Laura Candler

 Laura Candler flying a glider plane in Australia

Sewanee Alum, Laura Candler (above flying a glider plane in Australia), recently returned from an exciting and fulfilling year abroad made possible by the Watson Foundation. Chosen from a large pool of graduating seniors across the nation, Candler was named the Watson Fellow of the year meaning that she was granted $28,000 to “enhance [her] capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community” ( This honor was made possible by Candler’s commitment to following her passion and interest in awe-inspiring cloudscapes around the world.

Candler’s studies abroad focused mainly on three geographically unique cloud forms: the Morning Glory cloud found in Australia, the nacreous clouds found in Iceland, and the noctilucent clouds found in Norway. Candler found inspiration and was really fascinated by the beauty of nature and the cloudscapes here at Sewanee and around the world. Candler wondered about cloud formations around the world and how people reacted to these cloudscapes.

Candler’s first adventure was photographing and witnessing Australia’s unique Morning Glory cloud. This cloud formation happens annually every September and only is visible in a certain area. The huge pile of clouds across the sky make up one Morning Glory cloud formation and glider pilots from all over the world come to cloud surf the giant cloud. Candler got her glider pilot’s license and was soon cloud surfing along with these enthusiasts. (Photo below)

 Candler and fellow cloud surfing enthusiasts

In traveling and learning about the different environments and cultures in foreign countries, Candler began to change the way she views the world. While traveling, Candler noticed that her knowledge and experiences here at Sewanee in the Environmental Studies department really helped her appreciate and notice the important details of foreign environments. Noticing, for example, the flora and fauna in a specific ecology really enhanced her experience and education abroad.

Candler says that her passion for the environment grew out of being surrounded by professors and students at Sewanee who were similarly enthusiastic and encouraged her to apply for this Watson Fellowship.

 Image taken by Laura Candler of nacreous clouds

Image taken by Laura Candler. In the winter, Nacreous clouds can be found in the Arctic. These clouds resemble cirrus clouds, but are unique because they have an iridescent coloration when the sun is several degrees below the horizon. This photo was taken in Kiruna, Sweden last winter while Laura was studying clouds with atmospheric physicists at the Swedish institute for Space Physics. 

 Candler surfs on the annual Morning Glory cloud

Candler flies her glider plane as she surfs on the annual Morning Glory cloud in Australia.  

Image taken by Laura Candler of lenticular cloud 

Image taken by Laura Candler. In New Zealand last fall, Candler photographed this lenticular cloud. This cloud forms at high altitudes and usually appears around mountain ranges where there is a good amount of moisture in the air. 

Back to Alumni