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Mary Droser

Professor of Geology
Mary Droser
Sharing Climate Science with K-12 Students
As one of the biggest issues facing society today, climate change will have adverse effects on everything from sea level rise that will impact coastal communities to economic implications in the wake of disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, as well as disturbing food resources in cases of droughts and extreme weather circumstances. Addressing this global economic problem, Mary Droser’s program bridges the gap between what scientists understand and what communities and citizens know, creating seamless climate change education in the Riverside community from kindergarten through UC Riverside graduates.

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Evolutionary paleoecology, Paleoecology of the Precambrian-Cambrian and Ordovician radiations, Phanerozoic trends in ecospace utilization, Cambrian and Ordovician of the Great Basin.
College: Department: Press Releases/Articles: Profile:

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • 2009 PALAIOS (Best Paper for 2008)
  • Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Geology and Geography (2001)
  • Paleontological Society of America Charles Schuchert Award for exceptonal promise in research in paleontology (1997)
  • Richard G. Osgood, Jr., Memorial Lectureship in Geology (1998)
  • NSF Visiting Professor for Women (1995–96)
  • Paleontological Society of America Distinguished Lecturer (1993)

Research Summary

Biotic response to climate and environmental change.

Q&A

Q: What has inspired you or driven you to explore this research?
As a paleontologist, I’m interested in the history of life on this planet which shows us that there have been five mass extinctions including one during which approximately 96% of all marine species went extinct. These big extinctions were the result of environmental change or triggers, so we know from past record that climate change and environmental changes drastically impact life on this planet. I’m interested in the biotic response to climate and environmental change.

Q: What are common misconceptions about climate change?
Scientists agree climate change is happening, although there are certain discussions about how rapid it’s happening and the scale of the changes that we should expect. These technical things get beefed up into the perception that scientists don’t agree about climate change; that is not the case. It’s also unpopular; no one wants climate change to happen so there’s almost a denial that occurs in our society based out of fear.

Q: What types of scientific data exists to support your research?
We have a lot of data from different sources that tells us climate change is happening; temperatures in eleven of the last twelve years are the hottest on record, sea level has raised, CO2 levels (a greenhouse gas that causes warming) are increasing at an unprecedented rate, and glaciers are melting at a really fast rate. All of these indicators and evidence demonstrate that climate change is occurring.

Q: How is your research connected to NASA?
NASA is interested in the planet Earth and climate change is affecting the entire planet. Our NASA grant trains UCR undergraduates with data collected from NASA satellites to create climate change lessons and then many of these undergraduates along with our graduate students work with K-12 students in our local district on climate change education.

Q: How are you sharing your research with the public?
In addition to the program in local schools, we also have a science fair mentorship program where undergraduate and graduate students from UC Riverside serve as mentors to help kids in 6-11th grade to complete science projects on climate change. For the larger community, we host a climate fair on the UCR campus as a fun festival with activities for all ages to learn about climate change and sustainability in an accessible way.

Q: What should the public know about the solution to climate change?
Climate change is something that will need to be solved by the people. Once you understand climate change and that you can make a difference, it will inspire behavioral change and hopefully we can all make better choices such as turning off the light when we leave a room, shopping locally, and making sensible choices when buying a car. Together these differences do matter. Also, as individuals we need to use our voting power to affect federal and local policy, especially here in California as a coastal community that will be heavily impacted by climate change.

Q: What does Living the Promise mean to you?
To me, Living the Promise is having the privilege of working on the research I love to do and communicating the significance of the research I do to the community.

Q: Why is UC Riverside a great place to do research?
UCR is a campus that has a “can-do” attitude. It’s a great place to launch a program like this that’s atypical of normal college campus programs. To have an education grant that extends from UCR undergraduates to kindergarteners in the community is an unusual thing, and yet UCR is exactly the kind of campus that allows us to do that – we’re very much a part of this community.

Mary Droser “Once you understand climate change and that you can make a difference, it will inspire behavioral change and hopefully we can all make better choices such as turning off the light when we leave a room, shopping locally, and making sensible choices when buying a car. Together these differences do matter.”

—Mary Droser
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