and its protocols for measuring environmental variables in the areas of atmosphere, hydrology, soils, and land cover. In those early years, there was a great buzz of excitement, as no other project motivated both teachers and students to share local data around the world using the Web. However, over time I saw the growing frustrations as the initial vision for GLOBE didn’t quite seem to get fulfilled, and the website remained largely as it had been in the 1990s. In recent years this made it difficult for me to attract sponsors, as the first thing they look at is the Web, where a site that looks old-fashioned and needlessly complex doesn’t convey a dynamic, state-of-the-art program.
So when the job of GLOBE director was advertised early in 2011, I had a dilemma: should I continue to enjoy my early semi-retirement, with consultancy work when I wanted it, or move nearly 5,000 miles west for a full-time job? It still seems strange to say, but GLOBE is such an amazing project that I decided—after a few family discussions—to make the move. And since then it has been great, as all the things that I thought from the outside needed fixing have turned out to be the very things that do need fixing. I’d managed both a not-for-profit nongovernmental organization and a commercial consultancy in the U.K., so I was up to speed with the sort of management that helps an organization such as GLOBE move forward, including a long-term strategic plan linked to operational plans and complemented by office management systems that help us reach these goals. All those things are now in place, so we can begin to move forward on solid foundations.
Along the way we’ve had an international conference in Washington, D.C., involving more than 180 GLOBE partners from 46 countries and 26 U.S. states, where we launched our new development strategy and requested feedback and input from all GLOBE’s 111 partners around the world. We printed the first annual review in many years, to tell the world all the great things GLOBE has been doing. And thanks to additional support from our main financial sponsor—NASA—we’ve got a brand new website under development and scheduled for launch in November.
We also launched a GLOBE Student Climate Research Campaign on September 12, aiming to engage a million students around the world over the next two years in exploring and studying planet Earth. Thanks to support from NASA’s chief scientist, Waleed Abdalati, we have an inspiring call-to-action video. Our partners internationally and in the United States are doing what they can to promote and develop the project.
And this is where we need your help! We need volunteers to answer student and teacher questions, work with students and teachers to develop scientific studies, and act as mentors in specific scientific areas. Please contact Jessica Mackaro (email@example.com), who is coordinating scientist involvement. Or if you’d like to talk further to me about the project—or GLOBE itself—please do get in touch.