NASA Earth System Science at 20 Years: A Public Showcase
Earth orbiting satellite image with sun in background, overlaid with word: Future Credit: NASA GSFC
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Kenji Williams performs at ESS at 20 media briefing Credit: NASA GSFC
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Four scientists, an artist and a former astronaut took the stage Wednesday at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., where lively discussion and music conveyed the excitement of Earth science to a public audience.

Imagine the awe of viewing Earth from space, followed by the jarring return to Earth-bound routines such as cutting the lawn. That’s the experience described by Kathy Sullivan, a former astronaut. The story is a reminder of the importance of stepping back from daily research and taking a look at the big picture.

Toward that effort, Sullivan moderated Wednesday’s discussion with four distinguished scientists from across the country including: Jim Yoder, of Woods Hole Oceanographic; Waleed Abdalati, of University of Colorado; Chris Justice, of University of Maryland; and Marshall Shepherd of University of Georgia. Each scientist narrated images and animations showing the state of our knowledge about Earth’s changing oceans, ice, global agricultural production and hurricanes.

Together, the stories painted a picture of Earth science as a connected system. The researchers emphasized the message that its up to scientist to share that picture with the public. But artists can also share that message. The evening concluded with a performance by Kenji Williams, whose violin score choreographed with images and animations of Earth from space served as a dramatic reminder of our connections to our living, dynamic planet.

Kathryn Hansen
NASA's Earth Science News Team