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  • Anne Nolin

    Research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center Anne Nolin recommends her field to those who like Earth science, satellites, snow, and exciting environments such as mountains, glaciers, and polar regions. In fact, there is very little about her job that she doesn't like.

    Because snow and ice make up about 90 % of all the fresh water on Earth, they play a major role in both hydrology and global climate. To enable better management of water resources, as well as a better understanding of global warming, it is crucial that scientists obtain accurate measurements of the spatial extent and physical characteristics of snow and ice and the rate at which they are melting. Scientists such as Nolin use satellite-based remote sensing to obtain this data, since space-born instruments are much more efficient at getting "the big picture" than a team on earth would be taking measurements by hand. They also analyze ice cores drilled in the ice sheets of the polar caps and measurements taken from automatic weather stations set up on these ice sheets.

    Perhaps the most exciting project Nolin has been involved with was mapping the Martian polar ice caps using data from the Mars Global Surveyor satellite. Nolin feels fortunate to be able to pursue so many avenues for research that are interesting to her.

    Nolin's training for this career was non-conventional, in that she came to science from a liberal arts background, earning her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1980, before going on to earn her M.S. from the Department of Soil and Water Science, also at the University of Arizona, in 1987. She first became interested in remote sensing of the Earth's surface when she started graduate school in 1984. Her advisor, Dr. Jeff Dozier, was instrumental in getting her interested in snow and ice when she began working on her doctoral degree in 1987. She spent three years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab on a post-graduate research fellowship before receiving her Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1993.

    The principal "obstacle" she has had to overcome in pursuing this career, then, has been many years of hard work in graduate school. Though she didn't realize how comprehensive her field was when she started, she has thoroughly enjoyed the continuous process of learning. In addition to studying snow and ice, Nolin is not surprisingly drawn to outdoor adventure sports-such as whitewater kayaking, skiing, rock climbing, hiking, and bicycling. She also loves reading, cooking, dancing, and spending time with her husband and friends.