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Meet Development Challenge Past Interns: 2012

Jonathan Choi, 2015, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and the Internet to Map Africa’s Farmland
Organization/Location:
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
Advisers: Lyndon Estes, Associate Research Scholar, Woodrow Wilson School and the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy; Lecturer, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Kelly Caylor, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

This summer I was fortunate to work in Dr. Kelly Caylor’s lab at Princeton University under Dr. Lyndon Estes. My internship revolved around a project utilizing Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk service to map cropland in South Africa. Much of my internship was spent investigating the mechanics of Google Maps and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and creating preliminary support infrastructure for future stages of our project. I looked at the quality control methods that could be employed for the project, specifically examining data using the open-source programming language, R. I learned a lot about geospatial data analysis, the manipulation of data files in R, and about the research process in general. This internship has solidified my commitment to work in the field of environmental science and sustainable development in the future.


Margaret Cochrane, 2014, Anthropology


Project: Engaging Rural Communities in Providing Solutions to Environmental Problems and HIV/AIDS Education
Organization/Location:
Mwangaza Youth Group and Repacted Kenya, Kenya
Adviser: Mahiri Mwita, Lecturer, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies

The goal of our internship in Kenya was to learn extensively about community theater and how it can enact behavioral change in communities, specifically with concern to issues of safe water and sexual and environmental practices. We went through intensive workshops with the two youth groups with whom we were working in order to learn about the process of magnet theater and how they apply it to communities. We also did outreach, visiting many different communities and helping challenge and engage the community on issues like HIV and clean water. During the outreach we collected observational data such as the size of the audience and the responses of the participants. I learned much about magnet theater as a form of education, and on the health and environmental problems in Western Kenya. We hope that the outreach system we took part in will continue and successfully enact behavioral changes in rural communities. I definitely want to focus my studies on environmental issues in East Africa, and I plan on returning to work with these groups again.


Rebecca Haynes, 2015, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Teaching Assistant for Conservation Clubs
Organization/Location:
Mpala Research Center, Kenya
Adviser: Daniel Rubenstein, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, African Studies

I spent the summer of 2012 working as a teaching assistant at the Conservation Clubs of seven schools in Northern Kenya. Most regions where these schools were located face severe desertification due to deforestation, overgrazing, drought, and mismanagement of resources. This summer I primarily worked educating students and their communities about ways to conserve valuable resources and to protect the ecosystem. With advisors and another Princeton student, I helped design lesson plans, games, and activities to teach children about different components of the ecosystem, from basic elements and the importance of trees to the unity and interdependence of species in a food web. Central to my goals was discussing the need for coexistence with wildlife, dispelling the notion that environmental reform undermines the livelihood of pastoral communities and instead increases the production and value of farming land. My internship showed me that environmental education is central to sustainability efforts. Although I plan to focus my studies more on ecological and biological research than on teaching in the future, my summer in Kenya confirmed my aspirations to pursue conservation and environmental reform as a career.


Sarah Jeong, 2015, Woodrow Wilson School


Project: Environmental Learning Research Centre, South Africa
Organization/Location:
Rhodes University, South Africa
Adviser: Robert O’Donoghue, Rhodes University

My internship with the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) showed me the necessity of an interdisciplinary background when tackling environmental issues. The ELRC's practical approach to encouraging sustainability was very rewarding because its projects contributed directly to local communities. I worked on projects ranging from assisting in the design of an environmental education kit that will be reproduced and mailed to schools across the Eastern Cape to publishing the success and failure stories of local sustainable entrepreneurs. I discovered that environmental change requires knowledge not just in environmental issues, but also in psychology, ethics, economics, and a wide range of other fields. My work reinforced my love for the environment and writing, and introduced a new passion for understanding cultures and using sustainability to benefit communities. I excitedly anticipate exploring environmental policy in African countries through the Woodrow Wilson School. I am thankful this internship gave me so much direction and kindled an interest that I see myself pursuing indefinitely. I hope to extend what I learned this summer to give back to the communities and causes that have made my education so fulfilling.


Emily Kaplan, 2014, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Climate Change, Agriculture, and Biodiversity in South Africa and Zambia
Organization/Location:
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
Adviser: Kelly Caylor, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

I interned with Lyndon Estes in Civil and Environmental Engineering. My first project of the summer was to collect data from presenters at a Symposium on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Biodiversity in South Africa held in August 2011. I prepared this data for webhosting by using ArcMap. Other projects included working with iWeb and Roxen to design three websites: a site for the symposium, a site for Lyndon’s doctoral research, and a site for his current project, which is mapping crop fields in South Africa with public participation through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Lastly, I contributed to the crop field mapping project using ArcMap. Not only did I gain experience with ArcMap, iWeb, and Roxen, but by working with graduate students and among other interns, I was also able to learn about the methodology of research projects. My knowledge of ArcGIS, a popular and useful program in many departments, will be very helpful with independent work over the next two years, and beyond graduation.


Preston Cosslett Kemeny, 2015, Physics, Geosciences


Project: Isotopic Equilibration between Rainfall and Atmospheric Water Vapor
Organization/Location:
Mpala Research Centre, Kenya
Adviser: Kelly Caylor, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

This summer I spent ten weeks with the Princeton EcoHydrology Lab in Kenya researching the degree of isotopic equilibration between atmospheric water vapor and rainfall. This research, which relates to parameters used in climatological modeling, was part of an ongoing effort by the EcoHydrology Lab to understand land degradation in dryland ecosystems. By collecting high temporal resolution rainwater samples during rain events while continuously measuring the isotopic composition of atmospheric water vapor and several meteorological variables, I analyzed whether the isotopes present in atmospheric water vapor and rainfall equilibrate over the course of a storm. In addition to this experiment, I led a large stable isotope sampling project examining the effects of various tree-thinning procedures on plots adjacent to the Kenya Long-term Exclosure Experiment, and another data collection project focusing on the consistency of soil water vapor isotopic measurements among three distinct sampling methods. Through this internship I developed a strong foundation in stable isotope analysis techniques and advanced MatLab programming, as well as an appreciation of the difficulties of fieldwork. I also greatly enjoyed the opportunity to explore Kenya and its cultures. This internship reaffirmed my interest in studying physics and geosciences, and I would strongly recommend this position to any student with similar interests.


Briana Liu, 2015, Woodrow Wilson School


Project: Environmental Learning Research Centre
Organization/Location:
Rhodes University, South Africa
Adviser: Robert O’Donoghue, Rhodes University

In South Africa, my primary role was to assist the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) at Rhodes University with its environmental education and community development programs. I worked with the local youth’s cleaning and greening initiative to install composters and sustainable gardening in the Ward 7 township, a poor district that relies heavily on government funds. I interviewed these youths and wrote a newspaper article to publicize their venture. Another program I took part in was an earth systems education workshop, where I met youth from all over South Africa, discussed the different paths for development, and observed the unique way in which the diverse environmental topics could be taught under a “Habitable Planet” hierarchy model. I also helped develop a box kit for teaching schoolchildren about water systems, using South Africa’s own landscape and Orange-Senqu watershed as a case study. These various experiences allowed me to see that in the face of government with limited funding and low priority given to the environment, grassroots organizations play a critical role in empowering citizens to understand how to live economically self-sufficient and ecologically sustainable lifestyles. I would love to educate people about the environment in my future career.


Graham Read, 2015, Undeclared


Project: Engaging Rural Communities in Providing Solutions to Environmental Problems and HIV/AIDS Education
Organization/Location:
REPACTED Kenya, Mwangaza Youth Group, Kenya
Adviser: Mahiri Mwita, Lecturer, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies

My internship project involved work in two phases and locations in Kenya. The first phase consisted of training in the principles of Magnet Theater by REPACTED, a theater organization based in Nakuru, Kenya. During our work with REPACTED, we learned about cultural issues, myths and beliefs associated with HIV/AIDS, clean water use, basic sanitation and other topics. Later, we wrote rough skits and performed these skits around Nakuru with the aid of REPACTED's actors. In the second phase, we traveled to Kuria Province, Kenya, and worked with Mwangaza, a youth group based in the town of Masaba. There, we assisted Mwangaza with their performances, as we did with REPACTED, and established a clear method of data collection, including pre- and post-performance surveys and demographic details, which will be used by Mwangaza in the future. This project helped me learn about the cultural nuances of issues that I had only thus far addressed scientifically, and helped me understand how important the local community can be in driving change within any society. This should be useful information for me in my global health and health policy studies, as it gives me local perspective on global issues.


Max Silver, 2014, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Conserving the Endangered Grevy’s Zebra
Organization/Location:
Grevy's Zebra Trust, Kenya
Adviser: Belinda Low, Grevy’s Zebra Trust

I spent the summer in Kenya as an intern with Grevy’s Zebra Trust, a non-profit Kenya-based organization dedicated to conserving the endangered species of Grevy’s zebra. My time in Kenya was divided between working in an office at Mpala Research Center and field work in the Samburu Heartland, a remote region in north-central Kenya. In Samburu, I helped install a new water monitoring project, through which we made water more accessible to wildlife across Samburu during its dry season, when water is a limited resource for much of the wildlife. I also helped spread awareness to local community members about the importance of conserving wildlife, with emphasis on Grevy’s zebra. My office work centered around analyzing data that recorded Grevy’s zebra sightings in Samburu. This data included the sexual class of each member of the herd, their habitat, and other details about the sighting such as what, if any, wildlife or livestock they were seen with. I then analyzed this data using the statistical software program JMP, with the goal of better understanding what we can do to contribute to a more viable Grevy’s zebra population. I plan to return to Kenya next summer to conduct further research on zebras that will form the basis for my senior thesis.