Knowledge & leadership for a sustainable future
In Memoriam: Graeme Berlyn, E. H. Harriman Professor of Forest Management and Physiology of Trees
Graeme P. Berlyn, a world-renowned expert on the anatomy and physiology of plants and trees, died Feb. 16 in Hamden at the age of 90. Berlyn, whose breadth of research included wood anatomy, plant embryology, tissue culture, biotechnology, and the morphology and physiology of trees and forests in relation to environmental stress, taught at YSE for more than 60 years.
Environmental Policy & Practice Impacts
At the Yale School of the Environment, our work directly impacts environmental policy and practice and helps to solve local and global environmental challenges.
Engaging the World in Climate Solutions
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication works with governments, media organizations, companies, and civil society organizations in the U.S and around the world to build public and political will for climate solutions. They partnered with the Irish Environmental Protection Agency to produce maps of Ireland detailing how climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support vary at the county and regional levels as part of the Irish government’s effort to develop a national strategy to engage its population in climate change solutions.
Helping Regional Maple Syrup Producers Adapt to Climate Change
Sugar producers in New England, who are under increasing pressures from climate change, can learn about sustainable maple syrup production through a training program offered by The Forest School at YSE. The Maple Education and Extension Program hosts training workshops focusing on sustainable management of sugarbushes for companies and students at Yale-Myers Forest in northeastern Connecticut. The program is also producing its own maple syrup and is expected to yield at least 50 gallons of syrup this year.
Creating a Global Green Chemistry Network
The Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale is leading a U.N.-backed initiative, the Global Greenchem Innovation and Network Programme, that will greatly accelerate research, development, and training in green chemistry in Indonesia, Jordan, Peru, Serbia, Uganda, and Ukraine. By establishing accelerator programs in emerging nations, the GGINP aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) — “forever chemicals” that can be harmful to human and ecosystem health. Learn more in the 2023 issue of Canopy.
Advancing Novel Natural Climate Solutions
In 2010, Oswald Schmitz, Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology, developed the Animating the Carbon Cycle (ACC) concept, which maintains that healthy populations of wild animals, both terrestrial and marine, can play a significant role in boosting the ability of ecosystems to store carbon, helping the planet stay within 1.5°C (2.7°F) of temperature rise over pre-industrial levels. Interest in ACC as a natural climate solution has continued to grow in the scientific and policy communities, and it was included in the Action Plan for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, 2021-2030.
Linking Nature and the Economy
At the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), Eli Fenichel, Knobloch Family Professor of Natural Resource Economics, led a 27-agency team that drafted the “National Strategy to Develop Statistics for Environmental-Economic Decisions,” a framework for the multi-year effort to use data to better understand nature’s critical contributions to the U.S. economy.
Aligning Trade Policy with Sustainability Goals
Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy Daniel Esty is currently working with World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal to develop a sustainability agenda for a trading system that better aligns the WTO with the world community’s commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Find out more about his work in the 2023 issue of Canopy.
Meet a Three Cairns Scholar: Christian Dadzie
Christian Dadzie, a Master of Environmental Management student and Three Cairns Scholar at YSE, shares his journey from petroleum engineering in Ghana's oil and gas industry to pursuing a degree at Yale. He aims to leverage his background to implement sustainability practices in the sector while advocating for a transition to clean energy in his home country.
Meet Our Students and Alumni
Stewarding Forests in the Face of Climate Change
Forests help mitigate climate change because of their ability to remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they become carbon emitters during wildfires. PhD student Reid Lewis '20 MF is researching how satellite data and machine learning models can help fire-prone forests become more resilient.
“When we make these forests more fire resilient, we can not only store more carbon, we can also help protect human communities, foster wildlife habitat, safeguard watersheds, and can use the process of restoration to partner with and empower Indigenous nations,” says Lewis.
Creating Sustainable Fashion
Jinali Mody ’23 MEM is reducing the environmental impacts from fashion with a new vegan alternative leather made from banana crop waste that the company says uses 90% less water in production than animal leather products and results in 90% less carbon emissions. “Solving the climate crisis requires concerted efforts across all industries and not just energy, transportation, and carbon capture. Building a sustainable fashion industry is the need of the hour,” says Mody.
In 2023, Mody’s company, Banofi Leather, won the $1 million Hult Prize, which is given to student entrepreneurs whose ideas create a measurable positive impact on people and the planet.
Eliminating Electronic Waste in the Tech Industry
Charissa Rujanavech ’13 MEM is a tech industry innovator, developing novel ways to recycle and eliminate electronic waste. Shortly after graduating from YSE, she invented Liam, an automated disassembly system that can take apart more than 1 million iPhones a year so the components can be reused. She has continued her work in the circular economy, promoting a closed-loop supply chain for major retailers, including Amazon, and is now developing new technologies and partnerships to decarbonize refrigeration, retail operations, and food waste at Albertsons Companies.
Fighting Fire with Fire
As wildfires across the U.S. and Canada continue to endanger human health and wildlife, Pete Caligiuri ’10 MF, forest strategy director for The Nature Conservancy in Oregon, is working on fire suppression.
And these efforts include setting fires. “Frequent, extreme wildfires are a threat, but fire has to be part of the solution. Fire always has been a part of these landscapes. Beneficial fire — like prescribed burns and managed wildfires — is essential to the long-term resilience of these forest landscapes into the future,” Caligiuri says.
Experiments in Reducing Methane Emissions
Researching natural ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Ben Girgenti ’22 MESc tested whether adding minerals to wetland ecosystems can reduce biological methane emissions. After adding iron to the soil of mini wetlands, Girgenti found that methane was reduced by the mineral enhancement.
“If you’re building or using wetlands for natural carbon capture, you could shut off or decrease methane emissions, reducing the amount of time it takes for wetlands to begin having new sequestration of carbon,” Girgenti says.
Financing the Transition to Clean Energy
Transitioning to clean energy is key to combating climate change. As director of policy and network at the Coalition for Green Capitol, Nenha Young ’20 MEM is targeting greenhouse gas reduction initiatives through investments in the environmental, social, and economic sectors and working to establish the National Green Bank.
“I attended YSE because of its leadership in the clean energy field,” Young says. “Through coursework, internships, and independent studies, I was able to design a career at the intersection of clean energy and economic development.”
Tracking Big Cats in the Sierra Madres Mountains
Siria Gámez tracks big cats — all the way up 80-foot trees. A doctoral student in YSE's Applied Wildlife Ecology lab, Gámez had special training to set up camera traps in the tree canopy of the El Triunfo Biosphere to examine how jaguars, pumas, and other carnivores use vertical spaces in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountains in Mexico.
“This particular region of Mexico is quite understudied,” says Gámez. “We’re exploring how these animals survive in this three-dimensional forest structure.”
Rehabilitating Ghana’s Forests
After a decade as director of operations for Ghana’s Forestry Commission, overseeing the country’s commercial forest plantation development and land restoration, Hugh Brown ’10 MF was named executive director of the Commission's Forest Services Division in 2022.
The Commission has begun the restoration of more than 450,000 hectares of degraded forests and planted millions of new trees under Brown's leadership — part of a major reforestation initiative by the Ghanaian government to contribute to global climate action.
Empowering Young Leaders
In July, Indonesia hosted the Y20 Summit, an annual gathering of youth leaders from G20 nations. This year's summit emphasized a sustainable and livable planet, and its recommendations will be presented at the upcoming G20 Summit in November. Caroline Tasirin ’19 MFS — a lecturer in the forestry program at Indonesia’s Sam Ratulangi University and co-founder of SULUT Semangat, a program that empowers Indonesian youths to connect with nature — represented the host nation and served as co-chair of the selection committee for Indonesia. “I'm proud to have contributed my insight and honored to collaborate with diverse youth leaders,” she says.
As founding chair of the New York City Public Housing Authority Recycling Committee, DeNeile Cooper ’22 MEM is working to boost recycling efforts in public housing units.
Only 2% of waste from NYCHA units is recycled. Nationally, that rate is 32%.
“This work has been successful so far because it involves a variety of stakeholders who bring unique perspectives to create programs that work for everyone,” says Cooper, who is a member of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board.
Tracking Bear Movements
After Rae Wynn-Grant ’10 MESc studied bears in the Nevada mountains, the National Geographic Society sent her to conduct similar work with the American Prairie Reserve in the grasslands of Montana — a region where bears are not common.
The nonprofit is seeking create a national wildlife refuge. Wynn-Grant began working with carnivores while at YSE, tracking lions in Tanzania. She has leaned on her expertise to predict which habitats will attract bears, using state and federal data and camera traps to monitor bear movements and habitats.
Speaking for the Islands
At the end of 2021, Lia Nicholson ’14 MEM traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, on a mission with existential stakes. As the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States at the U.N.’s annual climate change conference, COP26, Nicholson represented the bloc of 39 small island nations, which together comprise 20% of all U.N. member states. While the numbers alone can seem abstract, the difference between a global temperature rise of 1.5° Celsius over the preindustrial baseline and a rise of 2° is “existential” for the vulnerable AOSIS nations that were among the first to have to reckon with the impacts of climate change nearly 30 years ago, she says.
Greening the Supply Chain
As a YSE student, Morgan Pierce ’20 MEM did her summer internship at McDonald’s, where she worked with its global suppliers on strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After graduating she was hired as manager of strategy and alignment, where she has continued to address sustainability issues related to customers’ experience with dining and take-out.
“If we have YSE graduates like me sitting at the tables in these large organizations that control decisions on sustainability, then we can really be a catalyst of change,” Pierce says.
Degrees & Programs
The Yale School of the Environment offers a variety of degree programs, many of which can be customized to meet each student’s professional goals, and prepare them for careers in environmental science, management, and policy.
2023 Incoming Cohort
40% of the 2023-2024 master's cohort are from outside the United States.
Receive Financial Aid
92% of incoming master's students who completed the YSE aid application will receive financial aid.
2023 Incoming Masters
5+ Years Work Experience
21% of incoming master's students have more than five years of work experience.
Incoming master's students range in age from 21 to 54 years old with an average age of 27.
2023 Incoming Cohort
Students come from 32 countries and 32 states and U.S. territories.