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Graduate Education: Ohio Sea Grant Knauss Fellow makes global impact at GLOBE

Graduate Education: Ohio Sea Grant Knauss Fellow makes global impact at GLOBE

By Lisa Aurand Rice, Ohio Sea Grant

You might say that Tony Murphy’s career took him around the GLOBE and back.

Murphy, a native of Ireland, came to The Ohio State University in 1992 to participate in the university’s Science and Environmental Education Doctoral Program. As a graduate assistant to Dr. Rosanne Fortner — a longtime Stone Laboratory associate director and professor — Murphy soon found himself on Gibraltar Island at Stone Lab, taking classes in climate change and environmental education and assisting his mentor. 

“Just being out in that setting, it’s pretty amazing to think you’re in the middle of a Great Lake having this kind of learning experience,” said Murphy. “It’s pretty mind-blowing — at least, it was for me.”

His connection to Stone Lab and Fortner, with whom he collaborated on National Science Foundation funded curriculum development, drew his attention to NOAA’s John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, which matches graduate students with “host” governmental programs in the Washington D.C. area. With Fortner’s enthusiastic recommendation and an endorsement from Ohio Sea Grant, Murphy was accepted as a fellow (the first education student accepted to the program) and placed at GLOBE — Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment — in January 1995.

GLOBE, an international K-12 science and education program run by a partnership overseen by NASA and the National Science Foundation with support from NOAA and the Department of State, was announced on Earth Day in 1994 and launched one year later.

“It was a pretty incredible initiative to be involved in,” Murphy said of GLOBE’s early days. “There were 11 science protocols to be developed — a whole curriculum and a teacher’s guide.”

The fellowship lasted one year, after which he was offered a contract position for a year and a half. By the time he left GLOBE in July 1997, Murphy had risen to become assistant director of education for the organization.

His next two jobs, based at universities in Minnesota, focused on citizen science and preparing educators to teach STEM. All the while, he had remained connected with GLOBE and used the organization’s resources at each of his jobs.

“Rosanne (Fortner) was an incredible mentor and advisor to have. I’ll always be thankful to her, to Ohio State and Ohio Sea Grant for giving me the opportunity to be part of the program.”

In 2012, Murphy was recruited to return to GLOBE, this time as its director. It had taken a lot longer than 80 days, but he was back at the organization that had begun his entire career trajectory.

“Being involved in GLOBE at the ground level and now coming back as the director is coming full circle for me,” Murphy said. Worldwide nearly 30,000 schools and 24,500 teachers have participated in GLOBE activities, and GLOBE students have contributed more than 100 million measurements to the organization’s database since 1995.

Educating the next generation about environmental science and climate change is imperative, Murphy said. “It’s incumbent on us that (they get) an education that equips them to deal with the issues and challenges and successes in the future. Part of that is understanding how science and the environment connect together. We are a component of the environment; we’re not separated from it. We need to understand that and learn how to live in the environment.”

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