Natural sciences writer and environmental consultant Janine Benyus has been honored with a $100,000 Heinz Award, presented by the Heinz Family Foundation. The author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature (Morrow, 1997), Benyus is a luminary in a new field seeking sustainable solutions through mimicry of the natural world such as solar cells modeled on leaves or offices laid out like redwood forests. In addition to writing, she lectures at the University of Montana, serves as a founding principal at the Biomimicry Guild in Helena, Mont, and performs consulting work for NASA. Benyus also created the Ask Nature database at asknature.org. She has spoken at a number of industry conferences, including the 2009 TED conference.

First presented in 1995 in honor of the late senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards annually recognize individuals whose research, inventions, and education have provided practical solutions to global problems. The theme of this year’s awards is the environment; 10 winners were chosen for work addressing the intersection of the environment with past year’s themes, including technology, public policy, economics, and the arts. Other 2011 winners include environmental composer John Luther Adams, ice-cap climatologist Richard Kelley, and coral-reef researcher Joan Kleypas of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.