Kutztown University's Department of Geography hosted Dr. M. Jackson, National Geographic Society Explorer, TED Fellow, geographer, glaciologist, environmental educator and author of "The Secret Lives of Glaciers."
I caught up with this modern-day adventurer during her visit to KU in April. I’d like to share highlights from the interview in honor of World Environment Day on June 5, the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment.
Rodeo: When did you first become interested in science and geology?
Dr. M: When I was a teenager I had no idea that science was an option for me. I never met a scientist let alone a female scientist. It wasn't until my mid to late 20s that I started going through graduate school getting my masters and PhD, and started to get a handle on this idea maybe I could be a scientist.
Rodeo: Recently we've heard a lot about STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to motivate young women such as myself to explore a career in math and sciences. What's our view on STEM?
Dr. M: STEM means a lot more diversity. I think if we have magazines or books, or stories, just a larger conversation about what a scientist can be that it's going to attract more people to STEM, and then hopefully more people will want to pursue that as career.
Rodeo: Your book “The Secret Lives of Glaciers,” presents information on climate change in a unique way. The approach of using people's stories to put a face on this issue makes it highly relatable to anyone with a family. Why did you decide to write the book, and what is the most important lesson someone can learn by reading it?
Dr. M: I think something that's really important is that we can have the very best data, numbers, metrics, models chronicling climate change, but if we don't have that grounded in human stories, we're not going to make sense of it very well, and so here we have in this book a lot of the physical science stated over and over again, and a lot of human stories that go with that so that you can contextualize it.
Rodeo: When doing research in Iceland, you were in another part of the world very few of us will ever see. What is the best memory you have from the trip?
Dr. M: I have been so fortunate to go back and forth to Iceland and what stays with me is how welcoming and safe, and curious and passionate so many people in Iceland are.
Rodeo: Dr. Jackson you're a National Geographic explorer. What inspiration can you offer to a young person who dreams of growing up to go on explorations like you?
Dr. M: Anybody can be a National Geographic explorer. You have to go out in your own backyard, find something that you love, learn about it, and talk about it, witness it, document it, share it, and that is the core of exploration right there. And we all can do that.
Rodeo: Recently I saw a video of walruses, which are dying off in large numbers because the ice caps they live on have melted. As an Arctic expert for the National Geographic Society, is climate change something that only happens to animals in remote parts of the world, or will it impact everyone on the planet?
Dr. M: Climatic change impacts every human being, all environmental phenomena, every aspect of the world we live in, and what we live in, from rivers and mountains and forests to bacteria and viruses, and seals and all life on this planet.
Rodeo: With 10-years experience in the field of climate sciences, what would you say to President Donald Trump about your findings?
Dr. M: I would welcome an opportunity to sit down and have a real conversation about climate change that doesn't involve a medium.
Rodeo: You do a speaking engagements every year, and we're lucky to have you in Kutztown. What do you like most about visiting the town?
Dr. M: Something I really liked about being out here is being able to talk with a lot of the students today, learn about the business of living in this place.
Rodeo: What is your newest project and where will it take you?
Dr. M: Right now, I'm looking at how women and ice interact. I have a new book about that.
Go to https://youtu.be/s-n2XGO-UoY to watch the entire interview and learn more about Dr. Jackson, including her favorite go to food.
Rodeo would like to thank the following people for being super, awesome, and cool: Dr. M Jackson and Dede Cummings at Green Writers Press.
Kid reviewer Rodeo Marie Hanson, 13, Fleetwood, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.