JoAnn Joselyn grew up during a period of amazing firsts, when advances in science and space exploration captured the imagination of people around the world. "Sputnik was launched on my 14th birthday, and I knew then I was destined for space work," says Joselyn, who has had a 35-year career studying space weather.
So it is fitting that Joselyn went onto capture some of her own "firsts." A 1965 CU-Boulder graduate in applied math, she became the first woman to earn a doctoral degree at CU in astrogeophysics—the study of solar-planetary interactions.
As a space scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, she is particularly proud of her work that showed that ejections of solar wind associated with disappearing solar filaments caused magnetic storms that can disrupt communications, electrical power transmission, space flight, and other emerging technologies. "I was instrumental in changing the tide on this," she says, explaining that sporadic magnetic storms were previously thought to originate only with solar flares.
More recently, Joselyn also became the first woman to be elected secretary-general of the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, and then the first woman and first American to be elected secretary-general of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. Calling it "a second career in international coordination of science," the position is presenting new challenges in working with 65 member governments on geophysical projects.
One project she is looking forward to is the selection of a model city on which the union of scientists can focus its efforts and thereby serve society. "Urban areas, especially in developing countries, are spreading onto the flanks of volcanoes and into seismic zones because local and regional governments lack appropriate scientific resources and an understanding of relevant geoscience," she says. "International coordination is needed to share knowledge and hopefully prevent tragedy."