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Fellow Spotlight: Patrick Ray


Patrick Ray is a 2015 fellow for the Energy Water Nexus contest. We had the opportunity to speak to Patrick last week! 

Q: How did you hear about the Climate CoLab and what inspired you as a fellow?

Patrick is a 2015 fellow for the Energy-Water Nexus contest. 

I heard about the Climate CoLab through the Tufts Institute of the Environment. As an early career researcher in climate change adaptation in water resources, I was eager to interact with smart and creative people who were thinking about the same things. It all just seemed too good to pass up!

Q: What is your background?

I am a Massachusetts boy. I grew up in Gloucester. My PhD is from Tufts in water resources engineering, and I have recently become a Research Assistant Professor at UMass Amherst, which makes it sound as if I’m quite a home-body, but in fact I’ve just returned to the area. I lived and worked in the Middle East (Jordan and Lebanon, mostly), and then taught for a couple of years in Oregon before answering the call to home two years ago. 

My favorite part of water resources engineering is probably international development, the chance to help lift people out of poverty through intelligent by empowering investment in good infrastructure. I’ve worked on projects in international development in a few parts of Africa and Asia, and I’m eager for more.

Q: Which Climate CoLab contest are you involved in, and what drew you to that topic?

I am involved with the energy-water nexus contest. Those two items are so profoundly interrelated. I do not see a solution to one of the two sectors coming without a complementary breakthrough in the other. Whether it’s energy-intensive desalination of sea water or river-imbedded turbines for hydropower, the two sectors just need each other. I would like to grow in my ability to consider all aspects of the problem holistically.

Q: Outside of Climate CoLab, what climate related work have you done and are you part of now?

I am a water system modeler and part-time economist, and I have done quite a bit of work on the tradeoffs between investments in desalination and water reuse in arid environments. My PhD work was about water supply solutions for Amman, Jordan. Investments there in desalination and water reuse (with their associated tradeoffs) were to deal largely with climate change challenges.

Most of my work over the past couple of years has been with the World Bank, for which we at UMass are developing a framework that we hope will become a standard approach for climate change risk assessment and risk management in water resources investments. I’m currently doing climate change risk management work in Nepal (hydropower), Kenya (water supply), the Northeast US (flood protection), and California (drought management). 

Q: What are you enjoying most about being a Fellow, and what do you look forward to as the year progresses?

Well, so far I’m really enjoying collaborating with the other Fellows. Smart and interesting people involved in very important work. I’ve begun reviewing proposals, too, which has been a great encouragement. I’m so relieved that there are good ideas out there. We all are banking on some breakthroughs at the water-energy nexus within the next 20-30 years. Without some breakthroughs, well, things could get ugly.

Q: What do you hope for your contest, and how do you imagine your contest can impact the climate change field?

I’m hoping for breakthroughs – really big ideas. I expect that those breakthroughs will involve real innovation in both water and energy simultaneously. That’s exciting to think about. As I’ve been learning in my work with UMass recently, the value of a good idea is very high. If an idea comes out of this with the potential to make us simultaneously more water and energy secure, that would be a big deal!

You can also follow Patrick on twitter: @PatrickARay__________________________________________________________________________________

Finalize your proposal in the Energy-Water Nexus contest before June 13th!