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Earth Institute Student Research Showcase 2020

Earth Institute Student Research Showcase 2020

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.

Profiles

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Alissa Lampert

Alissa Lampert is a sophomore environmental science major at Barnard College from East Brunswick, New Jersey. She is interested in climate change and its related earth processes, and hopes to be able to apply her studies to one of the many aspects of environmental conservation in the future. Last summer, Alissa interned at an Environmental Justice clinic near Tel Aviv. Along with research, Alissa is also currently serving as a Teaching Assistant for Environmental Law at Barnard.

Project: Reconstructing Oceanographic and Climatic Changes in the North Pacific During Past Ice Age Cycles

Worked to sample and process deep sea core sediments from the Core Repository. Work largely focused on the Pacific Ocean, with occasionally work on Atlantic Ocean sediments.

Amanda Abrom

Amanda Abrom is a master’s student at Columbia studying Economic and Political Development. She interns at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development where she works on the project, “Accelerating the SDGs” in order to raise awareness about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Before joining the Earth Institute, she taught English in Spain, as well as with the Chilean Ministry of Education in Chile. She also mentored youth leaders from 13 countries for the Middle Eastern Partnership Initiative and the SUSI Women’s Leadership Program for women from Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, she serves as a Project Officer for the Global Schools Program, an initiative of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (Youth) which raises awareness about the SDGs in school settings and promotes global citizenship education. She is a former Fulbright Scholar, White House Intern, and active UN Youth Delegate with the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Project: Accelerating the SDGs

“The Local Project Challenge” is a research project to accelerate awareness about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our team compiled data from 100 global development projects to see how the SDGs are being put into practice across education, the professions, and civil society. I co-planned the first UN Habitat Urban Thinker Campus at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning (GSAPP) in order to share the findings of the research team. The “Ideas for Action” document and the “UN Habitat Report” will detail the outcome of this summit. This project was showcased at the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Amanda Weaver

Amanda Weaver is a master’s student in public health studying epidemiology and concentrating in infectious disease epidemiology. After studying ecology and evolutionary biology at Rice University, she came to Columbia to build in a public component to her work. She spent the summer of 2019 researching the influence of climate on tick populations in Staten Island with the Diuk-Wasser lab. More broadly, she is interested in the anthropogenic effects of climate change, urbanization, and mass drug use on vector-borne diseases. After graduation, she hopes to continue to research infectious disease with the health department.

Project: Eco-Social Determinants of Human-Tick Interactions in Urban Landscapes

This project seeks to explore the coupled dynamics of ticks and humans in a close-contact urban environment. By taking advantage of Staten Island’s large park system, we were able to sample ticks in parks and yards, conduct knowledge surveys with residents, and trap small-mammals across the island. This work is increasingly important as tick-borne diseases are on the rise along the east coast and in urban environments. Not much is known about these dynamics in cities as much of the tick literature centers on more forested areas. This project aims to address this gap.

Anna Ledeczi

Anna Ledeczi is a junior studying Earth Science in Columbia College. She plans to attend graduate school to earn her PhD studying tectonics and geology after completing her undergraduate education. This project was begun under the Lamont Internship Program during summer 2019, and continued throughout the fall, ultimately resulting in a presentation at the American Geophysical Union.

Project: Seismic Evidence Supporting Plateau Origin of Northwestern Wyoming Lithosphere

My research explores the origin of the localized seismically fast region in Northeastern Wyoming, within the Wyoming Craton. Some have suggested this anomaly, which we have termed the “Wyoming Cratonic Anomaly” (WCA), is a relic of a chemically depleted oceanic plateau present on the Farallon Plate, which subducted under California around 90 Ma. We use body wave delays and their ratios to distinguish between the nearby thermal anomaly of the Yellowstone Hotspot and the chemically anomalous WCA.

Bailey Nordin

Bailey is a senior at Columbia College studying Earth Science. Aside from pulling apart rocks, she enjoys playing the clarinet in the marching band and writing. After graduation, she intends to pursue a PhD in geochemistry and hike the Appalachian Trail, not necessarily in that order.

Project: Thermochronological Evidence for Glacial Erosion and Exhumation along the Central Transantarctic Mountains

My research deals with the history of glacial erosion in Antarctica and the effects of past climate change on ice flow and land surface removal. By analyzing rock samples collected from the Transantarctic Mountains, I studied times when glaciers carved out the bedrock so extensively as to produce a buoyant response from the mantle, lifting more rocks up to take their place. I separated apatite crystals from 45 samples and thermochronologically dated them to understand when they were uplifted. I also participated in a two-week thermochronology workshop at the University of Arizona and presented my research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Christy Dey

Christy Dey is a senior at Barnard College double majoring in Economics and Environmental Science with an interest in Sustainability. She has spent her college career interning at a wealth management firm and held numerous club positions on campus such as President of the Pre-Veterinary Society, Treasurer of McAC, advisor at Matriculate and officer on the Honor Board. Outside of school, she has been doing karate for 13 years and is currently on the USA National Karate Team. She loves dogs, traveling and watching her favorite Netflix shows over dinner.

Project: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Oil Production in Guyana: A Natural Capital Approach

I have been interning at a wealth management firm throughout college and enjoyed this experience. I have never done academic research before, but being inspired by my thesis work and passionate about my topic, I quickly began to think more about research, academia, and career paths in this field. Last semester, I've done some PhD program experiences at universities such as Stanford University and really enjoyed hearing the opportunities available.

Dan Poniachik

Dan Poniachik is currently pursuing his Masters of Public Administration in Development Practice (MPA-DP) at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University. Prior to SIPA, he was working at ideas42 bringing new insights based in behavioral economics to financial inclusion problems in Chile and Mexico. He also has public sector experience through Chile’s National Council of Innovation for Development, CNID, as well as in CIEPLAN, a Latin American Public Policy Think Tank, based in Santiago, Chile. He has spent some time in peace-building projects in the Middle East as well, and in education and youth leadership projects in Tunisia. Currently, his interest lies in the intersection between social psychology and policy design, bridging both worlds together to bring innovative solutions to pressing social challenges, with a special focus in mental health solutions and civic engagement.

Project: The Psychology of Winter Park Use in NYC and Climate Change Perceptions

Literature is well versed in what elements of green urban spaces provide the most well-being to citizens. However, are these the same elements that are bringing people to the park in the first place? If we know that these spaces have such an important impact for mental health and well-being, how can the frequency of visits also be increased? Could it also be increased during the colder months and if so how? We will be conducting on-site ethnographic research at Washington Square Park in New York City to try to answer these pressing questions.

Daniela Garcia Santoyo

Daniela G. Santoyo is from Mexico and she is a second-year MPA student, concentrating in Energy and Environment at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Her background is in communications and public policy. Last year she worked with the Power Initiative of The Rockefeller Foundation developing a decentralized renewable energy project in Puerto Rico. Her focus is on climate and clean energy policy.

Project: Sustainable Cooling and Heat Adaptation in Dhaka, Bangladesh

In Dhaka, the capital and largest city in Bangladesh, rising average ambient temperatures coupled with the Urban Island Heat (UHI) effect threaten the city and its residents. The objectives of this project were twofold: (i) to understand the current coping strategies for heat adaptation used by residents in the Korail slum, and (ii) to assess whether cool roofs are an appropriate sustainable cooling solution for the community, to adapt and mitigate the negative impacts of heat. In March 2019, the research team travelled to Dhaka to conduct an ethnographic study and identify paths to implement our proposed solution.

Darren Rabinowitz

Darren Rabinowitz is an MA candidate in the International Educational Development program at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research interests include education for sustainable development, peace building, and human rights education. As a 2019 AC4 Fellow, he studies the intersection of vulnerable Rwandan youth’s belonging and national peace building in the post conflict context. He currently works for the Teachers College Center for Sustainable Futures where he collaborates with the NYC Department of Education to investigate the efficacy of sustainability coordinators in NYC schools. In 2017, he worked as the informal education fellow at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda.

Project: The Right to Belong: A Mixed Methods Study of Self-Reported Feelings of Belonging in Rwandan Orphaned and Vulnerable Children and Their Perceptions of National Peace building

This mixed methods research seeks to understand: 1) Rwandan orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) self-reported feelings of belonging at an NGO-supported secondary boarding school and 2) how do feelings of belonging that are constructed within educational spaces relate to peace building in a post conflict country. Using McMillan et Chavis’ (1986) conceptualization of community, this research sheds light unto the specific nuances of Rwandan OVC belonging. I have presented the findings of this research at the 2019 Center for African Education Student Research Panel and at the 2020 CIES conference in Miami.

David Bassini Ortiz

David Bassini is a second year MPA student at Columbia-SIPA (School of International and Public Affairs). He is specializing in Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis with a concentration in International Finance. Prior to joining SIPA, David worked in the government of Mexico for almost four years, where he focused on analyzing, designing, and implementing productivity-enhancing policies. During his time at SIPA, David has focused his coursework on topics of financing development and financial inclusion. In addition to these, David’s interests revolve around sustainable development and innovative finance. After graduating from SIPA, David hopes to continue his work in development at a research institution, a think-tank or a mission-driven consulting firm. David Bassini holds a BA in Economics and Finance from New York University in Abu Dhabi.

Project: Promoting Targeted and Effective Land Transparency: Understanding Transparency Needs, Demands, and Uses Regarding Land Investments

This research is part of a broader project hosted by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) to do transparency differently. In particular, this research is the first stage of an initiative to promote a demand-driven approach to transparency to stimulate more responsible investments. We analyzed the literature to identify what is the most important and useful information to disclose and why in the context of land-based investments. We first focused on host government perspectives to understand what their incentives and disincentives are to increase transparency. This work has positioned CCSI to delve more deeply into political economy analyses as a next step.

Dorothee Grant

Dorothee is a junior in the School of General Studies majoring in Computer Science. Before continuing her education she worked in fashion for several years. She has always wanted to make a meaningful difference, so when beginning college she was sure she wanted to engage in research, though she was unclear of the field. After hearing about the opportunity through NASA SEDAC at Lamont Laboratory she knew this would be something that would interest her.

Project: Understanding Black Marble Data

This project was an exploratory research using the Suomi NPP Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) nighttime light nightly data. While the environmental and economic uses of this satellite are understood and projected on NASA’s website, one of the goals of this research was to explore the social aspects this satellite’s images can identify. The basic method of this research was to find trends and patterns, along with exploring the potential of nightly data. The end goal is to have a higher frequency Population Density Estimation. I was able to present this research at AGU San-Francisco in December.

Elena Belletti

Elena Belletti is a graduate student at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), focusing on environmental science and policy (graduation: May 2020). She is an economist by background, and she is particularly interested in environmental taxation and carbon pricing. From 2015 to 2019, she worked as an Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, providing advice to tax authorities of developing countries on domestic resource mobilization. Ms. Belletti is a member of the United Nations Subcommittee of Experts on Environmental Taxation Issues, mandated to provide guidance to developing countries on carbon taxation. Prior to joining the United Nations, she worked for five years in the energy sector, first as a senior advisor for the trading branch of a major, and later as a senior economist for a consulting firm. Ms. Belletti holds an MSc in Economics and a Master’s Degree in Energy and Environmental Economics.

Project: Environmental Taxation in sub-Saharan Africa: Barriers and Policy Options

The paper provides an analysis of barriers faced by countries in sub-Saharan Africa in adopting environmental fiscal policy, and examples of their successful overcoming. Based on these considerations, it proposes an innovative blueprint to guide policymakers in introducing environmental taxation. The blueprint, aiming to fill a gap in specific policy guidance for these countries, is composed of 17 questions, to provide support in: (i) assessing the broader environmental, fiscal and socioeconomic framework for introducing environmental taxation; (ii) outlining policy priorities and intended outcomes; and (iii) identifying and overcoming constraints in administration, institutional capacity and political acceptance – key barriers detected in the analysis.

Elizabeth Perry

Elizabeth Perry received her MA in Climate and Society from Columbia in October of 2019 after completing this Earth Institute internship experience. Her research interests include climate and weather as well as their impacts in the built environment. She received her BA in Geosciences from Hamilton College in May 2018. She remains in the same research group at City College CUNY as a research assistant, synthesizing field data into a database. She intends to pursue a career related to climate and weather risks, computational geospatial data analysis, and insurance.

Project: Monitoring Plankton Dynamics in the Long Island Sound from Shipboard and Space-Based Platforms

The Land-Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions group of City College CUNY uses satellite data and field observations to describe biogeochemical qualities of coastal and estuarine environments, including the Long Island Sound and coastal Alaska. As an Earth Institute intern during the summer of 2019, I gained data analysis and technical skills. I used a spectrofluorometer to assist characterizations of dissolved organic material of water samples collected throughout the Long Island Sound and the Yukon Delta. I also analyzed the spectral slope of dissolved organic material to compare satellite reflectance data with field observations. Finally, I participated in a field cruise in July 2019.

Emily Carrero-Mustelier

Emily Carrero-Mustelier is a junior undergraduate student of the School of General Studies of Columbia University currently majoring in Earth Sciences and with a deep interest in Geophysics. In 2019 she participated in the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) Summer Internship program and worked in the Seismology department under the mentorship of William Menke. As an intern, she investigated seismic anomalies in the Southeastern North American Asthenosphere by analyzing body-waves travel times from high qualities and successfully identified a major seismic slow velocity anomaly named South Coastal Anomaly (SCA). However, she is still working in LDEO to expand her investigation.

Project: Seismic Anomalies in the Southeastern North American Asthenosphere as Characterized with Body Waves Travel Times from High Qualities Teleseisms

My research characterizes the seismic structure of the asthenosphere from Georgia to Virginia and develops evidence for the presence of low seismic velocities (and high temperatures) in that region. It is based on the analysis of high-quality maps of P and S wave differential travel time anomalies of several magnitude >6 teleseisms observed on the EarthScope Transport Array, along with forward modeling in a three-dimensional Earth model with simply-shaped heterogeneities. Consequently, one major seismic slow velocity anomaly, named South Coastal Anomaly (SCA), was identified and characterized as a 600 km long, 400 km wide, and 200 km deep thermal anomaly.

Emmerline Ragoonath-De Mattos

Emmerline is a chemistry major at the School of General Studies who is dedicated to saving the aquatic environment from plastic pollution through her research. She found that this was her calling after viewing many heartbreaking videos of dying or dead marine life entombed in plastic. As an eco-ambassador, Emmerline encourages her family and friends to be mindful of purchasing single use plastics. Based on her research, she also encourages them to purchase garments made of natural fibers such as cotton or wool, rather than synthetic fibers such as polyamides. In doing so, she hopes to aid in solving our plastic problem.

Project: Assessment of Synthetic Microfibers from Clothing in the Aquatic Environment and Implications for Zooplankton

Microplastics encompass all plastics that are less than 5mm. Microfibers are plastics that are shed from clothing made of synthetic textiles during the laundering process. It is estimated that 0.33 million tons of textile microfibers enter the oceans annually, via laundry. Thirty-three samples of various types of fabric were laundered, with and without detergent, in order to determine which fabric type sheds the most fibers. Fabric types included hemp, polyethylene, nylon, Tencel®, viscose, recycled polyester, polyester, and polyamide. Our results indicate that polyamide sheds the largest amount of fibers both with and without the use of detergent.

Eun Jin (Shelly) Son

Eun Jin (Shelly) Son is a Columbia College junior studying Environmental Science. Her academic interests are hydrology, oceanography, and atmospheric chemistry. Her research interests are effects of anthropogenic activities and climate change on wetlands and global carbon storage, coral reef ecosystems, and public health. Currently, she is a research assistant at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, studying marine sediments to understand the implications of climate change today on the Earth’s system.

Project: Reconstructing past warmer-than-present climate conditions in Southern Ocean

In my project, I aim to reconstruct past variations in ocean circulation and climate using sediment records from Expedition 383, Site 1543, in the South Pacific. Marine Isotope Stage 11 is of particular interest as it is an interglacial period of warmer-than-present climate conditions in the Pleistocene. Preliminary results show that lighter-colored sediments, low magnetic susceptibility values, and high coarse fraction weight percentages are characteristic indicators of MIS 11. I will pick the planktonic foraminifera, G. bulloides, carbonate microfossils preserved in my study interval, and will analyze their stable isotope- and trace element- compositions to calculate the sea surface temperature.

Gabriel Weinstein

Gabe is a junior at Columbia College studying Earth science. After taking introductory courses in Earth science, he became interested in Earth’s climate history. He currently participating in research of Earth’s climate during the last glacial period.

Project: North Atlantic Icebergs and Abrupt Climate Change

I picked T. quinqueloba tests from ocean cores and ran them through a mass spectrometer. The relative abundance of oxygen isotopes sheds light on past surface ocean temperatures and ocean salinity/ice volume. The time interval I am focusing on may better explain the variability of Earth’s climate during the transition period from the last glacial maximum to the holocene. I am specifically focusing on the T. quinqueloba because this species resides higher up in the water column than benthic foraminifera and should act as a better proxy for surface water temperatures.

Grant Pace

A Missouri native, Grant is a senior in Columbia College majoring in Environmental Science. Post-graduation, he is pursuing environmental law after two years of deferral. During his deferral, he plans to work as an artist assistant to Zaria Forman, who documents climate change in her large-scale hyper-realistic pastel drawings of glacial ice. When he’s not busy getting stuck in marshes, he can most likely be found drawing, exploring downtown with friends, or sleeping. He is also involved on campus as a member of Shift and as the Resident Adviser for Greenborough and Potluck.

Project: Preliminary Blue Carbon Stock Estimates for Lower Hudson Marshes

Coastal wetlands are perhaps the most efficient carbon-buying ecosystems in the world. However, they are increasingly at risk due to anthropogenic disturbance, sea level rise, and flooding induced by climate change. Utilizing National Wetland Inventory spatial area data and Dr. Peteet’s loss-on-ignition (LOI) carbon content and depth data collected from years of sediment coring and probing, this project creates preliminary estimates of full-depth total carbon stocks (kgC sequestered) for three lower Hudson marshes: Iona, Haverstraw, and Constitution. More LOI and probe data is necessary to validate these preliminary estimates.

Hoi Wan (Vanessa) Ho

Vanessa was born and raised in Macau. She is a sophomore in Columbia College planning to study some combination of economics, sustainable development, and linguistics. Vanessa is passionate about the arts, intercultural understanding, and living green. She plays the piano, the erhu (Chinese instrument), the violin, and sings. On campus, she is involved in the Music Performance Program, Columbia Bach Society, and is an International Students Orientation Program leader. She is very passionate about living green—she brings her own cutlery everywhere and is obsessed with finding convenient ways to reduce waste in day-today life.

Project: Global Retail Challenge 2019

Global Retail Challenge is a competition focused on building a more circular economy for retail and consumer products. The Columbia team focused on developing a circular business in the furniture industry called Interlock-It. Interlock-It aims to create modular furniture products from discarded furniture items. Partnering with local sanitation departments, Interlock-It would collect, evaluate, and create standardized modular pieces either with eco-resin or by repurposing discarded items. The team advanced through every round of the competition and brought home the third place.

Indira Roy

Indira is a sophomore in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) studying chemical engineering. She has long been interested in sustainable food production; after publishing independent research and interning at CIMMYT in Mexico, she was exposed to the policy side of agriculture over a summer at the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. At the Earth Institute, her research assistantship gave her a fascinating look into the field of crop insurance. Indira hopes to continue exploring sustainability and food, always asking (and hopefully answering!) new questions.

Project: A Case Study of ACRE: Crop Insurance as a Climate Adaptation Strategy in Rwanda

Helped review trends and gaps in crop insurance for Sub-Saharan Africa, using the ACRE Rwanda program as a case study. Also analyzed large data sets to better understand the relationship between rainfall, crop yield, and insurance premiums.

Jacob Naimark

Jacob Naimark studies Environmental Science at Columbia College and will be graduating from Columbia in May 2020. He was raised in New Hampshire and moved to New York City in 2016 to pursue his Bachelor’s degree. On campus, he serves as the President of the Columbia Outdoors Club, sings in the Bach Society Choir, and is a proud and active member of the vibrant Jewish community on campus. He loves to hike, sing, read, and ski. After graduation, he looks forward to moving to Boston, where he will pursue a position as either a public defense investigator or a paralegal at an environmental law organization.

Project: Drought and Air Quality: Satellite Data Analysis of Drought Impact on Ozone-precursor Emissions in North America

Air quality is influenced by both human-industrial behaviors and naturally occurring phenomena. One of the important natural phenomena controlling air quality is drought, which influences everything from microbial activity in soil to tree foliage emissions of isoprene. In order to understand how biogenic air pollution sources are influenced by climatological drought, I am using NASA’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) to quantify differences in air quality between drought and “normal” conditions. The project aims to determine whether previously observed differences using ground instrument measurements can be detected by radiation spectrometers, such as OMI, aboard satellites.

Julia Bontempo

Julia Bontempo is a master’s student in Sustainability Management. After studying Industrial Design and Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, Julia worked in Product Research, Development, and Management, with a focus on applying design thinking to sustainable, social entrepreneurship. After working on home goods in Kathmandu, waste management near Nairobi, beekeeping in Chicago, and sustainable building practices in Taos, Julia found her true passion for sustainable and resilient cities in New York City, and is now working at the Mayor’s of Resiliency on mapping neighborhood-scale Heat Vulnerability.

Project: Urban Heat Islands, Heat Vulnerability, Building Scale Interventions

Since May of 2019, I have worked on teams that are researching Urban Heat Islands and Heat Vulnerability in New York City, specifically focusing on built environment characteristics that can be targeted with policy. At Urban Design Forum, I supported the Fellowship “Turning The Heat,” which investigated Urban Heat Island mitigation in NYC through innovation in design, policy, finance, and community development. Furthering the fellows’ research, I have been working with the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency to write policy recommendations that will improve current and future Heat Resilience, and interpret LANDSAT temperature maps taken over the past three decades.

Luz Gil

Luz Gil is a second-year MPA student, with a concentration in Energy and Environment and specializing in UN studies. Luz is highly interested in climate change policy, which has taken her to develop in this field through internships at UNFCCC and at the Permanent Mission of Mexico at the UN. Before the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Luz worked for over 4 years at the Federal Government of Mexico and achieved a BA in International Affairs.

Project: Sustainable Cooling

A research on climate change adaptation strategies in a vulnerable community in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Maria Claudia Ventocilla

Maria Claudia is an MPA in Development Practice candidate at Columbia University. She is a Peruvian economist with over seven years of sustainable development experience. After graduation, she joined the Netherlands Development Organization to work on inclusive business projects and public consulting throughout Latin America in sectors such as agriculture, tourism, energy, and mining, among others. She further pursued this path by studying business innovation at the base of the pyramid in South Africa and co-founding a social consultancy agency named Inclusiva. Most recently, she worked for the UNDP, mainstreaming the SDGs; and for the Peruvian government, improving the network of centers for productive innovation and technological transfer. Maria Claudia joined SIPA to strengthen her skills to continue working towards a more inclusive economy.

Project: Sustainability Challenges in Coffee Production: Profitability and Adaptation to Climate Variability

Worldwide, 25 million smallholders and their families depend on coffee, which is affected by two challenges: low profitability and increasing climate variability and change. Current climate and economic analyses are entirely disarticulated from the farm level, limiting the opportunity to identify and generate feasible strategies that reduce vulnerability and increase resilience. The project aimed to determine and quantify how specific climate events affect the cost structure at the coffee farm level and to, in a second phase, generate an innovative and dynamic tool that integrates climate services and cost of production estimations based on characteristics and production practices at each farm.

Mengbi Chen

Mengbi Chen is currently an MPA candidate in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She recently graduated from New York University with a BA in Quantitative Economics and Environmental Studies. Over the past years, she has accumulated experience in a variety of fields through internships at UNICEF USA, PwC, and financial services firms. With strong interests in environmental issues and policy, she has worked on several research projects ranging from PM 2.5 to China’s BRI both as an undergrad and graduate student.

Project: Comparing Piermont Marsh Blue Carbon Storage Capacity to Our Carbon Footprint

This study investigates carbon storage capacity of Piermont Marsh and compares it to our carbon footprint. By analyzing a sediment core taken at Piermont Marsh, we were able to determine its carbon content at each depth layer to estimate the total carbon storage of Piermont to be roughly 353,000 tons. It is equivalent to annual emissions of 280,000 vehicles, or 217,000 NYC residents, or 3% of annual NYC emissions. Therefore, it is important that we preserve tidal marshes given their huge carbon storage potential as global greenhouse gas emissions increase by year.

Mitchell Thomas

Mitchell Thomas is a sophomore in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) studying applied mathematics with minors in Computer science and political science. He is particularly interested in studying the intersections between the environment and human development including the humanitarian impact of climate change. For fun, he enjoys singing jazz acapella with Uptown Vocal, playing oboe and saxophone in various groups on campus, and playing jazz piano just for fun!

Project: Developing a Tool to Provide Near Real-Time Monitoring of Environmental Conditions in Refugee Camps around the World

The aim of this project was to create a tool which accessed satellite remote sensing data to provide real-time and historical data on global refugee camps. Refugee camp shape-files were created using Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) calculations, and a set of various satellite products were used to calculate Land Surface Temperature, Precipitation, and NDVI over these areas. A python package was then created to easily and quickly input user parameters, run calculations through Google Earth Engine, export a CSV file of raw data, and calculate select core climate indices from the ETCCDI list of 27 core climate indices.

Pralaya Cuomo

Pralaya Cuomo is a senior General Studies student majoring in Sustainable development. Prior to her time at Columbia University, Pralaya was a professional ballet dancer and licensed massage therapist. She has also spent some time as personal assistant, model, jewelry designer, and private flight attendant. Pralaya was homeschooled as a child and much of her time involved actively participating and marching for human rights issues, along with issues surrounding the degradation of natural resources, and unfair treatment of animals.

Project: Interlock-IT

Our team came up with a business model that participates in the circular economy for the GRC competition in Montreal, at McGill University. The solution involved creating modular and more durable furniture from disposed/tossed curbside furniture. We came away with a prize for third place in the overall competition and I won the Richard Donovan Award for Best Speaker.

Roger Creel

Roger Creel is a geophysics PhD student at Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. In his research, Roger studies sea level change during past glacial cycles to improve our understanding of how ice sheets respond to warming. He focuses on sea level during the Holocene (11,000 year ago to present) and the Eemian (128-119 thousand years ago) interglacials. Before matriculating at Columbia, Roger danced professionally with the Louisville Ballet, where he created and grew a partnership with Kentucky’s largest Shakespeare company that gives lower-income students opportunities to perform as equals with professional ballet dancers. To date, their free performances have reached more than 23,000 people, many of whom had never seen dance. Roger believes in the power of community outreach, and is actively involved in climate advocacy at Columbia. He also serves on the advisory board for Read Ahead, a New York-based mentoring non-profit.

Project: Reconstructing Last Interglacial Sea Level: Bahamas Field Observations and Improved Solid Earth Models

We reconstructed sea level during the Last Interglacial (~125,000 years ago), a geologic time period whose similarities to the modern Earth—shrinking ice sheets, warm temperatures, rising seas—make it a crucial reference point for simulations of future climate. To determine paleo sea level, we made precise elevation measurements of sea level indicators preserved on two Bahamian islands, Long Island and Crooked Island. We corrected our survey elevations for post-depositional effects, such as glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), which displace local sea-level data relative to the global mean. Our research has already produced a publication (Dyer et al., 2020).

Sam Kodama

Sam Kodama is a senior in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He has been working in labs at Lamont since sophomore year and has enjoyed his time there.

Project: Investigating the Erosional History of Wilkes Subglacial Basin with Low Temperature Thermochronometry

This project aims to discover the evolution of the subglacial topography of Wilkes Subglacial Basin. Understanding the subglacial topography and how it has changed over time can provide constraints for ice sheet models. We studied the past subglacial topography with (U-Th)/He dating of ice rafted pebbles cored by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Pebbles showed major glacial erosion occurring during the Middle Miocene and Early Pliocene.

Serena Tohme

Serena Tohme is a first year dual degree student between the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the Mailman School of Public Health. At SIPA, she is completing a Master of Public Administration in Economic and Political Development, where she is specializing in International Conflict Resolution and the Middle East. At Mailman, she will earn a Master of Public Health in Population and Family Health, with a focus on health in forced migration. She is Lebanese-American and she holds a BA in Psychology from Rice University in Texas. She has worked in the humanitarian space in Lebanon, Greece, and the United States involved in issues of healthcare provision in forced migration contexts, with a special emphasis on mental health and psychosocial support for children and families.

Project: Child Psychosocial Support Programming for Informal Education NGOs in Lesvos, Greece

The research aims to investigate the design, implementation, and monitoring of child psychosocial programming (PSS) in informal education spaces on the Greek island of Lesvos, where over 20,000 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries are held awaiting asylum claims. PSS programming is critical in this context as it is a necessary element for children to process trauma and violence they have experienced on their journey to Greece, as well as continue any education that has been interrupted. The inclusion of PSS programming in Education in Emergencies (EiE) spaces is an increasingly important research topic in this field.

Tejaswini Thethi

Tejaswini’s interest in waste management stemmed from her relocation to India in 2011, where garbage has been ubiquitous for decades. In the city of Bangalore, she voluntarily conducted comprehensive research to understand the functioning of the waste system, including economic, social, and political challenges. Tejaswini feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to gain exposure to the commonalities and incongruities in waste systems across continents, which equips her with the understanding of waste management systems in emerging markets and developed countries. While she does not discount the significance of behavioral change, she strongly believes in the power of innovation and capital markets to bring about systemic change. Tejaswini views waste as a resource, and is currently working towards the deployment of state-of-the-art technologies to increase transparency and accountability in existing global waste supply chains. Tejaswini is currently pursuing a Master’s in Sustainability Management at Columbia University.

Project: Enabling Waste Tracking and Data Transparency to Accelerate a Circular Economy

Waste generation has increased exponentially over the years. This is economically and environmentally unsustainable. A core and typical issue in the waste management systems today is the lack of visibility and accountability in the waste value chain. If there existed an infrastructure to track and monitor the flow of waste from generation to disposal, how would it affect the key stakeholders in the waste management—financially and socially—and how willing would they be to participate in the new system? Through the project, I would like to engage with stakeholders and find answers to these questions.

Victor Ohene

Victor is a graduating senior in Columbia College and is majoring in architecture with a focus on sustainable development. He believes in change through design and has structured his classes, extracurricular activities and work experiences to aid in this process. To him, the built environment and how people interact in spaces directly influence intangible socio-economic and urban factors. The rising concern of climate change, resilience and social equity sparked his interest in the sustainable development department to complement his architecture studies. After graduation, he plans to take time off working and eventually attend graduate school in Architecture and Urban Planning.

Project: Interlock-it