How Dr Claire Carouge connects climate science to software

15 Jun 2022

I was always more interested in figuring out how to write the software that would solve the issue, rather than analysing the results

Dr Claire Carouge is fascinated by climate science, but it's not the science itself that keeps her up at night.

Her passion is for engineering, giving her the rare skillset of being able to bridge the often-complex gap between science and software.

Dr Carouge has recently joined ACCESS-NRI as Leader for the Land Modelling Infrastructure team. 

ACCESS-NRI is a new research infrastructure that models past and future climate, weather and earth systems to support research and decision-making in Australia.

"I have long been aware of ACCESS-NRI and knew I wanted to be involved - it's great to be here from the start and to be able to help shape it up," Dr Carouge said."

In the role, Dr Carouge will be responsible for delivering a modelling infrastructure for land research in Australia. 

"This infrastructure will be informed by the needs of the Australian land modelling research community," she said. 

"The land modelling setup will be designed to streamline research activity and to integrate within the overall infrastructure for climate modelling developed at ACCESS-NRI."

Dr Carouge, who grew up in France and came to Australia 11 years ago, completed her PhD in Atmospheric Sciences and says that while she loved the topic, she felt herself pulled in another direction.

"I was always more interested in figuring out how to write the software that would solve the issue, rather than analysing the results," she said. 

"I realised I wasn't so much a scientist as what I would call an engineer. And I made the move. People were telling me I could be a scientist, but no - I wanted to work on making things happen."

However, she's very clear it's not just any software engineering that grabs her attention.

"I still have an attachment to climate science - I'm very much attached to both," she said.

"In this role I will need to be that crucial connection between the scientific community and the software engineers at ACCESS-NRI."

During Dr Carouge's extensive career as a research software engineer, she has worked with climate models covering different parts of the climate system - ocean, atmosphere, land and atmospheric chemistry. 

In recent years, her work focused on the land surface model Community Atmosphere-Biosphere Land Exchange (CABLE), and she has notably successfully coupled CABLE to the atmospheric regional model Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF). 

She said her favourite aspect of the role is helping to accelerate climate research in Australia by facilitating access to climate models and climate data by researchers. 

"I also like adapting climate models and the data analysis workflows to enable more ambitious research," she said. 

"At ACCESS-NRI, climate modelling is the central topic of the whole institution, so it's great to have so many people to learn from and to share knowledge.

"My goal is to see a unified scientific community around current climate models, with the models able to suit the needs of the entire community." 

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