January Featured Grad - Nina Oakley

nina oakley2smlMeet Nina Oakley, a Ph.D. student in Atmospheric Sciences. She is currently working for the Western Regional Climate Center at DRI and studying synoptic and mesoscale meteorology of the western US.  The results of this research will support early warning of landslide and post-fire debris flows in this heavily populated area.

What brought you to DRI? 

I came to DRI in 2011 to finish my Master’s degree. I met with several people on my initial visit to Reno, including Drs. Kelly Redmond and Tim Brown who run the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC). I was intrigued by the work and mission of the WRCC, and accepted a graduate research assistant position with the group. I was nervous about coming to Reno because I had always lived by the ocean, love surfing, and don’t like cold weather, but it worked out well. I was hired on as a WRCC staff member after finishing my Master’s degree and found plenty of outdoor activities to do. I also met my wonderful husband at DRI and just got married a few months ago!

What are you studying?

nina oakley3smlI am studying synoptic and mesoscale meteorology of the western US.

What research projects are you working on? And who at DRI are you working with?

My research project focuses on the meteorology associated with extreme precipitation, landslides, and post-fire debris flows in the transverse (east-west oriented) mountain ranges of southern California. The results of this research will support early warning of landslide and post-fire debris flows in this heavily populated area.

My dissertation advisor at DRI is Dr. Mike Kaplan. The landslide/debris flow project is led by Marty Ralph at the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E), which is housed at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. I am also collaborating with California Geological Survey and US Geological Survey.

What are your short-term and long-term goals while at DRI?

nina oakley1smlMy short-term goal is to finish my dissertation and course work! I work full time as a climatologist with WRCC, so it is very challenging to balance research with operational needs.

My long-term goal is to better understand climate drivers and variability in the West. I also hope to develop an in-depth understanding of how we have measured climate in the past, how we currently measure it, and how we can improve measurements in the future while maintaining consistency with historic records.  I also want to become an effective communicator of climate information in many mediums—writing, presentations, figures, web-based pages and tools.

Tell us about yourself. What do you do for fun?

I enjoy water sports and paddleboard or paddle outrigger canoe whenever the weather allows! Whenever possible, I try to get out to the coast and have a surf. I also enjoy mountain biking and snowboarding when the weather isn’t good for paddling. Anything active is fun for me, even better when it is outdoors. With the challenges of work and school it is important for me to keep fun in the mix and stay healthy!