Events & Media

Governor Appoints Bren Alumna Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy

Bren alumna Ashley Conrad-Saydah (MESM 2008) has been appointed assistant secretary for climate policy for the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Since 2008, Conrad-Saydah has been a renewable-energy program manager for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a role in which she was featured for the fall 2010 issue of Bren News. (Read the article.)

"EPA is an agency that writes policy, whereas BLM is more about implementing policy," she says, "so that will be a challenge, along with finding my role and determining how I'll be most effective — what voice is missing in a dialog or needs a bit more support."

She says she was interested in the position particularly because California is the only state with a climate-policy law.

"At the federal level the focus with respect to energy is more on job creation and ensuring that we have a domestic energy supply," she says. "For now, there isn't a strong link between energy and clmimate change. In California, that link is present, and I hope that I’ll have the opportunity to work between the two. That's my sense of the job and how it was communicated to me."

She sees another challenge of her position as transitioning from focusuing on such natural sciences as botany, ecology and wildlife biology to operating more in the realm of the physical sciences — air and water quality, pollution, toxics, and the like. "But I'm definitely willing to jump out of my comfort zone for this opportunity," she says, "and it's good to make sure you stay on your toes."

She also intends to tap into the large number of Bren alumni who are working in some aspect of climate change, whether for government agencies or environmental consultancies.

"I'm happy that there’s such a good Bren network in the climate world," she says. "I'll have the opportunity to learn from them to define and understand my role and learn how California fits into the bigger picture."

While attending the Bren School, Conrad-Saydah was a research assistant atĀ UCSB's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesi.s She was a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow from 2007 to 2008.