Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows Program

Leverage Science to Advance Community Priorities

The Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), in partnership with the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Thriving Earth Exchange, is launching a collaborative opportunity for staff at ASTC-member museums in the United States to work with members of their community and local scientists to advance community priorities. These projects, which will involve partnerships between science centers and community members, will use science to advance community priorities and contribute to a growing movement toward engaged, community-driven science. With generous support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, ASTC is able to award each successful applicant a mini-grant of at least $5,000 and up to $10,000 to support the work of each project.

Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows will work with a wide range of community institutions, such as municipal governments, nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, indigenous groups, grassroots collectives, etc.

The Fellowship

Staff members at ASTC-member science centers and museums in the United States are eligible to apply for one of the Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows positions. Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows will:

  • Collaborate with local community leaders to design meaningful projects that leverage science to produce a concrete impact
  • Recruit scientists with relevant expertise to join the projects
  • Lead a team of scientists and community members through launching a project, advancing community priorities, and sharing outcomes.

Applicants for the Thriving Earth Exchange Fellow position are encouraged to apply in partnership with a community with whom they’ve established—or would like to establish—a close working relationship.

Who are Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows?

Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows are committed individuals who are eager to facilitate and lead collaborative, co-developed community science projects that produce on-the-ground impact in local communities. They receive training in the Thriving Earth Exchange community science process, mentorship from ASTC, AMS, and AGU Thriving Earth Exchange staff, connectivity to a growing network of Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows, and the opportunity to serve as leaders in the community science movement. The skills that Fellows hone prepare them to manage diverse teams, work across disciplinary boundaries, and connect science to action. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply now for a new cohort of projects launching in December 2020. 

Those selected as Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows will be required to participate in a two-day training workshop, January 28–29, 2021. There is no cost to Fellows to participate; travel and lodging will be provided, with expenses reimbursable. Please note: this training will be online if COVID-19 restrictions do not allow for an in-person meeting.

What to Expect

This is a service and professional development opportunity open to professional staff at ASTC-member science centers and museums based in the United States. Selected Fellows will be trained by ASTC, AMS, and AGU Thriving Earth Exchange staff and assigned to a staff mentor.  

Fellows will receive free training and mentorship. The Fellows and scientists will work with community partners to design projects that can have an impact on the community priority with creativity, in-kind support, and resources at hand. Projects are expected to address a topic of community concern, with applicability to climate change, meteorology, hydrology, resilience, sustainability, and health. Examples of past projects include Assessing Flood Risks for Community-Led Action in Gulfport, MississippiUpdating a Climate Vulnerability Assessment in Santa Cruz, California, and Monitoring Plastic Pollution in Staunton, Virginia, among many others.

Projects are expected to begin in January 2021, but timelines are subject to change. Once launched, projects typically last 6-12 months. Fellows will participate as a member of a cohort of approximately eight Fellows of staff from ASTC member institutions and AMS members, with additional opportunities to engage with past Fellows from several cohorts.

Learn more from an ASTC member

We encourage interested applicants to contact ASTC’s Acting Director of Impact and Inclusion Initiatives, Lesley Markham, to discuss their projects before applying. 

ASTC members are encouraged to share this call for applications with community partners and apply for participation in this cohort together with a local leader. For information about applying jointly, please contact Lesley Markham. If you do not have a pre-existing relationship with local community leaders, this is a great opportunity to build one. Partnerships are most likely to be successful when projects are truly developed collaboratively, with community needs at the heart, grounded in a deep respect and understanding for community agency. You may apply without a community partner, and we will try to match you with a local community. Guidance and recommendations for reaching out are available here.

Preferred Qualifications

Preferred qualities for Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows supporting 2020 ASTC/AMS/AGU Thriving Earth Exchange cohort communities include: 

  • Enthusiasm for engaging with ASTC, AMS, and AGU Thriving Earth Exchange, including a willingness and ability to be reflective about the role and the program; and enthusiasm for the Fellow role, including a commitment to and experience in (or strong intent to pursue) community science. Examples of this might be:
    • experience working with diverse stakeholders and projects (this may include low-income/disadvantaged communities and those that have not had an opportunity to engage with science)
    • a passion for elevating community-led action and local priorities 
    • a strong desire to support community-led engagement with a variety of audiences, including policy makers and the media 
    • evidence of consistent and long-term volunteer work or community engagement 
  • Humility, an ability to listen, and strong communication skills. Examples of this might be:
    • an aptitude for and/or an interest in science communication 
    • desire to speak out about the value of connecting community priorities with science and the importance of science in local communities, and to help others do the same
    • experience or willingness to engage diverse individuals, organizations, and communities in communication and ongoing conversations
    • leadership experience in multidisciplinary/culturally sensitive environments
  • Qualifications: 
    • undergraduate degree or a minimum of three years of experience working in a science-related or informal STEM-learning field 
    • project management and facilitation skills 
    • at any career stage 
    • a formal science background is not required but some interest/familiarity in relevant scientific issues is necessary 
  • Ability to attend the Thriving Earth Exchange Fellow training workshop in person on January 28–29, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Travel and lodging are provided. Note: this training will be online if COVID-19 restrictions do not allow for an in-person meeting.

While it is often beneficial for Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows to be located near the communities they support, it is not required. Currently Fellows must reside within the United States or a U.S. Territory. 

Note: Prior to engaging in this cohort, all Fellows are asked to read and acknowledge the following documents which describe the principles and ethics behind these collaborations. Should you have any questions regarding these documents or their contents, please don’t hesitate to contact

Applications accepted on a rolling basis. The final deadline is Friday, November 6 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Who’s Involved

ASTC supports science and technology centers and museums as they engage their communities. The Thriving Earth Exchange Fellows Program  is a component of ASTC’s Community Science Initiative that will enable ASTC member institutions to fulfill their missions to connect science and society by partnering on solutions for local and global challenges. 

AGU Thriving Earth Exchange helps connect local communities with scientists to co-design and execute projects that advance local priorities related to natural resources, climate change, environmental justice, and natural hazards.

AMS is a global community committed to advancing weather, water, and climate science in service to society. Through this partnership, AMS will provide professional development  and support their members in applying their scientific and professional expertise to community-based projects. 

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