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Meet the Winners of the 2021 Great Lakes Leadership Award


Great Lakes Protection Fund Announces 2021 Leadership Award Winners
Recognizes Trailblazers who are Solving Biggest Threats to the Region

The Great Lakes Protection Fund is celebrating leaders and the innovative use of scientific, philanthropic, organizing, and financial approaches to tackle some of the biggest threats facing the Great Lakes basin today.

The 2021 Great Lakes Leadership Award goes to trailblazers who are driving change to improve the health of the Great Lakes. They include:

  • Allegra Cangelosi pioneered the field of ballast treatment technology, which helps the shipping industry limit the transfer of invasive species into the Great Lakes. Her contributions have helped reduce the introduction of new invasive species into the Great Lakes by more than 90 percent.
  • Rob Collier created the first-ever network of community foundation environmental programs in Great Lakes coastal cities, which launched a national movement of similar efforts. Before retiring as head of the Council of Michigan Foundations, he helped community foundations stretching from Duluth to Niagara connect their work and their priorities to the health of the Great Lakes.
  • Crystal M.C. Davis is reorienting environmentalism in the Great Lakes region to focus on the needs of the people who live there. Her approach focuses on fair and equitable access to the benefits that come with restoring the ecological health of the system—like access to clean drinking water and the removal of toxins from the lakes and surrounding waterways.
  • Eric Letsinger has led the field of impact finance in the environmental space. Using innovative performance-based funding vehicles like environmental impact bonds and green bonds, he has created a new way for Great Lakes communities to finance green infrastructure and improve water quality.
  • David M. Lodge is known as the “CSI Great Lakes Guy” for developing genetic testing tools to prevent invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes. He also created forensic tests and other tools to stop the spread of existing invaders.
  • Sherri A. Mason, Ph.D., has elevated the awareness of—and action to stop—microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Her efforts prompted major companies to change their production process and led the Food and Drug Administration to ban plastic microbeads in face creams and shampoos.

“Each of the 2021 Great Lakes Leadership Award winners pioneered an innovative approach to blunting a major threat to the health of our Great Lakes. They were all ahead of their time in creating new solutions ripe for adaptation and adoption to tackle future challenges,” said David Rankin, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund. “By recognizing the achievements of these trailblazers, we hope to encourage others who are working to solve complex challenges in the Great Lakes to think big and take risks.”

The Great Lakes Protection Fund (the Fund) is the impact investor for the Great Lakes. Over the past three decades, the Fund has turned big ideas turn into big impact by investing $91 million into projects and teams that are pioneering new technologies, practices, and financing strategies to restore and protect the health of the Great Lakes. From improved water quality to sustainably managed forests to fewer invasive species entering the lakes, the Fund launches and accelerates innovations that consistently lead to long-term improvements throughout the region.

This is the third year for the Great Lakes Leadership Award. In 2019, the Fund recognized innovation in water technology that has the potential to vastly improve the health of the Great Lakes and help secure clean water for the future. The 2020 Great Lakes Leadership Award went to top storytellers in the region. Learn more here.

Valerie Holford for Great Lakes Protection Fund at valerievholford@gmail.com or

Hear from the 2020 Great Lakes Leadership Award winners on the new limited podcast series, Great Lakes, Great Stories – now streaming at GLPF.org/podcast.