Principal investigator

Dr. Mayra Oyola Merced

Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison

About Me

Research Interests:

Satellite/Space-borne Remote Sensing (IR, GNSS-RO) | Remote Sensing of Aerosols, Clouds and Severe Weather| Aerosol/Cloud Radiative Effects| Satellite Data Assimilation |Field Research (Airborne and Shipborne)| Climate Monitoring | Remote Sensing for Disaster/Hazard Risk Reduction |Air Quality

Research Philosophy:

Satellite remote sensing is the the pillar of weather prediction and climate monitoring. Without these, we wouldn’t have accurate weather forecasts nor a clear understanding of how the Earth-Atmosphere system is evolving. Yet, many fundamental atmospheric research questions remain to be answered because our observation capability is still quite limited.  For example, while there are many missions that can retrieve good-quality profiles of atmospheric parameters (moisture, wind and temperature, etc.) retrieving highly resolved information of cloud and aerosol vertical distribution remains an extremely challenging endeavor, particularly in the lower atmosphere. This issue creates a shared predicament in the research community. These uncertainties regarding the fidelity of aerosol and cloud vertical distribution in models and prescribed optical properties, significantly influence obtained radiative budgets and heating rates – and our understanding of the feedback these have in severe weather formation (i.e tropical cyclones) and long-term climate variability and trends (i.e ENSO).
My main interest is to improve space-borne observation capabilities and how these datasets are used in atmospheric modeling – particularly for severe weather and air quality applications. I join the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from one of the most amazing places on Earth (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory -the home of the Mars Rover!), where I specialized on satellite remote sensing retrievals and their applications on severe weather, climate monitoring and disaster risk reduction. I also served as the Deputy Director of the International GNSS Service (where GNSS stands for Global Navigation Satellite Systems), which is sponsored by the NASA Space Geodesy Program, where I managed a federation of over 250 international organizations advocating for GNSS satellite and ground-bases systems research and applications. While I am passionate about researching severe weather and climate, my one true love are aerosols (the “midichlorians” of the atmosphere!). I have worked on assessing and correcting the aerosol impact on operational sea surface temperature retrievals and on correcting the aerosol effect on hyperspectral infrared satellite data assimilation for both NOAA (as a visiting scientist) and the Naval Research Laboratory (as a Postdoc). I am also a strong believer that every Atmospheric Scientist should spend time in the field, as I myself have spent over 200 days at sea doing research.

Outreach and Service:

I am a strong believer in the power of community and collaboration. I have served as a member of the Association of Geodesy Inter-Commission Committee on Climate Research, been a representative to the World Data System, and a member of the United States Delegation for the International Committee on GNSS in the United Nations. I am currently a member of the Associate Board of Directors of the Earth Women’s Science Network and I am also a member of American Meteorological Society (AMS) Board on Representation, Accessibility, Inclusion, and Diversity (BRAID).

Mentoring Philosophy:

I am driven by people and purpose.  Being at the forefront of cutting-edge technology and education is great, but nothing tops being surrounded by people who are genuinely passionate about what they do. STEM is all about innovation, and innovation requires stepping out of our comfort zones to do something that has never been done before. In order to innovate we need to step away from homogeneous thinking –we need to tap on a broader spectrum of people with different backgrounds, experiences and different ways to see the world (and the Universe!). I am looking forward to work with students of all backgrounds who are passionate and driven.

Learn more

Frequently Asked Questions

Ph.D in Atmospheric Sciences (Physics), Howard University – Washington DC (2016), Adviser: Dr. Everette Joseph 

B.S in Theoretical Physics and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology,  University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (2009)

Scientist, Ionospheric and Atmospheric Remote Sensing Group, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory– Pasadena, CA, USA 02/2019 to 08/2022

Deputy Director, International Global Navigation Satellite Systems Service (IGS) Central Bureau at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 02/2019 to 08/2022

Postdoctoral FellowU.S. Naval Research Laboratory – Monterey, CA, 02/2016 to 02/2019

Doctoral FellowNOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences – Washington, DC, 05/2010 to 12/2015

Visiting Scientist, NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center – College Park, MD, 01/2014 to 12/2014

Visiting ScientistAtmospheric Sciences Research Center, SUNY – Albany, NY,  03/2015 to 12/2015

Intern, NOAA National Weather Service San Juan Weather Forecasting Office, 05/2009 to 10/2009

Weather Broadcaster / ForecasterUniversity of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez, PR, 10/2008 to 12/2009

·    Oyola M. I., A.B. Craddock, C.O. Ao, O.P. Verkhoglyadova., 2021: Transdisciplinary application of Global Navigation Satellite System Radio Occultation (GNSS-RO) to characterize atmospheric hazards and model systemic risk, United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (in press)

·   Oyola M. I., C.O. Ao, O.P. Verkhoglyadova, Leroy, S.S., 2021: obs4MIPs v3.0: A multi-Mission GNSS Radio Occultations dataset for Climate Monitoring and Model Assessment (submitted to the J. Climate)

·   Oyola, M. I., Campbell, J. R., Xian, P., Bucholtz, A., Ferrare, R. A., Burton, S. P., Kalashnikova, O., Ruston, B. C., and Lolli, S, 2019.: Quantifying the direct radiative effect of absorbing aerosols for numerical weather prediction: a case study, Atmos. Chem. Phys.

·    Oyola, M.I.,A. Schneider, J.R. Campbell and E. Joseph, 2018:.Meteorological influences on tropospheric ozone over suburban Washington, DC, J.Aer. Air. Qual. Res.,18: 1168-1182, doi: 10.4209/aaqr.2017.12.0574 

·   Oyola, M. I.,  N. R. Nalli, E. L. Joseph, J. R. Campbell, and V. R. Morris, 2018: Development and application of an advanced physical SST retrieval for numerical weather prediction, J. Aer. Air. Qual. Res

·   Leroy, S.S., C.O. Ao, O.P. Verkhoglyadova, M.I. Oyola, 2021: Analyzing the Diurnal Cycle by Bayesian Interpolation on a Sphere for Mapping GNSS Radio Occultation Data. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 38(4) .

·   Marquis, J. W., Oyola M.I, J.R. Campbell, B.C. Ruston, C. Cordoba-Jabonero, E. Cuevas, J. Lewis, T. Toth, and J. Zhang, 2021: Conceptualizing the Impact of Dust Contaminated Infrared Radiances on Data Assimilation for Numerical Weather Prediction. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol. 38(2)

·   Nelson K.J.F. XieC.O. Ao and M. I. Oyola, 2021: Diurnal Variation of the Planetary Boundary Layer Height Observed from GNSS Radio Occultation and Radiosonde Soundings over the Southern Great Plains. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol.(under review).

·   Turk F. J., R. Padullés, C. O. Ao, K.-N. Wang, D. D. Morabito, M. de la Torre-Juarez, M. I. Oyola, S. Hristova-Veleva, E. Cardellach, and J. D. Neelin, 2021: Interpretation of the Precipitation Structure Contained in Polarimetric Radio Occultation Profiles Using Passive Microwave Satellite Observations.  J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol.(in press).

·   Campbell, J.R., D.A. Peterson, J.W. Marquis, G.J. Fochesatto, M.A. Vaughan, S.A. Stewart, J.L. Tackett, S. Lolli, J.R. Lewis, M.I. Oyola, and E.J. Welton, 2018: Unusually deep wintertime cirrus clouds observed over the Alaskan subarctic. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 99, 27–32,

·   Nalli, N.R., A. Gambacorta, Q. Liu, T. Changyi,  F.  Iturbide-Sanchez, C. D. Barnet, E. Joseph, V. R. Morris, M. I. Oyola, and  J. W. Smith, 2018: Validation of atmospheric profile retrievals from the SNPP NOAA-Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System. Part 2: Ozone, IEEETrans. Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 10.1109/TGRS.2017.2762600

·    Kuciauskas, A. P., P. Xian, E. J. Hyer, M. I. Oyola, and J. R. Campbell, 2018: Supporting weather forecasters in predicting and monitoring Saharan Air Layer dust events as they impact the Greater Caribbean. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc.,99, 259-268,

Member of the United States Delegation to the International Committee on GNSS

Member of the Scientific Committee of the International Science Council World Data System

Chair of Partnerships/Associate Board of Directors of the Earth Science Women Network (ESWN)

Representative for the International Association of Geodesy (IAG) Inter-Commission Committee on “Geodesy for Climate Research” (ICCC)

Executive Secretary to the International GNSS Service Governing Board

Member of the International Radio Occultation Working Group (IROWG)

Member of the American Meteorological Society Board of Representation, Accessibility, Inclusion and Diversity 

Member of the American Meteorological Society Women’s Committee

Member of the AGU Awards Committee.

Reviewer: Nature Communications, Journal of Atmospheric Aerosol and Air Quality, Journal of     Environmental Modeling, Journal of Technology, American Meteorological Society, NASA ROSES Reviewer

Leadership (Past): Founder, Central CA AMS Professional Chapter (2017), President, Howard University AMS Student Chapter (2011). 

Puerto Rico Summer Weather Camp Mentor, Puerto Ricans in Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology (PCAM)

Treats everyone with respect and consideration, valuing a diversity of views and opinions.

Act demonstrably in the best interest of the University, the Department and its strategic objectives and values.

Inquisitive nature and interested in research.

Considerate, respectful, and collaborative. 

Communicates openly with respect for others, critiquing ideas rather than individuals, organizations or countries/regions. 


Runner, Avid outdoorsman: Fishing, camping, hiking, trail running, backpacking.

Comprehensive Atmospheric Boundary Layer Extinction, Turbulence Refinement Analysis Experiment (CABLETRAX, Summer 2017, 2018)



Core team scientist, Physics and radiation team lead, NOAA Aerosol and Ocean Science Expeditions (2010-2015)



Participant, NASA DISCOVER-AQ Campaign, Washington, DC (July 2011)

JPL Voyager Award: for leading efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the Earth Science community and actively participating in JPL and NASA public outreach (August 2021)

JPL Team Award: for successfully producing and delivering a global vertically-resolved temperature and geopotential height data record from multiple radio occultation missions. (April 2021)

JPL Team Award: for migration of highly visible website from an inherited hodgepodge of systems and non-optimal services to a maintainable, secure, navigable, modern platform (August 2020)

JPL Leadership Award: for providing NASA with exceptional leadership in International Geodesy (June 2020)

 Past Awards: Doctoral Fellow, NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences (2010-2015); Leadership Award, Government of Puerto Rico, Governor’s Office, 2000; Student of the Year, American Red Cross, PR Chapter (2000)