Student Spotlight with Alyssa Wood

Alyssa Wood is an FAU alumna who graduated in the Fall of 2017 with an M.S. in Geosciences after the completion of her B.A. in Environmental Studies at the FAU Honors College. Wood has been a Green Initiatives Coordinator for the last two years for the Municipal Government of Hallandale Beach.

What are some of your core responsibilities?

I am a 1-person office that works with all City departments to lead Hallandale Beach's sustainability and resilience work. Some of my core duties include implementing our Sustainability Action Plan and Vulnerability Assessment & Adaptation Plan. Currently, I am also working to develop our first Climate Action Plan with stakeholders. I enjoy this position because I get to work on physical project implementation (like restoring dunes, installing bioswales, and setting up an EV charger network), future planning (mandating sea level rise infrastructure standards and reviewing developments for compliance with our recently updated Green Building Code), making and enforcing Policy (for instance we passed the first fertilizer blackout dates in Broward in our Coral Reef Protection Ordinance), and education/engagement of our residents. Since the job spans both Sustainability and Resilience, I get to balance the sometimes depressing work of climate change resilience with softer topics like water conservation. It is a nice balance and I feel like in 2 years I've made a difference.

How did FAU help prepare you for this role?

Prior to getting my MS at FAU, I would have qualified for this job on paper, but I would not have been prepared. My work in Dr. Polsky's lab especially prepared me for this position as it relates to understanding climate change adaptation, the complexities of resilience, and principles of planning and vulnerability as it relates to climate change resilience. I've continued to work with Dr. Polsky and his lab on projects like climate change literacy training for staff. Additionally, the experience I got from Dr. Fadiman and Dr. Hindle prepared me to engage with residents and adjust my work to their desires/needs/viewpoints. The basic GIS that I pursued as part of my MS also prepared me to be able to manage projects related to flood hazard mapping.

What did you enjoy about your experience at FAU?

I really enjoyed working in Dr. Polsky's lab as a Research Assistant and carrying out my thesis fieldwork with the lab. Additionally, I loved the fact that I got to take many of my classes in a LEED-certified building (Davie West). I loved all of Dr. Fadmian's classes and discussing environmental social science over "snack time". The professors in the Geoscience Department were always accessible which made it so I never struggled.

What research did you perform while at FAU? And how did the faculty help you through your thesis or dissertation?

I carried out focus groups and key informant interviews with residents and experts along the eastern Atlantic seaboard (Mass, VA, GA) about salt marsh ecosystem services. The project was under Dr. Polsky and his leadership and direction through that project is something I strive to replicate in my work in the City. I and others on the project had weekly meetings with Dr. Polsky about the project and also our theses.

What tips would you give to current students in the College of Science looking to pursue a career in your field?

Once you get the degree, don't be afraid to go for the jobs and be aggressive to show your worth. There are a lot of jobs in resilience in South Florida and the US and I think you just have to be confident that FAU prepared you to do this work and do it well.