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Lauren Thie

Kenya Summer '06

L Thie

BS in Biology cum laude, Meredith College, 2007;
MSPH in Environmental Health Sciences, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2009
SFS Program: Kenya Summer 2006
Favorite SFS Memory: Listening to a lecture while perched on a vehicle at Amboseli National Park – beautiful!!

“Seeing Mt. Kilimanjaro’s glaciers connected me with climate change in a new way,” said Lauren Thie, climate change epidemiologist at the North Carolina Division of Public Health.

Lauren lived in the shadow of the great mountain while at the SFS field station in southern Kenya, with a clear view of its rapidly disappearing ice cap. She visited arid villages that rely on streams fed by the glaciers as their primary source of clean water. She learned about the human and wildlife conflicts that arise when natural resources like water are in limited supply.

It got her thinking. 

She left Africa inspired to better understand how human health and well-being is affected by the rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns associated with climate change. She wanted to see how her home community in North Carolina might be affected by this global problem.

After graduating from Meredith College cum laude with a bachelor of science in biology, she pursued graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, receiving her master of science in public health in 2009. She now works for the State of North Carolina, researching the local and regional health impacts of climate change.

“It is anticipated that the largest vulnerability to climate change in the US will play out in the next 10 to 20 years, and it is my job to anticipate those vulnerabilities in North Carolina and plan how to address them,” she said.

One such area of concern is increasingly hot and humid summers. Lauren and her team collected heat-related illness and death data for North Carolina between the years of 2000 and 2010. “We find the highest number of heat-related emergency department visits is among relatively healthy males between the ages of 19 and 44. In addition, we see the majority of emergency department visits occur at temperatures not classified as 'heat waves'. These findings have shifted our thinking about vulnerability and prevention.”