My name is Natalie Afonina and I live in my minivan (!), but generally the Seattle area as a home base. For a living I split my time between developing autonomous systems for robotics applications and as a sponsored athlete specializing in technical ice climbing, alpine ascents and remote expeditions. I am passionate about showcasing scientific field work and their findings and making it accessible to a broader audience. Mentoring beginner women in ice climbing and computer science. I think it is important to live an examined life and constantly adjust your outlook as you get more information, are exposed to new ideas and learn new things. Don’t stagnate. Upwards and onwards.
Why did you join the Community Snow Observations program?
As an ice climber, my outdoor experience and safety is directly linked to climate and weather forecasts. Having organized and participated in several citizen science projects across the world, and studied material science, this project is the perfect combination of my scientific interests and athletic pursuits, and I’m excited to use my athlete platform to get more folks involved across the world in data collection!
What does the term Citizen Science mean to you?
Ownership and contribution to scientific progress. When we leave academic institutions, it’s easy to start drifting away from the scientific process and get detached from that feeling of awe and discovery that comes from doing science. I see Citizen Science as a way to reconnect with and contribute to the broader scientific community, regardless of career choice. To get that feeling of awe back again and give purpose to adventuring.
What is your experience/background in snow science?
I studied Materials Science in grad school and co-invented a device that actively-cools sea ice cores. 20 of the devices were deployed for a full winter field season in Barrow, AK and I was fortunate to join the expedition. It was a crazy experience of polar bears, pulling sleds through sea ice ridges, -50F temps, drilling ice cores and dealing with all sorts of difficulties brought on by the harsh environmental conditions. I have the utmost respect for all scientists that collect data through fieldwork!
Why should more people join Community Snow Observations this winter?
Do YOU use snow forecasts? Do YOU want to not die in an avalanche? Where do you think the snow and avy models come from? SCIENCE. The more data across a diversity of regions that you have, the more data to improve the models. The only way to get the breadth and coverage is through citizen science!