Environmental, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences
Juliette N. Rooney-Varga is an expert on climate change and sustainability. She is director of the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative, co-director of the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy, and professor of Environmental Science.
She has more than twenty years’ experience as a scientist studying biogeochemistry and microbial ecology. Her current work focuses on developing and researching the impact of interactive simulations that enable people to learn for themselves about the climate and energy systems. These simulations bring current climate change and energy science to students, citizens, and policymakers at all levels and have been shown to motivate science-informed action.
She leads the Geo-Interactive Project — a project funded by the National Science Foundation that is developing, propagating, and researching the impact of simulation-based climate and energy education tools in programs designed to foster academic success among low-income, first-generation college students across the US. She also works closely with the climate and energy think tank, Climate Interactive, and is a research affiliate of the MIT System Dynamics Group.
She earned a Ph.D. in microbiology at the University of New Hampshire, a MS in natural resources from Cornell University, and a BA from Colby College in environmental biology.
Hensel, M, Bryan, J, McCarthy, C, McNeal, K, Norfles, N, Rath, K, Rooney-Varga, JN. 2022. Participatory approaches enhance a sense of urgency and collective efficacy about climate change: Qualitative evidence from the World Climate simulation. Journal of Geoscience Education. DOI: 10.1080/10899995.2022.2066927
Rooney-Varga, JN, Hensel M, McCarthy C, McNeal K, Norfles N, Rath K, Schnell A, Sterman JD. (2021). Building consensus for ambitious climate action through the World Climate Simulation. Earth’s Future, 9(12), e2021EF002283. doi:https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EF002283
Rooney-Varga JN, Fracassi E, Franck T, Kapmeier F, McCarthy C, McNeal KS, Norfles N, Rath K, Sterman JD. (2021). A Simulation Game that Motivates People to Act on Climate. In J. W. Dash (Ed.), World Scientific Encyclopedia of Climate Change: Case Studies of Climate Risk, Action, and Opportunity (Vol. 3).
de Gooyert V, et al. 2020. System dynamics and sustainability: A research agenda for the coming decade(s). Paper presented at International System Dynamics Conference; July 20, 2020, Bergen, Norway.
Rooney-Varga JN, Henderson C, Kapmeier F, McCarthy C, Norfles N, Rath K. 2020. Getting to Impact at Scale: Diffusion of Educational Innovations Through Community-Based Propagation. Paper presented at International System Dynamics Conference; July 20, 2020, Bergen, Norway.
Rooney-Varga J. N., J.D. Sterman, E. Fracassi, F. Kapmeier, V. Kurker, E. Johnston, A. P. Jones, K. Rath. Combining role-play with interactive simulation to motivate informed climate action: Evidence from the World Climate simulation. PLOS ONE. 2018;13(8):e0202877
T. S. Ledley*, Rooney-Varga, J.N.*, and Niepold F. 2017. Addressing Climate Change Through Education. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. *Denotes equal authorship contribution. doi: 10.1093/acrefore/9780199389414.013.56
Rooney-Varga, J. N., Brisk, A. A., Adams, E., Shuldman, M., & Rath, K. 2014. Student media production to meet challenges in climate change science education. J. Geosci. Ed. 62: (4): 598-608. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5408/13-050.1
Rooney-Varga, J. N. How a game can move people from climate apathy to action. The Conversation. October 22, 2018. Republished by the Smithsonian Magazine, Phys.org, and at least 11 other news outlets.
WGBH interview for On Campus Radio. July 18, 2019, Boston MA. Public radio interview discussing climate change education in Massachusetts.
Science and Culture: Can climate change games boost public understanding? PNAS. 116(16): 7602-7604 . Coverage of our research on the impact of our simulation, World Climate on learning and motivating science-informed climate action.
How a Simulation Game is Inspiring Climate Action. GreenMatters. October 2018. Coverage of our research on the impact of our simulation, World Climate on motivating science-informed climate action.
A Game Crosses Political, Cultural Lines To Spur Climate Action. The University Network. October 2018. Coverage of our research on using simulations to communicate climate change across political divides.
Is the key to sparking climate action a game? ScienceDaily. September 6, 2018. Coverage of our research motivating climate action through simulation games.
How to convince someone global warming is real? Play this game. NBC News. September 9, 2018. Coverage of our research motivating climate action through simulation games.
Scientists hope to spark action on climate change—by turning it into a game. Science Magazine. September 6, 2018. Coverage of our research motivating climate action through simulation games.
Researchers declare “carbon neutral” wood worse than coal. Chemical Processing. January 30, 2018. Coverage of our research on the carbon emission impacts of bioenergy from wood.
Displacing coal with wood for power generation will worsen climate change, say researchers. Climate Code Red. Coverage of our research on the carbon emission impacts of bioenergy from wood.
2019 UMass Lowell Pillar of Excellence for Innovative Research and Entrepreneurship awarded to the Climate Change Initiative Steering Committee.
2018 Recognized by the University Network as a leader in Sustainability Research.
2017 People’s Choice Best Paper, Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS) Annual Conference
2015 Commonwealth Citation for Outstanding Performance awarded to the UMass Lowell Climate Action Plan Steering Committee.
2015 The White House Climate Education and Literacy Initiative recognized two initiatives I contributed to as key national accomplishments (the National Forum on Climate and Energy Education hosted by WGBH, where I was an invited speaker, and the World Climate Project, which is a collaborative project with Climate Interactive)
2015 Faculty Award for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning in the Sciences, UMass Lowell
Dr. Juliette N. Rooney-Varga
Director, Climate Change Initiative
Associate Professor, Environmental Science
Olney Hall 102D, UMass Lowell
Lowell MA 01854 USA