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Communicating Science to the Public: Introducing the NCAR Explorer Series from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

At the International Data Forum this year (held on September 14th, 2016, which was also part of the International Data Week), three different data stories were represented during the Data Stories Session, including one from ESIP’s Vice President, Christine White. From citizen science, science education, to humanitarianism, the speakers of these three different stories all showed that when presented in a way that is understandable and relatable to the general public’s day to day activities, people can establish more direct connections with and receive greater impact by data, and therefore, it can also become easier for the general public to use specific data for additional situations or applications.

Also recognizing the importance of communicating scientific research and results to the general public in an engaging and personal manner, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has designed a new public lecture series called the NCAR Explorer Series. Specifically, through the Series, NCAR would like to expose the general public to and increase their understanding of NCAR’s research and its relation to society.

Currently, the Series is structured so that it contains four quarterly lectures, and each lecture focuses on an atmospheric and related sciences topic that has direct relevance to the daily life of the public. For 2016, the lecture topics included the El Niño phenomenon, weather information and flight safety, eclipse events, coral reefs and climate change. Additionally, to increase the opportunity for the lecture attendees to interact with and engage in NCAR’s scientific studies, the lectures were preceded by mini-tours of the NCAR Mesa Laboratory exhibits, given by staff from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research’s Center for Science Education, and followed by question and answer session with the lecturing scientist(s). Furthermore, to facilitate outreach to an even broader audience, the lectures were broadcasted live via UCARLive and subsequently archived on UCARConnect's YouTube channel, so they can be viewed anytime. Finally, anyone who wishes to stay connected with NCAR Explorer Series is welcome to join its mailing list.

I had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the live audience for Dr. Joanie Kleypas’ “Coral Reefs and Climate Change: An Ecosystem Meets its Match” lecture on October 15th, 2016, and it was definitely a very enlightening experience for me. Prior to attending Dr. Kleypas’ lecture, I already had some ideas about how the warming and the acidification of our oceans could impact the coral reefs. However, I learned so much more during Dr. Kleypas’ lecture because not only did she present fairly the relevant data from all stakeholders’ perspectives, but also she presented the information in such a visual and straightforward way that it was very easy to follow her well-organized lecture. As a result of Dr. Kleypas’ lecture, I feel more well-informed, and therefore, more confident in sharing the information I learned from her lecture, and engaging others in discussions about how we could be more responsible with our actions that have environmental consequences, and for me, it is a very positive outcome of hearing Dr. Kleypas’ data story.

Talking with other attendees after the lecture, I know that other attendees, including families with young children, have also provided positive feedback and continued interests for the Series, so I am excited and looking forward to attending NCAR Explorer Series’ lectures 2017, either in person or via UCARLive.

  • Front Range Air Quality: Impacts on You and Your Colorado Playground (January 7th and 11th)
  • Emergence of Zika and Other Climate-Sensitive Viruses in the Americas (April 8th and 12th)
  • Thunderstorms and Tornadoes: Tales of Shock and Awe (July 12th and 15th)
  • Spirit of Adventure: Mountain Winds, Clouds & Flying Through the Worst of It (October 18th and 21st)

If you are interested in learning more about NCAR Explore Series from me in person, please come by ESIP's Ignite@AGU on Wednesday, December 14 from 6-8:30 pm at The Infusion Lounge, 124 Ellis St. San Francisco.