For those women who chose to stay, the path may be one of sacrifice. For Brigham-Grette, whose summers often involved expeditions to northeast Arctic Russia, her biggest regret is having lost that time to spend with her own children on family vacations.
"I feel so blessed to have both a career that I love and a family," she said. Still, she admits, she's not sure how she would have done it without a lot of help from her husband, a self-employed carpenter who was able to plan jobs around her schedule and take time off when the kids were young.
From her perch at the University of Massachusetts, Brigham-Grette feels she has a powerful platform – and an obligation – to communicate the science of global warming. She's given talks at the U.S. embassy in Moscow and to peers at scientific talks worldwide, as well as to church groups, women's groups and retirement groups in her community.
She feels like she can connect with people who may not otherwise get the message from a female perspective. After all, she adds, women make up half the public needing to know about global warming. "So the voice should come from women as well as men."
Back to the academy
After four years at Climate Central, Nicole Heller decided to give academia another shot. She left her post at the non-profit in June to take a position as a visiting professor at Duke University in North Carolina.
She hopes to craft for herself a hybrid sort of position where she can focus on both research and being an advocate for the science of climate change and ecology.
"When I first started teaching I didn't grasp the power that a professor has to be a community leader, to make change every day by broadening the way people think and empowering the next generation," Heller said. "I think the university really is the premiere place for that."
This article originally appeared at The Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.