J6.6 Bridging the Gap between Applied Climatologists and Weather-Sensitive Decision-Makers: Lessons Learned from Experiences in an Educational Setting

Tuesday, 8 January 2019: 11:45 AM
North 231AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
David Changnon, Northern Illinois Univ., DeKalb, IL

More than 20 years ago an applied climate course was developed and added to the curriculum in Northern Illinois University’s (NIU) undergraduate meteorology program. This course had faculty-mentored student groups working directly with weather-sensitive decision makers to address applied research questions and develop decision support tools in sectors that included agriculture, energy, transportation, insurance, and recreation.

The success of semester-long projects depended on a number of factors including level of interest in the project by the end-user; student critical thinking, communication, and creative skills; level of interaction between students, faculty mentor (i.e., applied climatologist), and end-user; and access to data. The goal of the engaged learning endeavor is the development of a practical decision support tool that will help the end user make decisions. Much of the success in these projects depends upon the relationship that develops between the applied climatologist and the decision maker. Lessons learned from these interactions include:
1) Become acquainted with the decision makers’ organization and develop a questionnaire to learn more about how the decision maker is impacted by weather.
2) Develop a long-term view to relationships with decision makers—you limit the opportunities if you take the “one and done” perspective.
3) Assess success of the relationship after the project is completed.

The success of an applied climatologist is generally more dependent on the skills that they develop than on their educational background. I believe that successful applied climatologists must be climate “savvy,” must have well developed written and oral communication skills, are creative, innovative problem solvers who have a practical side to them, and are individuals who can put their ego aside and let the end user have a major role in the project

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