Agents of Change is an ongoing series featuring the stories, analyses and perspectives of next generation environmental justice leaders who come from historically under-represented backgrounds in science and academia.


The essays are published on Environmental Health News, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to driving science into public discussion and policy on environmental health issues, including climate change. We developed this platform to provide a space for early career scientists to explore intersections between their lived experiences and research expertise. In our first year, fellows wrote about various topics including: Black farming, cultural significance of fire in indigenous communities, and housing insecurity among urban, immigrant communities. 


The fellowship offers an opportunity to reach people both within and outside an applicant’s field. Some of our prior blogs have reached nearly one million views, with readers ranging from senior scientists at our nation’s leading universities to social activists to farmers in rural America. This is a chance to have real impact.


This initiative is in response to historical and ongoing structural racism prevalent in most institutions including science and media, which suffer from a lack of diversity and inclusion.  We hope to increase diversity of thought and help shape the public dialogue on environmental health sciences, policy, and justice. Long-term, we seek to foster a new cadre of diverse thought leaders who are empowered to develop innovative solutions for environmental justice and health equity.


By participating in the Agents of Change program, fellows will improve their writing skills and get experience communicating with new forms of media (e.g., blogs, social media posts, podcasts). Through our monthly, online trainings, fellows get the opportunity to discuss new ideas in a safe space, provide feedback to their peers, and learn about new research and community perspectives in environmental health.


Program Director: Dr. Ami Zota

Ami Zota is the founder and director of Agents of Change initiative. Dr. Zota is a tenured, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at the George Washington University Milken School of Public Health. Dr. Zota’s work seeks to secure environmental justice and improve health equity through advancements in science, policy, and clinical practice. Her research identifies novel pathways linking social disparities, environmental exposures, and reproductive and children’s health. She received a career development award from the National Institutes of Health and was recently recognized as a Pioneer Under 40 in Environmental Public Health by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. 


Dr. Zota is equally committed to developing innovative approaches for science translation so that her research can more effectively be used to inform individual and collective decision-making. Her research has been featured in high-impact national and international media publications including the Washington Post, LA Times, USA Today, Huffington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly. She has helped shape health and safety standards for consumer product chemicals by participating in legislative briefings  and communicating science through the media. 


Her scientific research and communication activities have been funded by a variety of sources including National Institutes of Health, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and private foundations. She received her masters and doctorate in environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“We need to empower the next generation of environmental health and justice leaders to speak up, share their bold ideas, and to act quickly and decisively so we can develop effective solutions to protect our ecosystems and humanity. A key part of this empowerment is centering the voices of scientists and scholars that have been neglected for far too long. Science and media are not traditionally diverse or inclusive institutions. Many bright minds from historically underrepresented backgrounds are never encouraged to cultivate their ideas because of institutional bias and unspoken penalties for being different. I am happy to provide these emerging leaders with a digital megaphone."

To read Dr. Zota's full article click on the quote.

Editor: Brian Bienkowski

Bienkowski joined EHN in 2012 and had an immediate impact, anchoring a reporting team that won an Oakes Award honorable mention for's 2012 series, Pollution, Poverty, People of Color. He also won 2013 and 2014 awards for Outstanding Beat Reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists, and has received awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists and The Aronson Social Justice Journalism Awards.


He holds a master's degree in environmental journalism and a bachelor's degree in marketing from Michigan State University. He lives with his wife, Dani, and their four-legged friends in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where he can be found playing mandolin or untangling his fly line from stream side tag alders.

"These fellows’ essays blended their lived experience, their research, and environmental impacts on real people in real communities. They didn’t hide behind the science, rather they asserted their position in their science. This is the future of science communication."


To read Brian's full article click on the quote. 

Our funders

Beautycounter is a private company founded with the mission to get safer products into the hands of everyone. Beautycounter promotes clean beauty and advocates for a cleaner future - they provide grants to leading scientists who share that mission.


Forsythia Foundation promotes healthier people and environments by reducing harmful chemicals in our lives.


Rachel’s Network is a community of women at the intersection of environmental advocacy, philanthropy, and leadership. Our mission is to promote women as impassioned leaders and agents of change dedicated to the stewardship of the earth.