The Rockefeller Foundation Planetary Health (RFPH) Fellows Program

With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Planetary Health Alliance (PHA) at Harvard University has created The Rockefeller Foundation Planetary Health (RFPH) Fellows program to enable recent doctorate recipients to tackle complex questions at the intersection of global environmental change and human health.

2016-2018 Fellow

JAMES CRALL

Dr. James Crall is a biologist, interested in how environmental change affects pollinators and the food systems they support.

James was recruited as a Rockefeller Foundation Planetary Health Fellow in November 2017. He earned his B.A. in Biology and Sociology & Anthropology at Swarthmore College and completed his Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University in 2016, supervised by Dr. Naomi Pierce and Dr. Stacey Combes. His dissertation examined how bumblebee colonies cope with complex environmental challenges, both as individual workers and entire colonies.

As a Planetary Health Fellow, James is studying how pesticide exposure and other environmental stressors impact animal pollinators and human nutrition. He is developing techniques for automated tracking of social behavior in bees using tools adapted from neuroscience. These high-throughput techniques will allow for rapid and efficient screening of agrochemicals for detrimental effects on pollinators, and improve our understanding of how exposure to multiple stressors (such as pesticides and extreme temperatures) combines to impact the health of bees and the agricultural yields they support.

2017-2019 FELLOWS

AYESHA MAHMUD

Dr. Ayesha Mahmud is a demographer interested in the interplay between human population changes, environmental factors, and infectious disease dynamics.

Ayesha recently completed her PhD in Demography from Princeton University, under the supervision of Professor Jessica Metcalf and Professor Bryan Grenfell. Her dissertation research examined the social, demographic, and environmental drivers of the transmission dynamics and mortality of common childhood infections. At Princeton, Ayesha was awarded the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars, and was also a 2015 Data Science for Social Good Fellow. Ayesha received a B.A. in Physics and Economics from Carleton College.

As a Planetary Health Fellow, Ayesha will examine the role of seasonal, as well as long-term, environmental changes and population movement patterns on the transmission and spread of vector and water-borne diseases in Bangladesh.

KERSTIN DAMERAU 

Dr. Kerstin Damerau is an environmental scientist, with strong interest in interdisciplinary research on human-environment systems. Having a background in energy and water resource management, she shifted her focus towards the interrelations between agricultural resource use for food production and human nutrition and health.

Kerstin joins the Planetary Health Alliance as a Rockefeller Foundation Planetary Health Fellow from ETH Zurich’s Climate Policy Group. She received her M.Sc. in Theoretical and Applied Geography from the University of Vienna in 2008 and completed her PhD in Environmental Sciences at ETH Zurich in November 2015, supervised by Professor Anthony Patt. While focusing on renewable energy research, both her Master’s and dissertation thesis spanned a wide variety of scientific fields, including climate change mitigation, energy systems modeling, engineering, water resource management, and sustainability science. Following her PhD, Kerstin joined CSIRO Brisbane’s Food Systems and Global Change group, led by Dr. Mario Herrero, as a guest researcher in 2016, working on water use efficiency of food production and dietary water demand.

As a Planetary Health Fellow, Kerstin will combine her expertise in natural resource assessments and modeling to analyze current research on nutrition and health, specifically examining the nutritional and environmental sustainability of dietary guidelines and potential alternatives for a more sustainable food system.

2018-2020 FELLOW

ANGELA RIGDEN  

Dr. Angela Rigden is a hydrologist interested in understanding connections
between the water cycle, climate, and vegetation, especially pertaining to
agriculture.

Angela completed her Ph.D. in Earth Science at Boston University under the
supervision of Dr. Guido Salvucci. Her dissertation explored the sources of
variability in terrestrial water cycling, finding that vegetation plays a key role in
modulating multi-decadal trends in evaporation. Angela received a B.S. in
Biological Engineering from Cornell University.

As a Planetary Health Fellow, Angela will leverage her expertise in hydrology to
explore how changes in precipitation affect food production in Sub-Saharan
Africa. Her approach will synthesize data from a wide range of observational
platforms, including satellites, weather stations, and agricultural surveys. She
also plans to collaborate with local stakeholders in Africa to incorporate data that
have hitherto not been accessible, and interpret the implications of her findings.