| by Caitlin Fillmore

News Stories

Anderson, Jack
Jack Anderson MAEPM ’25 has been working for the City of Monterey on its disaster planning.

When it comes to environmental hazards in Monterey, it’s “you name it, we’ve got it,” said Jack Anderson, a first-year environmental policy and management student.

From sea level rise, storm surges, and tsunamis to earthquakes and wildfires, Monterey County must plan for a complex array of potential disasters. 

Over the past semester, Anderson has been spending about 16 hours a week just down the block from the Institute, helping the City of Monterey with disaster planning. Several students work for different city departments each semester through federal work-study

“It’s interesting to see how different aspects of city planning go into creating plans for a local place,” said Anderson, a first-year graduate student from Cheshire, Connecticut. Monterey has to balance social justice and short- and long-term goals for emergency management, including responses to natural disasters.

There’s so much more that goes into it besides just putting out fires. To dive into those nuances is pretty cool.
— Jack Anderson MAEPM ’25

Tradeoffs happen everywhere, said Anderson. 

For example, federally endangered monarch butterflies migrate each year to a small grove of trees in a sanctuary in Pacific Grove that also happens to be at very high risk of fire. Usually, the local city would remove the stand of trees to protect nearby homes, but the butterflies also must be protected.

“How do you balance those two? There’s so much more that goes into it besides just putting out fires,” Anderson said. “To dive into those nuances is pretty cool.”

During Anderson’s work-study, he focused on planning, the “softer” side of infrastructure, with projects like updating FEMA standards and developing emergency response plans with city managers. He not only learned how government works but narrowed his career goals.

“I’m interested in getting into the infrastructure investment side (of planning),” Anderson said. “This work-study has given me the other side of it, which is really interesting. To see how the leviathan of city, state, and county government fit together is something that will be very applicable in the future for me.”

With his future career, Anderson aspires to “plan how to minimize the dark spots” around climate change. He’s also been assisting Dr. Fernando DePaolis, associate professor in economic development and data analysis, with developing a tree inventory.

All urban areas create “heat islands” because buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes like forests and water bodies. This will become an even more dangerous problem as the earth warms and city populations age.

Anderson helps map existing forests using GIS and an innovative deep-learning AI model to inventory the species and location of individual trees. The idea is to develop 20 to 30 years of congruent data to monitor how urban forests are changing over time.

Before coming to the Institute, Anderson found his job search to be underwhelming, but he expects a different experience when he graduates in spring 2025.

“Before, I wasn’t able to get jobs, or the jobs that were offered weren’t the right fit,” Anderson said. “[The work studies] have been a great opportunity and will continue to be the experiences I draw on.”