Topic: Mentorship Program

Mentorship Spotlight: Building Resilience Locally

Mentee Libby Szuflita is a Master’s student in City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in transportation planning with a Natural Hazards Resilience Certificate. Her research focus is on growth projections in long-range transportation planning, particularly how large transportation infrastructure projects impact land use decisions and how resilience can be prioritized in these decisions. Prior to graduate school, she worked for a sustainable transportation advocacy non-profit in New York City. She has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Sociology from Bowdoin College.

Mentor Michael Dexter is a climate risk and resilience expert and Certified Floodplain Manager. He works as the Finance and Grants Manager for the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, where he supports local, state, and federal efforts to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity for one of the 28 estuaries of national significance. Previously, he worked in the EPA Administrators Office, coordinating climate adaptation planning and environmental financing efforts that support federal, state, tribal, and local efforts to adapt to climate change. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University and currently resides in Sarasota, Florida.

Through her mentorship with Michael, Libby has learned about the important role that local government plays in building resilience on the ground. “Michael has shared how local transportation and public works departments oftentimes have the most direct experience managing the consequences of poor planning for hazards, and play an important role in advocating for adaptation,” she said. “I can bring lessons of adaptation to any future role I have, whether it has ‘resilience’ in the title or not.” Libby has appreciated learning about adaptation career opportunities across the US, as Michael has worked in Washington, D.C., New York, Seattle, and Sarasota.

Michael and Libby have also taken a closer look at the process behind EPA grant funding for resilience work. Specifically, they have discussed how block grants have unique potential to be utilized for environmental programs that incorporate climate change adaptation. Tribal governments have been notably innovative in leveraging EPA grants for adaptation. In their next meeting, Michael and Libby will investigate how the word “adaptation” is applied in varying contexts, and how to take action in the name of adaptation in the most productive way.

Michael has enjoyed learning about Libby’s interests in transportation and adaptation, and how these interests were fostered through her coursework and education. “Hearing how climate adaptation is being covered in undergrad and graduate programs gives hope for the continued mainstreaming of adaptation as a defined field of research within multiple disciplines,” he said.

Thanks to both for sharing what they’ve learned!

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Mentorship Spotlight: Turning Momentum into Action

Mentee Amy Henry is a planner for Kimley-Horn, where she has worked for about four years, and has a multidisciplinary background, including consulting experience in environmental science and a Bachelor of Arts in English. She specializes in crafting narratives and telling the story, through maps, text, and graphics, to present complex technical ideas to non-technical audiences. As a Certified Floodplain Manager and soon-to-be AICP professional, she is particularly interested in the intersection of community planning and resilience to climate impacts such as flooding, extreme storm events, and acute and chronic stressors to infrastructure and vulnerable populations.

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Mentorship Spotlight: Starting a Career in Adaptation

Mentee Kimberly Duong is a Ph.D. candidate in Civil Engineering (water resources) at UC Irvine, working on urban drought management in southern California in collaboration with the Irvine Ranch Water District. She has a B.S. from UCLA in Atmospheric Sciences (meteorology). In past years, she has been involved with the Solar Decathlon, Carbon Neutrality Initiative, and the UCI Climate Action Training Program. She is also a co-founder and executive board member of Climatepedia, a climate communications nonprofit. In 2018, she was a Mirzayan science policy fellow at the National Academies in Washington DC, as well as a Subject Matter Expert for the Resilience Dialogues. From April 2018 to April 2019 she served as part of Voices for Science, a science advocacy program hosted by the American Geophysical Union. She will graduate with her Ph.D. in September 2019 and is seeking employment in water management/climate change policy.

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Mentorship Spotlight: The Frontlines of Resilience Storytelling

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.

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Mentorship Spotlight: Adaptation Knowledge Networks

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.

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Mentorship Spotlight: Climate, Networks, and Communications

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:

  1. Keep things concise. People have a tendency to ramble, and you can end up saying something that might be taken out of context.
  2. 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!

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Mentorship Spotlight: Resilience in the Field

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.