World Wildlife Fund Conservation Leadership Award Honors Indigenous Organizer and Activist Charitie Ropati for her Dedicated Efforts in Environmental Activism and Indigenous Education

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today announces the recipient of the WWF Conservation Leadership Award, Charitie Ropati, a 22-year-old Indigenous scientist and environmental activist of Yup’ik and Samoan heritage. Ropati's remarkable work in promoting Native American representation in STEM and holistic approaches to climate justice has earned her this prestigious recognition.

Charitie Ropati has made significant contributions to the conservation and education sectors through her tireless effort, and her work at Columbia University’s Griffin Lab extends far beyond the classroom. Ropati's research delves into the intricate relationship between climate change and plant ecology in Alaska, exploring its significance in the context of cultural resilience. Her research not only advances our understanding of environmental challenges but also highlights the importance of preserving Indigenous knowledge and traditions in the face of these challenges.

Upon receiving the WWF Conservation Leadership Award, Ropati expressed her gratitude: "I am deeply honored to receive this award from WWF. It is a testament to the power of collective action and the importance of recognizing the intersection of environmental conservation and Indigenous education. Together, we can create a more sustainable and inclusive future for all."

Additionally, she is the co-founder of lilnativegirlinSTEM, a dynamic network empowering Native women and girls in the sciences by facilitating resource sharing and creating opportunities. LilnativegirlinSTEM has coordinated workshops and dialogues exploring the Native experience in science. “I want to challenge young kids back in Alaska to think about what a scientist looks like. A scientist is a hunter. It’s someone who gathers berries, and someone who’s able to really understand the ecology in the tundra in Alaska, to survive in the Arctic,” Ropati said.

Additionally, she has been at the forefront of implementing an accurate and inclusive sub-curriculum of Indigenous peoples in Western teaching in Alaska. Her dedication to preserving Indigenous cultures and knowledge within the educational framework has been transformative, creating a lasting impact on students and educators alike. Ropati played a pivotal role in passing a groundbreaking policy at the Anchorage School District, allowing students to proudly wear their cultural regalia during graduation ceremonies. This policy, which she championed, remains in place today, ensuring that students can proudly celebrate their heritage.

The WWF Conservation Leadership Award, now in its fifth year, was established to honor individuals who have shown exceptional dedication to the conservation of our planet and the advancement of environmental education. Ropati joins a distinguished group of previous awardees, all of whom have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to a more sustainable and inclusive world. More about WWF’s Conservation Leadership Award here:

Photos for media found here.

Interviews available upon request.

About World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

WWF is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, working for 60 years in nearly 100 countries to help people and nature thrive. With the support of 1.3 million members in the United States and more than 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment, and combat the climate crisis. Visit to learn more; follow @WWFNews on Twitter to keep up with the latest conservation news; and sign up for our newsletter and news alerts here.

  • Charitie Ropati wears a white flag with red lettering over her shoulders