Denise was born and raised in the Northern California town of Willits to Mexican American parents. Growing up in rural Mendocino, Denise gained a deep connection to the natural world from a childhood spent running through its forests, fishing in its streams, and exploring its hills. The first in her family to finish college, Denise attended UC Santa Barbara where she earned her degree in Ecological Anthropology. During her time at UCSB, Denise sat on the Environmental Affairs Board and organized environmental volunteer days. Denise currently works for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, where she leads outdoor programs for underserved youth from Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties. This summer Denise is leading a team of 19 Bay Area teenagers in a youth program known as LINC (Linking Individuals to their Natural Community). During the LINC program, many of Denise’s students have powerful, life-changing nature experiences such as swimming in a river, gazing at the stars, or lighting a campfire, often for the first time.

After the end of her current internship, Denise hopes to continue her work connecting young people from underserved communities with the outdoors. Denise is excited and honored to receive the Proof Lab Outdoor Award, and is eager to use the award’s gear for more backcountry adventures, both with and without her 19 high schoolers in tow. In addition, the money from this award will help Denise continue her work changing the lives of young people through the LINC program.

Our 2015 Outdoor Award Runner-Ups:

Dana Biederman
Slide Ranch
Dana grew up in the Truckee/Lake Tahoe area skiing, climbing, hiking and enjoying the mountains. Dana’s parents met when teaching at Slide Ranch in 1984 and working at Slide Ranch has been a dream of Dana's since she was a child. Slide Ranch is an environmental education nonprofit that connects children to nature. Dana was a Junior Counselor when she was 16, a Teacher-in-Residence and Ranch Intern in 2013, and she returned for the fall of 2014 to teach, develop curriculum and continue living the dream. Dana is currently the Head Teacher providing mentorship, training and support for the Teacher-in-Residence program at Slide. Before working at Slide, Dana was a Teacher for Gateway Mountain Center, a Naturalist for Sierra Watershed Educational Partnerships, a teaching assistant for Compass Green Project, and a Rock Climbing Instructor for the Tahoe Truckee Recreation Department. Dana feels deeply dedicated to contributing to the health of our community through teaching children and adults about healthy food systems, stewardship, and connecting youth to nature.

Emily Savage
River Otter Ecology Project
My beginnings in conservation trace back to my childhood where I felt completely at ease in the woodland that was my backyard. My best, brightest memories and defining moments came while I peeked under rocks and logs, seeking the treasures below. In high school, I skipped the tractor pulls to go hiking on my parents’ property. My fervid fascination with the workings of nature led me to a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the Pennsylvania State University where I focused on ecology, evolution and behavior.

From my perspective, stewardship of nature is the most meaningful endeavor I can achieve. As humans, we must minimize our negative impact to the environment, as well as mend the harms we have done. The Earth is our collective home and it deserves and demands respect from all. In order to accomplish this, it’s critical that we learn as much as we can about the natural processes that surround us. Researching, learning, understanding…..and educating are all building blocks toward saving the flora and fauna that surround and sustain us today and forthcoming. Moving forward, I will continue refining the meaning of wildlife stewardship. Whether as an educator, researcher, in park service, through legislative process, a combination of the aforementioned or another channel remains to be seen. Plans change with life’s unexpected developments, one thing that does not is my dedication and zeal for conservation.

Julia Ross
Global Student Embassy
I got involved with GSE at the beginning of my freshman year. I learned that they ran trips to Ecuador and Nicaragua and I had always wanted to travel. After going on a reforestation trip to Ecuador, I found myself falling in love with environmental work. I increased my involvement locally in the drake garden and started to become a leader for my peers. Planting things in the garden and seeing tangible results was very rewarding, and it motivates me to make the drake garden a living workspace, with increased yield, and without depleting  the nutrients in the soil. Now, after two trips to Nicaragua to work on and add to sustainable agriculture projects, it has become clear to me that environmental sustainability is the key to long term success in any field. I hope to take the valuable things I've learned in GSE and apply them on a large scale later in my life.


The Outdoor Award was created to support the Bay Area's rich community of environmental organizations, and the young people who dedicate their energy to protecting and conserving our local ecology."

  • Aim: To empower young environmentalists in the Bay Area through the direct financial support of their work with local environmental organizations.
  • Eligibility: Applicant must be 25 years of age or younger at the time of application, and working with an established environmental non-profit in the Bay Area.


  • $2,500 in financial support to the environmental non-profit the applicant is partnered with and $500 in gear from Proof Lab Station and affiliated Field Sponsors to outfit a young environmentalist.
  • These funds will be directly transferred to the non-profit organization, but the terms of the award are that the grantee be directly involved with the use of these funds.

Grant Restrictions

  • Proof Lab Outdoor Award funds may not be used for indirect costs, travel, legal actions, salaries, fringe benefits, overhead and other expenses not directly tied to the project.
  • Grant recipients are expected to provide Proof Lab with periodic updates on the use of funds and the grantees involvement in the project.

Advisory Committee Members
Our panel of scientists and environmental stewards will review the final applications and select the winner for this year’s Proof Lab Outdoor Award.
2015 Panel Members:

    • Greg Long
    • Forrest Shearer
      • Big Mountain Snowboarder
      • Patagonia Ambassador
      • Protect Our Winters Ambassador
    • Dustin Barca
      • Professional Surfer
      • Environmental Activist
      • Kauai Anti-GMO Campaign
    • Cyrus Sutton
      • Professional Surfer
      • Emmy Award winning filmmaker and founder of Korduroy TV
      • Environmental Activist
    • Mitch Cohen
      • Redwood High School A.P. Environmental Science Teacher
      • Bay Area Surfer
    • Dr. Mary Power
    • Marika Bergsund
      • Executive Director at Slide Ranch
      • Founding director of GrowingGreat

Grant Administrators: