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2013-2014 Environmental Research Opportunities at Brown

Environmental research opportunities range from field investigations of microbial diversity and marine and terrestrial ecosystem responses to climate variability to use-driven studies that build on fisheries and agricultural science, sound building principles, and public health, among others.

The Center for Environmental Studies and affiliated units include a diverse faculty with interests in both the social and natural sciences (and integration of the two). Many have strong links to policy and practice in the region and beyond. Current and prospective students are encouraged to contact faculty with whom they are interested in working to learn more.

Lead Undergraduate Sc.B Advisor: Prof. Dov Sax,
Lead Undergraduate A.B. Advisor: Prof. Kurt Teichert,

Undergraduates, there are many opportunities to gain summer (and term-time) research experience, and funding to support that engagement. To be competitive for fellowships, start meeting with faculty and developing your project in the fall semester.

Key environmental fellowships funded through Brown include:

  1. Voss Environmental Fellows (Applications available on Voss website)
  2. Mellon-Mays
  3. UTRAs (Undergraduate Research & Teaching Awards)
  4. Royce Fellowships
  5. Brown International Scholars Program
  6. Starr Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship
  7. Center / Departmental Funds


  1. Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program @ Univ of Washington
  2. National Geographic
  3. REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates)

Potential Timeline for Summer 2014 Environmental Research Opportunities

  1. Fall 2013 - scope out opportunities, talk w/potential faculty mentors
  2. Dec 2013 – Submit proposal draft to your faculty mentor
  3. Feb 2014 – Voss and UTRA proposal deadlines (others are earlier)
  4. Spring 2014 – Prep for your summer experience
  5. June--‐Aug 2014 – Summer Research and Engagement Activities!
  6. Fall 2014 – Reflect on and share what you’ve learned
  7. Spring 2014 – Seek out capstone opportunities that enable you to further build your research and engagement skills, e.g., ENVS 1965, Engaged Environmental Scholarship and Communication

Funding Resources & Databases

  1. Fellowships @ Brown
  2. Voss Environmental Fellows
  3. Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program @ Univ of Washington
  4. Brown’s Center for Environmental Studies
  5. Leslie Lab Funding Links

Questions? Contact your concentration advisor or Prof. Leslie via email, and get in touch with the ES / Geo / Bio / EEB / Marine Bio / DUG reps.

Professor Caroline Karp is interested in working with students to investigate alternative strategies to reduce human impacts on marine water quality and natural resources. She frequently works with local environmental groups and agencies on policy problems related to natural resource and water quality planning, conservation and enforcement. Karp also has active projects looking at the role of women in southern New England fisheries; comparing local and scientific ecological knowledge of fishermen and fisheries scientists; and evaluating the effect of different fisheries management techniques on fishermen's attitudes regarding stewardship of marine resources. I also expect to involve students in examining fishermen's logbooks as a data source for a variety of environmental questions. Finally, she has relationships with colleagues in Senegal, The Gambia and Indonesia working on marine conservation issues related to marine protected areas, market-based impacts on marine species and developing local carbon markets to support conservation.

Professor M. Dawn King's current research investigates the role of renewable energy and agriculture in urban policies throughout the Americas. She is especially interested in why some programs, initiatives, and land-use planning decisions supporting urban agriculture at the local and regional level achieve their intended goals while others fail

Professor Heather Leslie’s research focuses on the ecology of coastal ecosystems, and the linkages with associated human systems. Recent projects include field and laboratory-based studies of climate change impacts on coastal marine ecosystems; investigations of the production and consumption of marine ecosystem services in the Gulf of Maine or elsewhere in New England; and synthetic research on the efficacy of marine conservation and management efforts, including ecosystem-based management and marine protected areas. She also directs the Voss Environmental Fellows Program, an undergraduate science-policy training program where students work in partnership with faculty and environmental professionals to advance solutions to environmental challenges. She is not accepting students for 2012-2013.

Professor Jack Mustard's environmental research is focused on land use/land cover change and the use of observational data from satellites to characterize rates of land cover change and the response of land cover to environmental and climate forcing. He currently has interests in the rapid growth of mechanized agriculture in Brazil, the response of land cover to hurricane Katrina, and the use of phenology to characterize land cover dynamics.

Professor Sriniketh Nagavarapu is looking for one undergraduate or Master's student to participate in current and future projects examining environmental issues in development economics. Specifically, the ongoing projects examine the ability of fishing cooperatives to effectively manage natural resources in coastal fishing communities in the Gulf of California. These projects use currently available Census data, catch data, and data on cooperative buying practices. Future projects will likely build on this by fielding an in-depth household survey. The projects are being conducted jointly with Prof. Heather Leslie (CES, EEB, ECI) and ECI Post-Doctoral Fellow Dr. Sheila Walsh. Familiarity with economics, econometrics, and basic statistical software, at least at the advanced undergraduate level, is strongly preferred.

Professor Stephen Porder is interested in working with students on one of two main research themes. 1) The drivers of spatial variation in ecosystem properties in the tropics, particularly differences in nutrient status of soils. 2) The effects of large-scale shifts to intensive agriculture in the lowland tropics, both for the regions themselves and for global issues of food security. Research sites include but are not limited to: Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil, and Puerto Rico. Applicants should have experience in biology, geology, chemistry and preferably all three. A strong interest in field work, particularly in the tropics, is a plus.

Professor Jeremy Rich: Microbes are the most numerically abundant and diverse organisms on Earth, and they control many of elemental cycles that sustain life. Human activities have strong impacts on the environment through direct and indirect effects on microbial activities. My lab is seeking students with scientific background to work on interdisciplinary environmental problems. We are currently focused on the microbial processes that ameliorate excess nitrogen loading in coastal ecosystems, and the policy implications of these processes.

Professor Timmons Roberts is working with students on several projects that link issues of climate change and international development. How do nations develop economically while protecting the climate? How do they develop while facing worsening climate impacts? First, my Latin America Climate Change project includes research for a forthcoming book and blogging for our web site at Contact Guy Edwards about that ( Second, I have a project on climate finance, tracking how foreign aid is playing a role in the promises wealthy countries made at Copenhagen (with the IIED and the University of Zurich). Third, building on class projects from last year, I’m working on advancing planning in Rhode Island to adapt to likely climate change impacts here (with URI and RI environmental NGOs).

Professor Dov Sax - Managed relocation (aka assisted colonization) aims to prevent extinctions from climate change by moving species from areas that they can no longer survive in to new areas, outside the historic range where they are likely to survive over the long term. This strategy might be necessary to prevent extinction if species are unable to track changing climate because of inherently slow dispersal rates or because a barrier (such as a city or mountain range) blocks a species movement. One inherent risk of this strategy is that transported species will be too successful in their new locations and will become invasive, impacting incumbent native species and ecosystems. Better characterizing and analyzing this risk is a central goal of the Sax Research Lab and provides ample opportunities for master’s level research.

Dr. Erika Sudderth’s research is focused on understanding how changing environmental conditions affect plant physiology, species interactions, and ecosystem processes. Her current focus is studying how altered precipitation regimes affect soil microbial, plant, and ecosystem processes in several grasslands in the Western US. The goal of this research is to discover connections between climate conditions, soil microbial and plant physiological and community processes, changes in productivity, and ecosystem fluxes of carbon and nitrogen. Potential research projects include analyzing the biochemical responses of grasses or the productivity responses of fungi to altered precipitation regimes. Opportunities for field work in Southwestern grasslands may also be available.

Professor Kurt Teichert's primary interest is in the application of sound building science principles to minimize the energy and negative environmental impacts of the built environment and transportation systems. Students are typically engaged with local and regional stakeholders applying interdisciplinary solution-based approaches to environmental issues. A current focus of projects and research is to support job training, creative financing, and program development to build a local green economy to provide energy efficiency services to under served households.

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