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Mikhala Kasewater

M.S. in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) Externship Experience
May-August 2020
Disasters, Dallas, and Deregulation: IFAW and the Summer That Kept Us on Our Toes
Mikhala Kaseweter

My title at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was “disaster policy intern,” though my duties necessarily extended beyond the realm of natural disasters and into the equally messy disasters of policy-making. That disasters became my wheelhouse is a reflection of—like so many other surprises—the summer of COVID-19. IFAW had intended to publish a major white paper in March related to disaster preparedness, but to publish during a pandemic without any mention of disease would be folly. I was thus tasked with patching it up to be topically relevant and inclusive of biomedical disasters. Zoonotic disease fits perfectly within IFAW’s commitment to human and nonhuman mutual well-being. Once we got a handle on the report and shipped it off to the branding committee for photo selection, the campaigns manager capitalized on my familiarity with the landmark environmental law known fondly as NEPA and asked that I write a mini report, compiling all relevant information on the regulatory rollbacks taking effect in September. The US office employees had been flooded with emails regarding upcoming NEPA rollbacks and what they might mean for conservation but hadn’t devoted proper time to synthesizing info, digging for context, or nailing down particulars. In my time with IFAW I also organized Congressional briefings, wrote blogs for IFAW’s website as well as accompanying action alert messaging, developed talking points to persuade stakeholders to support a public policy, and joined NARSC (National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition) calls. My research paper and presentation created for MAPP are divided into three portions to reflect where I spent most of my time while externing: disasters, NEPA regulations, and a forthcoming Senate bill which pertains to pandemics and zoonoses.

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