Dave Schlom

Host, Blue Dot

Dave Schlom has taught the physical sciences at Corning Union High School since 1991. A lifelong amateur astronomer and astronomy educator, he has a passion for both the earth and the space sciences, which are the principal areas of focus for guests on Blue Dot. He started doing radio interviews on space and astronomy topics for local stations like KFM and KPAY in the 1980s and into the 90s, where he was a popular go-to guest for local radio personalities. He is also an expert on the history and geology of Lassen Volcanic National Park, where he has served as a volunteer for decades. Dave enjoys a quiet life at home with his partner in life, Cheryl, and their two dogs, Elvis and Pearl, at their Red Bluff residence.

This week's Blue Dot is a classic episode. Our nation's fleet of weather satellites are one of our greatest orbital assets. They provide the data that is fed into sophisticated computer models which are then used by forecasters to give us accurate 5 to 7 day outlooks on the weather. In November, the Joint Polar Satellite System or JPSS-1 was launched with amazing instrumental capabilities. In the image above, you can see the smoke plumes from the devastating Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in California history.

In this episode, Dave interviews James R. Hansen, author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong -- the first and only authorized biography of Neil A. Armstrong, the commander of Apollo 11 and the first human being to set foot on another world. Hansen had unprecedented access to the famously reticent astronaut and conducted over 50 hours of deeply personal interviews and unfettered access to Armstrong's family and friends.

In this episode we celebrate 15 years of the Spitzer Space Telescope. The infrared telescope, one of NASA's "Great Observatory" has helped revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos. Dave is joined by three top scientists from the Spitzer mission. Lisa Storrie Lombardi is the Project Manager and describes the telescope and its operations from an engineering standpoint. Then we are joined by Spitzer Science Center staff astronomer Sean Carey who describes some of the amazing discoveries made by Spitzer and finally, the dean of the Spitzer staff, Mike Werner, who has been with the project since its inception shares his insights from decades of work on the infrared observatory. Learn about seeing the invisible universe through the eyes of the chilled sensors of the Spitzer Space Telescope!

In this episode of Blue Dot we go hurricane hunting with Commander Justin Kibbe. A veteran combat pilot, Justin flies the intrument laden NOAA turbo prop airplanes that fly into the maw of the world's most powerful storms. Hear what it is like to fly through the eyewall of a massive tropical storm into the eye of a hurricane in search of data to help us better understand one of nature's most destructive forces. Then one of the scientists that flies with Kibbe, hurricane meteorologist Jonathan Zawislak as he tells us what kinds of data he collects and what we learn from these amazing flights into storms that can wreak havoc on sea and land.

The catastrophic wildfire season in the west has been called "the new normal?" But is it? And what could normal even mean when confronted by such extreme events. We asked three experts to weigh in on the science of wildfire. Natasha Stavros is a forest and wildfire ecologist who does research for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and weighs in on the many factors affecting western wildfires. Then Eric Kurth joins us from the National Weather Service's Sacramento office. They have the difficult task of forecasting fire weather and smoke conditions in the wake of massive fires from Yosemite to Redding. Finally, Dave turns to Blue Dot's Oceanographer/Climate expert emeritus Bill Patzert to give us all much needed big picture perspectives and a look at the difficult solutions needed to move forward in the wake of two straight years of disastrous California wildfires.

In this episode Dave talks to Adam Frank. Adam is a regular contributor to NPR's All Things Considered where he weighs in on scientific issues with his expertise as an astrophysicist. He is also a writer. His latest book The Light of The Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth examines what role climate change must ultimately play in any technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Frank argues that we should stop arguing about climate change, accept that it is just a part of being a successful industrial civilization and use the same intelligence that created it to adapt to and evolve past it. This wide ranging conversation covers a wide variety of topics as the host and guest engage in a lively exchange of ideas. Then Sheryl Hosler, YouTube's The Roving Naturalist takes to the trail to visit with folks out hiking to get their take on why being out of doors in a natural setting is important to them.


The Dot goes deep Blue on this episode as we explore the mysterious and immense submarine canyon that lies below the surface of Monterey Bay. Monterey is known for its famed Monterey Bay Aquarium but did you know it also has a separate scientific research center? Based in Moss Landing at the very head of the Submarine Canyon, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is one of the world's leading oceanographic and marine biology/ecology research centers. Dave is joined by geologist Charles Paull along with fellow MBARI researchers James Barry and Bruce Robison plus robotic submarine operator Craig Dawe as we explore the deep waters of California's central coast.

Dave visits with Karla K. Morton and Alan Birkelbach, two poets laureate from Texas. In 2013, Karla herd a speaker talk about the 2016 centennial of the National Parks and decided to do something meaningful to celebrate it. She invited her fellow poet laureate Alan to join her on a quest to share the parks through the lens of poetry by visiting all 60 parks together. Their journey is nearly at the halfway point as of this interview. Journey through what Wallace Stegner called "the best idea America ever had," our national parks and yes, you will hear some lovely poems!

We revisit one of our favorite topics on this program over the years (back when this was a four minute show called The Blue Dot Report) The Kepler Space Telescope, the world's greatest hunter of worlds beyond our solar system. With two of its four reaction wheels (gyroscope like devices used to stabilize and point the telescope) failing, Kepler was unable to continue its primary mission. But the K2 mission uses the telescopes still operating instruments to not only hunt for exoplanets but also study objects both near and far from our solar system to energetic galaxies at cosmic distances. Dave talks to two of K2's mission scientists, Ann Marie Cody (who created the cool cartoon above) and Michael Gully-Santiago as we examine what is likely Kepler's last hurrah.

Summer travel season means it is time to hit the road. This one is very long if not winding as we learn about what it would be like to travel to planets beyond our solar system! Dave visits with Eric Mamajek, Deputy Project Scientist for NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program. Dr. Mamajek gives an overview of the history of detecting planets beyond our solar system as well as the many different kinds of worlds that we have discovered in the past few decades. Then we visit with Arielle Samuelson. Arielle is a web manager who has helped pool the resources of scientists and artists to create the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Exoplanet Travel Bureau. You can see what it would be like to travel to an alien landscape with virtual reality simulations and whimsical travel posters promoting destinations light years away from our solar system. FInally, Sheryl Hosler, aka The Roving Naturalist, joins us for her report on strange lifeforms on our own planet that emit their own light in a story about bioluminescence.