Environmental justice voices now: Disasters, cultural fire practices, and building community capacity

March 31, 2022
12:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources


Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne: Agents of Change in Environmental Justice

Dana Williamson: Centering Communities and Building Capacity

Gavin Rienne: Population Health Evaluation: Comparative Populations

Deniss Martinez: Cultural Burning


Ornelas Van Horne, Y. Quédate con tu tarjeta de regalo de Whole Foods. Queremos un cambio sistémico. EHN.org. Mar 31, 2021.

Ornelas Van Horne, Y. 10 environmental research bloopersEHN.org. Sep 07, 2021.

Ornelas Van Horne, Y. Keep your Whole Foods gift card. We want systemic change. EHN.org. Mar 31, 2021.

Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcasts. Ami and Yoshi discuss what Netflix’s “The Chair” says about diversity in science. Sept 1, 2021

Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcasts. Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne’s trailblazing journey in environmental health. Mar 10, 2021

Williamson, D. La ciencia helicóptero no funciona; la justicia ambiental proviene de comunidades empoderadasEHN.org. Jun 23, 2021.

Williamson, D. Helicopter science doesn’t work—environmental justice comes from empowered communitiesEHN.org. Jun 23, 2021.

Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcasts. Dana Williamson on bringing communities to the forefront of environmental justice research. Jan 11, 2021.

Science Snippets #2: Dana Williamson on community building. 

Rienne, G. Entendiendo la pobreza y la salud de los niños antes de que ocurran los desastres naturalesEHN.org. Oct 13, 2021.

Rienne, G. Understanding poverty and children’s health before natural disasters strikeEHN.org. Oct 13, 2021.

Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcasts. Gavin Rienne on children’s health and natural disasters. Dec 15, 2021.

Martinez, D. Manos en la tierra, corazón en la comunidad: Incendios culturales recurrentes. EHN.org. Jun 17, 2020.

Martinez, D. and Irfan, A. Colonialism, the climate crisis, and the need to center Indigenous voices. EHN.org. Nov 04, 2021.

Martinez, D. Hands on the land, heart in communityEHN.org. Jun 17, 2020.

Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcasts. Deniss Martinez on Indigenous science and cultural fire practices. Aug 25, 2021.


Centering communities in environmental health studies extends the impact and breadth of scientific research. Community-engaged models are an effective framework to advance public health and a key method for the sustainability of partnerships. This webinar featured presentations discussing the community engagement continuum as a framework; disasters and children’s health; and community-based research to support cultural fire practitioners.   

This webinar brought together Senior Fellows from the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice Fellowship: Dr. Dana Williamson, Gavin Rienne, and Deniss Martinez. The webinar was moderated by Dr. Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne. Each of the webinar guests and moderators represent unique perspectives in research, practice, and policy geared towards working alongside and centering communities. The invited fellows drew from their own work and experiences to discuss ongoing challenges and opportunities with participatory and community-based research and its translation into equity-driven, community led solutions.

The face of science is changing. Increased diversity within the world of environmental health research is spurring the innovative ideas and solutions to push our planet forward in a healthy, more just direction. The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health has partnered with Environmental Health News to provide a space for the environmental health leaders of tomorrow to explore the intersection of research, health, diversity and justice. "Agents of Change" is an ongoing series featuring the stories, analyses and perspectives of next generation environmental health leaders who come from historically under-represented backgrounds in science and academia. To learn more about the project, read the blogs, or apply for the fellowship go to https://agentsofchangeinej.org/

Featured Speakers

Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne, PhD, is a first-generation college graduate and received a PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of Arizona. Yoshi is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Division of Environmental Health at the University of Southern California where she received a Diversity Supplement Award from NIEHS. Her dissertation focused on working with the Diné communities impacted by the Gold King Mine Spill to develop a community-based risk assessment and collaborated with community partners to ensure the dissemination of culturally appropriate results. Yoshi’s research focuses on addressing unequal exposures to harmful contaminants that affect structurally marginalized communities.


Dana Williamson, PhD, is currently an Environmental Health Fellow hosted at the U.S. EPA’s Office of the Science Advisor, Policy & Engagement. She earned both her MPH and PhD in Behavioral Sciences/Health Education from the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University and is a graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholars program. Dana’s dissertation focused on capacity building efforts within communities that are threatened with varying degrees of environmental injustice. Her research also emphasized program evaluation and the identification of successful community strategies to achieve policy, systems, and environmental change.


Gavin Rienne, MPH is an Epidemiology & Biostatistics PhD candidate at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. He researches differential mental health outcomes of children in Texas after Hurricane Harvey. He is interested in causal inferential application to real-world problems and investigates novel statistical modeling and analytic methods to identify community-specific resource deficiencies and negative health outcomes. Most of his work is with organizations and departments focusing on empowering them with the tools to better target their resource allocation efforts and encourage resilient community development.


Deniss Martinez, M.Sc, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Group in Ecology at UC Davis. The purpose of her dissertation is to find strategies for California Native communities and their collaborators to create governance and collaborative mechanisms that support Tribal self-determination and governance. She is also a Health Policy Research Scholar with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.