Education News

Spring 2010 Announcement of Climate Change Internships

2010-01-20

This spring semester the Earth Institute is offering Columbia students opportunities to work both on campus and throughout the city on climate change adaptation projects, focusing on the New York Tri-State Region through the Earth Institute Climate Change Adaptation Initiative. Please see below for the descriptions of eight internship opportunities. All positions pay $15 per hour and are typically 10 hours per week. Start and end dates are flexible.

To apply, please send your resume and a cover letter describing your interest in the specific position and relevant qualifications to Adrian Hill at ahill@ei.columbia.edu. Make sure that your attached documents include your last name in the document names and use the title of the internship in the subject line. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and the final deadline is Monday, January 25, 2010.

Internships

  1. Stakeholder Outreach in Developing Climate Change Adaptation Plans
  2. Using Geographical Information Systems to Assess Climate Change Impacts From Regional to Global Scales
  3. Spring  2010 PlaNYC Reforestation Internship
  4. Climate Change Effects on Harmful Algal Blooms in N.Y. – How Will We Adapt?
  5. Preparing for the Public Health and Environmental Effects of Hurricanes in New York
  6. Office of Academic and Research Programs, The Earth Institute
  7. Municipal Ordinances on Climate Change Adaptation
  8. The Ecosystem Effects of Green Roof Plant

1. Stakeholder Outreach in Developing Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Organization:  Center for Climate Systems Research, Earth Institute/Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Office Location: 514 Armstrong Hall

Brief Description of Anticipated Intern/Research Assistant Tasks:
Work with the project team on stakeholder interaction across three climate change adaptation projects at the city, state and international levels. We work frequently with both public and private stakeholders to identify climate variables and vulnerabilities, and develop flexible adaptation pathways.  The intern/research assistant will help to: track communication, dialogue and share information with stakeholders; document interactions and feedback; and help to integrate stakeholder comments in the project team’s work.  The team’s current projects include developing climate change adaptation plans for various sectors, including infrastructure, ecosystems, health and coastal zones in New York City, New York State and in urban areas internationally, as well as climate impacts on agricultural production and food trade around the world.

Skills Required: Strong communication, organizational and interpersonal skills, basic knowledge of climate change, ability to work in a fast-paced work environment

Type of Student Desired:   Undergraduate 

Internship/Research Assistant Start Date: January 2010
Internship/Research Assistant End Date: May 2010

2. Using Geographical Information Systems to Assess Climate Change Impacts From Regional to Global Scales

Organization:  Center for Climate Systems Research, Earth Institute/Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Office Location: 504 Armstrong Hall

Brief Description of Anticipated Intern/Research Assistant Tasks:
Assist the climate impacts team in research, analysis and presentation of climate change impacts from the local to global scales, with particular emphasis on the use of geographical information to determine fine-scale risk assessment and management. Current projects include climate change studies of sea level rise, health, water resources and infrastructure in New York City and New York State; water resources and agriculture in Florida and Central America; as well as agricultural production and food trade around the world.  We employ a variety of interdisciplinary models and work closely with stakeholders to identify vulnerabilities and develop flexible adaptation pathways. 

Skills Required: Experience with ArcGIS Geographical Information Systems software, basic knowledge of climate change, ability to work in fast-paced team environment

Type of Student Desired:   Graduate     

Internship/Research Assistant Start Date: January 2010
Internship/Research Assistant End Date: May 2010

3. Spring  2010 PlaNYC Reforestation Internship

Organization: Natural Resources Group, NYC Dept of Parks & Recreation
Office Location: Arsenal North, 1234 5th Ave. (at 104th Street), NY, NY, 10029

PlaNYC Reforestation is one of 127 initiatives launched by Mayor Bloomberg on Earth Day 2007 to make New York City greener and greater by 2030. The reforestation initiative builds on the forest restoration work that NYC Dept of Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Group (NRG) has been conducting since 1984. PlaNYC Reforestation has increased the scale and scope of forest restoration in New York City, committing the City to forest 2,000 acres of public land by 2017. Expanding forested areas within New York City will help to improve environmental quality within the city today and help us adapt to climate change in the future. Some of the expected benefits of reforestation include reduction of the urban heat island effect, improvement of air quality, reduction of stormwater surges, and improvement of species diversity and habitat quality within New York City.   

The Natural Resources Group is responsible for restoring and managing thousands of acres of natural areas in City Parks. The PlaNYC Reforestation team manages contractual and in-house tree planting data, including maps, planting locations, planting numbers and species. NRG would like an intern to assist in analyzing and reviewing data from our Access and GIS databases on over 2,300 acres with potential for forest restoration.  The intern would assist NRG in evaluating potential reforestation sites and creating management plans for existing reforestation sites across the city. This position would be good for students interested in urban ecology and planning.

Skills Required: Familiar with Windows XP workstations: Word, Excel, Access; good organizational skills; ability to work independently; strong interest in urban ecology 

Preferred Skills: Undergraduate or graduate courses in ecology, forestry, botany, conservation biology or a related subject; knowledge and experience working with ESRI ArcInfo GIS; coursework or work experience in field data collection, study design or monitoring

Type of Student Desired: Undergraduate or Graduate    

Internship Start Date: February 2010
Internship End Date: May 2010

4. Climate Change Effects on Harmful Algal Blooms in N.Y. – How Will We Adapt?

Organization: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Office Location: 40 West 20th St., 11th Floor, New York, NY 10011 (bet. 5th/6th Ave.)

Brief Description of Anticipated Intern Tasks:
The environmental conditions that contribute to algal blooms will also affect the occurrence of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). These conditions include inputs of nutrients from overland runoff or from nutrient-rich deep ocean waters that are stirred to the surface by changing wind patterns, the fertilization effect of increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in waters, increasing seawater acidity as CO2 levels increase, changing water currents and human alterations of local patterns by dredging and other activities, changing vertical stratification of local waters, and increases in local water temperatures.

Global warming has already caused noticeable increases in surface water temperatures, during both winter and summer. Over the last sixty years, there has been an estimated 24 percent increase in extreme rainfall events in the US. HABs can poison fish and harm birds, sea mammals and humans by releasing dangerous toxins that can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin and eye irritation, respiratory distress, dizziness, headaches and neurological effects – some of them long-term. Eating contaminated fish or shellfish, swimming in or inadvertently drinking contaminated waters, or even breathing the air on beaches affected by these toxins can cause these adverse health effects, which can be particularly severe in susceptible people, such as the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions like asthma.

Besides these adverse health effects, HABs affect local fishing economies and tourism. There has been an enormous amount of recent interest in oceans-health connections and research, including a new initiative at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has launched some HAB early warning systems in collaboration with local community groups.

The responsibilities of the intern would include:
The intern would conduct a literature review of the latest research in order to help create a factsheet on climate change, harmful algal blooms and health that would summarize the latest science on these climate-health links and suggest ways that communities like N.Y. might adapt to changing HAB incidence under a changing climate.

Skills Required:  Strong research and written communication skills and familiarity with the range of health impacts associated with global warming and with climate adaptation issues. Experience working on public health literature reviews and/or environmental policy analyses would be a plus.

Type of Student desired:   Graduate

Internship Start Date: February 2010
Internship End Date: May 2010

5. Preparing for the Public Health and Environmental Effects of Hurricanes in New York

Organization: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Office Location: 40 West 20th St., 11th Floor, New York, NY 10011 (bet. 5th/6th Ave.)

Brief Description of Anticipated Intern Tasks:
Hurricane Katrina was a landmark event in illuminating the extent to which climate-health vulnerabilities exist within major cities in the U.S. A substantial literature on Katrina’s immediate, devastating environmental, health, and psychosocial impacts has accumulated since the 2005 event. However, only recently are papers on the longer-term chronic impacts coming into the literature as well. The story of Katrina could be highly relevant to New York’s population as well, since both are coastal cities with densely populated urban neighborhoods; significant percentages of residents living in poverty; and many residential neighborhoods vulnerable to storm surge, flooding and sea level rise. The NY Panel on Climate Change estimates that sea level in the New York City harbor could rise as much as 55 inches by the 2080s, that New York City is second only to Miami in terms of its assets exposed to coastal flooding, and that New York City is second only to Tokyo in wind damage exposure. In the event of a severe storm, infrastructure damage could displace residents in many New York neighborhoods and potentially translate into a story bearing some similarities to New Orleans unless we learn from closely examining the past.

The prospective intern would conduct a literature review that synthesizes the public health literature beyond the acute phase of the hurricane’s impacts and looks at the emerging health literature in a qualitative meta-analysis of the burden of population displacement on longer-term physical and psychosocial health outcomes. The literature review would take a comprehensive look at the long-term health impacts of hurricane-related displacement, summarize the latest findings, and suggest ways that communities might cope and prepare for frequent extreme storms.

Skills Required:  Strong research and written communication skills and familiarity with the range of health impacts associated with global warming and with climate adaptation issues. Experience working on public health literature reviews and/or environmental policy analyses would be a plus.

Type of Student Desired:   Graduate     

Internship Start Date: January 2010
Internship End Date: May 2010

6. Urban Design Lab, The Earth Institute

Organization: Urban Design Lab, Earth Institute
Office Location: Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 401

The Urban Design Lab is the organization within the Earth Institute that connects the University's experts in a number of fields related to the urban environment with dedicated students and communities in New York City and elsewhere. The Urban Design Lab conducts projects for community-based and other stakeholder organizations attempting to shape development in their neighborhoods.

Brief Description of Anticipated Research Assistantship:
Making New York City ready for climate change is a major challenge. In addition to the consequences of warmer temperatures, New York’s coastal environment means vulnerability to two of the more difficult challenges anticipated by Global Climate Models: more intense storms and sea-level rise. We recognize that there are many fundamental questions to address in order to understand and plan for the anticipated effects of changes in the climate on the urban environment. 

The Research Assistant will be part of the Urban Design Lab’s research on the impacts of climate change as it relates to the New York City neighborhoods of Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood in Upper Manhattan.  The goal of the research is to outline urban typologies and site-specific areas that are threatened by changes within the environment and the likely impacts on communities that have these vulnerable areas. A further goal is to identify the challenges these communities will face in sharing information with constituents, promoting sound strategies and building consensus for action. A final desired outcome is the identification of critical areas within this topic requiring future research. The intern may also contribute, on an “as needed” basis, to additional projects of the Lab, in particular to assist on graphic and visual presentation of the Lab’s work. 

Skills Required: Candidate must have a design background, display strong verbal and writing skills, and be able to aid in public presentations. The candidate will assist in preparing materials and research data.  Knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Adobe Creative Suite, Word and PowerPoint PC software is necessary.  A portfolio of previous work is required for the interview.

Type of Student desired: Graduate    

Research Assistant Start Date: February 2010
Research Assistant End Date: May 2010

7. Municipal Ordinances on Climate Change Adaptation

Organization: Center for Climate Change Law
Office Location: Jerome Greene Hall -- Room 517

Brief Description of Anticipated Intern Tasks:
The Center for Climate Change Law is drafting model ordinances on climate change issues for proposed adoption and implementation by cities, towns and villages. A first step is compiling existing ordinances. The intern would assist in compiling existing ordinances on climate change adaptation, initially from municipalities in New York State. The intern would also assist in analyzing the existing ordinances and work with the center’s attorneys in designing the model law.

Skills Required: On-line research

Type of Student Desired: Undergraduate      

Internship Start Date: January 2010
Internship End Date: May 2010

8. The Ecosystem Effects of Green Roof Plants

Organization: Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology
Office Location: 1010 Schermerhorn

Brief Description of Anticipated Intern Tasks: 
Green roofs are roofing systems that support a layer of living plants. Most systems use succulent plants in the genus Sedum, although some roof systems can support a greater diversity of plants, including native grasses and other herbaceous species. This intern will support two related research projects on the ecosystem effects of green roof vegetation. First, the intern will support the establishment of a city-wide experiment in collaboration with the New York City Parks department investigating the growth, survivorship and ecosystem effects of different types of green roof vegetation. Intern tasks for this project will include working with Columbia faculty, Parks personnel, and volunteers to preparing research materials for the experiment. Second, the intern will assist in establishing an experiment for studying the water, energy and nutrient relations of a suite of green roof species in the E3B greenhouse on the Morningside campus.  

Skills Required:  Coursework in biology, ecology and/or physiology. Laboratory skills in botany or plant physiology would be helpful.  

Type of Student Desired:   Undergraduate or Graduate    

Internship Start Date: January 2010
Internship End Date: May 2010