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Amanda Tomlinson conducting research
January 9, 2020

Reaching for the stars with feet firmly on the ground

Amanda Tomlinson ’20 recently joined an international engineering and environmental consulting firm after completing a graduate degree in geoscience with a concentration in earth processes and global change at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. But as an undergraduate at Berry, she didn’t have a clear career direction until taking an introductory course in environmental science and then connecting with Associate Professor of Geology Tamie Jovanelly. “When I was unsure of what I wanted to do, Dr. Jovanelly immediately took me under her wing to help me discover my passions and what I wanted to pursue,” she says.

Tomlinson relished her role as a teaching assistant on a study abroad trip to Iceland. “Dr. Jovanelly has been there almost every year since 2006 and wrote an advanced textbook about its geology,” she explains. “I got to experience an entirely new culture while learning about the geology of the country, all while getting paid to be a teaching assistant.” She returned to Berry and assisted Jovanelly with teaching and research for two more years while majoring in environmental science with a geology concentration.

Motivated by Jovanelly to set goals that she once thought unattainable, Tomlinson learned about summer internships with the NASA DEVELOP National Program from Jessica Sutton, assistant professor of environmental science and studies at Berry. The program addresses environmental and public policy issues through 10-week interdisciplinary research projects that apply the lens of NASA Earth observations to community concerns around the world.

“We used NASA satellite data to help develop a model that could monitor and eventually predict drought for the National Drought Management Authority, an agency of the Kenyan government,” Tomlinson says. “I got to travel to Washington, D.C., to present my research at NASA Headquarters.” A year later, she completed her second internship as a research analyst with NASA DEVELOP, analyzing the urban heat island effect in Huntsville, Ala. 

Tomlinson’s thesis centers on reconstructing precipitation records in Costa Rica as part of a larger effort to determine historical climate patterns. The results could eventually inform future climate change prediction models in Central America and the northern countries of South America. Clearly set on a career path doing what she loves, Tomlinson says, “Berry has inspired me to go out and take on the world’s challenges with enthusiasm … to learn as much as I can in every situation while also motivating me to seek out opportunities, challenge myself and make a difference.”

staff writer

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