EDF Summer Interns Bridge Science and Policy
The David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have partnered to bring together pioneering scientific research and results-focused environmental policy to address some of the biggest challenges facing our planet today. As part of this partnership, eight Cornell undergraduate and graduate students interned in EDF offices across the country last summer. Five of the interns were sponsored by David and Pat Atkinson and three by Jill and Ken Iscol. Students contributed to research and policy work in the Office of the Chief Scientist, Office of Economic and Policy Analysis, Oceans Program, and EDF Climate Corps. Here's more about each of these talented interns and their experiences with EDF.
Benefiting low-income customers through smart technologies
Nathaniel Haviland-Markowitz, Environmental Science '18
Nathaniel Haviland-Markowitz worked with the grid modernization team in EDF's New York City office. His projects included customer outreach for ConEd's new smart meter plan, research on how low-income customers might benefit from smart meters, and research on the benefits of electric vehicles. He says one of the best parts of being an intern at EDF was attending weekly brown-bag presentations on projects varying from China's new energy policies to fishery sustainability. "These projects allowed me to understand the incredibly broad scope of work that is undertaken by EDF, as well as meet other interns and understand their backgrounds."
Harnessing market forces for the environment
Zhehao Jin, Economic and Financial Policy MPA '17
Zhehao Jin's summer internship gave her the opportunity to work with the global climate team's Carbon Pricing Resource Center project. The team is helping design and implement market-based policies that reduce energy use and cut pollution. Zhehao's responsibilities included independent research on existing carbon pricing. Zhehao says, "I designed the basic structure of EDF’s future carbon pricing resource center webpage from scratch." She adds, "The internship gave me invaluable exposure to the global practices of harnessing market forces for environmental ends."
Finding creative solutions to big-picture challenges
Leah Kim, Applied Economics and Management '17
Leah Kim contributed to the Office of the Chief Scientist’s research on enteric methane emissions from cows—burps and flatulence—a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Leah investigated the effect of corn prices on cow diet formulation and enteric methane emissions. She learned new skills, such as how to use ration balancing software and how to craft a scientific paper for a peer-reviewed journal, and worked with collaborators at different institutions. She describes her internship as helping her to "see the big picture, gain quick learning abilities, and find solutions to challenges in conducting research."
Understanding social drivers of environmental behavior
Edmund Kong, Environmental Science and Sustainability ’17
Edmund Kong worked with the EDF's Oceans Program to help understand the social and psychological reasons why people fish illegally in the Upper Gulf of Mexico. Edmund worked with a team to create surveys for the Golfo de Santa Clara community and conducted background research on interventions designed to reduce illegal fishing.He says, "Before starting this internship I would have thought of illegal fishing interventions in terms of purely economic drivers. . . . But the reason why these environmental issues persist within these communities is that environmental protection efforts often lack the financial and human resources to solve the issue."
Helping guide a greener tomorrow
Megan McEnaney, Environmental Engineering ’17
Megan McEnaney helped update the EDF Climate Corps handbook during her summer internship. The handbook is a comprehensive guide to building energy management for the EDF Climate Corps fellows. Megan researched and drafted several new chapters focused on greenhouse gas emissions and the electrical grid. She says, "My experience at EDF . . . has solidified my desire to pursue an environmentally focused career. It has been such a joy and a privilege to work with a company so passionate about the environment and on a project that is revolutionizing the relationship between organizations and environmental conscientiousness."
Decreasing the methane footprint of milk
Tracy Potter, Animal Science ’16
Tracy Potter worked in the Office of the Chief Scientist in San Francisco on the effects of dairy cow health on production, economics, and environmental sustainability. “We investigated the effect of mastitis, a common disease on dairy farms that costs the dairy industry billions of dollars each year, on a cow’s ability to convert feed to milk and its effect on methane emissions per gallon of milk,” she says. “Decreasing the methane footprint per gallon of milk is an important step to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions as the demand for milk increases.” She adds, “I hope that EDF . . . can be part of the solution in helping farmers continue to be better stewards of the earth and feed the world."
Designing sustainable groundwater management policy
Kanishka Singh, Master of Public Administration ’17
Kanishka Singh worked in EDF's Office of Economic and Policy Analysis on the economics of groundwater management. He assisted EDF’s economists in developing a handbook for designing groundwater management institutions and a series of case studies that showcase how regions have successfully established rights-based management systems for groundwater. Kanishka says, "I was exposed to how research is designed, organized, and executed by economists at a prominent environmental advocacy organization. EDF has a wonderful work culture that encourages critical and innovative thinking, and many of my casual conversations with colleagues were very educational."
Increasing minority engagement in environmental issues
Diane Tarira, Computer Science/Psychology ’18
Diane Tarira worked in the Office of the Chief Scientist on bridging gaps in environmental engagement. Diane explored factors behind findings that some groups, such as Latinos, report strong concern about a wide range of environmental issues, but are substantially underrepresented in many mainstream environmental organizations. Diane says, "I truly enjoyed the hands-on experience and awesome work culture that EDF offered me. Throughout the summer, I felt that my work was truly making a difference on the environment and the Hispanic community."