The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) has awarded three PEI-STEP Environmental Policy Fellows, Dan Li, Joe Majkut, and Matthew Reid, with the Graduate Certificate in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The PEI-STEP Fellowship Program provides invaluable support toward the completion of their doctoral research.
The PEI-STEP Fellowship Program enables Ph.D. students in departments outside of the Woodrow Wilson School to address the environmental policy implications of their thesis research through supplementary course-work and policy-oriented research. Many PEI-STEP students are pursuing Ph.D.s in science and engineering, but the program also includes students in the humanities and social sciences.
Dan Li’s PEI-STEP project, “Can the hydro climatic impacts of urbanization be mitigated by urban planning policies?” intersects policy and civil and environmental engineering. By conducting this research, Li seeks to “study the potential of urban planning policies to reduce human stresses on urban climate, such as urban heat island effects and modification of water flux, based on a better understanding of the interactions between urban development pattern, the climate system, and the urban water cycle.” The two primary questions Li proposes to address are: how the variability of urbanizing surfaces interact with local/regional climate and the water cycle, and how should future urban planning policy evolve in order to reduce human stresses on the urban environment and promote sustainable development. Li’s PEI-STEP advisor is Michael Oppenheimer. Describing his PEI-STEP project, Li said, “It will be largely rooted in my thesis work which studies the urbanization effect on local climate and the water cycle in the Baltimore metropolitan area, and will significantly extend the policy implications of my scientific work. Ultimately, the project is expected to help urban planners to develop optimal policies for the sustainable development of the Baltimore area.”
Joseph Majkut’s PEI-STEP project, entitled "Implications of Learning about the Carbon-Climate Feedback," aims to understand how our current uncertainty in the response of the carbon system to climate change should impact our decisions while making emissions policy. Explaining how he will conduct his research, Majkut said, “I will use the DIMES climate-carbon-economy model to evaluate how we might anticipate the impacts of this currently unknown climate feedback and chart an optimal path now. I am excited to learn about the economic and social considerations that go into making climate policy and discover how scientific research can be carried out with climate decisions in mind. Our global response to climate change is a grand engineering challenge and I am happy to have this program to find my place in it.” Majkut’s STEP Advisor is Michael Oppenheimer.
Matthew Reid’s PEI-STEP topic, called “Economic Incentives for Wetland Restoration through Carbon Offset Markets,” will investigate the need to create additional incentives to prevent the further loss of wetlands and promote wetland restoration in the United States. The goal of his PEI-STEP research is to “develop a framework for including wetlands, with a focus on tidal wetlands, in carbon offset programs in order to increase the economic value of wetlands and thereby incentivize the protection and restoration of wetland resources and there corresponding ecosystem services.” Reid said, “Participation in the PEI-STEP program will be a useful complement to my thesis research, since it will provide a perspective into how my results will be interpreted by policymakers. I am involved in a field study measuring the dynamics of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, and N2O) in wetlands. The motivation for this work is to determine the balance of greenhouse gases in wetlands, and to develop predictive models to determine the greenhouse gas balance of various wetland ecosystems. This work is of direct relevance to policymakers, who will need to use results like these to determine whether wetlands should be included as carbon offsets in cap and trade programs, and how there carbon sequestration capacity can best be predicted and verified. My coursework and research in the PEI-STEP program will show me what policymakers are looking for in terms of data and analysis, and thus will provide insight into how to frame my results to be informative and persuasive to those who will translate science into public policy.” Reid’s PEI-STEP advisor is Denise Mauzerall.
The goal of PEI-STEP is to develop students who are more effective and versatile in their careers as scientists, teachers, and leaders in the public and private sectors and to increase awareness among students and faculty of how their discipline-based skills can be brought to bear on environmental problems. To meet the requirements of the PEI-STEP Certificate, the graduate student normally takes three courses, approved by the PEI-STEP director, on aspects of policy related to science, technology or the environment. In addition, they must produces a paper or incorporate a policy component of publishable quality into their thesis.