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Summer Environmental Fellowhips: 2011

Scroll down for complete list of awarded fellowships. To read students' summaries, click on names.

Divya Balaji '14 - Prey of the King Cobra: Agumbe Rainforest Research Station

Erin Carter '12 - Following the Food Trail: Is “locavore” more than a marketing ploy?

Alyssa Cheung '12 - Assessing the State of Mangroves and the Effectiveness of Community-based Mangrove Management in southern Thailand

Zoe Cheung '12 - Variability in Ecosystem Function at Different Magnitudes of Temperature Fluctuations

Ray Crouch '14 - Tropical Ecology in Costa Rica

Josh Evans '12 - This Is How We Eat: Development and Communications Internship and Sustainable Food Systems Research with the Edible Schoolyard NYC

Anna Rose Gable '13 - Soil Management, Experimentation, and Communication Among Small Farmers in the Georgia Piedmont

Reid Magdanz '12 - Subsistence Policy on National Park Lands in Alaska

Dakota McCoy '12 - Behavior and Conservation Research in Puerto Rica

Eli Mitchell-Larson '12 - Isotopic Characterization and Paleoclimate Reconstruction from non-Tropical Mediterranean Corals

Daniel Olson '12 - Internship with Friends of the Earth-Middle East

Jeannette Penniman '12 - Smart Growth Internship with the Natural Resources Defense Council

Daksha Rajagopalan '12 - The Impacts of Climate Change on the Arctic

Charlene Ramos '13 - Swiss Federal Environmental Policy Economic Impact Assessment

Aspen Reese '12 - Behavior and Post-Cranial Morphological Variation Between Pika Ecotypes

Holly Rippon-Butler '12 - Sheep, Trees, and Nitrogen – a Summer in Lake Taupo, New Zealand

Erin Shutte '12 - International Climate Change Finance for Small Island States

Catherine Sheard '12 - Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) Conservation in Bifengxia, Sichuan, China

James Shirvell '14 - Kdr Allele Frequencies and Equatorial Guinea

David Skophammer '12 - Sustainable Building Analysis in the United Kingdom

Chandrika Srivastava '12 - Sustaining Cities: Saving Energy and Reducing Carbon Emissions

Joy Sun '12 - How can Chinese societal groups and NGOs be mobilized to champion China's environmental law and environmental movement?

Dacia Thompson '12 - Distribution and Quality of a Guatemalan Water System

Kaylee Weil '12 - Determining the Role of Nitrogen in the Invasion of the Non-Native Plant, Phragmites australis

Lucia Woo '13 - Pollution Source Survey and Assessment of the Farm River Watershed in East Haven and Branford

Michael Wysolmerski '12 - History Curation at the Smithsonian Museum

Divya Balaji '14

Prey of the King Cobra: Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, Western Ghats, India: The Summer Environmental Fellowship enabled me to travel to and carry out a research project in the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station in the Western Ghats of the India. I collected data for my research project on ‘The effects of rainforest fragmentation on the biodiversity of herpeto-fauna’, saw a few King Cobra rescue operations and a variety of endemic herpeto-fauna. In short, I had the most amazing summer and in a month and a half in the forests, I learnt more than I ever did in a classroom.

Erin Carter '12

Following the Food Trail: Is “locavore” more than a marketing ploy? Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Working in the city of Philadelphia, I researched the use of locally sources foods in urban restaurants. Throughout my research, I chose to focus on tomato usage. I found that since I was in close proximity to Lancaster county, the Philadelphia area has easy access to many local Amish farms that supply fresh produce to the city on a weekly basis. From the information that I collected from restaurants and farms, I was able to create a baseline of data needed to pursue a more detailed LCA analysis of the tomato.

Alyssa Cheung '12

Assessing the State of Mangroves and the Effectiveness of Community-based Mangrove Management in southern Thailand, Ban Chao Mai, Thailand: I spent the summer in a small Andaman fishing village in southern Thailand, learning about local coastal restoration efforts. My research focused on understanding community mangrove management, identifying the successes and the obstacles faced by communities using this model.

Zoe Cheung '12

Variability in Ecosystem Function at Different Magnitudes of Temperature Fluctuations, Yale Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, New Haven, Connecticut: Temporal variation is a ubiquitous feature of all natural ecosystems, and ecologists have long been interested in how environmental fluctuations shape and structure ecosystems. Ecosystem function is intimately tied with community structure and diversity, so understanding how environmental fluctuations affect species persistence and coexistence is particularly important for predicting the ecological impacts of increasing climate variability. While the degree of temporal variation in environmental fluctuations may be more important in shaping community structure and ecosystem function than long-term mean conditions, the nature of these effects remains largely unknown. The effects of different magnitudes of temperature fluctuations on the temporal stability of ecosystem function were experimentally investigated in aquatic protist microcosms by tracking species density, average cell mass, and species biomass for 65 days. Species density remained consistent under the constant temperature treatment, but fluctuated in each of the three variable temperature treatments. Average cell mass and species biomass were also expected to be variable with the fluctuating temperature treatments.

Ray Crouch '14

Tropical Ecology in Costa Rica, Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica: This summer I participated in a tropical biology course through the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica. I was one of 24 students who did field work for a month in four different rainforest sites: La Selva, Monteverde, Paloverde, and Las Cruces. Each site had a unique ecology and habitat to study—La Selva is a premiere research institute consisting mostly of primary mature forest, Monteverde is a cloud forest often encased in fog at high elevations, Paloverde is a seasonal dry forest of recovered ranch and marsh land, and Las Cruces holds a prominent botanical garden and recently acquired secondary forest land. We did experiments, presentations, and wrote scientific papers in groups at each location and had lectures from local as well as prominent scientists in various tropical biology and tropical ecology fields. The course culminated in an independent project and paper at Las Cruces. My time in Costa Rica was fascinating and enriched me with vital experience in the field. I came back with a better understanding of what I wanted to do for my concentration in the environmental studies major.

Josh Evans '12

This Is How We Eat: Development and Communications Internship and Sustainable Food Systems Research with the Edible Schoolyard NYC, Edible Schoolyard NYC, New York City, New York: I spent my summer as a Development and Communications Intern with the barely year-old Edible Schoolyard NYC, where I coordinated workdays, designed print and web materials, drafted grant applications, created a media database and social media plan, and worked in the garden, helping to bring good food to New York City through growing, cooking, and eating with students and their families.  The program teaches children about the connections between food, health, and the environment, in an aim to address the complicated and interrelated issues of modern society through good food.  My goals for the summer involved examining how public space and interactive food-related programming can be used to enhance the vitality, sustainability, and overall health of urban communities.

Anna Rose Gable '13

Soil Management, Experimentation, and Communication Among Small Farmers in the Georgia Piedmont, Piedmont Region, Georgia: How are small farmers in the Piedmont region of Georgia becoming “native” to the poor soils left behind by two centuries of monoculture? How do they define sustainability, and what networks help them share and generate new knowledge? I carried out a collection of interviews and soil tests with small farmers all over the region, bookended by a bicycle ride smack through the middle of it, visits to the University of Georgia Sustainable Agriculture office, and a conference in Kentucky for sustainable agriculture educators, and interrupted midway through by a trip to the Mecca of the sustainable agriculture world – Northern California.

Reid Magdanz '12

Subsistence Policy on National Park Lands in Alaska, Anchorage and Kotzebue, Alaska: My summer research focused on management of traditional consumptive uses of national parklands established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). I split my summer between Anchorage and Kotzebue, Alaska, conducting library research and interviewing dozens of National Park Service and other federal agency employees in both locations, local leaders and subsistence users in Kotzebue, and residents, elders, and leaders of Noatak, an Iñupiaq Eskimo village in which I spent two days. I also arranged a visit with an Iñupiaq man who lives within a National Preserve near Noatak and has a long history with the Park Service. The research provided me heaps of data for my senior essay and also gave me an invaluable front-lines perspective on traditional ways of life in rural Alaska.

Dakota McCoy '12

Behavior and Conservation Research in Puerto Rico, Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico: One of the cognitive capacities that we often take for granted is the ability to think about what others are thinking. Recently, researchers have begun studying how we develop this ability to think about others’ mental states, a capacity called “a theory of mind.” Specifically, the ability to understand false beliefs of others is oft-considered a standard indicating a full understanding of others’ mental states. In this study, we examine whether non-human primates—rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)— share this cognitive characteristic with humans. Rhesus macaques were presented with a series of events involving fruit hidden in boxes: in some events, the presenter acted in a manner consistent wither false beliefs; in other events, the presenter acted in a way consistent with the true state of the world but inconsistent with her false beliefs. Monkeys, like infants, look longer at unexpected events. Therefore, analysis of the length of looking-time for each event reveals whether or not the monkeys understand the false beliefs of others and, by extension, whether monkeys have a “theory of mind.”

Puerto Rico is home to a number of highly unique ecological sites and several rare indigenous species, all of which present specific and unusual challenges to United States Ecosystem Management Groups. This project aimed to understand the environmental factors which created each unique ecosystem and to examine the strategies used by ecosystem management groups to preserve these habitats. To achieve this, multiple trips were taken to the sites to examine their unique ecology and observe indigenous endangered fauna and interviews were held with ecosystem managers and conservationists. Two sites were examined in detail: El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the United States, which is managed by the Equipo de Manejos de Ecosistemas; and Mosquito Bay at Vieques, the most permanent and pristine example of a bioluminescent bay in the world, which is managed by the Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust. Additionally, the critically endangered Puerto Rican Amazon Parrot was observed in the wild, and the effectiveness of the recovery plan (including dispersal and location of breeding facilities) was analyzed.

Eli Mitchell-Larson '12

Isotopic Characterization and Paleoclimate Reconstruction from Non-tropical Mediterranean Corals, Mljet, Croatia and Paris, France: Past climate reconstructions provide a frame of reference to contextualize the severity and character of modern climate change. This project will calibrate geochemical data (trace metals and isotopic abundances) derived from Mediterranean corals to known environmental conditions (sea-surface temperature), and then reconstruct ancient temperatures using fossils of the same species. The project will test the accuracy and resolution of two new stable isotope techniques, clumped isotopes and magnesium isotopes, that have never been applied to non-tropical corals, and will give insight into climatic variation during the warmest interglacial period, one of the closest allegories we have for modern anthropogenic climate change.

Daniel Olson '12

Internship with Friends of the Earth-Middle East, Tel Aviv, Israel: This summer I had the pleasure of working with Friends of the Earth Middle East, a non-profit regional organization that promotes trans-boundary solutions to the water crisis in Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. I worked in their Tel Aviv office for eight weeks, from June 26th through August 17th. Primarily, I collected data for a project I will continue this year which seeks to measure pollution risk to the recharge areas of the Mountain Aquifer underneath the West Bank. I also helped out with a GIS class in southern Israel sponsored by Friends of the Earth, wrote curriculum for kids about the region’s scarce water resources, and contributed to the organization’s social media efforts.

Jeannette Penniman '12

Smart Growth Internship with the Natural Resources Defense Coundil, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, New York: I spent nine weeks working at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s New York City office, primarily on a project dealing with smart growth and regional planning. Based on similar policy structures in place in California and elsewhere, the Cleaner, Greener Communities program is meant to guide regional growth in New York State by compelling municipalities to develop comprehensive long-term plans for development, and fund specific projects through a competitive grants program. While I was focused mainly on research for the project—compiling reference materials on various smart growth strategies that municipalities might use, and reading and analyzing related reports— the exposure to the process of policy-making (collaboration between an organization and government agencies) was an especially formative experience. The new familiarity with planning and smart growth strategies, government policy, and the work environment of the NRDC (where staff and interns were extremely accessible and willing to share their own projects/work) ended up being totally invaluable in helping me shape how I think about my interests and career.

Daksha Rajagopalan '12

The Impacts of Climate Change in the Arctic, NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates, Ny Ålesund, Norway: This summer, I spent four weeks with a team of scientists and the midnight sun, living in the northernmost permanent settlement in the world: an Arctic research and monitoring base. The Arctic tundra is one of the most sensitive environments to climate change, and our REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) group of six students and two professors (and a school teacher!) were studying the processes affecting the melt of a tidewater glacier to gain a better understanding of the impacts of climate change. Living in Ny Ålesund at 79º N, we studied the Kronebreen and Kongsvegen glaciers, and we each developed our own research focus over the course of the fieldwork. My individual project involved collecting oceanographic data in Kongsfjorden, and I will use this fieldwork to model fjord circulation near the glacier face, which is important in its impact on glacier melt.

Charlene Ramos '13

Swiss Federal Environmental Policy Economic Impact Assessment, ETH Zurich, Switzerland: Extensive literature on public good experiments analyze within which context will participants be more inclined to contribute towards public goods provision rather than free ride. Thus, literature that explores the extent to which social identity affects social preferences and behavior can help policy makers to induce efficient voluntary provisions of public goods by understanding in what settings and with what participants will someone choose to contribute.In this project, we apply the same ideas toSwiss identity and public goods experiments. Switzerland is a country made up of 26 cantons and four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Switzerland’s diverse, yet unique environment could potentially provide enlightening insight towards how people connect nationally, regionally, and even linguistically.For example, this entails observing how much a Swiss German would donate towards a public good knowing that another Swiss German donated 100 Francs. Would the Swiss German's contribution change if it were a Swiss French that donated 100 Francs? How about if it were an Italian? A foreigner? Etc. All in all, this project could deliver insight towards evaluating the economic effectiveness of a Swiss federal environmental policy by considering what role identity plays in the cantonal differences found in implementation initiatives and the willingness to pay for the regulation or provision of an environmental resource or service.

Aspen Reese '12

Behavior and Post-Cranial Morphological Variation Between Pika Ecotypes, Mongolia and Alaska: The objective of this project was to study variation in morphology and behavior of pika (genus: Ochotona).  Species of pika live in either high alpine habitat or open steppe. These represent two ecotypes for those that live in the steppe burrow while those that are found in mountains live in rocky crevices. To determine if these ecological differences are reflected in the skeletal morphology of pika, postcrania of museum specimens were measured and will be analyzed based on species and ecotype. Pika behavior was observed in the field in Mongolia and Alaska, and Alaskan pika locomotion was scored to isolate the role of leaping in their locomotor repetoire. Further analyses will be conducted in the fall preceding a formal write up of the research.

Holly Rippon-Butler '12

Sheep, Trees, and Nitrogen - A Summer in Lake Taupo, New Zealand, Taupo, New Zealand: I spent five weeks this summer in Taupo, New Zealand working with the WaikatoRegional Council to learn about the work they do on nitrogen runoff, sustainable forestry, andriparian management. Three days a week, I worked in the Taupo office talking to staff members,reading policy, and going on field visits to logging and riparian sites. The rest of the time Iconducted an independent ethnography project learning aboutNew Zealand agriculture while working with and talking to farmersin the Lake Taupo catchment and surrounding area. Thanks to the support of this fellowship, Taupo, New Zealand is not just a page in theLonely Planet guidebook for me anymore, it’s full of people and ideas that I know I will revisit.

Erin Shutte '12

International Climate Change Finance for Small Island States, Bonn, Germany and Seychelles: This summer I focused on international climate change finance for small island developing states. I negotiated these issues and was part of the Seychelles Delegation at a United Nations climate change intersessional meeting in Bonn, Germany. Additionally, I spent six weeks in Seychelles conducting political science research on financing for climate change in Seychelles and the development of a sustainable development strategy.

Catherine Sheard '12

Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) Conservation in Bifengxia, Sichuan, China, Bifengxia, Sichuan, China: With funding from the Environmental Studies Fellowship, I was able to volunteer for a month at the Bifengxia Giant Panda Research Base in China’s Sichuan Province. Bifengxia contains the largest captive populations of pandas in the world, 76 of the approximately 250 captive pandas and 1600 wild pandas in the world. They are the seat of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP), the main panda research organization founded by the Chinese government and the World Wildlife Fun. At the base, I was responsible for the daily care of six adult giant pandas.

James Shirvell '13

Kdr Allele Frequencies and Equatorial Guinea, Yale Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, New Haven, Connecticut: In 2007, the nation of Equatorial Guinea embarked upon a comprehensive anti-malaria program, which included indoor residual spraying (IRS) of pyrethroid insecticides as well as distribution of pyrethroid-impregnated bed nets.It may be that increased sporozoite rates (infectivity) among Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, the primary vector of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, are positively correlated with the selection for a point mutations conferring genetic “knockdown” resistance (kdr) in response to intensive application of pyrethroid insecticides. We hypothesize that increased genetic resistance may confer a fitness advantage over susceptible mosquitoes which would result in mosquitoes carrying resistance alleles to live longer in the presence of insecticides. This would permit an increased opportunity to imbibe infectious blood meals and transmit the malaria parasite to susceptible human hosts over susceptible mosquitoes killed by exposure to pyrethroid insecticides. To evaluate this hypothesis we performed molecular analyses to detect the presence of the kdr point and Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites (the infectious stage of the parasite) mutation in the whole genomic DNA extracted from mosquitoes collected at ten sentinel sites before and after the start of anti-malaria interventions.

David Skophammer '12

Sustainable Building Analysis in the United Kingdom, Atelier Ten, London, United Kingdom: My summer research project, an investigation into green building practices in central London, emphasized the environmental strategies of the consulting firm Atelier Ten.  The first several weeks of the project were designed to allow me to explore answers to my central research question: how do external factors, such as public policy and third-party building certification schemes, affect the design practices of Atelier Ten in the United Kingdom.  More specifically, I chose to investigate passive solar strategies to see how they differ between the UK and the United States.  The next several weeks of the project were devoted to a wider range of site visits to observe daylighting design in the city, and I spent several days in the archives at the Royal Institute of British Architects researching green building practices in a broader context.  I discovered that a direct comparison of green building practices between the U.S. and the UK is difficult because of the difference in industry drivers.  Legislative requirements, local planning requirements, and corporate responsibility pressures, tend to zero the focus of London’s built environment to reducing carbon output.  LEED, on the other hand, tends to favor a more integrated approach to building practices in the United States. 

Chandrika Srivastava '12

Sustaining Cities: Saving Energy and Reducing Carbon Emissions, India: summary not available

Joy Sun '12

How can Chinese societal groups and NGOs be mobilized to champion China's environmental law and environmental movement? Beijing, China: In the summer of 2011, I spent 9 weeks in Beijing investigating and unfolding contemporary China’s environmental movement. While I originally aimed to frame my research within the context of China’s growing NGO force, contradictions and frustrations along the way eventually caused me to give up this angle and instead focus on a more holistic story, which demanded discussions about the power of the various levels of the Chinese government and the internet’s role in encouraging citizen participation. While in Beijing, I participated in a weeklong civic society conference hosted by PKU as well as worked with The Research Center for Contemporary China. Professor Yan from the research center directed me to many quantitative resources that helped me to clarify the Chinese public’s sentiment towards Chinese society and the environment. Towards the end of my research, I modeled a survey after one of the longitudinal studies and conducted a survey of Beijing college student’s attitude towards the environment and civic society.

Dacia Thompson '12

Distribution and Quality of a Guatemalan Water System, Las Nubes, Guatemala: I spent most of the summer in studying drinking water in a rural community in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. People receive water to taps at their homes every other day, so they store water for the off days in a “pila,” which is a large, open tank. I did a time-lapse analysis of the bacterial content of the water in the pila, focusing on E. Coli and other fecal coliforms. I incubated the water samples on petrifilms at a national hospital and found that the water was highly contaminated, with a trend of increasing bacterial colonies as the water sat in the pila for more time and people reached into it more. I also explored the source of the water and the distribution system that delivers it.

Kaylee Weil '12

Determining the Role of Nitrogen in the Invasion of the Non-Native Plant, Phragmites australis, Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia: This summer, I was working at Assateague Island National Seashore in the Natural Resource Management department. During my time there, I put together an independent research project focused on Phragmites australis, a non-native highly invasive species. The Phragmites population has dramatically increased in recent years, displacing less resilient native plant communities and having an adverse effect on various habitats. My goal was to analyze the early stage growth of Phragmites when coupled with two different shrubs, one nitrogen-fixing and one non-nitrogen fixing. The objective of my project was to determine if Morella cerifera (a nitrogen-fixing shrub) has a positive effect on Phragmites australis in early stage growth. The idea was that if we could determine what the positive growth factors were in the field, we could develop a more effective plan for eradication or at least control.

Lucia Woo '13

Pollution Source Survey and Assessment of the Farm River Watershed in East Haven and Branford, Yale Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, New Haven, Connecticut: Water quality is an undisputedly crucial component of both human health and environmental stability in an ecosystem. The summers of the years 2010 and 2011 saw persistent elevated levels of fecal coliform in various beaches and rivers in East Haven and Branford that mostly prohibited recreational shellfishing and led to repeated beach closures. Water samples at strategic locations along Farm River, which feeds into several of these beaches, were collected in attempts to identify possible pollution sources. The DNA extractions of the samples were then analyzed using the conventional and quantitative PCR processes to determine the concentration of Bacteroids. Reliable quantitative data for the proportion of Bacteroids from human sources could not be regularly produced for most samples due to improperly amplifying standards and extremely sensitive nature of the laboratory procedures undertaken. However, the quantitative data for total concentration of Bacteroids and the qualitative data that indicated the presence of Bacteroids from human sources proved to be instrumental in identifying the area between Main Street and River Street as a significant pollutant contributor to Farm River.

Michael Wysolmerski '12

History Curation at the Smithsonian Museum, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Washington, DC: This summer I received an Environmental Summer Fellowship to work at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C. I worked on the Museum’s Urban Waterways Project. The Urban Waterways Project is a research and educational initiative that is investigating the relationship between communities and urban waterways using the Anacostia River and Watershed as its primary example, and it will culminate in the Reclaiming the Edge exhibit scheduled to open in Fall 2012. I was a research intern for the project, and my primary responsibility was to research and write a report on the history of the Army Corps of Engineers’ involvement with the Anacostia River. Overall, the experience was very rewarding and instructive and I plan to build on it for my senior essay this year by further investigating a specific time period of Army Corps action on the Anacostia.

 

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