Isaiah Moore named 2021 Outstanding Senior for the College of Natural Resources and Environment
Isaiah Moore’s fascination with the extremes of weather started at a young age.
“Growing up in Nebraska, we’d hear the sirens announcing that a tornado warning was in effect,” said Moore, the College of Natural Resources and Environment’s 2021 Outstanding Senior. “As a little kid, I’d be worried because my mom or dad would be off at work and I would have to run to the basement to wait out the storm. Those moments were scary, and that made me want to understand what was happening.”
Those early experiences motivated Moore, who will graduate in May, to study both the science of weather and the human impacts that extreme weather events can have. He was able to pursue both interests while obtaining dual degrees in geography and meteorology in the Department of Geography.
“I’m especially interested in the human dimension side of meteorology and how our understanding of weather can be used to help people,” he said. “Natural disasters aren’t going away, and the more we can know about how tornadoes, hurricanes, or winter storms work, the more we can do to prepare for such events.”
Moore’s interests have led to enriching experiences outside the classroom, from utilizing satellite and GIS data to reveal water level patterns on Lake Powell as a volunteer for the U.S. Geological Survey’s national center in Reston, Virginia, to an internship researching weather data from the nuclear testing era for the nonprofit Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia.
“Getting clearance to work with nuclear-era data was definitely a process,” Moore admitted. “But my internship was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the meteorological aspects of nuclear tests. I had to run a lot of weather data though quality control checks, and then we were able to run new analyses on old data.”
Working with a professional meteorologist, Moore wrote a research paper on his findings and presented his work to the organization, helping to improve our understanding of the meteorological conditions near the time of past nuclear detonations.
“Isaiah epitomizes the term ‘well-rounded student,’” said Instructor David Carroll. “In addition to being a great student academically, I have worked with him on a number of projects outside of the classroom, including helping to install high-elevation weather stations for our Central Appalachian Mesonet project.”
On campus, Moore has served as president of the Meteorology Club at Virginia Tech for the past two years, working to coordinate meetings and activities through the challenges of a global pandemic. He also co-founded the Chi Epsilon Pi National Meteorology Honor Society at Virginia Tech and has mentored aspiring meteorology students through that initiative.
More recently, he has been involved in a research project organized through the National Weather Service’s Blacksburg office that seeks to use drones to document wind damage associated with severe weather events. Last year, Moore received training on the EF damage scale to assess tornado damage and practiced assessing tornado effects via video and photo data.
“What stands out about Isaiah is that his answer is always yes,” said academic advisor Julie Burger. “Whether it is volunteering at college recruitment events or learning about new cultures overseas, he has an infectious optimism and positive attitude that make him an outstanding leader, mentor, friend, and Hokie.”
Moore, who added the Pathways to Sustainability minor to his dual majors, said that a highlight of his time at Virginia Tech was a winter study abroad experience in Panama, where he got to see economic, cultural, and environmental linkages and effects of climate change firsthand.
“I’m grateful that I had the chance to study abroad before the pandemic hit,” he said. “It was a fantastic opportunity, not just from a geographical and meteorological perspective, but to see an environment that was completely different from anything in the U.S. We spent some time high up in the rainforest, and while I had already studied high humidity, it was a completely different thing to experience 90 percent humidity and 90-degree weather firsthand.”
Looking ahead, Moore aims to start a career in meteorology and says that his ambition is to someday work for the National Weather Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“I’d love to jump right into working on meteorology in some capacity,” Moore said, “but I don’t know for sure where that’s going to be. Wherever I end up, I’m grateful for both the background I’ve received and the experiences I’ve had at Virginia Tech.”
— Written by David Fleming