Andrew Gardner and Maria Hincapie Intern with UNDP

Andrew Gardner— Since September of 2021, I have worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a Programme Assistant for the Nature for Life team. Dedicated to finding and amplifying nature-based solutions to global development challenges, the Nature for Life (NfL) team is made up of experts from around the globe, with team members working from almost every continent. 

Over the past 5 months, I have been fortunate to have had the chance to contribute to one of the NfL teams most exciting projects: the Essential Life Support Area (ELSA) initiative. The ELSA project aims to leverage advances in information and communication technologies, as well as cutting-edge science, to strengthen the capacity of policymakers to better manage their natural resources for people and the planet. The ELSA team supports nations in using these technologies and sciences to create their own national ‘Map of Hope’. These maps are places where nature-based actions can sustain critical benefits to humanity, including food and water security, sustainable livelihoods, disaster risk reduction, and carbon sequestration.

We host a series of workshops with interested nations where we demonstrate how GIS and machine learning software can create these ‘Maps of Hope’, while also offering training and professional development for these tools. It’s immensely rewarding working on a project so relevant to combating climate change. 

My time working with UNDP has been exciting, challenging, and rewarding. Working alongside such diligent, intelligent, and compassionate individuals has been an eye-opening experience and has given me a great deal of insight into what makes a fast-paced UN team succeed. Additionally, it’s been fascinating observing the inner workings of one the globe’s premier institutions on a daily basis. My supervisor has been wonderful, and we maintain a constant dialogue about not just my work, but also my professional development. I consider myself fortunate to work for such an excellent mentor. 

I am excited to see what the next 12 months will bring! 

Maria A. Hincapie — My internship as a Programme Assistant with UNDP started in September of 2021. Since then I have been working with the Learning for Nature (LfN) team under the Nature for Development program. The team is focused on providing e-learning programs on biodiversity and sustainable development for policymakers, subject matter experts, and the general public. My role includes general support in course development including design and translation. Some of the courses I have been involved in developing include “Green Bonds Training”, which was available by nomination, and “Using Spatial Data for Biodiversity” which provides an introductory training to users of the UN Biodiversity Lab (UNBL). It is very rewarding to be part of a dedicated team that makes information accessible to change makers, actively works on projects focused on achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to learn about the course topics through their development. 

Beyond the scope of the Learning for Nature team, we are also called to assist in large projects that involve collaboration across the Nature for Development teams. Very early on in my internship I had the amazing opportunity to support in translating and subtitling for the Nature for Life Hub; a multi-day virtual event focused on sustainability and conservation involving high level leadership from participating countries. For me, the most impactful part of the event was focused on the Equator Initiative, where space is held for indigenous people to share their knowledge and innovation on nature related issues. I look forward to the possibility of contributing to more projects like these in the future!