Climate Scientist for International Development
When Tamara Janes was completing her masters in atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta, Canada, there was one institution that stood out for her as an employer to target when she graduated. The international reputation of the Met Office's climate research made it the perfect choice for Tamara, who wanted to apply her skills to a career in climatology. So she packed her bags and headed for the UK.
"The first thing I did when I moved to the UK was to write a letter to the Met Office," Tamara remembers.
A few months later, she had her first position in the Met Office as a monsoon scientist. Over the next 18 months, she worked on projects to help India and Bangladesh - two countries particularly vulnerable to monsoons - develop their capacity to adapt to regional climate change.
"For a year and a half I was solely focused on producing and interpreting regional climate model output to inform decision making in India and Bangladesh."
Communication is key
One of the biggest challenges of this project was making sure complicated weather information was communicated effectively. Tamara and her team learned to use innovative presentation methods and, for Bangladesh, developed an interactive web-based tool. The visually-focused information was a big hit with the audience.
"The Bangladeshi government didn't want a long report. They liked the fact they could explore the results across the regions for themselves while still having the data available." After two productive years working on projects focused on climate change projections forecasts in South Asia, Tamara set her sights on a new challenge. It came in the form of seasonal forecasting in Kenya and centred on the difficulties of reporting forecasts for a rural, farming community, as Tamara explains:
"For the farmers we met, climate change wasn't a debate. They'd been observing it during their rainy seasons and living with it for years."
Working with the farmers was a real eye-opener for Tamara. Here were communities who had contributed little to climate change but were subject to the harshest of its realities.
"The experience helped me get to grips with why we do what we do. When I came back, I really felt that every climate scientist should experience something similar, and base their science on helping the people most affected."
A pattern emerges
There's a pattern to Tamara's career to date in her ability to draw together disparate aspects of a project. Sometimes this means creating links between different cultures and ways of working. At others it's striding between short-, medium- and long-range forecasts. In a similar vein, her current role as Climate Scientist for International Development involves bringing together different aspects of the Met Office's work.
As project lead for the Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) project in South Africa, Tamara helps bridge the gap between the science of short-range weather forecasting and the all-important business development functions at the Met Office, as she explains:
"Half my time is science-based and half is spent in a relationship management role, ensuring work is delivered and that we're working closely with the South African Weather Service."
This kind of role is vital for the Met Office, as it provides the link between pure scientific work and practical applications that make such a difference to businesses - and ultimately to people's lives around the world.
If Tamara's career to date has been very varied her next role is no exception, as she takes a break from work and goes on maternity leave in the coming months. Undoubtedly she'll be keeping a keen eye on the weather until she returns.