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Williams ’13 on Weather, Health

Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Augusta Williams '13 recently collaborated to produce a bulletin, "Emerging El Nino Conditions: Notes for the Global Health Community," as part of her graduate internship. Williams is currently a rising second-year student at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, working toward a master's of public health, with a certificate in climate and health. She is interning this summer at the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society, located in Palisades, N.Y., working with Madeleine Thomson, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the IRI.

"With the forthcoming El Niño, and given my background in atmospheric sciences and health, we thought it was a great project for me to begin my work with the IRI," says Williams, noting the bulletin became her project with collaborations with Thomson, other specialists in the field, and the IRI communications team. "It was truly amazing to watch it 'go live' to the world, specifically to the World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization, United Nations and the World Bank."

The bulletin explains that the climate condition known as El Niño is predicted to develop this year and with it are likely to be extreme weather conditions that have been associated with negative health impacts. The report, which is available online, seeks to "aid health planners and practitioners in monitoring the vulnerability of communities and providing time-sensitive information for interventions to reduce negative health impacts."

Among the recommendations made in the bulletin are for health experts to: research past health impacts associated with El Niño to assess a community's health risks; develop strategies and emergency preparedness measures; follow forecasts for the anticipated El Niño period through March 2015, as well as monitor weather in real-time; establish clear and consistent messages regarding risk and interventions; and assess the impact of intervention efforts.

Williams and Thomson also have begun working on a bulletin regarding El Niño and Malaria in Eastern Africa. "Although still in its preliminary stages, it will hopefully be useful to many climate and health partners throughout Africa in planning for, and mitigating, potential malaria outbreaks later this year," says Williams.

She earned her B.S. in biology and geosciences magna cum laude from William Smith College, with Honors. Her Honors project was "Weather and Weather Radar Observations During Eared Grebe Migration in the Vicinity of the Great Salt Lake," with Associate Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird as her adviser. She also served as a research assistant in the geoscience department and was a teaching colleague. Additionally, Williams participated in Learn2Lead, was a member of the Colleges wind ensemble and was inducted into Hai Timiai as well as Phi Beta Kappa.

 


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