Student contributes to national climate assessment

Alexandra Arnold, D.P.M.’24, M.P.H., M.S., completed an eight-week virtual internship with the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) during June and July 2021. She was selected to participate in this internship as part of the Department of Global Health’s Distinguished Global Health Internships program. These internships are selective research opportunities that enable students to collaborate with researchers to explore global health research topics at various national organizations.

Alexandra Arnold

The USGCRP’s mandate is to develop and coordinate a comprehensive and integrated United States research program that will assist the nation and the world to understand, assess, predict and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change. Representatives from its 13 federal agencies are participating in developing the Fifth National Climate Assessment, or NCA5, an update of previous assessments of climate change and its impacts on the United States.

During her internship with USGCRP, Alexandra worked on analyzing a list of zoonotic diseases and created a table including the method of transfer, the health impact on humans, the impact on other species and whether the diseases have an effect on freshwater or marine life. Her project was focused on marine animal life. She was also responsible for creating an annotated bibliography for at least 10 articles in the literature review. 

“The table is something that I’m most proud of because there hasn’t been a table completed listing out the organization of animal health using marine aquaculture,” she explained. “My project was focused on the National Climate Assessment 5 and using climate-sensitive drivers, seeing how they will affect zoonotic diseases using One Health principles.”

One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral and transdisciplinary approach at local, regional, national and global levels led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It recognizes that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment. In constructing her table using its principles, Alexandra first divided it into fish, mollusks and crustaceans. She took the table one step further by examining marine life aquaculture and the other fish diseases. The next important step will be to examine the human health impact.

“Realistically, most of the fish-related diseases aren’t transmissible to humans, so it’s mainly affecting human health from an economic standpoint,” she said.

In addition to creating the table and annotated bibliography, Alexandra had the opportunity to participate in a variety of meetings with USGCRP. 

“One of my favorite functions to attend was the Belmont Forum, which focused on how to integrate different countries into research projects involving climate change,” she said.  “During the meeting, they brought up the good point of how to fund such big projects, and collaboration for ideas among the different countries and focus groups was cool. I really got to learn about the interagency workflow and how major government organizations function. As a podiatry student, it’s not something I would’ve thought of as being important in my day-to-day life, but as a public health professional, my schooling really placed emphasis on teamwork within different departments.

“Overall, I am very happy with my internship, and it was a valuable experience,” she added. “I will highly recommend this internship to any students in public health who are interested in the government sector. I am very grateful to the Global Health Department for giving me this opportunity to represent DMU this summer for USGCRP.”

Are you a DMU student interested in an internship at USGCRP, the Pan American Health Organization or the CDC? The application for the Distinguished Global Health internships for summer 2022 will open on Nov. 12, 2021. For more information and to apply, please visit the Department of Global Health’s Pulse Page. If you have any questions, please contact the department at

We also invite you to join us via Zoom for the Office of Research’s Friday Research Seminar on November 12 at noon when the 2021 global health interns will present research from their internships. Register for the seminar here.

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