2020 Scientist Sentinels: Civic Engagement and Leadership Program


COMPASS believes in a future where science is fundamental to solving our greatest environmental and social challenges, and where scientists who engage reflect the diversity of society as a whole. Our mission is to champion, connect, and support diverse science leaders to improve the well-being of people and nature.


Over the past 20 years, we’ve witnessed scientists’ growing appetite for giving back to their communities and to society, both as experts and as citizens. While the challenges facing society are enormous in scope and scale, the impacts are felt at home—from the lack of safe drinking water in communities like Flint, Michigan, to dangerous air quality caused by wildfires affecting millions across the West, to rapid climate change exacerbating inequity and the vulnerability of communities of color. Scientists have a unique understanding of the consequences of these unprecedented changes for people and nature, and can contribute to much-needed solutions.


This program brings scientists working at the nexus of environment and society in the United States together to advance the role of science in society, inspire their peers, and support evidence-based decision making at the local level and beyond. We envision a powerful network of science leaders who engage with society as scientists and citizens to improve the well-being of people and nature.


The Scientist Sentinels will elevate their abilities as a leaders, think big and gain the skills needed to make vision a reality, communicate across difference, build resilience to sustain their leadership for the long haul, and be a part of a thriving and supportive network of peers.


This 9-month leadership program kicks off with an in-person retreat from April 13-16, 2020 near Seattle, WA focused on strategic science communication, engagement with decision makers (from civic leaders to policymakers), and leadership. At the retreat, the 15 scientists selected for this cohort will set and refine their goals for civic engagement, practice new communication and leadership skills, learn new pathways for engagement, and become part of an inspiring and lasting network of mutually supportive peers.



  1. Build a network of empowered, mutually supportive science leaders who are motivated and prepared to engage with decision makers, from civic leaders to policy makers, and who inspire their colleagues to do so as well.

  2. Help participants identify their purpose and goals for communication and civic engagement.

  3. Provide participants with the skills, tools, and knowledge they need to reach their communication and civic engagement goals.

  4. Empower scientists to work with their communities to support evidence-based decision-making at the local level and beyond.


Program Leads

Heather Mannix is COMPASS’s Assistant Director of Policy Engagement. Heather works to facilitate constructive discussion and interaction between scientists and decision makers. Before coming to COMPASS, she spent over seven years at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington D.C. working with large ocean research programs such as the Census of Marine Life and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. Heather also managed the Ocean Research Advisory Panel, a science advisory body to the Federal Government. She received her B.A. from Hood College in Environmental Science and Policy and a M.A. from American University in Global Environmental Policy.


Karen McLeod is COMPASS’s Deputy Director. She is passionate about empowering scientists to more fully realize their potential as leaders of social and environmental change through a combination of personal development and strategic engagement. She’s worn many hats since she joined COMPASS in 2003—coach, facilitator, fundraiser, mentor, organizational leader, strategist, synthesizer, trainer, and Interim Executive Director in 2017. And she’s currently pursuing a yearlong professional coaching certification through New Ventures West in San Francisco. Based at Oregon State University (OSU), she serves as a courtesy faculty in the Department of Integrative Biology. Trained as an ecologist, she received her Ph.D. from OSU, M.S. from the University of South Florida, and B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College.

Pamela Chiang is the president of Chiange Inc. and is an organizational consultant, facilitator, leadership trainer, and executive coach. Leaders seek out Pamela when they find themselves stuck. She describes herself as an “organizational and leadership acupuncturist” by helping people gain insights and take actions that lead to breakthroughs. She specializes in organizational visioning, culture change, team alignment and leadership development. Pamela cut her teeth as an organizer and leader in the environmental justice movement of the 1990s. Motivated to expand the effectiveness of the progressive sector, she masterfully coaches, trains, and facilitates leaders to be more successful agents of change.

Joanna Nadeau is senior outreach coordinator for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In her role, she helps scientists and other experts get involved in serving as watchdogs for science, and mobilizes Science Network members to push back against attempts by Congress to cut vital science-based public protections. Prior to joining UCS, Joanna worked for Audubon International as director of community programs, where she brought technical experts, community members, and policymakers together to shape local sustainability policies. She was also involved in New York State’s Fight for Fifteen campaign, where she worked with economists and fast food workers to raise the minimum wage. She earned a B.S. in biology from Haverford College, and an M.S. in environmental and healthy city planning from the University of Arizona.


  1. A 3.5-day retreat in science communication, policy engagement, and leadership with world-class trainers that will provide you with the knowledge, tools, and support you need to help you realize your civic engagement goals;

  2. Membership in a cohort of motivated, inspirational environmental scientists who are eager to support each other in making the world a better place;

  3. Coaching, peer support, and additional training opportunities to support you in your development as a scientist leader;

  4. Guidance on how to identify opportunities to engage and navigators who can help you gain access to discussions where your research is relevant;

  5. Confidence in your abilities and the support of your network, and connection to your purpose and goals. 


Successful applicants, in addition to participating in the retreat, will receive accommodation for 3 nights at Seabeck Conference Center in Seabeck, Washington. All meals during the retreat will be covered. Participants are asked to cover their travel expenses to the Seattle area if possible; however, travel funds are available if needed—please don’t let the cost of traveling to Seattle keep you from applying!


In addition to the retreat, the program will include ongoing learning and support through pre- and post-retreat webinars, peer group coaching sessions, and individual coaching.




All natural and social scientists currently residing in the U.S. whose work is focused at the intersection of the environment and society are eligible to apply. Applications from scientists and researchers from any affiliation (academic, government [tribal, local, state, or federal], NGO, industry, etc.) and career stage are welcome.

Who Should Apply

We are committed to building a cohort that encompasses a diverse blend of perspectives, fields of study, geographies, backgrounds, and career stages. We value multiple identities, voices, values, and ways of knowing, and seek applicants who embody and express the many ways of being a scientist. We are looking for participants who are excited to invest the necessary time and energy to fully participate in the 9-month program, from the 3.5-day in-person retreat to coaching, small group peer mentoring, and additional webinars (approximately 4 hours/month). A spirit of open-mindedness and generosity, in addition to a willingness to contribute to a collaborative, mutually supportive network of your peers, is highly desirable.


How To Apply

The call for applications has closed. 



To apply, please fill out this Google Form with the following:

  • Contact info

  • Academic credentials and affiliation

  • Brief bio (one paragraph) including research topics and your previous engagement experience or outreach efforts

  • 2 references (please provide two references able to speak to why you would be a good fit for this program, and have them share their thoughts via this brief form: https://forms.gle/oJHCntcy5ghqcE8o7)

  • Resume or short CV (include as link, if available online, or please email as an attachment to opportunities@COMPASSscicomm.org with the subject header: 2020 Sentinels— Your Last Name).

  • Responses to the following short-answer questions:

  1. What do you hope to gain from this program?

  2. How would you put to use the skills you gain and the network you build through this program? How will you better connect/support/engage after the fellowship, and what would be your goal in doing so?

  3. Please briefly share a significant experience you’ve had engaging in policy/public outreach/other efforts to strengthen the role of science in society.

We will notify those selected by January 15.

Additional questions? Check out our FAQ here

Need more info? Please contact opportunities@COMPASSscicomm.org

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© 2023 by COMPASS Science Communication, Inc.