State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

DEADLINE EXTENDED–Apply to an internship today

By Cari Shimkus

The Earth Institute is offering undergraduate, graduate and PhD students with opportunities to intern in various departments and research centers in a variety of administration, communications and research roles. Interns work on a variety of sustainability-focused projects across The Earth Institute. These projects provide interns with hands-on workplace experience, allowing them to grow professionally while The Earth Institute centers benefit from their meaningful contributions.

All full-time Columbia and Barnard students are eligible to apply for internships. These internships are funded at a rate of $15 per hour for up to 10 hours a week for 12 weeks (a maximum of 120 hours during the semester). The positions include:

  1. AgMIP Communications Intern
  2. Augmented Reality in Earth Science
  3. Data-driven analysis of contamination in U.S. waterways
  4. IPCC Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere
  5. Lamont Education and Outreach Intern
  6. Microplastics in the waters around New York – How widespread and how toxic?
  7. MOOC on “Natural Resources for Sustainable Development: The Fundamentals of Oil, Gas, and Mining”
  8. Soil Impacts of Nitrogen Fixing Trees
  9. Sustainable Peace Project
  10. Understanding Resilience of Children, Youth and Communities in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
  11. Using Lipid Biomarkers to Examine Human-Environment Interactions in Viking Age Norway
  12. Yuva Nestham Youth Empowerment Program

To apply:

Complete the online application available here by September 14, 2017 at 11:55pm (NEW DEADLINE). While you may apply for more than one position, you must submit separate applications for each. Decisions will be made shortly after the deadline.

Students who are awarded internships will be expected to participate in the Earth Institute Student Research Showcase in spring 2018.

Contact Cari Shimkus ( with questions.

AgMIP Communications Intern

Department: Center for Climate Systems Research

Anticipated tasks: The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) is wrapping up its South Asian and Sub-Saharan African regional projects and the communications team will be creating reports and webpages describing the activities and outcomes. An intern is needed to assist with writing, editing, and posting the information to the AgMIP website. In addition the intern will help with proofing and editing reports submitted by AgMIP’s teams. There will also be opportunity for the intern to write original blogs, feature stories, and create videos that will be posted to the website.

In addition the intern will have the opportunity to research and write stories about AgMIP scientists and their work. These stories will help engage the global community of scientists that comprise AgMIP. Learning to use social media, blogging and creating content for the AgMIP website to communicate the stories will be important project areas for the intern.

Skills required:

  • Writing skills are very important along with a willingness to learn WordPress, HTML and engage in creative thinking
  • Ability to take direction and work independently
  • Familiarity with climate change and sustainability issues
  • Knowledge of MS Office Suite
  • Attention to detail
  • Organizational ability
  • Familiarity with Adobe Creative Suite and Video editing a plus

Type of student desired: Graduate, PhD

Augmented Reality in Earth Science

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Anticipated tasks: Virtual and Augmented Reality are new and exciting tools that are ripe for use in the earth sciences. We have been working on using this cutting edge technology to visualize geospatial data and create experiences that take users all over the globe and allow them to learn about the physical processes that govern our planet. We are working with the Microsoft Hololens, a wearable holographic computer that allows users to interact with objects in the real and virtual world.

The intern will work with geospatial data sets along with this new technology to produce engaging data visualizations of cryosphere science data. Under the supervision of Alexandra Boghosian, Martin Pratt, and Jonathan Kingslake, the intern will learn how to use Unity and develop AR experiences for the Hololens focused on Greenland and/or Antarctica.

We have currently developed a fly-through experience of the Greenland Ice Sheet, collected 360 imagery on both ice sheets, and are working on an AR ice sheet model. The goal of the project is to create a virtual map with overlain data that users can interact with. The map will also incorporate 360 imagery so that the user can fly to a particular destination and be immersed in the scene. The intern will have flexibility in choosing the ultimate direction of the project within these guidelines.

Skills required: Comfortable with geospatial datasets, raster data, computer graphics, and coding either in Java or C#. Comfortable learning new skills. Ideally familiar with Unity.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate

Data-Driven Analysis of Contamination in U.S. Waterways

Department: Columbia Water Center

Anticipated tasks: Using data available online for water quality and mining production and effluents, analyze cumulative effects of mining and other anthropogenic sources on surface water nationwide. Statistical analysis and modeling with water quality parameters to help determine relative contribution of pollution sources. Researching relevant literature, writing a literature review, and writing about the study done and implications for the field.

Skills required: Statistics, data analysis, coding in R or similar program of choice, writing, and environmental knowledge. Strong expertise in one or two of the skills is needed, with a good basis in the others- the project specifics can be shaped by the student’s interest and experience. Thus, responsibility, motivation, and working independently are additional required skills.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate

IPCC Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere

Department: Center for Research on Environmental Decisions

Anticipated tasks: The intern will assist Dr. Ben Orlove in his role as Lead Author on the IPCC Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere, working on Ch. 2, High Mountain Regions, examining glacier retreat impacts on livelihoods, resources, communities and culture, as well as natural hazards. Specific activities include preparing literature reviews, developing tables and figures to present information, and supporting text boxes; coordinating a set of contributing authors; assuring smooth flow of the extensive process of review and response to comments.

Skills required:

  • Knowledge of climate change impacts and responses
  • Familiarity with natural and social science/sustainable development to prepare summaries of articles
  • Bibliographic and database skills to manage references, correspondence, flow of reviews
  • Familiarity with mountain ecosystems and/or rural development issues preferred

Type of student desired: Graduate, but would consider PhD or skilled, advanced undergraduates.

Lamont Education and Outreach Intern

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Anticipated tasks: Under the supervision of the Education and Outreach Coordinator, the intern will serve a key role in the Education and Outreach office at Lamont, which leads the development and monitoring of the Observatory’s education and outreach activities. The Intern will provide administrative and research support on two education projects, including the Day in the Life of the Hudson River and Lamont’s strategic Changing Ice and Changing Coastlines project. Description of the work the student will be doing:

Day in the Life of the Hudson River-

This annual STEM field based event for schools throughout the Hudson Valley has grown to over 5000 students participating annually. To better support classrooms in their pre-trip preparations as well as their post-trip data analysis we plan to develop some expansion materials on our event website ( with the help of an Education Intern. The Intern will support efforts to compile research and communication pieces for a new page on fish for the annual’s events website, which more than 5000 participate in annually, and assist with data processing of results from the annual event on October 12, 2017.

Changing Ice, Changing Coastlines –

The Snow on Ice Project is an integrated look at the Greenland Ice Sheet linking the oceans, atmosphere and ice in that region to better understand how changes in the past can tell us about our future. This project has collected a range of media and material that needs to be catalogued and organized for integration into a final product. The intern will support sorting, cataloging, and development of key components to be used in an iBook about The Greenland Ice Sheet.

Skills required: The ideal candidate will be detail oriented, organized, have a familiarity with Excel/large datasets, and be able to work independently with limited oversight. Attention to detail is necessary. A background in Earth Science and/or education is preferred.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

Microplastics in the Waters around New York – How Widespread and How Toxic?

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Anticipated tasks: Microbeads and microplastics are synthetic polymer particles that have found extensive use as a replacement for natural exfoliating materials in personal care products and abrasives in cleaning supplies. They typically range between 5 μm and 1 mm and are made of polymers such as polyethylene, nylon etc. that are not easily degraded and are potentially toxic to marine life.  They enter the aquatic environment primarily through effluent release from wastewater treatment plants because their small size allows them to escape capture by filter screening in sewage treatment plants. Recent studies have shown that microbeads and microplastics are capable of adsorbing a wide variety of toxic organic compounds found in waste treatment plants, for example PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, carcinogens), and can therefore serve as efficient vectors for dispersal of pollutants. However efforts to assess their ecological risks have been frustrated by their small size and lack of adequate techniques to quantify their distribution in seawater

By some rough estimates, New York City alone washes 19 tons of microbeads down the drain each year but actual microbead concentrations in the coastal waters of New York have not been assessed for want of a quick and reliable method for their detection.  Here we propose an interdisciplinary study focused on detection and mapping of the distribution of microbeads and microplastics in water bodies around New York, the Hudson River and Long Island Sound as well in marine animal tissue. We will investigate the composition of plastic particles, their ability to adsorb pollutants (including PAHs and pharmaceutical compounds) as well as their toxicity for lower trophic organisms in particular larval forms of commercial shellfish.

The intern will participate in field surveys in the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers, process the samples in the lab, use newly developed protocols for imaging plastic microbeads and microplastics and undertake chemical analysis of pesticides, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, antibiotics and endocrine disruptors.

Skills required: A passion for the environment, ability to work in a laboratory setting and interests in either biology and/or chemistry.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

MOOC on “Natural Resources for Sustainable Development: The Fundamentals of Oil, Gas, and Mining”

Department: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Anticipated tasks: Mega investments in the extractive industries – including oil, gas, and mining – have the potential to be a springboard for development in many low- and middle-income countries, through major tax revenues, technology transfer, infrastructure development, employment and capacity building. However, reaping those benefits is challenging, and more often these investments have been a source of corruption, social degradation, resource dependency, and environmental catastrophe. How then can resource-rich countries faced with this double-edged sword make informed decisions about how to effectively leverage these resources for economic and social development while mitigating negative externalities?

In 2016, the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) teamed up with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) and the World Bank (WB) to create a 12-week massive open online course (MOOC) on the Good Governance of Natural Resources for Sustainable Development. The 12-week course has been offered 3 times in 2016 and 2017, introducing thousands of students from around the world to key elements of the governance framework that will help ensure that natural resources translate into sustainable development benefits.

The Course will be updated in fall 2017 and re-launched in January 2018. CCSI is seeking a intern to provide day-to-day administrative and operational support for the course during the upgrade and the re-launch. The responsibilities of the intern include the following:

  • Liaising with lecturers, course organizers, and the production team during the upgrade, to provide support on the preparation, filming and editing processes;
  • Editing course materials including course surveys, readings, and quizzes;
  • Supporting preparation and operation of the course platform, including sequencing of lectures, uploading of supplementary materials, and communicating course protocols and expectations;
  • Outlining a communication strategy in collaboration with supervisor;
  • Sending out regular emails to students on class materials and deadlines;
  • Guiding discussion threads and responding to student inquiries;
  • Monitoring statistics on enrollment, viewership, and completion rates;
  • Troubleshooting student challenges and referring to technical support as needed;
  • Assisting in the coordination and preparation of live sessions

Skills required:
•Highly organized and responsive in high pressure situations
•Strong time management skills
•Strong writing and communication skills
•Interest in natural resource management (and sustainable development)
•Experience in online education platforms preferred
•Fluency in Spanish and/or French preferred

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate

Soil Impacts of Nitrogen Fixing Trees

Department: Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology

Anticipated tasks: The intern would help with soil core collection at Black Rock forest, leaf diffusion measurements at Black Rock forest, lab work weighing and filtering samples, and some time spent compiling a database of literature-derived nitrogen fixation values.

Skills required: Attention to detail is essential. Knowledge of (or interest in learning) taking soil cores and using a compass.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

 Sustainable Peace Project

Department: Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity

Anticipated tasks: The Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4) at the Earth Institute, Columbia University is seeking a student intern to provide research assistance to the Sustainable Peace Project. The project aims to gain a holistic understanding of the core dynamics of sustainable peace. The Intern will contribute to project objectives by providing a wide range of desk research assistance and some administrative support to the Sustainable Peace Project. Anticipated tasks include conducting literature reviews and analyzing empirical evidence related to sustainable peace; providing editorial support to publications; assisting with project meetings and events; and liaising with members of the research team to advance qualitative and quantitative research and objectives. This is a great opportunity to learn about the work of AC4 and the Sustainable Peace Project and interface with leading scholars and practitioners in the field of peace and conflict resolution.

Skills required:

  • Strong research, writing, and analytical skills;
  • Attention to detail;
  • Strong organizational and time management skills;
  • Flexibility in adapting to the needs of a dynamic research agenda;
  • Ability to work independently and as a member of a team;
  • Previous experience with social science research;
  • Understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods including statistics a plus;
  • An understanding of current issues in the field of peace and conflict resolution a plus

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate

Understanding Resilience of Children, Youth and Communities in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Department: National Center for Disaster Preparedness

Anticipated tasks:

  • Support team in their community outreach and engagement activities
  • Provide assistance with on-site operations for project
  • Support technology and data tasks
  • Contribute to report development

Skills required:

  • Experience in disaster preparedness and recovery, public health, social science or related field
  • Excellent writing and research skills
  • Interest in disasters and its impacts on populations
  • Strong interest in working with underserved populations
  • Organizational and time management skills
  • Attention to detail and ability to work independently
  • Data analysis skills including experience with statistical software such as R, STATA or SPSS would be a plus.

Type of student desired: Graduate, PhD

Using Lipid Biomarkers to Examine Human-Environment Interactions in Viking Age Norway

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Anticipated tasks: The intern will work in the Organic Geochemistry Lab at LDEO. He/she will perform liquid chromatographic techniques to isolate and purify various lipid molecules from Arctic lake sediments. Student will also prepare glassware and flash columns for the laboratory work, and will reduce and organize resulting data.

Skills required: Good dexterity is important. Student should have good organizational skills. A background or interest in chemistry is a plus, but not a pre-requisite. No chemistry experience is needed – the intern will be trained in all of the laboratory skills necessary to conduct the tasks.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

Yuva Nestham Youth Empowerment Program

Department: Center for Sustainable Development

Anticipated tasks:

  • Analyzing data from a survey about psychosocial wellbeing of adolescent girls in rural India (Telangana state)
  • Supporting marketing of earrings made by adolescent girls as part of an income-generating activity that benefits their school in rural Telangana, India
  • Searching for grants specifically for girls empowerment programs set in India

Skills required:

  • Organization skills
  • Research experience a plus
  • Knowledge of Excel
  • Understanding of developing world context, particularly in India is a plus

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

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