PITTSBURGH (AP) — Alaska composer John Luther Adams is one of 10 winners of the Heinz Award, which this year recognized those whose work benefited the environment. Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Chauvin, La., was also among the winners.

Adams was honored Tuesday for work that reflects environmental and spiritual elements of the Alaskan wilderness. The Heinz Foundation noted Adams’ work assigning musical notes to seismic activity from five Alaska monitoring stations to create a sound and light exhibit.

In the past, Adams has described his work as “a self-contained world of sound and light that is directly connected to the real world. My job was to map that world, tune it, set it in motion and trust the forces of nature to provide the moment-to-moment music and atmosphere in the space.”

Each prize this year is worth $100,000.

Teresa Heinz told The Associated Press that the awards recognized innovative approaches to serious topics for a reason.

“I know that young people, when faced with this type of person, it is infectious. It puts a light at the end of the tunnel. You see were you could be going,” Heinz said.

Winner Ian Cheney said he and his partner Curt Ellis sometimes use humor for that very reason.

“I think humor is often overlooked as a tool for sparking conversations about serious issues,” he said. “And it’s often easier to bring people with different views to the table when you’re telling a good story.”

Other winners include:

Richard Alley of Pennsylvania State University, for his work on polar ice that showed abrupt climate change is possible by using ice-core samples to show that the last ice age ended over just a three-year period.

Janine Benyus of the Biomimicry Institute in Missoula, Mont., for her work showing how products can be improved by borrowing from nature’s forms. She created a groundbreaking database called Ask Nature. Visitors can see how organisms filter air and water, gather solar energy and create non-toxic dyes and glues.

Cheney and Ellis, of Wicked Delicate Films, and FoodCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y., for using humor and innovative programs to teach people about sustainable food.

Louis J. Guillette, Jr. of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, for his work studying the impact chemicals have on wildlife and insights to how humans may be impacted.

Joan Kleypas of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., for research on the impacts of climate change on coral reefs.

Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for her work on ocean biodiversity and the impacts of humans on marine life.

Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Chauvin, La., for research on severe oxygen depletion in the Gulf of Mexico and ways to reduce water pollution through education and public policy.

Sandra Steingraber of Ithaca College in N.Y., for her writing about the link between toxic chemicals and diseases, and for engaging the public as a cancer survivor.

The Pittsburgh-based Heinz Family Foundation has presented the awards since 1994 in memory of Sen. John Heinz III. The awards will be presented at a private ceremony in November in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.