UCLA Women Leaders Discuss Their Influence in Environmental Science


Women are revolutionizing environmental science at UCLA and around the world. As they conduct important research in the field, they each have a unique perspective on what it is like to be a woman in the environmental movement.

Aradhna Tripati, renowned climate researcher and associate professor at UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability, studies how ancient climates may suggest potential solutions to current environmental challenges. She is one of many women in leadership positions at UCLA who are breaking down barriers.

Tripati founded the Center for Diverse Leadership in Science to open up the field of environmental science to women and people with different identities. The center creates a consortium of early-career scientists who aim to implement environmental solutions and policies. In particular, Tripati and the center support young academics and organizers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), creating a community among people with crossed identities in the environmental field.

Tripati is not alone. Women from all walks of life are increasingly important and influential in the growing environmental movement.

Marilyn Raphael, professor of geography, was integral to the creation of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, of which she currently holds the position of interim director. For her, diversity creates a fairer and more equitable world. Raphael plans to renew the institute’s commitment to attracting and retaining diverse students and faculty, and she is keen to bring young scientists into leadership positions.

In February, Raphael was elected vice-president of the American Association of Geographers, the world’s largest geography society, with more than 12,000 members. She also heads the International Group of Antarctic Sea Ice Climate Professors, and works to advance research in this area.

Raphael attributes his reputation as a leader to his basic research work and his relationships with his peers.

“I don’t lead with a whip,” Raphael said. “I lead by bringing people together. “

Together, let’s fight climate change

Each year, the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability presents the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award, which recognizes innovators under 40 who are ready to respond to global concerns. The institute awarded the 2020 award to Clara Pratte, a Navajo activist from tribal communities who ensures that potential clean energy projects meet the needs of her community.

She is part of the management team of Navajo Power, a public benefit company that develops clean energy projects on tribal lands. Each gigawatt of solar development provides $ 100 million to the central government of the Navajo Nation. Pratte’s efforts are accelerating the transition from coal to Navajo lands as well as the creation of community wealth and approximately 2,000 temporary construction jobs.

Women leaders, such as Stephanie Pincetl, founding director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, create inclusive communities that promote equality, respect and protection for all individuals. Pincetl focuses on equitable strategies to reduce human impacts on the planet.

As California shifts to renewable energy resources, as required by SB 100 invoice, Pincetl urges policy makers to think about how underfunded communities will be affected. It explores the unequal distribution of energy use across incomes and recognizes that low-income communities do not benefit as much as high-income communities from public incentive programs to reduce emissions.

Pincetl believes that women are not more compassionate for the environment just because they are women, but because they are more aware of pain and suffering.

“We have to make room for a pluriverse,” she said. “Men need to realize that they too are motivated by love, hate and passion. We are all humans fighting together against climate change.

Tripati agrees: “Women should not be the only group bearing the burden of restoring the planet they did not destroy on their own.

A more inclusive future

In the environmental workforce, there is still a lack of female representation. Historically, women have been under-represented in fields involving the hard sciences and mathematics, which has led to a male-dominated atmosphere that prompts some women to abandon their academic or professional careers.

Danielle Hoague, a second year doctoral student at UCLA, studies the exchange between scientific knowledge and community activism. However, due to racial and gender stereotypes, some people question her work, as if she does not know her own field of study.

“We have to change gender norms and eliminate the binary and the notion that environmental science has to be a boys’ club,” Hoague said.

Reflecting on the women who came before her, Hoague persevered through difficult times. She believes the field needs to become more inclusive and recognize the contributions of women.

Hoague, who helps undergraduate students apply for graduate school and challenge negative stereotypes, is passionate about bringing other women and people of color into the field of environmental science. .

“As a woman in this field, it’s important for me to be taken seriously,” Hoague said. “If I’m taken more seriously, then the next generation can also be taken seriously. “

To face the climate crisis, people, regardless of their gender, will have to change their behavior and their way of thinking.


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