Researcher Spotlight – Greta Easthom

2020-21 Global Change Fellow

PhD Student, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences 
Dr. Gary Lackmann

Every year the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center funds a multi-disciplinary cohort of Global Change Fellows representing colleges across NC State University. Here are some highlights about 2020-21 Fellow, Greta Easthom and the applied research she’s conducting.

About You

What do you study?
I study Atmospheric Rivers (AR) – filamentary corridors of water vapor that rise up from the tropics and account for more than 90% of poleward moisture transport and drench the coastal western United States with about half of its annual precipitation. While this rainfall can be beneficial for drought and wildfire alleviation, other times these systems lead to more insidious impacts such as life-threatening mudslides and floods. In a warming climate, increased atmospheric moisture will likely lead to the intensification of AR-related events, as dynamic and thermodynamic components interplay in a positive feedback to enhance moisture convergence. My research, under the guidance of Dr. Gary Lackmann and the experts at the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution in La Jolla, focuses on ascertaining these forecast predictors through pseudo global warming simulations and working in tandem with water resource managers and operational meteorologists to communicate these results to the public.

What (or who) influenced you to go into this field of study?
My undergraduate professor and research advisor, Dr. Ross Salawitch, inspired me, after I took his honors seminar freshman year on the intersection of climate change, politics, and economics. Before his course, I hadn’t considered majoring in science, as I had an affinity for journalism, but he impressed upon me the need for good writers in our field. Ever since, I’ve had a passion for climate communication as I think that everyone has the capacity to understand these issues if we as scientists do our part to frame them in an accessible way. As such, my dream job would entail pursuing the fascinating research I partake in now, while practicing communication. In addition, I also owe part of my success to my undergraduate professors Dr. Tim Canty and Dr. Safa Motesharrei, who helped me embark upon my first research project and one that involved a multidisciplinary intersection of passions.

What are three words your friends would use to describe you?
I think my friends would describe me as driven, outgoing, and dedicated.

About Your Global Change Fellow Experience

What has been the most rewarding part or your favorite part of being a SE CASC Global Change Fellow?
The most rewarding part of being an SE CASC Global Change Fellow has been honing my scientific communication and leadership skills not only to the public through the opportunity to moderate seminars, but also to my fellow scientists in multidisciplinary fields. It has been eye-opening to recognize that we can all be working and chipping away toward a common goal of climate resiliency, while coming at it from different angles. 

What advice would you give to a student that is interested in getting involved in your field?
Even when things seem challenging, keep pushing. My most difficult semesters to date have been my first semester of atmospheric science in undergrad and currently my second semester of graduate school but I know that the end goal of receiving my dream degree of a PhD will be ultimately rewarding. 

What advice would you give to an incoming Global Change Fellow to get the most out of their experience?
Don’t be afraid to practice a component of communication that you’re not as skilled at and make sure to build relationships with the other fellows. While I excel and enjoy writing, I don’t consider myself a very confident public speaker, but I was able to successfully moderate and host two seminars with the help of my cohort. Recruiting the expertise of Capital Weather Gang and climate journalist Andrew Freedman at the Washington Post was also fulfilling as it brought full-circle the connections I’ve created through the academic opportunities afforded to me by both the University of Maryland and now NC State! I’m just so grateful to everyone who has supported me along the way, especially this year.