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.

Mentor Dr. Andrew Gunther received his Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the University of California at Berkeley in 1987, and has worked at the intersection of environmental science and policy since 1979. He has published research in the field of ecotoxicology, and has extensive experience in applying science to the development of air, water, and endangered species policy. He served as Assistant Chief Scientist for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Program and was the first manager of the State of California’s program that monitors for toxic substances in the San Francisco Estuary ecosystem. For the past several years he has been working with a broad array of organizations to help prepare the Bay Area for a changing climate. In 2018, he was the recipient of ASAP’s Regional Adaptation Leadership Award. He is a member of the

Board of Directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a scientific advisor to the Alliance for Climate Education and Interfaith Power & Light.

In preparation for her upcoming graduation, Kimberly has been exploring with Andrew the different types of employment opportunities for someone with a Ph.D. in civil engineering, and the pros and cons of these opportunities. Through this process she has discovered the importance of having a clear idea of her desired working conditions to better assess the next steps for her career.

“I’ve learned that jobs in adaptation span all types of sectors (government, academic, nonprofit, industry),” said Kimberly. “I’ve learned to think about potential jobs not just in terms of the day-to-day activities, but their relative positioning in my career timeline. A one year fellowship is much easier to accept when I’m a new graduate vs. 10 or 20 years from now when I may be much more rooted to a city, possibly with a deep network that I may not want to leave for a year.”

Kimberly and Andrew share California origins, and both have a passion for advancing science-based environmental policy.

Thanks to both for sharing what they’ve learned!