Meet the Newest Cohort of Girls in Science Leaders!
In a world where STEM fields remain heavily male-dominated, a new generation of women and nonbinary leaders is rising, eager to break barriers and make their mark. Although women comprise nearly half of the US workforce, they account for only 24% of science and engineering workers. Earthwatch is working to improve STEM access and representation through our Girls in Science (GiS) Program.
Since 2016, Girls in Science has empowered high school students who identify as women or nonbinary to pursue their interest in science and technology and to build confidence through hands-on environmental research. Since the program’s founding, Earthwatch has sent 99 fellows on ten expeditions to research topics ranging from underwater dolphin communication to climate change in Acadia National Park.
In 2023, 15 students received full scholarships to participate in a one-week Earthwatch expedition immersed in hands-on research alongside leading female scientists. GiS students traveled to the Sierra Nevada Mountains this year to participate in our "Restoring Sierra Meadows: The Source of California's Water" expedition. They collaborated with a group of South Yuba River Citizens League scientists to monitor vital ecosystems and collect data for understanding and responding to climate change. The students contributed over 1,500 hours of biodiversity and water monitoring research data.
When they weren't exploring the outdoors, students socialized and attended expert panels on STEM careers, Indigenous perspectives, and other topics, learning about key scientific concepts and strategies for success as women and nonbinary people in STEM.
The panel of women who spoke one night as part of the curriculum changed my viewpoint on how to approach certain situations and how to pursue a career in science…a lot of the opportunities are out there to go study under scientists…don’t be afraid to reach out, take risks, ask around.
— Emma Wong, 2023 GiS Fellow
Meet the 2023 Girls in Science Awardees!
Katie Cheung—11th Grade at Lowell High School, San Francisco
My name is Katie Cheung, and I live in San Francisco. I'm a rising senior at Lowell High School. I enjoy listening to music and traveling. I'm very excited to be a part of this fellowship!
Devon Giardini—11th Grade at Lowell High School, San Francisco
My interest in the natural world has left me the odd one out for so much of my life. Coming to Girls in Science surrounded by many knowledgeable people was a new and wondrous experience. For one of the first times in my life, I was surrounded by people who, though very different from me, shared many of the same passions and loves I did. Coming to Girls in Science allowed me to connect with people who, on the surface, are different from me but share the same love for science and the natural world.
Annabelle Miin—Saratoga High School, Saratoga, CA
The Earthwatch program allowed me to expand my knowledge and kindled a renewed passion within me. As I delved into the intricacies of meadows and witnessed their remarkable contributions to the environment, I felt a stirring in my soul. My childhood dream of becoming a National Park Ranger reawakened, now accompanied by a newfound appreciation for the intersection of science and conservation.
Aryya (Red) Sambhus—11th grade at Notre Dame High School, San Jose, CA
My name's Red, and I am honored to be a part of this expedition and learn more about the environment that I’m in. I would love to pursue a future in environmental science, and participating in research through this program will be my first step in getting there. I’m a rising senior from San Jose, and my hobbies include spontaneous art projects, reading, thrifting, and taking care of my fish.
Sophie Sun—11th grade at Palos Verdes High School, Palos Verdes Estates, CA
As a second-generation immigrant, it’s difficult to learn about potential career paths and what my future could look like, as neither of my parents grew up in the US or are in STEM fields. Earthwatch allowed me to learn more about what STEM careers can look like and showed me the steps I can take to build the future I want. Having already known that I would like to pursue environmental science, this program helped me gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. It emphasized the urgency of conserving Earth’s fragile ecosystems.
Emma Wong—10th grade at Liberty High School, Kern, CA
Participating in Earthwatch’s Girls in Science program has been a transformative experience. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has allowed me to realize my potential. As such, carrying the knowledge I now know, I intend to further my pursuit of science. Though I am not certain what I will be doing in the future, I look forward to a profession that will take me to the frontiers of science, where disciplinary differences are bridged to culminate into something understandable, applicable, and, most of all, better our world. All I have done through this program could not have been accomplished without your support.
Ava Bahiraei—11th grade at Calabasas High School, Los Angeles, CA
I am a low-income student attending a school where the majority are high-income. For me, this leads to a feeling of disconnect between my pupils and me. I never got the same experiences that my pupils would be able to gain since many were able to pay for the opportunities. I am very grateful for this fellowship as it taught me that I do not have to be high-income to obtain beneficial opportunities. During my expedition, I was taught that women can be in any field of STEM they desire and should not be discouraged by the number of men that dominate the STEM field. This expedition made me realize how important the work that Earthwatch and SYRCL are doing is. However, this expedition not only gave me knowledge about meadows but also allowed me to make lifelong friendships.
Sabrina Bankhead—11th grade at Rex Putnam High School, Milwaukee, OR
I'm an outgoing person, always excited to try something new. I love being active and involved in my community. I recently was an outdoor school student leader; therefore, I was surrounded by nature for a long time, which was enjoyable to connect with the world around me. I'm enthusiastic about this experience, meeting new people, and the knowledge I'll gain.
Ashi Bhatia—10th grade at Calabasas High School, Los Angeles, CA
I am a high school student in California and am from India. I came to the United States three years ago during the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, I only receive a few opportunities to do research, such as the one Earthwatch gives. Thank you for allowing me to gain all these memories and experiences. This fellowship was so great and inspiring to me.
Saria Dang—11th grade at John Marshall High School, Los Angeles, CA
Thank you so much for this beautiful opportunity. I am incredibly grateful to receive this fellowship. I grew up with a disabled father and a mother who was his sole caretaker. To return my mother’s 12 years of caretaking and my father’s constant support, I always strive to give back to my family. Thank you for allowing me an amazing fellowship and the opportunity to make my family very proud. Growing up in LA, I was used to sprawling metropolises, which held all the negatives I learned about in AP environmental science: noise pollution, inversion layers, and heat islands. But the Sierra Meadows was different. Every day, we saw something new, whether a nest of baby birds, deer bone, fat bumblebees, or flocks of geese. In class, I learned about water tables and erosion, but I could see these aspects of the environment in the meadows and measure actual data involving these factors. Previously, I didn’t know that a seemingly mundane title like “field work” could correlate to hiking in gorgeous places and interacting with nature in an intimate way. My work in the Sierra meadows has further inspired me to pursue environmental engineering, as this fellowship has given me confidence in STEM that I never previously held.
Maral Jarahzadeh—10th grade at Calabasas High School, Los Angeles, CA
Having dealt with the extreme underrepresentation of young girls such as myself and non-binary individuals within STEM fields, this expedition has been a rare and refreshing experience. I am so grateful to have met such excellent staff and fellow Girls in Science participants, who I know I will never forget. I have learned so much about how to help the environment professionally and through daily tasks. With daily educational sessions and facilitator feedback, I can confidently say that I have a much deeper understanding of the environment and its role in our lives. Additionally, I have seen how humans can contribute to environmental damage through restoration and conservation of natural resources. Hearing the stories of Girls in Science staff and fellows has inspired me to give back to the environment and not to be discouraged by changes in my life.
Sophia Kim—11th grade at Benjamin Franklin High School, Los Angeles, CA
Being in a low-income family, the experiences provided in GIS are truly a privilege. The experience of networking with women in the STEAM field, meeting other female-identifying students with the same interests, having hands-on experience of restoration, learning about indigenous rights, knowing how to tell our story, and so many more experiences that I can continue to list on ultimately enabled me to grow intellectually as a student and grow as a person.
Scarlett Manuelian—10th grade at North Hollywood High School, Los Angeles, CA
My name is Scarlett Manuelian, and I’m a rising junior, sixteen years old. I love watching movies, listening to music, playing music, engaging with television shows, and conversing with people in general. I’m a fairly outspoken person, and I have no filter for my thoughts (which may be fortunate or unfortunate for some). I currently go to North Hollywood High School and am in the Highly Gifted Magnet. I’m very comfortable around people once I get to know them, and I can’t wait to meet the GIS team and researchers. :)
Emily Rodriguez—11th grade at Culver City High School, Los Angeles, CA
In the end, I discovered how fulfilling it can be to work with my hands, and I got to meet many other girls just as passionate about the environmental sciences as I am. Together, we collected data to attain further knowledge of the meadows of the Yuba Watershed. We shared our personal stories and community work, inspiring one another to take even more active roles in local efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and positively impact our environment.
Aileen Zhao—10th grade at Benjamin Franklin High School, Los Angeles, CA
My Girls in Science fellows inspired me to chase my own goals, just like the facilitators of our expedition. It was particularly inspiring to hear from a panel of women in STEM as they shared with us how they had advanced in their careers and where they want to take their careers. Going into the environmental field feels more attainable now that I’ve interacted with people already making a career for themselves. Again, I just wanted to emphasize that I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be flown out and gain new, valuable experiences in environmental science. It helped me learn more about myself and things I could potentially do in the future. The expedition was inspirational and helped me build confidence in myself and my future.
After Earthwatch, I am 100% sure that I want to go into the environmental sciences, and I’m going to focus on colleges that have environmental science as a popular major.
— Emily Rodriguez, 2023 GiS Fellow