Women’s History Month: Contributions in Environmental and Conservation Fields

“One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent…not being encouraged the way they need to.”

— President Barack Obama, February 2013


Ecologist at the back of an open vehicle working with field samples.

EPA Ecologist Jana Compton, Ph.D.

March is Women’s History Month, and EPA is marking the event by highlighting the many contributions women have made to the environmental and conservation fields. To help get things rolling, we are sharing advice that EPA women scientists and engineers have for students looking to make their own mark in environmental and conservation history.

Below is what they say…

  • Learn
    You need to learn as much as you can, and you need to be very flexible about what you’re going to do with that knowledge. I think that scientists are primarily trained in scientific principles. They are given tools, but over the years, the tools and problems will change, so you really have to be adaptive.
    – EPA Chemist Linda Sheldon
  • Love It
    My advice is to start with something you love. That was biology for me, even though I ended up with a degree in chemical engineering. Branch out when you have the time. Spend your time in high school discovering the things you love and see where that leads you.
    – EPA Environmental Engineer Felicia Barnett
  • Be Proactive
    Do what you like! It’s your career path, so be proactive and look for new opportunities wherever you can. Take risks and take advantage of co-ops, internships, and volunteer activities.
    – Research Fellow Nisha S. Sipes, Ph.D.
  • Branch Out
    I would try lots of things and branch out. It’s important not to get narrowed into a particular field too early. I encourage young people to be adventurous when it comes to their education.
    -EPA Biologist Laura Jackson, Ph.D.
  • Seize the Day
    If you are interested in pursuing a STEM career, now is the best time to do it since there are many opportunities in the form of internships and scholarships available for students, especially for those from underrepresented groups, including minorities, women, and disadvantaged students. There are numerous opportunities out there!
    -EPA Chemist Ana Rivera-Lupiáñez
  • Keep at It
    Don’t give up early! Engineering is a lot of work in the beginning. It’s not always obvious in some of the beginning courses why it is relevant, but when it all comes together, you’ll find out you have all the skills you need to solve the big and interesting problems.
    -Chemical Engineer, Deborah Luecken
  • Learn
    Never stop learning. Use every opportunity in life to learn, apply it and educate others. Learning should be an unfinished goal in every person’s life.
    -EPA scientist Luz V. Garcia, M.S., M.E.
  • Be Open
    Always keep an open mind! I started out in dental research and here I am working in risk assessment. It is okay to move around and try new things, even if you have to go back a few steps. If you love it, it is worth it.
    -EPA Scientist Maureen R. Gwinn, MS PhD DABT
  • Go For It
    It’s important to learn the basic principles behind scientific reasoning because although technology is always changing, the knowledge of those basic scientific principles will continue to guide you.
    -EPA Scientist Cynthia Yund, Ph.D.
  • Challenge Yourself
    As a scientist there are a lot of fun and exciting things to learn and do. You get the opportunity to try many different things over the course of your career because new challenges are always presented.
    -EPA Environmental Engineer, Terra Haxton, Ph.D.
  • Contribute
    I think being a scientist is one of the most enabling professions. There are so many levels in society in which you can contribute to. There are so many problems in our society that require science-based solutions; scientific training should be seen as a door-opener to a diversity of opportunities.
    – EPA Exposure Scientist and National Program Director Dr. Tina Bahadori
  • Enjoy the Path
    Don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately see the path you want to take. As you get more and more advanced, that’s when you start to discover what really excites you. Enjoy that process of discovery and the adventure!
    -EPA Scientist Jordan West, Ph.D.
  • Be Fearless
    Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! That’s when you learn things.
    -EPA Scientist, Cecilia Tan, Ph.D.
  • Explore
    No matter what you think you want to do, college is the time to experience new things and take lots of different courses. Also make sure you’re doing something that is not science oriented, such as pursuing a hobby. You need to develop a passion for something outside of science.
    EPA Scientist Nicolle Tulve, Ph.D.
  • Work Hard
    I think the 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration rule applies here! You need to love what you do because it will require a lot of hard work.
    -EPA Ecologist Jana Compton, Ph.D.
  • Practice
    If you think about almost any sport you have learned, it takes a lot of practice. No one’s good at soccer when they start, or at baseball or football or at any sport. It takes years of practice, and it really takes you just liking it and wanting to spend a lot of time doing it.
    -EPA engineer Gayle Hagler. Ph.D.
  • Keep Adding
    If you have natural math ability, don’t give up on it! There seems to be a myth, particularly among young women, that if you major in math you either have to go into accounting or be a math teacher.
    – EPA Scientist Susan Yee, Ph.D.
  • Be Bold
    Listen to and learn from others but march to your own drum; don’t be afraid to draw outside the lines, this is how great ideas become great advancements. Facing unprecedented challenges, the world needs more scientists and it needs scientists hailing from a wide diversity of backgrounds.
    -EPA Research Scientist Anne Neal
EPA Scientist at work in a lab

EPA Scientist at work


Learn More!

Learn more about EPA scientists and engineers, how their science matters, and how they started their careers at “EPA Researchers@Work.”



Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.