State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Spring 2012 Internship Positions Announcement

This spring the Earth Institute, Columbia University is offering Columbia students opportunities to intern within various departments and research centers at the Earth Institute. All full-time Columbia and Barnard students are eligible to apply for internships. These internships are funded at a rate of $15/hr for 10 hours per week and up to a maximum of 120hrs for the spring 2012 semester. Please see below for the descriptions of ten internship opportunities.

  1. Fossil Fuel Reduction: Does using a public health rather than climate change frame make a difference?
  2. Conflict Resolution Alumni Development
  3. Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development
  4. Organization and project management tasks associated with IRI’s collaboration with the President’s Malaria Initiative
  5. Advocacy and Outreach for the African Green Revolution 2.0
  6. An evaluation of technology applications in the health sector (electronic and mobile health (e/mHealth)  initiatives) in select Millennium Villages Project sites
  7. Supporting the Millennium Cities Initiative
  8. Millennium Villages Project, Health Sector Internship
  9. Administrative Intern for the Center for Climate Change Law
  10. The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP): Assessment of Vulnerability, Capacity, and Preparatory Activities related to Food Security in AgMIP Regions

To apply:

To apply for these positions, please complete the online application available here, by January 29, 2012 at 11:59PM. While you may apply for more than one position, you must submit separate applications. Decisions will be made shortly after the deadline.

Please note that students who are awarded internships will be expected to participate in the Earth Institute Student Research Showcase, which takes place in spring 2012.

Please contact us at with any questions.

1. Fossil Fuel Reduction: Does using a public health rather than climate change frame make a difference?

Department/Center: Earth Institute Fellows (JM, NP) and Professor of International and Public Affairs (BO) /Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED)

Project description: In the U.S., policy related to climate change mitigation has stalled and the public views climate change as a low national priority (Leiserowitz 2006).  Because research has shown that the “framing” of an issue can have a significant influence on public opinion (Nisbet 2009), the public health and risk communication communities have recently begun to investigate framing climate change as a public health issue (Akerlof et al. 2010; Maibach et al. 2010; Semenza et al. 2011).  While these attempts may result in new, policy-relevant insight on perceptions of climate change, they still frame it as a problem that lies in the future.  What these efforts fail to capitalize on is the public health co-benefits of fossil fuel use reduction, which will be realized in the present day and will reduce the burden in cardiac and respiratory disease due to exposure to airborne pollutants.  Such benefits have been discussed in the scientific community for some time (Cifuentes et al. 2001), but there is no empirical evidence that the public recognizes them. Therefore, we propose to study whether elucidating the present day public health benefits of fossil fuel reduction will elicit attitudes that are conducive to climate change mitigation.

Anticipated intern tasks: The project will assess how views of fossil fuel use shift if it is framed as a public health, rather than solely environmental, issue.  We will use an online survey that will present a paragraph containing information about fossil fuels in each of the two frames and then ask the participants a series of questions to gauge their attitudes and beliefs.  Finally, we will ask the participants to donate a portion of their earnings from the study to an alternative energy non-profit, in order to ascertain their willingness to engage in actions.

The intern will have the opportunity to work within this interdisciplinary collaboration, gaining expertise from investigators with both a decision making (Petrovic, Orlove) and public health (Madrigano) background.  The intern will focus on three main tasks:

  1. Literature review and information gathering. The intern will help gather information on public health effects of fossil fuel reduction, which will be used for the informational paragraphs, as well as contribute to a literature review of previous framing experiments.
  2. Experimental design and administration.  Specifically, the intern will participate in developing the online survey instruments, recruiting the subjects, and administration of the survey.
  3. Data analysis.  The intern will help with online data collection, initial processing of data, and preliminary data analysis.

Skills required:

Academic interests: Climate change mitigation, public health, psychology.

Required: Experience with online survey tools (or equivalent experience with web-based applications), basic data collection and analysis, strong written and communication skills.

Preferred: A psychology major or student with experience in psychology research and specifically with survey design and advanced data analysis.

Type of student desired:  Undergraduate, Graduate, Ph.D

All levels may apply.

2. Conflict Resolution Alumni Development

Department/Center: Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4)

Project description: AC4’s mission is to communicate, engage with, and support interdisciplinary theory, research and practice related to violence prevention, conflict resolution and sustainable development and peace at Columbia University. An important group within our community is the alumni of Columbia University who have studied conflict resolution and are applying conflict resolution theory, practice and research to their fields. The ultimate objectives of this project are to 1) have a clear sense of where our alumni are, what they are doing and how they are applying what they learned; 2) develop ways to connect alumni in the field; 3) improve communication and mentorship between current students and alumni and 4) grow alumni base by establishing strong ties with current students. The intern will be directly supervised by the AC4 Assistant Director and will have the unique opportunity to work with at least two of AC4’s affiliates including the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at Teachers College and the Masters Program on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at the School of Continuing Education (NECR).

Description of anticipated intern tasks:

Data Management

  • Input data from Excel spreadsheets into an Access database
  • Strategize around what data should be included in the Alumni Database
  • Responsible for ensuring the Alumni database is updated and relevant for tracking

Alumni Outreach

  • Organize a phone and email blast campaign for Alumni development
  • Update database in accordance with responses from outreach campaign
  • Organize a focus group of Alumni
  • Strategize around how to jumpstart an Alumni mentoring program

Event Support

  • Support existing events which alumni are invited to attend
  • Brainstorm and take the lead on new events specifically geared toward Alumni
  • Responsible for event logistics including invitations, room reservations and managing guest list

Social Media

  • Manage LinkedIn accounts
  • Draft a social media strategy for alumni outreach
  • Gather feature stories/profiles of alumni for our website


  • Strategize around building a community amongst the conflict resolution student groups at Columbia
  • Update AC4 and others regarding the status of the project at monthly staff meetings, or as requested
  • Support alumni development and outreach of other AC4 affiliates, as appropriate.
  • Other related tasks as directed by AC4 Assistant Director

Skills required:

  • Interested in and knowledgeable about the field of conflict resolution
  • Comfortable with outreach  including phone calls and emails
  • Ability to work independently and as part of an interdisciplinary team
  • Some event planning experience is preferable
  • Excellent presentation skills
  • Experience with data entry is preferable
  • Experience with social media, especially LinkedIn
  • Proficient in the Microsoft suite, especially Excel and Access

Type of student desired:    Graduate—Masters Level; 20 hours/week

3. Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development

Department/Center: Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment

Project description and anticipated intern tasks:

The Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC) believes that the challenges of poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and governance should be addressed in an effective sustainability framework for foreign investment. The shared goal for companies, host-country governments and civil society is an investment framework that promotes sustainable development and the mutual trust needed for long-term investments.  The extractive industries face a special need for such trust, given the massive long-term investments that they undertake in poor and potentially unstable countries.  For investors to succeed and for host-countries to reap the potential benefits of such investments, a mutually agreeable sustainable investment framework should last for decades and accommodate unexpected shocks that will arise during the lifetime of the investments.

The VCC is undertaking research to provide resources and tools for an effective framework, focusing on the challenges of governance (fair and efficient negotiations, contracts, policy and planning framework, the long-term economic relationship of companies and communities, sound resource management), infrastructure (concession arrangements for shared platforms, corridor development), economic diversification (industrial policy, training, local procurement), environmental management (climate change resilience and adaptation, avoidance and management of catastrophic environmental events), and economic development (promoting economic development and human rights at the community and country levels).

Working with students and faculty at Columbia Law School, the Earth Institute, the School for International and Public Affairs, the Business School and other schools at Columbia University, the VCC is undertaking qualitative and quantitative research to bolster the framework and to assist policy-makers, corporate executives and other stakeholders make informed decisions in their respective activities. Current research projects include analyses of how to maximize the employment impacts of natural resource investments, innovative models for infrastructure concessions, tools for optimizing competitive bidding procedures, the impacts on corporate performance of disclosures of payments to governments, and cumulative impact assessments of competing land and water uses in vulnerable regions, among others.

This research will then be integrated into the VCC’s (and broader Earth Institute’s) advisory projects with Governments of resource-rich countries, including Mozambique, East Timor, Guinea and others, working to ensure that the host populations reap a major boost to economic development from their resource endowments, while also respecting the profitability of private-sector investments in these important projects. The research will also be incorporated into new masters-level courses and executive training courses to introduce current and future policy-makers to a holistic understanding of how investment in oil, mining and gas can be leveraged for sustainable development.

The VCC is seeking student researchers to assist with specific research projects within the overall framework development, depending on the background and interests of the applicants and selectee.

The student researcher would, for instance, document and assess existing models for infrastructure concessions; research and document processes and resources for effective competitive bidding procedures; help design computer modeling tools for governments to more comprehensively and practicably understand the cumulative impacts of competing land and water uses when making decisions about investments; survey and analyze public and private policies to promote the use of local content (goods and labor); quantitatively measure the impacts on corporate performance of disclosures of payments to governments; etc.  In each case, students will also evaluate how “successful” models or examples in each of these areas has been measured and/or defined, and importantly, how these models or lessons can be adapted to different contexts and better implemented in the future to achieve real development outcomes. Finally, the students may be involved in practical assignments related to the country-based implementation projects, to experience and contribute to the application of the work in practice.

Students will also have the opportunity to continue working on the project during the summer and fall of 2012.

Skills required:

The ideal candidates will be interested in sustainable development, foreign investment, and/or extractive industries and natural resource management. As research staff will be overseeing each dimension of the project, students with particular interest in any of the research areas can specialize exclusively in that area. The ideal candidates will have astute research, analytical and writing skills and enjoy working with on a team.

Type of student desired:   Graduate or Ph.D

4. Organization and project management tasks associated with IRI’s collaboration with the President’s Malaria Initiative

Department/Center: International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) 

Project description:

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) is supporting malaria control in 15 high malaria burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa. PMI aims to achieve 85% coverage of vulnerable populations with key interventions, and a 50% reduction in malaria-related mortality. PMI supports key proven interventions: insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying (IRS), intermittent preventive treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). Since 2010, PMI has been conducting impact evaluations to determine whether its stated goals have been achieved. However, the methodology used in these evaluations has not accounted for the impact of climate on malaria transmission.

PMI has therefore developed a partnership with the International Research Institute (IRI) in order to incorporate climate analysis into their impact evaluation reports.

This is a pilot project from which we expect to develop a larger programme of work involving 13 countries in the spring.

Description of anticipated intern tasks:

The intern will work primarily on the following three tasks during the Spring 2012 semester:

  • Develop a project site within the web-based project management tool that will facilitate coordination and communication between IRI and the following groups:
    • Columbia University partners: Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Mailman School of Public Health and the Millennium Villages Project.
    • Non-Columbia partners:  PMI – USAID, Center for Disease Control, meteorology services in Africa
  • Assist with the scaling-up of the larger 13 country project by identifying potential research partners in each country and adding these partners to the project site within
  • Develop a 3-page outline summarizing how the project site should be used. This outline will be distributed to all partners in order to maximize the impact of the site in facilitating collaboration among partners.

Note: minimal computer science or programming skills are required given that the has an easy user interface for customization to specific projects

Skills required:

Academic interests: global health, international development

Skills: strong writing and communication skills

Students from following departments preferred: E3B, Economics, Environmental Biology, Environmental Policy, Sustainable Development, Computer Science

5. Advocacy and Outreach for the African Green Revolution 2.0

Department/Center: Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program

Project description and anticipated intern tasks:

The intern will provide support to the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program (TropAg) team around advocacy, outreach, and knowledge management – both for internal and external audiences.

The Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program is dedicated to addressing the interactions between agricultural production, environmental quality and human well-being. In addition to our many scientific activities, we also have various activities to share our work with a broader community.

Some of the activities relevant for the intern include:

  • Updating the TropAg website
  • Putting together short briefs on Trop Ag’s main areas of work: agriculture, nutrition, and environment
  • Assisting research staff to plan conferences and other meetings with our collaborators
  • Support management of intern process for interns working in MVP sites

In addition, the intern would help with internal management and knowledge sharing. This would include support on the following activities.

  • Assist drafting of grant applications and/or grant progress reports
  • Assisting TropAg’s managers with the layout and content of TropAg’s internal sharepoint website
  • Organizing and maintaining TropAg’s library and publication database

The intern will also provide research support as needed for TropAg research staff. This could include assistance with gathering background literature (conducting and writing summaries) and drafting pieces of reports, compiling bibliographies and references, conducting searches for requested materials, and other related tasks.

* Note: The intern can work remotely part of the time and will be expected to work at the Lamont campus once a week.

Skills required: Standard computer skills, interest in agriculture and environment

Type of student desired:  Junior or Senior Undergraduate Student or Graduate Student

6. An evaluation of technology applications in the health sector (electronic and mobile health (e/mHealth) initiatives) in select Millennium Villages Project sites

Department/Center: Health Information Systems/Medical Informatics

Project description and anticipated intern tasks:

The intern will work closely with and report to the eHealth Program Manager, Bennett Nemser.  The Director of Health Information Systems/Medical Informatics, Dr Andrew S. Kanter, will be kept informed and consulted, as needed.

The intern will be responsible for:

  • Conduct literature reviews on e/mHealth  initiatives to further inform the evaluation and analyses
  • Maintaining the literature database
  • Provide administrative support for and participate in team meetings (including taking meeting minutes and sending out reminders)
  • Help prepare documentation and presentation materials of the e/mHealth  interventions for distribution to broader audiences and scale up to other sites.

Skills required:

The intern should have:

  • Experience in conducting literature reviews
  • Demonstrated interest in public health, development and/or technology
  • Project management experience and ability to multi-task
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills

Familiarity with eHealth tools such as OpenMRS/ODK/ChildCount+ preferred but not required

7. Supporting the Millennium Cities Initiative

Department/Center: Millennium Cities Initiative, Earth Institute

Project description:

The Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI), launched in 2006, is the Earth Institute’s urban counterpart to the Millennium Villages Project. The MCI assists selected mid‐sized cities across sub-Saharan Africa in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  The MCI’s strategy comprises two principal components: promoting sustainable investment and building viable social services sectors. With an array of programs in the areas of education, health, gender and water/sanitation, as well as significant projects concentrating on business development, infrastructure and the environment, MCI is a rapidly expanding, dynamic organization.

The Intern will be expected to provide administrative support to MCI’s Project Manager and Special Assistant to ensure that MCI’s programmatic and administrative needs during the Fall semester are met.

Description of anticipated intern tasks:

  • Assist with key administrative matters including processing reimbursements and payments, managing MCI’s Sharepoint site, preparing budgets, and updating the MCI website;
  • Assist with development and communications matters, including researching funding opportunities and writing funding proposals;
  • Assist with planning events such as fundraisers and meetings by researching event spaces and catering options, printing necessary materials, etc.;
  • Assisting with editing of publications as necessary;
  • Support MCI’s research as needed by the Project Manager and Special Assistant by summarizing documents, collecting data and gathering resources;
  • Assisting the Project Manager and Special Assistant with other tasks as they arise.

This is an excellent opportunity for an undergraduate student seeking hands-on experience in the areas of international development, urban planning and program management.

Skills required:

  • Strong writing skills and ability to produce written material quickly and efficiently, with minimal guidance;
  • Superior knowledge of Excel and all Microsoft Office applications;
  • Superior organizational skills and experience managing events, whether through on-campus/volunteer activities or through previous work or internship experience;
  • Financial/budgeting experience is highly desirable;
  • French language skills are highly desirable;
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to work collaboratively;
  • Ability to handle pressure and stress, accept constructive feedback and maintain a sense of humor and diplomacy;
  • Knowledge of and proven interest in international development, Africa, the Millennium Development Goals, urban development issues and/or program management.

Type of student desired:   Undergraduate, Graduate, Ph.D

8. Millennium Villages Project, Health Sector Internship

Department/Center: Millennium Villages Project, The Earth Institute

Project description and anticipated intern tasks:

The Health Sector Intern will support the administrative and programmatic needs of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) Health Team at the Earth Institute (EI).  To that end, he/she will assist the Health Program Coordinator in the following areas:

  • Information Management – support management and upkeep of knowledge management sharing platform (Sharepoint)
  • Administrative Processes – help liaise with Columbia University administrative offices, including Accounts Payable, Human Resources, Purchasing, IT, Finance, as well as with other Columbia Centers and Departments
  • Meeting Support – attend Health Team meetings and provide minute-taking and follow-up support
  • Programmatic Support – support the Health Program Coordinator and the Director of Health in the research, strategy, planning, and coordination of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Newborn Care interventions for the Millennium Villages
  • Partnership Support – support communication and coordination with current and potential programmatic partners, including prominent international public health and development organizations

This is a great opportunity for any student interested in international development and/or global public health to gain exposure to the inner workings of an innovative project aimed towards helping rural African communities lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Skills required:

  • Strong organizational, prioritization, and time management skills
  • Ability to manage multiple projects and assignments of a time-sensitive nature
  • Adept in the use of Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word
  • Dedicated, reliable, upbeat, and able to work independently
  • Administrative experience in a non-profit and/or academic environment a plus
  • Interest in international development and global public health

Type of student desired:  All students welcome to apply

9. Administrative Intern for the Center for Climate Change Law

Department/Center: Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law

Project description and anticipated intern tasks:

The Center for Climate Change Law has several ongoing administrative projects that could greatly benefit from the assistance of an intern.  First, the Center for Climate Change Law maintains a Climate Law Bibliography that serves as an online collection of various publications relating to key climate change issue areas.  This bibliography, which practitioners and researchers have reported in the past has served as a very valuable tool, has not been updated or reorganized since 2010.  Approximately 50% of an administrative intern’s time would be spent updating this online resource.

Additionally, we could use assistance with the general maintenance and organization of the Center for Climate Change Law’s website.  This task will consist of uploading new content, removing outdated content and reorganizing existing materials on the website for easier use.  We estimate that this work will occupy another 30% of an intern’s time.

We also have a Climate Change Law blog that has amassed over one-hundred entries that need to be categorized into relevant topics, which would be listed at the top of our blog to render it more reader-friendly.  We estimate that this work will occupy the remaining 20% of an intern’s time.

Skills required: Some basic knowledge of web management; more advanced web design skills would be a plus, but are not required.

Type of student desired:   Undergraduate, Graduate, Ph.D

10. The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP): Assessment of Vulnerability, Capacity, and Preparatory Activities related to Food Security in AgMIP Regions

Department/Center: Earth Institute CCSR and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Project description and anticipated intern tasks:

This intern will continue work begun this Fall Semester with a focus on food security in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which are the two primary focus regions for the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP; see  AgMIP is committed to assessing food security risks under a variety of climate change scenarios and building scientific capacity in these developing regions, but a first step is to assess the current state of capacity and recognition of food security vulnerability.  This intern will examine the National Programme of Adaptation (NAPA) or similar adaptation planning documents for countries in these regions, focusing on the agricultural sector and helping to build a baseline database of existing adaptation plans, capacity, and ongoing activities.  The intern will also directly support AgMIP Workshops planned for Kenya (in January) and India (in February), and will analyze the national reports to identify regional patterns and transferable approaches.

Likely outputs: (i) Improved report on identified climate vulnerabilities and adaptation plans for Sub-Saharan Africa; broken down by Eastern, Southern, and West Africa (ii) Improved report on identified climate vulnerabilities and adaptation plans for South Asia; (iii) Improved report highlighting noteworthy partners and activities worth additional attention; (iv) Report analyzing regional vulnerabilities and transferable adaptation plans.

Other activities: As part of the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research team, the intern may also participate in other AgMIP-related activities, research, and report preparation

Skills required: Strong written communication skills; ability to work independently and as part of a team; interest in climate change, agriculture, and economics; experience in Africa or South Asia a plus; proficiency in French also desired (although not required)

Type of student desired: Graduate or Ph.D

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