Kelsey Breseman


EDGI Civic Science Fellow



Project focus: Kelsey, in collaboration with EDGI Civic Science Fellow Mark Milton Chambers, will focus on environmental data governance and justice, exploring models for tailoring federal environmental data to the needs of communities.

About Kelsey

Kelsey Breseman works on environmental accountability, data ownership models, and intentional community at the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. Her current main work there, the Environmental Enforcement Watch, bridges environmental justice-focused communities with federal environmental enforcement practices through highly accessible data science tools and reports. Kelsey has a B.S. in Neural Engineering from Olin College, experience founding and managing tech startups, and a history of activist leadership for progressive causes. She has given dozens of conference talks and workshops at technical conferences across four continents, primarily discussing and teaching open source, open project governance, and hardware protocols for internet-connected devices. On the side, she’s currently working on an M.S. in Data Science from UT Austin.


1. What was the focus of your work as a Civic Science Fellow? What did you do?
My Fellowship was in designing data tools to be more useful in furthering community-grounded environmental justice at three levels: immediate (community-grounded), near future (work with federal agencies), and further future (connecting Web3 and environmental justice concepts). I worked with EDGI’s Environmental Enforcement Watch to co-develop data-based tools with community groups to leverage EPA data towards their self-advocacy work, such as identifying companies violating Clean Water Act permits in their watersheds. At the federal level, I helped the EPA build more usable interfaces for their permit violation public email notification tool “ECHO Notify” and their new benzene fenceline monitoring dashboard. I am in conversation with their digital tools team around improving their process for user testing, and have been hired to help NASA build design priorities for their air quality monitoring data based on community needs. Finally, I have worked to bring language and perspectives from the environmental justice movement into the creation of principles around data ownership and stakeholder values for a next version of the Internet. Because many of the decentralized web/Web3 tools are currently very energy-intensive, I worked with communities impacted by energy infrastructure, such as communities sited near petroleum refineries. I developed and delivered a curriculum on the technical infrastructure behind these technologies to help these groups voice opinions and concerns on the technology’s values and flaws, and then brought that feedback to the Internet Archive’s DWeb community to influence the development of DWeb Principles in ways that include environmental justice language.

2. How do you hope your work as a Fellow will influence the future—for yourself, an organization, a community, or a field?
People deserve to feel powerful over their own lives and the societies they live in. In my Fellowship, I hope that I have been a bridge builder between the needs of communities and people who make decisions that impact those communities’ lives—with the ultimate goal of shifting more of that power into impacted communities’ hands. EDGI works to bring about a modern “environmental right to know,” updated, per the environmental justice coalition Coming Clean, to “the right to know, participate, and decide.” Many communities, disproportionately communities of color, suffer a double burden of both environmental health impacts such as asthma and cancer, and the additional burden of proving that harm—harm that often comes from nearby industrial facilities’ pollution. When communities seek to prove this harm, their scientific research is often discounted by officials due to a lack of institutional affiliation. My direct work has been to work with communities to leverage existing, official proofs of harm—EPA data—in a format that effectively communicates community needs. At the federal level, I have ensured EPA and NASA officials’ awareness of their data tools’ inaccessibility and demonstrated improved formats co-developed with communities to center their values. In a more theoretical space, the new tooling the decentralized web brings should give communities the ability to control more of the data, and more of the narratives, that describe them and their health. I hope my work in that space makes this technology more accessible and more values-aligned with these communities.

3. What’s one insight you’d share from your work as a Civic Science Fellow?
I come from engineering and activism, not from academia. This Fellowship has been an incredible opportunity to delve into a professional aspect beyond practitioner, as a researcher with a strong theoretical grounding for my theories of change.

EDGI is a highly intersectional site of work, and it has been an honor to learn from my colleagues over the course of the Fellowship. Our core teams span environmental health, social sciences, geography, and history as fields of work and research. One of our most essential ways of working is through coauthorship, a model that not only allows us to incorporate the nuances and expertise from these many perspectives into our public outputs, but also reflexively trains us as collaborators and researchers to incorporate, for example, social sciences framing into our data work. I am now coediting a thematic collection in Science, Technology, and Human Values on environmental data justice (EDJ, a field first named at EDGI), and coauthoring a chapter in a SAGE handbook also on EDJ. This helps me to more effectively use my data and engineering training to serve communities well.

I am grateful and proud of the Civic Science Fellowship for opening applications to people like me who bring experience from outside of academia. Throughout our program, I was able to advocate for civic science as science *in service of* civics, as a tool designed to empower and enable. Power, including the power of scientific credibility, is never neutral; civic science is and should be engaged, grounded, and controversial.