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Rachel Atkins

Global Change Fellow Alumna | Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences | North Carolina State University

2015 – 2016 Global Change Fellow

Where are they now?

Rachel is working as a Hydrologist at the USGS Utah Water Science Center in Salt Lake City, UT.

Statement of Purpose:

I am a second year Ph.D. student at NC State University working with Dr. Karen McNeal. My research involves better understanding how to best communicate climate science to a variety of publics using cutting edge technologies that monitor user physiological responses and attention, such as eye-tracking. Eye-tracking uses low-level infrared light to track the path of an individual’s eye movements either on a stationary object such as a computer screen or dynamic environments. My aims are to develop a better understanding of various stakeholder needs and perceptions about scientific products related to climate change (graphs, figures, interfaces, etc.) and to determine most effective communication practices. Often this involves identifying stakeholder needs and addressing potential misconceptions, perceptions, and information deficits/misinformation.

Description of Research:

As scientists, we create, view and interpret scientific data much more frequently than non-scientists. Therefore, there are skills, techniques and background information that scientists often apply to data interpretation that non-scientists do not. However, many of the same graphs, figures and interfaces that are used in the science community are also used to communicate climate information to stakeholders. My current research is investigating differences between expert (scientist) and novice (stakeholder) gaze paths while viewing climate change information. If scientists can develop a better understand of how stakeholders are viewing the climate information presented to them, they can determine the most effective communication mechanisms for their intended audience. My research touches on many of the science themes, it most closely aligns with Science Theme 1, Climate and Other Appropriate Projections to Use for Resource Management.

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