Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation Announce Recipients of Prestigious Heinz Awards

17th Annual Awards Honor Environmental Champions

Sep 13, 2011, 08:07 ET from Heinz Family Foundation

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation today 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 today. "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.

The belief in the power of the individual to improve the lives of others is a quality exemplified by John Heinz, and an attribute the awards program was created to honor.

The winners of the 17th Heinz Awards are:

John Luther Adams, Independent Composer (Fairbanks, Alaska)

For his musical compositions that invite us to hear the whole world as music

Referred to as the "environmental composer," John Luther Adams' works written for orchestra, ensembles, percussion and electronic media often reflect the environmental and spiritual elements of the vast Alaskan wilderness. He garnered national attention when he partnered with geologists and physicists to create a groundbreaking sound and light exhibit. He has influenced a wave of young composers and he is representative of those in the arts who are trying to find ways to translate the importance of the environment.  Alex Ross of The New Yorker called Inuksuit "one of the most rapturous experiences" of his listening life. Mr. Adams has served as a composer-in-residence with the Anchorage Symphony, the Anchorage Opera, the Alaska Public Radio Network, and as the principal percussionist for the Fairbanks Symphony and the Arctic Chamber Orchestra.

Richard Alley, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pa.)

For his polar ice discoveries that showed abrupt climate change is possible and for engaging his students, policymakers and the public  

Dr. Richard Alley, international leader in climate and polar ice studies, broke open the field of abrupt climate change when he discovered that the last Ice Age came to a quick end over just a three-year period. Dr. Alley and others removed two-mile long polar ice core samples in Greenland and in Antarctica to study climate history and elements that lead to climatic changes. At Penn State, Dr. Alley has received awards for engaging non-scientists and advanced students in the study of climate and ice physics. Earlier this year, he hosted a PBS special on climate change and sustainable energy called Earth: The Operators' Manual and authored the companion book by the same name.

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 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.

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, Wicked Delicate Films, Truck Farm and FoodCorps (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

For using humor and innovative programming to engage people about sustainable food

As best friends at Yale University, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis were among a group who pioneered a new college dining system, connecting students to local, sustainable foods for school cafeterias. Following graduation, the duo set out for Iowa to examine the political and agricultural origins of American obesity. The resulting documentary, King Corn, directed by Aaron Woolf, received a Peabody Award and was screened by members of Congress as they debated the 2007 Farm Bill. Illustrating you can grow vegetables anywhere, their documentary Truck Farm chronicles the transformation of Mr. Cheney's 1986 pickup into an edible, mobile garden. Most recently, they helped establish FoodCorps, a national organization spearheaded by Mr. Ellis that places recent college graduates into high-obesity, limited-resource communities to transform school food. And a new documentary, directed by Mr. Cheney, will explore the role of food in reviving urban waterfronts.

Louis J. Guillette, Jr., Ph. D., Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston, S.C.)

For being a leader in the field of hormone disruption and the impact chemicals have on wildlife

Dr. Louis Guillette is internationally recognized for his research on the effect of chemicals on reproductive anatomy, genetics and physiology of wildlife. By exhibiting how alligators can function as sentinel species for environmental contaminant exposure, Dr. Guillette's research gives insight into how toxic chemicals may impact human health. As a teacher, mentor and expert science policy advisor, he has been recognized for his work in the field of comparative reproductive biology and developmental endocrinology. Dr. Guillette is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a professor of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and has received honorary professorships from institutions around the world.

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

Dr. 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. 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 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 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.  

About the Heinz Awards

The Heinz Awards annually recognize individuals creating and implementing workable solutions to the problems the world faces through invention, research and education while inspiring the next generation of modern thinkers. While this year the awards focus singularly on the environment, winners were chosen who address the intersection of the environment with one of the other award categories recognized in many previous years, including arts and humanities, human condition, public policy, technology and the economy.

The Heinz Family Foundation began as a charitable trust established by the late U.S. Senator John Heinz. His widow, Teresa Heinz, established the Heinz Awards in 1993 to honor and sustain the legacy of her late husband.

Nominations for the Heinz Awards are submitted by invited experts, who serve anonymously.  Award recipients are selected by the board of directors for the Heinz Awards upon recommendation by a blue-ribbon panel of jurors.

In addition to the $100,000 award for their unrestricted use, recipients are presented with a medallion inscribed with the image of Senator Heinz on one side and a rendering of a globe passing between two hands on the other. The Heinz Awards will be presented at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 15. For more information about the Heinz Awards or the recipients, including photographs, visit www.heinzawards.net.

SOURCE Heinz Family Foundation