A Fashionable Climate Model

Nov 4, 2013

Some clever and well-dressed scientists are using a pun to spur some fun educational outreach.

The Climate Models Calendar is a project featuring scientists from Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Yes, people who create climate models are now climate models.

Rebecca Fowler and Francesco Fiondella, who are science communicators with two of the climate institutions, created the project. They teamed up with photographers Charlie Naebeck and Jordan Matter to produce the photos for the calendar.

I exchanged a few emails with the Fiondella and Fowler. Fiondella wrote about how the project came about:

The original idea for the calendar likely came from sleep- and caffeine-deprivation, which generally causes me to get anomalously corny. The play on words was too perfect for my brain to let go of! Once I shared it with Rebecca, that was it.

Fowler says that they kept bringing the joke up. Then they started telling others about it. They knew they were on to something.

She notes that the big goal is to educate the public about climate science beyond the traditional way, a.k.a. research results:

Climate science communication often focuses on results of studies or implications for policy, revealing little about the broad scope of climate science, what the process of doing research involves and the diverse group of people behind it. Photos and content in the calendar address these issues, with the goal of humanizing science and helping people to understand all the cool stuff scientists are learning about our planet.

Another goal of the Climate Models project is to encourage scientists to think outside the box when it comes to communicating about their work.

Video: climate scientist models share why they participated in the project.

As someone who has a long history of working in the arts, I found another thing Fiondella shared particularly intriguing. These are some more innovative climate science ‘communications’ efforts which bring together arts and science collaborators:

Our colleagues at PositiveFeedback have been putting together art/science speed-dating events for the last few years, to encourage collaboration between the two communities. They are also working with the SuperHero Clubhouse to put on two amazing theatre productions, Don't Be Sad Flying Ace! and Field Trip: A Climate Cabaret.

Some scientists are now using crowd funding sites to raise money for their research. which also serves as a way to engage nontraditional audiences. University of Washington’s Dan Jaffe turned to the science crowd funding site Microryza to support his coal dust research. Biologists Jennifer Calkins and Jennifer Gee raised money from Kickstarter for their research on the elegant quail in Mexico.

The Climate Models Calendar has been getting a pretty healthy response so far. They recently launched a website which has already logged 10,000 visitors. And, less than a week after launching their Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to print the calendar, they are already halfway to their goal.

Climate scientists/models Tufa Dinku (International Research Institute for Climate and Society) and Nichela Biasutti (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory). Credit: Charlie Naebeck.

If you are a scientist or organization doing unique projects to engage people in your work, (or know of someone who is) we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email or join our Public Insight Network.

HT to Grist who drew me in with their juicy headline.

-- Toni Tabora-Roberts

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