Sam Stevenson completed a B.A. in mathematics from Western Connecticut State University in 2000, and an M.A. in astronomy from Wesleyan University in 2003. She then spent three years working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics before completing her PhD. in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder in 2011. After completing her degree, she worked at the University of Hawaii at Manoa as a National Science Foundation Ocean Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow, then returned to Boulder to take a position as a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. She joined the UCSB faculty in 2017, and her primary affiliation is the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
Sam's work has many dimensions, all focusing on different aspects of the basic question: How will the tropical Pacific respond to climate change, and what will that mean for extremes in drought and flooding events around the world? Much of her group's research focuses on using coupled climate models to study the dynamics of climate variability in long-term simulations of the Earth system, both in future projections and in simulations of the past millennium. She is also interested in understanding how climate variability is reflected in records of past climate, in particular through the use of oxygen isotopic records created from coral reefs, and in using regional ocean models to better determine the links between large-scale climate and physical conditions local to a reef. Finally, she looks a great deal at the behavior of low-frequency hydroclimate (i.e. droughts lasting multiple decades), and how these events relate to extremes in tropical Pacific climate.