Seth Shonkoff
Seth Shonkoff
Environmental Studies and Sciences
Current Job:
Executive director at PSE Healthy Energy
Current City:
Oakland, Calif.
High School:
Berkeley High School, Berkeley, Calif.
Post Graduation:
PhD, Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management, MPH, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley
Activities while at Skidmore:
Outing Club
Cum laude, Honors in environmental studies

Quick Pitch

Working as an environmental and public health scientist and practitioner has never been more important and full of challenges.

The first thing to identify is where you want your contributions and focus to be. There exists a wide ecosystem of important environmental and public health work ranging from the collection and analysis of scientific data to political organizing to direct policymaker engagement.

I purposefully use the word "ecosystem" to mean that there is a wide diversity of roles that are often differentiated but are also dependent upon one another to achieve goals. For instance, the best most robust science in the world is politically anemic if it is not translated—from English to English—into forms that can inform the messaging of problems and solutions during organizing efforts and policy deliberations. Additionally, environmental and public health issues often are driven by social issues and as such, local and regional communities often have important roles to play in guiding policy-relevant research questions as well as guiding organizing efforts.

Skidmore College graduates are extremely well positioned to use their excellent education and background to work toward and join these various roles and to enhance, modify, and innovate them to adjust to the dynamics of environmental and public health issues as they evolve over time.

To get yourself started, it is important to be open to opportunities, even ones that you can't necessarily envision right now. There are a number of activities and engagements that are never wastes of time: networking, reading and learning, interacting and communicating across silos, and showing up fully to whatever you're doing. It is also critically important throughout your career to identify and pursue mentors who you see as having achieved goals that you are interested in.


Seth Shonkoff is the executive director of the energy science and policy institute PSE Healthy Energy. Seth is also a visiting scholar in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and an affiliate in the Environment Energy Technology Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley California.

An environmental and public health scientist by training, he has more than 15 years of experience in water, air, climate, and population health research. He has led or contributed to more than 35 publications and has given scores of talks and seminars on his work throughout the globe. He is a contributing author to the Human Health chapter of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).

Shonkoff was also the lead author of the two human health chapters in the California Senate Bill 4 independent scientific study on hydraulic fracturing and well stimulation, published in July 2015, that continues to inform oil, gas, and environmental public health decision-making. Currently he is a lead on an independent scientific assessment of the public health dimensions of underground gas storage facilities in California.

He has worked and published on topics related to the intersection of energy, air pollution, water quality, climate, and human health from scientific and policy perspectives. Shonkoff completed his PhD in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and his MPH in epidemiology in the School of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.

He lives in California with his wife, Ariella Cook-Shonkoff '02, and his two vivacious and beautiful daughters.