Speaker Profiles 2015: Tipping Points: Energy, Water, Climate


James E. Hansen

James E. Hansen, Ph.D.
Director of Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions
Columbia University Earth Institute

James E. Hansen, Ph.D., formerly director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where he directs a program on climate science, awareness, and solutions. Hansen is best known for his testimony on climate change in the 1980s that helped raise awareness of global warming. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards including the Sophie and Blue Planet Prizes. Dr. Hansen is recognized for speaking “truth to power” and for outlining actions needed to protect the future of young people and all species on the planet.



Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader
Research Analyst
Columbia University Center for Climate Systems Research

One of Daniel Bader’s primary responsibilities at Columbia is developing climate scenarios to be used for adaptation planning. Through his work, Bader has extensive experience with preparing and communicating climate science information to policy makers, specifically in New York City and New York State.  His educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in Atmospheric Science from Cornell and Master of Arts in Climate and Society from Columbia. 

Julia Bovey

Julia Bovey
New York State Department of Public Service – Long Island

Julia Bovey has tracked and shaped energy policy from four perspectives: non-profit advocacy, project development, federal regulatory, and now state oversight. After Superstorm Sandy exposed the urgent need to reform Long Island’s electric system, government leaders and consumers, including Bovey, became convinced the solution to Long Island’s crisis is to create a new framework where consumers’ needs are the priority in determining how electricity is managed, produced, and sold on the island. Long Island is now at the leading edge of New York’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” paradigm shift, which will ensure a decentralization of the electric grid and activate markets to invest in technologies that will insure a future of reliable, resilient, clean, local, and affordable electricity for consumers.

Bovey came to DPS - Long Island from First Wind, a leading national developer of wind and solar energy projects, where she served as vice president of federal policy, developing and advancing energy, environmental, and tax policies that promote renewable energy. She has worked on energy policy since 2004 when she joined the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston where she helped gain public support utility decoupling, energy efficiency, and New England’s first proposed wind projects.

Later, at the Natural Resources Defense Council, she was part of the successful campaign for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. She was appointed by President Obama to serve at Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as Director of the Office of External Affairs, where she worked to a gain the political and public support necessary to advance the Commission’s significant agenda in opening markets to renewables, energy efficiency, and demand response. Bovey holds a B.A. and M.S. from Columbia University.

Justin Gillis

Justin Gillis
Principal Environmental Science Writer and Editor
The New York Times

Justin Gillis covers environmental science, with a special focus on climate change, for The New York Times. He was the author of a Times series called “Temperature Rising,” which ran from 2010 to 2013. It updated readers on major developments in climate science, and won the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism from Columbia University. He was also the principal author of a 2014 series called “The Big Fix,” which critically examined proposed solutions to climate change.

Gillis assumed his present job in 2010, after three years as a Times editor in charge of the paper’s energy and food coverage. He is a native of southern Georgia and a graduate of the University of Georgia, with a degree in journalism. Earlier in his career, he worked at the Associated Press, The Miami Herald, and The Washington Post. For the latter, he covered genetics, biotechnology and the completion of the Human Genome Project.

Micah Kotch

Micah Kotch
Director, NY Prize
Strategic Adviser for Innovation, NYSERDA

Micah Kotch is responsible for the design and oversight of NY Prize, helping to catalyze the innovation and entrepreneurship necessary to transform the state’s electric power infrastructure. Micah joined NY Prize after five years serving as director of innovation and entrepreneurship and executive director of the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Resilient Economy (NYC ACRE) at New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Michaela Labriole

Michaela Labriole
Manager of Special Projects
New York Hall of Science (NYSCI)

In addition to overseeing online teacher professional development courses at NYSCI, Michaela Labriole has managed many of its climate change-related projects, including Communicating Climate Change, My Carbon Footprint, and Collect Construct and Change. For the past three years, she has served as the New York City lead for the National Science Foundation-funded Climate and Urban Systems Partnership. Labriole holds a B.S. in cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and an M.S. in environmental science from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where her work focused on people’s perceptions and understanding of climate change.

John Rhyner

John Rhyner, PG, LEED AP
Director,Sustainable Energy Group
P.W. Grosser Consulting

John Rhyner is a professional geologist and LEED-certified professional. He has 30 years of diverse consulting experience, including 20 years working on geothermal projects in New York City, Long Island, and throughout New England.

Rhyner has served as the technical lead and managed some of the region’s major geothermal installations including Amneal Pharmaceuticals’ manufacturing plant expansion in Bellport, N.Y., renovation of historic Building 92 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard; the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn; and Columbia University’s historic Knox Hall renovation. He managed a site investigation and design for an innovative geothermal system to serve the first building of Cornell University’s planned new Technology Campus being constructed on Roosevelt Island, N.Y. Currently, Rhyner is coordinating the drilling program for installation of nine deep geothermal wells to serve St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

He is a founding board member of the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization. As LI-GEO’s chair for Standards and Codes, he worked with the Suffolk County Planning Commission in developing SCPC’s recently-adopted template geothermal code. He co-authored the 2013 update to New York City’s Geothermal Heat Pump Manual fortheDepartment of Design and Construction and has collaborated with several other City agencies and City Council on the feasibility of applying geothermal heat pump technology in the five boroughs. Rhyner received his B.A. in geology from Dartmouth College and has completed course work for his M.S. in hydrogeology from Stony Brook University.


Christopher Schubert
Supervisory Hydrologist
USGS New York Water Science Center

Christopher Schubert is chief of the USGS New York Water Science Center’s Environmental and Hydrologic Investigations Section on Long Island. Over the years, he has been involved with many assessments of groundwater and surface-water resources. These include studies to better understand a variety of public and environmental health concerns, and projects to help inform and mitigate flooding and other natural hazards. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in geology from Stony Brook University and a master’s degree in marine environmental sciences from Stony Brook’s Marine Sciences Research Center (now the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences).

Jian Sun

Jian Sun, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Future Energy Systems
Professor, Department of Electrical, Computer and System Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Jian Sun is a professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer and System Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is also the director of the Center for Future Energy Systems (CFES), one of the 15 Centers for Advanced Technology (CAT) funded by NYSTAR and the only designated Energy CAT. Sun’s research interests are in the area of power electronics and power systems, with an emphasis on modeling and control of power electronics for renewable energy, distributed generation, microgrid, and power system applications. He has published more than 170 journal and conference papers on these subjects and holds nine US patents. As director of the CFES, he leads a broad research portfolio that includes renewable energy, energy storage, and energy efficiency, as well as advanced grid infrastructure and control.

Sun is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He was editor-in-chief of IEEE Power Electronics Letters from 2008 through January 2014, and serves on the editorial boards of several other international journals. In 2013, he received the IEEE Power Electronics Society Technical Achievement Award for contributions to averaged modeling and stability analysis of ac power electronics systems. Sun received his doctorate from the University of Paderborn in Germany in 1995. Prior to joining RPI in 2002, he worked in the U.S. aviation industry for five years and was a post-doctoral fellow at Georgia Institute of Technology from 1996 to 1997.