Fewer Scientists Employed by EPA During Trump Presidency

On January 3, 2021, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reported that 672 staff scientists left the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) between 2016 and 2020. That reflects a 5.9 percent decline in EPA's total scientific workforce.

According to UCS, most of the scientists who left EPA were environmental protection specialists (561) or environmental engineers (126), but there were also significant losses (ten scientists or more) in 1 other job types. Most of the departures were  EPA’s offices in the West, Southwest, Great Plains, and Midwest, all of which lost over 10 percent of their scientific staff. 

UCS attributed the losses to low morale and growing concern among federal scientists that the Trump administration was attempting to stifle research and discussion. One former EPA scientist, Kyla Bennet, told reporters that many left the agency due to the Trump administration's attempts to restrict climate research. Another former EPA scientist, Dan Cotsa, described a "foxhole mentality" at the agency and said he had chosen to leave because "I thought I could be more effective on the outside and keep the issues alive." 

Notably, while EPA saw a net loss of scientists during the Trump administration, there was localized growth in some job types. For example, 260 new scientists were hired to roles within general natural resources management and biological sciences over the same span of time.