Virginia Institute of Marine Science physical sciences professor Elizabeth Caunel was chosen as one of 20 environmental scientists in North America to participate in the Leopold Leadership Program.
“I applied for the fellowship because I wanted to make my science more relevant to broad audiences,” Caunel said in a press release. “Working on our biofuels project — with policymakers and people from the community, industry and the business sector — has really opened my eyes to the importance of having skills that will help me translate my research findings into solutions for environmental problems.”
The fellowship program, founded in 1998 by Jane Lubchenco, provides a two-week intensive training program to help fellows enhance their skills in their field through hands on training sessions. Funding for the program comes from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Fellows were chosen through an extremely selective application process, open only to environmental science teachers and professors in the middle of their careers.
Caunel is the third VIMS researcher to participate in the program.
“[The selection process] reflects both the relevancy of the science we do here at VIMS, and our scientists’ admirable desire to communicate and apply their knowledge to solving the problems that face the Chesapeake Bay and our coastal ocean,” VIMS Dean and Director John Wells said in a press release.
During the first part of the program, fellows enhance their communications skills by working with media and communication specialists. In the second stage of the program, held on Capitol Hill, the researchers focus on interactions with policymakers, industry and non-governmental organizations.
While in Washington, D.C., fellows will practice their communication skills by meeting with key leaders from government agencies, international organizations, business and congressional offices.
“Academic scientists work hard to understand environmental problems and develop potential solutions, but to solve problems requires communication and a two-way flow of information between scientists and decision makers. The Leopold Leadership Program trains academics to close the gap between knowledge and action,” Pamela Matson, scientific director of the Leopold Leadership Program and dean of Stanford University’s School of Earth Sciences said in a press release.
After completion of the program, Caunel will join other fellows in the Leopold Leadership Network, a community of academic scientists and former fellows who communicate scientific information about environmental issues to policy makers and other non-scientists.
As a member of the network, Leopold will receive many opportunities for peer networking, for mentoring from trainers and past fellows, and for promotion to an environmental expert.