“In 2006, I started thinking there’s got to be a way to fix this,” recalls Ice911 founder Leslie Field, a PhD in electrical engineering who holds 50 US patents and lectures at Stanford University. Energetic and quick with ideas, Field turned to leading academic researchers to better understand the science concerning the crisis. She decided to take on the melting Arctic ice cap because she thought a relatively small, targeted approach—improving the reflectivity of ice with eco-friendly materials—could act as an enormous lever to tip the Arctic back into a source of cooling rather than heating.

In 2007, she started tinkering and taking lonely trips into the wintry Sierra Mountains to set out instrument buoys and materials on a little lake. Soon after she assembled an expert team, launched Ice911, and continued testing different materials and improving instruments. The team started yielding slower melt rates, attracted NASA interest, and gained respect at tech and sustainability contests like the Clean Tech Open and GSV Labs. In 2015, they survived a first bout of fieldwork above the Arctic Circle.

“Creating solutions brings me hope, which is far better than the alternatives of helplessness and despair," says Field. "I love this work because I think we have a real shot at making a global difference.”