Current EI Postdocs

Current EI Postdocs

Short Biographies


J. Nicolas Hernandez-Aguilera

Nicolas received his Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University. While there, he focused on sustainable agriculture of coffee and led diverse multidisciplinary research projects where he evaluated the impacts of smallholders’ participation in specialty coffee value-chains. In addition, he modeled profitable agro-ecological cropping systems that preserve bird populations. At the Earth Institute, he will be integrated to the Columbia’s World Project: “Adapting Agriculture to Climate Today, for Tomorrow” (ACToday). Working with Drs. Daniel Osgood and Walter Baethgen of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), his overarching goal is to identify mechanisms by which tropical-agriculture farmers adapt to increasing climate variability. In particular, his research seeks to: (1) Understand the required incentives to adopt specific production and land-use practices and (2) Evaluate how climate and financial information affect grower’s individual and collective decisions. Nicolas also holds degrees from University of Pittsburgh (M.P.A./Fulbright Fellow) and Universidad de los Andes-Colombia (B.A., M.Sc.). Web page:

Weston Anderson (2018-2020 Cohort)

Weston Anderson is a climate scientist studying the dynamics of climate variability and its relation to food security using reanalysis products, remote sensing observations, and model simulations. His recent research includes understanding how modes of climate pose a correlated risk to global agriculture, characterizing agriculturally-relevant ENSO teleconnections, and quantifying trends in growing-season climate extremes. As an Earth Institute fellow, he will be working with Lisa Goddard and Walter Baethgen to study how risks to food security will change in the future, and how vulnerable countries will need to alter their current approach to mitigating food supply shocks to deal with these changes.

Ruthie Birger (2016-2018 Cohort)

Ruthie Birger conducted her PhD research in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. She focused on HIV-Hepatitis C coinfection dynamics, using mathematical models to describe both within-patient biological processes and epidemiological impacts of public health interventions. At the Earth Institute, Ruthie will be building on these modeling methods and applying them in an effort to understand the interplay between coinfection with various pathogens and the emergence and evolution of drug resistance in populations and individuals. One of the main goals of this research will be to improve estimates of the scale of the growing problem of drug resistance, in particular in the context of global urbanization.

Allison Bridges (2017-2019 Cohort)

Allison Bridges received her Ph.D. from the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. As a National Science Foundation IGERT Fellow, she researched the role of institutional and technological innovation in improving the sustainability of urban systems, particularly in the land and energy sectors. She will be working in the Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management to continue her research on urban institutions and sustainable development. Prior to earning her Ph.D., Allison worked for the World Bank and the World Health Organization. She also holds degrees from New York University (M.A.), The New School (M.A.), and the University of Georgia (B.A.).

Kyle Davis (2016-2018 Cohort)

Kyle received his Ph.D in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia. While there, he examined various human and environmental impacts of the globalizing food system and ways to make future food production more sustainable. Working with Prof. Ruth DeFries and Brian Richter (The Nature Conservancy), he will continue this general line of research at the Earth Institute. He will lead collaborative efforts to examine several case studies which highlight the multiple challenges at the nexus of food, water, and climate change. These teams will develop strategies to simultaneously increase food production, reduce the environmental cost of agriculture, and enhance the climate resilience of farmers.

Pilar Fernández (2017-2019 Cohort)

Pilar Fernández received her Ph.D. 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.

Maron Greenleaf (2017-2019 Cohort)

Maron Greenleaf is an anthropologist and legal scholar. She studies the social and political significance of climate change and efforts to mitigate it, particularly through market-based measures. She uses critical field-based social science methods and legal analysis to understand how environmental governance can both address and exacerbate inequity. For her dissertation research, Maron researched carbon credits and efforts to reduce deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. As an Earth Institute Fellow at Columbia, she will work with Benjamin Orlove to study the landscapes and governance of climate change. Maron holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University, a J.D. from New York University, and a B.A. from Yale University.

Winslow Hansen (2018-2020 Cohort)

Winslow Hansen is a forest and ecosystem ecologist. His research seeks to understand whether forests will remain resilient to accelerating environmental change, where and why forest resilience may be eroded, and how novel forests will reorganize from the ashes of old systems. He is particularly interested in two areas: cross-scale interactions and feedbacks in forest ecosystems, including effects of forest change on continental-scale climate patterns, and how changing forest ecosystems can be sustainably managed. In much of his research, Winslow uses Alaskan boreal forest as his study system. Winslow earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he used large-scale experiments, field observation, and computer simulation to identify the mechanisms underpinning postfire resilience of subalpine forests in Yellowstone National Park. He also holds degrees from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (M.S.) and University of Montana (B.A.).

James Jones (2018-2020 Cohort)

James Jones conducted his Ph.D. research in the economics department at the University of Hawaii – Manoa. His research focuses on the empirical relationship between weather, pollutant emissions, and outdoor air pollution levels in the United States. At the Earth Institute, James will work with Professors Wolfram Schlenker and Richard Seager to continue this research. This project will model the changes in outdoor air pollution that result from climate change to help quantify the impacts of climate change and emissions reductions policies. This project will also develop better understanding of the linkages between weather and pollution as well as the associated health impacts.

Alexandra Karambelas (2016-2018 Cohort)

Alexandra (Alex) Karambelas received her Ph.D. in Environment and Resources from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Alex’ research focuses on the links between energy, emissions, air quality, and human health outcomes. During her time at The Earth Institute, Alex will work with Drs. Ruth DeFries, Arlene Fiore, and Patrick Kinney to evaluate these connections in northern India. Through this research, she seeks to quantify contributions from various anthropogenic emissions sectors to ambient pollution concentrations and human health outcomes in the region and determine potential sectors for future mitigation. Alex also holds degrees in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (B.S., M.S.) and a certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Ding Ma (2016-2018 Cohort)

Ding Ma received his Ph.D in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University. His dissertation research investigated three dominant patterns of large-scale atmospheric variability, namely the South Asian monsoon, Madden-Julian Oscillation and the annular mode. At the Earth Institute, he will be working with Prof. Adam Sobel to explore extreme weather associated with large-scale variability and its societal impacts. His work will emphasize a combination of observational analysis and numerical modeling. Guided by observations, numerical experiments will be designed and conducted to pursue a better theoretical understanding of the large-scale atmospheric variability in the past, present and future. His work will identify essential physical mechanisms governing the large-scale circulation variability and will have important implications for interpretation of climate projection.

Megan Maurer (2018-2020 Cohort)

Megan Maurer is a cultural anthropologist specializing in cities and sustainability in the United States. Her research addresses concerns about urban life in an era of socioeconomic and ecological precarity by exploring the relationships between city-dwellers’ ethics, their desires for well-being, and their relationships to the urban environment and its inhabitants. Her dissertation examines the ways urban vegetable gardens and beehives are used to care for households, communities, and ecosystems in deindustrial Michigan. At the Earth Institute, Megan will work with Benjamin Orlove and Patricia Culligan to research the relationships between New Yorkers’ perceptions of green infrastructures, culturally-informed ideas of urbanism, and concerns about gentrification. Megan holds degrees in anthropology from the University of Kentucky (Ph.D.) and Kenyon College (B.A.).

Elisabeth Nébié (2018-2020 Cohort)

Elisabeth Nébié is a human ecologist. As an International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (LEAP) fellow, Elisabeth conducted her dissertation research on farmer-herder livelihoods, challenges and adaptations in the Center-South region of Burkina Faso. Prior to earning her Ph.D. in Anthropology, Elisabeth consulted for UNESCO, ILRI and The Friends of Burkina Faso Network on climate-related projects in Burkina Faso. As an Earth Institute fellow, Elisabeth will work with Alessandra Giannini, Christopher Small and Ben Orlove to document the relationship between the “re-greening” of the West African Sahel and food security trends. Elisabeth received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds a M.A. in International Development and Social Change from Clark University and a B.A. in International Public Relations from Université Libre du Burkina.

Anand Osuri (2017-2019 Cohort)

Anand Osuri is an ecologist with interests in tropical forests, conservation, and restoration. He received his Ph.D. in Biology from India’s National Centre for Biological Sciences. His doctoral research examined how forest fragmentation alters the structure, composition and carbon storage potential of tropical rainforest tree communities. Working with Prof. Shahid Naeem, Prof. Ruth DeFries. and Dr. Susan Cook-Patton (The Nature Conservancy), his research at the Earth Institute will examine temporal stability of carbon sequestration under different kinds of tropical forests and plantations. The research is expected to contribute towards a more nuanced understanding of the suitability of different reforestation strategies for sequestering carbon in an increasingly variable and drought prone future climate.

Andy Stock (2017-2019 Cohort)

Andy Stock draws on geoinformatics and computer science to solve problems in marine ecology. At the Earth Institute, he will use machine learning methods to extract information about plankton community composition from satellite images. Andy received his Ph.D. from Stanford University’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, where he investigated uncertainty in maps of human impact on marine ecosystems. Before returning to academia, he was an environmental consultant, software developer, and cartographer. He holds degrees in geoinformatics from the University of Turku, Finland (M.Sc.) and in computer science from the University of Leipzig, Germany (B.Sc.).

Nandini Velho (2016-2018 Cohort)

Nandini Velho has done field work in remote areas in north-east India, where her PhD focused on how protected area and community-managed lands are managed to reduce hunting and help wildlife persist. She works closely with the forest department, resident communities and writes in popular media. She completed her Ph.D. from James Cook University, Australia. As an EI fellow, she will be working with Ruth DeFries to understand the social and health outcomes that exist in and around India’s protected areas.

Sha Zhou (2018-2020 Cohort)

Sha Zhou received her Ph.D. in Hydraulic Engineering from Tsinghua University, China. She has broad research interests, including water resources management, carbon and water cycling, and atmosphere-biosphere interactions. Her Ph.D. dissertation focused on terrestrial water use efficiency and its application for evapotranspiration partitioning. She proposed a new partitioning method to separate plant transpiration from evaporation. This method could help determine the actual water requirement for both societal and natural ecological systems and reduce irrigation water loss via evaporation. Her proposed work in the Earth Institute aims to improve water productivity and resilience of the societal-ecological system in water catchments. She will develop a global database of actual water demand and a knowledge base for catchment management to underpin global sustainable water management.