Ike Irby ’09 Joining VP Harris’s Team as Environmental Policy Advisor

By Tom Porter

Among the seismic changes taking place in Washington, DC, on January 20, a Bowdoin graduate is joining the office of incoming Vice President Kamala Harris as environmental policy advisor. Not that Ike Irby ’09 is a stranger to the Harris team.

Irby ’09 in Washington DC
Image courtesy of William & Mary/Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Irby’s previous role was that of Harris’s senior policy advisor in the US Senate, covering climate, environment, energy, transportation, and infrastructure. Irby’s academic credentials make him impeccably suited for his job.

In 2017 he earned a PhD in marine science at William & Mary’s (W&M) Virginia Institute of Marine Science, where he studied the effectiveness of environmental regulations in the face of climate change. The focus of his prize-winning dissertation was the development of a model to investigate how climate change and reduced nutrient levels affect the waters of Chesapeake Bay. Irby’s model is used by the Environmental Protection Agency in its efforts to restore water quality in the Chesapeake. Irby also has a master’s in public policy from W&M.

“The climate crisis is the challenge of our time, and I look forward to continue fighting for climate and environmental justice.” 

After majoring in geology at Bowdoin, Irby was set to join the Peace Corps, but those plans were derailed when his loan company went under—this was during the financial crisis in 2009—and he found himself unable to defer payments on his undergrad loans. Instead, Irby taught science at a prep school in Missouri for three years before heading to graduate school.

irby with BPS
Irby met with students on a Bowdoin Public Service trip to the capital in 2018

Professor of Earth and Oceanographic Science Collin Roesler recalled working in a lab with Irby to investigate patterns in cloud cover and cloud type across the Gulf of Maine. “It was a tough project that involved a lot of conceptual development and computational data analysis. I was so impressed with Ike's creativity and unswerving dedication to the project. I knew then that, whatever he chose to do in his life, he would bring passion, creativity, clarity and success to it,” she said.

“Truly honored to serve as policy advisor to the next vice president, Kamala Harris,” wrote Irby on Twitter after learning of his new appointment. “The climate crisis is the challenge of our time, and I look forward to continue fighting for climate and environmental justice, the protection of our planet, and an equitable future.”

Another Bowdoin graduate is also serving in the Biden administration: Olivia Raisner ’15 is traveling content director in the White House Office of Digital Strategy. Raisner, who majored in government and legal studies, will be profiled in the next issue of Bowdoin Magazine.