Introduction After several years of being a “practicing” political ecologist, I found myself sitting at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in the Cultural and Political Ecology (CAPE) lecture being delivered by Pier Blaikie (Blaikie 2012). Well known for both his foundational writings on political ecology and his engagement with policy makers, I was intrigued by his thoughts on whether or not political ecologists could or should engage more closely with that community. As a geographer critical of international development, my first reaction had often been to reject engagement with policy makers, especially in the United States. I considered them greatly at fault for the profound unevenness in global development. “What good could come from engagement?” I asked myself. This view was reinforced by often raucous debates on the CAPE listserv that strongly challenged any good that could come out of increased interaction. At about the same time, the Development Geographies Specialty Group had been holding pre-conferences to the main AAG meeting posing very similar topics and questions. After encouragement from colleagues, I decided to explore closer interaction with policy makers during my sabbatical year via a fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2011, I applied and was selected to serve as a “science advisor” to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).