Research Intern
United States
Biographical Statement 

Olivia Toles is a current Masters student in Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management through the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ghent University and the University of Antwerp. She grew up in the United States and attended the University of Minnesota where she majored in Cellular and Organismal Physiology and minored in Population Studies and Public Health. Her research interests culminate in the intersections of health, climate change and migration.

Her research career began by investigating discrimination against detained noncitizen migrants in immigration court in the UMN Law School. This work extended to structural vulnerabilities, solitary confinement and the health impacts of detention.  During the pandemic, her interests in human health lead her towards her work in infectious disease, where she was the junior lead on several research projects related to the upper respiratory microbiome, respiratory diseases, and genomic approaches to diagnostics in both the Minnesotan and Ugandan contexts in partnership with the Uganda Cancer Institute and University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Pediatrics. She decided to pursue her masters because she saw the intrinsic link between climate change and the societal and medical pathologies she previously studied.

During her internship at UNU-CRIS, Olivia will be working under Nidhi Nagabhatla and Charlotte Scheerens to understand the psycho-social impacts of flooding in Flanders. Olivia looks forward to learning from both mentors and is excited to expand her interdisciplinary skillset in the field of connecting climate related events to the health and wellbeing of communities. She is grateful for the local aspect of this project and hopes this will help her connect more with local communities fighting and mitigating the effects of climate change.