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Calling Women In: Snow Science with Citizen Science Observations

Did you know less than 25% of snow scientists identify as women? We’re invested in seeing that shift to include more women in snow science. Learn from women who’ve made their careers in snow science. Listen to their stories about how they got into the career and why they’ve stuck with it. Topics will include finding the career, the education process, challenges along the way, support and how they see the career changing in the future.

Photos by Diana Bartos

Science first

Feeling self-sufficient and empowered in outdoor adventures starts with a proper plan. Understanding the science and techniques behind these skills are what keeps us safe, ensuring a positive experience on each adventure, big or small. The goal? Return time after time to enjoy all that our vibrant planet has to offer. Science first means that everyone learns building blocks of skills that allow safe outdoor adventures; exploring wild spaces that shape and transform us into the people we are meant to be.

Video Description: Snow scientists Katreen Wikstrom Jones, McKenzie Skiles and Christina Aragon explain the Community Snow Observations project which is part of the NASA Citizen Science for Earth Systems project. You'll learn how you can be a citizen scientist and help CSO predict snow conditions and improve snow safety in the mountains.

Why care about snow?

Let’s start with a little refresher on the hydrologic cycle. Snow is the storage of water in our mountains during winter. Snow accumulates and then melts in the spring to infiltrate into the ground and rivers before cycling back around again through precipitation.

Image credit: Dennis Cain/NWS

Snow matters! Snow is water that can be used for drinking, healthy forest growth, irrigation to help plants grow, and stock fisheries.

We need to learn more about snow

There are three main ways we can measure snow

  1. Global and regional measurements using satellites and aircrafts

  2. Static point measurements (weather stations)

  3. Point measurements on the grown in small research teams

Community Snow Observations

SheJumps is partnering with Community Snow Observations (CSO) in order to bring science to our programs, specifically our avalanche awareness and snowsports events. CSO is a NASA funded research effort that is aimed at understanding snow located in complex high alpine terrain all around the globe. CSO relies on professional and recreational citizen scientists to collect data on snow depth.

CSO recognizes that backcountry skiers and snowboarders are a unique data collection opportunity that goes into complex terrain that normal data collection mechanisms are hard to install and maintain.

Citizen science is scientific activities in which non professional volunteers participate in data collection, analysis, and dissemination of a scientific project. In other words, citizen science can be done by anyone and facilitates opportunities for the scientists to connect with specific communities.

How to become a Citizen Scientist

Community Science Observations is a small research team and needs help with gathering sample data across various mountain ranges.

For CSO, there’s three easy steps:

  1. Go out in the backcountry where there is snow.

  2. You need a measurement device, like an avalanche probe, to measure the snow depth. Take the measurement at a place where there is undisturbed snow.

  3. Enter the data in the Mountain Hub app.

Learn more about how you can participate on the Community Snow Observations website.

Watch the entire Calling Women In: Snow Science event recap to learn more about how the data is used.

About the presenters

What does it look like to be a specialist in the snow science field? Read through the presenter biographies below to see their educational and professional career paths.

Katreen Wikstrom Jones works as a Cryosphere Hazards Scientist at the State of Alaska DNR. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in geography from Stockholm University in Sweden and a Master’s in Environmental Science from Alaska Pacific University. Other certifications Katreen has include: AIARE Level 1 & 2 and Instructor Training, Wilderness First Responder, and a UAS Remote Pilot (for drones). Her research background is focused on investigating snow avalanche release and flow behavior with implementation of various remote sensing techniques and dynamical modeling. In her position with the Climate & Cryosphere Hazards Program (CCHP_ at DGGS, she assists in developing and analyzing high quality geospatial products for sites in Alaska that are particularly prone to alpine natural hazards and where communities and infrastructure are potentially endangered.

Christina (Nina) Aragon is originally from Colorado. She started her academic career at the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in Human Kinetics. Then took a break and pursued interest in snowboarding and avalanche training through the Canadian Avalanche Association, which influenced her to change her career path from human systems to Earth systems. She received her Master’s of Science in Geography at Portland State University and worked at the Climate Science Lab. She’s now at Oregon State University where she’s pursuing a PhD in Water Resources Engineering. As a PhD student and graduate research assistant, she balances coursework and research. Her research interests include meltwater resource systems and improving our understanding of the multidimensional nature by which snow links together earth systems. Nina is also the Team Captain of the Science Alliance at Protect Our Winters. Through her work and research, she aims to bolster scientific literacy and promote diversity and inclusion in science, engineering and the outdoors through community building..

Dr. McKenzie Skiles is an assistant professor for the Department of Geography at the University of Utah. She grew up in Alaska and she was interested in climate science when she started university and focused on vegetation change. She then discovered GIS and mapping and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Utah. She continued with a Master’s of Science in Geography at the University of Utah. She received her PhD from the University of California–Los Angeles in Geography and went to work at NASA before returning as an assistant professor. She’s a co-director of a snow and ice lab.As a snow hydrologist, McKenzie combines fieldwork and remote sensing (satellite, airborne, drone) to better understand the seasonal mountain snowpack, specifically how much area it covers, how much water it contains, when/how fast it will melt, and how those things are changing over time. Her work builds this information into numerical models to better understand the past, present, and forecast into the future.


SheJumps is an inclusive organization. We welcome all women and girls (transgender and cisgender) as well as non-binary people who identify with the women's community. SheJumps strives to be an ally in the fight against racism and acknowledges that our events and programs take place on traditional, unceded Indigenous lands.

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