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Young researchers in the spotlight: Ryan Williams

31 January 2023

We are writing profiles on early career researchers to make our younger scientists and their research more visible. It’s Ryan’s turn in the spotlight!

Ryan, please introduce yourself and tell us about your exciting professional and academic career before becoming part of the PolarRES Team.

My name is Ryan Williams – I started working at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in January 2022 working on the Southern Hemisphere climate change storylines for PolarRES I was recently awarded my PhD from the University of Reading (UK) in April 2021, where I investigated the regional and seasonal influences that govern the stratospheric contribution to tropospheric ozone using a combined model-measurement approach. I subsequently worked for 6 months at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

What do you do for PolarRES? Is it the first project you’ve worked on?

I lead the WP1 Southern Hemisphere storylines construction and evaluation as part of PolarRES at BAS. This entails use of two largely unrelated remote driver responses, which have been identified to exert a large control over the regional atmospheric/oceanic circulation response to climate change. This includes future changes in the upper atmospheric circulation (stratosphere) and Antarctic sea ice loss. Additionally, I will explore the mechanisms and processes associated with the storyline responses and verify model performance in the recent past (1985-2014), particularly concerning representation of the stratospheric circulation and sea ice variability. My involvement in PolarRES is the first major international research campaign I have participated in and I consider myself very fortunate to work alongside a diverse range of scientists across multiple European institutions!

What is the most interesting thing you learned working on PolarRES?

I was particularly impressed with the vision of what PolarRes hopes to achieve over the next few years in really such a short space of time. Knowing how my work on WP1 storylines will feed in to the other WPs is highly stimulating and informative to help best tailor my contribution. The importance of PolarRES in helping stakeholders to understand, manage and plan for future climate change, particularly in the polar regions, can not easily be overstated in my view.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Although I hope to stay closely aligned with climate science and research, I would be motivated to transition more towards a role in applied science (e.g. consultancy). I would value the opportunity to work on multiple, bespoke projects simultaneously, involving close communication with other scientists, stakeholders and clients. I would hope to draw on my skills and expertise as a climate scientist to help more directly with the challenges faced by individual businesses right up to intergovernmental organisations.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I always struggle to give a direct answer for this as I never really knew exactly, although I was interested in studying weather and climate from a very early age. From school age and beyond, my enthusiasm for research grew as I developed a strong appreciation for the interconnectedness of the full Earth system. Working now as a climate scientist therefore satisfies my aspiration to help understand how different components (ocean-atmosphere ice) of the Earth’s system may change in the face of rising GHG emissions.

Who is your science idol? Is there someone you wish you could have a conversation with (from the past or contemporary)?.

The most obvious example I could give would have to be Sir David Attenborough. Growing up from childhood into adulthood, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed his documentaries whilst becoming educated/disturbed by the sensitivity of the Earth system to the climate change humans are causing. I hope that my work serves to highlight the uncertainty and potential magnitude of regional climate change using the storyline approach to the wider public – I think this novel, innovative methodology is an excellent way in which to communicate this!

This is the first ‘Young researchers in the spotlight’ article of many to come, stay tuned via our twitter @PolarRES_eu for more!

Want to get to know Ryan on a lighter foot? Check out this video: