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A&GS Spotlights

Showcasing Students, Alumni, Faculty, and Friends of the College

OU CIMMS Researcher Elizabeth Smith preparing the LiDAR system for operation on the outskirts of a storm. (Photo by Mike Coniglio/NOAA NSSL)
OU CIMMS Researcher Elizabeth Smith preparing the LiDAR system for operation on the outskirts of a storm. (Photo by Mike Coniglio/NOAA NSSL)

Dr. Elizabeth Smith sits in the backseat of a white Chevy pick-up truck surrounded by computer equipment on a windy day in Oklahoma.

Smith is a researcher at the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies researcher supporting NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. On this day she’s testing equipment after a recent deployment on TORUS, or Targeted Observation by Radars and UAS of Supercells. The project aims at understanding the relationships between severe thunderstorms and tornado formation.

In the back of the pick-up truck is a lidar system, which stands for Light Detection And Ranging. Unlike radar systems, which use electromagnetic waves, lidar utilizes laser light. The lidar operates at an eye safe wavelength of 1.5 , just outside of the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

“The lidar sends out laser light to hit and scatter off particles that are small enough for that specific wavelength,” Smith said. “Those are things you and I cannot easily see, like really, really small dust and aerosol particles.”

The scattered light signal returns to the lidar and is analyzed, similar to the way a weather radar uses electromagnetic waves scattered off rain droplets. Via the Doppler effect, the lidar is able to retrieve information about wind in clear air.

“Understanding the wind field around severe storms and weather is very important for us to improve our understanding and forecasts,” Smith said.

The lidar is one of many instruments utilized in TORUS — a month [JEB1] long project in 2019 funded by the National Science Foundation and NOAA. TORUS will continue in 2020. The lidar is funded by the NOAA NSSL Director’s Discretionary Research Fund to support TORUS. The lidar in the Chevy truck, lovingly named Louise, is from the NOAA NSSL CLAMPS-2 trailer utilized during the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast project during the past few years. The lidar was removed from the trailer for increased mobility in the extreme environments expected during TORUS.

TORUS includes many instruments, including those on top of trucks known as mobile mesonets, as well as mobile radar trucks and unmanned aircraft vehicles. Mobile mesonets measure meteorological variables such as wind speed, temperature and humidity at the surface while radar can collect observations at higher levels. As a result there is often a gap in coverage just above the surface, which may be up to several hundred feet deep.

“We use the lidar and weather balloons with instruments attached to fill that gap,” Smith said. “The lidar system is able to provide us with rapidly updating wind information with a temporal resolution of minutes. There’s a lot about the environment near storms we don’t understand yet. Understanding the rapidly evolving complex flows in that region can be very important.”

Smith said two of the most vital factors OU CIMMS and NOAA NSSL teams are studying to improve forecasting tools are how supercell thunderstorms move and persist.

During the 2019 TORUS campaign, the lidar team deployed on 17 days during May and June across five states, traveling more than 9,000 miles. Overall, data were collected on 19 supercell storms, eight of which produced tornadoes. Deployments also focused on pre-convective environments and cases where forecast convection failed to occur. In the months since the TORUS field season, work has been underway quality-checking and preparing the data for analysis. In total, over 20 hours of lidar wind observations were collected during the 2019 TORUS campaign.

“We saw interesting turbulence structure in the wind field,” Smith said. “We don’t know what that means just yet, but this is unprecedented data because this specific lidar is faster than those used in past field projects.”

The lidar team looks forward to sharing preliminary findings at the 100th Annual AMS meeting in January.

For more information about this project, visit:

Story by Emily Summars at the OU cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies and NOAA NSSL.

Claire grew up like many other children- loving being outdoors and surrounded by nature. It didn’t take her long to see that the Earth needed people who stand up to protect it! Little things add up to big changes and that’s what led Claire to the sustainability and conservation program at The University of Oklahoma.

Claire Burch is a St. Louis, Missouri native who began her academic career at Miami University just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. She co-majored in Zoology and Environmental Science with a minor in Geography. Burch got a lot of hands on experience spending every summer of her undergraduate education interning at local zoos including the St. Louis Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, as well as two summers at the Cincinnati Zoo. Her favorite position was at the Cincinnati Zoo. “That's where I was introduced to sustainability in general,” said Burch. “It was actually voted the greenest zoo in America a couple years ago. They have a sustainability department and I worked as a curatorial intern for a fairly new curator who also had the greenest exhibits. I worked a lot with the sustainability department and talked to them to see how you integrate energy efficiency and water efficiency into zoo keeping. It was an amazing combination of everything I loved.”  

She decided to attend OU for graduate school last year because of her now-advisor, professor Rebecca Loraamm. “I emailed probably 30 different professors in various labs asking about openings, explaining my research interests and she had the best response. I was very excited from the beginning and she had tons of ideas and opportunities for funding,” said Burch. “I accepted the position here without actually visiting because at that point the program was a good fit. Once I came here for a visit and I thought, ‘I like this more than I thought I would.’” For her master’s degree Burch steered herself away from a strong zoology focus and moved toward sustainability and conservation. Much of her past work in zoo conservation and sustainability influenced her current interests. For her thesis work, Burch is researching what people know about the interactions between biodiversity conservation and wind energy development. “It’s a survey with 35 questions evaluating what environmentally conscious individuals know about wind energy’s impacts on biodiversity conservation. There's a common misconception that turbines kill lots of birds and cause habitat fragmentation. We are beginning to get the evidence of what people believe versus what is actually true,” said Burch. She focuses on environmentally interested individuals because it is a smaller group, i.e. it is more feasible for a thesis. They also represent a unique group because they may be supportive of one method over the other. This survey may shape how they perceive wind energy development or biodiversity conservation.  

Through this research she has found that she is really interested in public perception and how we engage with the environment as well as how we can continue to develop more sustainably. Burch recently returned from a workshop in Dublin, Ireland oriented around resource extraction. It was specifically addressing the mining industry and social science. “Do people know about mining? Resource extraction? What are the perceptions of mining and how do we continue to engage with communities when we do these activities?” said Burch. “I was in the community engagement and environmental activities workshop. We attended lectures taught by mentors and broke up into different workshops that were each sponsored by a different organization,” said Burch. “We were sponsored by one of the mining industry companies that was also sponsoring the event. Then we spent the week breaking down how we engage communities, best practices, and worst practices.”

After her Dublin workshop, Burch found there are also a lot of interesting things happening with domestic mining in the United States. However, public perception will be her underlying theme. In the future, she wants to do research for a nonprofit or the government. “There are a lot of human dimensions’ officers in various government organizations. For example, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has an officer that does surveys,” said Burch. She wants to focus on doing surveys, talking to communities about conservation, and about what would make them want to be part of the positive change she so desperately wants to see.
Burch plans to attend a waste conference in October. Though this arena is unfamiliar to Burch, she is excited to learn another aspect of sustainability. She will be doing a poster session on sustainability curriculum together with fellow OU grad Student, Heather Stelter. The goal of the talk is to encourage sustainability in curriculum at other universities. Burch’s other projects include research with Dr. Loraamm using ecological modeling programs to map disease distribution and a potential project with the OU Center for Risk and Crisis Management. She is also part of the Earth Observation Science for Society and Sustainability certificate at the university. This EOS3 program is part of a national traineeship program through the National Science Foundation, which includes four classes aimed at advanced training in interdisciplinary communication, leadership, and data science skills. One course Burch is involved with for the EOS3 certificate has been doing research in southeast Oklahoma on public perception around water resources and they will finish their publication soon.

Dolly Na-Yemeh at her desk

Being a PhD student at OU is challenging. In addition to the classes, there is research, writing papers, and helping teach other students, but Dorothy “Dolly” Na-Yemeh wouldn’t have it any other way. “There's always that joy when a student comes to you to say ‘oh I really liked your class,’ or the non-geography majors that decide they want to take more geography classes because it’s interesting.” Na-Yemeh said.

As a child, Na-Yemeh used to go into her mother’s garden in Ghana and eat the plants, herbs, and fruit. While her family thought it was odd, that never stopped her from gathering somewhat reluctant mouths. “I would taste them and go gather the kids in my neighborhood, teach them, and sometimes force them to eat the plants” laughed Na-Yemeh. “I had figure out what I wanted to be.” Na-Yemeh said. “Then I thought, what is the best way to teach people to solve problems? The closest thing was geography, so I just followed that.”

Though born in Ghana, Na-Yemeh complete high school in Kentucky due to her father's PhD work at the University of Kentucky. Afterwards she returned to Ghana for her undergraduate education at the University of Education in Winneba. One project she enjoyed was finding ways to improve the ability of geography students to use sketches and diagrams to illustrate graphical phenomena. Through the project she found students can be assisted to overcome this particular challenge and once they overcame, they performed better in geography. “This just fueled my passion for research and helping others.”

After graduating with her bachelors, she started working for her department in Winneba as a teaching and research assistant. She was also part of a research project on wetland conservation and the impact of the sea on livelihoods of fishing communities along the coast of Winneba. “I want to do research because I want to discover new things, figure out new things, and see how stuff works,” she said. This started her on a path toward her first master’s degree in geography at the University of Cape Coast. Then she went on to do a Master of Science in geoscience at the University of Western Kentucky. While there she worked with the Kentucky Mesonet to design geo-profiles for selected Kentucky Mesonet stations. These geo-profiles are described as “data about data.” This includes information like the station elevation, land cover, and other physical aspects. The main purpose of this work was to understand the character of some of these stations better. Weather conditions may be similar across an area but a weather station at an airport and one in a rural town should have vastly different landscape characteristics.   

Na-Yemeh wrote her thesis on synoptic atmospheric conditions, land cover, and equivalent temperature variations in Kentucky. In layman's terms they “were trying to look at the different metrics of understanding weather” said Na-Yemeh. “For example, equivalent temperature is one of the ways people think is better because it incorporates other things such as moisture into the output. Moisture is a stronger indicator of how hot or cold it will be in an area, versus just using air temperature.” Around the time Na-Yemeh was working with Mesonet data in Kentucky, she was considering a PhD in applied climatology. She noticed a project at OU that looks at some of the services provided by the Oklahoma Mesonet and how people use them. “That's what brought me here,” she said. “The Oklahoma Mesonet is at the top of the industry and the closer you are to it the better.”  

For her dissertation, Na-Yemeh is evaluating the benefits of OK-First, an outreach program within the Oklahoma Mesonet that is dedicated to providing weather education, safety, and access to critical real-time weather data. In addition, this semester she has a research assistantship with Dr. Mark Shafer at the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP). This project will look at the impact of extreme weather on military bases. There are five bases in Oklahoma and she will be trying to see what extreme events impact their daily operations as well as the cost. Her goal is to find a way to merge evaluating extreme events and evaluating the benefits of OK-First.

In the future she would like to work with either non-profits or in disaster management. Na-Yemeh is also considering teaching at a University. “Geography and the Mesonet brought me here, but my favorite part of OU is the people. Between our department coordinator, Emalee, the Mesonet and OK-First teams, there's a good support system here.”

Not many people can say they've been to a rocket launch, but that’s just one of the cooler days on the job for OU alumni Alek Krautmann. For the past year and a half, he has been working at NOAA for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service. His job since being in Washington DC has been more policy based, a far cry from his education and former career in meteorology. Krautmann went to OU for a Meteorology undergraduate from 2006 to 2010 and then went away for grad school to Ohio University for a M.S. in Geography. After that, his first job was back in Norman working for Dr. Mark Shafer at the Southern Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) in the National Weather Center at OU. SCIPP is part of the climate survey and is a NOAA funded grant program. During this time, the Oklahoma drought was having severe impacts and most of the work at SCIPP was drought assessment and stakeholder engagement. They also planned drought forums in towns that were affected and conducted a review of the 2013 tornado disaster in Moore.  

Afterwards Alek moved to the Big Easy, better known as New Orleans, where he was a forecaster for the National Weather Service for three and a half years. This role was more day-to-day weather, forecasting, radar monitoring, and keeping track of the local weather and climate information. Despite his past in weather, Alek has always been interested in policy. “I got more interested in 2011. I did this program by the AMS called the policy colloquium. That was a 10-day course in DC where you learn about science policy and how science is used in government” he said. “That introduced me to when I had the chance to switch my job to this role in DC, I thought ‘oh I guess I'll give it a shot.’ And so far it's been different, but interesting.” Krautmann remarked that he has not gotten used to the lifestyle. “Funny, I notice how much more crowded and busy and faster it is. I mean that sounds so small town, but it's kind of a different pace on the east coast.”

NOAA has six divisions or line offices, one is the Weather Service, another is the Ocean Service, as well as the Satellite, Data, and Information Service, Krautmann’s current office. Most of what he does is prepare documents for their administrator’s meetings and events. Any time the director of NOAA has a meeting, an event, or has to give remarks on anything related to their division, he prepares the materials. This can be writing remarks or collecting background information about a program or project. “In the policy world in DC, we actually operate on memos, we call them a three things memo. The whole idea is to determine the three most important things that their boss would need to know going into a meeting or an event...It's weird in the policy world, I feel like a bureaucrat,” joked Krautmann.  

Though his job is not what he envisioned in school, he has always wanted to work for NOAA. “I'm really proud to be working for NOAA. No one in the world has an environmental monitoring, research, and prediction mission like NOAA does and so it's fun to be a part of that,” he said. One thing Krautmann didn't anticipate was that working in policy has removed him from the day-to-day weather and forecasting. “I didn't really expect that but to be effective at headquarters, I think they need people who are really familiar with the subject matter,” he said. “Even though I may be talking about decisional items or programming updated or budget items, it's all about weather satellites, and climate data archives and new environmental products...It’s safe to say that in DC, people have more of a public policy, public administration, or a communications background. They can be very knowledgeable in the field and very good, but I think having a few people like myself that are more natively familiar with science is helpful.”

One of the most interesting things Krautmann has done for work has been going to a rocket launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida. They had NOAA satellites on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy which launched in June. “It went up at 2:30 in the morning, it was so interesting and funny to be at this marathon event. That was a day that started at around 7 am and they launched at 2:30 am the next morning. It was crazy to be working it and part of it overnight.”  

Krautman was also recently embroiled in scandal. “So, I brought in bagels to work in DC for one of my coworkers, it was her last week, and so I ordered them from Panera which is a St. Louis company. So, growing up around St. Louis you get them sliced up like little pieces like bread, so you can share them and snack on them. My coworkers thought it was hilarious, so I posted a picture and tweeted that I have these St. Louis style bread sliced bagels and my coworkers thought it was a hit. A few days later people ended up seeing it and it made New York City people mad, it totally went viral and I just couldn't believe it was about bagels.”  

Do you have an opinion on bread sliced bagels? Have a look for yourself

In 2003 Windeon McDowell started as a student at OU. He first entered as a mechanical engineering major and eventually switched to professional writing. He never expected that he would end up being a farmer, that operates out of a shipping container.

Beginning his sophomore year McDowell started doing work study in food services. He has worked in most of the restaurants on campus as well as for OU catering and many of the same skills transferred between restaurants. Things got a little out of the ordinary when Dave Annis, the director of housing and food services, approached him about a project he described as “outside of the normal housing and food services” but something that would have a great impact on the university.

In comes the Leafy Green Machine™ by Freight Farms. It’s essentially a shipping container that is outfitted with all of the technology and infrastructure needed to do high yield, and consistent harvesting of crops. The main draw of the operation is that it takes up very little space and is climate controlled. This means no matter the location or weather conditions, you can always grow. In OU’s case, it grows the lettuce you see in our food.

When it first started, about 90% of the lettuce produced would go to the food on campus. Every week they would harvest and put out lettuce, but recently they have scaled back a lot. One of the main places the lettuce was used was in Cate Center, which is being repurposed and is no longer open to the public. Their product is being used in other locations, like Couch Cafeteria, but they have had to reevaluate their operation. “We do see some waste, only because you can't stop plants from growing”, said McDowell. “Once we knew about the changes we decided to pare down.” In addition to scaling back, they realize that students also want other greens like fresh herbs and kale. Now they have their sights set on the student living facility, Cross’ Acre Market.

One of the biggest shifts McDowell has noticed when it comes to student and their food is more transparency. “With all of the things that are happening, global warming, increased food recalls, more students want to know that their food is safe, what’s happening, where it’s coming from” said McDowell. He also notices many students are interested in the social responsibility aspects of food production. “When people are picking items like tomatoes for very little, students don't feel these practices are fair, and want to know, are we contributing to them.”

One student championed initiative was the Real Food Challenge. President Boren brought this into effect in Spring of 2015, joining a nationwide program aimed at sustainable food sourcing.

The idea was to get one quarter of the food on campus, to be locally sourced, in other words, anything in a 150-mile radius. McDowell believes that currently we are at about 18-20%, which includes using Oklahoma beef, eggs, and greens from the Freight Farm. If we expand to 250 miles, McDowell believes we are much closer to meeting 25%.

Tradition farming is facing several problems, one of which is the conversion of our natural lands to agriculture. “We are trying to sustain the agriculture practices to help people eat the same way they do now. With Freight Farms you are able to get large amounts of growth without harming our natural spaces” said McDowell. Though the Freight Farm is a huge producer, there is no way one Farm can cover the amount of lettuce we use on campus.

When you step inside the Freight Farm, it is filled with dozens of rows of hanging, purple, LED lights. This is actually a combination of red and blue lights. The plants need high and low frequency light to grow and these two colors satisfy that. There are 128 hanging LED lights and 256 towers in the Farm, this equates to 2 or 3 towers per light source. There are about 100 gallons of water stored in the tanks at the bottom, but they really only use about 5 or 6 gallons of water for the entire Farm. The stored water gets pushed up to the top, drips down through the towers, and recycles back down to the bottom where the process continues.

The growing cycle happens in stages. First is the seeding, from there it takes about a week or two to germinate, when the leaves begin to sprout. Then they transfer the plants over to the sealing trough where they grow for another week. Once plants are developed and the roots are firm enough to support the plant, they are transferred over to the towers. There they grow for at least four more weeks. From first seeding to end, the process takes anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. The way the Farm is designed, if they stagger the growing, they can harvest every week. At full production they pull out about 1,000 head a week, but McDowell says they haven't been at full production in a while. The Farm uses 160 kilowatt hours of power and they are able to get an acre or acre and a half worth of growth in one cycle. All of this may be cool but since we are in the smartphone age it wouldn’t truly be complete without the app McDowell has that can track plant nutrients, adjust the temperature, and power on or off the entire Farm.

Tabitha Kloss in front of the National Weather Service Water and Weather Forecasting building in Alaska.

Most four-year olds prefer to watch Barney or SpongeBob, but not Tabitha Kloss. She loved watching shows about extreme weather— specifically, tornadoes. Flash forward to 2018, Tabitha is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (OU) School of Meteorology (SoM).

“When I flew out to Oklahoma, toured the OU campus, and saw the National Weather Center (NWC) ... I knew immediately that it was the right fit.” She credits attending the University of Oklahoma as one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

Tabitha took advantage of all that SoM had to offer. For four years she was a “Weather Friend,” a student group of weather superheroes who engage with local children. She also worked as a student assistant in the NWC library and a data quality analyst for the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility.

Tabitha volunteered during her senior year with the National Weather Service, and spent a year working on research with the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms. The NWC was Tabitha’s second home.

Tabitha received the prestigious Hollings Scholarship during her junior year, which provided her funding for school and a paid summer internship. She spent that summer interning in Anchorage, Alaska conducting research projects with the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit and the Center Weather Service Unit. This internship heavily influenced Ms. Kloss’s future aspirations.

“Dr. Kloesel taught Weather Information in Support of Critical Decision Making which showed just how far-reaching the impacts of weather are on every day life.”

In the summer of 2018, Tabitha worked as the Meteorology intern for Southwest Airlines, a highly coveted position. She briefed the Network Director, Chief of Network, Chief of Dispatch, Air Traffic Control, and other representatives; an impressive feat for a new college graduate. Admittedly, this was originally nerve-wracking for Tabitha, but in the end, she said this made her a more confident communicator.

“My experience at OU has shaped who I am today in so many ways... I learned a lot about leadership during my time at OU... I developed a strong work ethic and effective time management... My professors pushed me and challenged me in the classroom, which made me more confident about what I learned.”

Tabitha is currently pursuing an MS in Safety Science with a focus in Aviation Safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. In the future, she hopes to return to work for Southwest Airlines or another airline, in either aviation meteorology or aviation safety. Currently she is in another prestigious internship with Southwest Airlines, but now she is in the aviation safety side of their program.

From classes, to internships, to clubs, the OU School of Meteorology has opened doors for Tabitha Kloss that she could never have imagined. “All of the faculty and staff in the college, as well as my friends, helped me to flourish and find my way, and for that, I could not be more grateful. Even if I’m not in Norman anymore, OU will always have my heart.”

John F. Crowley III (Jack) grew up milking cows and throwing newspapers in the bucolic Connecticut countryside.  He dreamed of becoming an architect that designed cities (later finding out that it was called city planning).  Crowley took the Greyhound Bus in 1963 to study Architecture at The University of Detroit only to get caught up in the 1965 war draft. 

The United States drafted troops to the front lines as the Vietnam War raged on throughout the 1960s. Crowley was one of those brave men who was called for war. For four years he put his education on hold to aid war efforts through language training and field artillery commissions.

Once released from his job as Chief of Foreign Military Training at the Field Artillery School in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in 1969, he looked to finish his interrupted education. The "nearest" place was said to have people in red pants chasing a covered wagon in circles and that seemed a lot better than circles of Howitzers. He received his bachelors in both History and Art History at OU before pursuing a masters in Regional and City Planning. These were the first steps that led to his pursuit of a doctorate in Geography, with a focus on Urban Studies and his dissertation in Urban Stormwater Management.

Academia began calling and Crowley answered the call. He moved to Georgia. There he sculpted not merely parks systems but future intellects as he worked as an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Georgia’s School of Environment and Design for a three-year stint.

Crowley entered corporate America in 1980 as the development vice president of Williams Realty Corporation. The company built more than $2 billion of mixed use projects in downtown Tulsa, Kansas City, San Antonio, Denver, and Charlotte during his tenure.

“Planners and geographers are capable of managing and directing a very broad spectrum of career undertakings” Crowley said, noting his success across many diverse companies and fields.

While Crowley enjoyed his successes with Williams Realty Corporation, he longed for a return to his academic days. Crowley decided to return to the University in Georgia more than 15 years after he left. He served as the Dean of the College of Environment and Design for 10 years. He also founded the Master’s program for Environmental Planning and Design. He continues teaching and managing the program today.  In addition to educating new planning and design practitioners, Crowley spreads the "Gospel of Good Development" at an American Chartered Agriculture University (Zamorano Univ.) in Honduras that serves students from all over the Caribbean and Central and South America.  He also serves as Secretary to the (International) Board of Trustees and Chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

Crowley continues to keep in touch with those at OU and has done so for the last 40 years. He recalls the many changes time brings, like how when he began at OU the Geography program was housed in Dale Hall. Today, the program is housed in Sarkeys Energy Center and has called a couple of difference colleges home.

Geography also expanded academically with the additions of Environmental Sustainability and GIS degrees to the repertoire. These are academic journeys as diverse as the myriad of related professions Crowley practiced.     


“We got the call just a few days before Christmas, and I wouldn’t even answer it,” said Dean Moore when asked about his new NASA grant. “I had already been told NO three times on similar proposals and I couldn’t take another one. I was beyond shocked when they called again and told me I was getting the grant!”

Moore is the principal investigator of a space mission called GeoCarb, which will study the carbon cycle of the Americas. GeoCarb will launch in 2022 and will help explain how carbon moves around the world and what influences that movement. “Our goal for the GeoCarb Mission is to provide observations and demonstrate methods to realize a transformational advance in our scientific understanding of the global carbon cycle—we are not modest!”, said Moore. The instrument will be attached to a commercial communications satellite like a barnacle - just renting some space on the bottom. The idea that NASA will partner with a communication business is a new idea, but one that is looking very promising for the future. “If this model works, NASA will have a whole new approach to studying Earth.” NASA has been studying Earth in a program they call Mission to Planet Earth and have launched other carbon missions, OCO-2 and OCO-3. Those missions orbit the earth and see pieces of the information GeoCarb will see. One benefit of GeoCarb is that the satellite will set in a Geo-stationary position on the Americas and do wall-to-wall monitoring every day.

While $166 million is not much to NASA, it’s huge for the University of Oklahoma. This constitutes the university’s largest grant in all its history and sets us up to compete for other prestigious grants. “This is an outstanding opportunity for the University of Oklahoma to be noticed by not only NASA, but other research groups,” said Moore.

Moore once had a job offer from NASA, but turned it down to come to Norman thanks to the wisdom of his late wife Gail. “Once she had been to Norman she told me we weren’t going to DC after all.” He even noted the time when his daughter was little and used the word ‘funner’ to describe a play date with a friend. Gail proposed to move to Norman because “it will be ‘funner’ than DC”. She influenced many of the family’s big decisions with grace and charm.

OU is a leader in lots of areas from athletics to medicine and now we can claim space science as well. This mission will also have a fun surprise painted on rocket: “Boomer Sooner! Beat Texas!”

Back in high school Heather Stelter thought that recycling was a hoax and that green initiatives were a waste of time. Today she has done a complete 180 and is working to implement sustainable practices in the fashion industry. She began as an undergraduate at the University of Northern Colorado studying American military history and African textile history. She cites her studies in African textile history as what drove her to go into textile preservation. While in college, Stelter visited many museums around the world but said the National Museum-Decorative Arts and History of Ireland was her favorite museum because of the unique textile history in Dublin. Their culture emphasizes sustainability for clothing and it’s ingrained in their way of life. Due to the poverty that plagued Ireland “part of the reason they were able to care for clothing is because it was so expensive, and it was very inaccessible to a lot of people” says Stelter. People had to learn how to repair clothing, and take really good care of what they had because they didn't have much. One aspect of Stelter’s research is figuring out how to get consumers to care about their clothing again in a world full of affordable fast fashion. The ease and accessibility is what consumer love, but fast fashion creates billions of pounds of textile waste per year, which usually ends up sitting in landfills or being burned and creating pollution.

After college Stelter began working at the Greeley History Museum in Colorado where she helped preserve a textile collection that had been left in storage for two decades. Textiles are extraordinarily expensive and difficult to maintain, mostly because sewing, darning and repair are skills most people don't have anymore. Finding someone who has that specialization is really tricky but Stelter already had many of the skills needed. The Greeley collection included about 1,000 textiles and were anywhere from 20 to 130 years old. Prior to her arrival, the collection had been moved from building to building, stored in lockers, and musty old moldy buildings. “The fact that this clothing was still intact is a testament to how well it was made in the first place and how well it had been cared for throughout its lifetime” said Stelter. She said that “working with those piece and helping to put on exhibits...really got me interested in how we extend lifetimes of current clothing.” The Greeley Museum also has a centennial village attached in an attempt to make living history possible, part of which includes replicas of clothing. “We did this whole display before I left on 100 years of dress in Greeley in the Union Colony, and people from all over Greeley...would come in. People had stories about remembering seeing their grandmother in that or having seen an aunt or a friend wear something. It was a really cool connection, and to see people have those fond memories of clothing really sparked a lot of my study for sustainability.”

After leaving the Greeley Museum, Stelter worked full time for a women's athletic wear company called Athleta. Athleta was one of the first B Corporations in the United States, which means the company puts as much money into the environment as they do creating and advertising their products. This includes supporting fair labor practices, being credible and transparent about their sourcing, and making materials that are either from recycled objects or are recyclable. “It's a really rigorous process, there's a lot of vetting to it, so to have earned that tag, to be a B corp is a huge deal and it really means you are buying from one of the most sustainable companies you can” said Stelter. She mainly focused on community outreach programs at her branch, working to bring fitness and healthy diets to girls and women. Though she enjoyed her work, Stelter felt like pushing sales goals was counterproductive to her belief that consumers should purchase less and waste less clothing.

She settled on OU for her masters degree because of the notable sustainability program. Many professors have long sustainability careers and were pioneers in the Oklahoma Wind Initiative, which has pushed Oklahoma to be the 3rd highest wind producing state in the US. Though there is no specialization in fashion sustainability, Stelter doesn't see it as an issue. “There may not be anybody here who focuses on fashion but there are people here who focus on agriculture. Well agriculture directly laces over a lot of my research because I have to look at cotton production, I mean we even look at flax, hemp, and pineapple production...there's a huge cross over. Same thing with people who focus on employment initiatives and fair labor practice, which directly overlays with the fashion industry.” Sustainability is the nexus that has many different aspects. There's so much overlap of subject matter in sustainability that it doesn't really matter what you study.

Since Stelter’s main goal is to involve consumers in sustainable practices, her thesis is developing an app for your phone that will let you scan and enter the information from the “Made In” tag on any piece of clothing you're buying first hand or from a second hand store. The app will give 2 scores, says Stelter, “the first score is a sustainability score so it’ll tell you how environmentally friendly the garment is overall, from where it was produced to what fibers were used in it. The second score is a lifetime expectancy, so lifetime expectancy would help you understand about how many washes the item would last you, whether its durable or not.”

This idea is based on the tagging that Patagonia and Athleta currently have where they discuss the perks of their clothing. It’ll tell you if the garment is water resistant, naturally grown, and even pesticide free. Stelter is also proposing in her thesis that companies add a wash expectancy to their tags. Whenever you would pick up a piece of clothing in a store, on the bottom of the price tag it would say about how many washes you would expect it to last and whether or not that's worth your investment.

Unfortunately, sustainability in fashion is still in its infancy. “10 years ago this wasn't a conversation you could have with anybody” said Stelter. “A year ago we were still talking about how many bags Burberry (a high end clothing retailer) was burning and that it was ok that they were burning them because it was preserving their integrity as a brand. Just 2 months ago Burberry announced that they are no longer burning bags, so this is all very new.” In February 2019 Stelter attended a United Nations sustainability fashion summit, which kicked off Men’s Fashion Week in New York. “It's really cool to go and kick off fashion week with a bunch of designers and students within the industry” said Stelter. The summit was hosted by the ethical clothing company Slow Factory, who has completely stopped production of any clothing until they can find a way to produce items that are totally circular, meaning they won’t end up in the waste cycle. The summit had panelists who were designers, textile developers, and fashion industry professionals, but it also included biologists, NASA Astronauts, MIT Lab researchers, and environmentalists in the discussion. They reminded the industry of the role of global stakeholders and reemphasized that sustainability cannot touch one industry without touching the other. “You can't just talk about reforming how clothing is made or wasted without talking about how people are treated, without talking how people are educated, or how we forward science” said Stelter.

Stelter plans to complete a PhD that focuses on furthering her app and in the future she wants to work as a professor teaching general sustainability. “I really think it should be something that's taught the same as an English class. Everyone has to learn it at some point and I think unless we start teaching it that way, we’re never going to see people fully get into the circular cycle.” She hopes to develop both professional and student programs that allow people to learn sustainability and increase their knowledge or ability as the field grows. This summer she will be interning at the company Natural Fiber Welding that produces products such as natural plant based leather, free of synthetic glues or binding. They are currently working on developing a fully cotton yarn, welded together from other recycled cotton fabrics. With this yarn, they can create a cotton sewing thread, unlike the usual polyester or silk, which can create fully recyclable garments. Stelter will be their sustainability intern, creating samples, testing products, helping with Life Cycle Analysis, and assisting with their cradle-to-cradle program.


William W Schriever

Bill Schriever

August 19, 1926 – March 1, 2019

This past March the College lost a dedicated and passionate donor, Dr. William “Bill” Schriever. Anyone who knew Bill knew he wanted to solve problems and make the world a better place, starting with his community, and carrying on to his county, state, and planet.

Bill had a lifelong interest in politics, and he believed in studying issues in depth. That habit came from his academic background. Bill's father was a professor of physics and head of the Physics Department at the University of Oklahoma from the 1920s into the 1950s. Bill received his undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1946, then went to the University of Illinois and then to Harvard in pursuit of a PhD.

If Bill got into a discussion with someone over something, he would often give them a copy of a favorite book on that subject. He assumed that if someone was interested in a subject then surely they would want to read a good book about it. Dean Berrien Moore at the University of Oklahoma was always interested and he read the books Bill sent him because they were always on point. Besides a generous gift that will establish the William Schriever Endowed Professorship in A&GS and the Schriever Graduate Stipend, he also wanted OU to have numerous books, manuscripts, and memorabilia from not only his personal studies, but also those of his fathers. There were over 60 plus years of material covering climate, physics, and meteorology, plus many other topics in his wonderful donation.

Bills passion for learning and generous spirit will truly be missed. He made the world a better place, and for that we are grateful. 

Dr. Cameron Homeyer drinks his tea from a Mike Wazowski mug (a popular character from the film Monsters, Inc.) underscoring his sense of humor and personable nature. After finishing his Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Cameron began searching for faculty positions. The University of Oklahoma (OU) caught his eye immediately. “OU was really high on my list... it made the most sense for me and my family because the reputation of this program, what it does, the quality that it strives for in both the education and research, and the support that the program has from the university at all levels in terms of enabling our success in meteorology. It is just unmatched in other places.”

In July of 2014, Cameron began his career at OU and  as an Assistant Professor and the Associate Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Meteorology (SoM). He stressed the importance of funding when it comes to research projects. He launched his Convection, Chemistry, and Climate (CCC) Research Group using a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). CCC studies radar meteorology, the Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere.

Dr. Homeyer recently received a new grant from NASA for his “Earth Ventures Suborbital 3” proposal.  This project aims to increase the understanding of the summer stratosphere and the linkages between convection, large-scale dynamics, and atmospheric composition. This grant brings $843,000 to OU and his research group, allowing for advances in computational abilities and real-time radar products. Additionally, the grant will fund two students to assist with research and field work.

With the new capabilities of aircraft, satellite, and radar observations, Dr. Homeyer and his researchers have more information than ever before to analyze. While the goal of his research isn’t directly to improve early warning times, it could prove to be an outcome in the future. “…it’s possible that a forecaster could use that information to inform their decision-making, and potentially push the warning issuance up further in time and allow it to be valid for a longer time period; because they can have more confidence in making that decision at an earlier time.”
One of the most significant outcomes of this research thus far has been in severe hail events. Dr. Homeyer’s group focused on unique satellite features called “Above-anvil Cirrus Plumes,” which occur when strong thunderstorms inject ice into the stratosphere. “We found that if we only used that cloud-top signature from satellite to update existing weather service warnings to say that we expect to have two inch or greater diameter hail, we capture 99% of all events…”

Dr. Homeyer is a husband and father of three, with another on the way very soon, and he enjoys getting his kids excited about science in the same way that he does. “… if you introduce them to things they can see, or hear, or feel, then they’re more prone to be curious about that over time.” Every year he grows a garden and teaches his kids about the complexity of nature through flowers and leaves, and each time something happens with the weather, he takes them outside and explains what is going on. “The only reason I study the atmosphere is because I really want to understand how those things work... I want to figure out why, and how, and what. You have to be driven by that curiosity.”

Can one class change your life?  That’s exactly what happened for DGES alumna Stacia Canaday.

Starting out as a geology major, Canaday stepped out of her comfort zone and took a leap of faith. A leap of faith that paid off and led to a nearly 20-yearlong romance with GIS.

Enlivened by the resources offered at the University of Oklahoma, Canaday loved the smaller college feel within the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability. She felt connected to her roots.  The balance brought by such resources opened the door to new relationships and opportunities, like national conferences and working in the Dean’s Office. These experiences opened Canaday’s eyes to what universities and their alumni can offer students.

The summer before her senior year, she began working in an undergraduate research program utilizing GIS and Mesonet data through the National Science Foundation.  Her plans to become an analyst or technician post-graduation were now in question. One of her professors encouraged Canaday to look into the business side of GIS. In 2001 she graduated to begin a career at a survey and consulting company.  She learned about business and developing relationships, but more importantly, she became connected to ESRI, Canaday’s current employer.

ESRI is the developer of ArcGIS, one of the world’s most powerful mapping and spatial analysis softwares.  The mission of ESRI is to solve problems.

“The axiom that everything is somewhere holds true,” Canaday said about her work. “Whether you run a business, manage a city, or make a difference in the world, why not use maps and location to communicate and make better decisions.”

Canaday’s journey with ESRI began as an instructor. She turned her opportunities into growth to become a sales manager on the Utilities Team.  She leads and inspires a team of seven account managers who complete projects for companies ranging from electricity to telecommunications.

Canaday loves how much her current job may change from day to day. She enjoys learning new things and she rarely goes a day without learning something new.

“One day I’ll be working with an electric utility - experimenting with infrared sensors on drones to detect busted solar panels based on their IR signatures - and then next I’ll be talking to a group of people at a cable company working to figure out the best areas to offer low-cost or free internet service to underserved populations,” she said.

Learning new things day-to-day means dealing with all sorts of new and upcoming technologies. Canaday has seen her fair share of technological improvements over the past 18 years in the GIS industry.

“I am fascinated by the democratization of GIS and how accessible GIS has become,” Canaday said. “Sure, we still need GIS professionals, but the way technology has enabled more people in an organization or community to use GIS has actually freed up the GIS pros to be more creative and tackle even bigger challenges.”

Canaday wants students and alumni to know the many great opportunities ESRI has to offer. ESRI is a great place to create a career and grow. She encourages those in GIS to pursue their passion while staying up-to-date on the latest trends and technology at ESRI.

“Whether you are just starting out or in the middle of your career, ESRI is at the forefront of GIS science and we need more people from OU driving the industry forward,” Canaday said. “Don’t be intimidated… If I can do it, anyone can!”

In June of 2017 Dr. Laurel Smith and her family relocated to Puebla, Mexico, where she co-led a three-week summer program, “Indigenous Music and Media,” with a colleague from OU’s School of Music, Dr. Jennifer Slater. Students also traveled to the Sierra Norte mountain community of Cuetzalan, where they visited the Indigenous cooperative Tosepan, which pursues organic and fair trade coffee production, operates a community radio station, and fights for environmental justice.

After the three-week “Indigenous Music and Media” program, Smith returned to the city of Puebla in early August, when she assumed the position of faculty in residence at OU’s Puebla Study Center for the 2017-2018 academic year. During this time, she taught OU students in three classes: “Regional Geographies of Indigenous Media,” “Indigenous Peoples and Resources,” and two rounds of “Environment and Society.” The OU in Puebla program is embedded in the campus UPAEP, a Mexican university where OU students took the rest of their courses. Students either lived with Mexican families or stayed in OU apartments with their peers.

In addition to teaching OU students, Smith had the opportunity to reanimate her research related to Indigenous media made in Oaxaca. She and a grad student interviewed a group of women who made a video in 2003 called Eso viene sucediendo/This has been happening about the violation of Indigenous women’s reproductive rights by medical professionals. Doctors “bullied women into having IUDs inserted without consultation, education or even consent” said Smith. Because the women’s testimonies were recorded on VHS tape more than 15 years earlier, Smith reached out to Witness (an NGO based in NYC) that had supported the video’s production. “I asked them would they please, please, please make that video available online,”. Fortunately they did, and the creators were excited to once again utilize the video because reproductive rights violations in the region continue to this day despite efforts to draw attention to the problem.

In June of 2018, Smith co-led the “Journey to Latin America” education abroad program with OU political science professor, Dr. Charles Kenney. This program consisted of Smith’s class “Indigenous Peoples of Contemporary Peru” and Kenney’s class, “The History and Politics of Peru.” The students stayed with families in various places including “swanky” areas as well as marginalized area that was a shanty town 20-30 years ago.

Smith is honored to return to the position of graduate liaison in the department of geography and environmental sustainability. Smith is now looking to create a service learning course in Puebla that would allow OU students with website creation and entrepreneurial skills to help women promote their enterprise, and in the process, further empower themselves, their families and their community.

Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 2 to serve as President Donald Trump’s science advisor.  The meteorologist and former University of Oklahoma vice president for research was nominated by the President to head the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). This position helps create policy for science, but also provides science to help create policy.

Droegemeier said of his role, “"Science for policy is where the job of this office is to make sure we bring the best possible science to the table when there is any kind of policy decision to be made," he said. "Whether the policy deals with a potential disease outbreak, water contamination, the creation of new industries, removing regulatory barriers — science usually has something to say about that. We make sure we bring the best science forward so that the president and members of the executive branch have what they need to make decisions."

This is not his first political appointment: He was appointed to the National Science Board, which governs the National Science Foundation, by George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and served in former Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s cabinet as the secretary of science and technology. He said he enjoys communicating scientific principles to non-scientists.

Droegemeier had the support of Oklahoma's senators throughout the confirmation process. Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma City Republican, said on twitter, "Dr. Droegemeier is a highly qualified scientist and researcher, and I am confident he will serve our nation well."

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, a Tulsa Republican, also congratulated Droegemeier on Twitter, calling him a good friend. Sen. Jim Inhofe, another Tulsa Republican, said the OU professor is the right person for the job.

"The president requires the most well-qualified advisers and Dr. Droegemeier provides the experience and ability necessary to get the job done right," Inhofe said in a statement.

An expert on extreme weather, Droegemeier earned a B.S. with Special Distinction in Meteorology in 1980 from the University of Oklahoma, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in atmospheric science in 1982 and 1985, respectively, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined the University of Oklahoma faculty in September, 1985 and in 1987 was named a Presidential Young Investigator by the National Science Foundation. He served as a faculty member until taking a leave of absence to serve in the White House. He will be the first meteorologist to serve as a president's science adviser; all others have been physicists.

A&GS Friends Society

To support the amazing activities happening within the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, the College and its Board of Visitors is proud to establish the Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences Friends Society. Funds raised from memberships will be used to support the educational learning experience for the college’s students, faculty, and staff.
Benefits of membership include an annual membership party, AGU and AMS reception tickets, as well as special access to College events. We encourage you to make a financial contribution to support these worthy efforts and to get involved with our friends!
Membership Levels:                        
$100 Annual Member (annual membership fee)
$500 Supporting Member (annual membership fee)
$1,000 per year Sustaining Member (5 year commitment)
$2,000 per year Founding Member (5 year commitment)

Click here to join!
Thank you to the following Founding Members who helped start this great group:
Edwin Adlerman, Fred Carr, James Davis, Claude Duchon, Mike Eilts, Joe Friday, Jeff Kimpel, Mohan Ramamurthy, Vicki & Lynn Rose, John Snow, and Chuck Thompson

Dr. Berrien Moore III, dean of the College of Atmospheric & Geographic Sciences and director of the National Weather Center, discusses how the NWC impacts research and student engagement at The University of Oklahoma.