Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Congressional testimony by Kim Cobb - Natural Resources Committee, Feb 6, 2019

My oral statement delivered to the Natural Resources Committee hearing on "Climate Change:  Impacts and the Need to Act", Feb 6, 2019.
The full hearing can be viewed here, with my testimony beginning at 1:58:20.

I thank Chairman Grijalva and Ranking Member Bishop for allowing me to contribute to this important conversation about our nation’s climate future. My message today is simple:  the data and the science could not be more clear -- it’s time to act. There are many no-regrets, win-win actions to reduce the growing costs of climate change, but we’re going to have to come together to form new alliances, in our home communities, across our states, and yes, even in Washington. I know I speak for thousands of my colleagues when I say that scientists all over the country are willing and eager to assist policymakers in the design of data-driven defenses against both current and future climate impacts.

As a Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology for the last 15 years, my research uses samples from the remote Pacific islands to reconstruct past climate variations. Our records are consistent with countless other climate records in illustrating that the rate and magnitude of recent climate change dwarf natural climate variability over the last millennium.

I love my work. But three years ago, I witnessed something that would change my life forever.

In 2015, we received funding from the National Science Foundation for a series of field expeditions to document the evolution of a strong El Niño event projected that winter. I had waited 15 years for this opportunity. However, little did I know that ocean temperatures, 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual, would kill up to 90% of the coral at our study site. And I had a front-row seat to the carnage. 2016 would go on to become the worst global-scale coral bleaching and mortality event on record, and the warmest year on our planet since records began. Personally, 2016 was my wakeup call.

Unfortunately, the last years brought a number of devastating wake-up calls much closer to home. Hurricanes Harvey, Lane, and Florence delivered record-breaking rainfall while Hurricanes Maria and Michael decimated entire communities with their force, including many in my home state of Georgia. The National Climate Assessment – released this last November by a consortium of 13 federal agencies – documents how climate change loads the dice in favor of extreme precipitation events, and how warmer oceans fuel larger tropical storms. On the other side of the country, record-breaking wildfires raged across California, linked to prolonged drought and warmer temperatures. The economic toll of these disasters can be measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars. However, their real toll -  the vast human suffering left in their wake - is immeasurable.

And beyond these deadly extremes, a host of additional climate change impacts represent a growing threat to ecosystems and communities alike. Sea levels are rising, with up to 6ft of global sea level rise projected this century. Drought threatens water supplies across the western US, with no end in sight. The oceans are becoming more acidic as excess atmospheric carbon dioxide reacts with seawater.

And as of today, 2018 will officially take its place as the 4th warmest year on record, behind 2016, 2017, and 2015.

Climate change impacts are now detectable all across America. And they will get worse. That’s the bad news. I’m sure you’re ready for some good news, and there is plenty to go around.

The good news is that science can help inform measures to protect communities, as well as our oceans, forests, parks, waterways, and wildlife, from the most devastating impacts of climate change. Here, early action is essential to the success of these approaches, delivering vast returns on investment.

Many jurisdictions – from the local to the federal level - have developed a range of climate adaptation measures informed by rigorous science, stakeholder engagement, and cost-benefit analyses. But we must accelerate these efforts. Towards that end, The National Climate Assessment provides an actionable blueprint for such adaptive measures, including an in-depth analysis of climate impacts on ecosystem structure, function, and services.

The other good news is that it’s not too late to avoid the most damaging impacts of future climate change. We have the tools we need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And in doing so, we will enjoy cleaner water, cleaner air, and healthier communities.

The rapid expansion of renewable energy across the nation demonstrates a strong appetite for carbon-free, clean power. Even so, US greenhouse gas emissions were up 3% last year. The bottom line is that we are running out of time. Comprehensive federal policies are needed to speed the transition to low-carbon energy sources. Top on the list must be a price on carbon, to reflect the true costs of continued fossil fuel emissions, and to incentivize consumers, companies, and the market to find the cheapest, most effective means of reducing emissions. With or without a price on carbon, increased energy efficiency is a win-win strategy that can deliver energy cost savings, while reducing harmful air pollution.

Lastly, there is a strong case to be made that we can deploy our vast forests, grasslands, and coastal marshes in service to natural carbon sequestration. At its most basic level, this means designing strategies to safeguard these environments, with their rich carbon reserves, in the face of continued climate change.

As a climate scientist, I have to wonder:  How bad will it have to get for us to recognize that climate change represents a clear and present threat, and to act decisively to protect ourselves?

I’m heartened by recent polls showing that nearly 3 in 4 Americans are concerned about global warming, and support a range of policy options to address it.

And as a mother to four young children, I’m inspired by the sea of young people demanding that we not squander their chances for climate stability.

I urge this committee to capitalize on the vast trove of climate science findings by:
1) protecting our natural resources, and the communities that depend on them, from known climate change impacts, and
2) using federal lands to advance climate solutions, rather than expanding the scope of the climate change problem.


References and additional resources can be found at the end of my written testimony, linked here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

My March for Science speech

Atlanta, GA
Credit:  Colin Potts
April 22, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this incredible event. And let us all give the organizers a big round of applause for bringing us together today, in celebration of science, and in defense of science. Today I marched as a woman, as a mother to four little people, and most importantly, today I marched as a climate scientist.

These days, people ask me how I get out of bed in the morning. And I’ll be honest with you – there were some dark days last year when I didn’t. How could I? Temperatures around the globe soared to a staggering new record, in the process killing 85% of the corals at my long-time, beloved research site. Words cannot describe the shock and sadness of diving on these reefs, digesting the fact that a climate future I thought was decades away is here, today, threatening not just coral reefs around the world, but human health, prosperity, and well-being.

The good news is that science can tell us how to tackle climate change. The bad news is that many powerful forces are aligned against science, robbing every single American of their right to a sustainable and prosperous future.

The long arc of human history is inseparable from the cumulative benefits of science, yet we find ourselves at a pivotal point:  are we going to unleash the full power of the scientific enterprise to safeguard our future, or are we going to turn our backs on science, its many lessons, and its infinite promise? And guess what? Like it or not, this showdown is happening on our watch.

As a scientist, I can no longer pretend that sitting in my office, plotting new data and publishing papers, is enough. I can no longer pretend that clicking Paypal buttons every 4yrs is enough. So I woke up on January 1st, on my twin’s birthday, and I turned the page. I became a daily bike commuter. [shout out to bikers] I started walking my kids to school. I’ve signed on to help half a dozen organizations [shout out to 500womenscientists], delivered a petition to my Councilmember at City Hall, signed an open letter to EPA head Scott Pruitt denouncing his false statements about the causes of climate change, and shared my message of climate action, and climate hope, at a dozen public appearances.

But, if we are going to fight for facts, and data, and truth, and justice, then we’re going to need ALL hands on deck.  And I mean ALL hands. We’re going to need all the black people and the brown people and the gay people and the trans people and the native people and the Muslim people and the immigrant people and the disabled people. Your cause is our cause. We’re going to need the PhDs and the GEDs, the atheists and the evangelicals, the rich and the poor, the lifetime activists and the newbies. And yes, we need the women. We need EVERYONE.

And our goal can’t just be change in Washington DC. It has to be about change in our homes, in our neighborhoods, our city, and our state. And it’s not just about election day. It’s about every day. Engagement is a powerful anti-depressant. Trust me. But science tells us that it’s most effective if you take it every day.
My sign from the March.

Today, the powerful forces that are fighting against science, against a sustainable, just future for this great country are scared. Because they are counting on us to remain silent, and afraid, and most of all, they are counting on us to remain divided. So I ask you to join hands with your neighbor, whether they are part of your family or a perfect stranger, and raise all your arms into the air. Are you ready to turn the page? Are you ready to fight for science, and facts, and truth? Are you ready to rise up, together, to translate hope into action? Then let's do this. Thank you for being here.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Cobb Lab at AGU - 2016 Edition

by Kim Cobb

This year we have a large number of presentations spanning a wide array of topics, delivered by a mix of undergrads (Gemma O'Connor, Nick Hitt), grad students (Pamela Grothe, Hussein Sayani), postdocs (Alyssa Atwood, Ian Orland), and close collaborators (Sylvia Dee, Samantha Stevenson).

A rundown of the various presentations follows. Hope to see you there!

MY PRESENTATIONS

[Oral] "Western tropical Pacific hydroclimate across four glacial cycles" - Stalagmites!
Kim M. Cobb & 20+ others, but notably Stacy Carolin, Jessica Moerman, Sang Chen, Nele Meckler, & Jess Adkins
PP23D-07Tuesday, 13 December, 15:10 - 15:25, Moscone West 2003

[Oral] "Tropical Pacific climate during the Medieval Climate Anomaly: progress and pitfalls" - Corals!
Kim M. Cobb & 20+ others, but notably Tianran Chen, Pamela Grothe, Hussein Sayani, Hai Cheng, Larry Edwards
PP54A-07Friday, 16 December, 17:15 - 17:30, Moscone West 2010

[Oral] "Fostering institutional practices in support of public engagement by scientists"
Kim M. Cobb
ED43F-08Thursday, 15 December, 15:25 - 15:40, Moscone South 309


UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHERS (recruit them - they're applying to grad school this winter!)

[Oral] "The 2015/16 El Niño Event as Recorded in Central Tropical Pacific Corals: Temperature, Hydrology, and Ocean Circulation Influences"
Gemma O'Connor, Hussein Sayani, Samantha Stevenson, Alyssa Atwood, Pamela Grothe, Nick Hitt, and Jean Lynch-Stieglitz
A41L-04Thursday, 15 December, 8:45 - 9:00, Moscone West 3006

[Oral] "An ensemble approach to reconstructing 20th century climate trends in data-sparse regions of the tropical Pacific using young fossil corals"
Nick T. Hitt, Hussein Sayani, Samantha Stevenson, Alyssa Atwood, Pamela Grothe, Hai Cheng, Larry Edwards, Melat Hagos, Dan Deocampo, Tianran Chen, Yanbin Lu, Diane Thompson, and Jean Lynch-Stieglitz
PP43D-03Thursday, 15 December, 14:10 - 14:25, Moscone West 2012


GRADUATE STUDENTS

[Oral] "The 2015/16 El Niño Event as Recorded in Central Tropical Pacific Corals: Temperature, Hydrology, and Ocean Circulation Influences"
Pamela R. Grothe, Giovanni Ligori, Hussein Sayani, Antoinetta Capotondi, Hai Cheng, Larry Edwards, Yanbin Lu, Guaciara Santos, John Southon, Kayla Townsend, Melat Hagos, Diane Thompson, Lauren Toth, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, and Dan Deocampo
A42E-03Thursday, 15 December, 10:50 - 11:05, Moscone West 3006

[Poster] "Coral Ensemble Estimates of Central Pacific Mean Climate During the Little Ice Age"
Hussein R. Sayani, Gemma O'Connor, Agraj Khare, Alyssa Atwood, Pamela Grothe, Tianran Chen, Melat Hagos, Nick Hitt, Diane Thompson, Dan Deocampo, Yanbin Lu, Hai Cheng, Larry Edwards
PP51D-2329Friday, 16 December, 8:00 - 12:20, Moscone South Poster Hall


POSTDOCTORAL SCIENTISTS

[Oral] "A Coral Ensemble Approach to Reconstructing Central Pacific Climate Change During the Holocene"
Alyssa Atwood, Kim M. CobbPamela Grothe, Hussein Sayani, Hai Cheng, Larry Edwards, Yanbin Lu, Guaciara Santos, John Southon, Kayla Townsend, Melat Hagos, Dan Decamp, Tianran Chen, John CH Chiang
PP43D-04Thursday, 15 December, 14:25 - 14:40, Moscone West 2012




[Oral] "Micro-scale δ18O analyses of a Borneo stalagmite across the Toba super-eruption"
Ian Orland (U. Wisconsin), Kim M. Cobb, Stacy Carolin, Ben Linzmier, John W. Valley, Jess F. Adkins
PP14A-05Monday, 12 December, 15:00 - 15:15, Moscone West 2003





CLOSE COLLABORATORS

[Oral] "Last Millennium External Forcing Undetectable in Coral Records of Central Pacific Climate"
Sylvia Dee (Brown University), Kim M. Cobb, Julien Emile-Geay, Toby Ault
PP52A-06Friday, 16 December, 11:35 - 11:50, Moscone West 2012



[Poster] "The 2015-16 El Niño As A Proving Ground for Coral Proxy Reconstructions"
Samantha Stevenson (NCAR), Kim M. Cobb, Mark Merrifield, Brian Powell
A43C-0236Thursday, 15 December, 13:40 - 18:00, Moscone South Poster Hall






Monday, October 17, 2016

5 common misconceptions about the tenure-track job search

by Kim Cobb

I'm writing this on the heels of a somewhat disturbing chat with an incredible, young female scientist who had gotten some very bad advice regarding her upcoming job search from her well-intentioned advisor.

Below I'll list some common misconceptions about the tenure-track job search and some strategies for success, as someone who has sat on numerous search committees and been involved in numerous searches as a candidate.

Misconception #1:
It's best to wait until you are "marketable" to apply, ideally after several years of postdoc.

This is so wrong, it's hard not to jump out of my chair in frustration. I would argue, based on my own experience as well as those of my former students and postdocs, that you begin to be highly "marketable" in the last months of your graduate tenure or in the first year of your postdoc, with one caveat. If you're a graduate student, you need to have an awesome postdoc lined up (see Misconception #4 below), with a clear idea of how it will take your science to next level. Fancy fellowships help, of course. Also see related Misconception #2.

Misconception #2:
The more publications you have, the more "marketable" you are.

By this logic, your market value should simply increase through time as you publish. But that is very much not the case. Yes, in general, larger publication counts will garner a closer look, all things being equal. But there are more exceptions to this than I can list here. For example, high-profile papers still pack a punch, especially for early career researchers. Second, for people early in their career, steep investments in method development made in graduate school could translate into a somewhat delayed, relatively small batch of publications. However, their work could very well launch them into the academic stratosphere within several years. We might call this the "rising star" effect, and it is the Holy Grail of search committees - to nab that young researcher who is destined for greatness but is still discussed mostly in terms of "potential". Translation:  apply early and often. Make them sweat it out, trying to read the tea leaves of your CV and your research statement. And sweat they will, trust me. And you never know, you just might end up on the winning side of a committee's gamble on the next Big Thing.

Misconception #3:
You should only apply to those positions that you would likely accept.

This is also a doozie. Despite what you think you know about a department or a university, you are quite likely wrong. Your long-term success as an academic depends on so many factors that you can't possibly assess from your limited vantage point. We can begin with the very tangible things like amount of startup, salary, course loads, student support, and other items that are subject to negotiation once you are offered the position. We can continue listing things like neighborhoods, childcare facilities, parental leave, commitment to diversity, quality of leadership, affinity to close colleagues, institutional culture, etc that you can only really find out about through close, on-the-ground inspection and sleuthing. So no, you cannot possibly know where your best home would be a priori, no matter what your well-intentioned advisor thinks of That Place. So apply everywhere that you see a fit to the ad. Apply and interview like you mean it. If you get an offer, *then* you can worry about whether you can negotiate favorable terms, whether you like the place, could see yourself being happy there long-term, etc once you visit a couple of times, talk with colleagues, visit neighborhoods, tour homes, etc. You may be surprised how amazing it feels to hear the words "We'd like to make you an offer" - the first step to you falling in love with your potential next academic home. Of course, there is no match for the words "We'd like to make you both an offer." Pure fairy dust.

Misconception #4:
If you apply early in your postdoc, or even before you start one, you will have to cut your postdoc short to begin your tenure-track job.

Here at Georgia Tech, we have been known to wait an awfully long time (yes, well over a year) for the candidate of our choice to finish out their postdoc to their satisfaction. The top programs recognize the value of this flexibility, given that a productive, more mature scientist with deep and diverse collaborations (and likely grant writing experience) is much more likely to be successful on the tenure track.

Misconception #5:
It's best to be up front about your potential 2-body issue, because many institutions will leap at the chance to make two great hires at the same time. And anyway, hiding it is dishonest.

Good God no. Of the two parties in question, the person who should apply to a given ad is the person who is the best fit for the ad, period. If both parties are equally suited for the ad, then both should apply, but with no explicit or implicit link. That said, it is important to realize that female applicants are still rare enough that they will likely get a closer look than one would think. When in doubt, apply, especially if you are female.

And should you get an interview, make absolutely no mention of your significant other. This may make you uncomfortable, but there are legal protections against any discussion of your significant other for good reasons -- too many people will (consciously or subconsciously) downgrade applicants with 2-body issues because 1) it can be hard to find $ for two positions at the same time, so why bother trying? and 2) even if you do find the $, now you have to seal the deal with two candidates instead of one, so why bother trying? It's all very fraught, on both sides, even when everyone has the best of intentions.

The best way to minimize the hurdles that stand in the way of your dual tenure-track positions is to wait to raise the issue until they have named you the winner of the search. As unnatural as this might seem, you wield the most power when you have that offer in your hand. They have made the incredible leap of saying "We want you to join our family. Will you?" and they are beyond excited at the prospect of you saying "Yes." Once you have the Chair on the phone to discuss next steps, it is time to bring up your significant other (SO), who is also seeking a tenure-track position. Now brace yourself. There will be hemming and hawing. There will be disclaimers about how difficult it is to secure two tenure-track lines in "this environment". They are just doing their job, protecting your prospects for joining the faculty despite no offer for your SO, should that transpire. Do NOT take this personally. They probably know next to nothing, if anything, about your SO. Now do your job. Acknowledge that you know it is difficult, that you appreciate any effort they could make to investigate the possibility further. If you have the chance, mention that it has always been the express goal of your couple to get 2.0 tenure-track jobs, and that you are willing to wait for the right job opportunity to come along because - and this is key - you still have several years of applying ahead of you (see Misconception #1 and #2 above, and realize how waiting is especially costly for 2-body situations). The more desperate you are to land a job, the less leverage you have. Maximum leverage comes from being able to walk away from an opportunity while being very clear what it would take to make you sign on the line. Go there. And get comfortable. When the dust settles, see what they are able to offer, and then decide with your partner what the best path forward is for your couple.

Disclaimer:
Please note that I do not endorse many of the circumstances that I list above, even as I recognize that they may place profound constraints on your tenure-track job search. I only aim to further the prospects of young scientists, especially young women, in securing a tenure-track job, should that be their goal. Too many people operate in an information vacuum. I know I did.

Blatant plug:
All that said, please do apply to our tenure-track climate position(s) we're advertising in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech. We are committed to conducting a search of impeccable integrity, and hope to attract a diverse set of applicants into the pool, to match our diverse set of existing faculty. And if we do end up offering you a position, will you pretty please say "Yes"?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Doomsday Expedition - Part 1

by Kim Cobb

Every once in a while, the universe reminds you that you are small. Very small.

Several weeks ago, my students and I set out on what was supposed to be a 7-day expedition to Christmas Island, a remote island in the central equatorial Pacific, to document the effects of the current El Niño event on the coral reef there. We could not have known that we would face major ordeal after major ordeal, all while confronting a mass mortality event of staggering proportions on the island’s pristine coral reefs.

The mission’s goals were simple enough:  to revisit sites that we’ve been monitoring for the last two years, service temperature and salinity logging devices, and drill some coral cores that span the bulk of the 2015/2016 El Niño event.

We joined a team from Julia Baum’s lab, who had been diving intensively for two weeks prior to our arrival, taking detailed photographs of the reef and collecting tissue samples from any survivors. The goal of their work is to decipher the recipe for coral resilience to extreme temperature stress, in order to aid the reefs of tomorrow weather future such extremes.

We landed to grim reports of extensive coral mortality, confirming our worst fears that the 9 months of continuous ocean warming associated with the largest El Niño event in history had taken their toll. Of the sites affected by the current global bleaching event, Christmas has been in the grip of extreme temperature stress for the most time, by a long shot.

My first dive was shocking. Above water it looked like the same island I’d been visiting for 18 years. But underwater it was a wasteland. As I descended to depth that day, my eyes would see things that my heart and mind couldn’t yet process.

Algae-coated dead coral on my first dive of the expedition, to 30ft on Christmas Island's south reef, April 2, 2016. In this entire view, there is only one small coral still alive - a half bleached/half dead Porites colony in the lower left. Credit:  Kim Cobb.
The reef was almost completely dead, with all but a few of the hardiest Porites colonies – mostly the smallest size class – coated in red/brown algae. These corals had lost their valiant battle against the elevated ocean temperatures months ago, most likely. I busied myself with the task at hand, retrieving a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth unit off the reef, swapping out the smaller package of sensors we’d co-located with the CTD, taking momentary solace in the fact that the instruments were still intact on the reef. Aside from their huge cost, their memory banks would tell us exactly how warm it had been on the reef in the preceding six months, across the peak of the event. It would have been a crippling loss, scientifically, had they been washed away. We have been swapping in new CTD units at this site since 2014, amassing one the longest, most detailed records of ocean conditions in this region.
The Conductivity-Temperature-Depth sensor after recording ambient 
conditions on the reef from Nov 2015 until April 2016, surrounded by 
dead coral.  Credit:  Kim Cobb.

My mind still reeling from that first dive, I was sure my second dive would be better. We were diving a site that I have visited on every single field expedition I’ve ever conducted, where the largest Porites coral colonies grow. These colonies are decades old, rising 1m or more off the floor of the reef, locking a remarkably accurate history of ocean temperatures in their skeletons. I had drilled one such colony for the TV documentary “Years ofLiving Dangerously”, wielding a huge hydraulic drill in the glare of two underwater cameras.

When I jumped in the water, it was clear my optimism was misplaced. The reef I knew like the back of my hand was unrecognizable. Of the five larger Porites colonies I had tagged and photographed in November – all still alive at that point, if not bleached – four were completely dead, and one was partially dead, hanging on by a thread. I was so overcome with emotion that I shed a few tears into my mask.

I took some time to swim the reef, taking in the destruction. Pocillopora:  all dead. Favia:  all dead. Montipora:  all dead.  In fact, the only things that seemed to be alive and well were, once again, smaller colonies of Porites averaging well under 1ft in diameter. Every good story needs a hero, and these corals were just that. It was as if nobody had told them that a record-breaking El Nino was still underway. My eyes were repeatedly drawn to these small pockets of color on the reef, while my science brain kicked into overdrive planning new science around these stalwart survivors. I would go on to tag and photograph these individuals, and collect small tissues samples that Danielle Claar, from the Baum lab, will sequence in the hopes of uncovering the secret to their unlikely survival.

When we return to the reef later this year, I will take small drill cores from these survivors, in order to document the story of this El Niño event from the perspective of the corals by analyzing the geochemical variations in their newly-laid skeletons. Such samples will allow me to make an apples-to-apples comparison to coral records of past mega-El Niño events, like the 1997/98 event, and to mega-El Niño events of the past centuries to millennia. And by comparing recent El Nino activity in the coral record against a long baseline of natural variability in older coral records, we hope to understand if and how climate change is affecting extremes in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Our preliminary results, published before the onset of this winter’s record-breaking event, suggest that El Nino events have become stronger as a result of anthropogenic climate change (see article here).

I hope that the reefs at Christmas Island have the time they need to recover before the next big El Niño hits. It will take ten years or more for the reef to crawl back to even a shadow of its former self. Over this period, we will document its recovery in detail, as an opportunity to learn more about life after death for a reef crippled by temperature stress.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A day in the life of a Sci-Mom

by Kim Cobb

Upon hearing that I have four kids ages 5-8 and a job as a climate scientist and Professor at Georgia Tech, people often ask me "How on Earth do you manage it all?"

There are many ways of answering that, including the following stock responses that I often rotate through:
1) I don't. It's a complete mess all the time but somehow everyone has survived thus far.
2) I have a great husband and we share our parental duties 50:50.
3) I spend lots and lots of money on childcare and support at home.

All true, but too vague to be of much use.

So here's a random weekday in my life - in this case, Monday February 8, 2016. To make it interesting, my husband split for Texas early that morning (he's a scientist too).

5:30am - wakeup
I usually beat my alarm to the punch, and spend 30min or so getting a jump on the day. I review my day's schedule, check e-mail and social media, and if I'm lucky, read the headlines of the New York Times.

6:00-6:30am - get dressed
I take this part of my day very seriously, as I like to dress up for work. I put on jewelry, makeup, and perfume every day. By the time I'm done I feel invincible, and ready for anything the day might throw at me.

6:30am-7:30am - morning routine for kids
In order to wake up the house, I blast some female pop-power-songs beginning at 6:30am (Katy Perry, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, etc), and call to the kids to get up and dressed. Nobody is allowed at the breakfast table without clothes and shoes on, and they have to do it all by themselves (our systems are resilient to a 1-parent model as one of us is traveling ~50% of the time). During this time I make breakfast for everyone, and then while they eat it I'm making lunches for the big kids, combing/braiding hair for everyone, and feeding the dogs.

7:30am - everyone out the door to school
This is probably the most chaotic point of my day, unavoidably so. Nobody ever wants to wear a proper jacket, hats and gloves are scattered, the ballet bag isn't packed with the favorite outfit, it's "Bring-A-3-Eyed-Zebra-Toy-to-School Day" in one of the kid's class - you get the picture. And the clock is ticking.

8:30am - to coffee shop for warm-up exercises
Most days I enjoy a buffer between the kid drop-offs and my office, and a donut and coffee hit the spot. This morning I was frantically finishing lecture prep for my 10am class.

9:30am - park minivan and bike across campus to class (much faster than campus shuttles)

9:45am - meet prospective undergraduate research assistant (she was great!)

10am - "Sustainable Communities" class begins
Sit through a very intriguing and substantive guided discussion exercise by my co-instructor, which ends up running into my time and bumping my lecture to a later date. Lost sleep of previous night internally labelled collateral damage.

11am - bike back and enjoy 30 min in office
Work on NSF budget, stress about high costs of my funding request relative to coPIs. Update crowdfunding campaign. Feel guilty for not tweeting enough as @realscientists curator this week.

11:45am - postdoc and graduate student meet to discuss coral project
We review science strategies for new coral radiocarbon dates for postdoc's project. Decide we need more undergraduate research assistants in the lab asap to help her prepare samples.

12:45pm - chat with another postdoc about stalagmite project
Review science strategies for getting a thin section of our stalagmite across the horizon of the Toba super-eruption, hoping to find the petrographic signature of the ash layer.

1:30pm - meet with engineering undergrad who wants to add an Energy Minor to his degree
Talk about GT's offerings in the Energy space, including the two classes I teach, as well as the Energy on the Hill internship program that I direct.

2-2:45 - prep lecture for Energy, the Environment, and Society course

3-4:30pm - teach class on climate change science (probably my favorite topic)

4:30pm - surrounded by 5 eager young women who would like to join my lab, after I announce that we're looking for new undergraduate research assistants

4:45pm - leave to pick up 5-yr-old twins at on-campus daycare

5pm - drop twins at house with nanny, who helps them with their preK homework (really???)

5:15pm - pick up 6-yr-old son at aftercare

5:30pm - pick up 8-yr-old daughter at aftercare

5:45pm - finally home
House is spotless because I have my cleaning lady come twice per week, and she came today. Check dinner progress (nanny cooked a vegan meal of fried tofu, coconut rice, and roasted veggies), check mail, check homework for kids, argue with oldest daughter about the merits of a timed computer-based reading comprehension assignment she has to do (we agree it's pretty useless, but homework is homework...)  Son is playing math games on computer, and twins are wrecking havoc around the house.

6:30pm - family dinner
Partly in response to aforementioned foot dragging, I introduce the Cupcake Party Incentive Plan, whereby those who do their homework each night for the entire week get a fancy, over-the-top cupcake with a  50:50 frosting-to-cupcake ratio the following weekend.

7:00pm - bath night commences
I bathe twins while nanny cleans kitchen. Then twins get PJs on & brush teeth while I bathe my son. Eldest is lost in a spontaneous urge to make valentines cards for my entire extended family.

7:30pm - read to twins; twins 'read' to me
I read two books to the twins, and then they read their books to me and we practice sight words for the week. This is the longest phase of the evening routine (~30min), because there are two of them in this phase.

8pm - read to son, son reads to me; nanny leaves after reviewing plan for tomorrow
I silently curse the inventor of the Valentine's Day school tradition that has me overseeing the preparation of >100 Valentines by Thursday morning.

8:30pm - root through garbage because cleaning lady threw away makeshift envelope with my son's first lost tooth in it. Mission impossible. And pretty revolting. Aborted after 5min, with apologies to tooth fairy. He actually does OK - go figure.

8:45pm - spend a few minutes chatting with my eldest while she settles down with her Kindle in bed.

9pm - I head to bed, where I knock off small but urgent work items for a couple hours.

11pm - I try to sleep, unsuccessfully. Write blog post on my day instead.

Overview of support structures:

1) full-time nanny/house manager
hours worked:  M-Th 3-8pm; F 7:30-5:30pm; and one 4-hr weekend slot/date night
duties: run errands, go food shopping, menu plan, cook 2-3 times/week, homeschool 1 day/week, kid transportation, and most importantly, take care of the laundry from start to finish (I went on a permanent laundry strike about 2yrs ago now).

2) part-time house-keeper (comes Monday or Tuesday for 5hrs, and 10hrs on Fridays)

3) all kids in aftercare/daycare until 5:30pm

So there you have it. How do I make it work? All of the above, with a good husband and a good salary especially critical.