State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Spring 2019 Earth Institute Internship Opportunities

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 $16 per hour for up to 120 hours during the semester. The positions include:

  1. Environment in Action
  2. Environmental Impact Assessment in the Trump Administration
  3. High Resolution Settlement Layer
  4. North Atlantic Icebergs and Abrupt Climate Change
  5. Our Landscapes Are Engines of Inequality: Using Collaborative Mapping to Identify Lead Hazards Within American Cities
  6. Socioeconomic Data Center: Gridded Population of the World Version 5
  7. Tropical Laboratory Initiative: Epidemiology and Access to Diagnostics in Rural Areas of the Developing World
  8. Understanding Resilience of Children, Youth and Communities in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
  9. Using Unique Sample Identifiers to Advance the Implementation of FAIR Data Principles in the EarthChem Geochemical Databases
  10. Woman, Clothing, and Climate Event Organizing Internship

More details are below.

To apply:

Complete the online application available here by January 31, 2019 at 11:55pm. 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 2019.

Contact Samantha Ostrowski ( with questions.

Environment in Action

Department: Center for Sustainable Development (CSD)

Anticipated tasks: The intern will support research and content development collaboration taking place between Center for Sustainable Development (CSD)’s education team and specified teams at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) labs working on curriculum development for climate science. The intern will research content, browse and synthesize information on specified topics at LDEO and CSD. The intern will translate the information presented into digestible formats and presentation for various school and community audiences.

Skills required: Desktop research; synthesis of information; writing; MS Office Suite (Word and PowerPoint in particular); background knowledge on environment science, earth sciences.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


Environmental Impact Assessment in the Trump Administration

Department: Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Anticipated tasks: The Sabin Center seeks an intern to conduct an updated review of how the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) process, required under the National Environmental Policy Act, has considered climate change as part of its analysis during the Trump Administration. This will consist of document review of EIS’s and a written summary of trends, which will be used in an update to previous reports that we have published on this topic. Interns will examine trends in how projects discuss both contributions to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions and how climate change may impact projects (e.g. impacts from sea level rise, thawing permafrost, etc).

Skills required: Strong research and writing skills and excellent attention to detail are required. Familiarity with, and interest in, environmental or climate change law is an advantage.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


High Resolution Settlement Layer

Department: Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)

Anticipated tasks: Aid in the development of the HRSL data product, a modeled population data set developed in collaboration with the Connectivity Lab at Facebook. Tasks include: Running scripts that assign population values to identified settlements, creating data files, and conducting data validation; preparing metadata and documentation for data publication; basic spatial/statistical analyses; making maps for presentations and public relations.

Skills required: Self-starter and able to work independently; experience with data entry or analysis; understanding of basic statistics; familiarity with Microsoft Excel and Word; familiarity with the Windows operating system; some GIS experience preferred.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


North Atlantic Icebergs and Abrupt Climate Change

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

Anticipated tasks: The intern will help sample, process, and analyze the deep-sea sediments from either the Labrador Sea or Bermuda Rise, which have now been shipped to the world-renowned core repository at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Core samples will then go through initial processing tasks, that include freeze-drying, weighing on a microbalance, wet-sieving using a semi-automated system, oven drying and re-weighing of the coarse material, settling, and decanting and air-drying of the finest material. In consultation with Professor McManus, the intern will then select a subset of the samples for detailed analysis of the sediment composition, microfossil abundance and assemblage, grain size distribution, and abundance of iceberg deposition. These analyses will include a combination of automated bulk measurements and observations using a binocular microscope.

All necessary training will be provided. The selected undergraduate will then help interpret the results, with guidance from McManus. Although this will be a freestanding project pursued by the intern, it will be placed in the larger context of parallel ongoing studies.

Skills required: Training will be provided for all specific tasks and instrument use. It is important that the student be diligent, careful, and willing to learn. Although not necessary, it will be helpful if she or he has some familiarity with the Earth’s climate system, oceanography, and/or basic laboratory practices. The student and project will benefit most from the right intern’s combination of independence and ability to work well with others.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate


Our Landscapes Are Engines of Inequality: Using Collaborative Mapping to Identify Lead Hazards Within American cCties

Department: Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD)

Anticipated tasks: The EI intern will support the core research objectives, and assist in the development of a collaborative, online map and mapping platform populated with data that describes the location and concentrations of a key urban environmental health hazard — the heavy metal lead — within American cities. The project seeks to establish a mapping platform capable of integrating and displaying datasets that have been developed and provided to the project by scientists and scholars in American cities (co-investigators), to identify legacy lead “hotspots” within urban landscapes and the built environment.

Skills required: The intern should preferably have experience using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), including ArcGIS, and in working with raster datasets. Knowledge of website development and some of the major programming languages used for web development would be welcome. However, we would welcome either an intern with some experience and expertise or a beginner in these areas who is eager to learn by doing. Skills and experience analyzing datasets, experience with statistical analysis and spatial statistics, is welcome and useful for this research.

Type of student desired: Graduate


Socioeconomic Data Center: Gridded Population of the World Version 5

Department: Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)

Anticipated tasks:

  • Collect data from the 2020 round of census for countries around the world
    • Research their census system and determine if they have the appropriate data
    • Acquire data through download or personal contact with statistical office or other provider
    • Document characteristics of the data, such as source (url, data provider, restrictions on use, restrictions on sharing, etc.)
  • Collect geographic boundary data corresponding to the population census
  • Integrate census and geographic datasets
    • Determine geographic unit that corresponds to census unit
    • Do necessary research to characterize new units
    • Apply census unique codes to geographic data

Skills required: Must be extremely detail oriented; familiarity with Microsoft Excel;  some GIS experience preferred.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate


Tropical Laboratory Initiative: Epidemiology and Access to Diagnostics in Rural Areas of the Developing World

Department: Center for Sustainable Development (CSD)

Anticipated tasks: Access to appropriate and reliable laboratory services and diagnostic tools is essential to the improvement of public health in low-income settings. Diagnostics are crucial for identifying disease, designing treatment plans, monitoring the effectiveness of interventions, and understanding drug resistance. However, despite this importance, laboratory systems-strengthening receives significantly less attention than efforts that focus on the development of new therapies or vaccines. The Center for Sustainable Development launched the Tropical Laboratory Initiative (TLI) in 2010. TLI was designed to fill this critical research and operational gap by rethinking the traditional laboratory and making diagnostics more readily available to patients in rural and remote areas.

The intern will have two primary focuses related to TLI:

  1. Assisting in study design and study preparation (assist with grant writing, writing protocols for existing research programs, preparing ethical review board approvals) for several research projects on new diagnostics for use developing countries, and on the epidemiology of neglected or emerging diseases.
  2. Data management and analysis of past and ongoing projects related to diagnostic services in the developing world. The projects are at various stages of development and there will be opportunities for creative contribution and epidemiological/research problem solving. Examples of projects include using artificial intelligence for the diagnosis of malaria, and using a liquid stabilizer for the collection and transport for tuberculosis samples for diagnosis.

Skills required:

  • Strong verbal and communications skills
  • Organization skills
  • Data analysis and research study design; research experience a plus
  • Experience with data analysis software
  • Interest in working in public health in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia; understanding of developing world contexts is a plus
  • Teamwork with colleagues in New York and in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia

Type of student desired: Graduate


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

Department: National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP)

Anticipated tasks: Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) is partnering with Louisiana State University’s Department of Sociology to assess the public health and social impacts of the Deepwater Horizon (DH) Oil Spill with a special focus on children and their families over time. This study is building a three-wave longitudinal survey data set on child and family health impacts in DH spill affected areas. The first two waves of face-to-face household survey have been completed and the third wave is underway. The quantitative survey data will be complemented by qualitative focus group data and social media data. The intern is expected to:

  • Conduct literature reviews and learn about the impact of oil spill disasters
  • Support data team
  • Make tables, graphs, maps, and infographics for data visualization
  • Contribute to report and manuscript 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
  • Attention to detail and ability to work independently
  • Quantitative and qualitative data analysis skills including experience with statistical software such as STATA or R
  • Knowledge of GIS software such as ARCGIS would be a plus

Type of student desired: Graduate, PhD


Using Unique Sample Identifiers to Advance the Implementation of FAIR Data Principles in the EarthChem Geochemical Databases

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

Anticipated tasks: The intern will help to advance the use of persistent unique identifiers (PID) for physical samples, which will make sample-based data in digital data management systems more Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR). Specifically, the project aims to increase the availability of IGSN (International Geo Sample Number, a PID for physical samples) in the EarthChem database (ECDB) to link geochemical data in ECDB with other internet-based data resources for physical specimens and with scientific publications. The intern’s task will be to identify samples that have IGSN in metadata catalogs of IGSN Allocating Agents, and add these to the EarthChem database. The intern will compare sample metadata in EarthChem and IGSN Allocating Agent catalogues and help to improve consistency of metadata in these databases.

Skills required: Must be highly organized, with strong attention to detail, comfortable with web-based search interfaces, and be familiar with MS Excel. Initially must be on site at the Lamont campus for at least 3 hours per week until sufficient independent work skills are reached. After this period, there is a possibility of working remotely, with the requirement to report work progress online.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate


Woman, Clothing, and Climate Event Organizing Internship

Department: Barnard College Environmental Science Department

Anticipated tasks: In April of 2019, Barnard Sustainability will host “Women, Clothing, and Climate,” an interactive, multi-faceted exploration of apparel and climate, with a focus on circular economy solutions. We will pay particular attention to the intersection of environmental and social questions, with an emphasis on impacts on women.

The event will include: panel discussion, used clothing boutique and series of workshops in conjunction with the Milstein Center Design Lab. Shoppers at the used clothing sale will have the opportunity to stop by at hands-on workshops including “Mending and Alterations,” “How to Shop Used and Look Great,” and a “Sustainable Design” challenge. The sale and workshops will be followed by a panel discussion with experts in the field of sustainable fashion and circular economy solutions for the apparel industry.

The intern will be responsible for, with oversight and assistance from the Barnard Sustainability team, planning and organizing the event, doing outreach and marketing, collecting clothing donations, providing day of assistance, and performing any event wrap up.

Skills required: Students should be interested in sustainability, fashion, and the circular economy. Enthusiasm for planning the event and willingness to help in any aspect is required. Experience marketing on social media, designing fliers, and making cold calls is a plus.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate

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