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Anne Douglass - Thinks Like a Scientist (Part 1 of 2)
April 15, 2014

[image-99]Name: Anne Douglass
Title: Aura Project Scientist and Co-Lead for the Chemistry Climate Model
Formal Job Classification: Atmospheric Scientist
Organization: Code 614, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, Science Directorate

When faced with a complex problem, Aura project scientist and co-lead for the Chemistry Climate Model Anne Douglass instructs herself to think like a scientist.

What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard’s mission?

I have two roles. As Aura project scientist, my deputies, Joanna Joiner and Bryan Duncan, and I are the link and maintain communications between the science community, the instrument teams and NASA Headquarters. My biggest job is communicating our scientific achievements and goals. Along with every other big mission, we participate in a senior review every two years for authorization to continue operating.

Additionally, I am a co-lead for the Chemistry Climate Model, a 3-D model of the atmosphere and its composition. This is a huge effort. We use this model to predict what will happen with ozone and composition. My research interest is in novel applications of NASA data to improve the physical basis of the chemistry climate model for better prediction about climate change and ozone change.

Why did you become interested in remote sensing?

I raised a big family. We have five grown kids. I had four of my kids while in graduate school, so my five-year program extended to eight years. I started in a lab, but switched to the remote sensing data field so that I could work from my computer to accommodate my family. It was not possible for me to be in a lab with all those young kids. It was a choice.

What satellites have provided data for you?

The satellites I’ve used the most have been NIMBUS 7 and its Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer instrument, which lasted until 1993; the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, from 1991–2005; and now Aura, which was launched in 2004 and is ongoing.

I was really lucky to have been the deputy project scientist for the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which was deployed from the shuttle in 1991. I came into the project in 1993, right when the data was coming out. It was great. Then in 1998, I became deputy project scientist for Aura and then project scientist.

[image-83]How do you use the remote sensing data?

I’m not a theorist. I use a computer model and simulations, but my first interest is in using the satellite observations to get inside the model and understand how Earth’s atmosphere works. The model can do a lot of things, but you need to know whether it is doing the right thing. Models do what people tell them to do. The data is the data.

I can’t say enough about the data – the satellites, the aircraft-based programs and the ground-based programs. It’s just amazing how much and what kind of information you really need to make a good prediction.

How is all this data organized?

When I started my career, we did not have a data record. We now have a multi-decadal data record that has given us so much information. The challenge now is to move to a century time scale using the information that we’ve learned from this multi-decadal record.

How do you stay organized?

There are some fundamental parts of the chemistry that, once you understand them, help you to organize this complicated set of chemical reactions associated with the atmosphere. By nature, it is a challenge for me to stay organized, but the modeling project is not one person with one specialty, it is a team of persons who are expert in different things. I can see how important it is for the team to stay organized and that motivates me to be organized. I learned that when my kids were little – my husband, kids and I were the team, and organizing the household means organizing the team.

How important is teamwork or collaboration with others?

Earth system modeling is too complicated for one person. You need specialists in many areas. We’re the Atmospheric and Chemistry and Dynamics Lab. Dynamics (the way the wind blows) and chemistry (molecules interacting with sunlight and each other) are really different. Collaboration between the two groups has made our lab stronger and is one of the things that makes it fun to work here. My degrees are in physics, but I’ve learned a lot of chemistry here. I’m married to a chemist. Math is the backbone of both physics and chemistry.

Part Two of Anne's interview

Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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Reinhard Beer (TES), John Gille (HIRDLS), Pieternel Levelt (Dutch OMI), Ernie Hilsenrath (deputy), Anne, Mark Schoeberl (project scientist), Joe Waters (MLS), PK Bhartia (US OMI), and Phil DeCola (program scientist HQ) at the Aura launch.
Image Credit: 
Courtesy of A. Douglass
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Anne and her daughters in Aura wear.
Anne, with her daughters, Kate and Liz, all wearing their Aura gear at the launch.
Image Credit: 
Courtesy of A. Douglass
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Anne with the rocket that will take Aura to orbit
Anne stands in the forefront and the rocket that took Aura to orbit, stands in the background.
Image Credit: 
Courtesy of A. Douglass
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Anne Douglass holding a model of the Aura satellite
Anne Douglass holding a model of the Aura satellite.
Image Credit: 
NASA/W. Hrybyk
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Page Last Updated: April 23rd, 2014
Page Editor: Lynn Jenner