Bay Nature’s 2024 Local Hero Awards

Since 2011, Bay Nature Institute has been honoring remarkable local conservation and nature leaders and activists at our annual Local Hero Awards. We’ll recognize these heroes and their organizations in the magazine, online, in social media and at an in-person celebration on April 7, 2024 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley. Bay Nature heroes reflect the diverse communities around the Bay Area and have made significant contributions to protecting our local environment.

Tickets to the Local Hero Awards are sold out

2024 Local Heroes

Environmental Educator

This award recognizes the achievements of an individual who has made significant contributions to public understanding and awareness of the natural history and ecology of the San Francisco Bay Area, through research, teaching, field trips, journalism, and/or other media.

Dr. Katharyn Boyer
Professor of Biology, San Francisco State University
Interim Executive Director, Estuary & Ocean Science Center

Dr. Katharyn Boyer directs San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center, where she has been a biology professor since 2004. She specializes in science-informed ecological restoration aiming to increase resiliency of coastal habitats. She immerses undergraduate and graduate students in studies of nature-based solutions to climate change, and many now foster similar work around the Bay Area. She is leading an educational pipeline program focused on climate action training with local community colleges and underserved community youth. She recently received the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation Outstanding Educator Award and the SFSU Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Community Hero

This award celebrates an individual whose grassroots activities have had a transformative impact on his or her community—which can be defined broadly or narrowly—and the natural world of the Bay Area.

Yakuta Poonawalla
Associate Director, Community Stewardship and Engagement, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

​​Nothing brings Yakuta Poonawalla more joy than creating programs and partnerships that inspire communities to develop a connection with nature. In her role with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, she designs community initiatives that support stewardship, volunteerism, recreation, conservation, and community science efforts. Yakuta serves on the California Landscape Stewardship Network’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable, and on the Board of TOGETHER Bay Area. She has written for the National Recreation and Parks Association, Children & Nature Network, Center for Humans and Nature, and Bay Nature. Her work has been featured on NBC and PBS, and she has presented her ideas at several conferences.

Conservation Action

This award goes to an individual who has made or is currently making significant contributions to the conservation of the natural landscapes, wildlife, and/or flora of the San Francisco Bay Area, through leadership, advocacy, legal action, acquisition, and/or stewardship.

Kellyx Nelson
Executive Director, San Mateo Resource Conservation District

Kellyx is passionate about public service and advancing the pace and scale of environmental restoration in California. Through coalitions and partnerships, she has restored thousands of acres of habitat for species at risk of extinction, removed dams to open up hundreds of miles of wilderness for steelhead and salmon, implemented nature-based solutions to climate change, remediated water pollution, and protected open spaces. She is proud of Resource Conservation Districts, which she calls “the best form of local government you’ve never heard of.” Her boots-on-the-ground work across boundaries and jurisdictions has produced a career defined by real results for environmental conservation.

Young Leader

This award will celebrate an environmental leader, 25 years old or younger, who is making significant contributions towards understanding, conserving, and/or connecting people to the natural world of the Bay Area. The Young Leader will receive a gift of $500 to support their professional development.

Naji Lockett
Conservation Crew Supervisor, Civicorps

Naji joined Civicorps in 2018 as a Conservation Intern. Over the next two years, he navigated two crew leader trainings, countless field projects, smoky days from nearby forest fires, the COVID pandemic, and a worldwide shut down – always showing up each day ready to work and help lead his crew. He was promoted to the Crew Leader II position for his commitment to his peers and to the Civicorps mission and is the first intern to fully complete the Civicorps Conservation Intern Investment Program checklist. His leadership helps Civicorps better understand the young people they serve and provides a model to other Corpsmembers that shows how to take full advantage of the program.

2024 Local Hero Award Sponsors:

Watch our 2023 Local Hero Awards

Meet our past Local Heroes!