Storm Peak hosts science forum

1st-time event attracts more than 30 female scientists for professional networking

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— By tonight, some of the brightest minds in the field of atmospheric science will have descended upon Steamboat Springs.

More than 30 female scientists - from across the U.S. and as far as Denmark - will be in town until Wednesday for the Atmospheric Science Collaborations and Enriching NeTworks program.

ASCENT was funded by a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant awarded to Gannet Hallar, director of Storm Peak Laboratory at the summit of Storm Peak.

"One real goal for the program is to allow people to meet other women in the field, to network in a social setting," she said.

Bringing together women in atmospheric science was something Hallar said she started thinking about when she worked at NASA. There aren't many women in atmospheric science, and at NASA, she said, she felt isolated because of that lack and the lack of younger scientists.

There was no good place for her to turn for advice or to network, she said. Hallar said the program this week would provide those avenues for interaction to foster relationships for possible future collaboration.

"Science is enhanced by diversity," she said. "Atmospheric science and meteorology, for some reason, are lagging behind in diversity. We need to solve that problem. Studies show that a diverse group working to solve a problem, it's easier to solve than with people from the same backgrounds."

Participants will attend lectures by notable women in the field. The keynote speaker is Kimberly Sullivan, of Utah State University. Her interests include animal behavior, ornithology and women in science.

Breakout sessions will address issues Hallar said some women may not want to address in front of men, such as what to look for in a job, how to apply, how to negotiate or transitioning to a different career. Social events also are scheduled.

Hallar said the program also will pair a senior scientist with a junior scientist for mentoring. The scientists also have prepared posters to share their research with the others.

And with more than 30 scientists from all across the country in Steamboat for three days, Hallar invited a Hayden High School student and Hayden Middle School teacher to attend Tuesday's events.

Because she wanted to keep it local, Hallar said participants will be taken to Storm Peak Laboratory, Fish Creek Falls, local hot springs and Catamount Ranch.

"We're taking the time to let them experience Steamboat," she said.

Hallar said that during the duration of the three-year grant, she'd like to create a media piece and information packet that could be distributed to chairpeople of university departments and directors of atmospheric science programs.

The packet would be designed to help encourage women to enter atmospheric science and others to stay in the field. She said 50 percent of the women in the field leave by the time they're 35.

The grant awarded to Hallar will allow the ASCENT program to take place for three consecutive years. Storm Peak Laboratory will host it again the next two summers.

"It is extremely unique," she said. "This is the only program through (the National Science Foundation) for women in atmospheric science. It's a pretty unique opportunity."

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