The 17th Heinz Awards honor environmental champions

Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation have announced the winners of the 17th annual Heinz Awards, honoring the contributions of eight individuals and two co-recipients whose significant achievements have benefitted the environment. Each recipient receives an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000, with the pair of co-recipients sharing one of the cash prizes.

This year’s winners include an “environmental composer,” documentary filmmakers, authorities on toxic chemicals, an ice core guru, ocean scientists and an innovation consultant who borrows ideas from nature.

“At a time when so much of our public discourse is about constraints and the limits of possibility, these men and women offer an inspiring reminder that change always comes from those who see past today’s boundaries to a world of new possibilities and new discoveries,” Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation, said . “Their ingenuity and persistence is a refreshing reminder of America’s can-do spirit, which is as alive today in innovators like this as it has ever been. They offer us practical, real-world ideas for how to protect our environment, and their innovative spirit offers us a powerful and much-needed antidote to the idea that our country is no longer capable of greatness.”

The awards program annually recognizes individuals creating workable solutions to the problems the world faces while inspiring the next generation of modern thinkers. While this year’s awards focus on the environment, winners were chosen in award categories recognized in many previous years.

wowElle features the inspirational women winners of the  17th Heinz Awards.

Janine Benyus

[ Biomimicry Institute and Biomimicry Guild (Missoula, Mont.) ]

For inspiring us to look to nature’s engineering for solutions to our biggest challenges.

Janine BenyusJanine Benyus introduced many people to a new way of thinking about design engineering, advocating the creation of sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s own designs and strategies to solve real-world problems with the publication of her book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Since then, she has worked with a variety of organizations to offer insight into how their products and manufacturing methods could be improved by borrowing from nature’s processes. She created a groundbreaking database called Ask Nature, which contains nature’s answers to many complex design challenges.

Joan Kleypas, Ph.D.,

[ National Center for Atmospheric Research (Boulder, Colo.) ]

For conducting breakthrough research on the impacts of climate change on coral reefs and engaging both scientists and policymakers.

Joan KleypasDr. Joan Kleypas has conducted research on how changes in temperature and in seawater chemistry and acidity have impacted coral reefs. She has also identified ways to bolster coral reef health so that ocean organisms can survive climate changes. She was a member of a National Academies of Science committee that produced a 2010 report “Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenge of a Changing Ocean,” and has led many efforts to bring climate change and ocean acidification to the attention of scientists, the public and policymakers. Her testimony before Congress in 2009 on the threat of ocean acidification helped to ensure the passage of the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act.

Nancy Knowlton, Ph.D.,

[ Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.) ]

For broadening the understanding of ocean biodiversity and the impacts of humans on marine life.

Dr Nancy KnowltonDr. Knowlton has had a lifelong focus on the ecology, evolution and conservation of coral reefs. Dr. Knowlton founded the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a model for interdisciplinary education around the world. She chaired the synthesis panel of the World Bank’s Coral Reef Targeted Research Program and co-led the coral reef census for the international Census of Marine Life, an effort that documented the vast biodiversity sheltered by coral reefs. In her popular 2010 book, Citizens of the Sea: Wondrous Creatures from the Census Marine Life, she portrayed the unique qualities of ocean creatures and the threats that they face. Her ongoing Beyond the Obituaries project celebrates success stories in ocean conservation, providing an alternative to the narrative of doom and gloom.

Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D.,

[ Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (Chauvin, La.)]

For her pioneering research of severe oxygen depletion in the Gulf of Mexico and commitment to reduce water pollution through education and public policy.

Dr Nancy RabalaisDr. Nancy Rabalais has been the driving force behind identifying and characterizing the dynamics of the low oxygen area or “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico — the largest dead zone affecting the United States and second largest worldwide. Because dead zones can significantly impact regional fishing economies and the health of coastal environments, Dr. Rabalais’ work is key to restoring oceans so that both marine and human life can thrive. In 2000, she led a research team in a scientific assessment of the dead zone, connecting it to nutrient runoff originating from the vast farming areas of the Mississippi watershed. Dr. Rabalais is addressing the impacts of the 2010 Macondo oil spill on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. Her work was featured in the 2010 public television documentary Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story.

Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D.,

[ Ithaca College (Ithaca, N.Y.) ]

For highlighting the link between toxic chemicals and diseases through her written work, as well as engaging the public as a cancer survivor.

Dr Sandra SteingraberDr. Sandra Steingraber was diagnosed with bladder cancer at 20 after growing up in an area polluted by industrial toxins. She has dedicated her career as a biologist and ecologist to finding links between toxic chemicals and diseases, as well as urging the government to protect its citizens. Her book, Living Downstream, was made into a full-length documentary in 2010. With the recent publication of Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis, Dr. Steingraber demonstrates how the world of parenting and childhood staples such as milk and pizza can be sources of toxic exposure.

To know more on all the recipients, click here .

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