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I decided to study law at the University of Oregon  because of the school’s strong public interest environmental law program and because the  Eugene community is especially active addressing  environmental concerns. I had no idea that I might find in such a relatively small city the U.S. office of a dynamic international network of more than 300 public interest environmental advocates from 70 countries.  With plans to study international and  environmental law, as well as human rights, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised to learn about ELAW and I sought out opportunities to work with the organization. In the past two years, I have been involved with ELAW as a volunteer, as an extern during the school year, and currently as a summer legal intern.  Through these experiences my appreciation of the ELAW network continues to grow.

Many people describe ELAW as a family.  I couldn’t agree more.  It’s a particularly large, dispersed, and multicultural family, and it functions more democratically than most families I’ve known; but, the loyalty, reciprocity, and humanity which one perceives among ELAW partners, staff, and supporters makes the characterization inescapable. ELAW is a family whose members are working tirelessly for a more sustainable and more just society, and while each person uses her or his particular skills to tackle environmental and social concerns closest to her or his home or heart, the rest of the ELAW family is always ready to help.

Me with ELAW partner Ali Athar Qazi from Pakistan

Me with ELAW partner Ali Athar Qazi from Pakistan

As an extern this spring, I had the great opportunity to participate in the ELAW Annual Meeting.  The five-day event felt like a big family reunion.  I didn’t know many of the participants at the Annual Meeting, and I didn’t know anything about their personal histories and relationships to one another, but I could tell that they shared important experiences, values, and aspirations.  Whether participants were engaged in serious debate or raucous play, there was a constant collective enthusiasm to be among like-minded and hard-working advocates for the public interest.

Working in the ELAW office as a legal intern this summer has only deepened my appreciation of the ELAW network. Every day, I get to collaborate with and learn from brilliant advocates as they work together to tackle new (and some not-so-new) environmental challenges   around the world.  There is never a dull moment.  Most of the research questions I’ve been assigned are fascinating but challenging, and some are occasionally frustrating.  Of course, the moral satisfaction of contributing to such important efforts makes up for even the most frustrating of assignments.  And, if the moral satisfaction weren’t enough, the ELAW staff always go out of their way to express gratitude for the contributions of volunteers, interns, and other supporters.  Similarly, the ELAW staff make a concerted effort to ensure that volunteers and interns enjoy and benefit from their experience with ELAW.  This summer, interns and volunteers have been invited to join visiting ELAW partners for discussions, lunches, and other events, including a couple of field trips in and around the Eugene area.  And, despite their demanding workload, the Staff Attorneys often offer legal interns a choice between two or more projects so that we may work on issues and areas of law of personal interest.  Like most strong families, ELAW gives ample support to its newest and youngest members.  And perhaps it’s not surprising that professionals dedicated to the protection and promotion of human dignity would treat their interns with so much respect, but it sure makes an unpaid summer internship enjoyable and I think it reflects well on the character of the ELAW family.

Killian Doherty
ELAW Legal Intern

ELAW Interns (left to right) Pia Parisi-Marcoux, Addie Maguire, Marika Jaeger

ELAW Interns (left to right) Pia Parisi-Marcoux, Addie Maguire, Marika Jaeger

Throughout the year, ELAW relies on dedicated volunteers, interns, and pro bono experts to fulfill our mission of helping communities speak out for clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet. This summer, ELAW is collaborating with a talented team of interns who bring a wide range of skills to the organization.

Recently, we shared a post from ELAW Legal Intern Marissa Knodel who blogged about her internship experience on the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy website.  Marissa is working with ELAW’s legal team to help communities around the world advocate for environmental justice. Read on to learn more about ELAW’s interns and what they are doing to make the world a better place.

Legal Intern Killian Doherty began collaborating with ELAW as a volunteer in 2011. He has spent most of his adult life in Latin America, and has now returned to the U.S. to pursue a law degree at the University of Oregon. Killian is working with ELAW partners around the world to improve environmental legislation, challenge corruption, and create sustainable futures for their communities.

Marika Jaeger is a rising sophomore at Stanford University who is contributing her French translation and website development skills to ELAW. She paints, dances, and plays guitar in her free time and plans to pursue a career related to conservation and ecology.

Laura Krogman is beginning her senior year in the University of Oregon’s Environmental Science Program. She has been assisting ELAW’s science team since April with a variety of projects and is now focusing on mangrove research.

Science Intern Hayley Langmas

Intern Hayley Langmas

Hayley Langmas is starting her senior year as an Environmental Science major at the University of Oregon. She has been interning with ELAW since April and assists ELAW’s science team with research and reviewing Environmental Impact Assessments.

Addie Maguire has volunteered with ELAW since high school and is returning to Eugene as an ELAW intern after her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania. She is studying European History and Public Health, and volunteers as a mentor to youth in Philadelphia.

Pia Parisi-Marcoux is a high school junior from New York City who loves playing softball, playing music, and volunteering in her free time. She joins ELAW this month to assist staff with data entry and research.

Alia Payne is a rising junior at Macalester College who is studying Geology. She recently returned to the U.S. after five months of volunteering in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia. Later this summer, she plans to travel to Mongolia.

Intern Eliza Pearce

Intern Eliza Pearce

Eliza Pearce is a Geography and Environmental Science major entering her junior year at the University of Oregon. She is helping ELAW’s science team identify resources for a mangrove database and is using her GIS skills to create maps to help represent ELAW’s work around the globe.


Intern Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith is a dedicated volunteer who recently completed an internship with ELAW through the University of Oregon Career Center, using her research and illustration skills. She is a licensed massage therapist and storyteller who works to make the world a better place.

ELAW Inter Nick Warren

ELAW Intern Nick Warren

Nick Warren began interning with ELAW in January, assisting the development team with events and outreach. A few weeks ago, he graduated from the University of Oregon and completed his ELAW internship. Nick is now working with the development team at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC). Congratulations Nick!

Many thanks to all of ELAW’s interns and volunteers for their time, enthusiasm, and dedication. For more information on volunteering or interning with ELAW, click here.

Melanie Giangreco
Volunteer Coordinator

Marissa KnoedelEach summer, ELAW welcomes an interdisciplinary team of interns to our office in Eugene, Oregon. This week, Legal Intern Marissa Knodel blogged about her experience at ELAW on the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy website.

Marissa is earning a dual degree through Vermont Law School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is working with ELAW’s legal team to help communities around the world advocate for environmental justice.

Marissa begins her blog post: “The next time I am asked whether I can be an advocate for people and places with the least information, access to, and ability to obtain a just, healthy, and resilient future, and have a career, I can confidently answer  ‘yes!’”

She goes on to say, “Largely dependent upon volunteers and unpaid interns, the ELAW community is more value- than profit-driven. Non-profit legal work, in sum, is simultaneously rewarding and humbling in the most satisfactory way. ELAW has already taught me that to be a more effective environmental and public interest lawyer, one must first identify as an environmental and community advocate.”

ELAW is delighted to be working with Marissa and other aspiring environmental and human rights defenders to build the next generation of committed public interest advocates.

To read Marissa’s full blog post, titled, “Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide in Eugene, OR: Where Lawyers are Advocates,” click here.

Keep an eye out for a future post about ELAW’s intern program and how you can get involved.

Melanie Giangreco
Volunteer Coordinator

The ELAW office is a lively place this summer with the presence of six talented interns.

From left to right: Eric, Zoe , Logan, Derek, Melia, Michael.

ELAW is delighted to be working with each of these enthusiastic young people who are dedicated to using their skills and knowledge to protect the environment. They have been essential in increasing ELAW’s capacity to work with attorneys around the world who are striving for social justice and healthy environments in their home communities.

Melia Wagner is contributing her Spanish translation skills to ELAW to better facilitate communication between lawyers working around the world and is compiling a bilingual glossary of legal and scientific terms to share with fellow translation volunteers and interns. Melia holds a B.A in Linguistics with a focus on Spanish and Russian from the University of Oregon and plans to include translation as part of her future career plans.

Zoe Weiss is a junior at the University of Oregon and is the Public Relations Coordinator for the Climate Justice League.  She is working with ELAW to provide administrative support, research assistance, and further develop ELAW’s volunteer and intern program. Zoe says, “It’s been an amazing experience seeing the impact that ELAW has around the world, meeting international fellows, and interacting with the wonderful people that comprise the staff here in Eugene. To me, ELAW is so important because it’s not just another law firm; it’s a helping hand to allies of the environment whenever duty calls.”

Eric Robinson has returned to ELAW for a second internship this summer. His French translation skills have helped ELAW connect with colleagues in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is also updating and developing webpages for ELAW and our partners around the globe. Eric will be starting his senior year at Williams College this fall.

Michael Miller is entering his senior year in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Oregon. He brings his experience with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and knowledge of biodiversity, conservation and environmental management to the ELAW science team.

Derek Mills, a rising second year law student from Lewis and Clark Law School is interning with ELAW’s legal team this summer. He writes of his experience, “ELAW has shown me that an interdisciplinary approach has real weight, and that when people are committed to a specific goal they can harmonize modern technology with a tenacious spirit to achieve.”

Logan Krochalis is a rising third year law student at the University of Oregon who is concentrating on international law. She is assisting ELAW’s legal team with in-depth research this summer and has assisted ELAW partners in Nigeria, Honduras, Jamaica, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Keep an eye out for a post later this week about ELAW’s committed volunteers and how you can get involved.

Melanie Giangreco
ELAW Volunteer Coordinator

Salsa Dancing

I’ve spent the past two months as ELAW’s summer intern, working on a wide variety of projects. Some highlights include assisting Maggie with the Fellowship Program and spending time with Imrich and Maria (which included a night of Salsa and Bachata dancing!); using my French to communicate with lawyers from the Central African Republic and to work on a website for a Haitian environmental law association; doing research on the Miskito people of Nicaragua and plans for oil exploration in the area to help Maggie draft a proposal for an ELAW project; and working with Jen to build a website to help facilitate collaboration among lawyers in the Caribbean. I should also mention how privileged I feel to be able to go to anyone on the ELAW staff with questions, and to always receive a patient, thorough explanation. That has also been a key highlight of my internship.

My experience at ELAW has been quite an inspiring and encouraging one. I have always been passionate about protecting the environment, but I have also sometimes felt frustrated and somewhat pessimistic about the state of our environment and our ability to protect it. I was very excited about this summer internship and hoped it would teach me about a non-profit organization, expose me to the legal aspects of environmental protection, and maybe even help me figure out what to do with my life after I graduate from college. I wasn’t expecting this experience to reshape the way I view environmental protection, but it definitely has.

Working at ELAW has made me realize how much a small group of determined, dedicated, intelligent people is capable of. ELAW’s work has such an impact! I am still astounded by how much these people have been able to and continue to accomplish. During my first weeks at ELAW, when Lauren would check in on me to see how everything was going, I found myself (constantly) blurting out that I couldn’t believe that ELAW does all it does. After interning here for two months, I definitely believe it, and I understand more how it works. Each day I am here I feel a tremendous admiration for the staff I get to work with and for ELAW’s partners abroad.

Working at ELAW has proven to me the power and importance of community. With some translation to help the process run smoothly, hundreds of people are working together to share ideas and strategies, tools and resources, success stories, and encouragement. ELAW helps connect these people with one another, working as a link between lawyers all over the world. I don’t know where we would be if this type of international community did not exist. ELAW exemplifies the endless possibilities and unlimited potential of collaboration despite thousands of miles of separation, cultural differences, and language barriers. I have so much more optimism about the future of our environment, and the power of people working together to protect it, because of this experience.

Maria, Aleah, and Imrich

In addition to teaching me an enormous amount and helping me to develop a more positive outlook on environmental protection, this internship has been fun! The staff at ELAW US is friendly, welcoming, supportive and often hilarious. I have thoroughly enjoyed every staff meeting and Bern’s sense of humor. Showing the summer fellows around Eugene and the Oregon Coast during their first visit to the United States was also fun and rewarding, as was finally figuring out how to change something on a website-in-progress after blindly trying to do so for hours.

My internship at ELAW has been incredibly educational and inspiring, and I feel like I have actually helped a cause that I care deeply about. This has been such a gratifying experience. I will carry what I’ve learned at ELAW with me as I return to college and decide what to do with my life. Thanks to everyone at ELAW for providing me with this opportunity. I will miss you!

Aleah Jaeger
Summer Intern

At this point, I have completed two-thirds of my summer internship with ELAW.  I have to say, it took me a couple weeks to adjust to Eugene, but I think I have finally found my niche. I am not ready to think about leaving in another couple of weeks.

Since my first day in the office, I have learned a great deal.  Growing up in coastal California, my exposure to environmental issues was often limited to wetlands, water and air pollution, and rolling blackouts.  It wasn’t until college that my world opened up and I began to understand the vast differences and similarities of environmental issues faced around the world. Working at ELAW has provided me an opportunity to research global environmental concerns I never would have been exposed to in my legal education.

Bern and Harper Johnson

I truly value the knowledge I have gained about environmental law on an international scale. Yet, if I had to pick the one thing that has made the greatest impression on me, it would have to be something that took place inside the very walls in which I work, just across the hall.  A couple of weeks ago, I overheard our Executive Director, Bern Johnson, helping his daughter write about her interest in the environment.  When I was a little girl I wanted to save the tigers.  I didn’t know how, but I was determined to save the tigers and the black panthers.  My focus has shifted since then, but as I listened to Bern’s daughter compose her thoughts and carefully choose her words, the message was clear: she wants to protect and clean the oceans.  Obviously, the work her father does is not confined to his office, and when he goes home in the evening he takes his knowledge and passion home with him.

This, to me, is the best part about working at ELAW.  It isn’t a job – it’s a passion.  The people I work with, whether in person, via Skype, or via email, all understand the importance of the work they do, and they care.  I will probably never meet, or even speak with, most of the partners I drafts memos for, but I understand the value of their work and am grateful for the chance to contribute.

When I arrived at ELAW I knew I wanted to commit my career to environmental law, but that’s fairly non-specific.  It only took a few weeks, and I now have a much better idea of how I plan to do that:  by working to protect human rights and the environment.  Protecting the environment is not just preserving endangered species or ecosystems; it is also protecting and improving the lives of people.  The two often appear to be in conflict, but as I work, I learn that is not the case at all.

The knowledge ELAW has provided me, and the passion it has instilled in me, are two things I will carry with me throughout the rest of my career.







Rachel Rivers
Legal Intern

We are thrilled to welcome three summer interns to ELAW! Our internship program is one of the many ways we engage with students interested in learning more about public interest environmental law and help them gain experience in the field. Interns come to us from all around the country and from many different backgrounds. Each brings a unique perspective and we are excited to begin working with them.

Zach, Aleah, and Rachel

This summer, we have two legal interns who will be researching the answers to legal questions posed by our partners around the world. Rachel Rivers is entering her third year of law school at Pennsylvania State University. Rachel grew up in the Bay area which she says “exposed [her] to a culture focused on reducing one’s carbon footprint, and working for change,” and informs her interest in working at ELAW. She has an interest in the intersection between human rights and the environment and looks forward to learning more about issues of displacement of native and local communities for the sake of environmental protection. We also welcome Zach Klonoski who is entering his third year at the University of Oregon Law School. A native Oregonian, Zach has a particular interest in climate change and energy legislation.

We also welcome our Summer program intern Aleah Jaeger who will be working on many projects throughout the summer. Aleah is a rising junior at Whitman College pursuing a degree in Environmental Science and Sociology with a minor in French.  She will use her French skills to translate documents and help partners in the Caribbean with their websites. She will also be working with ELAW Communications Director Maggie Keenan on our Fellowship program.

We are ecstatic to welcome these new faces to our office. They bring an enthusiasm and willingness to learn that is refreshing and inspiring. We hope they too will be inspired by their experience in public interest environmental law and will continue this important work far into the future.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

ELAW staff and me at the farewell party

Time flies when you are enjoying it.

Since November 2009, I have been working at ELAW – strengthening ties with ELAW partners in China, providing Chinese translation of legal and scientific resources, and helping to administer the ELAW Fellows program. I have worked happily every day. I am proud of the time I spent at ELAW, and I am glad that I have been helpful in some way. When I began working at ELAW, I was looking for an answer: is this really what I want to do as a career or even for the rest of my life?

ELAW works with public interest advocates from Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, Europe, and other regions around the globe. Through ELAW’s network, I was lucky to have opportunities to connect with these environmental lawyers, scientists, engineers, and non-profit organization directors and staff. ELAW connected me to a global public interest environmental community that I really feel I belong to.

Until I began working with ELAW, I was uncertain about the possibilities of finding a meaningful job. I saw others around me looking for a “good” job where they made more money, and I was worried that I too would have to work only for money. I knew that the work itself would make the job interesting, and I imagined what traveling for a job would be like.

While completing my M.A. in environmental studies at the UO, my passion for working at an environmental non-profit organization was inspired. I contacted ELAW to inquire about a one-year internship, where I could test my interest. ELAW’s stories made me, a pessimist, start to believe that there must be something we can do, and there is a good way we can work to help people and the environment. Working together to help each other and our environment is what gives our lives and our work meaning.

In my first ELAW blog I wrote, “ELAW is the best option for me to do the internship.” Now I know that I was right! Thanks to everyone at ELAW. I will miss all of you!

Chu “Cassie” Chen
ELAW Intern 2009-2010

Editor’s note: Cassie (as we all know her) called ELAW with an interest in volunteering for one year. We now wonder how we got everything done without her! Not only has she been a hard-worker, a fast-learner, and a committed advocate for the environment and human rights, she has been a positive, smiling co-worker and friend. We will miss seeing her every day, but look forward to hearing about all her success. Thanks Cassie!

Foremost, I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to intern at ELAW and support a worthy and salient cause.  I have a growing interest in environmental policy and conservation, specifically that of endangered species, and I think this experience at ELAW will be a great way to explore that curiosity.

Laura Knopp, ELAW Intern, Fall 2010

A bit about myself, I am an undergraduate political science student in my final year of studies at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California, but I am originally from Canby, Oregon.  This past summer I completed an internship at San Diego Oceans Foundation, a non-profit organization.  My internship was quite an adventure, as I spent most afternoons snorkeling and educating at-risk youth about ocean stewardship.  I am now living in Eugene until the end of the year, when I am going to travel to Tanzania to study wildlife conservation and political ecology for four months.  Attempting to summit Kilimanjaro is also on the agenda.

Filling out law school applications and studying for the LSAT consumes most of my free time, because next autumn, I hope to attend law school.  These past few years have led me to think that I would find environmental law most rewarding.  When I am not studying or filling out applications, I am probably running, biking, hiking, doing yoga or pilates, playing tennis, or attempting some sort of outdoor adventure.

Even though I am only in my second week as an ELAW intern, I have already found it a highly rewarding experience, and I look forward to the weeks and months to come.  Thanks!

Laura Knopp
ELAW Intern, Fall 2010


Annie (left) and Taylor, some of my fellow volunteers, at the Spring Party

Last night ELAW hosted its annual Spring volunteer appreciation party.  The night was filled with tasty food, good friends, and the always anticipated speech from the Executive Director Bern Johnson.

I have been volunteering with ELAW since last fall.  I first heard about ELAW in one of my environmental studies classes at the University of Oregon, when Bern and staff attorney Jen Gleason came to speak about the field of environmental law.  To tell you the truth, I was pretty surprised that a place doing the type of work ELAW does is based in Eugene.  I couldn’t pass up a chance to ask Bern if they had any volunteer/internship opportunities.  I was put in contact with Lauren and, well, the rest is history.

Over the past two terms I have received credit through the environmental studies program for my work at ELAW.  Yesterday, before the party, I gave my final presentation to my advisor on my experience with ELAW.  During my presentation I was asked to address how working at ELAW connects to my environmental studies major.  At first, this seemed like a question that would take no thought.  Everything I have done at ELAW connects directly to the goals of the environmental studies program, whether it’s research into bonefish habitats in Belize, or helping Lauren around the office and gaining non-profit management skills.  But the more I thought about the question, I started to realize my presentation on ELAW was the final step in coming full circle and gaining a true environmental studies experience.  From first hearing Bern and Jen speak in my environmental studies class, to volunteering and getting credit,  and finally, to presenting on my work at ELAW to my advisor and fellow students, who will hopefully be interested in coming to help out ELAW themselves.

I plan on attending many more volunteer parties in the future, because this experience is too good to pass up.

Jake Abrahams
ELAW volunteer

[Editor’s note: Jake has volunteered more than 100 hours in the past six months!  We have been thrilled to have him help out and hope he’s going to stick around . . .]

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