National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Kate Abshire

Location: Silver Spring, MD
Analyze, Forecast & Support Office (AFSO)
Job Title: Hydrologist 
Kate Abshire

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia
  • Master’s Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Duke University

Describe the career path that led you to your current job with the National Weather Service.

  • ​​I started with NOAA as a physical scientist through the Office of Education’s Graduate Sciences Program, similar to today’s Pathways Program. This allowed me to attend graduate school full-time and spend my summers working on research with the Office of Hydrologic Development. I had excellent mentors and was fortunate to have the ability to closely link my summer research work and my thesis. After I graduated with my Master’s, I joined the NWS as a full-time employee as part of what is now the Office of Water Prediction (OWP), using experience I gained as a graduate student in hydraulic modeling of river systems, exploring information needs to advance the science of hydrologic forecasting. I spent five years there as a scientist before moving to my current position focused on hydrologic services.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • As the National Flash Flood Services Leader, I work closely with the NWS Regional Hydrology Leaders and NWS Headquarters personnel to ensure operational flash flood services meet the needs of NWS partners and customers. This includes developing policies and procedures, prioritizing requirements, supporting outreach activities, reporting on flash flood verification activities, and maintaining situational awareness of national hydrologic conditions.  I also serve as an NWS participant on a number of interagency teams and working groups through the Integrated Water Resources Science and Services (IWRSS) consortium.

What was the most interesting, exciting, or impactful weather/water event you experienced while working for the NWS and why does it stand out?

  • I have assisted with a number of focus groups and stakeholder forums, to gather requirements to better inform decision-making and manage risk in river basins across the nation. During these sessions, I heard firsthand from participants about how they interact with and use water resources information from the NWS to make decisions during times of critical need. Time and time again, this served to reemphasize the effect water has on each of us and the importance of NWS information and services.

What made you decide to pursue a career with the NWS?

  • The natural world has always been fascinating to me, having participated in environmental and agricultural activities and organizations from a young age. I entered college with the dream of becoming an atmospheric scientist and working for the NWS during an undergraduate research opportunity turned my interest to water resources instead. Just as I thought my career was headed in a different direction, graduate work introduced me to the NWS hydrology program. It’s been a fantastic opportunity.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • Even when we may not realize it, weather and water play a huge role in our daily lives. This results in every project bringing new challenges, opportunities for learning, and the desire to improve. I’m constantly motivated by the unique intersection of science and public service that I experience every day. The feeling that what we do as an organization is making a difference is by far the greatest reward.

What advice do you have for someone interested in a career with the NWS?

  • Be interdisciplinary! A strong academic background in science and engineering is vital, but having a broad skill set is important, too. Be curious! The NWS has many resources available online, and is a great place to start to learn more about what we do. Ask questions! Reach out to someone in the NWS and find out more about what they do and how you can get involved. Visit an office and volunteer, if possible. Be passionate! The unique mission of the NWS makes it a place to work unlike any other.

What training or coursework would you recommend to someone interested in following your career path?

  • Take the most rigorous set of science and math courses available to you. Nothing can replace a good understanding of the fundamentals. As computing and data capabilities advance, knowledge of computer science and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is increasingly valuable.
  • Gain experience by getting involved in independent research in your chosen field. There is no better way to put classroom principles into practice! Publish and present your work and get feedback, whenever possible.