Penny Rowe

Research Scientist, NorthWest Research Associates - Seattle, USA
Seattle, USA
Penny Rowe

I’m not sure that I could continue to be competitive in securing the grants that pay my salary without my proposals promising attendance at national and international conferences each year. So far, I’ve reduced my flying by attending conferences virtually whenever possible. Post-COVID, most conferences are now back in person or hybrid, so I’ve decided to boycott conferences that are not hybrid.

Not flying during COVID was such a relief! And flying less since then has been wonderful. I like not having to plan the trip, pack for the trip, drive to the airplane, be confined to a tiny space for hours, deal with the jet lag, etc, and then know the whole thing will happen again in reverse on the way home. I like not losing days of my life to travel. Most of all, I like repurposing that time for aspects of my work and life that I enjoy.

Challenges I have faced are so far mainly social. Almost all my Earth Science colleagues – who think daily about consequences of climate change – fly routinely for work and fun. My friends and other colleagues take frequent international vacations. My son’s college and my alma mater offer professor-guided trips abroad. Hearing about everyone’s ever-increasing flying at a time when it’s so important to decrease is difficult for me. I’d like to know how to kindly tell my friends and family that I don’t want to hear about their travel-by-flight.

My research involves studying the greenhouse effect of clouds and trace gases in polar regions. Recently I’ve also been working on extreme heat events in Antarctica, particularly due to Foehn and Atmospheric Rivers.