Brady Graeber: Taking a sinuous path towards climate science; every experience counts

brady graeber

Brady Graeber is our intern working with the Carbon Cycle and Greenhouse Gas Division since May 2021. He is currently a sophomore studying Geography with a focus on Environment, Society, and Sustainability at the University of Colorado, Denver (CU Denver). Before college, Brady worked as an electrician for 7 years.

For his internship, he works with Jon Kofler to install and maintain the equipment monitoring carbon dioxide, ensuring the regular inflow of data from all sites across the U.S. His work is a part of the long-term monitoring effort at the Global Monitoring Laboratory and ensures data are available for climate research.

Our conversation follows.

  1. You have experience working at many different places before. What were these experiences like?

    My dad is a master electrician, so I just followed his path and worked as an electrician for 7 years. It was a job, but not what I wanted to do for a career - you either become a master electrician or start your own business.

    During my first year of college, I worked in the Denver Art Museum and Morrison Natural History Museum. It was related to my major in anthropology and connected me back to my childhood experience working with my grandmother in museums. It is interesting to see the connection between science and art.

    I also worked at the Denver Zoo to help direct traffic and manage building capacity to fit Covid-19 guidelines and instruct guests on safety during animal experiences. I got to learn random facts about the animals, but it was also nice to watch kids talking to people and leaving with new knowledge about the animals.

  2. What attracts you to the field of geography, climate science, and sustainability?

    Since I was a little kid, I have always been fascinated by weather and storms. Every time when a storm began to roll in across the Texas hill country, I would run to my neighboring treehouse to observe the clouds.

    I also grew up helping my grandmother who worked in several museums in Texas. We would go out to categorize plants and animals based on weather and season in the Texas wilderness.

    However, I was definitely not aware of my passion for science growing up. Things that I was exposed to were very different and I didn’t have a good science program at my high school.

    When I worked in the electrical shop, my coworker back then was pursuing a degree in Physics. He was the one who introduced me to the world of science. I also met my partner in 2018 who is right now pursuing a master’s degree in Space Engineering.

    I eventually decided to go to college in 2019. I was at Denver University first studying anthropology but found that the science behind the fossils was more interesting than the maintenance of the collection.

    I was thinking of maybe working in the field of urban planning, so I transferred to CU Denver to pursue a degree in geography with a focus on the environment, society, and sustainability. The major allows me to do what I care a lot about - water and sustainability - while staying connected to some of my past experiences in electrical jobs.

    The biggest awoken moment was in my mapping class when a private company came in to introduce its use of ESRI to do risk management. Its products told clients what to do or not to do given the current climate outlook. I got really into ArcGIS and wanted to be able to use it for my job in the future.

  3. What would you be working on at the Global Monitoring Lab?

    I will work with Jon on maintaining the sites for the carbon dioxide monitoring program. We go on-site in the field to install new equipment, fix any issues with existing ones, and retrofit our mobile laboratories. The monitoring towers measure carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and water vapor. A lot of the work is electrical work and plumbing, which I had many prior experiences with.

    In the office, we run the data collected from all sites across the U.S. and make sure that data are measured and accurately represented. If we find any issues with the data, we will go out to the corresponding site to fix the equipment.

  4. How did you hear about this internship opportunity at NOAA?

    I applied back in December 2020. There was a virtual CU Job Fair, but not many students were attending because it was the end of the semester.

    I talked to a lady from NOAA and sent my resume and interest letter. I really didn’t think that I would get this internship, but two days later, I got a call from Jon offering me this opportunity to work with him. He saw my resume and letter and thought that I would be a great fit for this position.

    It took some time to work out the logistics and to get security clearance. I finally was able to start the internship in May 2021.

  5. How would this internship help you on your career path?

    This internship definitely opens many doors for me. One thing for me is to learn the ways to communicate with scientists. This is something I haven’t had the chance to get exposure to.

    I am also very interested in learning more about the instrumentation we used to study the climate. With my previous experience as an electrician, I have the capability to understand the blueprints of the equipment. I want to know how they measure it and why it works in certain ways.

    I am still not clear about what my next job would be, but the NOAA experience is definitely a valuable addition to my resume. I am very interested in GIS. I would love to be able to work in some capacity related to that.

  6. Do you have any advice for future applicants?

    Apply early if you can and always attend career events, especially when everyone else is not doing it.

    Also, apply to an internship in the mindset that you truly love what you will be doing. For me, I really care about saving the planet and that is why I applied for this internship. This will help you get the most out of your internship.