More than 150 participants from 13 different countries participated in the Agents of Change: Pathways to Careers in Meteorology Panel Discussion organised by the Australia Pacific Climate Alumni Network in partnership with the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific, supported by the Australia Pacific Climate Partnership.
The demand for skilled professionals in the area of meteorology and climatology is increasing, especially in Pacific countries where the increasing intensity of extreme weather and climate-related events and disasters can have a significant impact on countries ability to meet their development goals. Accurate forecasting and dissemination of early warnings play a critical role in reducing the risks and the eventual impacts of climate-related hazards.
The discussion also uncovered challenges experienced by meteorologists currently working in the diverse field.
“We do well with observing data collected at weather stations. What we need is having additional skills to interpret climate data for localised distribution. It comes down to being able to communicate the data collected in a way that the average person can understand and use. This is an opportunity for communications specialists and journalists in the Pacific to bridge the gap between science and people,” shared Rossylynn Pulehetoa-Mitiepo, Director Niue Meteorological Services.
Also of concern is that many established professionals plan to retire in the coming decade and there are not enough early and mid-career researchers ready to take their place. Unless young scientists are encouraged, trained and mentored in various scientific fields - gaps in expertise will occur. Panellists shared details of their diverse career pathways, degrees and scholarships that have contributed to their career development.
“To be better at understanding and interpreting weather-related information to help Pacific people respond better to climate change, there are scholarships available to study overseas but you don’t necessarily need to go to international universities to be supported on these scholarships - there are also scholarship opportunities available to study in the Pacific,” said Moleni Tu’uoholoaki, current PhD student and former Acting Director and Senior Forecaster of Tonga Meteorological Services (2005 - 2019).
“Here in the Pacific, you have access to not just science-based learning, but also the knowledge and experience of Pacific Island meteorologists who have witnessed the changing climate over the last few decades,” he added.
There is also an urgent need to attract more women into the sciences, so as to have equal representation and perspectives equally represented in the field.
Brenda Williams, from Vanuatu in reflection said: “I agree with the increase of women leadership in these roles. In Vanuatu, the Director for Vanuatu Meteorological Services is headed by a female, who is now promoted to being the Director General for the Ministry of Climate Change.”
Priya Singh, from Fiji shared: “The number of women in Meteorology is increasing. We at the Fiji Meteorological Services are now seeing a growing number of women joining compared to a few years back.”
The purpose of the panel discussion was to create awareness around the various career opportunities in meteorology and climatology in the Pacific and the pathways to these careers.
The lineup of speakers were:
- Irae Maranatha Tufuga, Environmental Engineering Student, University of Auckland.
- Vincent Lincoln, Technical Officer Class 1, Fiji Meteorological Services.
- Moleni Tu'uholoaki, Meteorologist, PhD Student, University of the South Pacific.
- Rossylynn Pulehetoa-Mitiepo, Director Niue Meteorological Services.
- Dr. Awnesh Singh, Physical Oceanographer and Senior Lecturer at the University of the South Pacific.
- Dr. Olivia Warrick (Moderator) - Independent Consultant in Climate Services and Climate Change Adaptation.
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