2018 PFIG Recipient Ian Hardman
Journal Entry #1
Today marked the beginning of my third week as a Research and Publications Intern for the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC. The amount of exposure to the research and policy fields I have gained in such a short time is remarkable. In the first few minutes at ELI, I was thrust into a fast paced and independent work environment and have enjoyed how busy it has kept me. Tasked with aiding expert attorneys, scientists and economists, my fellow interns and I have been introduced to the exciting reality of full-time academic research. Working with such experienced research staff, even for such a short time, has been extremely beneficial to my growth as a student of environmental policy. I entered this internship with a moderate amount of independent research experience, having had the opportunity to work with faculty in UVA’s economics and environmental science departments over the last year. I feel like in the last two weeks I have tripled my knowledge of research techniques and resources.
During the first week I was asked about my research interests in order for my supervisor to pair me with staff members who work in those concentrations. Having worked on energy policy issues in the past, I was assigned to an ongoing research project involving biomass energy production and wastewater treatment. Additionally, my past research in water law and water economics inspired me to reach out to a staff member, Adam Schempp, about the possibility of working with him. We realized we had a mutual connection with Brian Richter, an Adjunct Professor at UVA and a leader in the water conservation field. I am planning to begin research with Schempp this week. At the same time, however, I have had plenty of opportunity to branch out and learn about policy topics outside of my comfort zone. During my time at UVA, I have had very little exposure to law in my coursework. Many of my projects at ELI have forced me to become comfortable with understanding and navigating the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations and the Library of Congress’ reference collection while familiarizing myself with legal language. Over the last two weeks I have edited academic papers and book chapters that will be published soon and, in doing so, gained important citation skills that I will be able to use as I conduct research for my economics Distinguished Majors Program thesis this coming year.
I can tell already that my internship with ELI is going to be a pivotal point in my research education and will aid me in whatever career I choose to follow after graduation. Many members of the staff at ELI have studied at world class graduate programs around the country and the globe. I hope to learn about their experiences and gain insight into some of the possible paths I could follow next June. For the time being, I’m just enjoying the learning process and trying to keep up with all of the interesting tasks I’ve been assigned!
Journal Entry #2
I’ve just finished my seventh week at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C. I can safely say that I’ve never been so happy to have a schedule full of deadlines, meetings and presentations. Every time I complete an assignment I am left with the feeling that my work is going to make a positive impact. While I am constantly challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone, I know the last two months have been essential to my growth as a student and a researcher.
Along with several other interns, I have undertaken a large and ongoing project regarding the role that wastewater treatment plants play in the production of clean biogas. What I find so interesting about this project is the diverse backgrounds of my team members and our ability to synthesize differing academic skills into comprehensive research. Our team is made up of a Ph.D. economist, a biologist, two policy majors, a global studies major and me – a student of economics and environmental science. I’ve had the opportunity to use a variety of skills from classes at UVA that I never thought I would have a chance to use outside of the classroom. For example, I undertook a large mapping project, using the skills I learned in UVA’s GIS Methods course in the environmental science department. This gave me a chance to have a creative outlet while also contributing to important analysis of the state of biogas production and anaerobic digestion in the United States. These are incredibly important policy issues as they not only contribute to our nations renewable energy infrastructure, they also serve as a solution to our tremendous food waste problem.
Additionally, I have experienced the difficulty of writing an up-to-date and comprehensive article on a piece of constantly changing legislation – the 2018 Farm Bill. Keeping track of the alterations to and differences between the Senate and House bills makes for a difficult writing process. At the same time, I have the opportunity to write an informative article on an incredibly important piece of legislation. A lot of Americans don’t realize the reach that the Farm Bill has. Reauthorized every five years or so, it governs every facet of the American food supply. While most news sources only cover the partisan battle over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), I have the chance to introduce people to some of the less known sustainability measures in the Bill – specifically the opportunities for the US to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and food waste. This has also given me the chance familiarize myself with US Congressional databases and the important documents they contain.
I am currently hard at work on a project of personal interest to me – an exploration of the consequences of social discounting. Social discounting is a simple but often misunderstood economic instrument. I am writing a paper, to be presented to my peers, about the environmental consequences of social discounting in an effort to demystify the confusing subject. I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to conduct this research while surrounded by an incredible staff of environmental policy experts. Their input will be crucial to my successful creation of an informative piece of writing – and possibly an introduction to my distinguished majors thesis.
I am looking forward to a fast-paced conclusion to my internship with ELI. I have three weeks left and am still deciding how to make the very most of them. I know I will be incredibly busy up until the moment I leave my desk for the last time.
Journal Entry #3
I have just completed my time as a Research and Publications Intern for the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work under the direction of such bright, open-minded people. The last three weeks of my internship were so jam packed with events, projects and meetings that I barely had time to say goodbye to the wonderful staff at the Institute. While they were challenging and fast paced, the last three weeks of my internship were probably the most meaningful and beneficial to my growth as a researcher.
I spent the majority of this time conducting independent research in order to complete my project on the social discount rate. This was my first opportunity to write a formal, academic style article and to have it read and critiqued by a professional economist. I also had the chance to present my findings to the other interns and junior research staff members. I received incredibly helpful criticism from people who have spent their entire lives studying topics I have only just found out about. Having the opportunity to run ideas by people like this is an experience any undergraduate researcher would be lucky to have - but few do. I also completed my article on the 2018 Farm Bill once the Senate agreed to go to conference committee. It can be found here. Writing about the farm bill was such a worthwhile experience because I not only had to keep up with the changes, I had to go back and read the previous farm bills to understand the context. This will be extremely useful as I conduct research on legislation in the future.
During the last few weeks with ELI, I had the chance to undertake several new projects as well. I honed my surveying skills by conducting interviews with public officials all throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed region. This project allowed me to gain familiarity with the policy making process at the county and city level in an effort to understand the implementation policies that require green storm water infrastructure. I also took on an interesting project about the illegal trafficking of orchids and snakes. This gave me the opportunity to contribute to a report that will be presented before the UN.
I hope that my career path brings me back in contact with the wonderful people at ELI and the important work they do. It was amazing to have the chance to conduct research that benefits people, communities and threatened species all over the world. It is a discouraging time for people who have worked hard to protect the environment but the staff at ELI are unphased and unwilling to back down. It has been an amazing experience just to play a small role in their important work.