Southwestern Pennsylvania women to be honored for contributions to conservation


A statewide group that advocates for clean energy is honoring 11 women from Southwestern Pennsylvania who have contributed to conservation efforts and environmental causes.

PennFuture will recognize recipients of its annual Celebrating Women in Conservation Awards during a virtual ceremony from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 8.

The ceremony was to have been held in April in Pittsburgh, but it was delayed, and then was recast as an online event, because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Begun in 2015, the awards focus on nominees from various regions of the state, this year spotlighting women from a 14-county area of the state’s southwestern section.

Jacquelyn Bonomo, PennFuture president and CEO and a former resident of the Pittsburgh area, said it was a difficult task selecting less than a dozen women to honor from among nearly 100 nominations.

“I wholly appreciate the powerful women who are driving forward environmental protection, helping to clean up our water and protecting residents from the devastating effects of air pollution and fracking,” she said. “We know that there are so many out there who deserve recognition.”

The awards are meant to help counter perceptions that men have dominated conservation-related fields, according to Travis DiNicola, PennFuture’s director of development. “It encourages the work of other women in the future,” he said.

The award categories have expanded over the years, with Young Woman of Conservation Leadership added to this year’s ceremony.

Upper St. Clair teen Leandra Mira earned that title as a leading organizer of Pittsburgh sit-ins that support efforts to address climate change — part of a FridaysForFuture movement sparked by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Three women will be recognized for Lifetime Achievement in Conservation:

• Caren Glotfelty, executive director of the Allegheny Parks Foundation. She previously was senior program director of the Heinz Endowments Environment Program, Maurice K. Goddard Chair in Forestry and Environmental Resources Conservation at Penn State and Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for water management.

• Beverly Braverman, executive director of the Melcroft-based Mountain Watershed Association. She has led the group’s successful battles to stop a proposed garbage dump and underground mine and helped establish a local recycling center with equipment adapted from old farm machinery.

• Patricia DeMarco, author and documentary film producer. A member of Forest Hills Borough Council and a trustee of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, she is the author of “Pathways to Our Sustainable Future — A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh” and is executive director of the film “The Power of One Voice — A 50-Year Perspective on the Life of Rachel Carson.”

She served as executive director of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association and director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University.

Other honorees include:

• Melissa Reckner, program manager for the Brandywine Conservancy’s Penguin Court in Ligonier Township, Woman of the Watershed recipient. Located in Laughlintown, the Penguin Court preserve of more than 1,000 acres is the former family home of the late Tribune-Review publisher, Richard M. Scaife.

Reckner previously served as director of the Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, organizing volunteers to collect water-quality samples in areas of the two rivers’ watersheds where acid mine drainage is being treated. She worked to update a report on the state of the watersheds and has been involved with Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom program.

• Maren Cooke, environmental science educator, Environmental Community Engagement recipient. Board secretary of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), she teaches about food, gardening, nature and climate in Pittsburgh schools and parks. She has taught physics, astronomy and environmental science at Carnegie Mellon University, MIT and Cornell.

• Sharon Pillar, founder and executive director of the Pennsylvania Solar Center, Renewable Energy and Climate recipient. A former project manager for solar programs at PennFuture, she directed the Solarize Allegheny campaign and was president of the Solar Unified Network of Western Pennsylvania, the region’s solar trade organization.

• Ann Rosenthal, environmental artist, educator and writer, Environmental Arts recipient. In 2019, she participated in four group exhibitions and co-curated “Crafting Conversations: A Call and Response to Our Changing Climate” for Creatives for Climate through Contemporary Craft’s BNY Mellon Satellite Gallery in Pittsburgh.

• Kirsi Jansa, documentary filmmaker and journalist, Environmental Media, Marketing, and Communications recipient. A former reporter for the Finnish Broadcasting Company in her native country, she moved to Pittsburgh where she has explored energy, environmental health and climate issues through her short documentary series “Gas Rush Stories” and “Sustainability Pioneers.”

• Camila Rivera-Tinsley, director of education at Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Environmental Education recipient. She helms the Frick Environmental Center and also serves on the state Environmental Education Advisory Council.

• Raina Rippel, director of the McMurray-based Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, Environmental Justice recipient.

Bonomo noted the virtual format may allow some people to join the event who might not have been able to travel to Pittsburgh for an in-person ceremony.

Members of the public can sign up to attend the Zoom ceremony and to become a PennFuture member. Registration fees are $40, which includes a swag bag containing a face mask, hand sanitizer and other items, or $65, which also includes a donation to the organization in the name of one’s chosen honoree.

Visit for details.


Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, or via Twitter .