Women Rocking The Boat - Dr. Gannet Hallar - Eyes on the Skies
By Christina Freeman
Story by Amanda DeVos/Photo by Corey Kopischke
Dr. Gannet Hallar
Dr. Gannet Hallar stands at the top of her profession, so it seems only natural that she works at the peak of Mount Werner at 10,500 feet.
In 2006, she took over as director of Storm Peak Laboratory, a world-renowned educational and research facility for atmospheric science.
Hallar, who has participated in more than 70 science conferences and 25 peer-reviewed journal articles, achieved a doctorate in atmospheric and oceanic sciences in 2003. Immediately after graduating, she conducted research at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. While working there, she heard about the position at SPL.
“Taking over SPL was a challenge, but I am fortunate my husband and I could take it on together,” she says. Her husband, Ian McCubbin, is the site manager.
Because SPL combines research and education, Hallar regularly teaches and hosts college students. Her personal research focuses on the measurements of trace gases, aerosol properties and cloud microphysics. An infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation in 2010 allowed her to double the size of the lab. “The overall goal is to improve the accuracy of global climate models, and in order to do that you need a lot of data,” she explains.
Hallar also leads two programs for the National Science Foundation. Geoscience Research at Storm Peak provides mentoring for undergraduate, minority students; they come to SPL for research training, and Hallar works alongside them for months. Atmospheric Science Collaborations and Enriching Networks exists to support female faculty members in atmospheric science and meteorology.
“Having so many scientists and students involved in SPL – bringing people from all over the country – is what I love the most,” she says.
Even local fifth-graders take field trips up to SPL, as Hallar volunteers time to teach them the basics of measuring weather changes and plotting data.
This July, however, Hallar entered the first sabbatical of her career, and after more than 10 years of intensive research, it’s a well-earned break.