Text Size

What's Above and What's Below Intrigue Gail Skofronick Jackson
May 2011
Conversations with Goddard banner
Gail Skofronick Jackson loves to explore the Earth - from deep, underground caves to falling snow from clouds.

What is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?

I am the deputy project scientist for the Global Precipitation Measuring Mission which is a small group that measures the amount of falling snow before it hits the ground. In addition, our group is helping design an instrument for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission that will remotely sense precipitation rates, including falling snow, throughout the world.

To do my job, I am in offices or I am travelling, and I go all over the country and abroad. The mission includes the Japanese Space Agency as a partner, so I travel to Japan about twice a year. I have also traveled to Canada, Finland, Italy, Korea, and Australia.

One of our instruments I use is operated on a high altitude aircraft which flies above the clouds. The pilot wears an astronaut suit because he flies so high that there is not enough oxygen. Other cool tools are the specialized instruments that can take pictures of individual snowflakes. The pictures are absolutely stunning.

How important is teamwork or collaboration with others to your being able to do your job.

Photo of Gail Skofronick JacksonPhoto of Gail Skofronick Jackson. Credit: NASA/Rebecca Roth
As Deputy Project Scientist, I am the link between the project team engineers who are building the instrument and the scientists who will be using the resulting satellite data. I help each group understand the potential impacts of everyone’s recommendations.

What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done as part of your job at Goddard?

In January 2007, I spent two weeks in Ontario, Canada conducting research in the field. It was a rural setting and the snow was outstandingly beautiful. We got 10 to 20 inches of snow at a time. It was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m very excited about returning for another field campaign this coming January. I’m from Florida and I guess I didn’t get enough snow back when I was a kid.

What makes Goddard a great place to work?

Goddard is a great place to work, especially in earth science, because we have one of the largest earth science communities in the country if not the world. You may have a random conversation with colleagues and suddenly brainstorm the next, greatest instrument or experiment in earth science. Then you can walk across campus and ask the engineers how to best build it.

What lessons or words of wisdom would you pass along to somebody just starting their career at Goddard?

Take advantage of as many diverse opportunities as you can. Get exposed to Goddard’s different communities. Assume responsibility for your career by asking for new opportunities.

Gail Skofronick Jackson pursuing her love of caving.

What other things do you find interesting?

What is surprising about me is that I used to be a caver or spelunker. After many years of caving, the National Park Service invited me to go into Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico to help map the cave. This particular cave was later featured by National Geographic. We were in that cave for three solid days, including sleeping. Nowadays I get my mud fix by planting a vegetable garden.

Do you have a favorite book, magazine, movie, or TV show?

My favorite book is The Endurance by Caroline Alexander which is about Sir. Ernest Shackleton whose boat “The Endurance” froze in the Antarctic ice just before World War One. The 28 men lived two years on the ice before they were finally rescued. What I find most interesting is that they survived by overcoming the most difficult challenges. I use some of Sir. Shackleton’s leadership skills in the workplace.
Gail Skofronick Jackson exploring the Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico. Credit: G.S. Jackson

Related Link:

› More Conversations With Goddard
Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.