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The founders joke that black humor launched the Leopold Leadership Program. Five ecologists on their way to speak at the White House turned to one another and asked, “If our plane to Washington, D.C. crashes, who could take our place?” When their laughter subsided, they realized the answer was that too few researchers were willing to speak up for climate change and other environmental issues.

So, they decided to launch a media literacy training for mid-career scientists, teaching them how to interact with journalists, translate their research for popular audiences, and speak with policymakers on Capitol Hill. As the media landscape changed dramatically in the early 21st century, so has the Leopold program. Read on for major milestones in the program’s history.