The Thrill of Real Life Research

Research is creating new knowledge. –Neil Armstrong

            I haven’t written a blog post for a while. It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say. I always have something to say—just ask my family! The reason I’ve been away is that I’ve been lucky enough to immerse myself in the research for and writing of my new book, The Science of Weather and Climate: Rain, Sleet, and the Rising Tide, (Nomad Press, 2019).

Writing this book put me way out of my comfort zone as I tackled a new subject with a fast turnaround time. Was there a lot to learn? Yes! Was it challenging? Of course! Was I worried? No way!

You see, I knew exactly how my research process would go because I’ve been through it before. I knew that it would begin slowly as I read picture books through college textbooks, took notes, gathered facts and established a foundation of book knowledge. But I also knew that once my knowledge base was solid, my curiosity and interest would take me beyond book learning to real life research, where my learning would go from interesting to downright fun. And I was right!

As I learned about weather and climate, my curiosity led me on multiple field trips to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). It led me to conversations with meteorologists and to lectures on weather at the University of Colorado. I was inspired to create my own at-home weather station and I began keeping a daily weather journal, which of course required that I put into practice all the cool new things I was learning about predicting weather from my book research. My real life research had me doing experiments to create clouds and inspired me to measure my own carbon footprint. I watched documentaries on storm chasers and took lots of photos of different weather events. And those are just a few of my many weather and climate adventures.

My real life research was exhilarating. But then, I knew it would be. I knew that the more I learned, the more I’d want to learn. I knew that the more immersed I was in the subject, the more I would want to apply it to my day-to-day existence. I knew that creating real life connections to my book learning would take my research to new heights.

Learning about weather wasn’t just enjoyable, it was life changing. Now I don’t just look at a cloud and acknowledge its beauty, I also think about the fact that it contains millions, yes millions, of water droplets. When the wind blows, I notice which direction it is coming from and try to predict, the kind of weather it is blowing in. And when I watch the weather forecast on TV, I actually know what the meteorologist is talking about.

I truly believe that this joy of learning is available to anyone who takes the time and energy to figure out ways to take their research beyond the book and into real life. Trust me, it is worth the effort!