Fall 2019 Earth Institute Internship Opportunities

by |August 19, 2019

The Earth Institute is offering undergraduate, graduate and PhD students 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 10 hours a week for 12 weeks (a maximum of 120 hours during the semester). The positions include:

  1. Accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  2. Blue Carbon Quantification in the Hudson Estuary
  3. The Effect of Disasters on Labor Outcomes in the Philippines
  4. Hurricane Harvey Recovery: Evaluating Recovery in Hard-hit Communities
  5. Implementing New York’s Cutting Edge Climate Policies
  6. Open-source Software for Visualization of Water-column Sonar Data
  7. Post-Disaster Housing and Economic Recovery Training Solutions for Government, Non-profit, and Private Sector Leaders
  8. Sustainability Challenges in Coffee Production: Profitability and Adaptation to Climate Variability
  9. Tropical Laboratory Initiative: Epidemiology and Access to Diagnostics in Rural Areas of the Developing World

More details are below.

To apply:

Complete the online application available here by September 11, 2019, at 11:55 p.m. 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 2020.

Contact Samantha Ostrowski (sostrowski@ei.columbia.edu) with questions.


1. Accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Department: Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD)

Anticipated tasks: We invite an intern who is excited about the pivotal role of young people in creating a sustainable future to work with us on two projects this fall.

From November 13-15, 2019, CSUD will host a prestigious UN Habitat Urban Thinker Campus (UTC). This interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral forum will complement Accelerating the SDGs, an on-going, three-stage action research project to increase awareness of the SDGs worldwide. The Urban Thinker Campus will engage academic, professional, and civil society participants in talks, panel sessions, and action-oriented workshops with sessions on and off campus. Its title is “Accelerating the SDGs in Cities.”

The intern will engage with both projects and work collaboratively with project leaders. Anticipated intern tasks include a contribution to Stage 2 of the Accelerating the SDGs project, and assistance in delivering the Urban Thinker Campus. To understand the Accelerating the SDGs project, please consult the CSUD website.

Tasks for Stage 2: The intern will maintain the Local Project Challenge (LPC) online gallery and liaise with national and international project teams as needed; assist with developing a journal article on the LPC; prepare an LPC slide show presentation.

Tasks for Urban Thinkers Campus: The intern will work collaboratively with Anna Rubbo, Jackie Klopp, and Geeta Mehta on UTC development, organization, and delivery; assist in attracting a diverse young audience; present an LPC slideshow at a session; assist with preparation of the final report for UN Habitat.

In addition, as time permits, the intern will assist with the work of CSUD, such as the organization of meetings and posting updates to the CSUD website.

Skills required: Research and writing skills; WordPress, Adobe Spark, InDesign or equivalent, and good visual skills; a good communication style, good people skills; ability to work collaboratively, creatively, and independently. As the Earth Institute has commenced a process of website migration from WordPress, the intern will need to gain familiarity with the Columbia University Sites-Research Model and undertake a training session. An interest in the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda is necessary, as is an awareness of the work of UN Habitat and Habitat UNI.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


2. Blue Carbon Quantification in the Hudson Estuary

Department: NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

Anticipated tasks: Working with Excel and satellite data from the National Wetlands Inventory, the intern will analyze previously collected probe transect data from wetlands of the Hudson Estuary. Utilizing the probe depths, geospatial area, and previous data we have collected on soil density and carbon, the intern will work to quantify the volume of blue carbon stored in the wetlands. Literature review will also be conducted to illuminate the impact of the quantity of this stored carbon on the climate system and will compare the observed data with data from other comparable coastal regions.

Skills required: The intern will ideally have experience working with geospatial data (satellite, ArcGIS), data analysis with Excel, literature review, and a strong understanding and passion for wetlands and climate change.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate


3. The Effect of Disasters on Labor Outcomes in the Philippines

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

Anticipated tasks: The intern will work on an existing parametric wind model that creates surface winds for tropical cyclones, a generic name for a hurricane in the Atlantic, a typhoon in the Western Pacific, or a cyclone in the Indian Ocean and Southern oceans. The student will first work with Professor Chia-Ying Lee to generate maximum monthly winds associated with typhoons in the Philippines between 2000 and 2014 using the parametric wind model. Secondly, the student will work with Professors Kathryn Vasilaky and Aurelie Harou to generate maximum wind indices at three local levels: 1) municipal centers, 2) junior high schools, and 3) elementary schools. These wind indices will be used for predicting the impacts of typhoons on education and labor outcomes in the Philippines.

Skills required: Python programming; Mapping in Python or GIS.

Type of student desired: Graduate, PhD


4. Hurricane Harvey Recovery: Evaluating Recovery in Hard-hit Communities

Department: National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP)

Anticipated tasks: Assist project director and project team in all aspects of survey deployment, management, and preparation for data analysis.

Skills required: Familiarity with IRB process, qualitative data research, survey design and sampling methodology, project management.

Type of student desired: Graduate, PhD


5. Implementing New York’s Cutting Edge Climate Policies

Department: Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Anticipated tasks: In the absence of federal leadership on addressing the climate crisis, municipal and state actors are critically filling the gap to drive forward progress on climate change. New York City and New York State are leaders in this effort, enacting several path-breaking climate change laws such as the Community Risk and Resiliency Act, Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, and NYC’s Climate Mobilization Act (which includes an ambitious new law to regulate building emissions). These laws encompass efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, aid communities in adapting to the impacts of climate change, and help society transition to a decarbonized future. The Sabin Center seeks an intern to centralize information about state and local commitments in NY, including implementation to date; assess how best to monitor implementation on an ongoing basis; and assist the center in developing a strategic plan for weighing in on and disseminating information about implementation. The intern will have an opportunity to develop their research and writing by capturing these findings in an assessment for the center. Where the assessment identifies opportunities for improved agency implementation of these climate change laws, the intern may assist in research and drafting of public comments or other analysis (such as policy briefs or blog posts).

Skills required: The position is open to all undergraduate and graduate students. Strong research and writing skills and excellent attention to detail are required. Familiarity with, and interest in, environmental law and/or climate change law is an advantage.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


6. Open-source Software for Visualization of Water-column Sonar Data

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

Anticipated tasks: Many scientific disciplines use sonar data, e.g., to identify and map oil and gas seeps on the sea floor or to map fish schools and their prey. Recently, the NOAA National Center for Environmental Information made over 30 terabytes of sonar data available to the public. However, this vast data archive remains unusable for most researchers because the data are stored in many different instrument-specific, proprietary formats. In this project, we develop open-source software for visualizing and exploring these data.

The intern will contribute to the software through one or more of the following, depending on prior experience and interests:

  • Write and document code to read raw sonar data from instrument-specific files
  • Design data structures to represent sonar data efficiently
  • Implement basic visualization methods
  • Design a graphical user interface
  • Discuss broader software design decisions in team meetings
  • Engineer features for machine learning applications planned in the future.

Skills required: Intermediate to advanced programming (Java, Python, or R).

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


7. Post-Disaster Housing and Economic Recovery Training Solutions for Government, Non-profit, and Private Sector Leaders

Department: National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP)

Anticipated tasks: Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness is collaborating with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop and deploy research-based housing and economic recovery training solutions for state, local, and tribal government leaders and decision-makers in the private and non-profit sectors.

The intern is expected to:

  • Conduct research about various community stakeholders who have a role in recovery after a disaster in communities where trainings are being conducted
  • Assist with operations for trainings in the field
  • Develop a website for the FEMA-funded programs
  • Analyze pre- and post- scores and feedback from trainings to improve best practices
  • Support the development and training teams
  • Contribute to a needs assessment for post-disaster housing and economic recovery

Skills required: Experience in disaster preparedness and recovery, public health, social science, or related field. Excellent writing and research skills. Interest in disasters and their 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, R, or Excel.

Type of student desired: Graduate, PhD


8. Sustainability Challenges in Coffee Production: Profitability and Adaptation to Climate Variability

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

Anticipated tasks: The International Research Institute for Climate and Society at The Earth Institute is seeking an intern to assist in a research project on sustainability in the coffee industry. Worldwide, 25 million smallholders and families depend on an industry affected by two challenges: low profitability and climate variability. The intern will be part of a multidisciplinary project that analyzes these challenges and integrates the economics and climate aspects of coffee production. Intern’s tasks include literature review, writing, data cleanup and analyses, and scientific writing. Based on the intern’s performance and contributions, he/she will be invited to participate as co-author in a peer-review paper.

Skills required: Strong research, quantitative, and writing skills are required. Familiarity with, and interest in, sustainable agriculture, climate change, and development are preferred, but not required. Applicants should be highly motivated, proactive, and able to work independently.

Type of student desired: Graduate, PhD


9. 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 epidemiologic/research problem solving. Examples of projects include using artificial intelligence for the diagnosis of malaria in Ghana, and measuring drug resistance in tuberculosis patients in Kazakhstan using a new drug susceptibility testing device.

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 Central and Southeast Asia. Understanding of developing world contexts is a plus. Teamwork with colleagues in New York and in sub-Saharan Africa and Central or Southeast Asia.

Type of student desired: Graduate

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