Teaching faculty at ESSIC use extra time in summer to travel, research

During the school year, more than 10 ESSIC faculty members spend time teaching in the classrooms at the University of Maryland. But when school is out for the summer, several of them travel the world researching, delivering lectures and collaborating with colleagues.

Director Antonio Busalacchi, Professor Raghu Murtugudde and Associate Professor Michael Evans, all devote summer time to travel internationally.

Busalacchi said that international cooperation has direct implications for ESSIC, such as trans-disciplinary research with colleagues in fields such as ecology, biochemistry and social science.

“You could have the best science data in the world but it wouldn’t be useful to users,” he said, referring to those who take note of climate studies, such as government officials and those in the private sector. “You need to connect across disciplines in order to determine how to apply research and how best to tailor data to adapt to user needs.”

Busalacchi spent a day and a half in Geneva in June meeting with the Executive Council of World Meteorological Organization and will leave next week for the annual meeting of the Joint Scientific Committee of the World Climate Research Programme in Beijing.

When asked if he encourages faculty to spend their summer time in any particular way, he simply said, “That’s up to them.”

However, other professorial faculty members also decide to travel. Evans traveled to New Zealand during the first week of July, while Murtugudde visited India early this summer and will visit again in August

Evans collaborated with colleagues at the University of Auckland and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research on two projects.

The first is meant to find paleoclimatic context for interpretation of archaeological data taken from Aitutaki in the Southern Cook Islands by using stable isotopic measurements of fish otoliths (also known as earstones), coral carbonates and mollusk shells, according to Evans. The goal is to learn how to use these measurements to determine how they attribute to variation in marine surface conditions.

The second, Evans said in an email, focuses on studying paleoclimatology of New Zealand using stable isotopic measurements made on Kauri trees, which are native to New Zealand. The goal here is to use these measurements to reconstruct what the climate was like over the past thousand years.

“Notwithstanding a lot of good seafood meals and wine-tasting, the visit was very productive and both projects are off to good starts,” Evans said in an email.

Meanwhile, Murtugudde said that he frequently visits India when he is not teaching. After arriving in Bangalore on May 25, he took a 9-hour road trip to Kotumachigi, a village in northern Karnataka, where he did agroforestry work for two days, Murtugudde said in an email.

Once he returned to Bangalore, Murtugudde helped advise a student on monsoon research. Next stop was Hyderabad, where he taught a short course on bio-physical interactions at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services. Finally, he traveled to New Delhi to speak about regional earth system predictions at IBM and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology at Pune.

Though Murtugudde’s trip to India ended at this point, he is by no means done travelling this summer.

After he returned to the U.S. in June, he delivered a lecture on earth system modeling at NASA Ames, and has been in the states ever since. However, he will travel again when he visits Ankara, Turkey, to co-convene a ClimECO summer school with Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research July 23-28.

In August, he will return to India for a lecture at the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa. Finally, he will speak as a distinguished lecturer at the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS) and American Geophysical Union (AGU) Joint Assembly in Singapore.

“All the days in the middle are spent with my students, postdocs, and an intern from France,” Murtugudde said in an email.