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Curiosity About Spring Leads to Climate Studies

By Kendra Schaber 
Chemeketa Community College Student
Vice President of the Oregon Association of Blind Students
Member of 350 Salem OR

For the longest time, I have been fascinated with the season of spring. I spent years studying aspects of spring: how winter impacts spring, how the timing of patterns in nature affects spring, how the season has changed over time, when spring starts, and when spring ends. I even studied how daffodils are a marker to determine what spring is or is not going to do when it actually arrives. I didn’t know that there was a bigger picture. I didn’t know what was hidden under the surface. I only knew that I was interested in spring, daffodils and science.

While exploring different environmental science fields for potential careers, I took a few classes at Chemeketa Community College and quickly figured out that I didn’t want something that required a lot of math. During my long hunt for science or nature career fields without math, I kept noticing how the seasons changed. I don’t mean, the normal changes that occur as spring transitions to summer. I mean, how springs had gotten colder and wetter, or how winters had gotten warmer and drier. I could accurately predict what was going to happen in the spring by knowing what was happening to the flowers and the weather around Ground Hog Day. I quickly figured out that climate change had to be the cause. I was familiar with the concept of climate change. Climate change had finally showed up in my neighborhood, through the strange, hybrid seasons.

After five years of searching for a career, I stumbled upon a newspaper article that included predictions for the following winter and saw information about a little-known field called phenology. I was blown away. Here was the field that explored how the daffodils determined when spring would be most likely to happen. I had been drawn to phenology for 20 years without knowing it. I was thrilled!

The closest two fields to phenology were meteorology and climatology. I chose climatology because it has a wider scope. I found a transfer degree that hooked up Chemeketa Community College with Oregon State University. With my case worker at the Oregon Commission for the Blind, I figured out where best to start. I connected to a few blind students who were going into climatology and picked their brains about how best to navigate college, particularly with filling in visual gaps.

I also hunted for local climate and environmental organizations. Around Earth Day 2018, there was an event at Chemeketa Community College with a number of environmental organizations. My favorite was the Salem chapter of 350.org because they actually listened to my needs and supported me in my efforts. They are the most active environmental group locally. Whenever I can, around my college schedule, I do activities and attend meetings with 350 Salem OR.

While exploring environmental organizations, I was also setting up my college path and updating my technology. When the first day of term finally arrived, my first class happened to be a math class. I did not know how well I would survive that math class. I just knew that I was there, in the front of the classroom, ready to begin my journey toward my climatology degree.

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