Alumnus joins rank of elite climate change researchers
“I learned that Unity’s small size enabled professors to connect with students and provide unique opportunities to study the outdoors.”
At a time when some recent college graduates are pursuing internships in search of that elusive first job, Tim Godaire ’12, Environmental Analysis, was steeped in climate change research and contemplating his first expedition to Alaska.
Godaire is a graduate research assistant in a master’s track program at the University of Maine’s prestigious Climate Change Institute.
“My research has taken me on a six-week research expedition to the glaciers of Denali National Park with promises of a return trip next year and potential for an expedition to the glaciers of Patagonia,” Godaire said. During his first research expedition, Godaire was charged with setting up and maintaining the weather station.
“When my advisor asked me if I would like to join the expedition to Denali, I said ‘Of course!’” he said. Godaire’s advisor tasked him with becoming the weather station expert. This meant learning which meteorological parameters the research team wanted to measure, which sensors were needed, and which would be capable of working properly in the frozen, alpine conditions.
“Once we decided on the sensors, I had to draw up schematics for the tower design and the distribution of the sensors on the tower,” Godaire explained. “Another problem I had to solve was writing the program for the datalogger that would tell the sensors when and what to measure, and how to store all of the data.”
Godaire says that he was prepared to take on the task of becoming the weather station expert because of the education he received at Unity College.
“Dr. Kevin Spigel’s Surface and Groundwater Hydrology class was my first exposure to meteorological sensors,” Godaire said. “The class deployed a network of science-grade sensors including gauges to measure rainfall, stream level, and groundwater level. We then used the sensor data to characterize the local hydrology and water flow.”
During his senior year, Godaire used Spigel’s network of temperature probes to statistically investigate the microclimate variability around campus. “Learning about sensors, installation, and data analysis prepared me for a successful deployment of the weather station in Alaska.”
“Being part of the scientific expedition to Denali National Park has been the most rewarding experience of my life, so far,” Godaire said. “Unity helped prepare me for such a trip. It gave me the necessary academic foundation in earth systems and climate science that was required for acceptance into graduate school, and for success as a graduate student.”
A side note of interest is that some of the skills he gained from Unity’s campus culture, with many outdoor enthusiasts, came in handy in Alaska.
“I learned outdoor adventure skills needed to survive on the glaciers in Alaska,” Godaire noted. “The Outdoor Adventure Center and the Outing Club helped me develop my survival, medical and leadership skills.”
Godaire’s future is wide open. He is weighing a variety of options including specialization in climate research, spending time pursuing grant funded research at any number of universities, earning a terminal degree, or journeying into a private industry that is expanding under the umbrella of the green economy. The latter is fast eclipsing the traditional economy that is based on a post-World War II industrial model.
Whatever his choices, he will credit much of his success on the education he received at Unity College. “What first attracted me to Unity College was the school’s focus on the environment,” Godaire said. “This is clearly evident in the unique majors it has that cannot be found elsewhere. The school’s holistic and interdisciplinary approach to answering and solving the problems of the 21st century is at the core of all academic learning on campus.”
Choosing to follow an agricultural curricular focus in high school that deeply engaged his interest in the nexus of science, environmental issues, and nature, Godaire knew the power of hands-on education. When he learned of Unity’s hands-on approach to learning, the connection was immediate and powerful.
“I was seeking a college where learning happens both in the classroom and outdoors,” Godaire said. “I learned that Unity’s small size enabled professors to connect with students and provide unique opportunities to study the outdoors.” Many students like Godaire avail themselves of the ample opportunities that exist for students to either pursue their own undergraduate research, or assist with faculty research.
The first time he visited campus, Godaire felt a special connection between students, faculty, and staff. For Godaire the College is as much about that palpable connection of like-minded individuals working to achieve the game goals as it is about buildings or location, though the campus is ideally located for both research and recreation.
“The sense of community at Unity could not be found on any other campus, and I was looking for this sense when moving away from home in Connecticut,” Godaire said.
His day-to-day life as a graduate student validates his choice to attend Unity College. “The professors at Unity College made my academic experience so rewarding,” he enthused. “They provided me with numerous opportunities to expand my research interests and gave me the skills needed to pursue any career path that I chose. Professors are willing to give students the one-on-one attention needed to reach their potential. This makes excelling academically both possible and incredibly rewarding, personally and for the community.”