The MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program is better known as the king-maker of geniuses. Most know the award as the "Genius Award." Among the 24 scientists, artists and academics who won this year, five are working on topics related to environmental quality or the workings of the natural environment. Here's a look at the green geniuses.
Ruth DeFries University of Maryland An environmental geographer, DeFries has been a pioneer in using remote satellite imagery to understand changes to forest cover in the tropics of central Africa, Southeast Asia and the Amazon. Her work has been critical to improving the understanding of global warming, given that deforestation is a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Marc Edwards Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University A water quality engineer, became well known to the public as a chief investigator of lead contamination in Washington, D.C.'s water system, but that was only Edwards' latest contribution. His analysis of the surprisingly complex chemistry in municipal water systems has led to the improvement of disinfection and the removal of toxic contaminants and byproducts. In other words, the water we drink is safer thanks to Edwards.
Cheryl Hayashi University of California / Riverside A spider silk biologist, Hayashi is a pioneer in the study of biomimicry. By understanding fundamental properties of spider silk, she is applying her knowledge to human uses, such as biodegradable fishing lines, sutures, and protective armor cloth.
My Hang Huynh Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico A chemist, Huynh is working to substitute benign elements for environmentally toxic heavy metals in explosives and other highly energetic compounds. Her work improves safety for workers producing these materials.
Claire Kremen University of California / Berkeley A conservation biologist, Kremen studies native pollinators primarily bees, their often overlooked importance to the global food web, and their precipitous and alarming decline.
For more information about these, and other winners, click here.
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