UConn Students and Faculty @ COP21 in Paris

This year’s Conference of Parties (COP21) climate change summit will be held in Paris, France from November 30th – December 11th.  The event will bring together diplomats, business executives, government leaders, and other delegates from all across the globe to discuss climate action and agree upon universal legislation on how to address climate change.

UConn is an international leader in climate change science, engineering, and policy, and consistently ranks among the top ten greenest universities in the world and the U.S. This year UConn joins the growing list of top research universities, private and public, that are participating in the historic United Nations climate change conference and related events in Paris. A team of students, faculty and sustainability staff will attend this conference in order to:

  • Empower the UConn contingent to interact and develop relationships with international groups and peers in order to improve our understanding of climate change science and policy, and expand opportunities for collaboration,
  • Provide a group of UConn’s most promising students and future climate action leaders with a unique opportunity for global academic enrichment and a deeper appreciation for the process of international diplomacy and consensus building,
  • Leverage the experiences of these students to engage the larger UConn community through projects developed and implemented during and after the conference, and
  • Highlight UConn’s standing as a leader in climate change through our active participation and communications using a variety of media.

Organizing Committee

UConn@COP21 Organizing Committee

*Mark Urban – Associate Professor, EEB

*Anji Seth - Associate Professor, Geography and Chair, Atmospheric Sciences Group

Jim O’Donnell – Professor, Marine Sciences and Executive Director, CIRCA

Guiling Wang - Professor, ENVE and Executive Committee, Atmospheric Sciences Group

*Tracy Rittenhouse - Assistant Professor, NRE

Zahra Ali - Director, Global Partnerships & Communications, Global Affairs

Joe MacDougald – Director, Center for Energy & Environmental Law, Law School and Director, CIRCA

*Oksan Bayulgen - Associate Professor, Political Science, Faculty Director – Global House

*Rich Miller – Director, Office of Environmental Policy (OEP)


Organizing Staff – UConn@COP21

Cherie Taylor, Administrative Coordinator, OEP

Matthew Lakenbach, Program Assistant, Global Affairs

*Sarah Munro, Sustainability Coordinator, OEP (Ph.D Student, Poli. Sci.)


*Traveling with the UConn contingent

Meet the Students

Anna Middendorf

Anna is from Bremen, Germany and moved to the United States in August 2013 to pursue her undergraduate degree at UConn. She is a junior majoring in Political Science with a double minor in Economic and Human Rights. Anna studied abroad in Chile for a semester in the spring of 2015 and speaks German, English and Spanish. Her project for COP21 is an instagram account called frogsinapot, where she shares social-political art and marketing projects that use a creative medium to focus around anthropogenic climate change. Anna's particular interests lie in Refugee rights, whether political, economic or climate-related. She is also am lucky to be a member of the UConn Field Hockey team.


Haley Brennan

Haley is a sophomore undergraduate student studying Environmental Health (with a concentration in the Environmental Science Major), aspiring to improve human-environment relations to develop sustainable behaviors in individuals. Haley is in the process of developing the Student Environmental Engagement Division (SEED), which is a student organization that brings environmental groups across UConn's campus together to create an online eco-magazine and programs for sustainability training for students. 



Danielle Chaloux

Danielle Chaloux is a junior in the Honors Program, studying French and Resource Economics at the Unversity of Connecticut. While in at COP 21, she is producing a podcast series, including episodes on the history and importance of the Conference of Parties, the wide variety of events at the summit, and the ultimate outcome and agreements of the conference. As comptroller at WHUS Radio, UConn's student-run station, she works with students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community to ensure high quality programming and bring original content to listeners. 



Brianna Church

Brianna Church is an environmental engineering student in her last year at UConn.  An officer of the EcoHusky student group and an intern at the University’s Office of Environmental Policy, Brianna is passionate about educating the local community about environmental sustainability.  After traveling to Paris to attend events related to the COP21 climate summit, Brianna hopes to engage the wider UConn community about the experiences she and the other students have had by compiling, editing, and displaying photographs in an art exhibit at the Student Union during the spring semester.  She will also write a few blog articles to accompany some of her photography and share them through social media.


Jessica Griffin

Jessica is a junior studying Environmental Science and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn. Her project is a photographic comparison of sustainability initiatives in Paris and at UConn, focusing how we can take the global lessons of COP21 and apply them at a local level. While at UConn, Jessica is a member of EcoHusky and a sustainability intern at the Office of Environmental Policy. She also received an IDEA Grant to research the impact of red tide algae on the feeding mechanisms of zooplankton. Jessica also studied ecology in South Africa and participated in an environmental alternative spring break to a national recreation center on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky.


Kerrin Kinnear

Kerrin is a senior studying Environmental Studies with a minor in Geography.  Sustainability is her passion – she is the Co-President of EcoHusky, an intern at the Office of Environmental Policy, and a member of the Undergraduate Student Government’s Environmental Subcommittee.  Kerrin's love for the environment extends beyond the University realm.  Hiking, rock climbing, caving, and outdoor adventuring are among her favorite activities.  Moving forward, she is hoping to enter the field of environmental policy to push for a more sustainable world through intelligent land development and use of our water resources. 



Cristina Macklem

Cristina Macklem is a 7th semester University Scholar who will be graduating this spring with Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Spanish degrees and pursuing a Master’s degree in Natural Resources and the Environment at UConn in the fall.  As an undergraduate, Cristina has researched and studied how climate change and other human impacts affect wildlife. Her COP21 project will include an informative video on simple lifestyle changes that UConn students can make to reduce their environmental impact and an annual fundraiser geared towards developing renewable solar energy on campus in the future.  She hopes that UConn can become a leader in renewable energy development as it continues to grow and expand and that campus can work towards reducing its dependence on natural gas over time. 

Rachael Smiley

Rachael is a junior studying Natural Resources and the Environment with a concentration in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation.  She is the treasurer of UConn's chapter of the Wildlife Society and Vice President of UConn Whitewater.  Rachael loves the outdoors and everything that lives there! Particularly, she is interested in minimizing negative anthropogenic impacts on the Earth's ecosystems and preserving biodiversity, which is why she wanted to attend COP21.  Going forward, Rachael would like to see UConn take big steps in lessening its carbon footprint and UConn students becoming more aware of their personal environmental impact.  The project she wants to undertake following the climate summit involves helping UConn campuses adopt more sustainable landscaping practices using native, carbon-sequestering vegetation instead of farmed turf grass. Rachael thinks it is important for UConn to show the community direct ways in which we can actively lessen our impact on the climate.

Ron Tardiff

Ron is a senior studying at the University of Connecticut. He is pursuing a double major in marine sciences and maritime studies with minors in marine biology and geography. Over the past year, Ron has spent time in Germany researching at the Leibniz Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology as a German Academic Exchange Service RISE Scholar, studied at the University of Essex, Colchester, England as a Gilman Scholar and studied at the University of Nordland as a High North Fellow. His research interests include fisheries ecology and management, the intersection of science and policy, blue carbon, and the dynamics of human-ocean interaction. Ron hopes to return to Europe to complete a relevant master’s degree and ultimately work in areas related to marine policy/management or extension focusing particularly on issues with international focus.