Ice911 Founder Leslie Field is an engineer, materials expert and inventor who couldn’t stop thinking about the threat of climate change, and what it would mean for her children’s future.
Her distress ebbed as her engineering mindset took over. “I started thinking there’s got to be a way to fix this,” recalls Field, a PhD in electrical engineering who holds 49 US patents.
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.
Plus, who doesn’t want to help polar bears?
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. In 2015, they survived a first bout of fieldwork above the Arctic Circle.
To encourage the problem-solving mindset, Field teaches “Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Climate Change” at Stanford as a consulting professor in electrical engineering. To increase awareness and inspire action on climate change, Ice911 team members reach out through technical presentations, community talks, and engineering sessions at high schools and colleges.
Like many on her team, Field has dedicated countless volunteer and underpaid hours to Ice911 because it’s the nature of an engineer to answer challenges and it’s the nature of Leslie to do whatever it takes to protect her children. *[not sure if the “nature of a parent” part is appropriate or helpful. What do you think?]
“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.”