What do you do?
I run our office hydrology program, which takes our weather forecasts and lots of other information to forecast river levels, as well as any flood potential, including flash flooding, drought, and anything that relates to water. This includes sending Flood Warnings, for rivers and flash flooding. Running this program is a multi-skills job. I do statistics with the data, information technology to keep our software and systems working correctly, research in order to learn from previous flood events in order to improve our services in the future, outreach to teach the public about what we do and how to be safe in hazardous weather, and many other jobs. One other major duty I have is to train our staff on anything related to hydrology.
Another part of my job is taking our forecasts and providing that information to our partners, who are those protecting public safety. I work with these partners routinely so they can make the proper decisions to protect people from hazardous weather involving flooding.
Why did you choose this field?
Growing up on a farm in South Dakota, I have always been interested in the weather. Everything we did relied on the weather and similar to many people in this line of work, I loved thunderstorms. I was always fascinated by lightning and tornadoes and big snowstorms. Also, as a kid we went through a huge flood of our local river in 1997 which I have memories I don't think I'll never forget. I got my college degree in Meteorology and began working in the National Weather Service as a forecaster. My first job was in La Crosse, WI and in my time there we had several extreme flash flood events as well as record flooding on almost every river we forecasted for. Seeing how powerful water can be was so interesting, and seeing how much damage flooding could do really pushed me into moving into the field of Hydrology. Knowing we can improve our services to give the information needed to help people make the decisions to protect their properties from flooding and protect lives from being lost to flooding is what really motivated me to get into Hydrology.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
The thing that jumps out to me with this question is leadership skills. I was very shy and doubted my leadership potential early in my career. Part of that may have been being a young woman, in a field dominated by middle aged men. I was able to gain confidence over the years, and have become one of the leaders in my office and field, but wish I would've known my potential back then and while I pushed myself academically, that I would've had that confidence to know I could have been a better leader then as well.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because it is a continuously moving field. There is always something new to learn and people in these fields are moving the world forward. New scientific research is allowing us to improve the services we provide in order to make lives better and to protect lives and property. I wake up every morning looking forward to going to work because every day is different. I honestly learn something new every day which is so exciting! Also, if I want to understand why something happens or how it works, I make the effort to research it and figure it out. In that way, I'm constantly working at improving the services our agency provides.
Best advice for next generation?
Believe in yourself! Believe in your knowledge and your understanding on your area of expertise and don't be afraid to speak your opinion and give the information and solutions to problems you know of. There is literally nothing you can't do, you just need to have the confidence in yourself. Also, don't be afraid to fail. Everyone fails now and again, just be willing and ready to learn from these failures and improve from them. Women look at situations differently than men do, and the world needs that perspective in all subject matters.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
"We are not what we know, but what we are willing to learn." -Mary Catherine Bateson