Distinct from metamorphosis, where a butterfly emerges from a cocoon suddenly and magically, the pearl is conceived first in pain, laboriously worked on, and results unexpectedly in a jewel.

Jeanne Chiang

Photo by Wendy Merriman
Photo by Will Parson

Pearl Award Recipients

2020 Recipients

  • FracTracker Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that addresses environmental and health issues related to oil and gas development in the United States.

    What began as a project out of the University of Pittsburgh during the rise of the shale gas fracking boom in Pennsylvania, grew into a national organization that is a leading resource for maps, data, and analysis.

    Concerned with the negative impacts of extraction-related activities-- from air and water pollution to cancer-- FracTracker's eight staff members provide visual and technical tools that assist communities in protecting their health and environment. Brook Lenker joined the FracTracker team in 2012 as Executive Director after working as a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources official. His passion for building a culture of environmental stewardship has led FracTracker to become an invaluable source of information for others who share the same goal.

    FracTracker's work is highly collaborative, and often responds to the direct needs of aligned allies. They translate their work to meet the interests of various audiences, including citizens, researchers, policymakers, and partner organizations. To promote a rapid and just transition to renewable energy, they actively seek partners who work on legislative, legal, and policy improvements. They encourage public participation through citizen science projects and through their mobile app, which integrates user submissions to create a national map of fracking activities.

    In all they do, FracTracker believes that the actions of informed citizens have the power to shape a healthy, vibrant, sustainable future.

  • Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice

    Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (CREEJ) which seeks to address the root causes of poverty by seeking sustainable solutions. She also serves as the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative and as Director of Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement for Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

    Her goal is to expose America to the Third World conditions that exist in rural communities in the South which she has characterized as “America’s Dirty Secret.”

    Her awards and recognitions include recipient of the Interreligious and International Peace Council’s Crown of Peace Award for Exemplary Leadership in Reconciliation and Peacemaking in 2004; The Dorothy L. Height Award for Social Work from Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Montgomery Alumnae Chapter in 2011; induction in the Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society, Alpha Gamma Chapter in 2013; 2014 she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.; 2016 Climate Reality Leadership Training; Board of the Climate Reality Project; Duke University’s 2017 Franklin Humanities Institute Practitioner in Residence and a Water Innovator.

    Ms. Flowers believes that the work of the CREEJ, will serve as a model providing solutions for rural poverty. Her testimony before an independent expert of the United Nations on the raw sewage issue in Lowndes County was part of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque to the United Nations Council on Human Rights in August of 2011. In 2015, in partnership with the United States Human Rights Network and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, she provided testimony before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States. Later she hosted a UN Working Group on a fact-finding mission to Lowndes County. In December of 2015, she represented the Center for Earth Ethics in Paris as an official observer at COP 21. She was invited to the first White House Water Summit in March of 2016. In 2018 She attended the convening of the UN Human's Rights Council in Geneva. She testified before Congress in 2019.

    The accomplishments of Ms. Flowers have been chronicled in publications such as The Washington Post, The Detroit Free Press, The New York Times, The New Republic, Circle of Blue, Governing Magazine, Undark, and the Montgomery Advertiser. Currently, she is writing a book about her fight for equitable access to sanitation and is co-author of a study that provided evidence of tropical parasites in areas along the Selma to Montgomery march trail where people are living amongst raw sewage. She earned a Master of Arts in History from the University of Nebraska.

  • Earthworks

    Earthworks is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions. We stand for clean air, water and land, healthy communities, and corporate accountability, and work for solutions that protect both the Earth’s resources and our communities.

    Through partnerships with communities and grassroots groups we work to challenge systemic oppression, reform government policies, improve corporate practices, influence investment decisions and encourage responsible materials sourcing and consumption. We expose the health, environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts of mining and energy extraction through work informed by sound science.

    Our Mining and Energy Programs respond to and solve the growing threats to the earth’s natural resources, clean water, biodiversity, special places and communities from irresponsible mining, drilling, and digging. Earthworks is dedicated to mobilizing the public, and governmental and corporate decision makers to take action against the destructive impacts of extraction.

2016 Recipients

  • Marc Edwards • The Flint Water Study Team

    Marc Edwards grew up in Ripley, NY on the shores of Lake Erie, where he watched the once “dead” Great Lake recover from excessive nutrient loading in the 1970s and 1980s. Thus dedicated to environmental conservation and improvement, he received a B.S. in Biophysics from SUNY Buffalo (1986), and then an M.S. and PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington.

    After the PhD, his first consulting job was with homeowners in Danville California who were afflicted by “blue water” problems in their potable water—he has devoted his entire scientific career to advancing research that addresses real-world issues at the nexus of water-infrastructure-public health, with vital contributions to drinking water treatment, corrosion control, green engineering, recycled water distribution, opportunistic pathogen control and engineering ethics.

    His research group (alone or in extensive collaborations with Dr. Amy Pruden) aspires to pursue science as a public good, through laboratory work on practically important but underfunded topics such as corrosion in buildings and opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens. Those efforts also provided groundwork for investigative science uncovering the depths of deceit associated with the 2001-2004 D.C. Lead Crisis and the 2014-2016 Flint Water Disaster. In the former case, government officials falsified reports to cover up widespread harm to children, escaping accountability and ensuring that none of the affected children or families would receive financial assistance to deal with their health problems arising from their misconduct.

    In the latter case, Dr. Edwards and the “Flint Water Study” team launched an "open science" research collaboration with Flint residents that revealed high levels of lead, Legionella bacteria, and extensive damage to the city’s water infrastructure due to the failure to implement federal corrosion control laws. Undaunted by attempts to discredit their work, they fought against agencies which were failing to follow the law, and educated residents about the serious public health risks. They demonstrated a compassionate and caring attitude to work alongside Flint residents and pushed to protect their health, well-being and future through an unprecedented scientific “relief effort” that combined citizen science, laboratory experimentation, field sampling trips, investigative reporting, and the power of social media. The team ultimately galvanized local, state and federal agencies into action, culminating in the declaration of a national “Public Health Emergency” by President Barack Obama, which has led to over $500 million in financial, health and infrastructure assistance for Flint residents. The work also prompted a long overdue debate on water infrastructure in America.

    Ever seeking to find good in dark places and inspire courage in others, Dr. Edwards teaches a unique graduate course on aspirational ethics and heroism, which was an inspiration for much the Flint Water Study team. He also advocates on the need to create ethical cultures for academic, government and industry scientists. Dubbed “Hero Professor” by The Washington Post, he was named amongst the most influential people in the world by TIME, Fortune and Politico magazines.

  • Curt Ellis

    After growing up in Oregon and finding his passion for food and agriculture at The Mountain School and Yale, Curt moved to Iowa to investigate the role of subsidized commodities in the American obesity epidemic. The film he co-created there, King Corn, produced with Ian Cheney and Aaron Woolf, received a national theatrical release and PBS broadcast, sparked policy discussion around the Farm Bill, and earned a George Foster Peabody Award.

    While touring college campuses with the film, Curt was struck by the number of young people who shared his passion for food and agriculture, and who were eager to commit themselves to the work of creating a more equitable, healthful and sustainable food system. In 2009, Curt and five co-founders began developing FoodCorps, the national nonprofit he now leads. Rapid expansion has led FoodCorps to work across 18 states, where its 215 AmeriCorps members build school gardens, improve school lunches, and transform schools into healthy places for children to eat, learn and grow. In addition to this direct impact in schools, Curt and FoodCorps pursue systemic change by training a new generation of leaders, forging a national network of partners, and championing policy changes that lead us toward a future where all children––regardless of race or place or class––will know what healthy food is, care about where it comes from, and eat it every day. Curt lives in Oregon with his wife Caitlin Boyle and their three-year-old son, Border collie, and chickens.

  • Raina Rippel • The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project

    In 2011, Raina Rippel helped found the SWPA Environmental Health Project (EHP) in response to growing concerns associated with gas drilling activity and health impacts in Washington County, PA.

    Rippel heads up a team of eighteen consultants and various interns with expertise in healthcare, public health research, toxicology, air and water quality, strategic development and community organizing, in developing a targeted and timely public health response to unconventional natural gas development (UNGD). EHP focuses their work on gathering data from residents of SWPA and beyond on the most probable health impacts from oil and gas development, routes of exposures, best-practice air and water monitoring tools and guidance, and associated, accessible and effective interventions for individuals and households.

    EHP receives no state or national funding and is entirely funded by private foundations. EHP partners with the Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab to distribute monitoring technologies to residents, and has worked on community-based participatory research projects with the Yale School of Medicine Occupational and Environmental Health Program, the University of Pittsburgh Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Duquesne University, SUNY Albany’s Institute for Health and the Environment, and various NGO’s including Earthworks, the Clean Air Council, and the Heinz Air Collaborative, among others. EHP is also a member of the Protect Our Children coalition and the Protect PA coalition.

  • Laura N. Vandenberg, Ph.D

    Dr. Laura Vandenberg is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, School of Public Health and Health Sciences. She earned her BS degree from Cornell University in 2003 and her PhD from Tufts University School of Medicine in 2008.

    Dr. Vandenberg’s research focuses on how low level exposures to endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with hormones in the body, can induce diseases including infertility, metabolic syndrome, and breast cancer. Dr. Vandenberg has also contributed to ongoing discussions in the scientific community about how to best evaluate endocrine disruptors for their potential to cause harm to humans and wildlife. In particular, she evaluates issues that affect risk and hazard assessments for these chemicals including evidence of low dose effects and vulnerable periods of susceptibility, evaluating weight of evidence, and identifying the most sensitive endpoints that are predictive of disease. Dr. Vandenberg is an author on more than 55 peer reviewed papers and eight book chapters. She regularly contributes editorials and articles to newspapers and online publications as a means of communicating the science of endocrine disruption to the public. She has also served on a number of US and international expert panels to assess endocrine disrupting chemicals.

2015 Recipients

  • Beyond Pesticides

    Beyond Pesticides is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., which works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides.

    The founders, who established Beyond Pesticides as a nonprofit membership organization in 1981, felt that without the existence of such an organized, national network, local, state and national pesticide policy would become, under chemical industry pressure, increasingly unresponsive to public health and environmental concerns. Beyond Pesticides seeks to protect healthy air, water, land and food for ourselves and future generations. By forging ties with governments, nonprofits and people who rely on these natural resources, Beyond Pesticides promotes reducing the need for unnecessary pesticide use and protection of public health and the environment.

  • Oceanic Preservation Society

    The Oceanic Preservation Society is a Colorado-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes marine conservation, environmentalism, and activism through photography and film.

    Founded in 2005 by photographer and current executive director Louie Psihoyos and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Clark, the Oceanic Preservation Society creates films which spark awareness of the damaging man made impact on the extinction of thousands of species. In 2009, OPS released The Cove, a documentary film that describes the annual killing of dolphins in a national park at Taiji, Wakayama, receiving a 2010 Oscar for best documentary. The organization's second documentary, Racing Extinction, focuses on the mass extinction of species, disappearance of coral reefs, and the rise of toxins in the ocean. Racing Extinction's message, an urgent call to action to halt the impending crisis of massive loss of species, is also one of awe and respect for the breathtaking beauty of the natural world.

  • Tracey Woodruff

    Dr. Tracey Woodruff is Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences and Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco and the Director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment.

    She has done extensive research and policy development on environmental health issues, with a particular emphasis on early-life development. Her research include evaluating prenatal exposures to environmental chemicals and related adverse pregnancy outcomes, and characterizing developmental risks. She has authored numerous scientific publications and book chapters, and has been quoted widely in the press, including USAToday, the San Francisco Chronicle, and WebMD. She was previously at the US EPA, where she was a senior scientist and policy advisor in the Office of Policy, and author of numerous government documents. She is an Associate Editor of Environmental Health Perspectives. She was appointed by the governor of California in 2012 to the Science Advisory Board of the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant (DART) Identification Committee.

2014 Recipients

  • Tyrone B. Hayes, Ph.D

    Tyrone B. Hayes was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina where he developed his love for biology. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1993.

    After completing his PhD, he began post-doctoral training at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health and the Cancer Research Laboratories at UC Berkeley (funded by the National Science Foundation), but this training was truncated when he was hired as an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley in 1994. He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2000 and to full Professor in 2003.

    Hayes’ research focuses on developmental endocrinology with an emphasis on evolution and environmental regulation of growth and development. For the last ten years, the role of endocrine disrupting contaminants, particularly pesticides, has been a major focus. Hayes is interested in the impact of chemical contaminants on environmental health and public health, with a specific interest in the role of pesticides in global amphibian declines and environmental justice concerns associated with targeted exposure of racial and ethnic minorities to endocrine disruptors and the role that exposure plays in health care disparities.

  • Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

    For more than a decade in West Virginia, OVEC has been a leader in grassroots organizing aimed at ending coal industry abuses of the land, water and people, such as the extreme extraction method known as mountaintop removal mining and deadly methods of coal prep plant waste disposal.

    Formed in 1987 to fight a huge toxic waste incinerator planed for an already polluted, low-income community, OVEC’s mission is to organize and maintain a diverse grassroots organization dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the environment through education, grassroots organizing and coalition building.

    OVEC values not only our mountain ecosystems, but also the people and culture of the Central Appalachian region and believes everyone has the right to clean air, clean water, and an environment that does not harm people’s health, but enhances the quality of life. OVEC works to make this happen through efforts to develop new leaders, promote civic participation, embrace diversity, amplify the voices of affected residents, and seed/nurture new community groups.

    OVEC takes on the most powerful polluters in West Virginia by standing with and supporting efforts of Appalachian communities to protect their air, water and mountains from being destroyed by extractive industries like coal, gas and timber.

  • Frederica P. Perera, Ph.d

    Dr. Perera is internationally recognized for pioneering the field of molecular epidemiology, utilizing biomarkers to understand links between environmental exposures and disease.

    Currently, she and her colleagues are applying advanced molecular and imaging techniques within longitudinal cohort studies of pregnant women and their children, with the goal of identifying preventable environmental risk factors for developmental disorders, asthma, obesity, and cancer in childhood. These include toxic chemicals, pesticides, and air pollution, with particular focus on adverse effects of prenatal and early childhood exposures. Her areas of specialization include prevention of environmentally-related developmental disorders and disease in children, cancer prevention through the use of novel biomarkers, environment-susceptibility interactions, and implications for risk assessment. Her recent research is also addressing the multiple impacts on children’s health and development of fossil fuel combustion–both from the toxic pollutants emitted and climate change related to CO2 emissions. Dr. Perera is the author of over 300 publications, including 270 peer-reviewed articles, and has received numerous honors. Dr. Perera will be presented with the award at a ceremony in Spring 2015.

  • Skytruth

    John Amos, President of SkyTruth, is an expert in the use of satellite images and other remote sensing data to understand and communicate local, regional and global environmental issues.

    Educated as a geologist, he spent 10 years applying image processing, image analysis, and digital mapping techniques to conduct environmental, exploration and resource assessment studies for the energy and mining industries and government entities. In 2001 John founded SkyTruth, a non- profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to strengthening environmental conservation by illuminating environmental problems and issues through the use of satellite images, aerial photographs, and other kinds of remote sensing and digital mapping.

    Over the 13-year history of SkyTruth, imaging has provided unique, valuable perspectives to the public and decision makers on a broad range of environmental issues, partnering with conservation organizationas at the grassroots, national, and international levels. The dedicated staff has produced stunning images that expose the landscape disruption and habitat degradation caused by mining, oil and gas drilling, deforestation, fishing and other human activities.

    SkyTruth creates one of a kind datasets that facilitate nationally significant scientific research on the social, public health and environmental impacts of resource extraction: research that helps shape policy and regulation and push towards a more sustainable future.

2013 Recipients

  • Arlene Blum, Ph.D

    Arlene Blum PhD, biophysical chemist, author, and mountaineer is a Visiting Scholar in Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute.

    The Institute brings government, industry, scientists and citizens groups together worldwide to support chemical policies to protect human health and the global environment. Blum’s research and policy work has contributed to stopping the use of toxic flame retardants in children's sleepwear and other products globally. Her current “mountain,” which she considers her life’s most challenging and important, is to change policy to reduce the use of harmful chemicals.

    Arlene Blum also led the first American—and all-women’s—ascent of Annapurna I, considered one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult mountains, co-led the first women’s team to climb Denali, completed the Great Himalayan Traverse across the mountain regions of Bhutan, Nepal, and India, and hiked the length of the European Alps with her baby daughter on her back. She is the author of Annapurna: A Woman’s Place and Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life.

    Blum’s awards include selection by the UK Guardian as one of the world’s 100 most inspiring women and National Women’s History Project selection as one of 100 “Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet,” selection as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, and election to the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence. Her research paper on flame retardants in baby products was chosen the outstanding paper of the 2011 by the Journal Environmental Science and Technology.

    She currently serves on the board of ISET which solves climate, water and disaster problems in South Asia and advisory boards for Environmental Building News, Healthy Child Healthy Word, and the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

  • Theo Colborn, Ph.D

    Dr. Theo Colborn, an environmental health analyst, has authored numerous scientific publications on endocrine disruptors, synthetic chemicals that interfere with hormones and other chemical messengers controlling human development, reproduction, how we mature, and function.

    The book she co-authored in 1996, Our Stolen Future, triggered enactment of state, national, and international actions to improve chemical testing protocols and take precautionary action. She has served as an advisor to federal agencies in the US and abroad and directed World Wildlife Fund’s Wildlife and Contaminants Program prior to moving home to Colorado in 2002. There she established TEDX (The Endocrine Disruption Exchange) with the mission to reduce the use of and exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and other chemicals that at ambient exposure cause adverse health effects. TEDX provides objective technical information about toxic chemicals to academicians, government scientists, policymakers, grassroots and support groups, the media, and the public. Located in western Colorado amidst rapidly increasing natural gas operations TEDX produced an environmental justice video useful for advocates around the world.

  • John Peterson Myers, Ph.D

    Pete Myers is founder, CEO and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences.He holds a doctorate in the biological sciences from UC Berkeley and a BA from Reed College.

    For a dozen years beginning in 1990, Myers served as Director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia. Along with co-authors Dr. Theo Colborn and Dianne Dumanoski, Myers wrote Our Stolen Future, a book (1996) that explores the scientific basis of concern for how contamination threatens fetal development.

    Myers is now actively involved in primary research on the impacts of endocrine disruption on human health. He is the board chair of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and has also chaired the board of the Science Communication Network since its founding in 2003. In addition, he currently serves on the board of the Jenifer Altman Foundation. Until its merger with Pew Charitable Trusts in late 2007, he was Board Chair of the National Environmental Trust. He has also served as Board President of the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity, an association of 40+ foundations supporting work on biodiversity, climate, energy and environmental health.