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Canopy Magazine

Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require bold action in nearly every sector of the economy. Meet seven members of the YSE community who are working on groundbreaking solutions that give us hope.

News & Research

Illustration of a distant mountain with winding forest stream in the foreground

2024 Environmental Performance Index: A Surprise Top Ranking, Global Biodiversity Commitment Tested

The Baltic nation of Estonia is No. 1 in the 2024 rankings, while Denmark, one of the top ranked countries in the 2022 EPI dropped to 10th place, highlighting the challenges of reducing emissions in hard-to-decarbonize industries. Meanwhile, “paper parks” are proving a global challenge to international biodiversity commitments.

Meet Our Students and Alumni

Benedicta Frimpomaa Asiedu
Three Cairns Scholars

Benedicta Asiedu, Ghana

Goal: Advancing Ghana’s transition to a net-zero economy

Benedicta Asiedu ’25 MEM has witnessed profound economic transformation in her home country of Ghana. It is one of the world’s largest exporters of gold, and it exports agricultural goods, most significantly cacao, to global markets. Since 2007, when oil in commercial quantities was first discovered, Ghana has also become a producer and exporter of crude oil. These three commodities alone have helped the country move from the edge of economic collapse three decades ago to, as the World Bank declared in 2019, the world’s fastest growing economy. (This growth has since slowed.)

Singh portrair
Three Cairns Scholars

Srishti Singh, India

Goal: Merge finance and water management for a more just and secure water future

According to the World Bank, the Global South could lose up to 6% of its GDP by 2050 due to water scarcity, with women and the poor most vulnerable.

Srishti Singh ’25 MEM is well aware of these, and many other, water-related challenges, as she most recently worked at India’s Central Pollution Control Board, where she was the sole social scientist on a team of physical scientists. “I realized I needed interdisciplinary training to become an effective leader in the water and climate space,” she says. “This led me to Yale.”

Iyer portrait
Three Cairns Scholars

Mahica Iyer, United Arab Emirates

Goal: Engage in sustainable business and development projects that empower local communities

Ever since she was a child, Mahica Iyer ’25 MEM has straddled two worlds: She grew up amid the glittering towers of Dubai, UAE. The community in her hometown of Mumbai, meanwhile, experienced frequent power outages, a scarcity of clean water, and poor waste management. Iyer later attended college in Illinois and then went on to work as a consultant in supply chain sustainability.

Portrait of Valdez
Three Cairns Scholars

Laura Polanco Valdez, Dominican Republic

Goal: Work as a bridge between policymakers and academia to advance climate mitigation and adaptation strategies

Climate change poses a particular threat to island nations. Laura Polanco Valdez, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, understands this very well. Her homeland was ranked one of the 10 most affected nations by climate events between 1997 and 2016, according to the Global Climate Index. The pace of these events is only accelerating, and their scale increasing.

Rae Wynn Grant photographed by Tsalni Lassiter

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.

Siria Gamez in a climbing harness placing a camera in the tree tops

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.”

Pete Caligiuri in a forested area

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.

Jinali Mody with a Banofi Leather purse, standing among banana plants the purse was sourced from
Alumni

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. 

Rujanavech

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.

Reid Lewis on a snowy day near a frozen lake

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.

Ben Girgenti

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.

Nenha Young

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.”

Hugh Brown under a canopy of bamboo

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.

Caroline Tasirin at Y20 Indonesia

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. 

Deneile Cooper speaking at a Housing Authority event in New York City

Waste Warrior

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.

Lia Nicholson

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.

Morgan Pierce

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.

Master’s Program

Application Deadline: December 9, 2023

Apply to a Master's Program

Doctoral Program

Application Deadline: January 3, 2024

Apply to the Doctoral Program

Fast Facts

2023 Incoming Cohort

40%

International Students

40% of the 2023-2024 master's cohort are from outside the United States.

92%

Receive Financial Aid

92% of incoming master's students who completed the YSE aid application will receive financial aid.

2023 Incoming Masters

21%

5+ Years Work Experience

21% of incoming master's students have more than five years of work experience.

21-54

Age Range

Incoming master's students range in age from 21 to 54 years old with an average age of 27. 

2023 Incoming Cohort

32/32

Countries/States

Students come from 32 countries and 32 states and U.S. territories.

Centers, Programs & Initiatives

Cuale River after Hurricane Lidia in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Yale Climate Connections

100+

Articles in Spanish

YCC En Español, an initiative of Yale Climate Connections, provides timely coverage in Spanish of climate change and extreme weather events.  Since its launch in 2022, it has garnered more than 500,000 page views and published more than 100 news stories in Spanish.