Spinning up a new GLOBE structure

UCAR-CSU team takes the helm on 1 October

by Bob Henson

UCAR and Colorado State University have teamed up to manage the landmark science-education program called GLOBE. Starting 1 October, UCAR and CSU will assume primary responsibility for developing and overseeing the program.

Launched by then–Vice President Al Gore in 1994, GLOBE enlists teachers and students from over 12,000 primary and secondary schools in 48 states and 102 countries. Participants take regular observations of weather and other variables. As they collect data and post them on the Internet, the students learn about science and the environment. Their reports eventually provide a unique data set on the local atmosphere, hydrology, soils, and land cover.

UCAR members of the GLOBE team include (clockwise from lower left) Jack Fellows (UCAR vice president for corporate affairs), Paula Robinson (UCAR Joint Office for Science Support) and Sandra Henderson (UCAR Education and Outreach), and Peggy LeMone (NCAR Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division). (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

GLOBE began as a multiagency effort based largely in NOAA. Over the years, NASA’s share of funding increased, and when NOAA’s support was cut from its budget in fiscal year 2002, NASA picked up the reins. Through a competition overseen by NASA, the UCAR-CSU management team was chosen this spring for a renewable five-year term. “NASA looks forward to working with UCAR to grow and strengthen the program,” said GLOBE’s NASA program manager, Dixon Butler, in a recent interview.

“We are very excited and honored to have been selected to help guide GLOBE’s future evolution and success,” says Jack Fellows, UCAR vice president for corporate affairs and the interim executive director of GLOBE. “We are firmly committed to the GLOBE mission and to improving the program in all GLOBE countries, communities, and schools.”

Fellows was involved in the creation of GLOBE while working in the White House in the early 1990s. “A lot has happened since then,” he notes, “and GLOBE has become an important component in global math and science education reform. We will be encouraging all UCAR university members and affiliates to participate in and contribute to the GLOBE program.”

Both institutions on the new GLOBE team have been involved with the program since its earliest days:

• UCAR’s Joint Office for Science Support has arranged GLOBE training and logistics.

• Several GLOBE investigators have hailed from CSU’s atmospheric science department, including faculty members Graeme Stephens and Debra Krumm.

• CSU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) handles data distribution and oversees the GLOBE Web site.

The new GLOBE team will also call on the skills of CSU’s Center for Science, Math, and Technology Education and UCAR’s Office of Education and Outreach. According to Fellows, “these two groups bring an extensive history and expertise in teacher training, curriculum development, equity and diversity, education standards, and distance learning to the new partnership.”

Transition activities began in mid-June and will unfold through the summer. With a search now under way, GLOBE plans to hire a new executive director and bring her or him on board by 1 October.

A chief scientist’s view

While GLOBE’s new managers are pondering new directions and ways to enhance funding, they are intent on keeping what works well in the program—including its enthusiastic cadre of teachers and students. “Retention is going to be really important,” says Margaret (Peggy) LeMone. The NCAR senior scientist will be working quarter-time as GLOBE’s chief scientist. Rather than drumming up large numbers of new participants, she says, the new team plans to focus on improving support to those already entrained.

Likewise, the emphasis will be on working to strengthen existing protocols for data gathering rather than generating new protocols. LeMone got a first-hand look at how hydrologic data is collected when she sampled a “train-the-trainer” workshop in June near Colorado Springs. “The protocols are pretty sophisticated,” she says. ”As a scientist, I was impressed.”

Although she has been active in K-12 education efforts for many years, LeMone’s only previous involvement with GLOBE was sitting on an advisory committee when the program began. But her work in boundary-layer processes and land-atmosphere exchange in Kansas convinced her of the value of GLOBE-style data. “One of the things that’s really critical is to know what the land cover is,” she says. Satellite imagery helps, but “you really need ground verification.” GLOBE uses a modified version of a land-classification system developed by the United Nations. It’s tractable for kids, she says, and the data can make a real difference.

“The scientific journal articles [based on GLOBE data] are just starting to come out. People might have hoped for a lot more a lot faster, but publication is never instantaneous, and typically the more complex the scientific endeavor, the longer it takes.” LeMone stresses the unique nature of GLOBE: “There’s a certain amount of learning involved to get things right. I think, with patience, we can get these data used by more scientists.”

A side benefit to having thousands of children taking millions of readings is that the program serves as a mass beta test. “On occasion, GLOBE will go back to a manufacturer with recommendations for improving an instrument,” says LeMone. Some companies now tout certain instruments as being “GLOBE-certified.”

Mindful of the program’s somewhat politicized origin as a White House initiative, GLOBE’s managers past and present take special care to focus on science-based goals. However, LeMone notes, the implicit goal of making students more environmentally savvy is something that transcends politics. “We hope to help raise a generation of children who are sufficiently aware of the environment to be aware of its fragility, to be aware of our impact, and to act accordingly.”

GLOBE headquarters can be reached at P.O. Box 3000, Boulder CO 80307-3000. The new phone number is 303-497-2620. The general e-mail alias is globe@ucar.edu.

Some members of the new GLOBE team

Jack Fellows (UCAR), interim executive director
Edward Geary (CSU), chief educator
Margaret LeMone (NCAR), chief scientist
Karyn Sawyer (UCAR), interim international program director
David Brown (DHB Associates), chief technologist and senior advisor
Peggy Finarelli, Washington representative
Cliff Matsumoto (CIRA), system director
Paula Robinson (UCAR), executive administrator
Debra Krumm (CSU), science program manager
Sandra Henderson (UCAR), education program manager



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