Closing the gap between community development and environmental management

My summer in San Diego is in full swing! Both sides of my internship have fully picked up. I am splitting my time between Scripps’ Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA) and the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR). I started my first two weeks at TRNERR, but then switched over two weeks full time at CCCIA, while my TRNERR boss prepares to defend her dissertation.

During my first few days at CCCIA I got to meet some of the coastal researchers, the graduate students who work in the labs, and some of the office staff working on governmental relations and project management. The research they are doing is fascinating. For example, one crew created an enclosed system that simulates a wave crashing on the shore; intended to collect data about sea spray and aerosols produced by ocean water. This groundbreaking research will tell us how ocean water interacts with the atmosphere, how it links to public health and air quality. As the lead scientist, Kim Prather, says, ‘When they close the beach for high bacteria, they tell you not to swim, but they don’t tell you not to breath’.

Wave simulation machine

I joined in on meetings with Ocean Acidification scientists, who are putting together a research summit in a few months. In preparation for their conference, they asked me to look into the statewide ocean acidification guidance and research priorities to ensure their efforts correctly align with funding opportunities. I also sat in on a briefing of all the research and scientific investigation occurring in and around the Tijuana River Estuary during a briefing for local elected officials. This was a unique opportunity to merge my two internship components: CCCIA conducting research in conjunction with TRNERR, as it is communicated to decision makers. This briefing was a slice of policy-making I had never experienced before and helped me understand the process for funding scientific research, filling knowledge gaps, and translating data into management decisions.

In addition to meeting the team and attending meetings and trainings, I also helped put together the CCCIA newsletter and reconstruct their webpage. These types of projects are crucial for science communications and project management. I now understand how integral sharing research findings is for good policy and management decisions!

I’ve also been able to get even more involved with all things Tijuana River. One of the biggest projects I participated in was a binational partnership between UCSD students and professors, TRNERR, and the local community is Los Laureles Canyon, Tijuana. The Binational Partnership Lab at UCSD hires about 10 interns every summer to carry out projects across the border in one of the most disadvantaged communities in Tijuana. This neighborhood, known as Los Laureles, is one of the highest sediment contributors to the Tijuana Estuary. This means that because the area is naturally erosive, sediment is carried by rainwater and urban run-off in excess. It flows directly across the border in the Tijuana Reserve, and out into the Pacific Ocean. This canyon is also booming with unregulated development, where roads are not paved or properly maintained, and basic plumbing and waste collection is lacking. These issues create not only an environmental issue for the US side of the watershed, but also a flooding hazard and dangerous living environment for the residents of the canyon. This truly embodies how social development and environmental protection are intertwined.

View from Los Laureles Canyon neighborhood in Tijuana

I was able to help the interns in their community activities and workshops in the local community center in Tijuana. Walking across the border and meeting residents in the Los Laureles Canyon allowed me to connect the social issues to environmental burdens downstream. I hope to continue enabling international communities to make more sustainable environmental decisions that will protect not only neighboring ecosystems, but also their local wellbeing and security.

I’ve been really enjoying spending time at the Tijuana River NERR, learning about the Coastal Training Program, binational issues, and all the research collaborations. Now that I have also onboarded with CCCIA, I am also excited to see what goes on at Scripps! Both places offer amazing networks and resources, and I look forward to how the summer culminates!

My Summer at WWF Headquarters in Washington DC

Richard Castillo Rodriguez
WWF-US Summer 2019

Tina (my Costa Rican dog) and the Lincoln Memorial

I was excited to learn I would be spending my summer in Washington DC as a Center for Blue Economy Fellow at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). I had been to the city once before as an exchange student from Costa Rica. From my first visit to Washington DC, I remember the city full of history, art, culture and free museums (perfect for a student!), so I was excited to spend a few months here. I arrived a week early to familiarize myself with my new place, the neighborhood and to explore some of the attractions in Washington DC. 

Upon my arrival to WWF Headquarters, I explored the 8-story building and met my team. During my time at WWF, I’ll work for the Environmental and Social Safeguards Team, which is a small group of professionals who is in charge of implementing WWF’s Environmental and Social Safeguards Policies (ESS) for Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and Green Climate Fund (GCF) projects. ESS policies help to preview, avoid or mitigate any possible negative impact the projects may have on the environment or the local communities. 

Part of my daily work involves supporting WWF projects in the Mesoamerican reef region and in Peru’s National Protected Areas. Because I am a native Spanish speaker and am fluent in English, part of my job will involve working with documents in English and Spanish, synthesizing and producing information in both languages and assisting in translating materials for WWF Latin American offices. Finally, I’ll help design training materials for the team’s webinars on ESS Policies for WWF Latin American offices. This topic aligns perfectly with my professional interests since my future career goal is to work in international marine policy.

Because I am a native Spanish speaker and am fluent in English, part of my job will be assisting in translating materials for WWF Latin American offices. Finally, I’ll help design training materials for the team’s webinars on ESS Policies in Spanish. Having worked with fishing communities before, this topic is perfect for my future career and professional interests. 

Pura Vida!

The Start of my Summer at BSR in SF!

Hi! I’ve been working this summer at BSR in San Francisco’s Financial District. BSR is a global nonprofit organization that was founded at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The organization works with its network of more than 250 member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world. From its offices in Asia, Europe, and North America, BSR develops sustainable business strategies and solutions through consulting, research, and cross-sector collaboration. 

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A Dive into Kenya & Tanzania’s Blue Economy

I came into my program knowing full well what my interests were and what exactly I wanted to focus on. When I was asked what I wanted to do for my CBE fellowship, the answer was simple–I wanted to contribute to the conservation of coral reefs. For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed snorkeling and, eventually, diving among the reefs in my home country, the Philippines. So when I was told about a chance to work on a blue economy assessment for Kenya and Tanzania that placed special emphasis on the importance of coral reefs and mangroves, I took on the opportunity.

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Building Resilient Fishery Globally with Environmental Defense Fund

This summer, I took a “great escape” from the California Coast to the Coast of New England. Boston has a different charm compared to California. This city is small but vibrant, yet full of culture and history. The EDF Boston office is located in historical downtown. In 1 mile radius, there are many historical sites that witnessed the establishment and development of United States as a nation, including the Boston Tea Party Ship, the Massachusetts State House, the Faneuil Hall (the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin and James Otis, etc), the Bunker Hill Monument, and many others.  I fell in love with the city immediately after arrival.

The EDF Boston office (I don’t mean to hurt your neck but I can’t rotate the picture >_<) 
View from the office: the historical Boston downtown

On June 11, I started my work at the Environmental Defense Fund Boston Office. I work with the EDF China Ocean team on two independent projects:  1. Identifying the most important species in China’s seafood market and assessing the their climate change vulnerabilities. 2. Compile case studies of sustainable fishery management initiatives and evaluate their feasibilities under China’s legal and cultural background. The Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment I’m working on is part of a Climate Roadmap that EDF Ocean Program and Zhejiang Fishery Institute initiated this year, and it’s a pioneer project that will help China develop its policy framework for sustainable and climate-ready fishery. This is a very ambitious project, but I feel very motivated because I, as well as many people, believe that climate-ready fishery its the foundation of all sustainable fishing initiatives we are visioning for the coming years.

A typical morning at work: reading research papers and EDF periodical while sipping on my coffee.

The scope of EDF’s work really impressed me. While the EDF Ocean team is leading the sustainable fishery projects domestically, the Ocean program has also extended the network to Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Chile, China, Japan, Philippines and Indonesia, and EDF Ocean team works very closely with scientists, institutes and fishery communities across the globe.  We have bi-weekly video-conference with EDF Ocean staff and its regional partners, and together we discuss the steps we need to take and what each of us can do to contribute to the overarching goal. I learned so much about different practices in different projects world-wide, and I’m witnessing a growing network of sustainable fishery management teams. Apart from me, there are 3 other EDF staff in the Boston office that focus on China Fishery project. We discuss our work process frequently and share our insights with each other, and we sometimes go sailing after work.

Sailing on the Charles River with my colleagues after work

I’m very grateful to have the chance to work with the wonderful team. The working culture in EDF is absolutely supportive and fun. Everyone (including high-level directors ) is so approachable and people are always willing to take their time to help me with whatever questions I have. Working for such a prestigious NGO is such a privilege and I’m always learning something new from the conversations I have with the staff in EDF, the webinars and the video-conferences. I will definitely look for opportunities to come back after the summer.

  

Willkommen am Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI) Deutsches Arktisbüro. Translation: Welcome to the Alfred Wegener-Institut for Polar and Marine Research German Arctic Office.

Aside from the four million people that live in the high North (Arctic), I’m one of few from the lower latitude who wants to be 66°32’21”N of the equator. 🤷🏾‍♀️🥶 Geographically, that’s roughly the coordinates for where the Arctic Circle begins and the point of origin of my passion for all things Arctic. I’m not quite in the Arctic yet but my journey has only just begun! Presently, I write from 52°22’55″N, the location of the Alfred Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung Deutsches Arktisbüro (German Arctic Office) in Potsdam, Germany. More info on AWI German Arctic Office here: https://www.awi.de/en/about-us/transfer/arctic-office.html

The AWI and its German Arctic Office is located at the Albert Einstein Science Park situated on the Telegrafenberg next to Postdam.
part of the AWI and its German Arctic Office, among other research institutions are located at the Albert Einstein Science Park situated on the Telegrafenberg next to Postdam. The main AWI campus is located in Bremerhaven, Germany.

I am approaching my third week at the German Arctic Office as an Arctic policy research CBE fellow. I have again the pleasure of working with some of the brightest minds in the field of Arctic science and policy until the 20th of September. I arrived early to get the lay of the land and discovered a wonderful forest (pictured below) that I either walk or bike through to/from work most days. The first day I arrived I was greeted by Dr. Volker Rachold, Head of the AWI German Arctic Office and Lisa Grosfeld, Project Officer of AWI and the APECS (Association of Polar Early Career Scientists). It was like catching up on old but new times as we know some of the same people in the Arctic community. I began my research into Arctic law and governance on my first day. I started out in the AWIs old office (pictured above) and a week later we transitioned to the German Arctic Office’s new home, also on the grounds of the Albert Einstein Science Park campus. I was super stoked that my new desk was a very modern, sleek standing desk (pictured below). 😁 The equipment is stellar.

One can never be in the field of Arctic policy and science without the Polar bear.
Must have! This one belongs to Dr. Rachold.

Nostalgia: Three years ago I said to my MIIS professional career adviser, that I would like to work at the AWI. She and a few others had never heard of the AWI, nor has there been any MIIS student before me to intern or complete a CBE fellowship with the organization. A few conversations with some of my mentors (Dr. Kelly and Lawrence Hislop) and a Skype call later with Dr. Rachold and I’m headed to the place I vowed I would work at someday. I’m such a lucky gal! And am really happy to be working in such a small, intimate office with my colleagues. I practice my German language skills, share the fan with Lisa on very hot days 🥵 and have lunch with Lisa, Dr. Rachold and the Director of APECS almost everyday.

I enjoy walking and biking through the forest.
I love all things AWI!
Someone has to monitor the sea ice because what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic! Global Effects people! Global Effects!

As part of my CBE fellowship with the AWI, I will produce a fact sheet in German and English whose working title is Governance in der Arktis (Governance in the Arctic). The fact sheet will discuss the international laws and agreements and Indigenous rights, ownership (or lack thereof) and perspective of governance in the Arctic region. Additional highlights of my work include interviewing Arctic researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainable Studies (IASS), also in Potsdam, experts from the Arctic Centre in Lapland, Finland, the Woodrow Wilson Polar Initiative Center in Washington, D.C. and Indigenous representatives from the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS) in Tromsø, Norway.

The banners are up in the new office.

As warming accelerates and the sea ice in the Arctic continues to melt, the geopolitics of the region are shifting – prompting the question Who Owns the Arctic? This in large part is what the fact sheet will be about. Spoiler Alert: There are many moving parts (political, social and economic), regional and international actors, stakeholders and governing bodies that contribute to Arctic governance. Short political answer: Arctic ownership consists of a culturally, diverse mix of Indigenous communities (Aleut, Athabaskan, Gwich’in, Inuit, Saami and Russian Indigenous Peoples of the North) and eight Arctic Nation States (Canada, Denmark w/respect to Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia and the USA). Stick around for future blog posts and you might want to be 66°32’21”N too. 😉

Lastly, I want to express my tremendous thanks to the donors that sponsored my CBE Fellowship. If it weren’t for your generous contribution I would not have this opportunity. I am forever grateful and humble! To: Dr. Volker Rachold, thank you for allowing me to work and learn under your direction. Prof. Jason Scorse, Chair of IEP and Director of the CBE, thank you for always accommodating my many plans and willingness to be flexible with me. You know I am always pushing the envelope. Dr. Brendan P. Kelly, my graduate supervisor, mentor, colleague and friend who always encourages me to follow my passion. Don’t worry you can still carry my bags. Dr. Lyuba Zarksy, MIIS IEP Prof., mentor and friend for guiding my professional and personal thoughts. Your moxie is grand! Prof. Monica Galligan, mentor and friend, for being there even when I didn’t think I needed you. Edy Rhodes, CACS Adviser, friend and colleague, for always helping and accommodating me, even when I don’t have an appointment. Rachel Christopherson, CBE Program Manager, for always smiling when I walk in the CBE and supporting me from every sideline possible. To my sister and best friend, Lisa Aiken who maintains that I live my best life and to follow my dreams. To my immediate family for contributing to my professional career and dream to become an Arctic policy expert. My MIIS IEP colleagues for all your love and support! I would not be half the person I am today if it weren’t for the people named here and countless others. I am forever in your debt!

If you have any questions, comments, or would like to connect and discuss Arctic affairs or otherwise, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Respectfully,

Kimberly Aiken

MAIEP, OCRM Candidate Class of 2020
CBE Fellow Arctic Policy 2019 @ The Alfred Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung Deutsches Arktisbüro

kaiken@miis.edu