Here at NCEI, we aren’t just data—we are people. In our Humans of NCEI series, meet the awesome minds that manage one of the largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, and oceanic research in the world. Get to know Jason Cooper, an archivist who does acquisition, preservation, and management of data.
What is your job title?
What is your specific area of expertise?
Records acquisition, preservation, and management. I have a Bachelor's degree in Meteorology and a Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS) in Archives Management.
What was your first job? How did it prepare you for your current position?
My first job was working at my parents’ marine dealership. I worked in the parts department and at the cash register. I tracked inventories and helped customers find what they needed. Looking back, it's incredible to see the parallels between that job and my current work!
How did you end up at NCEI?
I majored in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, just a few miles from NCEI. I was selected for an undergraduate internship developing inventories and performing quality control on digital datasets. After my internship, I moved on to jobs in TV weather and a travel agency but kept in touch with contacts at NCEI. When a position became available, I was hired!
What does a usual workday look like for you?
My tasks are fairly evenly split between data acquisition planning, archive policy development, and working in the physical archives. So at any given time, I could be devising the archival of a new satellite data collection, updating the NCEI collecting policy, or scanning paper records and providing them to customers.
What sort of training and education would one need for your job?
Expertise in Environmental Sciences (meteorology, oceanography) is extremely helpful. In addition, it's important to know the principles and best practices associated with information sciences. I don't do science, but I interact with and support those who do on a daily basis.
What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?
I've been interested in the weather and its influence on our lives since I was very young. Unlike many of my meteorology classmates, there wasn't one particular weather event or phenomenon that sparked my interest. Nearly every day, all of us had to think about what to wear, whether to bring an umbrella and how the weather would affect our plans. Over time, this appreciation for understanding the weather’s influence on a daily basis evolved to include how it affects people on seasonal and decadal timescales.
What projects are you working on now? Are there any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
I'm developing archive recommendations for two soon-to-be-launched environmental satellites and improving inventories of geophysical and oceanographic data held in paper and film formats. I'm excited about the prospect of migrating more of those analog holdings to digital forms for scientists and all users to access from anywhere.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
I'm an organizer and supporter. I may not be performing cutting-edge climate science and answering the big questions of our time, but I am stewarding and providing critical information to those who are. That's extremely satisfying.
What challenges have you had to deal with in your career?
I think the biggest challenge is discovering where I can have the greatest impact within NOAA, weighing opportunities to advise and contribute in my current role against those in new roles as they present themselves.
Who are you outside of your career?
A husband and father, adult soccer league midfielder, rule follower, and organizer of stuff. I’m in the zone when I’m cleaning, straightening, or organizing anything. It could be a directory of files, a procedure, a desk, a box, a kitchen, or the lawn.
We have two cats and a dog. They've been great telework coworkers!