Current EI Fellows

Short Biographies


Katherine Alfredo (2013-2015 Cohort)

Katherine Alfredo received her Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Texas - Austin focusing chemical interactions between fluoride, aluminum, and natural organic matter during drinking water treatment. Katherine's interest in drinking water issues in rural, developing areas of the world led her to Ghana on a 2008-2009 U.S. Fulbright Fellowship. After completing her Ph.D., Katherine worked at the American Water Works Association policy division in Washington D.C. focusing on water quality compliance and policy. While at the Earth Institute, she will be working with Upmanu Lall, director, Columbia Water Center, on fluoride and arsenic drinking water issues in India. Katherine also holds a Master of Science in Engineering in environmental engineering from the University of Texas - Austin and a Bachelor of Engineering in civil engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science.

Elliot Cohen (2013-2015 Cohort)

Elliot Cohen received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the NSF-IGERT program on Sustainable Urban Infrastructure at the University of Colorado-Denver. His dissertation research combined theory and practice from urban metabolism, life-cycle assessment and statistical modeling to explore the dynamic relationship between water and energy resources and implications for future energy development. In 2012, Elliot was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct related fieldwork in India. At the Earth Institute, Elliot will work with Vijay Modi, director of the Sustainable Engineering Lab, to tackle grid-scale renewable energy integration and improve environmental performance of other large-scale engineered infrastructures.

Astrid Dannenberg (2012-2014 Cohort)

Astrid received her Ph.D. from Magdeburg University in Germany. During her fellowship at the Earth Institute, she will be working with Scott Barrett, Lenfest-Earth Institute professor of natural resource economics. Astrid will be using game theory and economic experiments to understand human decision making and how institutions can be designed to identify barriers and promote cooperation. Prior to her position at Columbia, Astrid was a research fellow at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and the Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim, Germany, where she received her M.A. She has also worked for the German Federal Environmental Agency.

Joshua Fisher (2012-2014 Cohort)

Josh Fisher received his Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University, where he studied the ecological drivers of armed conflict. His dissertation coupled geospatial statistics, remote sensing, and econometric modeling to develop spatially explicit forecast models of the likelihood of armed conflict. At the Earth Institute, he will be working with Peter Coleman at the Advanced Consortium for Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity to understand the intersection of conflict, environment, and development. His current work focuses on natural resource management and governance as tools for conflict prevention. In addition to his academic work, Josh has worked in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America on environmental management and poverty reduction. He has also worked with conservation organizations, private sector firms, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on natural resource governance and biodiversity conservation issues. Josh received an M.S. from Utah State University in political science, as well as a B.S. in international law and environmental policy.

Aurélie Harou (2013-2015 Cohort)

Aurélie Harou holds a Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University. Her research focuses on understanding the decisions and impacts of smallholders' participation in food value chains and smallholder technology adoption and disadoption patterns. Aurélie will be working at the Agriculture and Food Security Center where she will examine the effects of Malawi's Fertilizer Input Subsidy Program on both poverty alleviation and food security. Additionally, she will conduct an impact evaluation of SoilDoc, a new tool developed by the Center that provides measurements of essential soil parameters and uses information communications technology to provide farm-specific management recommendations. Aurélie holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Science and Geography from the University of Sussex, Brighton, and an M.S. from the University of California at Davis in Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Jesse Lasky (2012-2014 Cohort)

Jesse received his Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from the University of Texas, Austin. His dissertation focused on understanding the processes controlling biodiversity and ecosystem services of forests as they relate to spatial issues and habitat fragmentation in tropical landscapes. Jesse will be working with Maria Uriarte, associate professor of ecology, evolution and environmental biology, to study how climatic variation affects forest dynamics in Puerto Rico, and to establish risk assessments and improved mitigation for tree biodiversity and carbon storage. Jesse is broadly interested in the drivers of spatial variation in biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as genomic applications for natural resources conservation in the face of climate change.

Ezra Markowitz (2013-2015 Cohort)

Ezra received his Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences, Studies and Policy from the University of Oregon. His research examines a wide range of psychological and other mechanisms that influence how individuals make environmentally relevant decisions, from reducing energy and resource consumption to making charitable donations for species and habitat protection. He is particularly interested in identifying the ways in which individual- and contextual-level forces interact to either motivate or inhibit individuals' engagement with climate change and other large-scale societal challenges. Ezra works with the Earth Institute's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions and he is also a visiting postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University. Ezra also holds a Master of Science from the University of Oregon and a Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in psychology.

Tanya O'Garra (2013-2015 Cohort)

Tanya O'Garra received her Ph.D. from Imperial College London in Environmental Economics. She has carried out economic valuation studies of hydrogen transport technologies in the UK, traditional fishing grounds in Fiji and worldwide climate change adaptation projects. Tanya will be working with Professor Dave Krantz, at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. Most present-day, environmental problems result from many individual actions. Though these may not be harmful by themselves, together they can combine to produce major environmental impacts. She will be using experimental, economic approaches to identify factors that might best enhance cooperation and other-regarding behavior among large numbers of anonymous agents. She will explore whether moral and personal norms might effectively stimulate cooperation in these large-scale social dilemmas, particularly in conjunction with other stimuli such as subsidies and leadership. Tanya will also be working on the Columbia University-led Polar Learning and Responding project (PoLAR) researching the impact of novel educational approaches on adult learning about climate change and the poles.

Emilie Perge (2012-2014 Cohort)

Emilie received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. Previously, she studied at the University Paris-X-Nanterre and at the University Paris-Dauphine, both in Paris, France where she received her M.A. Emilie has extensive experience in collecting quantitative and qualitative data in remote rural areas, and analyzing national survey data. She will be working with Cheryl Palm, senior research scientist at the Tropical Agriculture Program, to understand the importance of natural, resource based activities for poor households' livelihoods. She will be focusing on designing payments and incentives to encourage poor households to conserve these resources.

Tess Russo (2012-2014 Cohort)

Tess received her Ph.D. in earth science from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her B.S. in mechanical engineering from Tufts University. Her Ph.D. dissertation examined hydrologic systems response to environmental change using numerical models and algorithms to improve the development of restoration and management strategies. At the Earth Institute, Tess will work with Upmanu Lall and the Columbia Water Center on quantifying current hydrogeologic conditions, and developing instruments that will reduce irrigation and fertilizer applications and that will improve restoration and management strategies.

Jilian A. Sacks (2013-2015 Cohort)

Jilian A. Sacks received her Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Washington, where she also completed a Graduate Certificate in Global Health. She holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College. Most recently, Jilian was based at the Public Health Research Institute (Newark, NJ) and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV (Durban, South Africa), where she conducted research aimed at finding novel biomarkers of and therapeutics for spinal tuberculosis. While at the Earth Institute, Jilian will apply her lab-based, scientific background towards questions relevant to global health, working Yanis Ben Amor, director of the Tropical Laboratory Initiative. She will be looking at building laboratory capacity to combat infectious diseases in the Millennium Villages through the identification, development and implementation of novel, diagnostic technologies. Such tools, specifically focused on strengthening the management of persons living with HIV/AIDS, would help remove barriers and increase access to healthcare in these resource-limited regions.

Katya Vasilaky (2013-2015 Cohort)

Katya received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in agricultural and resource economics with a focus in development economics. Her dissertation focused on social networks, information dissemination and technology adoption working closely with female farmers in northern and eastern Uganda. Katya's research extends into issues of malaria in Uganda and competition and gender in Malawi. She is also currently working on information dissemination around climate risk in India. During her fellowship at the Earth Institute, Katya will be working with Dan Osgood, at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. She will be applying her experience with social networks and technology adoption to understand and facilitate the take-up of index insurance in developing countries. Prior to her position at Columbia, Katya worked at US Naval Academy, the World Bank in several divisions of Development Economics (DEC). Katya is a NYC native, and completed her undergraduate degree at Columbia University in mathematics and economics.

Gary Watmough (2012-2014 Cohort)

Gary received his Ph.D. in earth observation and spatial analysis from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, where also received his M.Sc. in remote sensing and spatial analysis. He received his B.Sc. in geography from Lancaster University also in the United Kingdom. Gary is interested in the links between the environment and social and economic development from a remote sensing perspective. During his fellowship at the Earth Institute, Gary will work with Cheryl Palm and the Tropical Agriculture Program on land cover and land use change, as well as on soil mapping in Africa. His research will focus on the use of remotely sensed satellite imagery of land cover and land usage to estimate natural, physical and human capital assets. Prior to his position at Columbia, Gary was a research assistant at the University of Southampton on a European Space Agency funded project to explore the best ways to collect leaf chlorophyll information from a new generation of satellites which will be launched in the near future.

Leigh Whittinghill (2012-2014 Cohort)

Leigh received her Ph.D. in horticulture from Michigan State University. Her dissertation focused on the use of green roof technology in vegetable production. Leigh will continue her work on these technologies and modes of carbon sequestration with Richard Plunz and Trish Culligan at the Urban Design Lab. Leigh received her B.A. in biology from Middlebury College with a minor in anthropology, after which she interned with the Student Conservation Association, Desert Restoration Corps in southern California.