The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Caitlin Gould

SPP alumna Caitlin Gould
Environmental Policy Analyst
US Environmental Protection Agency

Degree & graduation year: BA in Political Science, 2006; Master of Public Policy and Administration 2009

Current position: Environmental policy analyst in the Climate Science Impacts Branch at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation and a Doctor of Public Health candidate in environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

What I do: In a nutshell, in my day job at EPA, I do statistical and biological data analysis, and serve as an EPA representative to the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Climate Change and Human Health Group. My office is the climate science office within the Office of Air and Radiation (what are the odds?), kind of a unique situation within a regulatory agency. We have a fascinating opportunity to investigate and write about climate indicators and social/economic impacts. My background is predominantly in marine biology and public health, and many of the topics I cover are within these areas. 

How I ended up working there: On paper, my job description sounds dramatically different from my background. My career has been spent working in marine biology, and largely, it seemed like the closest intersections with my experiences and what is now my position were my background in environmental science, generally, and my doctoral work. However, I could read between the lines and see how well this position fit my interests and background, and vice versa. 

I moved to DC in 2009, where I worked at the Pew Charitable Trusts on a campaign on behalf of a number of issues, including global shark conservation. I then went to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where for five years I ran an interagency group on harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.  

The best part of my job: Playing with data in creative ways, on topics that I get to research and really explore. Climate change is impacting virtually every aspect of our lives. It’s exciting to be a part of explicating the impacts to our country and exploring and describing related indicators. I’m very proud to serve our country as a civil servant. And, I really, really love biology and data.

A recent exciting work experience: I’ve only been at EPA for four-and-a-half months, so it’s all still pretty exciting. Something that I’m especially proud of, though, is in my past job at NOAA. While I was there, I was one of the primary authors on a disaster determination policy, which was legislatively mandated and now is being adapted for freshwater situations by the EPA. This will be one of the top-five contributions in my career to the US government.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: Learning how to work efficiently and effectively on a team was invaluable to me professionally. I don’t think I ever realized how much of my professional successes would depend on good teamwork! Other major skills that I gained and have been crucial: being able to write a compelling policy memo in a page and gaining a strong background in mixed methods. 

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: This is one of the most versatile master’s degrees you can achieve. Come in with an open mind about the policy areas that are out there, so that you don’t prevent yourself from maximizing your learning experience. Take advantage of every opportunity that you come across. If you think you want another degree after this one, take some time off to figure out why, and what you’d do with it. Travel as much as possible.

Future plans: Write my dissertation and finish my doctorate.