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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.
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 Environmental and Infrastructure Damage in Ukraine
As co-leader of Black Marble, NASA’s light dataset, Eleanor Stokes '18 PhD is currently tracking the effects of Russian military strikes on Ukraine’s infrastructure and climate-induced natural disasters across the world. NASA’s Black Marble science team, which uses data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite aboard NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite spacecraft to map disaster impacts in vulnerable communities, was awarded the 2020 NASA Group Achievement Award for helping realize the vision of the NASA-ESA-JAXA COVID dashboard and enabling international partnership in a time of need. “Humanity is facing major global risks from extreme weather and rising sea levels,” Stokes says. “It’s very important to have a satellite record that can speak to the human piece of the puzzle.
Restoring Belize’s Landscapes
Ki’ila Salas ’19 MF returned to her home country of Belize to participate in its first landscape restoration initiative, helping to develop its National Landscape Restoration Strategy for the Belize Forest Department. The project is part of the country’s national restoration commitment to the Bonn Challenge, which has a global goal to bring 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes into restoration by 2030.
“The project gave me great pride and joy in guiding the process of how the restoration strategies should be accomplished,” Salas says.
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.
Financing Community-led Climate Action in Africa
As a YSE student, Rita Effah ’12 MFS participated in COP 17 in Durban, South Africa. She says her experience at the annual U.N. climate change conference was the catalyst that sparked her interest in working to mitigate climate change impacts in Africa.
Now a senior climate finance officer at the African Development Bank, Effah is managing the Africa Climate Change Fund, which implements small grant projects in 28 African countries.
Keeping Bhutan Carbon Neutral
To make good on its constitutional mandate to be the first carbon neutral country for its entire existence, Bhutan relies heavily on its forest cover. Dechen Dorji ’01 MEM led the Bhutan for Life initiative, which raised more than $40 million to finance the protection of the country’s pristine network of protected areas.
Dorji continues to work on land preservation and protection of endangered species as the World Wildlife Fund’s senior director for the Asian Wildlife Program.
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.
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