Water Quality & Environmental Justice Scientist



PhD 2021 & MPhil 2019 Columbia University
Earth and Environmental Sciences
MA 2016 Princeton University
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
SB and SM 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

My research is currently funded by the NASA Future Investigators in Earth and Space Science and Technology grant.

Current CV

Research Mentorship

I have advised 18 undergraduate students through research projects. I advised 2 students through NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates, 1 senior thesis student at Barnard College, and 16 students through the Columbia Summer Research Program. All of my advisees presented at a minimum of 1 national research conference. I also mentored high school students through the Secondary School Field Research Program.

I am passionate about inclusive mentorship and supporting students from groups underrepresented in STEM fields.



In my teaching, I prioritize developing critical thinking and problem solving skills, while challenging students to think about the social and cultural context of earth science topics. I designed and led a graduate field course on geosciences to Peru, taught an undergraduate research methods summer course under the Leadership Alliance/Summer Research Program (3x's), and assisted in instruction for 7 semesters in courses spanning a wide range of earth science disciplines.

Peru Field Guide

Diversity & Inclusion in HigherEd

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are and will continue to be integral elements of my scientific work, mentorship, teaching, and community engagement. My largest DEI role has been serving as the Co-Chair for the Students of Color Alliance at Columbia. In this role, I created community building and professional development programming for students of color and advocated at the university level for change.

Specific to earth and climate science, climate change and environmental exposures disproportionately impact vulnerable communities, especially people of color and lower wealth communities. To address pressing climate and society issues, our scientific community must demonstrate our commitment to vulnerable communities in our work and include people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives in our field.

My efforts to improve DEI in higher education have been recognized at the university level by my peers (Chinweike Okegbe Service Award, MIT Office of Minority Education Distinguished Peer for Public Service) and the administration (Columbia Alumni Association's Campbell Award, MIT Institute Award: Ronald E. McNair Fund).


Public Scholarship

As someone who is committed to environmental and social justice, I strive to make my research (and earth science) accessible to the public. I give regular presentations to audiences from middle school up on my research, water quality, and earth science in general (video links of example presentations: Breakfast Lecture for the Hudson River Watershed Alliance and Genspace Public Lecture). I also develop and run earth science workshops and other interactive, largescale outreach events (e.g. Lamont Open House, AMNH Sun Earth Day, Youth Climate Summit).

I also communicate my work through accessible videos/animations. In March 2021, I won 2nd place and Audience Choice at the MIT Black Alumni (Virtual) Research Slam with my accessible lightning talk on my PhD research (clip at 43:35-47:15).

On Twitter, you can find me sharing a wide-variety of scientific studies and articles about science, inequality, and/or diversity and inclusion. I also share any media appearances there, like this CBS This Morning Earth Day special on sewage pollution in the Hudson River!

My YouTube Channel


My research on environmental pollution is driven by my desire to address environmental inequality by expanding environmental monitoring capabilities for public health. I use a combination of experiments, field work, modeling, and satellite data analysis in my current research, which is primarily focused on sewage-derived bacteria pollution in the Hudson River Estuary.
Explore some of my current projects below.


HRE Water Quality & Modeling Sewage Pollution

Despite dramatic improvement in the past 30 years, the Hudson River Estuary still has consistent problems with irregular, high sewage contamination. This occurs most often when it rains due to combined sewer overflows and overwhelmed wastewater treatment plants. Contact with sewage contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal and other illnesses in humans because of potentially pathogenic bacteria, like Salmonella sp. and Escherichia coli.

To minimize human exposure to these pathogens, we need well-validated predictive models of water quality. Curent water quality tests rely on growing fecal indicator bacteria (like Enterococcus sp. and E. coli) for 24 hours, which means there is a delay in knowing if the water is safe for recreation. In experiments, I quantified the ecological dynamics of various fecal bacteria and used those data to parameterize a mathematical model. A few key conclusions of this work include:

1) Particle attachment increases fecal indicator bacteria persistence
2) Sewage-derived fecal bacteria persist longer in turbid (darker water) and more turbulent (more waves) waters, like in the Hudson River
3) Fecal bacteria discharges closer to sunset persist much longer than discharges at sunrise

Read Our Paper

Satellites & Sewage

Satellites can measure water transparency, which is an input in my fecal bacteria persistence model. I am creating maps of projected persistence to show where sewage pollution will last longest in the Hudson.

Sewage in the Hudson

Water Transparency

As part of my field validation of satellite data, I am measuring water transparency (how light travels through water). Light kills fecal bacteria, so it is important to know how transparency varies throughout the Hudson and where light loss is due more to turbdity, chlorophyll, or colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM).


Bacterial Community

We now know particles increase fecal bacterial persistence. But is it because bacteria communities on particles vs. free-living are different or that particles benefit any bacteria attaching to them? I am using 16S sequencing on a year of samples from the Hudson to address this question.


COVID & Inequality

Historically, inequality along the lines of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status has fueled a disproportionate impact of respiratory illness. I am examining how COVID-19 case severity in NYC is affected by environmental and social inequality. Read my April 2020 white paper here.

Contact Me For

Accessible presentations/workshops on my research, the Hudson River Estuary, water quality, and urban earth science. Aimed middle school and up (see links above for examples)

Consultation for water quality, climate science, urban pollution, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education.

Media comments and appearances related to my research areas or DEI in Higher Education.

Please note - I am not taking new students at this time, but would be happy to connect you with relevant colleagues. I look forward to hearing from you!

Email: e.myers at columbia.edu or via form below