Notice: We are in the process of migrating Oral History Interview metadata to this new version of our website.
During this migration, the following fields associated with interviews may be incomplete: Institutions, Additional Persons, and Subjects. Our Browse Subjects feature is also affected by this migration.
We encourage researchers to utilize the full-text search on this page to navigate our oral histories or to use our catalog to locate oral history interviews by keyword.
Please contact [email protected] with any feedback.
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript is available.
In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Jo Ann Joselyn by Stephen A. Neal on 2017 October 23,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/42890
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Jo Ann Joselyn discusses topics including her childhood in Colorado; influence of Sputnik, education at Colorado University in astrogeophysics; Julius London; John Firor; first job position at Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA); Tom Holzer; organizing SEIIM conferences; counting sunspots; women in science; International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA); election and work as secretary general of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUSS); solar cycle project; setting up space weather forecasting centers in other countries.
Let’s begin. This is Stephen Neal interviewing Jo Ann Joselyn for the American Institute of Physics. The date is October 23, 2017, and we are in Boulder, Colorado. All right. So, thank you again for agreeing to be interviewed. Usually the way we start these things off is we sort of go back to the beginning. And if you wouldn’t mind telling me a little bit about your childhood, where you grew up, and about your parents.
Oh, wow. Okay, sure. Born in St. Francis, Kansas. Straight east of Boulder, Colorado, and grew up in rural schools until middle school. Then my dad, who worked for the Bureau of Reclamation, decided he needed to have a city job because there were signs that I might be worth educating. So, we moved to Lakewood. He worked at the Denver Federal Center, and I graduated from Lakewood High School then came up to dear old CU to go ahead and get my college degree. I started out in engineering in 1961, so there were only a few women in the class at that time, of course. I was in a program which was sort of experimental at the time that had the freshman and sophomore years as a unit, so we went to all our different classes together at that point. And then it wasn’t until the junior year that we needed to declare what our emphasis was going to be, and about all I could think of at that time was applied mathematics. None of the other engineering fields seemed to be working for me, but that was an option: applied mathematics. And then also the junior year, or between the sophomore and junior year, I got a summer job. Actually, the way it started out is the end of my sophomore year, we were allowed to take an elective. It was the first time, because we’d all been completely programmed that we could take an elective, and I wanted something easy, so I looked at the schedule, and there was an astrogeophysics class that was being taught by Donald Billings. It looked like it would be kind of interesting and fun. I’ve always, of sorts, been a space groupie. In fact, to go back a little bit, Sputnik was launched on my 14th birthday. Sputnik — I’m very definitely a child of Sputnik. Even now, if we go to the Smithsonian and see the model of Sputnik and hear the little “beep beep-beep,” I can get teary that little Sputnik just completely changed my life, I think. So, when I saw this class in astrogeophysics, I thought, “Well, why not?” And well, I did very well. Certainly, loved the class, and then at the end of the time, the teacher, Dr. Billings, gave what he considered his best student in the class the opportunity to do a summer research project. So, since that was me, he offered me this job, and it was a fantastic job. I got to go to Mount Wilson in California and trace the solar images that were coming down off the magnetograph in Mount Wilson at that time. I actually even still have my work. It was just an extraordinary experience to go there. This was the Stonyhurst we had to use. This was the size of the image that came down off the solar telescope.
Okay, so it’s about maybe a 2 by 2 paper?
Yeah. And so we had, of course, appropriate stonyhursts for each day. So, my job was to lay it down there and actually hand-trace the polarities of the sunspot fields that we were seeing, because it wasn’t digital at all. And the only thing you could really do was sit there with your red and purple pens and trace the magnetic fields as you saw them on the screen, on the table.
So, it was an electronic screen.
No, it wasn’t electronic.
How did you get the image?
Well, you stand there, and you look at it.
There it was, you know, coming right down off the telescope. You laid your tracing paper out and traced off what you could see.
For instance, that would be one of the tracings that I would make. Then I would compare with its alpha images the point of the project was to try to figure out how solar prominences were being supported. We would then compare with what we would see on the disk, then we would rotate it over to the edge of the Star, and then look at how the prominences were arranged and where they were in relationship to the positive and negative polarities that we measured on the sunspot disk. I was just in heaven. I thought it was just wonderful. Had a great time. Did a little computer model modeling too.
We were trying to see if we could figure out if prominences that were on the edge could be supported by magnetic fields. I did some calculations and showed that yeah, we could do that. We can actually support material in between the polarities on the edge of the Sun. We’re looking at prominences, that was the goal. Dr. Billings was a prominent solar corona expert at the time, and that was sort of what got me going on that. That was between my junior and senior years. That’s when that was.
Then I graduated and went on to get a master’s degree from AstroGeo — my undergraduate degree being in applied mathematics (engineering.) The summer between ‘66 and ‘67, we went to Houston and Manned Space Center. And that was during the Gemini program, pre-Apollo. Mercury was done, but the Gemini guys were up. And I worked in a group there that was studying the effects of radiation on the astronauts in particular, especially then solar proton events.
What did your research actually involve in that project?
In Houston, they had these dummies and they were actually zapping them with radiation, and then we were looking at solar events. We were actually just going back through the histories, trying to catalog the history of solar proton events and how serious they were, and how serious they would be for the astronauts, especially at altitude. So it was just a summer project.
Yeah, and you say you were going back through history. What sort of records were you looking at?
Well, there are records that go back through cosmic rays, especially solar cosmic rays. And I’m trying to think how far back we were going, or where we even got the data. But whatever records there were of proton events and cosmic ray events — there probably were some around as early as the 1900s. I’m not sure about that. But in studying those and trying to translate that into damage to the astronauts.
Yeah, wow. Fascinating.
So that was pretty fascinating. I graduated in ‘67 in Astro Geophysics. Got a job there at NOAA as a research assistant — at that time it was ESSA: Environmental Science Services Administration. Part of the Bureau of Standards, National Bureau of Standards. All those names, of course, have changed. Every one of them. The first project I got there was actually an atmospheric project. We were trying to look at the waves that were being bounced off the ionosphere by the Chinese nuclear experiments in Lop NOR China. We were trying to look at the radio signals that were being received and try to figure out something about how much, you know, what the tonnage was the yield. That was all well and good until satellites started to really become pro forma in ‘69-‘70. And then, of course, there was no need to do things remotely anymore. You’d just go look with the satellite. So, I more or less lost my job there in the space center — I’m trying to think what the original name was. It wasn’t the Space Environment Center. That’s what it became. I think it was the Space Environment Laboratory that was my first job. In order to avoid losing my job altogether, I was advised to drop to half-time. I said, “Well, if I’m half-time, I’ll go back to school.” I went back to the Astro Geophysics department. Julius London was the chair at that time, and I asked if I could come back to school. And he wanted to know if they kicked me out, and I said, “Well, I didn’t think so.” I started taking classes again in the Astro Geophysics department at CU. One of the amazing things, to me at least, is between my master’s and working on my doctorate, the course numbers stayed the same, the titles stayed the same, but the content changed almost completely with the advent of satellite data, satellite missions. Plasma physics didn’t exist in ‘67. It was my major in the early ‘70s.
You know, it was really that dramatic. My transcript looks funny. Almost every course I took at CU, I’d taken twice, because — but the content was totally different, in just five years or so, a just incredible revolution in this space science, I guess you’d call it.
Yeah. Since you’re talking about it, if you wouldn’t mind giving a few more details, what were the types of things that you remember changing from one class to the other?
Well, the case in point, I guess, is plasma physics didn’t exist before then, so we had a whole lot more — magnetospheric physics didn’t exist in ‘67. They had just basically discovered the magnetosphere. So, a lot of my work went on in magnetospheric physics. A lot of the solar — well, solar really evolved more later as we got into constant monitoring with satellites and so forth like that. But right there at that time, it was really more the geophysics ends of things that were just revolutionized. I remember very distinctly my class on the Sun, I think that was still in the Masters Program, by Jack Eddy. He was just one of my very favorite teachers. Died since then, but I still have, much to my surprise, my class notes from that — oh no, this is the dissertation. Class notes are over here. From that era, I’ve got all my stuff from learning about the Sun from Jack Eddy. And that’s one thing, when I got rid of everything else, I couldn’t part with. It is still amazing to me. I’m wondering — I think if I went through those notes, I would have to learn everything all over again. A long time ago. But then I started the doctorate program, just part-time. I wasn’t even actually sure I’d finish. But by and by, the day came when I passed the comps, which was a surprise.
Why was it a surprise?
Well, it was the first time I’d tried them. And I thought, well, you know, no pressure. Because most times in Astro-geo, you take comps twice. You take them the first time to kind of learn what that’s all about, and you take them again for real. I passed the first time I took them. And just borderline, so I had to have an oral exam, but you know, I passed that too. So suddenly the comps were done, and I thought, “Well, okay.” So, it came time for dissertation, and I worked with, again, Don Billings was the overall, but then there was another adjunct professor, Tom Holzer.
So, Tom Holzer helped guide me though. We worked on solar wind models in particular, and eventually that came to pass.
What were the kinds of models you were making?
Three fluid model of solar wind expansion. Just plain old Parker models, but we added helium. We did it with protons, electrons, and helium, trying to look at whether some of the concepts of ionization equilibrium were appropriate. It turns out they weren’t, so that was kind of a good result for me from that.
Yeah, and I actually had read that paper of yours recently.
I’m curious. How was that result taken up by other people in the community? Was it unexpected, expected, or challenged?
I think it — no, it wasn’t challenged. I think it was expected, and you know, and carried on — I think people carried on from that work.
If you wouldn’t mind just describing that, how did the community interpret that result and react to it?
I was published in the Astrophysical Journal. I certainly put it out. I don’t remember too much after that because at that point, my career changed.
So, I didn’t really continue on with any more development. It was actually a disappointment to me that I couldn’t carry on because — chemical composition of solar wind, I was really into that because that was part of the result from this. And at that point, I got my full-time job back. They had found the money, and I was disappointed. I said, “You mean I’ve worked this hard to become basically an expert in chemical composition of the solar wind, and you want me to do something else?” Said, “Yeah.” So, “Okay.” So, I did. Wasn’t really sorry, but it was just a very abrupt career change, so all that was basically for naught.
Before we get onto the new career, I want to go back and talk about a couple of things that were mentioned. While you were working half-time, both on your Ph.D. and at the Space Environment Lab, what was the — was it still the same research that you had started on, or did that change?
No, I was working on — when I was at the half-time job, was basically just computations, working on shock dispersion. It was solving some equations for Murray Dryer. He was my boss at that time.
He was working on shock, I guess, development in the solar wind. I know it was something that Art Hundhausen and Jack Gosling didn’t think much of. They at that time objected to some of the boundary conditions and some of the assumptions that Murray was making. He was coming to it from an aeronautical engineer, fluid dynamic. And they would say, “Well no, you’ve got some of the plasma physics a little wrong.” And I sort of agreed with that, but the job was to solve these equations, and you know, basically computer programs.
Do you know what kind of computer you used?
Let’s see. Back then, it was all punch cards, I know that.
Probably a 650, an IBM 650. I know I started out in ‘64-‘65 with a Bendix paper tape computer at CU.
I did some computation. Basically, almost machine language. But things develop pretty rapidly, and Fortran was the language it was working at that point.
I know that’s for sure. Then after — like I say, there was a little disappointment when I got back to work, and again they thought, “Well, okay, you’re just going to do more of these shock transport work, but you’ll do it full-time now instead of half-time.” And I thought, “Oh. That’s going to make me unhappy.” So, Gary Heckman, the director of the Space Weather section — actually, they called it Space Disturbances. Oh, that may have even been the original name of the laboratory: “Space Disturbances Laboratory.”
I think that’s right. And when Don Williams became the director, it became the Space Environment Laboratory. Then that evolved to the Space Environment Center. And now it’s Space Weather Prediction Center, as it’s going on through — but I was — became much happier then, although I was — it was kind of an odd situation for having a Ph.D. in a basically a 24/7 union shop, almost, of weather forecasters. But it was just wonderful for me. It worked out very well, and I was given latitude to really start looking at some of the details of space weather prediction. And that kind of led to what’s under your left elbow here. [pulls out paper] Which we’ll get over here. I got the opportunity to convene some conferences, and so the first one was “Solar Events and their Influence on the Interplanetary Medium.”  We called it the “SEIIM conferences.” Here’s the SEIIM 1, I think that was in ‘86. And we just had — it was just such a great conference — and we held it at Estes Park. We had all these wonderful folks come. Very impressive. I think — attendance list — started working on — let’s see. There was a flares and eruptive section, there was a CMEs section, and then interplanetary events. Jack Gosling was the leader for interplanetary events. And Marcus Machado from Manned Spaceflight Center was the group leader for flares and eruptives. And Steve Kahler was the group leader for CMEs. And we just have a “who’s who” really, of people. But I was the overall coordinator.
What did that involve?
Getting the time, place, and food, and the invitations, setting the agenda, and gosh, everybody came, and it was just — it was such a success that we had a second one, then — this was in ‘86 — in ‘88, in Colorado Springs, SEIIM 1 and SEIIM 2. And that was all — got written up in EOS, so that was that — but we were starting to ask the very basic questions, then. What is all this — why are flares working for us as a space weather prediction tool? They didn’t know any better, then — up until then to just use flares. That was the only thing we had. But by and by, it became clear that it was the prominences. I think that may be my major contribution to the field at that time, was that it’s not just flares. It’s sitting on the desk — trying to use flares to predict things was not working, but some of the other things were. Coronal holes — we kind of had figured out by that time that that wasn’t it, either. There was something else that we were missing. And we finally — well, it’s the other eruptives. Well, how do we know there’s an eruptive? When we have a disappearing filament. And they go off quietly, basically. They’ve got maybe a little rise in X-rays, but then here’s this magnetic storm.
When did this really start to be figured out, or when did people have this suspicion that it was not — it was these conferences?
These conferences. These conferences really solidified it, I think we got it — got it all together at that time and decided that was — there was way more that we didn’t understand that we needed to put together. It was a very popular thing. They had lots and lots of conferences. From there and on, there was a whole lot of space prediction conferences that were held. It cascaded from there. It became — in fact, that sort of is what led into my second career, as these continual conferences and the organizing and the excitement of getting all these experts together in the same room to really look at these things. It turned out that was something I could do pretty easily, is organize these conferences.
Stepping back a little bit, I wanted to follow up — so your job, after you got your Ph.D. — who was using the results for the models and the predictions that you were making? Who were they intended for?
The prediction center itself, the 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week operation, was part of the Space Environment Laboratory, and it was coordinated through a number of international centers, regional warning agencies, and at Boulder in Colorado, we were the world warning agency. It included things like just counting sunspots. I mean, it was really all the nitty-gritty, what you think of with the weather predictions kind of service. There would be days where I’d go into the little telescope we had there, and I would have to count the sunspots. I remember my hair catching on fire.
You know, the image is coming down there, and you’re and you’re tracing in there, counting sunspots, and go, [sniff sniff] — Oh, wait a minute. Back off!
The hazards —
The hazards of counting sunspots.
And we had a real-time H-alpha telescope — came down into our forecasting center. We got that digital — finally got that done. And digitalization just evolved slowly and surely along with that. But we Geomagnetic fields were a big part of this.
I had to self-teach myself most everything about the geomagnetic fields that I worked on. But we had the instruments, we had as much real-time data — a lot of ionospheric data. At that time, ionospherics were still really big. So, we combine all of this data, just as they do even now, and put out a daily report and forecast: forecast for the next three days, the probabilities of major flares and geomagnetic activity. That part hasn’t changed at all. But we would collect the data — of course, as the sun went down in Boulder, we’d start collecting data from Japan and China and Europe, and Australia, all the other way around the world. Then all that data would come into Boulder for the main forecasts and things. None of the other agencies were 24/7. Boulder was the only one that had forecasting on-duty 24/7. Then the major alerts, when we would get — obviously someone would start reporting, or basically high-frequency dropouts, originally — and then by and by, we started recognizing other aspects. And then as we got satellites, of course, we could still observe the flares in real-time. But my goodness, you know? We get these reports in, and we’d have a list of agencies we would have to call. And the forecasting center has always been part-military. We’re totally unclassified, but there would be a classified aspect that they would take care of. So, we would get all this data in and condense it, try to put out a forecast. What we thought was going to happen — keep all the rotation, keep tracking all the — and we would number the regions. That was our job. So, when a region was identified, we assigned its number.
And these are regions on the Sun?
Regions on the sun, mm hmm.
And tried to analyze, tried to get information about what magnetic complexity there was.
And how then — you know, you talk a little bit about how this ends up in these SEIIM conferences. But how was your progress tracked? How did you figure out which models worked, which models didn’t?
We tried to do verifications. One of my papers I have out there, the state-of-the-art in geomagnetic forecasting. How well are we doing? It’s still not really wonderful. It was even worse back then. We were missing these totally huge magnetic storms because we weren’t looking at filaments. We weren’t looking at eruptions or CMEs. Then of course, when we got them, gosh. The ISEE satellite out there could actually see the eruptions coming off. Oh, that was heavenly. We thought we had it solved, but that’s not it, either. Still working on that. Then later on, after doing a lot of work along that, and again, a lot of international conferences later, I was asked to convene a prediction symposium — or do a prediction for solar cycle 23. That was probably the biggest single project I was involved in. Again, it was a consortium. The solar cycle 23 project was the name. Here’s prints of some of the reports that they used. We had to again convene a panel of experts and try to — at that time, my goodness, we had so many different ways of predicting sunspot cycle number. We were just into the number itself. And that — it was really a fun — we just — we had a lot of ways of just looking at the sunspot number and — when minimum was, we had to really work on — I think Karen Harvey was especially helpful to try to figure out when — how do you define solar minimum, maximum, smooth numbers. Where do these all come from in the first place? But they had been going back since Carrington, a long time ago, people have been counting sunspot numbers and trying to make sense of the sunspot cycle.
So, I’m curious. If you wouldn’t mind describing a couple of the different ways people thought about making these predictions.
Probably the people who actually looked at the magnetic fields on the Sun, that was — they were the new up-and-coming techie type guys who knew that. And then there was the completely mathematical — I mean, this almost looks like the stock market, where you go back and where they would just take the string of numbers. You know, any way you can get them. Today, I went and looked at the string of numbers and just running them through artificial intelligence filters. So that was — in fact, I had a whole symposium on artificial intelligence techniques that use that. Then there was just plain old persistence. It was a technique. We had a lot of numerical, just strictly numbers techniques. We had some that tried to use some physics to try to get into it, and others where they were just mathematical, I guess, with numbers. So, we had those different kinds of people and techniques. We divided them all up. We had — somewhere here I’ve got a list of all of the different ones who published papers and our committee broke up into groups to analyze each of the different kinds types of forecasts. And so, we worked and worked and worked, and it was pretty interesting. We did come up with a result, which was mostly wrong, but our last meeting, which was in England in ‘99, we were finishing up the final report, and we looked at ourselves and says, “What are we going to tell people if this is all wrong?” How are we going to explain this? We got the timing of the cycle right, but we missed the solar maximum for 23 — cycle 23 was only 120, and we thought it would be 160. We basically — what we ended up with was persistence. We thought it would be — solar cycle 23 would be like 22, and that’s after looking at everything we could think of to look at. But it wasn’t like that. It was quite a bit lower. Even though I have not followed — I know there was another solar cycle prediction effort for this last one, and that group could not come to consensus. We at least came to consensus. We were wrong, but we were all agreeing. But I do know the next solar cycle conference, they couldn’t even agree. They had a high solar maximum and a low solar maximum group, and they just wouldn’t agree, the low solar numbers, of course won out today, but it was really an interesting project. We had quite a few different meetings I think I have a list in here of the record of panel meetings. Yeah, this started in ‘96 in Boulder, and then we went to Sunspot, New Mexico in ‘97. Then we went to Nantucket, Massachusetts in ‘98. Then the final meeting was in Birmingham in ‘99, where we put out our predictions and our rationale and comparative look — oh, Bob Wilson, comparative look at sunspot numbers. This is from an ‘84 paper, and trying to figure out what sunspot cycle has to do with anything anyway. I’m really proud of that effort. That was a great effort. But it did end in ‘99, because that’s the year I was elected as the Secretary General of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics.
That’s basically where my solar work ended, because at that time I retired from NOAA and I’ve been retired ever since.
Sure. We’re definitely going to talk about that, but I did want to actually go back to the beginning. You said your dad worked for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Bureau of Reclamation. Civil engineer.
Civil engineer. Okay. And what about your mother?
Mom, at home, for sure. High school education. And I have a younger brother who is quite a bit younger, six years, and he’s an MD. And I have a younger sister who went on into the humanities: music.
We’re spread around.
“Three only children,” is how we describe ourselves.
Yeah, but you said at one point your parents started to think you might be worth educating.
I thought that was a curious turn of phrase.
I haven’t heard the story too often. I’ve heard it a couple of times, but I guess when I was in kindergarten, I got an I.Q. test. I think the I.Q. tests were just becoming normalized there in the early 1950s, or they were a hot thing. So, I guess I blew away the I.Q. test, in the little town in Kansas where I was. So, the expectation was that I was going to be able to get a good education.
And when did you then move to Colorado?
Moved to Colorado in middle school.
So, when I was in 8th, 9th grade.
Do you remember any particular teachers or other people that had an influence?
Yes. Oh, my goodness. Pearl Price, my high school math teacher. Yeah, she was a favorite. We got along famously. And of course, also in high school, I took Russian because I was still so enamored with Sputnik and Russia. And they put men in space, and they put women in space. So yeah, that was my foreign language of choice. Even for the PhD, when I got it, I had to have a foreign language. Well, I hadn’t had any language since high school, but I still was able to pass the exam at CU…
…in Russian, because again, I was so into Russia.
And you said Sputnik was a very formative event.
Very formative event.
Describe how you heard about it, and what you — how you responded.
I was just 14, but Dad got a little short-wave radio, so we could listen, and we were living in Denver in that time, so we could hear the little “beep, beep, beep” when it flew over.
Yeah, the whole thing is so exciting rockets — and it was all really happening, so I just knew I was going to be an engineer and help with all this stuff. But then Dr. Billings intervened, and physics became more fun than engineering at that time. I always wondered — because there I was in applied mathematics, just at the time when computers were being invented. Like I say, the first computer that I worked on was a paper tape Bendix. And I keep wondering what would have happened if I had stayed on the computer path instead of the physics path. Physics is a whole lot more fun, I think.
You said Pearl Price, your math teacher, was a big influence. What do you remember about her that was —
Well, I — you know, I just — you know, it was one of those things where you just look forward to going to class. There was always something exciting about mathematics that made it exciting for me.
Well, that’s great. And how then did you decide to go to University of Colorado?
Well, actually at that time I — my dad’s a Kansas State University alum — so I thought, well, I’d better apply to Kansas State University. And they did have a nuclear engineering program that I thought would be good. But then I got a better scholarship, full tuition and board at CU, and that carried the day.
Sure, I can imagine that. Were there any other places you applied to or looked at?
No, I didn’t really. Just CU and Kansas State University.
Going to Colorado, I think you mentioned that you were one of the very few females then.
Yeah. I think there were four in this little class that we had, which was still pretty good. But now, I just found out the CU class in engineering is 40% women.
Wow. So that’s kind of exciting. Then I didn’t stay in engineering, of course.
I went into physics.
You said you were four of how many students? Do you remember — were in this class?
Oh, probably 500.
Oh, okay. Wow.
500 or so I would think. At least 500. I think the engineering class was at least 2,000 or so student body at that time.
Wow, was there any particular ways that played out or things you remember that were difficult as a woman at that time?
Well, yeah. I mean, people have sometimes asked me if I was aware of discrimination. The fact is it was there, and I had one professor refuse to help me with my homework because he said it would be a waste of his time. And I remember that distinctly, but I don’t remember being upset about it. It was, “Oh, okay.”
So, I got help from other directions. I know I remember — as it was getting closer to graduation, and “what do you do now with your life,” and the companies were coming in to interview, and there would be those who would not interview women. And for a variety of reasons — “We don’t have women’s bathrooms.” So, I think that probably helped push me off into getting a master’s degree in physics.
Because there really weren’t too many obvious opportunities for women in engineering.
Were there any other — you mentioned Don Billings. Were there any other professors you remember from your undergrad as especially memorable, helpful, not helpful?
Well, of course, Julius London was there, and my goodness, John Firor. I remember some of these from my master’s program. Jack Eddy, I’ve already talked about him as being just particularly wonderful. Physics was from a professor named Aamodt. And Dr. Goldman, he helped me a lot — come to the classes there. I remember those in particular. And Jack Gosling, I can’t remember whether he was a teacher. He was certainly in the department and was very much a presence. I remember him being there. Art Hundhausen. Very important person at that time. So, they were all very — it was a very small community. As it turns out, I was the first woman to graduate with a PhD from the astrogeophysics program, and the department had existed some 20 years. I think one of the reasons for that was because I was older. I just could not be intimidated. I’m definitely older. I mean, one of my professors lives here in Frasier, Gary Thomas. He was always a good professor. He gave me Radiative Transfer, I think it was — it was that class, and I remember once just sort of asking him — I remember a question came up, saying, “You know, I just didn’t get that. Would you tell me again?” Everyone looking like, “What! You don’t talk to a professor like that!” But you know, being older than he was, it just didn’t bother me to. So, I didn’t get a lot of negative messages that I think were out there. And I do feel a little bit badly because Barbara Mihalas — Dr. Dimitri Mihalas is a very well-known — his wife — well, she wasn’t his wife then — Barbara and I were both in the program. And we’re sitting together, and she was probably on a track to beat me to the PhD, but her kids were frying donuts one day and set her kitchen on fire.
So that dropped her back a semester.
Yeah, I can imagine.
Just a little confusion there. So, I actually beat her to the wire, and I always felt a little sheepish about that. I’m sorry. It wasn’t meant to be.
Wow. When your — after you graduated from undergrad, you immediately went back for the master’s because there were no opportunities?
Because there were basically no opportunities, and Dr. Billings was there, and I was really excited by this project. And it looked like it was going to be a good thing to do.
Were there any other places that you looked or considered?
Well, see, I had gotten married at that time. Joselyn is my married name. We looked at the University of Michigan, but we got out there on a very gloomy day, and thought, “Ah, maybe Colorado is better.” So that’s basically why I got all my degrees here.
Colorado does have some great — it is a great place to live.
It’s a great place to live. We just decided, no — and he got — he had been in engineering but got onto marketing and business, so he got his PhD, or DBA, I guess, in business, and then was teaching at Denver University.
But then that marriage ended about the time I got my PhD, so I was real interested in keeping my job at NOAA. It worked out very well for me.
Yeah, and the — so getting the — were there any — during that time, when you sort of went from your master’s to the PhD to that end, do you remember the job changing at all, or what sorts of techniques that you used? If you wouldn’t mind —
Well, certainly. Well, the whole digital thing. I mean, it was really not — I mean, copies were all mimeographed. We could not, you know — I remember we had — how exciting it was to have the first time we could actually get electric pencil. To get a computer-like thing, where we could type and have it stored, you know, digitally, I just — oh, my goodness. Electric pencil was the name of the program, and it was hard — I mean, compared to what we can do now, it just was so exciting to have that. And mimeographs, when you could then send or do drawings, pictures, you know, all the drawings in my dissertation were drafted.
You’d print it out, you’d put it out on graph paper basically, and take it to the draftsman, who’d make it pretty.
Let’s talk about that. If you wouldn’t mind describing your dissertation, how you found the —
I’ve got it. Let me get it out here, because that was really a long time ago.
But yeah, the title is, “Elemental Composition and Ionization State of the Solar Atmosphere and Solar Wind.” And we did — I did have some computer printouts I know, and a lot of it was developed — let’s see. Here’s an example of a drafted. So, this is the paper that came out of it: Physical Properties of the — oh, this is a different paper. This is — this is a different paper. Variation of the — well, this is my master’s.
Oh, my goodness, I forgot about that. This is Coronal limb 5303 profiles with Dr. Billings that’s what I did with — reducing these images that were taken at Climax, Colorado. And again, all the images, all the charts, are all drafted. And that one. That was a densitometer — reducing densitometer tracings of the corona. So that — ah, I thought that was the dissertation. Oh, I’ll have to find my [walks away from recorder] Surely — it’s not right on the top. Well, this is — this is the book of it, though. This is where all the — all of it comes around, and the abundance measurements have proved useful in generating astrophysical theories. This was all the acknowledgements and everything. The actual dissertation — I do have to — remember I said there was a little controversy between Murray Dryer and Art Hundhausen. So, my oral exam was a little bit odd. I went in and gave the basic abstract of what I had done, and Art and Murray got into it. They started yelling at each other, and I could sit down most of — most of my oral dissertation was — I was silent — the oral defense, and because they had so much to say to each other, but then after the hour was up, and I was excused, and they came back and said I’d passed.
Were there any other people on your committee that —
Hm, yes. The people on my committee — of course, Tom Holzer and Don Billings were the co-chairs. At that point, Don was really emeritus, so it was really Tom Holzer who did all the work with me. Joe Holwig, Art Hundhausen, Richard Monroe, Steve Seuss, and then Murray Dryer was — of course, he was my boss at work, so of course came to sit on it. And Betty Beck. They needed an outsider to come in, and she was an engineering school professor that I knew, so I thought it would be nice to have one woman in there with me. So, Betty was kind enough to come over and serve that function. But yeah, it was a lot of — there was a lot of computer program, a lot of dissertation. I mean, just grinding numbers, but then when it all came out, you just take your stuff in and have it drafted to have the stuff put into the dissertation.
Well, that’s great. What were the — so were there any other stories or things you remember from that period when you were working on both your PhD and at the lab? Were there other things you wanted to talk about?
No, it was — I was not particularly driven toward the PhD I was taking classes — the government was kind enough to pay my tuition, even though I was part-time, so I would go to classes, and of course enjoyed that. I worked on finally getting the dissertation done. It all just kind of moseyed along until boom, I was done. I don’t remember it being — I remember it being a pleasant time.
Oh, that’s good.
Very wonderful. I do remember one exam though, in plasma physics, when I had to actually call Dr. Goldman, and said, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” And he says, “Oh yes, you can.” That was about it. So, I said, “okay, yes, I can.” This was a take-home exam. I remember being in tears. I just can’t get it. Basically, he said, “Oh, pull it up. Pull up your socks.”
So, you know, emotional. And certainly, I don’t remember feeling any negativeness during the PhD program, but again, I’m pretty oblivious. And it was just a good time.
Then let’s — so after you completed the PhD, and as you said, you had all this new knowledge but then weren’t going to use it.
Yeah, but then I wasn’t going — so like, yeah.
So, what were the — when you went back to the lab, what were the sorts of projects that you worked on then, or sorts of people that you interacted with?
Well again, working especially Murray Dreyer and these particular shockwave propagation models that he was working with, and it was 2-dimensional then 3-dimensional, trying to continually work out the interactions. But like I said, just wasn’t interested in that, so getting down in the forecast center, having the excitement of actually counting sunspots and watching flares happen and calling people, then say, “Look out.” And that of course developed then — space weather was, and is, a growth industry.
So, there was a lot to talk about all the time, and the great big magnetic storms — some wonderful — magnetic storms.
Yeah, do you remember anything in particular?
Oh, March 13, 1989. We can get down to details. It was a really good one. There was — that was a time when we saw aurora in Boulder, a red aurora, except I missed it because I was on the night shift that night, and so the aurora was at about 10 or so p.m. So, then I got into work at midnight. The phones are all ringing. Everybody’s talking about it. I hadn’t seen it. Just waking up and getting over to work.
I’m curious. When a big event like that happens, what does someone in your position do?
There’s a checklist, of course, of agencies you have to call, and it’s quite diverse. Then the people calling in, too. One thing about the forecasting desk is it’s a public agency. People can call you. I became, as it turns out eventually on the desk, the person who would talk to homing-pigeon racers, because they learned that I would pay attention. So, it turns out homing pigeons get lost during geomagnetic storms, so they would call and ask for the geomagnetic weather, and I even gave talks to homing pigeon racing societies. So, I sort of branched off, and that became my little bailiwick, was that the biological aspects of geomagnetic storms, which there were several — many disreputable ones that were quite interesting. Homing pigeon racing is one. Another serious effect is, of course, the electrical currents. That’s during the big auroras in the north. They’re right over the Alyeska pipeline. They induce amazing currents in that pipeline.
Because these current — near can be 1,000 amps, and the pipelines catch fire. They actually do, and so you call these people up and tell them, you know, “Look out.” And oh, my goodness, so does anything that looks like a wire on the ground, like a train track or a powerline, these auroras induce currents. Really mess it up. So, trains, we have to call the trains because they got to the point where finding out whether there was a train on the track, they use transducers to see where they were — well, these things would fire off all over, so they would no longer know where their trains were. They’d have to go out and look. It’s just almost everything goes blooey. Geomagnetic surveying, they better take the day off. They called us — we’d call them to say, “Don’t try to do any geomagnetic surveys tomorrow. Your data is going to be unreliable.” Even manufacturers of transistors. If they’re to the point where if there’s a fluctuation of magnetic field beyond what they can tolerate, you know, again, they’re going to have to throw them all out. The geomagnetic field in the Earth is pretty impressive. Besides just auroras, you know. People just love auroras, so you’d always have people wanting to know whether there’s an aurora tonight, or, “Hey, I think I see an aurora.” Just continually on the phone, talking to satellite operators. During a geomagnetic storm, the upper atmosphere of the Earth expands. It’s heated by all that incoming stuff, so the satellites at low altitudes really feel the drag, and people like in Colorado Springs who track debris, spacecraft debris, everything again just starts swimming, because everything has got a different profile. So, a lot of stuff falls out of the sky, so you have to tell people about that, that that’s happening. And if their satellite is not where they expect it to be, that’s I think more of a military application, actually, because they fly those guys really low feel it and they have to get them out of there. Even the astronauts feel it. There was a time when they thought they might do polar orbits, but they found out the atmosphere gets too bumpy at higher latitudes because of the rising warm air up there. So, I think there was — one time apocryphal, probably, but they — one theme was mission that almost skipped out, where they were coming through and hit a pocket of air.
Yeah, it would have been bad. So, they don’t do that. There are no polar-orbiting manned missions. There are — let’s see. Just the whole solar proton event, that sort of different class of activities, so we have to keep reminding people that during a major solar proton event, there are consequences. Airlines, right now — FAA will actually not permit cross-polar flights during big solar proton events because of the radiation. Airline pilots and flight attendants are classified as radiation workers. They have to carry badges, I believe. So, we tell them they should not be flying at that altitude. They can — airlines will probably cancel flights rather than have them fly at lower altitudes, so avoid that. So, there are just so many — a range of consequences. And satellites themselves have so many different kinds of consequences. We have the satellite operators, most — many of whom are commercial, are — don’t want us — don’t want to admit that they’re having issues with their spacecraft. Of course, the NOAA satellites, we don’t mind saying when we were — we’ve got phantom commands, you know, things are turning on and off, and different — older satellites are skating all over the sky, or whatever. So, I would get a phone call from someone who would say, “I was just wondering if you were noticing any problems with your satellites.” I might say, “Well, yeah, the NOAA satellites are showing some anomalies today.” [sighs] “Oh.” There’s a big sigh of relief on the other end because they know it’s not their fault.
And in between, right now, we have — it’s been so many years between — since we’ve had a really major solar storm, or geomagnetic storm, I should say. But the next one that happens, and it’s inevitable, there are going to be a whole new class of anomalies that are coming out, because people — I mean, you just don’t know. There was one satellite that was put up that had some solar panels that worked really well in design, so they made them twice as big, and they immediately caught fire because they hadn’t properly taken into account the effects of the space environment.
Different parts of the satellite charge up to different potentials, and they arc during these solar storms, and so that’s what had happened. They just hadn’t properly taken care of the fact that the bigger space solar panels build up a big potential, and it just simply arced out. So, we advise the astronauts not to do spacewalks during these kinds of conditions because the facemasks around the helmet seems to be a place where charges collect, and there’s no common ground out there, so you don’t know what you’re touching, so you don’t want to — you want to always do your spacewalks in sunlight, so that at least you’ve got some solar photon equalization going on. In the dark, you just don’t know where the ground is. So, the space environment — incredibly interesting. And of course, when you want to go to Mars and the Moon, you definitely have to take these things into effect, because Mars — they’ll be on the other side of the Sun from us. They’ll have a whole different solar environment to deal with, so they’re going to have to take care of their own issues. Yeah.
You talked a little bit, but I want to touch back on that all of these workshops and committee meetings that you got involved with organizing.
And do you remember the first one that you organized?
Mm. Maybe the SEIIM ones were perhaps maybe the first ones I really got into really being organizer for.
And that was ‘86, right?
But it suited me, so I started doing quite a lot of that, and then through the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy — that’s IAGA — so the connections between all of these foreign, space environment centers is not governmental, really. It’s through IAGA. And that’s handy because IAGA is nongovernmental. So, a lot of data exchange happens through the nongovernmental organizations. And that way, the scientists basically have control of it. Governments come and go, politics come and go, borders come and go, but the scientists in these areas can still share the data through the international — nongovernmental international associations. So IAGA is the framework under which the data is transferred. It’s not government to government, it’s through this, even though the governments, of course, know what’s going on, and they supplied the data in the first place.
This is just how it works. So international — and space weather is one of the subcommittees under IAGA, under their Division 5, Geomagnetic Indices. So, before me, Gary Heckman had been the reporter that was the head of 4th Division 5 for this particular topic. And so IAGA meets every other year as a unit, and then as part of IUGG every four years. The general assembly is every four years. So at least every other year, you know, I was — we would get together, and again establish protocols. If there’s anything we need to establish — and we defined how to — define indexes. I mean, a lot of these basic definitions that we use are set up through these nongovernmental organizations.
Another thing that IAGA does is the International Geomagnetic Reference Field, and again, to do this model, it requires geomagnetic data, worldwide. You can’t miss a spot, or the model is messed up. And you can’t depend on a government to supply that data for you, so basically the scientists just do it. They get it together, they generate this model. It’s been updated every five years because the geomagnetic field is shifting. It’s moving around pretty good right now. The geomagnetic dipole is diving like a rock. So, we’re heading for reversal, probably, within a thousand years. So that’s pretty soon? IAGA does that. And IAGA, then, is one of seven sister associations under the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, so the other one that’s really important right now is the International Association of Geodesy. Now under that one, they do the International Terrestrial Reference Frame. And again, they use gravity data from satellites, and they’re the people who write the formula that goes into your GPS units, because you wouldn’t want a government to own that formula, or a private company to own that formula. It’s actually written and updated and argued back and forth by this nongovernmental organization, IAG. And no one would dare mess with it. Everyone agrees this is what it is, and it’s just by consensus, so a very powerful organization that way.
Yeah. And so how did you first get involved with IAGA and what —
Well, just through this space weather division. As one small part of IAGA, I got involved in that, and then I was going to all the meetings and being part of it. Like I say, a subunit of Division 5 of IAGA. But then, you meet everybody. So then when it came time for the IAGA secretary general to step down — and they’re term-limited, I think he was, 12 years — and I was suggested. I don’t know much more than that, I think. I’ve been told that — Dr. Ashour from Egypt was particularly influential in suggesting that I be asked to do the secretary general of IAGA. But I went to my boss, and I said, “Well, this looks like a possibility. It’s an elected position.” And then he says, “Well, how much time do you think it’ll take?” And I said, “Well, I think 25%. I think I can get it done in 25% of my time.” And he sort of gulped. “Well, okay.” But of course, it took a great deal more, but I did it nights and weekends. But I really tried not to spend more than 25% of my workday on IAGA. But you know, again, you get in, you’re writing — you’re corresponding, you’re sending out meetings, you’re allocating funds for people to attend, and then you’re — and coordinating with the other secretaries general for hydrology and seismology, and — so you’re really getting the whole geophysics picture. And then we — the Secretaries general would all get together and plan the agendas for the general assemblies, the programs, who are we going to invite, who is the best person in that field, the state-of-the-art. And since these general assemblies are only held once every four years, they really are state-of-the-art. I think you can go through the proceedings of these four-year general assemblies and really march through the advances in every single field. They’re extraordinary in their makeup. The U.S. isn’t so much involved, of course, in all of these international organizations because we’re so dominant. We can’t even imagine that the rest of the world is doing anything, almost. You know, we’re just so dominant. And for that reason, the rest of the world is a little jealous of the United States for that. But, you know, the U.S. pays their dues through the National Academy of Sciences, not through the government, and certainly contributes. They certainly make use. It would be a terrible thing for the U.S. not to have — well, it’s public access to any of these things, but they want to have the influence. They want to have their scientists in on the committee of international people that’s writing down the GPS formulations.
So, the U.S. is certainly supportive of all this. So that was good, so I was happily the secretary general of IAGA and got — while it was — while I had it, I got it non — not-for-profit status with the IRS. I mean, I really — made a difference, I had a wonderful time running IAGA. And then at a meeting — and I think it was probably in Washington, D.C., all of the officers involved in IUGG get together at AG meetings, and we sort of talk about what’s happening and how the U.S. might influence — these policies, IAGA policy standards again — so I think we were in Washington, D.C. in ‘98. Well, it must have been — yeah. It must have been the spring meeting in ‘98, May. And it was announced that the secretary general of IUGG was going to be stepping down after a year. A fellow named Georges Balmino in Toulouse, France. Most of the time, the secretary general of IUGG had been European, very strongly European. Of course, things — large international programs like International Geophysical Year, were certainly organized through that. Of course, having had to work with Georges and the other secretaries general — I know Fred Spilhaus says, “Well, who here would be interested in being nominated for that job?” And there were a bunch of us raised our hands up. One of the other ones was Bob Engdahl. He’s the secretary general of the seismologists. He lives here in Boulder, so he and I had worked together quite a lot there’s a whole ‘nother story about Vietnam with Bob and I, but we’ll continue this story. Then it came — the December meeting in San Francisco. Again, the same groups getting together. And he says, “Okay, now we’re down to the nitty gritty. We’ve really got to turn in this nomination form. And who is still interested?” Well, I was the only one who raised my hand because we knew who was going to be elected. These things — the strong international politics, we knew it was going to be Richard Peltier. Nice, Canadian mathematician, because after all IUGG is bilingual: French, English. And it’s strongly European, and of course, male dominated. So just for fun, I said — I knew I couldn’t win. So, I raised my hand. He says — and I was the only one, so there wasn’t even any question. So, they hand me the form. I remember thinking — practically filling out in crayon, just you know, just longhand filled out this form and turned it in. And the National Academy of Sciences forwarded it on to IUGG. And then in March, the election is going to come up in Birmingham in ‘99, in July. So, in March, I’m sitting in my office, and the phone rings. And it’s the secretary general of IUGG, Georges Baimino. But since I didn’t speak French — I mean, I really struggled with French. But his — so his name is G-E-O-R-G-E-S, “Georges,” right? So, I pick up the phone and say, “Georges, wow, this is great! Calling me from France! What can I do for you?” Well, so there’s a little small talk, and then he says, “Is this nomination. Is it for real?” Basically, wanted to know if it was a joke. And I said, “Georges, you know I can’t win. U.S., female, I don’t speak French.” Well he knew that, so there was another pause, and he says, “You are ze only candidate.” And I gasped and I said, “Well, what?” He said it turns out Dr. Peltier, support from Canada had withdrawn, and he withdrew after the nomination — the deadline for nominations. And I was the only other nomination. No one else had even — no other country has submitted a nomination — oh, look out. Are you bothered by cats?
No, no, no.
That’s Gracie. She just is interested. So, no other country had put in a nomination because everyone knew that Peltier was a shoe-in. He had been groomed for the job. He was male — French-speaking, perfect. Not American. So, this was quite a blow. And I says, “Well, I’ll call you back.”
So, I went in to my boss, Ernie Hildner at the time, and said, “Ernie, looks like I’m going to be elected secretary general of IUGG.” And he says, “Oh. How much time do you think that will take?” Well, I said, “I think I can do it for half-time.” Definitely not. But he says, “Well,” he says, “Get the information together, get the bylaws, give me your duty, you job description together.” He says, “We’ll send it into NOAA headquarters.” So, I did all that, and he took it in, sent it to NOAA headquarters, and they came back almost immediately: “No.” They said no, this would be a conflict of interest, was the excuse that came back, even though of course this is a nongovernmental organization. My own feeling about it is I would have outranked the administrator in the same room. So, anyway, I considered what to do and decided I could retire. I had my 33 years in with the government. I was 55. I could actually retire and take on — if I really wanted to take this job, I could do it. So, I did. I got to Birmingham, England. That was the last time — the Solar Cycle Project map was in Birmingham, and — was elected secretary general of IUGG. It was — I hardly knew what I was getting into at all, except I — you know, having been secretary general of IAGA for seven — for eight – yeah, for six years. I had been secretary general. So, I did have some inkling of what was going on. And my dear boss, Ernie Hildner, was so kind of embarrassed by the whole thing he allowed me to keep my office at NOAA. And all the money for my French-speaking assistant came through CU. So, CU handled the grant from the National Science Foundation. I guess I was the granting organization for just travel and to pay my assistant, came through there, and I continued to keep my office at NOAA then for the eight years I was a secretary general of IUGG, and it was a wonderful experience, obviously. But what you do there is what I’d been practicing all along, was organize meetings, and I’d write agendas and take minutes and advance the program, as it were.
And when you got that, then did you have to step down from the IAGA?
Yes, that moved on. That was —
And before we dive into the IUGG stuff, I had down here some other things you were involved in. At one point you went to Japan for a year?
Yes, that was while I was still working space weather.
And that was March of ‘90 to March of ‘91. And the regional warning agency in Nakaminato, Japan.
Sent in a request to the World Warning Agency in Boulder. Said we would like to have basically a one-year consultant. They had gotten a grant to bring in a one-year consultant to help advance their space weather capabilities. And it turned out to be me, much to everyone’s surprise, I think. But that was sort of the zenith of economic power you know, out of Japan they — I think they were really planning to colonize the Moon. I think they really were. That was their plan. But then their economy collapsed after that, and so none of those plans ever came to fruition. But yeah, I was assigned to — that turned out to be really handy later, because the 2003 IUGG general assembly was in Japan, in Sapporo. So, I was — my year in Japan stood me very well in doing that.
And so, in this consultant role, what were you assisting them with? What were you trying to make that observatory do?
Well, it was a little awkward. I just tried to fit in as a regular forecaster in their unit. You know, we’d — they’d do the same — they played the same game there we were playing here. Let’s look at the data and try to imagine — forecast what’s going to be going on, so I can’t say that I probably did a lot for them. There, I was kind of discounted. I felt like my opinions were not considered worthy. But —
And why do you think that was? Was it cultural differences?
Well, yeah. Cultural. There was some major cultural stuff going on there. But you know, they were certainly good to me, and I was really interested in the geomagnetic aspects of things there too, and of course they see aurora, the Kakioka Magnetic Observatory there, which I got to visit. And again, basically there — well, I just did more of what I was doing here, in terms of trying to communicate. So, it was a good year for me. I’m not sure if they got their money’s worth. So that was…
Yeah. Other things I have down.
You worked for the CCIR committee?
Mm hmm. CCIR was in Geneva. That was the ionosopheric — that was my — the early days there in NOAA, or ESSA, as it was back then. And when — ionosphere was really the dominant space weather effect.
So yeah, that was — again, they needed — it was a subcommittee on solar influences on the ionosphere.
Yeah, about this — I enjoyed that, going to Geneva and seeing — now, CCIR is the United Nations, so that is governmental. So, I was able to peek at — see how governmental science is conducted as opposed to nongovernmental science.
What were some of your memories of that? Or how it is different? How is it similar?
Well the — all the sessions are simultaneously translated, so people would have the earphones and there was much more of a protocol involved. And then when you go after the meetings, everybody’s was set on English. I noticed that. And of course, German was not allowed in the United Nations sessions, but Russian was.
That was how things were put, but they’re of course French, and just the formality of the governmental transactions was just pretty amazing.
Yeah, so then let’s talk more about the secretary general, the IUGG position. What — you said you sort of set the agenda, set the budgets. What were some of your priorities, and what were some of the things that you wanted for you to do in this organization and for the organization to do more generally?
Yes. Being — the French system — the secretary general, you’re the chief operating officer. So, the president is elected for a four-year term, then the other officers. And they’re all, you know, big-deal scientists from all over the world, and my first four-year term, the president was Japanese. The vice president was Israeli. Then I think we had — I should almost look this up again to be sure. But the treasurer’s Danish. We had China, we had South Africa and Australia. So, these are — these men sitting in this room. But it all worked out wonderfully, and again, [???] let’s have a meeting. “Where shall we go, Jo Ann? What shall we do?” So, basically it was my job to take care of all of that, and the agenda — all the reports come to me, all the requests for action. You know, we need — so if someone wants to go to a WMO, World Meteorological Organization meeting in Zurich, and they need a letter of credential, I’m the one who writes that letter.
And you really are the chief operating officer. So, when the agenda comes up for the meeting — I can actually give you some examples.
There are so many items that you have to go through. All the different meetings that are coming up, and again, allocating funds to different places for workshops. Probably the biggest accomplishment of my time there was setting up an eighth association. And that took quite a little doing, because you know, there were seven associations, and the money only goes so far.
So, if you want to add an eighth one, you have to divide. And the bylaws and the statutes were set up for seven. I learned so much about Robert’s Rules of Order. Believe me, I was learning — reading this on the edge of my seat. You know, “And then what? Then what?” So, it just — you know, the extent of the correspondence, the peoples there would be — then as secretary general, I would go to the meetings of ICSU, the International Council for Science. And their agendas would come up. We had a big issue going with Taiwan and China which exists to this day. A lot of political things. The International Council for Science has a policy about non-discrimination, basically, against countries. So, one of the things that happened to IAGA before I got in was they had scheduled an assembly in Oslo during the time of apartheid, and the country of Norway declared that they would not let scientists from South Africa in as a protest for apartheid. Well, of course everyone’s opposed to apartheid, but we could not have an assembly in a country that didn’t permit all the scientists — anyone to come. So, it got moved to England, pretty last-minute. I had issues in the U.S. with visas, trying to get visas from people from China into meetings in the United States, so I was fighting to get visas approved. It was not a part-time job, let me tell you.
Sure, I can imagine.
It was definitely a full-time job. So, the cryospheric sciences was the association I was able to establish it took all eight years to get everything worked through, and again, it was just a very slow process. So first you introduce the idea. You begin to model what’s going to happen if we get an eighth association. You set them up as a special committee. They have to convene their own science sessions. They have to — I mean, it was a very long process. But in 2007, we inaugurated. We got everything done so that there are now eight associations of IUGG. It was a real accomplishment.
Yeah. And why did you think this was important? Why did —
They camped on my doorstep. And a lot of the people were here at Boulder.
They could camp on my doorstep. So, yeah. But to get everyone to agree that this was a good thing was — again, you’re just — do it slowly. You don’t impose the thing. You just make it possible. Slowly as it comes along. Yeah. So that was interesting. My second term — my second four-year term, the president was Israeli, and we had an Egyptian on the board. So again, we have all these different cultures — we had meetings at NCAR. All these people come in. So, you sort of learned the cultural protocols of handling all these people and dealing with egos. People would ask me what was my job description, and I would say, “Ego management.” But [???] —
Do you remember any particular stories about that?
Oh. Well, actually, with getting this new cryospheric sciences in there, there were some that thought that was just ridiculous. There was some acting out, but not a lot, you know. Oh, I remember one crisis where the secretary general of the oceanographer got mad and stood up and said he was walking out. Point of order, something was going on, and oh my goodness. But it smoothed over.
Do you remember what it was about?
I actually don’t. But I know I’ve was terrified that he was actually going to walk out of the room. But he didn’t.
That’s great. So, well — actually one thing: you mentioned — I don’t — Vietnam.
That was still under IAGA.
Okay, yeah. That’s what I thought.
That was still IAGA. That’s when Bob Engdahl, IASPEI and IAGA, we decided we wanted to have a joint assembly.
And what is IASPEI.
That’s the International Association of Seismology at Physics of Earth’s Interior.
So, the earthquake guy.
He’s the earthquake Secretary General — and it happens often that the two associations will get together and decide to have a common assembly, so he and I got together and decided we needed to have a joint assembly, and it would be great to have it on the beach, somewhere warm, in the winter. So, we decided Mexico was a good idea. And we got — we kind of got things going, talked to some people down there. I think it was Puerto Vallarta. And so — but then we have to follow the rules. There was a call for proposals for the assembly. That’s a big deal, too. So we put out the call for proposals and sat back, and pretty soon, here comes a proposal from Vietnam. And it’s a beautifully written proposal. And we’re both — this is ‘90, 1998. And we looked at each other and gasped. Says, “We better get the one in for Mexico.” But nothing, nothing, nothing. Finally, the deadline was coming, so I think Bob called his colleagues and said, “Come on,” you know, “get this in.” So, they did. So, now we have two proposals for the scientific assembly in 2001. So now we have to make a choice. So, we have a formal questionnaire thing. They’re not supposed to know they’re competing against each other. These — but we’re having to make a decision. How will you handle this event, this — we had it all lined up, and we basically stacked the deck, because we wanted it to be in Mexico. [???], no. It wasn’t quite like that. But you know, we wrote all this down quite formally and sent it off. And right away, here comes back the reply from Vietnam: this is how we’ll address Point #1. This is how we’ll address Point #2. And oh, okay, well, we’d better get the reply back from Mexico — our colleagues in Mexico. Nothing. Nothing, nothing. Finally, Bob called them up and again, he said, “Oh,” he says, “wow.” He says, “You have somebody else who wants the assembly? Fine, let them do it.” It basically went through. So here we are, with this beautifully constructed proposal and response from Vietnam, and neither Bob Nor — I had never been to Vietnam, obviously, and so we thought, “Well, we’d better go visit before we really accept this proposal to see whether this is all for real.” And so, by golly, we went over, and I guess we must have gone over in — maybe in ‘99, maybe? It was while I was still secretary general, so — but it was maybe earlier that year. They treated us just wonderfully. It was perfectly clear it was going to be a wonderful general assembly. So, we agreed. We said, “Okay, you can have this assembly.” Yeah, I was scared to death when I got over there. But it was a wonderful — and then in 2001 was when the actual assembly was, and by that time I was not secretary general, but they invited me to come back. So, I attended as a guest. It was really wonderful.
Maybe, yeah. So that gives you some idea of what was a Secretary General does, what goes on.
Alright. This is Session 2 of the oral history interview with Dr. Jo Ann Joselyn, conducted by Stephen Neal for the American Institute of Physics. You were describing to me what…
…the secretary general does…
…the secretary general does. Exactly.
Exactly. So, this — one thing I’m going to point out is this is on A4 paper. Now this would make my NOAA colleagues crazy because of course the U.S. government is supposed to be metric, right?
So, I would go in to the copy machine and change the metric to A4. And I would get loud complaints about the fact that I was dealing in the standard as opposed to 8 1/2 by 11. So, I enjoyed that. But so, this was from 2001 to 2002. So, I prepared agendas and background materials, of course, for the meetings, and the minutes, and issued a call for requests for the IUGG support for meetings and agendas. I issued a call for a proposal for inter-association grants because we did do that, so that all had to [???] through. Printed and mailed the 2002 IUGG yearbook. Had to do that every year. And I hired an assistant to help me — French-speaking — redesigned the website that year. Added a compendium of IUGG resolutions to the website back to 1967.
That’s one of the things that the general assemblies do, is they pass these resolutions. A lot of them are pretty simple, seem to be innocuous, but they’re something every scientist in every country agrees to, and some of them carry quite a lot of weight in terms of, if they say, “We support,” for instance, “The IBP program,” and they can take that and trade it in for money. Really, that kind of a resolution from something like the Union assembly. So, then membership, we readmitted Armenia as a country, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as associate members. Conducted successful ballot to reduce the member category of Indonesia from 3 to 1. They had originally come in in Category 3, but it took a vote of the member countries to reduce their member category to 1, which means there’d be less money or first come in.
Sent information on IUGG membership to Malta. We thought Malta should join, so I traveled to Singapore, so I was out trying to get them to join. Sent ballots terminating the membership of Athens, Greece. They had not paid in a long time and were ignoring me — so I terminated them. They had to reapply. I think they’re back in, but only recently. And Pakistan. Received and distributed a request from Pakistan to enter associate membership. But they then sent a payment of back dues, so they were not reduced associate members so they were allowed another year of grace. But then facilitated a meeting of the U.S. national committee, prepared a call for hosts for the 2007 general assembly. Nominations for IUGG officers, you know, it just goes on and on. It’s just all the sort of stuff that the secretary generals do. So, worked with ICSU, all the different scientific organizations, World Meteorological Organization. Appointed Deon Terblanche as IUGG representative. Appointed Arthur Askew as IUGG representative. Supported Bob Engdahl as the IUGG representative to a global science forum. So miscellaneous correspondence. Wrote a letter of endorsement on a book. And the — responded — the national correspondent for Mexico. This was when we were starting to do that. And this is besides all the stuff for ICSU. I would respond to the request for application of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. They wanted to join ICSU and they had to have endorsements. IUGG contacts in Africa. I sent those in because the ICSU was setting up a regional office in Johannesburg. Just almost every day. And it would be interesting because of the correspondence around the world, and email. By that time, email was quite good, so of course, by the time I get to work in the morning, all the business from Europe was coming in, and I’d be dealing with that, and by the end of the day, all the business from Japan was coming in, and Asia. So, it was an around-the-clock operation. Just highly enjoyable, but certainly nontrivial. I’ll say that for it. And again, a lot of ego management. Many are countries [???], some countries belong. We have to keep track of who the contacts for each of the eight associations, make sure that stays current, make sure they pay their dues, and send delegations when they’re needed, and so forth and so on.
Yeah, quite an interesting job, I’ll say that.
Were there any other stories from your time there that you wanted to mention?
From the — from IUGG?
I think it was most interesting to me to visit all the different countries. I mean, I really was a dignitary, so I mean it’s almost hard for me to travel now because I’m not met. You know, so, no. I mean, I have a list of the international travel during that time, you know, so — Hamburg and Vancouver and Exeter and Japan and Vienna and Buenos Aires and Upsala, Sweden, and Vietnam. That was an extraordinary trip. And Hong Kong, Nagoya, Crete — I had a conference there. Warsaw, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Perugia, and Melbourne, Australia, which is where the general assembly after the one that was in 2011 — that was after I had retired and was unelected. But — and then I had to set up all the meetings for that.
So, it was just an extraordinary thing to travel through all these places and meet the people I did. Just a wonderful, wonderful experience.
Well, I’m wondering — I have down, you know, that you — during this period, you’re also at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
Mm hmm. That’s the part of the University of Colorado that basically handled the grant.
So that’s — that became my affiliation once I was no longer a federal employee.
I see. Were you doing any of your own research there, or is it mostly just union business?
No, no. I had really bitten off way more than I anticipated by — so no. In fact, it was astonishing to me how quickly the half-life, once I retired — I think retired in ‘99. I think I still reviewed papers for JGR for the next couple of years, and after that, I just was no longer competent to review the papers. I think that was one of the biggest surprises is how quickly, once you’re no longer in mainstream research, you drop off the end. It’s just — you know, it’s just — at that point, like I say, I’m a groupie, and just follow along. I am a very informed layperson, but I’m not in science research anymore.
So, well that actually leads into one of the questions I wanted to ask, which is: while you were doing your research, what were the journals that you paid attention to? [???] —
Well yeah, it was mostly JGR.
Okay, the Journal for Geophysical Research?
Research. A little bit AIAA. I went to some of their conferences, because again, they’re so affected by space weather. So JGR was really the journal that I had the most to do with when I was — in the early days, when I was still doing really basic solar research, you know, then it was the physical — geophysical — or what was it? They — let me try to think it out.
Oh, it’s right here. Where I published in — the Astronomical Journal. That’s what I’m trying to think of. So, I followed some of those things for a while, but then after that, it goes into meeting proceedings, and of course I collaborated with several books, you know, with Nancy Crooker of course, coronal mass ejections, and Joan Feynman. She was here at CU for many years. Richard Feynman’s sister. And so —
My colleague is actually going to interview her, so —
Oh, good. Very good. I’m so glad. She’s an interesting person.
Yeah, so — well, do you mind telling me a little bit about that? How did that book come about, and how did —
I’ll get it.
Yeah, sure. [recording is paused and resumed]
Okay. So, this was, again, at a conference. So again, we had to organize it. I believe this one was in Montana. I think that’s this one. No questions about it.
I’m pretty sure this is the one that was in Montana. AGU Geophysical Monography. ‘99s what the date is? Based on material presented in 1996, Chapman Conference: “Coronal Mass Ejections Causes and Consequences.” So, the three of us worked together to edit the papers and get them all put in. So yeah, looks like I had got some signatures. Yeah, serveal few people signed their papers. But that was fun. That was a nice conference.
Was this also one that you organized, or were you just a participant?
Uh huh. No, it was an AGU Chapman Conference.
So, the Chapman Conferences are all put together — I think pretty sure Nancy — obviously, she was the lead on it. But we all worked together and chased down authors to get the proofs back. We worked together on that one. Well, this is the IUGG book — AGU Geophysical Monograph 150, IUGG, Volume 19. This is the State of the Planet, so that was the outcome of the 2003 general assembly.
So and — Magnetic Storms (AGU monograph 93). This is an earlier one. 1997 and again, I have it. This is one where I’m a contributing author. I just — and we always have to line up and have our pictures taken. I think I’ve got the one in there. Some of them are very obscure, some of these conference proceedings, and others were less obscure.
So how did you decide what —
Is it back on?
Yeah, it is. Yup. I’m curious. How do you decide which conferences you’re going to go to, and which ones, you know, you don’t have to?
Right. Basically, you can only get to about two a year, because it just took that long to put the paper together and think of something new to say every time. So really, you really had to have — you really had to have a good excuse and have something to say to your colleagues before you dare show up.
You want to have something to offer to the conversation. So, if on a — usually, there would be one or two a year that you could get to, and if the — sometimes you were the organizer of that, you know, in the case where Nancy said, “Let’s do a Chapman Conference at some point,” and you say, “Oh, wow, let’s do,” you know? So, then you’d have to put in the proposal and think about who you are going to invite. Once I, in the IAGA network, all the time frames were all pretty well preserved. And then there would be an interesting topic. Something would come up and say, well, we’ve got several, you know, papers, probably published in the U.S., and then the Europeans wanted to have — chime in, and so we’d organize a conference on that topic in their region. And we always tried to have our workshops in some of the smaller countries, so — because otherwise travel funds are just nonexistent for so many — even small countries in Europe, and definitely Africa. So, we find ourselves organizing conferences in those countries as much as we can to — so that — just to include them as the international science scientists.
Yeah, and which societies and which conferences did you try to make sure you went to everyone if you could?
Well, IAGA and IUGG.
Yeah, IAGA was the most closely-related to my line of work, so I could justify asking for travel funds for those. And the other ones, if it was a topic of immediate interest — well, AGU. Can always go to the AGU meetings, right? But then an international meeting, you’ve got to have lined up your ducks pretty well to get the funding to go to an international meeting. I think that’s so much more difficult now. Be interested to see — the next IUGG meeting is Montreal, Canada, so that’ll be easy enough for U.S. scientists to get to there. I don’t know how easy it will be for some of our foreigners to get there, but the Europeans and Africans and Asians, and hopefully they’ll — they always have a specific pot of money to help with travel expenses for — especially for invited speakers, which we very carefully manage.
And while you’re — you know, while you’re at these conferences, who did you see as your community? The people that —
Yeah, that’s a good question. I suppose the people that — whose papers you’re reading and they’re reviewing your papers, so it’s a very small community, I think, for a specific topic: space weather or coronal mass ejections. It was — you just know who those people, and that’s who you gravitate toward. But then the beauty of something like the general assemblies is that you have the top names from all the disciplines there, and they’re arranged in union lectures, so in one — you know, in a half-morning you can get the latest on volcanology and oceanography and magnetospheres — you know, the meteorology, the global warming — you know, who’s the head of the IPCC — is going to be talking [???]. So, you can really check in on disciplines that are not your own in a, you know, very confident and specialized, you can really do that.
Wow, that’s great.
Yeah. Nobel laureates.
Well, speaking of, were there developments that you saw during your career that you think were especially important milestones?
Well, of course the magnetosphere, I think, in my career…
…is the most major milestone. It didn’t exist, you know, basically, when I was — started college, and it was my career after that.
And the whole advent of plasma physics, the whole satellite issues — I mean, geodesy, the way it has developed, you know, when it was founded in 1919, it was mapping and surveying. And now, GPS and the whole geodetic systems are so important that you don’t even ask an oceanographer what sea level is. You go to a geodesist and ask them what sea level is. You know, it’s — that sort of explosion. And then, history will show that cryospheric sciences were a backwater. They were part of the hydrological systems. You know that’s a phase of hydrology. But as of 2007, that phase of science was considered so important it became its own association. So now it is a branch of science that wasn’t before.
Well, that’s great.
You know, you can kind of track mega-trends like that. Global warming has been such an issue for us. They — in the mid ‘80s, the IAMAS — the Meteorology and Atmospheric Association put out a resolution. They all agreed that the atmosphere was so far out of equilibrium, even in the mid ‘80s, that if the planet were vacated, it would take hundreds of years for the atmosphere to come back into equilibrium. I mean, talk about, you know, a statement about global warming.
And that was in the mid ‘80s. So, I mean, there was reason to say it was human-caused, took another 30, 40, 50 years to actually pin down what the source of the unequilibrium. But it’s just there.
Did you ever notice sort of — American politics and — around global warming, or any other scientific topic, really affect your job or your research?
Not really well, the politics having to do with free circulation of scientists. So, like the apartheid — but other kinds of things, especially having to do with China and Taiwan. That’s an entire topic that I’ll probably present a paper in Montreal on, is the issues with the politics and how the United Nations was involved, and how we somehow — Taiwan was there first, and then China boycotted every scientific organization until you cancel membership of the Taiwanese scientists. And you know, so there were pressures like that that are still — I mean, our — the IUGG bylaws and ICSU bylaws were specifically rewritten a couple of times over, having to do with China and Taiwan, and certainly that issue still exists.
It’s still a problem. And so, some of those politics — IUGG, much to my surprise, just put out an enormous resolution condemning the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.
And I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty gutsy, considering most of our money comes from the U.S.” But you know — and the UNESCO — you know, the U.S. has just recently dropped out of UNESCO totally. They had stopped funding UNESCO for some time, and we get some of our projects funded through UNESCO, so we were always a little nervous about that. But noted the lack of support for UNESCO programs with regret. The whole issue of ethics there — we passed one resolution on ethics having to do mostly with the vulcanologists, the IAVCEI people, because it turns out that every time a nice volcano blows off somewhere on the planet, that scientists all rush in and basically overwhelm the local scientists. So, one goes off in Mexico, here comes all the scientists, especially from the U.S. and all over, and they basically push them aside, and they’re all happily studying this volcano. So, we passed a resolution of ethics that says you can’t do that. It’s their volcano. You have to step aside, you know, because — you know, because it’s now an international agreement among colleagues — they don’t do it.
There was one example in the Ukraine after the breakup of a scientist who was jailed in the Ukraine because basically, I think this is probably the right word, he wasn’t paying his proper share of his grant money to the authorities. A kickback issue going on there. And so, since he refused to pay this fee of some kind, they had jailed him. So, it took an international pressure. So, we started writing letters, exposing this practice, and we got him out.
Yeah, so that was a — I got to write some of those letters. Right now, let’s see. What have we got? The — something passed through my mind that is — another — just the whole looking at things from a global standpoint instead of a national standpoint is — really is a different perspective [???].
What about maybe the opposite of that, and the local standpoint? I’m wondering if you can talk about how what is now SWPC changed over your career there.
Oh, yeah. Well, it’s now been pretty well — I think its research component has been pretty well eliminated because of funding. You know how those things go. So, they’ve decided that as the government that research belongs in the universities, and they will not be so much supporting research in the government laboratories. It’s certainly a change of attitude. The government laboratories used to do a lot of that. They’re caught in a recent round of budget cuts, SWPC has been spared. They’re — I think they’re pretty well safe because they can justify the need for the service. They’re the weather service. You know, one thing about space weather and regular weather is you’re indemnified by the government.
So, they can’t sue you if you get it wrong, which has — happens quite a lot. And our alerts are mandated. You know, people must — it’s true for the weather, especially — if the weather bureau here in Boulder our local weather bureau puts out an alert, a tornado alert or something like that, all of the commercial agencies have to repeat it, precisely that way, misspellings and all. You know, they have to put it out exactly as it’s received, and that’s true for space weather as well. We come under that umbrella.
So that’s — so the research component has certainly been diminished. But still, when the regional warning centers get together, international, we’d better be there, so that aspect hasn’t changed. The underground, the scientific underground, lives, regardless of government support.
Yeah. What were some of the different research projects that it was — used to be going on there? That like, for instance, you participated in?
Certainly, a great deal more about the — well, sort of the — more of the basic physics, such as the ionization equilibrium in the solar wind. I mean, obviously that was not going to be supported. But they do do a lot more modeling, so — and well, especially look to universities and help them get grants to do models, for instance, for effects of geomagnetic storms or taking the solar wind data and converting it into a model instead of so much on the physics end of it, really converting it into something that — I would hate to call it “commercial value,” but just of commercial interest, something that would — I mean, we are in the Department of Commerce, so you have to do that. Yeah. So probably a lot less interest in supporting travel right now, in both nationally and internationally. They just are — of course, luckily, the media — you can attend video conferences, you can certainly get the best news. The research advances travel quickly, much more quickly now than they used to be. You had to actually go to the conferences and read the paper and meet the authors, and that’s probably not so much true anymore. You can get by with videoconferences. Webinars.
Well, that’s great.
Twitter, for Pete’s sake. IUGG has a Twitter account. I don’t have a Twitter account. But IUGG has one.
Yeah. Well, yeah. Let’s talk about that, then. The — how did you communicate with other scientists in your community at the start of your career versus —
The start of the career was pretty much paper and pencil and fax machines.
Fax machines. Oh, my goodness. I remember standing in my office at NOAA, faxing a meeting invitation, a letter of invitation to Cuba, thinking that lightning would strike me at any minute, you know? Because at that time, I think the U.S. and Cuba were completely isolated but I had a phone number, and it worked, you know? So, I was faxing. But email couldn’t get to Cuba directly. I could get a fax directly, but email I had to bounce through Mexico. So, I had colleagues in Mexico that would communicate with scientists in Cuba. So, you know, we eventually got through of course, mail built rapidly, and then websites. Like I say, when I began we had a rudimentary website when I was elected in in 1999 out of Toulouse, France. So, imported it into the University of Colorado and developed more of it throughout the time I had it, and then it was transferred back to Germany, the new secretary general, and I think now it’s actually maintained in Russia. We tried to keep it, mostly we tried to keep it in English and French. We were really very good about that for a while. Then they’ve mostly given up. It’s mostly English. They — I can’t even tell you what number two would be of languages in the world. It’s just simply English. That was my saving grace, having such a problem with French. I mean, I hired tutors, I became almost literate in French, but could not hear it, couldn’t possibly speak it.
But you mentioned you did — were able to read and speak Russian.
And so — can you give some examples of when that came in handy, or how you used those skills?
The only time I’ve been to Russia was to Siberia and really the answer is “no.” I did get to visit Russia while was spending my year in Japan. So, I got an invitation to visit Irkutsk, Irkutsk in Siberia. So, I managed to get the permissions — of course, because I was still a government employee here at NOAA, but said, “You know, I’ve just got this great opportunity to just hop across, you know, it’s only a couple hours from Japan to Russia.” And NOAA said, “Okay.” So, I ended up in Siberia at Irkutsk and visited a coronagraph, a cyan coronagraph on the border with Mongolia, and deepest, darkest Siberia.
That’s the furthest away from home I have ever felt was that visiting coronagraph in Siberia. And so, we toured around a little bit and came back home through Kharbarosk, and I’ve never been back to Russia since. So, I got a chance, but that was before the fall of the USSR.
Yeah, that’s what I was going to say.
Yeah. Definitely still old-style, and I was — you know, they paid my trip, and well, I had to get there, but then after that, it was all paid for in rubles. You know, I was actually just given a stack of rubles, and I couldn’t begin to spend them all, so I just gave them back. My sponsor, at the end he was horrified. He didn’t know what he was going to do with those rubles. And that was a very strange trip. But I did — it was — you know, I think I gave a little talk, and they — of course, again, most of the time the conversations were in English. That’s what they wanted to speak. But I could eavesdrop.
Were there — what about some of the committees that you’ve been on, either through — oh, I’m sorry. Actually — I guess this one. Yeah, I guess it’s — sorry, I was — I guess —
We talked about [???].
Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.
The — well, let’s see. I’m trying to think — I was on the SolarMax review panel, perhaps some other review panels, but nothing specific comes to mind.
So yeah, they weren’t particularly…
But a few — they weren’t — yeah.
Weren’t particularly memorable. But it’s always nice to participate in a review panel.
And then what would you — because as you know, this is funded by the NASA Heliophysics division — what would you say has been the changes in the field overall during your career that you’ve really paid attention to?
Well, it’s — luckily for me, I was at SolarMax. I actually got to Goddard during the SolarMax mission because it was important that they have space weather information, you know, right now, they couldn’t almost wait for Boulder to advise them, so they had a forecaster on-site there. And during the forecaster that we had sent out there to be part of the SolarMax during his vacation, several of us went out to fill in for him, and that was really fun. So, we were there on-site helping with the real-time mission, you know, daily mission planning for SolarMax. That was [crosstalk].
And which time period was that that you were there?
I think it was before I went to Japan, so it must have been the ‘80s.
It must have been in the ‘80s. And the — so from NASA, I got to, of course, be an intern at NASA at Manned Space Center there, that summer of ‘67. Summer — yeah.
I actually didn’t have that down. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?
Well, you know, they started — my master’s degree started, so, ‘65, graduated in ‘65 with an undergraduate, so ‘66, and then in ‘67 finished the master’s, so that summer between ‘66 and ‘67 was — I was an intern at the Manned Space Center in Houston, another space groupie, wonderful experience.
Do you remember what you worked on?
Well, that was — Oh, yeah. That was the project where we were looking for the effect of radiation on astronauts.
Oh, yeah, we did actually — we did talk about that.
We did talk about it. The radiation environment that they were becoming very excited about. During that time, I learned that the astronauts, you know, were seeing the flashes in their eyes, and that they were having to sew the badges into the clothes of the astronauts because they would hide their radiation badges. They would bury them because they didn’t want to be discounted, you know, or not be allowed because the radiation counts would be over the allowable minimum, so they, maximum. So, they — the astronauts were hiding their radiation badges. “You can’t tell me I can’t fly up here because my radiation count’s too high.” So that was — but certainly, going back — and I just loved to go to Cape Canaveral and take the historic tours, to go back through and see those glory days before even the International Space Station. There were several, you know, basically colleagues that were involved in the International Space Station — I mean Skylab.
Skylab. So, Loren Acton was one of the astronauts, and then he came and was at CU for a while as an — and then, I think it was he who invited us all to Bozeman, Montana, for this conference.
So, we have some direct contacts there. So, NASA, my goodness. Of course, we all understand that they’re needing to prioritize their budgets keep tightening down, but what they’re choosing to support, I think, is peer-driven, and I think it’s good decisions. And Parker, I’m so pleased they’re funding the Parker mission, and our — certainly NOAA. Every new administration wants, of course, to transfer the Space Weather Division to NASA.
I think it’s mostly a semantics issue: “NOAA, oceans and atmospheres. What are you space guys doing here? You belong at NASA.” And then we have to point out that NASA doesn’t do operations, and we’re an operational component, and we belong with the weather service.
What do you see as the difference between operations and research? What would you —
Well, the operations — we would — there was a time when, as a PhD working at operations, we thought I was “slumming it.” But I didn’t see it that way.
And of course, I didn’t think so because I saw what was going on in operations and how much an informed operator — how much of a difference an informed operator could make, and vice versa, I’ve learned a great deal by being actually down there and, you know, day in day out, seeing what the Sun’s up to. You can’t cherry-pick. You can’t pick out just the fun stuff. You have to be there and really get in with it. I soon found that the best forecasters in the forecasting center were the old ones, the ones with — the experienced ones, the ones who have been there a long time. They got it right more often than I did. I learned humility at a — really, really quickly in operations.
Yeah. What were the — do you — why do you think that might be?
Mostly because we really don’t have the physics down yet.
And I think that was one of the conclusions out of the mess with the solar cycle maximum, is that we — we’re missing something. We don’t know what the Sun’s up to yet. And my — by making these real-time decisions about what you think the Sun is going to do and being humiliated by the fact that it does something completely differently, you know, that’s — that shows you that we need to do something else.
Find more data. I mean, life got a whole lot better when we got solar wind monitors out there. My goodness, the effect of the solar wind, you know, on the magnetosphere is — now we realize it’s absolutely critical. And then to get out the coronagraphs and the real-time — and then, okay, so we can’t just do it straight-on. We need human perspective. We just keep constantly — learn about what we still need, what we don’t know. Why aren’t we getting this? Okay, well, we need this. And then that didn’t help. Let’s try something else. There’s still so much to learn. The results from the recent planetary missions that they put out, I mean, Pluto is extraordinary. And Jupiter is extraordinary. Of course, let alone Mars, you know, for heaven’s sake. So, all those missions are just so exciting, and I’m feeling, you know — I’m the layperson now. I’m in the public, and especially here in a retirement community, people love this stuff. You know, we’re able to get Fran Bagenal to come in from CU and talk about the Juno mission, now, is the one she’s on. I mean, the place is always packed when we bring in these planetary scientists. The Pluto Mission. People really love this stuff and especially images. I mean, we’ll have to admit it.
Images make a big difference.
Yeah, that’s great. Were there other aspects of your career that we haven’t touched on or other things that you wanted to bring up?
I guess not really. I’m probably a little disadvantaged in that I’ve always, always been a government employee. Never really had to sing for my supper, you know, in terms of applying for research grants. But that’s — you know, I know that’s a whole different thing, talking to people who have to live from research grant to research grant is pretty heartbreaking, actually. So, I’m sorry for that. I didn’t have that experience. But I just — I see so much optimism, I see new horizons. There’s so much to learn, and I see a lot of enthusiasm for it. I’ve always been a science fiction fan.
And science fiction movies are great these days. You know, it’s just — people are interested in space. They want to go to Mars. They want to go to the Moon. They want to buy a ticket and take a trip up into space themselves. I always thought I could do that, but maybe not. I thought someday the day would come, and I could buy a ticket.
But I think there’s a lot of support, general public support, even though people say, “Oh, no,” you know, “We need to feed the hungry,” and we — no. We need to fire the imagination. New missions in space.
Great, great. Well yeah, that’s excellent. I think we’ll probably end there for now, and we’ll talk again. Again, this is Stephen Neal interviewing Dr. Jo Ann Joselyn for the American Institute of Physics.
”Manned Spaceflight Center” at that time. Renamed in 1973 as Johnson Space Center.