Important update to Fellowship Teams Program
Due to funding challenges, we have made the tough but necessary decision to scale back programming and take certain services offline. This includes temporarily pausing the Fellowship Team program. You can read more about the change in programming here.
About Fellowship Teams
Fellowship Teams are financially supported collaborations hosted and facilitated by Public Lab. Teams are centered around a Community Organizing Fellow, and designed to support that fellow in their work on a local environmental concern or issue. Projects could be just starting, in their initial planning stages, or existing programs seeking additional expertise.
In getting started, Frontline Community Organizing Fellows work with Public Lab staff to define the goals of the project, and identify the roles of fellows who will join the team to support in achieving these goals. The roles on Fellowship Teams can include scientists, technologists, legal advisors, and documenters. In addition, the Fellowship Teams have access to the support of the larger network of collaborators on Public Lab’s open source platforms. Fellowship Team projects run from 8-9 months and are launched three times per year. Through Fellowship Teams, Public Lab supports the work of community science projects with an emphasis on long-term visioning to advance the Community Organizer's environmental health priorities.
The major goals of Fellowship Teams:
- Advance a local community environmental concern with Public Lab community science and environmental monitoring methods.
- Center community voice and needs. Community Organizers will outline the fellowship goals and community science project with Public Lab.
- Grow a network of scientists, technologists, legal/advocacy advisors, and organizers working on environmental health issues.
- Collaborate on the Public Lab platform. By sharing experiences, knowledge of best practices, and methods on PublicLab.org we elevate communities’ stories and help create pathways for other communities facing similar issues to get started.
Fellowship Teams are supported by Public Lab by:
- A Community Organizer role which includes a stipend of $10,000 USD
- 2-3 supporting fellowship roles with stipends ranging between $3,000 -$6,600 USD
- A community science monitoring equipment budget for the duration of your project up to $2000 USD.
- A dedicated Public Lab staff member to help you define and track towards your project goals, and support facilitation of your team meetings each month.
- Peer-to-peer sharing and support within your cohort and on the Public Lab website.
- Regular drop-in and information sessions hosted by Public Lab each week; including quarterly events for further professional development on topic interests (optional to attend).
- Access to communication platforms including Zoom, Slack, and a team dedicated Google Drive.
- Connection to all Public Lab Fellows through dedicated communication channels.
Selection criteria for Community Organizing Fellows
Public Lab Community Organizing Fellows are selected three times a year, while applications/nominations remain open all year around and are welcome at any time. There are several steps in this process so that we can offer customized support in line with the unique situations being faced by local leaders. These steps are designed to support those who have never applied for a fellowship before.
When Public Lab staff begin the review process for an upcoming open role, applications/nominations are scored, and those who meet the minimum criteria are offered Project Development Sessions* with someone from the Public Lab staff. These are optional, though highly encouraged as applications are rescored after being workshopped, and scores nearly always improve. After applications are rescored, the applicant/nominee with the highest scoring materials is offered the Community Organizing Fellowship role.
Successful candidates/nominees for the Community Organizing Fellowship role must meet several key criteria:
- They must live in the community where they are aiming to run their project.
- They must seek to work on an environmental concern that is urgent and compelling.
- They must be eager to have their project materials regularly shared, and to collaborate with their project team, and the broader Public Lab community. (Those with safety concerns about sharing project data with the public will not be excluded from this fellowship, but participants are expected to work with the Public Lab team on addressing these concerns.)
- They have the ability to commit the time and energy to the project for the 9-10 month project cycle. Note: the first one to two months are with the Public Lab team in project design, defining the supporting fellow roles, outreach, and selection for supporting fellows.
Higher points are awarded in key areas such as:
- If the project is based in an Environmental Justice Community. This includes communities that have both extreme environmental and socioeconomic stressors.
- If the risk or negative effects to human health is imminent or already existing.
- If the applicant identifies from any groups who are historically excluded from STEAM leadership.
- If the applicant has roots within the community where the project is proposed and is committed to staying there.
- The applicant is eager to share about their project, and learn from and collaborate with others.
Public Lab’s reach potential:
- The project supports a topic area that could use more attention within the Public Lab community.
- There is a clear pathway to grow collaborators and partners.
- It expands Public Lab’s geographic reach.
- The project’s relevance to community science- there is a pathway to grow knowledge about the community and concern through environmental monitoring led by the community organizer, and possibly, local collaborators.
- The project is fleshed out such that there is a clear indication of the work phases and goals of the project.
- There are potential partners and collaborators who have been identified.
- The candidates local ties will be exercised through the course of the project.
* Top ranking candidates will be offered a Project Development session with Public Lab staff. This meeting is primarily aimed at the Project Development part of the application where applicants can workshop their project ideas with a member of the Public Lab staff. Any missing application materials can also be flushed out at this time. The Project Development sessions run an hour in length, after which applications are rescored by Public Lab staff with the added materials from the work session. It is not required for eligible candidates to participate in Project Development sessions, but highly recommended as application scores generally go up after workshopping sessions. Once Project Development sessions are complete, applications are rescored and the candidate with the highest application score receives the fellowship.
What Organizers can expect launching a Fellowship Team:
- Your first 2 weeks: Frontline Community Organizer Fellows can expect to learn how to use Public Lab’s website to connect with our network of partners, learn about our weekly drop-in events, and be introduced to Fellows communication platforms.
- Your first month: you will begin to outline the goals of the project and work with Public Lab staff to identify a dedicated fellowship support team of up to three other people.
- Once the fellowship team is selected: Public Lab coordinates a remote introductory meeting where Fellows engage in getting to know one another, share their skills, and learn Public Lab’s organizing philosophy in community science. The team solidifies the goals of the project and outlines how each role will contribute to them.
- Ongoing: Fellowship Teams will meet on a biweekly basis with their cohort and the Public Lab staff to share updates, trouble shoot, and track on the progress towards the team’s goals.
- Project Wrap-Up" We recognize that environmental concerns are unlikely to resolve within the timeframe of these fellowships. However, we aim to have made clear advancements for the cause during this time that help provide clarity and next steps for communities facing environmental concerns. Project wrap up time is aimed at closing out the project outputs that have been achieved, and helping identify the next phase of the work.
Other Fellowship Team Members
Once the project has been defined, Public Lab will solicit for up to three Fellows to join the team in support of the project goals. To get updates on these fellowship offerings follow the Fellows tag on Public Lab found on this page.
Interested in learning more? Have a project idea? Need help?
If you’re a frontline community organizer interested in this fellowship program and need help narrowing down your project idea, or are unsure about filling out the application form, let us know! The Public Lab team is here to help.
- Join us at Open Call, which occurs each week, and spark a conversation!
- No pre-registration required.
- Need to meet at another time? Schedule a time to meet with the Public Lab team.
- Please contact us directly by emailing (firstname.lastname@example.org). In the subject line please use Community Organizer 1:1. Please allow up to three business days for Public Lab staff to respond and coordinate a time to meet together.
Current Fellowship Teams:
Proposed Huber lumber processing plant and Talon metals mine in Northern Minnesota: The Minnesota Land and Manoomin Protection Project
The beginnings of the Mississippi River run through both Aitkin and Itasca counties in northern Minnesota. These counties are rich with wild rice, wetlands, lakes, forests, and healthy habitat for wildlife. Aitkin and Itasca counties are also historically poor counties. The population is sparse and declining and some communities are concerned about their economies and livelihood. The answer that some have to that is extraction and industry. Currently, there are two proposed projects that threaten the land and the precious manoomin (wild rice) beds, the sacred food of the Anishinaabeg, the people whose land these counties occupy. This project will affect five tribes in northern Minnesota (Leech Lake, Red Lake, Boise Fort, White Earth, and Mille Lacs).
One of the projects is from a North Carolina company called Huber Engineered Woods LLC. They are proposing a 750,000 square foot facility in Cohasset, MN. This facility will require trees from within a 70 to 100-mile radius- 400,000 cords of harvested wood annually to mix toxic materials with to create their product, oriented strand board (OSB) or particle board. Huber has not been transparent about where the lumber for the project will be harvested. The production of OSB requires petrochemicals and glues that create hazardous conditions for workers as well as the environment.
The other project is the Talon Mine that is in the exploration phase in Tamarack, MN. The project would cover nearly 32 square miles of mostly wetlands. This type of underground copper mining is dangerous for the waters, land, and air. Sulfide ores that would be exposed in this project contain metals that can mobilize in the environment. “This type of pollution is commonly referred to as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and has the potential to devastate entire ecosystems. The close proximity of sulfide mines to valued water bodies such as lakes and rivers of the Mississippi watershed intensifies the magnitude of this issue. All of the water bodies in the Tamarack area are linked by multiple aquifers.” (https://tamarackwateralliance.org/dangers.html)
We know we have to rely on each other to keep our communities and environments safe. And so, in response to the two proposed extraction projects, we must work together to gather data on all that we can to try to stop these projects before they break ground. Read more about this project and team goals here.
This project includes:
- Bee Kakac: Community Organizing Fellow
- Julia Guerrein: Environmental Policy Fellow
- Giiwedin Howard: Community Engagement Fellow
- Noah Furman: Documentation Fellow
Louisiana Proposed Plastics Plant The Game Over Formosa Project
For years, the St. James Parish community in Louisiana, already struggling with extreme pollution, has been fighting to keep out new industry. The historically black, and now elder, community hosts no less than 11 industrial facilities spanning their mere 258 square miles These include refineries, a fertilizer plant, a steel company, an asphalt company, and several chemical companies. Formosa Plastics, is slated to be a new 2,500 acre project just one mile from an elementary school (Center for Biological Diversity). As a company, Formosa has been a historic bad actor. In its other facilities around the world, it has been the cause for the largest private citizen lawsuit under the US federal clean air and water laws, caused many community threatening and deadly explosions, been the source for major chemical releases, and created at least one major superfund site.
On August 18, 2021 the US Army Corps of Engineers announced it would “require a full “environmental impact statement” (EIS) for the massive petrochemical complex Formosa Plastics proposes to build in St. James. The decision is a major victory for opponents of the plant, who sued to block the project in January 2020, and convinced the Army Corps to suspend its permit” in fall of 2019 (Center for Biological Diversity). For this EIS, the company will be required to “provide a baseline for understanding the current environmental situation” and should also include air, water, historical and economic impacts of the project (AmericanBar.org).
The aim for this project is to regularly collect particulate matter and other air quality monitoring data to grow the body of evidence on the existing levels of pollution to show the pollution burden already borne by the St. James Parish community. We aim for this information to be used in the open comment period of the EIS with the Army Corps of Engineers, to educate and bring others into this work, and provide scientific evidence for why further pollution sources such as the Formosa Plastics, should not be developed in this community. For more about this issue read the Project Scope here and the post on Formosa around the world here.
Fellows working on this project:
- Travis London: Community Fellow and Project Advisor
- Caitlion O'Neill: Environmental Policy Fellow
- Tyler Ellis: Technical Air Quality Fellow
- Allison Woolverton: Documentation Fellow
West Virginia Mountaintop Removal The Mountains and Mines Monitoring Project
For well over a century the coal industry has exploited the people and natural resources of West Virginia. Large scale surface mining, also known as mountaintop removal not only deforests thousands of acres per mine site, but completely destroys the landscape leaving behind only bare rock and rubble. The bedrock that once formed some of the oldest mountains on the planet is blasted apart and turned into toxic dust clouds that settle on the communities below.
Over the years at Coal River Mountain Watch, we have discovered a handful of methods that we employ in the pursuit of chipping away at the profit margins of coal companies. One of the most successful tactics has been in observing, documenting, and monitoring mining activity and reporting on them to the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection in WV). The intent behind this fellowship team is to support our continued work against the coal industry using drones and other forms of observation to document violations of environmental law, and pressure the DEP to take appropriate action.
Fellows working on this project:
- Junior Walk: Community Fellow and Project Advisor
- This project is seeking an Environmental Policy Fellow
- This project is seeking a Documentation Fellow
Past Fellowship Teams
Val Verde Air Quality Monitoring around LA county landfill The Val Verde Air Monitoring Project
This project is based in Val Verde in Los Angeles County, California, USA where a large landfill has been operating in the community affecting local air quality since 1972. In the community’s fight against the landfill, residents have conducted preliminary air monitoring results that they've shared, documented and reported to every accessible body including to government agencies and the company itself. Having long since established local networks and organizations of support to address these challenges, only one or two people locally are versed in the pilot monitoring program. The intent behind this project is to share existing knowledge regarding the landfill air quality issue with more local community members, train people on how to conduct ongoing monitoring and have an air quality monitoring program that can be effectively shared to the broader Val Verde community.
Fellows working on this project:
- Sara Sage: Community Organizer Fellow and Project Advisor
- Jeremiah Dockray: Air Quality Monitoring Methods Fellow
- Chris Nidel: Legal Fellow
- Denisse Benitez Nassar: Documentation Fellow
Curious about past Public Lab fellows and their work? Please visit here: https://publiclab.org/wiki/fellows#Past+Public+Lab+Fellows+and+their+projects: