Celebrating five years of youth leaders in conservation

WWF Conservation Leadership Award winners continue to make strides to protect the planet

Five years ago, WWF began honoring young people in the United States who’ve made outstanding contributions to conservation with our Conservation Leadership Award. These remarkable individuals made strides in protecting biodiversity, mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis, fighting for environmental justice, and preventing food loss and waste, among other critical issues. Winners receive $5,000 to further their academic or professional development related to conservation.

Our most recent winner, Charitie Ropati, a Yup’ik and Samoan Indigenous scientist, scholar, climate activist, and advocate for education equality, centers the voices of Indigenous people and youth in her work.

To mark the fifth anniversary of the award, we checked in on previous recipients about what they’ve been up to since they won.

Unsurprisingly, they continue to push the needle in impressive ways. Explore their recent accomplishments below.




As an Indigenous campaigner, storyteller, author, and scholar, Päki was instrumental in initiatives to organize Alaska youth for climate and conservation initiatives, particularly through the Arctic Youth Ambassadors program she co-founded. She dedicates her time to environmental and social advocacy for Indigenous youth and women.

What she’s been up to since winning

  • Attended the international climate crisis talks in Glasgow and Madrid to advocate for climate justice
  • Started Moonture, a sustainable jewelry brand
  • Received the 2023 AmeriCorps’ President’s Volunteer Service Award for her leadership in environmental justice.

Recently, Päki has been working with Data for Indigenous Justice, an Alaska Native and Womxn-Led non-profit stewarding a database for missing and murdered Indigenous womxn, girls and relatives in Alaska. She also assisted in the inaugural Alaska Native Filmmakers Intensive, aimed to expand access for Alaska Native creatives in digital media production. The 2021 session theme of “Stories for Climate Justice” encouraged participants to reflect on how they adapt to a changing climate and fight to protect the communities that they love.

You can find out more and follow along with Päki ’s work on her Instagram and Native Movement’s social media channels on Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.


Alexa White Headshot in front of city skylineCourtesy of Alexa White

White is an agroecologist, food sovereignty advocate, climate activist, and environmental justice scholar whose extensive work focuses on making agriculture more sustainable and advocating for small-scale farmers.

What she’s been up to since winning

  • Conducted research with farmers for her Ph.D. dissertation in Jamaica and Hawaii
  • Co-founded the AYA Research Institute, an environmental justice think-tank
  • Collaborated with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) on topics of US science policy.

“The creation of the Justice40 tracker and report, in collaboration with FAS and the White House Council for Environmental Quality, stands out as a landmark achievement in my career,” White said. This initiative was designed to track the US government's progress towards ensuring that 40% of the benefits from federal climate and environmental spending reach disadvantaged communities, directly addressing historical injustices and creating a more equitable future. Her contributions to this project were recognized in 2023 with the prestigious Federation of American Scientists Policy Entrepreneurship Award. 

Follow along with Alexa’s work on her LinkedIn and Instagram.


Jasmin GrahamCourtesy of Jasmin Graham

A shark scientist and environmental educator, Graham stood out for her dedication to making sure science education reaches everyone in an accessible way and to building a more inclusive marine science field. She is the co-founder and CEO of Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS), an organization dedicated to supporting women of color in shark sciences.

What she’s been up to since winning

  • Launched a mini-series on PBS Terra called Sharks Unknown with Jasmin Graham in which she visits MISS members and showcases their work
  • Working on a collaborative project examining how the harmful algal bloom, Florida Red Tide, is impacting sharks and rays
  • Wrote a book titled Sharks Don't Sink: Adventures of a Rogue Shark Scientist, which will be published in July 2024

Graham has also started a working group focused on characterizing and establishing a baseline for data-deficient fisheries in five countries—the US, Sri Lanka, India, Brazil, and Nigeria. The project emphasizes inclusive conservation and directly involves fishing communities using genetics, stable isotopes, biovisualization, and scientific illustration. Integrated, Coordinated, Open, Networked Inclusive Conservation of our Oceans (ICONIC Oceans) is a collaboration between MISS members who have been working with their local fishing communities to study shark and ray populations. The project will also heavily involve early career scientists, artists, and science communicators and will take a highly interdisciplinary approach to conservation research.

Follow Jasmin’s work on X and on MISS’ Instagram.


ALEXIA LECLERCQ HeadshotCourtesy of Alexia Leclercq

Leclercq’s dedication to environmental justice organizing and education led her to co-found two non-profits by age 22. She has been an impactful voice for local change in Austin, Texas, as well as making critical progress on climate and freshwater issues on the national and global stages.

What she’s been up to since winning

  • Partnered with a coalition of environmental justice organizations to successfully oppose the fast-tracking of fossil fuel projects on federal lands
  • Organized international campaigns on loss and damage at the international climate talks in 2022 and pushed for an equitable fossil fuel phase-out at last year’s talks
  • Supported the Karankawa tribe’s efforts to stop the expansion of the Enbridge pipeline and protect the Gulf Coast and Karankawa land

Last year, Leclercq received a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a focus on liberatory pedagogy and using education to advance conservation and environmental justice. Her senior thesis examined how the educational system underprepares students to tackle the climate crisis and injustices around them due to structural oppression. Her degree is deeply connected with her environmental justice education non-profit, Start:Empowerment, which has expanded its outreach efforts. 

Follow along with Leclercq’s work on her Instagram.