Featured Faculty: Kate Marvel

Kate Marvel

Kate Marvel is the newest member of the C+S faculty. She teaches Dynamics of Climate Variability and Climate Change, one of the program’s core classes. The program caught up with her a few weeks into the semester to see how things are going and if she had any hot tips for what to do in the city (spoiler: she did and it’s a great suggestion).

What makes the Climate and Society program so unique?
Climate change is the biggest problem we face, and it doesn’t fit neatly in a disciplinary silo. As a physical scientist, I obviously think science has a huge role to play, but we need so much more to address this problem. I’m excited to work with students who are ready to reach across boundaries and give them the skills they need to change the world!

A month in, what’s it been like to work with the students?
It’s exhausting but rewarding. I always have a big crowd at optional discussion sections and my office hours, and the students ask great questions in class. It definitely keeps me on my toes and forces me to think hard about concepts I thought I completely understood. I’m learning a lot from them!

What drew you to studying climate change?
I did my PhD in theoretical cosmology, studying the entire Universe, but then I realized that the Earth is really the only good part. I love this planet, and I’m curious about how it works.

What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m trying to understand how human activities are affecting drought risk.  I’m using climate models, satellite observations, and tree ring-based reconstructions of past climates to study droughts in the continental U.S. and rainfall in the Sahel region of Africa. I’m also very interested in “climate sensitivity.” Basically, how hot will the Earth get, and why don’t we know? I’ve been involved in a large project that’s trying to improve our understanding of climate feedback loops using paleo evidence of past climates, recent observations, and climate models in order to understand where we could be headed.

What’s the most interesting and or important thing happening in the climate and society sphere (the big picture, not the program) at the moment? Why?
The emerging leadership of girls and women and the wider recognition that climate change isn’t a single issue, it affects everything we care about.

What’s your favorite thing to do in New York?
I like to hang out at Caveat, a live show venue and bar on the Lower East Side that specializes in “intellectual nightlife,” whatever that is. They promise you’ll get “a little bit smarter and a little bit drunker.”

Any tips or words of wisdom for our current and potential new students?    
Take advantage of the city! Moving from the West Coast, I found it hard to adjust to New York. And I won’t defend the weather, the subway, or the smell, but there are so many interesting people here. Go to parties, go see a friend-of-a-friend’s terrible show, say yes to weird things. You never know where life will take you here.

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