Pod of the Week - DC

500 Women Scientists now has over 100 Pods across the globe! These pods are busy meeting, networking, and planning a range of awesome activities. Every week we will highlight the cool work underway.

This week we start with the DC Pod. A group of women who live at the political center of the US. We asked the Pod about their mission, how they find ways to be inclusive, and to share how they came up with#ourEPA postcard writing campaign. 

What is the mission of your pod and how did you arrive there?

A DC Pod member making a sign for the Women's March on Washington 

A DC Pod member making a sign for the Women's March on Washington 

After a morning of protesting at the White House in January, the DC pod came together for our first official gathering to share ideas on what we thought we could achieve. After discussing and sharing our personal goals, the DC pod settled on a shared vision that draws strength from its individual members and strategic location in the nation’s capital.

The mission of the DC pod is to promote groups traditionally underrepresented in science, evidence-based decision-making in policy, and increased civic engagement by scientists. To achieve these goals, we will:

  • Monitor federal policy and political issues and broadcast what we see to the broader 500 WS community;

  • Connect 500WS community members to our networks in DC, lead policy trainings, and support members during visits to DC in order to facilitate 500WS engagement in federal policy;

  • Increase scientific literacy and confidence in our own communities;

  • Contribute to 500WS national-level actions.

  • Engage in local outreach endeavors to broaden participation in the sciences.

Your first initiative is awesome! Can you explain the #ourEPA campaign, how did this become the first big initiative of the pod?

Many of our members have backgrounds in environmental science and/or are gravely concerned about our environment. We anticipate that the attacks against scientists, especially climate scientists, are likely to get worse again under the current administration. Inspired by the women’s march and other ongoing civic actions, we wanted to contribute something positive and proactive to show support for the people and mission of the EPA. It seemed like getting people to write love letters to the EPA and share their stories about why they support environmental protection would be a good way of doing that while also educating people about the importance of the EPA and how protecting it translates to local levels. Given our strategic location in DC, we were also able to forge connections with other activist groups to learn from them and work together to roll out the campaign.


How have you ensured a diverse, inclusive group of women in your pod? And what steps will you taking in the future to ensure your pod and outreach keeps growing?

To date, our recruitment has been fairly organic and heavily reliant on our personal networks. We are ramping up our recruitment with a strategy to reach out to women scientists in the DC-area associated with universities, research facilities, and scientific organizations. Also, we plan to recruit through events and actions that we co-organize with other local organizations with whom we have shared goals. The #OurEPA campaign is a great example of the power of partnerships – Sierra Club and 350.org offered a whole new network and valuable insight into advocacy campaign organizing.


What are some tips for interacting with the community and making a difference at a local level?

When we set our mission in January, it became increasingly clear that we all saw the need to better connect with our local communities and help make science more accessible to the general public. Given the current state of politics, we realize achieving this goal will take some time and effort. We have found it incredibly helpful to consistently think about our campaigns and efforts from different perspectives. We are fortunate that the DC pod is comprised of women from all over the country with different backgrounds to aid us in doing so.

We also have found connecting with more established advocacy groups has given us a huge advantage. Working with seasoned activists has helped us think through tactics and approaches in a much more strategic way, connected us directly with other activist networks that share similar goals, and allowed us to pool resources and brainpower to ensure we’re not duplicating efforts. We’ve learned that despite the desire to do everything at once, we need to be strategic with how we engage with these issues in the coming years so that we can be the most effective.


A few of the DC Pod leaders:

Julia Bradley-Cook is an ecologist focused on the relationships between climate, ecosystems, and society—first, as an Arctic soil scientist and, more recently, as an AAAS Science & Technology Fellow working in the U.S. Senate and in Africa. Originally from New York City, Julia is a proud graduate of Grinnell College and Dartmouth.

Shauna Mahajan is a social scientist, with a specific interest in marine conservation, social-ecological resilience, and the application and impact of participatory research methods. Her research has taken her to explore the agriculture landscapes of Quebec; river basins in the eastern United States, and fishing communities on both sides of the Indian Ocean. Outside of science, Shauna is a folk singer-songwriter, teaches yoga, and loves running off into the woods or to the oceanside at any chance she gets. She currently works providing technical scientific support to an international NGO based in Washington D.C.

Anjali Kumar is a tropical ecologist and conservation biologist and AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow working to help build scientific research capacity across the world. She aids scientists in translating technical research into accessible information for policy making, and research for development, to non-scientists. Anjali is also the daughter of two immigrant parents from Ireland and India, a daughter, sister, aunt, partner, member of the LGBTQ community and a part time dog owner.

Kristin Hook is an evolutionary biologist interested in animal behavior and the evolution of reproductive traits and behaviors driven by sexual selection. She is currently a postdoctoral associate at the University of Maryland in College Park and is a proud graduate of UT-Austin and Cornell University. Kristin is half-hispanic and is passionate about increasing diversity in STEM as well as broadening participation through public outreach and science communication. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and exploring, going to music shows, cooking, and staying active through running and yoga. 

Photos: Julia, Shauna, Anjali & Kristin