Alex Basaraba works at the interstice of environmental conservation, climate change, and human well-being using visual story-telling, research, and planning. Currently, he works as a climate resilience specialist with Adaptation International, a consulting firm focused on helping communities and organizations prepare for the impacts of climate change. Adaptation International specializes in bridging the gap between climate science and community action and invests in developing tools and strategies necessary to support climate change preparedness. In addition to pursuing his own climate and environmentally-focused storytelling projects, Alex works in Nepal as an educator with National Geographic Expeditions. He holds a Master’s in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and a Bachelor’s in Biology, both from Colorado State University.
Topic: Mentorship Program
Alexander Hurley is Jr. Vice President of Operations for smart-cities startup firm Venture Smarter, Inc. and leads the company’s energy and resilience practice. He is dedicated to supporting governments, businesses, and universities that are researching, building, funding, and deploying smart and sustainable solutions to make better places to live, work, play, and visit. Alex completed a Master of Science in Environmental Studies degree through Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs in May of 2018. In this degree program, he studied the nature of large organizational partnership networks focused on developing localized climate change policies and programs.
Welcome Aboard the 2019 Mentorship Program Co-Chairs!
Mentorship Spotlight: Environment, Adventure & the Science of Decision
Climate, Networks, and Communications
Leslie Brandt is a climate change specialist with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science and the U.S. Forest Service. Her work focuses on climate change adaptation and outreach for natural resource managers in the Midwest and Northeast. She currently coordinates a regional climate change adaptation project for Central Hardwoods ecosystems in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri and an urban forestry adaptation project that was piloted in the Chicago region. She has a PhD in Ecology from the University of Minnesota and a BA in Biology from Gustavus Adolphus College.
John Phillips has worked for the King County Wastewater Treatment Division for 19 years. He is currently the combined sewer overflow program manager. Over the last ten years he has worked on the Combined Sewer Overflow Control Program and is currently managing the program and implementation of the Long-Term Control Plan. John developed and manages the Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) and Climate Change Adaptation programs and his climate work has been referenced in both the IPCC and National Climate Assessment reports. He is also a Past President of the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA). He serves on sustainability and climate action teams at King County. John has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Science from Oregon State University and served six years as a sonar man in the U.S. Navy on-board nuclear submarines.
Leslie and John covered a wide variety of subjects over the course of their sessions. Topics such as expanding networks across sectors, the importance of soft skills, getting buy-in from potential collaborators, and future career opportunities made for robust discussion. A highlight of what John has learned about Leslie is that she is a bright and passionate individual who really cultivates an inclusive thought process for reaching out to communities.
In turn, Leslie has enjoyed learning how John is connected across sectors in his community as well as with his counterparts nationally. John believes building these types of strong networks is germane to becoming a leader in the adaptation field.
Another area they’ve enjoyed focusing on—one many climate professionals are challenged by—is media engagement. Leslie was preparing for a call with a reporter and was seeking advice on how to approach the call effectively. John offered this advice from his personal experience from interacting with news reporters:
- Keep things concise. People have a tendency to ramble, and you can end up saying something that might be taken out of context.
- Be OK with not having answer. Some people think that they need to answer every question a reporter asks. If you don’t have the answer to a question, you can say you don’t know or recommend another expert who may be able to answer that question.
Great advice, John! Thank you both for participating in the Mentorship Program and sharing the highlights of your experience!
Mentorship Spotlight: Coastal Conservation and Urban Resilience
A Coastal Resilience Specialist with North Carolina’s Division of Coastal Management in Morehead City, Christian Kamrath works with local governments and partner organizations to facilitate coastal adaptation and resilience planning in the state’s twenty coastal counties. Previously, he worked on climate adaptation, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness planning with North Carolina Sea Grant, the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A self-proclaimed weather-nerd, Christian is a former forecaster at the University of Florida (WRUF-TV6), and now a recent graduate (’18) of the Masters of City and Regional Planning program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Christian is also the owner of CK Resilience Planning, an independent consulting firm.
Mentorship Program Spotlight: Innovating on Adaptation
Miles Gordon is a Research Intern at the Cadmus Group’s Strategy and Policy Group in Boston, MA, where he works on a variety of projects focused on urban resilience and sustainability policy. Originally from Portland, Miles received his Bachelor’s in Political Science from the University of Oregon in 2016. Now a recent graduate from Ohio University with a master’s degree in Environmental Studies, his graduate work focused on climate adaptation planning methods for native tribes in the United States.
Seeking to advance his expertise with mentorship from a seasoned adaptation practitioner, Miles was happy to meet Sascha Petersen. Sascha has been working in the climate change field for more than twelve years. He founded Adaptation International in 2010 and was the first managing director of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (hey, that’s us!). Also a lead author on the National Climate Assessment, Sascha has worked with climate scientists and municipal governments and focuses on bridging the gaps between climate change science, policy and action. Originally from Alaska, Sascha earned his Bachelor’s in Physics from Pomona in California and has been unstoppable since—he’s even trained astronauts at the Johnson Space Center!
A topic that Miles and Sascha have been actively exploring is how to successfully cultivate a career in adaptation. Since climate adaptation is a relatively nascent field, formal certification structures do not yet exist. The path towards carving out a career in the adaptation space is not as linear as it is in other fields (e.g., accounting or city planning).
Considering this, many of Miles and Sascha’s conversations have been around how to navigate the evolving field of climate adaptation to build a fulfilling career path. Something Miles has learned is that an ‘adaptation-only’ setting isn’t necessary to carve out space as an adaptation professional. As his internship at Cadmus has progressed, he has found that projects that aren’t strictly focused on adaptation planning still bring meaningful experiences that add to an adaptation skill set and knowledge base, as well as an adaptation resume.
“Miles has a great sense of how to advocate for himself in a professional setting. My role has been less of a guide and mostly to serve as a ‘gut check’ and help reinforce and support his feelings and approach to creating a career in adaptation.”
Sascha notes that Miles is also sort of a tri-coastal chameleon. Since he grew up in Oregon, went to school in Ohio, and now works in Boston, being able to blend in from the West Coast to the Northeast will prove to be a great asset in his resilience work. With such a dynamic adaptation future on the horizon, we hope Miles will bring his field experience, knowledge and wisdom back to ASAP’s Mentorship Program!
In the latest episode of our ASAP Mentorship Program, we learn that a common theme that has come out of this mentorship pair’s discussions is the need for creative, out of the box thinking for solving complex problems. Vidya Balasubramanyam (Mentee) is a NOAA Coastal Management Fellow working in New Hampshire’s coastal communities. She leads the Smart Shorelines project to inform the siting and socialization of living shorelines in New Hampshire. Josh Foster (Mentor) is an adaptation consultant and active ASAP Board Member who has over 25 years of experience working on climate change science, policy, and adaptation in the federal and non-profit sectors.