The Geoscience Department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant for an extensive education and outreach project that aims to give students a richer understanding of atmospheric science, severe weather, and weather radar systems.
The Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW) mobile radar system is being operated by HWS students and faculty from Feb. 13 to March 1 for a project led by Associate Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird and Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nicholas Metz. About 70 HWS students will partake in a combination of fieldwork and coursework, immersing themselves in the study of meteorology, and participating in educational outreach events across central and western New York.
The DOW mobile radar is a national meteorological observing facility managed and operated by the Center for Severe Weather Research. It has been used to collect measurements of tornadoes, hurricanes, and other types of severe weather across the United States and also has been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” reality series.
“We are very fortunate to have received this grant and opportunity from the National Science Foundation,” says Laird. “These grants bringing the DOW mobile radar to college and university campuses for student and faculty use are typically provided to larger programs. We are excited to bring the DOW radar to HWS and provide our students an outstanding hands-on educational experience.”
Students having an opportunity to directly participate in the project are enrolled in one of four atmospheric science courses offered this spring: “Weather Measurement,” “Weather Analysis,” “Mesoscale & Severe Weather” and “Introduction to Meteorology.”
For the project, students are conducting a variety of research activities with the DOW radar, including the planning and deployment of the radar system along with the collection and analysis of data. Students also participate in several outreach events, as well as create information content for educational posters to be used during these events. The outreach events are designed to offer students, teachers, and the general public in the Upstate New York region the opportunity to tour the DOW mobile radar, learn about different types of severe weather, and find out about careers in meteorology.
“Educational outreach is a large portion of the grant and is seen as very important by the National Science Foundation. We are excited to work with the DOW mobile radar to bring more understanding of meteorology to students, teachers, and the general public across central and western New York,” Laird says.
Laird, Metz and their students are bringing the DOW for outreach visits to several area school districts, the National Weather Service field offices in Binghamton and Buffalo, and events on the HWS campus, including one held on Friday, Feb. 22. A day-long educational outreach event also is planned at the Rochester Museum and Science Center in Rochester, N.Y.
Laird joined the HWS faculty in 2004. He teaches a variety of atmospheric science courses within the Geoscience Department. On campus, Laird chairs the Individual Major Faculty committee, is a member of the Provost’s Academic Advising Task Force, and leads an active, externally-funded research program involving undergraduates. He earned a B.S. from University of New York at Oswego in meteorology, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in atmospheric science.
Metz joined the Geoscience Department faculty in 2011 and also teaches classes that focus on atmospheric science. He received a B.S. from Valparaiso University in meteorology, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Albany in atmospheric science. Previously, Metz taught at the University at Albany for which he received the 2010 Vonnegut Award for excellence in teaching.
At HWS, the Geoscience Department provides an outstanding framework for students to advance their knowledge of atmospheric science, hydrology, and geology. Students develop essential scientific skills in a strong liberal arts environment and prepare for a variety of careers. Geoscience students can self-design a concentration of study and often are engaged in local research projects and grant-funded fieldwork. The department is comprised of distinguished faculty who are engaged in their teaching and research with students while excelling as contributors to their respective scientific fields.