UCAR Communications

 

staff notes monthly

July/August 2003

Taking charge of GLOBE

UCAR wins a coveted contract to manage the international science education program

Jack Fellows was working on science issues for the White House Office of Management and Budget in 1994 when he became involved in an initiative by then–Vice President Al Gore to promote science education around the world. The landmark program, called GLOBE, would eventually grow to enlist teachers and students around the world.

Students arrive at Obonjan Island in Croatia for a day of GLOBE field measurements. (photo by Jack Fellows)

Jack has since left Washington to become the UCAR vice president for corporate affairs and director of UCAR’s Office of Programs. But in an interesting turn of events, he finds himself once more involved with GLOBE.

That’s because UCAR, in a major accomplishment, has won the contract to manage GLOBE. Beginning 1 October, UCAR—in collaboration with Colorado State University—will assume primary responsibility for developing and overseeing the program.

“It’s very ironic,” says Jack, who is serving as the interim executive director of GLOBE until a permanent executive director is hired in the next few months.

Students in GLOBE learn about science and the environment by taking regular observations of weather and other natural events and posting them on the Internet. Their reports eventually provide a unique data set on the local atmosphere, hydrology, soils, and land cover. In all, the program enlists teachers and students from 12,000 primary and secondary schools in the United States and more than 100 other countries.

GLOBE began as a multiagency effort based largely in NOAA. Over the years, NASA’s share of funding for GLOBE 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 over more than a dozen other groups for a renewable five-year term. UCAR was able to make a strong case because of the institution’s scientific and education expertise and because several UCAR offices, including the Joint Office for Science Support had worked on GLOBE projects.

“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.

Transition activities will unfold throughout the summer. Jack expects to hire about a half-dozen staffers to manage the program. Veteran staffers will also play a major role, including Margaret “Peggy” LeMone of the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, who will be chief scientist; Paula Robinson of JOSS, who will be the executive administrator; and Sandra Henderson of Education & Outreach, who will serve as education program manager.

The new GLOBE team will also call on the skills of CSU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, which will handle data distribution and oversee the GLOBE Web site, and CSU’s Center for Science, Math, and Technology Education, which will assist with educational activities.

UCAR members of the GLOBE team include (clockwise from lower left) Jack Fellows (vice president for corporate affairs), Paula Robinson (JOSS), Sandra Henderson (EO), and
Peggy LeMone (MMM).

Jack’s goals include strengthening the involvement of schools, communities, and countries that participate in the program, and creating regional GLOBE offices around the world. “Our vision is to get countries more involved in guiding the program and to improve teacher training,” he explains. “We want to not only keep the program as good as it’s been but to make it better.”

Jack and other members of the new GLOBE team went to Croatia in late June to participate in what’s called a GLOBE Learning Expedition. Students and teachers from 24 countries spent six days conducting field campaigns and presenting scientific results. “It was an amazing experience,” Jack recalls, “to see so many different cultures come together focused on the same goals of learning about science, increasing environmental awareness, and creating the next generation of leaders.”

Plans for the program

While GLOBE’s new managers are pondering new directions and ways to enhance funding, they’re 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 Peggy, who will be working quarter-time on GLOBE. Rather than drumming up large numbers of new participants, she says, the new team plans to focus on improving support to those already trained.

Likewise, the emphasis will be on working to strengthen existing protocols for data gathering rather than generating new protocols. Peggy got a first-hand look at how hydrologic data are 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, Peggy’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,” she says. “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 the program serves as a mass beta-test. “On occasion, GLOBE will go back to a manufacturer with recommendations for improving an instrument,” Peggy says. Some companies now tout certain instruments as being “GLOBE-certified.”

Sandra, who will oversee GLOBE’s online courses, says her goal is to provide both teachers and students with additional instruction and support.

In the past, most of GLOBE’s partner and teacher training had been handled via traditional face-to-face workshops “The online courses are intended to keep more GLOBE-trained teachers active in the program and perhaps re-enthuse those who become inactive,” she explains.

Jack and others on the new GLOBE team hope that many UCAR staff, as well as both faculty and students at member universities, will get involved in the GLOBE program. “It was clear from talking to the country leaders at the GLOBE Learning Expedition that the program is having a significant positive impact around the world in improving science education and environmental awareness,” Jack says.

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

 

Some members of the new GLOBE team


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

 


Also in this issue...

Ann-Elizabeth's iggies

A SOARS summer

One hail of a storm

Fire Season

Tackling the MS150

Delphi Question: Priarie dog display

NCAR names two new senior scientists

Short takes

 

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