Zombies in the forecast? Former NASA scientist Marshall Shepherd at UNCA Feb. 23

Dr. Marshall Shepherd

What do zombies, sports and cola have to do with the weather? On Monday, Feb. 23, Dr. Marshall Shepherd — the director for the program in atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia — intends to tackle that question in a presentation titled “Zombies, Sports, and Cola: What does it mean for Communicating Weather and Climate?” 

The talk, sponsored by the Asheville chapter of the American Meteorological Society, will focus on the importance of communicating meteorological concepts accurately and effectively with the general public.

“Weather is something we encounter every day,” Shepherd said. “Yet there’s such a huge lack of communication and understanding and an abundance of misinformation about it.”

“Dr. Shepherd is able to communicate science in a manner that is not only understandable to the public, but also insightful and thought-provoking to colleagues in the field,” says Jared Rennie of the Asheville chapter of the AMS. “He also engages with students and early career professionals about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through the use of social media,” he added. Rennie also said that Shepherd is able to engage audiences both young and old.

“I don’t want to give too much away without saying, ‘Come to the event,'” Shepherd said, but has promised to discuss how he uses zombies, sports and cola to impart meteorological ideas to people who do not necessarily have a background in atmospheric science. “I utilize the three things in that title to communicate my thoughts, perspectives and paradigms,” he said.

Weather has fascinated Shepherd for much of his life.”I got into weather with a sixth-grade science project, and I have been bitten by the weather-bug ever since,” he said. Evidence bears out that statement. Shepherd earned his B.S., his M.S. and his Ph.D. in meteorology and physical meteorology at  Florida State University. He went on to work as a scientist for NASA, became the president of the American Meteorological Society in 2013 and has been recognized as a Distinguished GAA Professor by the University of Georgia.

Currently, in addition to his work at the University of Georgia, Shepherd hosts WxGeeks, a weekly program on The Weather Channel.  As Shepherd put it, “I deal with everyone from the White House to the Waffle House in communicating about weather.”

Given the recent proliferation of extreme weather events and the debate over climate change, Shepherd’s emphasis on communication is both timely and poignant. “So much misinformation abounds,” he said. “Scientists need to engage the public, otherwise they may buy into it.”

At the root of that misinformation, according to Shepherd, is a lack of education. “The biggest problem is that much of the public has the scientific background of a sixth grader, and a lot of these issues are too complex to discuss on that level.”

As a solution, Shepherd said, “I’ll focus on what I see as the main challenges in communicating with the public about weather and the strategies to surmount those challenges.”

Fortunately for Shepherd, his work is more love than labor. “Because it’s such a passion, it doesn’t feel like work,” he said. Among his panoply of pursuits, Shepherd is working on a research project examining how extreme precipitation is changing in the Southern Appalachian region. Communication, however, seems to be his forte, and the 23rd should provide a perfect forum for him to display his skills in that arena.  

Dr. Shepherd’s talk will be held on Monday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Highsmith University Union at UNCA. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/site/ashevilleams/meetings.

The presentation is part of a monthly series put on by the Asheville Chapter of the American Meteorological Society. Visit https://sites.google.com/site/ashevilleams/ to learn more. 

The full release from UNCA:

Zombies, Sports, and Cola Lecture by Climate Expert Marshall Shepherd February 23 at UNC Asheville

Former NASA scientist Marshall Shepherd will share his experiences and lessons from the past two decades of his career in his lecture, Zombies, Sports, and Cola: What Does it Mean for Communicating Weather and Climate, at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 23, in UNC Asheville’s Highsmith University Union, room 224.

Shepherd is the host of The Weather Channel’s WxGeeks, and served as president of the American Meteorological Society in 2013. He currently serves on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Advisory Board, the Earth Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Visiting Committee. Shepherd has been called upon to testify before the U.S. Senate on climate and extreme weather and has frequently presented findings to NASA, Congress, the White House, Department of Defense and foreign officials.

Shepherd has more than 70 publications of peer-reviewed literature and he contributes to publications including Weatherwise and Earth Observation Magazine. He is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society and is director of atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Massey Bartolini atwbartoli@unca.edu or Douglas Miller at dmiller@unca.edu.



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About Erik Peake
Writing is my craft, my passion, my solace - and my livelihood. As a professional writer, I have worked in an array of venues and filled a variety of roles. Since I moved to Asheville, NC, I have enjoyed a freelance career as a grant writer, a technical writer, a Web-content writer, a copy editor, and an English tutor. I am currently specializing in web-content writing, blogging, and tutoring. Although an obsessive-compulsive nature inclines me toward proselytizing on behalf of English grammar, I also pursue forays into creative writing (as a balance, I suppose). Creative non-fiction is a field of particular interest to me, and I hope someday to publish a collection of short stories that circumnavigates the vicissitudes of my unorthodox youth.

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