Earth Institute Student Research Showcase 2018
The Earth Institute, Columbia University is committed to showcasing student research in the areas of environment and sustainable development. The Earth Institute brings together undergraduate, graduate and PhD students at the annual Earth Institute Student Research Conference. Students discuss their unique research experiences of working to understand and solve pressing environmental and sustainable development issues.
All of the projects are conducted by students who have received support, guidance or funding through an Earth Institute affiliated education or student program including a travel grant, internship, or research assistantship from the Institute.
Kayum AhmedKayum is a Doctoral Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University and an Adjunct Faculty member at Columbia Law School. Prior to joining Columbia University, Kayum served as Chief Executive Officer of the South African Human Rights Commission from 2010 to 2015. During his term at the Commission, Kayum led a team of 178 colleagues to monitor, protect and promote human rights in South Africa, and oversaw the management of nearly 45,000 human rights cases. He holds various degrees in law from the University of Oxford, Leiden University, and the University of Cape Town, as well as a degree in anthropology from the University of the Western Cape.
Gretchen BaldwinGretchen is a master’s candidate at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, class of 2018. Prior to starting her graduate studies, Gretchen worked in Bukavu, DRC for Bukavu Youth Action Center, and as a brand manager for a Michigan coffee roasting company. She is also an alumnus of the Fulbright research program, through which she studied capacity-building in beekeeping communities in northern Cameroon. Her concentration at SIPA is International Security Policy, and her specialization interests include gendered dimensions of political violence, repressive states, and insurgencies. Gretchen firmly believes that Maine's Baxter State Park is the happiest place on earth and opts outside whenever possible.
Julie BanerjeeJulie has over seven years of experience working in finance, procurement, and process optimization in the development section. Most recently she was on the management team of a social enterprise in Bangalore, India that focused on last mile distribution of renewable energy products. Her role included determining new markets to enter, developing new revenue streams, and managing a team to do this work. She also worked as a USAID contractor running grant programs in Sri Lanka, Ghana, Ukraine, and many other countries. In this position, she also led cradle to grave procurements which required training staff, process mapping, and change management for process adoption. Julie is completing her MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from the School of International and Public Affairs. She continues to play a leadership role in the program and focuses her coursework on energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and water management.
Alexander BaranskyAlex is a Columbia University graduate with a degree in environmental biology and more than three years of study in computer engineering. Alex is from Westchester, New York and has a passion for animal behavior, which a specific interest in animal communication. Alex enjoys having exotic pets and has cared for many different groups of animals including dogs, cats, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates, and insects. One of his favorite parts of having pets is constructing a habitat that accurately mimics the animal’s natural habitat. Although it’s hard to decide, Alex would say his favorite “pet” would be his marine reef tank. He loves having an ecosystem in his apartment that he can care for and observe.
Ana Paula BedoyaAna Paula holds a bachelor’s in economics with a concentration in public economics. Born and raised in Peru, she has been committed to social development issues since the beginning of her undergrad education. She has participated in various rural development projects for private and non-profit initiatives, including ANDES Association in Cusco, developing an indigenous economic model under a collective mark; international non-profit organization “NESsT”, developing innovative models for social enterprises; OXFAM New Zealand, researching organic agriculture in South Pacific Islands and the Peruvian Ministry of Production, as an advisor for Innovation. Currently, she is an MPA candidate from Columbia University and focuses on the different linkages between food security, local social norms and climate change. She is also member of the UNDP´s Equator Initiative team.
Jingya BiJingya is a junior majoring in operations research at Columbia. She enjoys applying data science to fields such as environment, health care and education.
Amanda BrowneAmanda is a dual MSW/MPH student at Columbia University specializing in international social work and violence prevention. She received funding as a 2017 Graduate Student Fellow with the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4) at The Earth Institute to conduct her capstone thesis research with the CPC Learning Network in Colombia. Her background is in program design and violence prevention, and has previously worked in Honduras, Tunisia, and Cameroon. Amanda graduated from The George Washington University in 2009 with a BA in international development and a minor in cross-cultural communication.
Jing CaoJing is a second-year MPH student at Mailman School of Public Health studying environmental health sciences. Coming from Beijing and having travelled across the Asia-Euro continent, Jing became interested in the health risks of air pollution. Jing’s current research involves measuring exposure of traffic-related air pollution in NYC using personalized instruments and explore its temporal variation.
Estrella CastilloChicana undergraduate student dedicated to strengthening and developing effective and socially inclusive institutions and projects, with a focus on mitigating and adapting to climate change (i.e., sustainability; urbanization; climate law/rights; cultural preservation). Fellow with full-tuition scholarship and recognitions for commitments to leadership and service. Committee and board member, ensuring that policy and practice fulfill specific goals on matters of first-generation low-income student success and sustainability policy implementation within the Columbia University community.
In consideration for graduate studies are: History, Anthropology, Science, Technology, and Society studies (HASTS, PhD), or Anthropology PhD programs, in hopes of attaining a career in variants of inter/transnational law and/or academia.
Sarah CruzBorn and raised in Andorra, Sarah holds a bachelor’s in international studies from the University of Montreal. She has a background in disaster risk management implementing and managing technical assistance projects in Latin America and the Caribbean for the World Bank. While at SIPA, Sarah has focused on studying and researching on Agriculture and Food Systems as a Fulbright fellow. She has conducted field work with smallholder farmers in Benin, Guinea Bissau, Peru, Senegal and Timor Leste.
Bronte DaltonBronte is a sophomore from Boston, MA in Columbia College studying Environmental Science and concentrating in Sustainable Development. She enjoys working on cross-disciplinary projects where her focus in environmental science is accompanied by her interests in education, ethics, and economics. Outside of her studies, Bronte is a Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP) leader, and lives in an environmental focused Special Interest Community, Greenborough.
Diego de LeonDiego is currently a MPA-DP students at Columbia University´s SIPA, where he focuses on learning how to localize the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly to address environmental challenges such as marine pollution, conservation finance, and clean energy production. Throughout his time at SIPA, he has supported the UN Secretary General´s strategy for SDG localization, named Local2030; become a finalist in the 2017 Global Marine Plastic Challenge with his marine debris prediction model; conducted an independent group research on conservation finance, which included a trip to Peru; and, more recently, participated in two capstone projects, one with CDP on city energy finance, and the Fundacion Corona on SDG localization in Colombian cities. Diego also holds a BA in international relations from Tec de Monterrey in México, and was the head of the international affairs office of the Governor of Jalisco (Mexico) before coming to New York.
Sruti DevendranAs part of her program-related work opportunity with the Climate and Society program, Sruti worked with AgMIP (Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project). Sruti worked on crop model outputs to generate graphs and maps to represent change in agricultural yield due to adaptation efforts in different scenarios -varying carbon dioxide concentration, nitrogen concentration, soil moisture levels and global warming scenarios (1.5°C, 2°C and 4°C). Sruti helped to develop an index to visually represent the adaptation effects in wheat, maize and rice across the regions of the world.
Jessica EspinosaJessica Espinosa studied biology for her undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College. While she was there, she worked on a thesis project on the changes in sex ratio and morphology of fiddler crabs down the eastern coast of the United States. Then, she worked for a year as a corps member with City Year. She mentored students and taught them math, english, and science. She is currently a second year Master's student in the Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program of GSAS at Columbia University and works on the adverse effects of coastal pollution in Fiji.
Maria FernandezMaria received her PhD in biological sciences from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her dissertation focused on vector-borne Chagas disease eco-epidemiology in indigenous rural communities of northern Argentina. In her research, she integrates traditional epidemiological research with an expanded perspective that includes eco-bio-social determinants, their eventual interactions and spatial patterns, employing a complex system approach. At The Earth Institute, she will be working with Prof. Maria Diuk-Wasser to develop simulation models to characterize the reciprocal interaction and feedback loops between human behavior and environmental risk of tick-borne diseases at multiple scales in northeastern U.S, within the conceptual framework of the dynamics of coupled natural and human systems (CNH). Her ultimate goal is to identify critical factors affecting disease transmission, which will aid in the design of improved intervention strategies to alleviate the biological and socio-economic burden of these diseases in affected communities.
Rachel GatesRachel is a sophomore environmental biology major from Palo Alto, California. Last summer, she interned for her hometown’s Zero Waste department, which piqued her interest in sustainable habit creation. She hopes to learn more about how humans interact with and impact the environment. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys reading non-fiction, vegan cooking, and spending as much time as possible outdoors.
Frank GbaguidiFranck is a certified Analyst in International Strategy. Previously, he worked as a Jr. International Affairs Associate at the Paris office of the World Bank, supporting the institution’s country dialogue with different French stakeholder groups, analyzing data on emerging European policy trends, and organizing targeted parliamentary and civil society outreach activities. He also worked as a Program Manager at the French National School of Administration (ENA), where he was in charge of designing and supervising study visits, conferences, and seminars on public policy for African and Middle Eastern high-ranking civil servants. Passionate about sustainable development, climate change, and renewable energy, Franck has undertaken occasional consultancy work on carbon risk management for the European Investment Bank (EIB), and on clean cooking enterprises in Uganda for the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). A French native and Beninese national, Franck holds a BA in French literature from La Sorbonne, a BA in social sciences from Sciences Po Paris, and a BA in political science and African studies from the University of British Columbia. He also holds three master’s degrees and is currently completing his fourth one in public administration with a concentration in energy and environment.
Claire GoelstClaire is a second year MA student in the Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology Department’s Conservation Biology Program. From 2008- 2010 she traveled in South Africa working on wildlife reserves where she developed a passion for African wildlife and conservation. Claire has since focused her educational pursuits on using field-based and geospatial research tools to answer applied conservation science questions. Her interests lie in large carnivore conservation in particular. Here at Columbia, Claire has been researching the growing problem of human-lion conflict as the focus of her Master’s thesis since 2017.
Sam GoldbergSam is a senior in Columbia College, studying sustainable development. Her research interests include food systems, climate change, and environmental justice. For her senior thesis, she travelled throughout New York State to interview farmworkers about how immigration enforcement affects their living and working conditions. Off of campus, Sam works as an Activity Specialist at the non-profit organization City Growers, teaching middle school-aged youths about urban agriculture.
Manksh GuptaManksh is a data science graduate student at Columbia University’s data science institute. His interests lie in applications of Machine learning methods to the smart cities and energy domains. He is also interested in studying social interactions in modern society and draw inferences from people's social networks. Prior to Columbia, Manksh studied statistics at the University of Delhi and graduated with distinction. During his free time, he enjoys travelling and meeting new people.
Jazlynn HallJazlynn is a second year PhD student who received her undergraduate degrees from the University of Wyoming. She has a research background in bioarchaeology, paleopalynology, and plant ecophysiology. Her current interests are in exploring the relationships between extreme climate events, vegetation, and water in Puerto Rico.
Jessica HochJessica is currently a second-year masters student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology at Columbia. Her research interests include urban ecology and community ecology and her current projects focus on plant-soil microbe interactions in urban green infrastructure. Jessica is originally from Maine and completed her undergraduate degree in Geography/GIS at McGill University in 2014. After graduating, Jessica relocated to New York City where she worked as a GIS Technician and field crew supervisor for non-profits such as The Nature Conservancy and Wave Hill. While working in urban natural areas, Jessica became interested in the ways humans depend on and impact natural resources as well as the mechanisms by which the benefits of ecosystems are regulated. After graduation, Jessica hopes to continue researching how natural areas can be managed to maximize benefits and meet the needs of both humans and wildlife.
Julia ImbriacoJulia, SIPA '19, is studying public administration with a focus on humanitarian policy. She is part of the school's Migration Working Group leadership team. Prior to SIPA, Julia completed a certificate program in Migration at the University of the Aegean in Lesvos and traveled through Greece to better understand the refugee response across the country. Julia's previous work experiences range from arts fundraising to nonprofit management consulting, from US foreign policy research to leading bike tours in France. She hopes to bring skills from all of these roles to bear as a humanitarian professional upon graduation next year.
Ramy JaberRamy is a candidate for an MS in data science with a deep interest in the intersection of technology with human behavior, with particular focus on human's impact on the environment. He holds a bachelor's of engineering in engineering management from Stevens Institute of Technology where his capstone project focused on environmentally responsible methods of developing a post-disaster relief community following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Sam KodamaSam is a sophomore in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. He is currently conducting paleoclimate research at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Hee Jin (Irene) KooHee Jin (Irene) is a sophomore at Columbia Engineering studying computer science and economics. She has a wide gamut of interests, ranging from environmental science and community service to entrepreneurship and journalism. Irene’s love for environmental science began in high school, when she conducted research on the effect of glyphosate from the herbicide on carbon dioxide emission and biomass of fungal samples. From there, she has worked on a startup to provide more information about air pollution to patients with respiratory diseases. On campus, Irene is an executive board member of Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE), where she leads the high school outreach and Tech Treks program. In her free time, she enjoys writing, traveling, and learning new languages.
Shelly LimShelly is an environmental science major interested in marine ecology and public health. She enjoys volunteering at the Lighthouse Guild and Bellevue Hospital.
Sara LytleSara is a senior in the Dual BA Program between Sciences Po and Columbia University, receiving a BA in political science and a BA in sustainable development at the end of this spring term. Sara has served as a TA in GIS for The Earth Institute and currently interns in GIS analysis for the Center for International Earth Science Information Network. Sara also hold a research assistant position in the polar geophysics department at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory researching the remote sensing of the Antarctica Peninsula.
Juan MartinezJuan enjoyed a career as a professional photographer before going back to school to pursue a career in Sustainable Development and Urban Planning. He received an associate’s degree from BMCC before transferring to Columbia University School of General Studies.
Sage MaxSage is a senior in Barnard College studying environmental policy. Her interest in environmental policy comes from her passion for alleviating the effects of factory farming, not just on the planet, but on human health and animal welfare. Her undergraduate projects have centered on understanding the environmental justice and climate change impacts of such industries. In her future work, she hopes to tackle the public policy side of concentrated animal operations. At Barnard, she is also an Athena Scholar, completing coursework and projects on women's leadership. In her spare time, Sage runs the Columbia Vegan Society, is an editor for the Columbia Daily Spectator and is a teaching assistant for EICES and DEES. Her research in this showcase was completed as part of the Summer Ecosystem Experiences for Undergraduates program, during which she traveled to Jordan.
Jemima Marie MendozaMima has a wealth of experience in climate policy development and implementation on both macro and micro scales. She helped negotiate the Paris Agreement with the Philippine government, attending the UN climate conferences from 2011 to 2015. She has worked on projects relating to energy, forestry, oceans, and sustainable development. She now wants to focus on implementing the Paris Agreement on a global, regional, city, and private sector level.
Jimena Jesus Montoya VillavicencioJimena has three years of experience at the Central Bank of Peru in GDP’s growth analysis and forecasting, particularly concerning nationwide mining, oil and natural gas projects. Vast experience and publications in economic policy analysis, currently focusing on the use of advanced quantitative impact evaluation methods. She is now deepening her understanding on international development issues, inspired by her studies at LSE and Columbia, and by her recent work at the OECD and The Earth Institute’s Water Center, institutions which promote sustainable and inclusive growth globally.
Kalila MorsinkA junior earth science major in Columbia College, Kalila loves getting muddy and researching the ocean. When he is not in the lab or running around outside, he writes articles about science and contemplates future possibilities for studying paleoceanography. As he reaches the end of his research assistantship, he is happy to report that he is even more excited about sediment cores than he was at the beginning.
Lauren NaylorLauren is a second year Masters student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology at Columbia University. Her current work is focused on marine conservation and local decision-making factors in the South Pacific. Largely her research interests include marine conservation, socio-ecological research, and the intersection of science and policy. Lauren received her B.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University in 2016. While there she contributed to the 2016 IUCN Red List assessments for small mammals in the Americas and participated in various research labs. After graduating from Columbia, she hopes to work for a non-profit doing applied conservation research and public outreach.
Sarah OrtizSarah is a second year Barnard College student studying environmental science. She has been a member of the Barnard College Enterococcus study group since 2017 and has a passion for public health. Sarah grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey, and developed an interest in research while studying planetary orbits at Kean University during her high school career. In her free time, Sarah competes in open water swimming and is a member of the Columbia University triathlon team and hiking club.
Celeste PalloneCeleste is a junior at Barnard College majoring in environmental science. Growing up at the Jersey Shore, she was always interested in the oceans and environmental conservation. She pursued oceanographic and ecological research onboard the SSV Corwith Cramer with Sea Education Association this past fall and hopes to continue in this field in the future.
Elsie PlatzerElsie is a current sophomore in Columbia College studying Environmental Biology and Creative Writing. She is interested in the points of intersection between ecology, climate, and human systems.
Andrew QuebbemanAndrew is a PhD candidate studying tropical forest biogeochemistry and plant community ecology in Puerto Rico.
Pedro Ribeiro PifferPedro is a biologist from Brazil and his main research interest is conservation and environmental restoration in tropical forests. Pedro received a bachelor’s from University of São Paulo and master’s in ecology from State University of Campinas. Pedro has over four years of experience as an environmental consultant in the private sector in Brazil, having worked in both consulting companies and multinational organizations. For his PhD research, Pedro is interested in studying the drivers of deforestation and reforestation in Latin America and the impact of climate change and disturbance regimes on tropical forests. Pedro’s goal is to integrate his research with current restoration efforts and public policies in tropical countries.
Andrea Cristina RuizAndrea is a second-year MPA in Development Practice student at SIPA focusing on climate change adaptation and environmental economics. This January, she traveled to the Peruvian Amazon to work on a case study for an independent study that valuates conservation finance mechanisms. At SIPA, she conducted research on climate change and growth in Africa, studied TECHO Ecuador’s emergency response to the 2016 Ecuadorian earthquake. Over the summer, Andrea Cristina worked at the World Food Programme researching food security and migration in the dry corridor of Central America, an area exposed to drought and climate variability.
Prior to SIPA, Andrea Cristina had experience researching public finance, monetary policy, energy markets, and trade for development. She has worked with local, international, and national governments, community organizations, think tanks, and multilateral organizations. Andrea Cristina earned her bachelors in Economics and International Development from the George Washington University.
Claudia SchneiderClaudia is a PhD candidate in Psychology at Columbia University. Her research in applied experimental psychology explores avenues for motivating prosocial behavior to address real world social issues, such as intergroup conflict or climate change mitigation. Towards this end, she has consulted on development work, lead intervention projects, and conducted field research in Africa, Latin America, and India, in addition to lab-based research.
Abhinav SeetharamanAbhinav is a senior at Columbia College and is writing his honors thesis paper on Tibetan Refugees in India. He conducted fieldwork in India this past winter break, and hopes to use the thesis to help initiate policy changes with regards to specific issues that Tibetans still face today. Additionally, Abhinav has been an intern at Columbia's Earth Institute since 2016, at the 1 Million Community Health Workers Campaign. He is currently working on two projects: one on connecting Information-Communication-Technology (ICT) and healthcare in Ghana, and another on oral health and dental hygiene in rural Ethiopia. Abhinav has a specific interest in policy and global health; he has previously worked in related fields with institutions such as the NYC Mayor’s Office, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), and the American Medical Student Association.
Anjana ShyamnathAnjana is a development practitioner and policymaker with seven years of experience in policy and program implementation in priority sector lending to agriculture, financial inclusion and literacy, banking supervision and currency management in India and worked with the central bank, the Reserve Bank of India. She has experience working with women Self-Help Groups in rural Kerala, India. She worked on the strategy for financial inclusion for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the Cash Based Transfer team in the Programme and Policy Division (OSZ) at Rome, Italy. She is currently working with UNICEF’s Public Partnership Division in New York, on building partnerships in the intergovernmental space & conducting research on pathways ahead for UNICEF in climate finance. She holds a master’s degree in economics and is currently pursuing MPA-Development Practice at SIPA, focusing on food, nutrition and agriculture, monitoring & evaluation, financial inclusion and gender.
Devanshu SoodDevanshu is an MIA candidate (2018) at SIPA, Columbia University. He is concentrating in both International Security Policy and International Economic Policy, specializing in Applied Policy & Economic Analysis. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Studies & Finance and a postgraduate diploma in Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding from the University of Delhi. He has worked as Deputy Chief of Staff for India’s Minister for Law and Justice and interned with the United Nations and other multinational organizations.
Jesse ThorsonJesse is a Minnesota native in his fourth year studying sustainable development at Columbia University. For his undergraduate senior thesis, Jesse is studying the sociopolitical barriers to electricity access in Nicaragua. Supported by Columbia’s Earth Institute, Global Policy Initiative, and the Institute of Latin American Studies, he traveled to Nicaragua this summer to perform qualitative interviews with citizens and experts. He has served as co-president for Columbia’s Student Union for Sustainable Development and as outreach coordinator for the campus chapter of the Veritas Forum. In addition to his work and research experience in energy and climate policy, Jesse reads and writes philosophy and theology and enjoys exploring New York in search of tasty pancakes.
Emily UtsetEmily Utset is a junior in Columbia College majoring in Environmental Biology. She is interested in marine conservation. Besides participating in the Earth Institutes Research Assistantship, she is also the vice president of the Columbia University Environmental Biology Society. This summer, she will be at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to research coral restoration.
Megan WilcotsMegan is a senior in Columbia College studying environmental biology. Megan is broadly interested in the fields of biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology. Megan intends to pursue a PhD in ecology after graduation from Columbia.
Mimi ZimmerMimi is a senior in Columbia College majoring in Earth Science. She picked her major after hearing Dr. Terry Plank’s volcanology lectures in freshman year core course Frontiers of Science. Mimi grew up in Morningside Heights and went to high school in Mamaroneck, New York. After graduation, Mimi will be moving to Edinburgh, Scotland to pursue a degree in carbon management. Outside of class, Mimi is involved in the Barnard College Flute Choir, where they play everything from Mozart to Miley! Mimi is very grateful for her mentors at Lamont-Doherty and Columbia who have provided so much support throughout her involvement in research.
SUMA Net Impact TeamNet Impact: SUMA Chapter is the Master of Science in SUstainability MAnagement Program’s Net Impact Chapter at Columbia University in the City of New York. The Sustainability Management Program at Columbia is co-sponsored by The Earth Institute and the School of Professional Studies. The team’s mission is to create a space for students to work on sustainability-related pro-bono consulting projects. The objective is for students to gain experience working in the field of sustainability, helping them become more effective agents of positive environmental and social change, while also benefiting the community. The Town of Lenox project is being performed by eight graduate students in Earth Institute programs: Rodrigo Castro, Shruti Deshpande, Abbigael Foster, Karl Knotoff, Fernando Ortiz, Claudene Petricca, Megan Ross, and Shiyi (Lily) Zheng.