Environmental studies professor attends policymaking training in Washington D.C.


NORTH ADAMS, MA - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) environmental studies professor Elena Traister recently attended a training session in federal policymaking at Washington D.C.

As a recipient of the Switzer Environmental Fellowship - which aims to nurture environmental leaders who have the ability and determination to make a significant impact on the improvement of environmental quality - Traister was one of 30 to attend the exclusive federal policy training sessions, held Jan. 21-22. The purpose of the intensive training was to assist participants as they work with environmental issues of national significance.

"This was an in-depth look at the federal policymaking process in Washington D.C. with the people who are making these policies," said Traister. "All of the people who went to the training are doing environmental work and environmental research. They are interested in how to communicate science to policymakers so that federal policy can better reflect the emerging science in the field that we consider important in pursuing."

The training included sessions on congressional budgeting and how the budget process affects policy outcomes, how to prepare effective communication with policymakers, and conversations with congressional staffers who provided tips on how to gain access to policymakers.

In addition to providing her with an in-depth understanding of the process, Traister said the experience will allow her to provide opportunities to students who are interested in pursuing work in federal policymaking.

"Some of the workings of Washington D.C. are slightly different from what you might think. You find that there are a lot of nuances," Traister said. "The insight is helpful. I think also having the connections for those students that are interested specifically in going into policymaking is important. This is another way that I can be better connected, and plug them into opportunities to further their interests."

In addition to congressional staffers, officials from the Ecological Society of America (ESA), Advancing the Science of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), and the Research and Development Budget and Policy Program of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conducted the training sessions.

At MCLA, Traister's research focuses on improving science-based approaches to river restoration by investigating limits to stream recovery following disturbances, and by directly monitoring the effects of stream restoration.