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Cathy Clarkin

Cathy Clarkin is co-founder and executive director of Accelerate Climate Solutions

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About Cathy

Growing up in suburban Chicago, Cathy lived for summer vacations with her large family in the hills and mountains of South Dakota and Wyoming. Camping and hiking and sliding down the glaciers on an old shower curtain gave her a great love of nature. 


Her interest in science started when her dad brought home a science kit from his work at a text book company. She remembers thinking that doing experiments was much more fun than reading books and doing worksheets.


It wasn’t until after a couple of years as a chemistry major at University of Illinois that she realized that she could combine her two interests and started working in an environmental chemistry lab. From there she headed to University of North Carolina for a masters degree in environmental science, focusing on analysis of industrial pollution utilizing a technique called Toxicity Identification Evaluation and mass spectrometry.


She spent most of her career in environmental consulting, first at Environ (now Rambol) in Arlington, Virginia, and later at Ecology & Environment in San Francisco and Long Beach. Before leaving consulting, she worked as an independent contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, developing sampling and analysis plans, managing large sets of environmental data, and performing risk assessments.


Her career was not a straight path, however. Between Environ and E&E she lived on a tropical island in the South Pacific in the capital city of Vanuatu, Port Vila. There she managed Island Conservation Initiatives, the for-profit arm of the nongovernmental organization Foundation for the People of the South Pacific International (FSPI). In that role, she helped bring art and nursery supply jobs to local people. One of her motivators for working on climate solutions locally is knowing that every bit of carbon pollution we emit here is impacting her friends across the globe as sea levels rise and cyclones strengthen.


In addition to her leadership role with Accelerate Climate Solutions, Cathy is co-chair of the Naperville Environment and Sustainability Task Force (NEST), an all-volunteer organization focused on moving the community toward a more sustainable future. NEST’s goal is to advise city government, schools, businesses, and individuals on carbon reduction in the areas of energy supply, transportation, buildings & development, and waste. We also aim to support and enhance our city’s natural resources. Cathy manages volunteers, devises strategies, meets with elected officials and stakeholders, organizes educational programming, and mentors the NEST Youth team.


Cathy continues to work part-time in the Education department at Fermi National Accelerator Lab as an education facilitator, where she teaches visitors of all ages about the science of Fermilab. She also develops climate change and ecology labs and activities.

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