Climate Change Adaptation Student Research Showcase

Climate Change Adaptation Student Research Showcase

On Friday, April 2, 2010, the Earth Institute hosted the Climate Change Adaptation Student Research Showcase on the Columbia University Morningside campus. The event was the culmination of the Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, supported by a generous grant from HSBC in the Community. The project supported collaboration with researchers, policymakers and community organizers in the New York metropolitan area on projects geared toward climate change adaptation. It highlighted the projects of 14 student interns in the program who are working to identify and understand various aspects of the effects of climate change on New York City. The students work closely with their partnering faculty, staff and organization members to conduct climate change research, mitigation or implementation work.

The first hour of the showcase featured students’ individual PowerPoint presentations, which they used to describe their projects to the audience. The second hour of the event was an interactive poster session during which the audience, comprised of fellow students, staff, faculty and other members of the Columbia community, circulated around the room to view student posters and discuss the details of the students’ projects with them. Student presenters were pleased to welcome Heather Nesle of HSBC in the Community.

Steve Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute, made opening remarks at the event, and afterward reflected, “Every year the Earth Institute invests resources in student internships and research assistantships because we think this helps students learn. These student projects improve the quality of education and improve the quality of the research done at the institute. Anyone who attends one of these events cannot help but be impressed by the quality of work done by our students.”

The projects all focused on various aspects of climate change adaptation in the New York tri-state area, ranging widely in topic from green roofs to urban forest restoration assessment to a study of New York water quality and health vulnerabilities. Each student was able to share his or her experiences, interests and excitement. Audience members were impressed by the students’ insight and deep understanding of their topics, and also by their exemplary commitment to public awareness.


Liana Sterling, New York City Department of Environmental Protection
Analyzed the implications for NYC’s climate change adaptation and planning efforts in conjunction with current federal policy initiatives pertaining to environmental policy and climate change.

Daniel Marasco, Center for Rivers and Estuaries
Tested the evaporation capability of a New York City green roof in order to prevent sewage overflow and reduce the heating effect of grey infrastructure.

Nancy Falxa-Raymond, Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability
Planned research, to be carried out this summer, to measure nitrogen use in native tree species throughout MillionTreesNYC reforestation sites.

Jessie Carr, Climate and Health Program, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University
Worked on the New York-based ClimAID public health sector team to develop four case studies of climate-sensitive health outcomes and adaptation strategies and conducted a preparedness survey of county and city health department officials.

Adrian Soghoian, Columbia Climate Center (CCC), Columbia University
Worked to identify best practices in climate science communication in New York City.

Marla Schwartz, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), Columbia University
Performed statistical analyses and modeling of historical data in order to assess the risk of hurricane landfall to the Greater New York City region.

Samantha Roberts, Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR), Columbia University
Researched stakeholder interactions that prioritize adapting strategies for eight sectors (water resources, energy, communications, etc.) within New York State.

Qiong "Caroline" Wu and Yang Hua, Urban Design Lab
Compared the effects of climate change on the social, infrastructural and organizational sectors between New York and Shanghai using projections of temperature and sea level changes.

Katie Conrad, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Performed a literature review on the connection between human health, climate change and harmful algal blooms, concentrating on the New York City area.

Melanie Smith, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (E3B), Columbia University
Researched two studies that look at the relative merits of using non-native versus native green roof plants in mitigating climate-induced environmental problems in New York.

Ross Myers, Center for Rivers and Estuaries:
Designed and implemented a sensor apparatus to measure carbon, water and heat transport in a wide array of terrestrial and aquatic environments from New York parks and green roofs to rivers and coral reefs.

Janelle Heslop, School of Law, Columbia University:
Compiled New York State municipal ordinances on climate change adaptation in order to draft a model law for adaptation policies.

Laura Stigter, Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx)
Worked to address planning challenges in New York City, such as the design of green roofs and walls to green the area, while helping to create opportunities where unemployment, pollution and a high level of asthma affect the population.