mwk student blog

Miami Waterkeeper Hosts HOPE Public Interest Legal Fellow Kristen Ranges

Kristen Ranges, a current J.D./Ph.D. student at the University of Miami, started her higher education at the University of Delaware, College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment where she majored in marine sciences with a concentration in biology and minor in public policy. After research-based experiences in marine biology, Kristen decided to focus her studies on the conservation of the marine environment through policy and law. Kristen began her legal studies at the University of Miami in 2017 where her curriculum has focused on environmental, coastal, and maritime law. Wanting to further her interdisciplinary education, Kristen recently matriculated into the Ph.D. program at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy.

Kristen began her work at Miami Waterkeeper in the Fall of 2018 through the University of Miami School of Law’s externship program – a program that allows law students to complete a hands-on internship for course credit. In the fall, Kristen worked with our General Counsel, Kelly Cox, to prepare for litigation. This work involved research into the biological background of federally protected species, historical ranges in Florida, and potential stressors to species development and survival. The preparation also called for document review, summarizing case law and legal principles for our team, filing federal Freedom of Information Act requests and state public records requests, as well as amending a working Notice of Intent to Sue Letter.


HOPE Fellow Kristen Ranges providing public comments on a proposed FDEP Clean Water Act permit for Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant. We're working to ensure that this permit is protective of Biscayne Bay and our groundwater! 

Kristen continued her work through the Spring of 2019 where she worked with our legal team to file a contention (an administrative petition to intervene) in the relicensing of Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Kristen reviewed scientific and legal documents, drafted public records requests, and continued legal research and writing for our team. You can read the entire petition HERE. Wanting to continue her work at Miami Waterkeeper, Kristen applied for and was accepted to the HOPE Fellows Program at the University of Miami School of Law. This prestigious public interest fellowship program allows students to work with local, national and international public interest organizations to advance organizations' missions and provide practical experience for fellows.  

This summer, Kristen’s work as a HOPE Fellow has primarily focused on drafting a legal and technical comment letter regarding a pending Clean Water Act permit renewal for Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant. This work has involved researching and articulating the potential impacts on South Florida ecosystems and drinking water supply if this draft permit were to be approved. You can read the letter HERE. Additionally, Kristen will be working to compile information about Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant to tell the narrative of its operational history, environmental impacts, legal actions taken against it, and Miami Waterkeeper’s place in the story.  

This summer Kristen will also be starting research for her Ph.D. studies. She joined Dr. Martin Grosell’s lab at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS) to work on the RECOVER project. RECOVER scientists are examining the detrimental effects of oil on two ecologically and economically important species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico: mahi-mahi and red drum. Kristen will be studying the effects of oil exposure on the cognitive function in fish via a startle response assay. Understanding the impacts of spills on fish populations can help form a stronger basis for first responders/recovery, mitigation decision making, and liability lawsuits, all of which are increasingly important as the government expands the ability for oil and gas companies to excavate and drill offshore. Understanding what constituents and in what amounts cause these impairments in fish may help us also better understand the implications of oil spills on public health.

We feel very lucky to have had Kristen on our team for the better part of a year and we look forward to her continued success at Miami Waterkeeper, and beyond!






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