Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tracking Sea Changes

Hundreds of Spring Branch ISD students and interested district residents heard recently about the latest work in climate research and global ocean observation. A federal researcher hosted by the JASON science program held a public forum on Jan. 15.

Diane Stanitski, Ed.D., a climatologist and program manager with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shared personal career insights and science research with 800 students at three schools. She also spoke during an evening community presentation held at Spring Woods High School.

Dr. Stanitski spoke to students as a visiting school host researcher through JASON Learning, a nonprofit group managed by Sea Research Inc. in partnership with the National Geographic Society.

She spoke to students at Westchester Academy for International Studies, Memorial High School and Spring Woods Middle School about real-world science research and careers.

Dr. Stanitski is based in Silver Spring, Md., with NOAA. She coordinates the NOAA Adopt a Drifter Program, which gives schools and students an opportunity to adopt sea buoys that are now deployed as part of a global observation system to record and measure changes in the oceans and Earth climate.

By adopting a buoy, schools can make direct observations, collect and analyze data, and apply what is learned to current information about Earth’s climate and rapid changes that have been measured scientifically.

The Global Drifter Program began in 2004. Since then, the program has placed roughly 1,000 drifters, or buoys, in the oceans.

During her evening public talk at the high school, Dr. Stanitski described her path into research and a career at NOAA. Beginning with family trips, she developed an interest in the outdoors and climate. Since earning advanced degrees in geography and climatology, she has conducted atmospheric research and study in Greenland, Alaska, the Grand Canyon and on the world’s oceans.

She taught climate science at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania for 16 years, and she recently taught at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Direct science observations suggest that Earth’s climate is changing rather dramatically, she told the audience. These direct, scientific observations include:

  • Carbon dioxide readings at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory have increased during the past 50 years from 320 to 400 parts per million.
  • Ice melt occurred across 97 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet in 2012; and 
  • Global sea rise has been measured at 3.2 millimeters per year

The mechanisms behind all these recorded changes are not understood in a perfect way. “We really do know a lot about our world, but we don’t know a lot about many things, and this is where we need new people to come into these areas and work in these fields,” she told the public gathering of interested adults and students.

Dr. Stanitski currently serves as a physical scientist in the NOAA Climate Observation Division.

Learn more about the JASON Project


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