SESYNC Immersion Program: Environmental Policy Workshop

Dec 09, 2016


SESYNC Immersion Program: Environmental Policy Workshop

SESYNC is hosting a three-day Environmental Policy Immersion Program for post-doctoral researches in fields pertinent to socio-environmental research. The program includes a basic grounding in public policy issues, institutions, and approaches to collaboration between scientists and decision makers as well as a diverse set of speakers with deep, practical knowledge of how science can matter to public discourse and decisions. These individuals have extensive experience in environmental policy, and will provide participants with a unique experience and understanding of how science is deployed, interpreted, and influenced by NGOs, government, the private sector, and other "knowledge users."

SESYNC's Environmental Policy Immersion Program's Distinguished Scholars include:

Barbara Cosens, Professor and Associate Dean of Faculty, Interim Director, Waters of the West Program, University of Idaho

Cosens coordinates the Natural Resources and Environmental Law Program at the University of Idaho. Her research interests include the integration of law and science in education, water governance, and dispute resolution; adaptive water governance and resilience; and the recognition and settlement of Native American water rights. She is also a co-PI of a SESYNC synthesis team on Social-ecological System Resilience, Climate Change, and Adaptive Water Governance.

Benjamin Preston, Deputy Director and Research Scientist, Climate Change and Science Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Working in the Environmental Sciences Division and Lead for the Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability Analysis research theme within the Climate Change Institute, Preston studies the societal impacts of climate change and the role of adaptation in reducing climate risk.

Betsy CodySpecialist in Natural Resources Policy, Congressional Research Service, US Library of Congress

Cody specializes in western and national resource policy. In her 25 years with the Congressional Research Service, she has engaged with professionals from state, federal, local, and tribal agencies as well as researchers on numerous natural resources issues.

Betsy OttoGlobal Director, Water Program, World Resources Institute

Over the past several years at the World Resources Institute, Otto has led development of Aqueduct™, a global open source water risk assessment and mapping tool to inform private and public sector investment and water management decisions. Otto is also on SESYNC's External Advisory Board.

David Goldston, Director, Government Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council

A past chief of staff for the House Committee on Science (2001-2006), visiting lecturer at Harvard and Princeton Universities, columnist for the journal Nature, Goldston worked for more than 20 years on Capitol Hill before joining the NRDC in 2006. At the NRDC, Goldston is responsible for coordinating the organization's interactions with Congress, the administration, and the public, overseeing the NRDC's Center for Policy Advocacy and the NRDC Action Fund, NRDC's 501(c)(4) affiliate, and the NRDC's governmental and advocacy strategies.

JB Ruhl, David Allen Distinguished Chair of Law Director, Program on Law and Innovation Co-Director, Energy, Environment and Land Use Program, Vanderbilt University School of Law

Ruhl has published numerous, influential scholarly articles on climate change, ecosystems, governance, the Endangered Species Act, and other issues related to natural resources issues and environmental law, including one published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment with co-author, SESYNC Director and Distinguished University Professor, Margaret Palmer, that was recently awarded the Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America.

Lynn Scarlett, Global Managing Director for Public Policy, The Nature Conservancy

Lynn Scarlett, who most recently was the Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the US Department of Interior, has published numerous scholarly articles on ecosystem services, climate change adaptation, science and decision making, and landscape conservation. At The Nature Conservancy, Scarlett influences climate and nature-based solutions policy.

Natalie Peyronnin, Director of Science Policy, Mississippi River Delta Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund

Specializing in issues relating to ecosystems, natural resources management and policy, science-based decision making, and rivers and deltas, Peyronnin works to ensure sound science is being utilized to plan, design, implement, and adaptively manage projects and policies, with a focus on systems dynamics.

Paul Sandifer, Research Associate Professor and Director, Center for Coastal Environmental and Human Health, College of Charleston

A former Senior Science Advisor to the NOAA Administrator, Senior Scientist at NOAA's National Ocean Service for Coastal Ecology, and Scientist and Marine Division Director at the South Carolina Department for Natural Resources (31 years), Sandifer is an honorary life member of the World Aquaculture Society and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Sandifer also holds faculty appointments at the College of Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina, and University of South Carolina and has numerous publications in aquaculture, marine science, and ocean policy.

Richard Norgaard, Professor of Energy and Resources, Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley

Among the founders of the field of ecological economics, Norgaard's research addresses how globalization affects environmental governance, environmental problems challenge scientific understanding and the policy process, and how ecologists and economists understand systems differently. 

Sally Collins, Fellow of the Rights and Resources Institute

Collins served as the first Director of the USDA Office of Environmental Markets and worked at the "field level" as a forest manager for 20 years and spent more than 25 years in natural resources management. Collins currently works with Rights and Resources Initiative to help forested countries establish secure tenure arrangements and laws for their forested estates.

Sintana Vergara, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Berkeley

Vergara studies controls on the emission of greenhouse gases from composting organic waste. She previously conducted research on the climate benefits of reusing and recycling waste in California and Colombia, where she was a Fulbright Fellow. She also was previously an Environmental Specialist at the World Bank, where she worked on improving solid waste management in developing cities.


SESYNC's mission is to support synthetic, actionable team science on the structure, functioning and sustainability of socio-environmental systems. The center’s five core objectives are to: enhance the effectiveness of interdisciplinary collaborations among natural and social science research teams focused on environmental problems; build capacity and new communities of socio-environmental researchers; provide education programs to enhance interdisciplinarity and understanding of socio-environmental synthesis; enhance computational capacity to promote socio-environmental synthesis; and enhance relevance of socio-environmental research to decisions and behaviors via actionable scholarship. For more information on SESYNC and its activities, please visit 

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