Press Contact: Angela M.H. Schuster

Tel. 212-759-1128  

Ticket info: Karen Garthe

Tel: 212-759-1128


2011 WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery  Awards

Gala Co-Chairs: Kitty Pilgrim & Christine Dennison

Entertainment by the Kit McClure Band

With their cutting-edge science, spirit of adventure, and capacity to transport attendees to realms seldom seen, the Women of Discovery Awards have become a “must attend” event. Among this year’s awardees—who will be honored at a gala dinner on April 15, 2011—are pioneering researchers in human/environmental conflict, atmospheric chemistry, marine conservation, and Arctic survival.

Friday, April 15, 2011, 6:00–10:30 p.m. Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, 711 Greenwich Street, NYC

2011 WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Awardees:

Sea Award 


Anna Cummins is a specialist in marine conservation, sustainability, and ecology education. With the 5 Gyres Institute, a non-profit she co-founded with her husband Marcus Eriksen, Anna has been studying the impacts of plastic waste that accumulates in the world’s oceans, threatening marine ecosystems and potentially impacting human health.  





Courage Award

Canadian herpetologist Kate Jackson likes nothing more than to be waist-deep in mud, holding a snake she has yet to identify. Her groundbreaking work with snakes in Africa is chronicled in Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science, and Survival in the Congo.





Humanity Award


Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, founder of Conservation Through Public Health, has been instrumental in gorilla conservation in her native Uganda. Kalema-Zikusoka was among the first to realize that endangered gorillas—with whom we share some 98 percent of our DNA—were threatened not only by poaching but by exposure to human-borne disease, transmitted through contact with visitors to the parks established to protect them.




Earth Award


Catherine Powers has studied mass extinction events deep in Earth’s history, particularly that which took place at the close of the Permian-Triassic period some 250 million years ago. She has noted that the extinction process in marine communities can be detected by the distribution of stenolaemate bryozoans—an order of marine invertebrates that live on the ocean floor.






WINGS WorldQuest will be honoring three women as “Fellows” in recognition of their outstanding contributions to exploration.


Gretel Ehrlich is considered one of the great environmental writers of our time. She is the author of 14 books, including This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland and The Future of Ice: A Journey into Cold, which focuses on life in the Arctic in a time of global warming, and A Match to the Heart, which chronicles her ordeal and recovery after having been struck by lightning in 1991.


Katey Walter-Anthony made headlines in 2007 when she and her team determined that methane bubbling out of thermokarst lakes in the Arctic was likely the source of the spike in atmospheric methane at the end of the last Ice Age. She estimates some 10 times the amount of methane that is currently in the atmosphere will come out of these lakes as permafrost thaws with global warming. 




Polly Wiessner is an anthropologist who has spent three decades studying social networks and survival among the Kalahari Bushmen of southern Africa and issues of warfare, religion, and exchange among the Enga of Papua New Guinea. Recently, she has looked at the impact of globalization on traditional systems to understand how people adapt to a rapidly changing world.





In addition, we will be saluting WINGS WorldQuest co-founder, Milbry C. Polk, who was designated a 2010 Fellow by unanimous vote of the WINGS’ Board of Directors for her commitment to women in exploration following last year’s Women of Discovery Awards gala.




Kitty Pilgrim is a 24-year veteran of CNN. She has worked as a correspondent and anchor on international economic and social issues. Her debut novel, The Explorers Code, an adventure/romance/thriller based on science and exploration, is to be released by Scribner in July.


Christine Dennison was the first woman to dive high above the Arctic Circle on a self-supported expedition. She has logged more than 80 dives in this harsh environment. Dennison is co-founder, owner, and director of Mad Dog Expeditions, a New York based company that is highly recognized as a pioneer in the field of extreme diving and exploration.




Established in 2003, the WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Awards recognize outstanding women who are making significant contributions to world knowledge through exploration. The awards come with a research grant, travel to New York, and opportunities to present field research to the press and greater public. Awards are given annually in the following categories: Air & Space, Earth, Sea, Humanity, Courage, Field Research, and Lifetime Achievement. To date, 48 pioneering women have received the WINGS Women of Discovery Award.


Beyond our award recipients, WINGS recognizes outstanding individuals who tend to be more established in their respective careers with the title Fellow, which has an accepted, universal gravitas in exploration and academic circles. While there is no remuneration, Fellows are eligible to carry the WINGS Flag on their expeditions. They also benefit by being part of an international support network of women in exploration and the field sciences.


WINGS WorldQuest ( is the foremost international organization dedicated to supporting and promoting visionary women in exploration. Since the organization’s founding in 2003, more than 70 researchers have taken to the field with WINGS’ encouragement and financial support. Their findings have been shared with the general public and thousands of students through its website, education, and outreach programs.

WINGS WorldQuest is pleased to schedule interviews with its network of explorers for accredited media. Biographical information and images are available at the