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Studying Taiwan’s Typhoons

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 21, 2017) – Seven UAlbany undergraduate students have spent the last two months on the tropical island of Taiwan – but they’re not on summer vacation.

The students, six majoring in atmospheric science, one in emergency preparedness and criminal justice, are studying typhoons and other extreme weather in Taipei, Taiwan, through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnership in International Research and Education (PIRE) grant.

Announced in 2015 by U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the 5-year, $4.5 million grant was awarded to advance research in early warning detection and disaster response of major storms. It is led by UAlbany’s Atmospheric Research Center (ASRC) and Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences in partnership with several universities and disaster and weather forecast agencies in both the United States and Taiwan.

“The goal of this project is to help improve our resiliency against increasing extreme weather likely linked to climate change,” said Everette Joseph, director of the Atmospheric Research Center. “We are not only improving our understanding and ability to predict these extreme weather events, but also preparing the next generation of atmospheric and social scientists.”

The project provides student researchers with travel and living expenses for the summer under the supervision of PIRE faculty.

Last year, Cidny Ramirez, an atmospheric science major, was the project’s first student grant recipient. The number of students has grown substantially in year two, with UAlbany’s seven students joined in Taiwan by two others from Howard University. 11 Taiwanese students are also researching extreme weather in the United States this summer at UAlbany.

Taiwan provides students with a unique research opportunity, with on average, three to four typhoons striking the island each year. Ramirez was abroad when Nepartak, a category-5 cyclone, hit the country’s eastern shoreline last July.

Students this summer witnessed Typhoon Nesat dump over 20 inches of rain on Taipei.

UAlbany students Dan Bennison and Erin Lynch.
UAlbany students Dan Bennison (left) and Erin Lynch conducting research in Taiwan.

“I find the best way to learn about a new culture is by experiencing it, which is what I have had the opportunity to do in Taiwan,” said Erin Lynch, a senior atmospheric science major. “I feel very fortunate to be studying in the tropics during the summer months. We’ve experienced some incredible thunderstorms and heavy rain. It’s been a really fun experience. What can I say? I am a weather nerd.”

For Dan Bennison, who will graduate this month from the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, studying extreme weather in Taiwan has provided valuable emergency response experience.

“Though I do not study weather, I believe this PIRE grant is something all emergency preparedness students would gain a lot from,” Bennison said. “I want to work in disaster relief following graduation. Through this experience, I’ve been able to learn about a new culture and study their response to extreme weather events. It was an opportunity I could not pass up and will be valuable for me as I prepare to start my career.”

The students have worked with various partners across Taiwan this summer that include the National Taiwan University, National Central University, Central Weather Bureau, the Taiwan Typhoon and Flood Research Institute and the National Center for Disaster Reduction (NCDR).

Nine UAlbany graduate students, also supported by the PIRE grant to conduct research on extreme weather, joined the undergraduates for an annual meeting of the entire U.S.-Taiwan PIRE team in August.

The undergraduates will be returning to Albany this week with high praises for the project.

“If students are interested in severe weather, I would highly recommend reaching out to the atmospheric science professors at UAlbany. Our campus has some of the top tropical meteorology professors in the country and they want to see us succeed,” Lynch said. “The PIRE project has been one of the best experiences of my life. It was an incredible opportunity.”

You can learn more about UAlbany’s PIRE project here. Students are encouraged to contact Everette Joseph via email for information on becoming future grant recipients.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.