Aaron Schwartz, 2017, Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Protecting our coastal areas is requiring increasing ingenuity, as rising sea levels and stronger storms are putting coasts around the world at higher risk. Traditional methods of coastal protection revolve around “grey” infrastructure, such as the construction of sea walls, groins, and breakwaters. However, coastal planners are beginning to place additional focus on the role that natural coastal infrastructure, such as coastal wetlands, reefs, mangrove forests, and barrier islands, plays in contributing to coastal protection. I aided in EDF’s efforts to better understand the current state of knowledge of natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions, and to determine which policy barriers are standing in the way of nature-based coastal management strategies. I helped to communicate the findings of an EDF Emerging Issues Workshop regarding natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions, to compile a thorough literature review of the current state of knowledge of natural infrastructure features, and to develop an online visual tour of promising examples of natural infrastructure in action. During my internship, I gained valuable insight into the complex interaction between science, policy, and the implementation of strategies on the ground, which will remain valuable as I pursue a career that combines quantitative scientific reasoning and public policy.