NSF gets an at-home tour of NCAR

Scientists visit Arlington for talks, posters

December 17, 2012 | Many of the 1,700 employees at NSF’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, haven't had the opportunity to visit Boulder, but NCAR scientists brought their work and their enthusiasm to the funding agency in a day-long road show. The first-ever NCAR Science Day at NSF unfolded on November 16, with more than a dozen oral and poster presentations on a range of research topics.

Rebecca Morss speaking at NCAR Science Day
Rebecca Morss (NESL/MMM and ISP) put warning and response issues related to Hurricane Sandy and the June 2012 mid-Atlantic derecho in perspective, drawing on analyses from other recent extreme events. (Photo by Bill Mahoney, NCAR.)

The event was the brainchild of Michael Morgan, director of NSF’s Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division (AGS). Morgan points out that many NSF program directors spend two or three years at the agency before returning to their home institutions.

“I suspected that they may not have known what the foundation’s largest FFRDC [NCAR] was doing and how NCAR might relate to their program portfolios, especially those outside of the Directorate for Geosciences," says Morgan.

Science Day also introduced NCAR’s work to a broad array of other NSF staff, according to NCAR deputy director Maura Hagan, who worked with other NCAR managers to coordinate the event. Impacts were a key topic, she notes: “We thought that showcasing the physical science as well as impacts-related science would be most beneficial.” Each of the oral sessions included elements relating to both types of work. For example, RAL’s Bill Mahoney and Branko Kosovic covered the scientific challenges and the societal benefits of improved forecasting techniques for wind energy.

A session originally dedicated to derechoes in the wake of the massive June storm in the mid-Atlantic was tweaked to throw the spotlight onto issues related to Hurricane Sandy. ASP director Chris Davis and Rebecca Morss of NESL/MMM and ISP addressed the meteorology behind extreme events and the multiple societal factors involved in how people interpret and respond to warnings and risks.

Sarah Hughes at her poster at NCAR Science Day
Sarah Hughes, a postdoctoral researcher in ASP, presented early results from research conducted in Delhi and Mexico City on how issues of equity and justice are being incorporated into urban climate change planning. (Photo by Maura Hagan, NCAR.)

Collaboration was another major theme, with the talks and posters acknowledging contributions from dozens of universities and other labs. Among the presenters were NCAR & UCAR interns Curtis Walker (SOARS), Devin Brown (EOL), and Ashleigh Bell (SiPARcS), as well as scientist Claudia Tebaldi (Climate Central), a long-term NCAR visitor.

According to Morgan, “AGS will definitely do this event again,” perhaps every year or every other year. “While no surprise to me, I found the talks and posters to be fascinating. Everyone I spoke with after the event was impressed with the quality of the presentations and the discussions that followed.”

NSF staff members conducted video interviews with several of the NCAR scientists on hand, and an NSF Discoveries article highlighting the scientists’ results will be released in early January.

This year’s talks and posters will also make it to NCAR sometime after the first of the year, says Hagan, probably in a series of lunchtime events. “We think our staff might enjoy them every bit as much as NSF did. The team of presenters was fabulous—they really made their work accessible.”