Sonali grew up in a number of countries with varied demographics and landscapes, from the deserts of the Middle East to the tropics of South India, and says this has shaped her path “to and within my water career.” She says that for her, “Water has been a perfect marrying of personal and professional.”
Sonali earned her undergraduate degree in Delhi, India, which has been through many periods of water shortages. She contrasts her experience of Delhi’s water issues to the time she spent living in the dry desert islands of the Middle East, which are rich with oil wealth, and where “water was always in plenty.” Through this and other experiences, she says she became aware of water disparity and the effects of history and geography on water resources. “Water is inevitably the center of these issues, either as a direct or indirect cause or a resource that’s affected as a result,” she explains. “Through my international experiences, I became aware of how differently environmental issues are handled around the world.”
Prior to joining the Pacific Institute as a Research Associate in 2018, Sonali worked in chemistry and microbiology laboratories, studying drinking water disinfection byproducts and bacterial communities in the Chesapeake Bay. She also interned at the United Nations Programme in Washington D.C, where she worked on policy around climate change mitigation measures in the Russian Arctic. “These experiences gave me more direction as to where I can be most effective,” she explains. “I found I love using science and data to inform and further effective environmental policy and education.”
Sonali says her work at the Pacific Institute allows her to do exactly that. “I’ve had a chance to grow my existing skills as well as learn so many new things,” she says. “Getting the opportunity to work on both California and international work, as well as across different sectors and industries, has been invaluable.”
Sonali is currently working on her doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles, and she says much of her work at the Pacific Institute directly connects to her dissertation. “One of my favorite pieces of work at the Pacific Institute, which also builds directly into my doctoral work, is better understanding how Californians use water outdoors, how we can best estimate that usage, and further, narrowing down on the huge potential for sustainable landscaping as a solution, particularly on commercial properties,” she explains.
“I feel particularly excited about the connections I see around me as I work in water and sustainability, says Sonali. “The world can seem so vast and differing, but water is a beautiful common thread, and a great example of how inherently global our problems and solutions can be. While a one size fits all solution is never the answer, I love seeing how we can learn from our work in different places and apply solutions where they are most needed.”
Outside of working on water, Sonali loves curling up with a good book or TV show, experimenting with food, searching for dogs to pet, and planning her travel adventures.