Dr. Keith Alverson: Our “go-to” person for climate change related questions

Keith (a New Hampshire native) may not be directly involved in matters pertaining to Galapagos, but he did spend a part of his childhood in rural Botswana, where his parents were immersed in and studying the local culture.  In fact, he’s one of the characters in the book his mother Marianne wrote about their time in Botswana: “Under African Sun” – so CNH Tours, which runs one or two trips to Botswana each year, has some basis for highlighting Keith’s work!

I first met Keith in about 2007 while I was working at UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Paris.   He was UNESCO’s head of Ocean Observations and Services at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission as well as director of the Global Ocean Observing System.  Not a bad mandate.  While our paths didn’t cross regularly, we did chat on occasion and he struck me as a no-nonsense kind of guy, telling it like it was (a bit of a fresh breeze when you’re working in a large multilateral organization). 

And then I didn’t see him in the hallways anymore.  In 2011 he’d left for a job at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, hired as the director of its Freshwater, Land and Climate Branch.  It turns out that I also ended up in Nairobi in early 2014 working as UNESCO’s senior representative of its Culture sector (which included World Heritage issues).  So we bumped into each other again – but this time, our families got to know each other and we developed stronger ties.

It was our turn to leave when, later in 2015. I decided to quit my job, take the family back to Ottawa and join my wife Heather in running CNH Tours.   In the meantime, Keith left Nairobi in 2016 to take up the directorship of UNEP’s International Environmental Technology Center in Osaka, Japan.  By 2020, with COVID in the picture, he also decided to call it quits and he and his wife Min moved to Ottawa (she was raised here), of all places.  So we’ve rekindled our old friendship again.   It’s nice to have some local friends who have shared the same kind of expat life we did.

It didn’t take long for Keith to get back into his professional groove though – he was hired as the executive director of the World Climate Research Program’s Climate and the Cryosphere Project (CliC) based out of Amherst, Massachusetts, where he spends some of his time.  Among other activities, CliC is very active in Antarctic science, including working on defining essential climate and cryosphere variables to include in an annual Antarctic report card, which may include environmental impact of tourism - so he has a direct link to our Antarctica trips as well.  To add a feather to his already heavily laden cap, Keith was recently appointed as the secretary general of the International Association for Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences in Berlin this past July. 

CNH Tours is lucky to have such contacts, helping us better understand climate change and how it might relate to the work we do.  



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