Students reap benefits of new weather station
As a meteorology undergraduate at Penn State University, Chris Smith says he spent numerous hours in the school’s weather station. “It would often be packed with ‘weather weenies’ like myself,” he recalls. “At times we would even sleep on the floor the night before a snowstorm to see if our forecasts were confirmed.”
Now a Health, Environmental & Safety (HES) professional in the Environmental Department at Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC’s) refinery in Catlettsburg, Kentucky, Smith recently got an opportunity to put his meteorology training to work and benefit area students by helping to research, select and install a professional weather station at the refinery’s Savage Branch wildlife reserve.
“Savage Branch has long been a successful community-outreach initiative for the refinery; we annually host hundreds of area students there,” notes Vernon Marcum, advanced HES professional at MPC and longtime project coordinator for the reserve, which includes an active bee hive, a butterfly nesting box and more. “In only a few hours, students get a firsthand look at how various living and non-living realms interact to create an ecosystem. For the weather station, I wanted something scientific with a ‘wow’ factor that could be presented during classroom visits. I asked Chris for assistance, and he took the project and ran with it.”
With the help of Susan Fielding, an environmental technician at the refinery, Smith researched a variety of weather stations and settled on a wireless system ideal for rural settings, with a cellular upload device to transmit to school classrooms. The weather station was installed in June 2015.
“The weather station is fairly unique in that it measures solar and UV radiation in addition to the more traditional parameters such as rain, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and wind speed,” adds Smith.
The ability to transmit data generated by the station is integral to the project’s overall success. “I like the fact that teachers from numerous schools can access the weather station and talk to their students about the site and the information it provides even before they visit,” says Marcum. “I am especially proud that our company is willing go above and beyond to inspire local students to learn more about the environment.”