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Dana Pounds Receives First Place Gulf Guardian Award in the Individual Category

Contact Information: 
Dawn Harris-Young (
(404) 562-8421 (Direct), (404) 562-8400 (Main)

ATLANTA – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Program recognized Dana Pounds with a first place 2017 Gulf Guardian Award in the Individual Category at an awards ceremony held at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort in Point Clear, Alabama.

“Whether for individual recreational use or as an economic engine supporting a wide variety of jobs and industry, the Gulf of Mexico is a vibrant yet vulnerable ecosystem,” said Ben Scaggs, Gulf of Mexico Program Director. “Protecting this national resource requires innovative approaches and proactive measures. The Gulf Guardian award winners are paving the way for “out of the box” thinking and replicable practices.” 

Dana Pounds’ love of nature motivates her to teach K-12 students the importance of healthy coastal ecosystems as well as the connections between terrestrial and ocean habitats.  Since founding Nature’s Academy in 2007, Dana has impacted over 50,000 students from 41 states and 4 countries.  During the outdoor education programs which she created, participants learn about the ecological significance of Florida ecosystems during guided nature walks.  Students transform into citizen scientists by collecting meaningful biodiversity and water quality data which are uploaded to the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) online database.  These young people are further elevated to stakeholders in natural resource conservation and habitat restoration by participating in coastal cleanups. Dana provides reusable water bottles to reinforce the take-home message of environmental stewardship long after participants leave Nature’s Academy.  Students are empowered to practice the concept of “reduce, reuse, recycle” each time they refill their bottles, with the added bonus of eliminating the potential for plastic bottles finding their way onto shorelines and into the Gulf itself.  By giving her students memorable conservation experiences that foster the spirit of lifelong environmental stewardship, Dana is contributing to the long-term vitality of the Gulf Coast. 

Dana teaches children about wetlands conservation through the outdoor school she founded in 2007.  A true advocate of educational equity, Dana offers programs to underserved students at no cost to their families or schools.  In 2016, every 5th grader within Manatee County School District attended a Nature’s Academy “edventure”.  She inspires and empowers students to become environmental stewards of the Florida Gulf Coast, creating a legacy that will endure for generations.   

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. First, second and third place awards are given in seven categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts.

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

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