Speakers and Panelists
Ana Baptista is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management. She was most recently the Director of the Energy and Environment Program at the Regional Plan Association where she oversaw a diverse portfolio of issues ranging from climate change to greenspace preservation across the New York metropolitan region. Prior to RPA, Ana was the Director of Environmental and Planning programs for the Ironbound Community Corporation for over seven years. At ICC she oversaw a wide range of environmental justice, community development and community based planning and research projects in her native Ironbound community in Newark, New Jersey. Ana grew up in the Ironbound where she was part of the environmental justice struggles that later shaped her professional and academic interests. Ana completed her Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey where she studied state level environmental justice policy implementation across the country. Prior to her doctoral research Ana was a Senior Environmental Planner for the State of Rhode Island’ Department of Environmental Management and she also served as a legislative liaison to Senator John Chafee. She received her Master’s degree from Brown University in Environmental Studies and has an undergraduate degree in Environmental & Evolutionary Biology as well as Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College. Ana was a 2013 Gustav Heningburg Civic Fellow. She is a National Environmental Leadership Fellow, a member of the Coalition for Healthy Ports and a steering committee member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance. She brings to the New School community a passion for social justice and community driven change. Ana served as an adjunct faculty with The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy from 2009 to 2014 and now serves as a full-time faculty member.
Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., is director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). As NIEHS and NTP director, Birnbaum oversees a budget of more than $780 million that funds biomedical research to discover how the environment influences human health and disease. The Institute also supports training, education, technology transfer, and community outreach. NIEHS currently funds more than 1,000 research grants.
A board certified toxicologist, Birnbaum has served as a federal scientist for nearly 37 years. Prior to her appointment as NIEHS and NTP director in 2009, she spent 19 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she directed the largest division focusing on environmental health research. Birnbaum started her federal career with 10 years at NIEHS, first as a senior staff fellow in the National Toxicology Program, then as a principal investigator and research microbiologist, and finally as a group leader for the Institute’s Chemical Disposition Group.
Birnbaum has received many awards and recognitions. This year she was awarded the North Carolina Award in Science. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health. She was also elected to the Collegium Ramazzini and to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, and received an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Rochester and a Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Illinois. Other awards include two NIH Director’s Award, Women in Toxicology Elsevier Mentoring Award, Society of Toxicology Public Communications Award, EPA’s Health Science Achievement Award and Diversity Leadership Award, National Center for Women’s 2012 Health Policy Hero Award, Breast Cancer Fund Heroes Award, 2013 American Public Health Association Homer N. Calver Award, 2013 Children’s Environmental Health Network Child Health Advocate Award, 2014 Mailman School of Public Health Granville H. Sewell Distinguished Lecturer, an Honorary Doctorate from Ben-Gurion University, Israel, the Surgeon General’s Medallion 2014, and 14 Scientific and Technological Achievement Awards, which reflect the recommendations of EPA’s external Science Advisory Board, for specific publications.
Birnbaum is also an active member of the scientific community. She was vice president of the International Union of Toxicology, the umbrella organization for toxicology societies in more than 50 countries; former president of the Society of Toxicology, the largest professional organization of toxicologists in the world; former chair of the Division of Toxicology at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; and former vice president of the American Aging Association.
She is the author of more than 800 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and reports. Birnbaum’s own research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals, mechanisms of action of toxicants including endocrine disruption, and linking of real-world exposures to health effects. She is also an adjunct professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Curriculum in Toxicology, and the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as in the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program at Duke University.
A native of New Jersey, Birnbaum received her M.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Phil Brown is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences, and Director of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute. From 1980 to 2012, he taught at Brown University, as Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies. His recent books are Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement and Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements. At Brown, he founded the Contested Illnesses Research Group in 2000, which is the predecessor of Northeastern’s Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI). He is co-director of both the Community Engagement Core and Research Translation Core of PROTECT/Puerto Rico Test Site to Explore Contamination Threats (Superfund Research Program).
Judith Graber is an occupational and environmental epidemiologist and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health. She earned her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Her research explores the intersection of behavioral risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, with hazardous exposures in the workplace and community. Her most current research includes investigation into causes of head and neck cancer among World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers and investigation of industrial contamination of the community water supply in Paulsboro New Jersey.
Molly Greenberg is an Environmental Justice Policy Manager at the Ironbound Community Corporation, Newark, NJ. In this capacity, Molly tracks environmental permits and regulations that impact Ironbound, collaborates on fighting new facilities, advocates with community for the clean up of existing industries and works with community to bring positive community development like parks and green infrastructure into the neighborhood. Molly oversees various community led projects focused on environmental justice issues including community led air monitoring, superfund clean up, climate resilience and climate justice initiatives, anti incineration and zero waste campaigns. She has a Masters of Social Work from Monmouth University and is a member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.
Robert Laumbach, M.D., M.P.H., C.I.H., is Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the Rutgers School of Public Health. Rob has a major research focus in cumulative impacts of multiple chemical and nonchemical stressors on health, particularly on mechanisms by which air pollution interacts with other stressors in Environmental Justice communities in New Jersey. He is currently collaborating with the Ironbound Community Corporation on an EPA-funded project to measure the effects of diesel exhaust air pollution and chronic stress on asthma exacerbation among children living in communities adjacent to the Port of Newark/Elizabeth. He directs community outreach and engagement for the NIEHS Center for Environmental Exposure and Disease (CEED), at the Environmental and Exposure and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI), and maintains a clinical practice at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. A former Sanitarian, Industrial Hygienist, and member of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection Science Advisory Board, Rob strives to apply the best available scientific evidence and approaches to solving real-world environmental health problems in New Jersey.
Norah MacKendrick's research falls within the fields of environmental sociology, consumer studies, medical sociology, and gender. She studies the growing public awareness of chemical ‘body burdens.’ She is currently finishing a book that identifies the rise of "precautionary consumption” in the United States. In this book, she tracks decades of regulatory failure to properly assess the health consequences of environmental chemicals. The work of addressing this failure has fallen to women, and mothers in particular, who feel responsible for protecting their children from exposure to environmental chemicals, and who do so through foodwork, shopping, and management of the household. Precautionary consumption has become entangled with potent discourses of maternal responsibility and consumer empowerment that circulate within the public outreach efforts of environmental health advocacy groups, as well as the marketplace for certified organic foods and ‘green’ products. In other work, she explores how people think of their bodies as contaminated, and how they evaluate their ability to avoid chemicals through precautionary consumption. She has two ongoing projects. The first examines how the environmental health movement has zeroed in on the maternal body as a site of moral and social anxiety surrounding chemical body burdens. The second explores how middle-class mothers react to cultural criticism of intensive or total motherhood.
Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq., is currently the director of the Center for the Urban Environment of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University and has defined the primary mission of the Center as providing support for the environmental justice (EJ) community on both a state and national level. The University is located in Trenton, New Jersey. Among the issues he is working on are particulate matter air pollution, climate change, cumulative impacts, developing EJ legal strategies and increasing the capacity of the EJ community to address these and other issues. Sheats is a founding member of the NJ EJ Alliance, the EJ Leadership Forum on Climate Change, the EJ and Science Initiative, and an informal EJ attorneys group.
Sheats has been appointed to several federal and state advisory councils including the EPA’s National EJ Advisory Council, the EPA’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee and the New Jersey Clean Air Council. He also served as a co-author of the public health chapter of the National Climate Assessment. Early in his career he practiced law as a public interest attorney. During that time Sheats served as a law clerk for the Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (the local Court), as a landlord-tenant and housing attorney at Camden Regional Legal Services, as a public defender in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and as a legal instructor at a community legal education and college preparatory program in Harlem. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics from Princeton University and a Master in Public Policy, law degree and Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University.
Dr. Dorceta Taylor is a professor of environmental sociology at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). She is the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Chair and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at SNRE. She also holds a joint appointment with the Program in the Environment. Dr. Taylor is the former Field of Studies Coordinator for SNRE’s Environmental Justice Program and a past Chair of the American Sociological Association’s Environment and Technology Section. Professor Taylor received dual doctorates in Sociology and Forestry & Environmental Studies from Yale University in 1991, a Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy from Yale University in Sociology and Forestry & Environmental Studies in 1988, a Master of Forest Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1985, and a Bachelor of Arts Environmental Studies and Biology from Northeastern Illinois University in 1983.
She teaches courses in environmental history, environmental politics, environmental justice, climate change and sustainable development, sustainable food systems, gender and environment, and sociological theory. Describing her approach to teaching, she writes, “I believe that each person has the capacity to learn and get excited about environmental issues. I think a thorough understanding of the past informs present thinking and actions. I believe that teaching that is built on a foundation of solid knowledge, rigor and freedom to push the boundaries and think beyond the ordinary produce the most exciting results.”
Her research focuses on history of mainstream and environmental justice ideology and activism, social movements and framing, green jobs, diversity in the environmental field, urban agriculture, and food justice. She participated in the landmark 1990 environmental justice conference at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment – Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards – and contributed a chapter to the book of the same name. She also helped to develop the environmental justice program at SNRE – the first such program in the country.
Professor Taylor is also the Program Director for the Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development Initiative (MELDI). Between 2005 and 2007, Dr. Taylor conducted several national diversity studies comparing minority and white students in university environmental programs to find out about their preparation for the environmental workforce, willingness to work in environmental organizations upon graduation, salary expectations, and whether they consider issues related to equity and diversity in the workplace relevant to their job satisfaction. As a corollary, Dr. Taylor also conducted a parallel study of employees in environmental organizations to find out about their work experiences. In particular, she is interested in recruitment and retention, salary compensation, perceptions of equity and discrimination on the job, diversity, career development, and networking opportunities on the job. A third study has also been conducted among environmental organizations to find out about institutional factors relating to recruitment and retention of employees, the institution of mentoring programs, diversity efforts, employee review procedures, and the demographic characteristics of these organizations.
In 2014 Dr. Taylor authored a landmark national report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Institutions: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies. She authored a second diversity report in 2014 entitled, Environmental Organizations in the Great Lakes Region: An Assessment of Institutional Diversity. Since these studies have been completed, Dr. Taylor has developed two national diversity programs. The first, the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, brings outstanding undergraduates from around the country to spend two summers in Michigan researching with professors and interning in conservation organizations in Ann Arbor and Detroit. Forty students will participate in the program in summer 2017. The second program, the Environmental Fellows Program, attracts graduate students from around the country. Fellows do 12-week internships in environmental grantmaking foundations (including Wege) and conservation organizations around the country; about 23 students will participate in this program in 2017.
Dr. Taylor has published influential books also. Her most recent book, The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection, was published in 2016 during the 100th-year anniversary of the founding of the national park service. The book examines how conservation ideas and politics are tied to social dynamics such as racism, classism, and gender discrimination. The book examines the contributions of the White middle class as well as people of color and the poor to the evolution of American conservationism.
Her 2014 book, Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility (New York University Press), examines the racial and socio-economic dimensions of exposure to environmental hazards in the U.S. She is also the author of The Environment and the People in American Cities: 1600s-1900s. Disorder, Inequality, and Social Change (Duke University Press). The book examines the history of environmental inequality and urban environmental activism. It received the Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award given by the Environment and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association in 2010.
Dr. Taylor received a $4,000,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study food insecurity in Michigan in 2012. She is particularly interested in the lack of access to healthy food outlets in minority and poor inner-city neighborhoods. She is also examining the role that urban agriculture can play in increasing access to healthy foods to poor urban residents.
Clifford P. Weisel is a professor at the Rutgers University and acting director of the Exposure Science Division of the university's Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute. He also is director of the Doctoral Degree Program in Exposure Science offered by Rutgers University. The focus of Dr. Weisel's research is understanding exposure to chemical agents, with an emphasis on multi-route exposures to environmental contaminants, the association between exposure and adverse health effects, utilization of sensors for continuous exposure measurement, and development and application of biomarkers of exposure. He has examined the relationship among indoor, outdoor and personal exposures to air pollutants, documented the importance of inhalation and dermal exposure to contaminants, characterized exposures within the transportation sector, and examined exposure and health issues related to disinfection by-products in water. He is a past president of the International Society of Exposure Science and has served on numerous international and national advisory committees, workshops and advisory review panels for NAS, EPA, NIEHS, CDC, state governmental, environmental groups and private industry and as associate editor of the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. Dr. Weisel has authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters and authored with Dr. Paul Lioy the book Exposure Science: Basic Principles and Applications.
Ami Zota is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at the George Washington University Milken School of Public Health. Her research examines population exposures to environmental chemicals, their effects on women and children's health, and implications of these risks for health disparities. She received a K99/R00 career development award from National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences to identify how environmental hazards may interact with social disadvantage and psychosocial stressors to exacerbate health disparities during pregnancy.
Dr. Zota is equally committed to developing innovative approaches for science translation so that her research can more effectively be used to inform decision-making at the individual and collective level. 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 flame retardants and other consumer product chemicals by participating in legislative briefings, providing technical assistance to the NGO community, and writing commentaries for popular media.
Before joining GW, Zota studied human exposure and health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals at the Silent Spring Institute and then later at the University of California, San Francisco's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. She received her masters and doctorate in environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health.
She is an Associate Editor of Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology and on the Editorial Board of Environmental Epigenetics.