Education News

Spring 2010 Internships

2010-01-26

Each semester, the Earth Institute offers a variety of internship opportunities for Columbia and Barnard students. Students have an opportunity to work at one of the Earth Institute centers on a variety of multidisciplinary projects which include administration, communications and extensive research projects. This is not only a great opportunity to learn about the missions and projects of the individual centers within the Earth Institute, but also to gain experience working with leading members of the scientific community. These intern projects, along with many others, have given interns the hands-on knowledge and experience to learn and grow professionally within the field of sustainable development.

Please see below for nine internship descriptions. All full-time Columbia and Barnard students are eligible to apply for internships. Please note the type of student requested for each position. Typically, interns work 10 hours a week for 12 weeks at $15 per hour. These spring internships end on May 19, 2010. To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities along with a resume. Please submit application materials to Monika Kowalczykowski, program coordinator, at monika@ei.columbia.edu by noon on Friday, February 12th.

  1. Haiti Regeneration Initiative
  2. U.N. Climate Change Conference
  3. CERC Science in Research and Education Initiatives
  4. Global Metrics for Agriculture
  5. Agricultural Production and Groundwater Depletion in Northwestern India
  6. Access Project and Millennium Village Rwanda
  7. Sustainable International Investment in the Extractive Industry
  8. Deglacial History of East African River Systems

1. Haiti Regeneration Initiative

Project Summary:

CIESIN and CRED are collaborating with Columbia’s Tropical Agriculture Program, the Columbia Water Center, UNEP and other national and international institutions on an environmental restoration project in Haiti. The goal is the formation of a Haitian organization in charge of the implementation of the project. The role of CRED is to support the development of a concept note and strategic plan based on an initial baseline study conducted by CIESIN but with direct input from CRED.

The goal is to create the initiative’s communication strategy at the local, national and international level through raising environmental awareness, tailored education campaigns and research on decision making in the face of environmental, social and economic uncertainty. CRED will also support the research and design of the structure and responsibilities of a local watershed management committee. The overall aim is to guide a national movement of collective action and behavioral change toward sustainable ecosystem management through an integrated development project at the watershed scale.

Anticipated Intern Tasks:

The intern will conduct background research into lessons learned from prior projects in Haiti and internationally, as well as prepare literature reviews and draft sections of the lessons learned document and the background components for the concept note. The intern will assist the researchers in the creation of interview protocols, planning of focus groups and survey design; conduct qualitative content analysis and basic quantitative data analysis; draft sections of project reports; and write a final memo of recommended interventions. Travel to Haiti to help with field research is possible but not guaranteed.

Skills Required:

  • Major, minor or concentration in environmental science, social science (psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science) or other relevant discipline
  • Experience or eagerness to learn social science research methods (interviews, focus groups, questionnaires) and participatory processes
  • Basic data analysis skills (xls); experience with statistical package and/or qualitative data analysis programs (NVivo) a plus
  • Foreign Languages: French; Haitian Creole a plus
  • Experience with field research or travel in developing countries
  • Strong writing skills

Internship Date:

Open (at least one semester, longer commitment preferred)

2. U.N. Climate Change Conference

Anticipated Intern Tasks:

Pedro Sanchez represented the Earth Institute and Global Soil Map Consortium at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15). Relating to the COP15, Sanchez would like to conduct a comparative analysis of historical climate change predictions (e.g. predictions published in the 1980s) for the year 2000 to the actual climate data recorded in 2000. Specific attention should focus on agricultural productivity.

In addition to this historical comparative analysis for Sanchez, this intern will also assist the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program (TropAg) with its work on the Millennium Villages project (MVP) Instructional Handbook and the MVP midterm book project.  

The incumbent for this position will assist Sanchez and the TropAg research manager with various literature reviews, summaries and write-ups. In particular, the internship tasks are:

  • Organize literature, figures and tables for historical climate change predictions and actual climate data
  • Assist with various project activity write-ups/summaries for the MVP Instructional Handbook and the MVP midterm book project
  • Work with New York-based sector heads to gather lessons learned and coordinators of MVP sites in Africa to cull key lessons learned
  • Help build the MVP research page on the internal MVP Web site, including posting articles relevant to MVP and other information

The intern will report directly to Pedro Sanchez and to Alison Rose (research manager for the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program). This position is open for 10 to 15 hours per week during Columbia’s spring semester and the pay is $15 per hour.

Skills Required:

  • Knowledge of climate change, agriculture and the Millennium Villages project
  • Fluent in English; knowledge of French and Spanish
  • Software skills: Microsoft Office, Endnote, TWiki. Knowledge of GIS is desirable.
  • Graduate or 3rd or 4th year undergraduate student

3. CERC Science in Research and Education Initiatives

Anticipated Intern Tasks:

The Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) seeks an intern to assist with the expansion of its online presence through web material production and dissemination. The intern would help build CERC’s outreach capacity by developing materials to support CERC programs and events, regularly update and support maintenance of CERC’s primary Web site, and manage and contribute to the growth of CERC’s social network Web site.

Specific Tasks Include:

  • CERC news updates
  • Blogging and reporting on CERC events and conferences
  • Assisting in the development of a CERC monthly newsletter and other publications that may be disseminated via the Web site
  • Maintaining, updating and expanding the reach of CERC’s social network site and utilizing other existing social networks to disseminate information about CERC programs

CERC’s mission is to curb the loss of biological diversity and promote environmental sustainability through the synthesis of education and research. The CERC consortium includes the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Wildlife Trust, the American Museum of Natural History and New York Botanical Garden. The CERC communications intern would work closely with CERC’s executive director, deputy director and program associate, and gain important contacts among CERC-related professors, researchers and consortium members.

Skills Required:

  • Strong computer and Web skills; programming not necessary but graphic design a plus
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Ability to work independently and take initiative
  • Interest in conservation science and sustainability; academic familiarity a plus
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Enthusiasm, positive attitude and a passion for environmental sustainability

4. Global Metrics for Agriculture

Anticipated Intern Tasks:

The Tropical Agriculture Program at the Earth Institute is spearheading a global initiative to develop and implement universal metrics for agriculture. It is recognized that such metrics are urgently needed to guide on-farm decision making as well as policy. The intern will conduct an extensive literature search on sustainable metric development and liaise with organizations working on related efforts such as the United Nations, Conversation International and others. The intern will also follow up on outcomes of the October 1, 2009 conference on Global Metrics for Agriculture hosted by the Earth Institute. In addition, the intern may contribute to metric implementation in the Millennium Villages.

Skills Required:

  • Interest in agriculture
  • Good communication skills
  • Knowledge and/or experience in Web site development is preferable

5. Agricultural Production and Groundwater Depletion in Northwestern India

Anticipated Intern Tasks:

In many parts of India, groundwater depletion is threatening the sustainability of irrigated agriculture in the future. Falling water tables imply ever-increasing provision costs that often exceed the agricultural production benefits and thus question sectoral viability from a societal welfare point of view. The problem is caused by underpriced inputs to production that incentivize wastage and minimum support prices for water-intensive crops.

We would like to develop a crop optimization model that optimizes crop mixes under environmental and economic constraints. The goal of the project would be to demonstrate that alternative crop mixes, together with more efficient rural subsidy schemes, can operate within efficiency and sustainability constraints. Policy implications should be derived and discussed.   

The student will build on existing computational model components and work closely with the India group at the Water Center.

Skills Required:

  • Familiarity with computational modeling tools a necessity
  • Matlab and R Statistical Package a plus
  • Graduate or Ph.D. student

6. Access Project and Millennium Village Rwanda

Anticipated Intern Tasks:

The intern’s main focus would be on improving the Access Project’s current communications and advocacy strategy by working with the Access team to:

  • Improve the content and flow of the Access Project Web site
  • Undertake substantive research into best practices for communication and advocacy (including the use of social networking)
  • Develop new content, including content on advocacy for health systems strengthening for the Web site and other identified communications outlets
  • Help staff in Rwanda identify and write more field stories, and then writing and/or edit pieces to be used on the Web site and for the Access Project newsletters
  • Perform other communications tasks as assigned (and time permitting) such as writing and editing proposals and reports

Skills Required:

  • Excellent writing and research skills
  • Interest in global health and/or international economic development
  • Previous experience with communication or advocacy, including social networking, preferred

7. Sustainable International Investment in the Extractive Industry

In 2010, the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC) is primarily focusing on the formulation of a sustainable investment framework for the extractive industry that promotes sustainable economic development and the mutual trust needed for long-term investments. The extractive industries face a special need for such trust given the massive long-term investments that they undertake in poor and potentially unstable countries. Additionally, extractive companies are uniquely poised, given the size and scope of the investments, to contribute to the economic development of the regions and countries in which they invest.

The framework will address the challenges of governance (e.g., fair and efficient negotiations, contracts, policy framework, official capacity, anticorruption and transparency), social concerns (e.g., labor and employment, community health, nutrition, education, etc.), environmental sustainability (e.g., land use, biodiversity, water, greenhouse gases, new technologies, etc.) and economic development (e.g., integration of private sector investments in national development plans, regional integration, national infrastructure, and promoting economic development and human rights at the community and country levels). In each of these areas, attention will also be paid to such issues as engagement with the communities, the rights of indigenous peoples, and conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms.

The VCC is seeking student researchers to assist with the preparation of principles, criteria and metrics for sustainability in the extractive sector, specifically in the areas of governance, social concerns, environmental sustainability, economic development, community engagement, indigenous populations, and conflict prevention and resolution. The student researchers will be involved in all stages of the research project, from an extensive literature review through expert consultations (and expert meetings to be held in April, 2010) and drafting of materials (to be presented to the VCC Advisory Board at the Board meeting on May 13, 2010). Students will also have the opportunity to continue working on the project during the summer and fall of 2010.

The ideal candidates will be interested in sustainable development, foreign investment and/or natural resource management. As research staff will be overseeing each dimension of the project (four separate research fellows will coordinate the research for the social, environmental, economic and governance areas), students with particular interest in any one of those four areas can specialize exclusively in that area, or students may work on cross-cutting areas (community engagement, conflict, indigenous populations). The ideal candidates will have good research and writing skills and enjoy working with a team.

8. Deglacial History of East African River Systems

Anticipated Intern Tasks:

The student will participate in a new study to use deep-sea sediment cores to estimate past changes in East African climate. The student will identify cores from the river mouth areas of the largest East African drainage systems (Zambezi, Tana, Jubba, Limpopo and Rufiji Rivers) for sampling. They will then sample these sediment cores and prepare them for identification and extraction of planktonic foram shells. These shells will then be cleaned and analyzed for Mg/Ca and stable isotopic analyses, data that will be used to calculate ocean temperature and salinity changes associated with past climate changes in the region.

Skills Required:

  • Careful attention to detail
  • Some previous microscope work helpful (dissection scope); a steady hand and patience
  • Some analytical chemistry experience a plus, but not required