Faculty Feature: Dr. Natalya Gomez

The Sandbox

gomezAs a geophysicist and climate scientist in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Dr. Natalya Gomez is interested in the interactions between the solid earth, ice, and sea-level changes. Her research contributes to understanding the impacts of climate change and delineates the edges of Earth’s resilience to change. Inspired by an undergraduate research project focused on retreating ice sheets, Dr. Gomez became curious about the implications of climate change for society. She sat down with us to reflect on her role as a citizen and an educator at McGill.

My research examines the response of large ice sheets like those in Greenland and Antarctica to changes in climate, and the associated sea level changes. I look into the deep past to see how the ice sheets have changed before, so that we have clues as to how they might respond in the future. As a climate scientist, I am often asked casually if I have ‘saved the world’ yet.  By this, I think what is meant is ‘have you climate scientists dealt with the threat of climate change yet?’

Dealing with the threat of climate change requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making adaptation plans for the climate changes that are already on their way. The severity of the problems we will face will very much escalate as we continue emitting increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Climate change mitigation and adaptation will depend on a whole spectrum of social scientists, engineers, business people, economists, innovators of all kinds, the energy industry, educators, writers, artists, minority rights activists, well-informed environmental activists, politicians, voters, policy makers and many others. Climate scientists will play an important role in gaining understanding of the threat that climate change presents, but we are already playing that role to the best of our ability with the resources that we have. We could do a lot more with more resources and support.

Fighting climate change will require a globally coordinated, compassionate, and highly interdisciplinary effort, so I would like to empower students and readers to use their unique backgrounds and perspectives to make a difference. I believe that there is hope, and that the lives and livelihoods of people around the world depend on us not taking an ‘it’s too late already, so why bother trying’ attitude (let alone an attitude of denial!). Let’s get going!

Dr. Gomez currently teaches two courses at McGill, EPSC201 Understanding Planet Earth (open to non-earth scientists) and EPSC510 Geodynamics, in which you can learn more about the intricacies of our changing planet.

For regular updates on her research and the implications of climate change worldwide, follow Dr. Gomez on Twitter at @NatalyaGomezEPS.

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