Plenary Speakers and Panelists

Plenary Speakers

Derek Arndt

Director, NOAA NCEI

Derek Arndt (“Deke) is the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).  NCEI maintains many of the world’s weather, ocean, and geophysical observations, records, and data sets and is home to four International Science Council World Data Centers.

Prior to becoming the Director, Deke was the Climate Science and Services Division (CSSD) Chief at NCEI. CSSD works to turn weather and climate observations into data, products, analyses, and services used by partners, scientists, and decision-makers across public and private sectors. Prior to this role, Deke headed NCEI’s Climate Monitoring team, responsible for providing “play by play” of the climate system, by developing indicators and similar products, and providing regular expert analyses of selected elements of the climate system across the U.S. and globe. Deke was recently the co-chair of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Indicators Interagency Working Group, and currently serves on the Council of the American Meteorological Society. Prior to joining NOAA, he served in several capacities at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Meteorology.

Deke’s career has emphasized the importance of turning data into information relevant to decision making. To fully realize this vision, he and his team have worked diligently to cultivate new relationships and maintain long-standing relationships with a diverse set of partners, from state and Federal emergency management, departments of agriculture, state climatologists, and the community of climate services practitioners.

Virginia Burkett

Chief Scientist, USGS Climate and Land Use Change, International Programs

Dr. Virginia Burkett, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is the Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change, International Programs.  Dr. Burkett has published roughly 100 journal articles, book chapters and reports that focus on wetlands, global change, and low-lying coastal systems. Burkett was a Lead Author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third, Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports and the IPCC Technical Paper on Water. She was also a Lead Author of the First, Second and Third US National Climate Assessments. 

She has served as USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change and as Chair of the $2.4 billion US Global Change Research Program. Prior to leading climate change science at USGS, Burkett was Chief of the Forest Ecology Branch at the USGS National Wetlands Research Center. Prior to her work at USGS, Burkett was Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, where she formerly served as Deputy Secretary.  

Dr. Burkett is a U.S. delegate to the international Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which coordinates the collection and delivery of satellite and in-situ Earth Observations from 114 nations. She is Co-Chair of GEO’s Climate Change Working Group and an US Alternate Principal to AmeriGEO (20 countries in the Western Hemisphere). She served as a Senior Editor of the journal Regional Environmental Change (2012-2022). Burkett has been appointed to over 70 Commissions, Committees, Science Panels and Boards during her career. She is a member of the Louisiana Governor’s Climate Initiatives Task Force and is the Co-Chair of the Science Advisory Group to the Task Force. She co-chairs the International Activities Working Group of the U.S. Group on Earth Observations.

Plenary Panel

Climate Change, Infrastructure and the Built Environment

Extreme weather due to global heating will cause unprecedented strain and damage to infrastructure and built environments that were designed for climate conditions that no longer exist. The way we build can also enhance or attenuate the impacts of heat waves, extreme precipitation and strong storms on people and property.  How should we change our approach to planning and designing our infrastructure and built environment to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis? These questions will be addressed by an expert panel drawing from academia, the private sector and government.

  • Dr. Kevin McKeehan, Climate Resilience, Project Manager, HNTB
  • Brandi Whetstone, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Associate Director of Sustainability
  • Alana Shockey, Sustainable Columbus, Deputy Director
  • Dr. Steven Quiring, StormImpact, Inc., Chief Scientist and Co-Founder; The Ohio State University, Professor, Climatologist

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