PPEH Welcomes Academic Year Undergraduate Public Research Interns

October 17, 2022

The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities is delighted to announce our 2022-2023 Undergraduate Public Research Interns for the academic year. Congratulations to the three fellows, and welcome to PPEH!

Read about them, including their climate stories, below!

three photos Christy Choo, Aman Sharma, and Maria Villareal Simon


Christy looks into the camera and smiles. Christy has long dark hair and wears a gray sweater.

Christy Choo is a junior from New Jersey studying Earth Science with a concentration in Environmental Science. She is passionate about climate change and environmental justice issues, and has an interest in filmmaking, which she hopes to blend together for the My Climate Story project.

Christy says: I wanted to join the PPEH and My Climate Story team because it is a perfect opportunity to connect my background and passion for environmental science and environmental justice with my interests in storytelling and working with others. I am currently a third-year student majoring in earth science and have had several experiences working with environmental justice issues, participating in research, and working in outreach; however, this is the first opportunity I have where I can also connect it with my interests in filmmaking (in particular, documentary filmmaking). 

Christy’s Climate Story

Growing up in Bergen County, New Jersey, there were several instances of environmental injustice and effects of climate change that I didn’t make the connection to until I began educating myself, because no one wanted to talk about it and we were raised to believe it was normal. Whether it be about the rainfall patterns or flooding, or the pollution and poor water quality that my town had, climate change has many direct impacts on local communities that many people are unaware of. This was the main reason I was drawn to the My Climate Story project; I want to help others make this connection and be able to share their stories as well.

Aman looks into the camers wearing a blue suit and red tie. Aman has short curly hair.

Aman Sharma is a climate activist and wildlife photographer and conservationist from New Delhi. In 2019, he petitioned the Government of India to declare a national climate emergency, collecting over 370,000 signatures on the petition. He then co-founded the ‘All In for Climate Action’ Initiative, a global network of asking for a worldwide Climate Emergency Declaration with more than 1.7 million signatures. Aman is also the co-founder of the climate education NGO Re-Earth Initiative and India’s largest youth led birding community, the Cuckoo About Nature Club. He was named an Indiatimes 2020 Hero and SONY BBC Earth Champion, and has spoken at the 75th UNGA’s UNDP Hub as well as the Nobel Peace Prize Center’s Oslo Pax. He hopes to join the My climate Story project to help drive the move to diversify the climate movement, and bring out the stories of people of color, global south citizens and indigenous communities by helping provide a platform and a medium to reach the masses.

Aman says: For me, My Climate Story isn't just a project, but a vessel for change - one that helps people communicate their life stories and connect them with climate science. By interning,I hope to address the fact that climate change disproportionately impacts people like me - people of color, and people from the global south. We need our stories to reach the world, and interning at My Climate Story gives me the chance to not just participate in this mission, but to drive it. To be able to diversify the climate narrative today and bring out stories that speak to people and move them to action is something that excites me, and I look forward to being a part of this mission.

Aman’s Climate Story

I remember being excited to go to school, knowing I will get to wear the clothes of my choice in school for the first time in a year, and hang with my friends without the pressure of classes. My mom barged into my room suddenly, telling me my classes had been canceled - schools had been shut down in Delhi due to the hazardous and deadly levels of air pollution, which had just crossed 999, the limit for the measuring scale. This was in 2018. The next year in 2019, I remember planning my summer trip to the city of Udaipur with my family, picking out the parks and national heritage sites we would visit, and my mother barging into my room, in an almost cyclical pattern to last year. She told me the trip had to be canceled - this time, a heatwave had struck India and was especially affecting the northern parts, again leading to a wide shutting down of schools and even deaths in public areas. Now, it was 2021, and the covid lockdown had just been lifted. It wasn’t a new feeling for me, I had experienced lockdowns every single year I could remember - due to pollution, due to heat, due to water shortage, due to a system’s failure to provide its children a normal childhood and a safe environment. I remember going to the jungle, my first trip after 2 years of the pandemic, and feeling lost. Where were the birds, the animals, the wildlife I had been watching over the last 2 years? Where was the forest? Gone. Gone with the lockdown, there was no more forest but spans of dried up trees. Ailing, sad, brown - the forest I had once known to be full of birdsong and butterflies now ceased to stand tall on its own. The birds had all left - Delhi was simply too hot for them, and the animals migrated - no water due to the extreme heat had caused them to relocate. What was left now was me and an expanse of what once was - a memory of the ‘had been’, and a reminder of the ’present’ times we lived in. That was when I decided to start a petition on declaring a climate emergency to the government, and use my voice and make it heard. I guess that’s where my climate story started afresh - one where I wasn’t just the victim, but also the hero. At 16 years old, my own climate hero, the hero I had always waited for!

Maria stands on a balcony. Maria is smiling and looking at the camera in a blue and white dress.

Maria Villarreal is a first-year student from Tampico, Mexico. She intends to major in Environmental Studies at the College of Arts and Sciences. Her current research interests engage with environmental conservation and how we can mobilize a cultural shift to implement the necessary policies to create a sustainable and environmentally just society. For her, this project is an opportunity to contribute to environmental conservation and listen to others’ climate stories.

Maria says: I joined the My Climate Story team because it’s an opportunity to contribute to environmental conservation and listen to others’ climate stories. Additionally, I wanted to work with Philadelphia’s high schools because education is key to creating well-rounded students that can be proactive and protect our ecosystems in their adult life. 

Maria’s Climate Story

Growing up on the beach instilled a love for nature and an appreciation for the world’s biodiversity. However, my climate story began when I visited La Palma, Spain. I marveled at the beautiful ecosystems of this island and realized that it’s possible to achieve pollution-free and sustainable cities. I realized that the beach back home was not as clean as it could be and that I wanted to work to have healthy ecosystems worldwide.