Elevator Pitches and Cool Discoveries

Monday, I was invited to give a brief presentation at NOAA (Silver Spring, MD) to highlight our current work. Currently, we have so many neat findings and discoveries, I found myself asking: what do I highlight in the small time I have?

At the 1/3rd milestone of this project, we have already analyzed and interpreted so much data and information. We have a huge white paper report on the historical and future climate descriptions currently in draft as well as some preliminary work on our “marsh story.”

The Elevator Pitch

Every scientist (and most other professions!) have been told about the elevator pitch.

Here is the scenario: you get in an elevator and the person next to you asks “so what do you do?” You have only until your floor is reached to explain what you do and why it’s important.

In other words, you need to have a 15 second “pitch” ready at a moment’s notice to highlight how great your work is.

Here is my one sentence introduction: “I am a post-doctoral researcher working with NOAA, the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves, and the University of Maryland to show how climate variability and change will affect the ecosystems of Chesapeake Bay.”

Okay, it’s vague, but sets the stage for the meat of the work: the findings!

My identified 3 take homes

For my presentation, I distilled our climate analysis into three take-home bullet points.

In the near-shore Chesapeake Bay region:

  • Minimum temperatures have increased
  • The growing season has lengthened
  • Precipitation has seasonally changed
Figure 1:

Figure 1: Minimum temperatures have increased more than maximum temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay region, as shown here for February.

Minimum temperatures have increased

In our area, the coldest temperature measured each month has increased…and has increased at a faster rate than the hottest temperature each month. Ecologically, this finding could affect the environmental boundaries of organisms; for example, eelgrass has a physiological temperature threshold of ~ 30°C, broadly implying that increasing summertime minimum temperatures could affect the southernmost range of this seagrass.


web-cordgrass-in-marsh-by-DThe growing season has lengthened

The growing season length, or when plants will be the most productive, has increased over the last century. This extension could increase the ability of marsh systems to sequester carbon through photosynthesis. Assuming that photosynthesis is greater than respiration, this trend suggests that marshes could have a greater annual carbon uptake, also termed blue carbon.




Figure 2: The greatest amount of 1-day precipitation for the autumn months.

Precipitation has seasonally changed

The total annual precipitation index is useful for determining key events, such as a massive snowstorm or hurricane. But, when you look at monthly precipitation intensity, the greatest amount of precipitation that falls in 1 day, it becomes apparent that precipitation intensity has increased in the fall. This “flashy” form of precipitation could have implications nitrogen inputs in the Bay.

Concluding Thoughts

Luckily, I have a long weekend to perfect my presentation and “elevator pitch.” But, this presentation has helped me distill our work into three “tweetable” statements that will hopefully spark some great conversation!

Kari Pohl

About Kari Pohl

I am a post-doctoral researcher at NOAA and the University of Maryland (Center for Environmental Science at Horn Point Laboratory). My work investigates how climate variability and extremes affect the diverse ecosystems in Chesapeake Bay. I received a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island (2014) and received a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in Chemistry from Roger Williams University (2009). When I am not busy being a scientist, my hobbies include running, watching (and often yelling at) the Boston Bruins, and taking photos of my cat.
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2 Responses to Elevator Pitches and Cool Discoveries

  1. Victoria Coles says:

    I think in an elevator pitch … the cool science part should come first… and the partners second. First engage them, then explain how the partnership enables that. But I agree this is a tough one!

    • Kari Pohl Kari Pohl says:

      I agree, it’s always tough to engage an audience.

      Showing/telling the science is what gets me most excited!

      My lesson learned: know your audience!

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