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More Women Who Inspire Us in Climate Action

We’re reflecting on women in climate action who helped light a spark for protecting the planet with our workforceMaybe you saw our first article,Inspired by: Meet the Women in Climate Action Who Give Us Hope,” that kicked off Women’s History Month on There’s more to add to the list, so today we’re sharing stories with you, and another roster of impressive women will get published next week. Read on to see who motivated Department of Energy staffers in their work today. 

Communicating Policy, Powerfully

Sarah Harman, U.S. Department of Energy

To Lily Forest, a technical editor/writer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Environmental Restoration Department, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s work was career-changing for her.

Dr. Johnson’s list of credentials and work is seemingly endless. She founded Urban Ocean Lab — a think tank focused on the future of coastal cities — and served as the editor and publisher of All We Can Save. Today, she’s co-hosting the podcast How to Save a Planet.

“As a fellow policy nerd, she’s inspired me to go back to school and get a master’s in environmental policy,” said Forest. “[Johnson] also will be known as an innovator and leader pushing for strong climate change legislation,” Forest said.

Writing for the Future of the Arctic

Sarah Harman, U.S. Department of Energy

“I share her love of this pristine region which is now rapidly disappearing,” Shani Cairns, a Digital Information Professional at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said.

Cairns was talking about Irene Quaile. Quaile, who runs the, said her fascination with the Arctic started when she was invited to join an international radio project that covered the International Polar Year, and it never stopped, making her one of Cairns’ climate heroes.

Pursuing Your Dreams Across the Globe

Sarah Harman, U.S. Department of Energy

Vanessa Arjona’s role model is Diana Trujillo, the woman leading the team that developed the NASA Perseverance Rover’s robotic arm. Perseverance was also central in Trujillo’s life.

“Diana’s story is an example of overcoming language, economic and cultural barriers through hard work and determination,” said Vanessa Arjona, the communications lead for the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office with Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “It teaches us how anything we set our minds to is possible if we have purpose and are laser focused on the steps we need to take to get where we want to be. Having come to the U.S. as a young immigrant from Colombia, I can relate to  Diana’s story on a much more personal level, and I think her journey will resonate with many women who have gone through the struggles of being an immigrant with a dream in a new country.”

Uncovering the Secrets of Soil

Sarah Harman, U.S. Department of Energy

Dr. Colleen Iversen might not know she’s being watched – in admiration by her colleagues, that is, as her career accelerates. According to Leigha Witt, group manager for Laboratory Participant Programs at Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Witt’s team at ORISE enjoyed seeing Iverson advance professionally from research participant to ORNL scientist mentoring ORISE research participants at the Lab.

Today, according to Witt, Iversen focuses on “how ecosystems are shaped by climate change, and understanding how the roots hidden below the soil surface can help provide clues.”

Diving to the Deep

Sarah Harman, U.S. Department of Energy

Mary Knaak, a Research Technician in Actinide Analytical Chemistry with Los Alamos National Laboratory, finds motivation in the actions and life of Dr. Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer.

“Sylvia Earle is still living, but I think her legacy will be one of deep commitment to ocean habitat preservation,” said Knaak. “Her organization, Mission Blue, continues to establish marine protected areas called ‘Hope Spots,’ which will have lasting impacts on marine conservation. I think her story will also continue to inspire young women in STEM.”

Now, Join In

Interested in getting involved? Join us March 31, 5 p.m. ET, on Zoom or YouTube for a conversation about pathways to careers in climate action, hosted by STEM Rising, Sandia National Laboratories, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and ORISE.

AnneMarie Horowitz has been with the Energy Department since 2009, and is the Director of STEM Rising, a priority Departmental initiative to highlight the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs and resources of the agency.

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