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Teammember Jessica

Managing Director

Jessica Thomas (she/her) is the Managing Director of SciCAN. Jessica has been working towards justice-centered science and policy advocacy for over 10 years, principally at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Jessica has been learning from, strategizing, and challenging systems with many EJ leaders, communities, and organizations across the country who are shaping and using scientific and technical information to advance and win their campaigns, and with issue area experts who are committed to principled partnerships with EJ communities. 

Jessica’s work as a campaign manager and organizer at UCS was centered on facilitating and developing processes for deeper partnerships between issue area experts and grassroots EJ community in order to serve justice-centered goals and bring about tangible change in overburdened neighborhoods. This work was internally and externally facing, and alongside numerous colleagues both in and outside of UCS. Some fundamental processes Jessica was a part of developing include: fair compensation for grassroots participants; standardizing and socializing memoranda of agreements/understanding (MOA/MOU); application of Environmental Justice and Jemez Principles in campaign, program, and organizational work; capacity building and leadership development as well as redistribution of power and resources with grassroots partners via joint policy advocacy, media work, events, and other activities. Jessica led and facilitated several science advocacy workshops and trainings, all with a strong focus on justice.    

During her time at UCS, Jessica contributed to three major grassroots EJ community-focused and serving projects, publications, and policy advocacy including: in Kansas City with RISE4EJ (Environmental Racism in the Heartland); in Wilmington, Delaware with Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice (Environmental Justice for Delaware); and in Houston, Texas with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (Double Jeopardy in Houston). Jessica also led and contributed to several justice-focused convenings around the topics of Science, Democracy, and Environmental Justice, Scientist-Community Partnerships, and Food Justice. Toxics were her main areas of focus, including ethylene oxide (EtO), PFAS, chemical facilities covered under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Program, and cumulative impacts.

Other works Jessica has contributed to include: Scientist-Community Partnerships: A Scientist’s Guide to Successful Collaboration; Invisible Threat, Inequitable Impacts: Communities Impacted by Cancer-Causing Ethylene Oxide Pollution; Abandoned Science, Broken Promises: How the Trump Administration’s Neglect of Science is Leaving Marginalized Communities Further Behind.   

Jessica has been an active member of the American Public Health Association (APHA) Environment Section. In 2019, she led a group of public health experts and worked with grassroots EJ leaders, academics, and policy folks to develop the policy statement “Addressing Environmental Justice to Achieve Health Equity.“ Jessica has presented on scientist-community partnerships in multiple venues, including at the Ecological Society of America annual conference and an American Geophysical Union’s webinar.  

Before UCS, Jessica worked at the University of Massachusetts Boston in the Biology Department – managing a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant program that supported underrepresented students to go directly from undergraduate to PhD/MD-PhD programs in biomedical sciences. She also supported research, teaching, and administration via purchasing and managing supplies, equipment & chemicals. Jessica pursued an undergraduate degree in Biology with a focus on environmental science, and conducted research on acid rain, vernal pool biodiversity, and trophic interactions in freshwater.