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Meet the Newest Metcalf Institute Advisory Board Members

Metcalf Institute Advisory Board members Dr. Austin Becker, Manuela Zoninsein and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer


Metcalf Institute is pleased to welcome Austin Becker, Manuela Zoninsein and Michael Oppenheimer to its Advisory Board. Each brings a wealth of relevant experience and expertise, including international leadership in science communication and climate change resilience and sustainability.

Metcalf Advisory Board members will play a critical role as the Institute prepares to embark on a comprehensive and transformative strategic planning initiative to ensure that future programs and resources are aligned with the changing needs of journalists, scientists and the public.

Austin Becker is an assistant professor and director of Graduate Programs in the Department of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island College of the Environment and Life Sciences. As an interdisciplinary scientist, he works between the fields of urban planning and policy, engineering, and ocean science. Becker focuses on coastal resilience and vulnerability for the urban coast. He uses seaport systems as case studies, creating and testing tools that help decision makers explore the complexities of natural hazard resilience. He is a frequently invited speaker at international conferences and workshops, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. He is co-editor of the book Climate Change Adaptation Planning for Ports and numerous scientific publications. In 2016, Becker was awarded the prestigious Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship in Ocean Sciences and, in 2018, the URI Early Career Faculty Research and Scholarship Excellence Award. Becker earned a Ph.D. in Environment and Resources from Stanford University and a Master of Marine Affairs and Master of Environmental Science and Management from URI.

Manuela Zoninsein leads business development for Latin America at Palantir Technologies, a global software company specializing in big data analytics. She is also an early stage impact investor, supporting women-led companies focused on urban sustainability solutions. Zoninsein was previously an entrepreneur in the agriculture field. She is cofounder of InstaAgro, Brazil’s largest online marketplace for agricultural products. She was also founder and CEO of Smart Agriculture Analytics, a Beijing-based market intelligence firm focused on sustainable agritech opportunities in China. An alumna of Metcalf’s 2010 Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists, Zoninsein reported for Newsweek and Engineering News-Record in Beijing in 2007 on a Princeton-in-Asia Fellowship covering environment, technology, infrastructure and energy and previously reported for Newsweek and Climate Wire. Zoninsein earned her Master of Science degree in modern Chinese studies from the University of Oxford and her Bachelor of Arts in social studies from Harvard. Zoninsein is currently pursuing an Executive MBA at MIT.

Metcalf Institute’s newest advisory board member, Michael Oppenheimer, is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. He brings a wide range of expertise related to climate change science, policy, and communication. His interests include science and policy of the atmosphere, particularly climate change and its impacts. Much of his research aims to understand the potential for dangerous outcomes of increasing levels of greenhouse gases by exploring the effects of global warming on ice sheets and sea level, and on patterns of human migration. Oppenheimer is a long-time participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel Peace Price in 2007. He is currently a coordinating lead author on the IPCC’s Special Report on Oceans, Cryosphere, and Climate Change. Oppenheimer also serves as a science advisor to The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and previously served as chief scientists and manager of EDF’s Climate and Air Program. He’s the winner of the 2010 Heinz Award and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Oppenheimer is committed to facilitating accurate news coverage of climate science, and has been interviewed by numerous news organizations including ABC News, PBS NewsHour, and The New York Times, as well as popular media such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Colbert Report.

“I’m thrilled to welcome this talented group of globally-engaged professionals with expertise in a variety of science, communication, and environmental policy-related fields to our Advisory Board,” said Sunshine Menezes, executive director of Metcalf Institute. “Austin, Manuela, and Michael will bring new perspectives to a Board that not only understands the importance of advancing informed conversations about science and the environment, but exhibits the vision, commitment and energy needed to push Metcalf Institute’s work to the next level of impact.”