Outside her childhood home in Boulder, Colorado, Kimberley Rain Miner used to cover one eye to block an electric utility box from sight.
That way, she could envision being surrounded exclusively by evergreens and glacial boulders.
Since her youth, Miner has been at home immersed in nature, including while rock climbing and teaching children to grow food.
When she was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and ecology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, she sometimes lived in a hollowed-out portion of an ancient redwood perched along a river.
Today, she’s a Ph.D. candidate in Earth and climate sciences at the University of Maine.
The IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Trainee) at the Climate Change Institute has explored six continents. And she says it has been difficult to locate places where people’s impacts aren’t tangible — even on pristine-appearing glaciers.
For her doctorate, Miner is developing a framework to assess the threat of pesticides — including DDT — that for years have been trapped in glacial ice and now are entering watersheds as the glaciers melt. She seeks to quantify effects of pollutants downstream.
Miner says she has benefited from CCI professor and adviser Karl Kreutz’s support, and from UMaine’s exploration culture and student-first mentality.
“Individuals make the difference in the long run,” she says. “There’s always something we can do to make a situation better, our lives better and the health of the ecosystem stronger.”
Miner, a firefighter and first responder, says personal acts — including planting pollinator flowers and delivering drinking water after a hurricane — make a difference.
In October 2012, when Superstorm Sandy made landfall along the Jersey Shore, Miner was pursuing an MPA in environmental science and policy at Columbia University.
While her graduate student apartment didn’t lose power, Miner remembers feeling powerless watching TV coverage about the devastation (that totaled $19 billion) occurring just a few blocks away.
“I wasn’t a part of anything that was helpful,” she says.
Soon after, she became involved in several projects, including mapping ADA-accessible shelters in New York City that official planners believe will be safe from flooding during a 100-year storm.
Miner became interested in the intersection of nature, weather-related disasters and emergency preparedness, and she worked with scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and emergency managers at the New York City Office of Emergency Management.
Now, she’s a Department of Defense Scholar and a volunteer Research Fellow at the Center for Climate and Security in Washington, D.C.
Her funding is through the American Society for Engineering Education SMART (Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation) program. The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Geospatial Research Laboratory in Alexandria, Virginia is Miner’s sponsoring agency and supports her doctoral education at UMaine.
She anticipates working at the Geospatial Research Laboratory this summer and for two years after she earns her doctorate in May 2018. Her responsibilities will include using geospatial technology to ensure mission security of U.S. troops.
It’s encouraging, Miner says, that federal agencies in the United States — from the Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Agriculture and NASA — have collaborated to strategically identify priorities, exchange data and build environmental resilience.
“If there’s the slightest risk, it’s worth planning for,” she says.
A total of 194 countries worldwide are planning and preparing, too. And Miner, who also is a Switzer Foundation Fellow and Fulbright awardee, is gaining a global perspective.
In December 2016, she attended the Planetary Security Conference in the Netherlands. There, worldwide experts on climate change and security collaboratively addressed emerging environmental challenges and safety concerns.
And in February 2017 at Yale University, Miner was part of a panel that discussed planning for worst-case scenarios at the New Directions in Environmental Law Conference.
She’s acutely aware that humanity’s impact on the planet can’t be ignored. She now has both eyes open as she strives to make a difference by contributing to the development of plans aimed at safeguarding the planet’s air, water, health and security.