Future conservation leaders rewarded with notable Wyss scholarship

Two Northern Arizona University graduate students are getting a boost that will help them launch their professional careers as leaders in land conservation.

Collin Haffey and Audrey Kruse were named Wyss Scholars by the Wyss Foundation, which provides scholarships for graduate students who are pursuing careers in land conservation and management in the U.S. intermountain West.

The students will receive partial tuition payments while they complete their master’s degrees in environmental sciences and policy at NAU and a $5,000 summer stipend. Haffey and Kruse also are eligible for support after graduation in the form of post-graduation payments for up to three years while they are launching their careers.

The scholarships are valued at more than $30,000 apiece and are awarded to select students committed to conservation at five universities across the nation.

For his summer internship, Haffey worked with the Bandelier National Monument and the U.S. Geologic Survey to complete the field study portion of his thesis research. He traveled to forests in Arizona and New Mexico, examining successional patterns following stand-replacing fires. After his summer of data collection and working with federal agency partners, Haffey will move on to the data analysis and modeling phase of his study.

“As the climate warms and decades of fire suppression contribute to more severe fires, we are grappling with wide-ranging impacts to the forests in our region,” Haffey said. “Having support from the Wyss Foundation enables me to focus on contributing to a better understanding of these forces and how they affect our western landscapes.”

Kruse spent her summer studying the tamarisk leaf beetle and how its defoliation of invasive tamarisk trees along the San Juan River is impacting native insect communities.

“The Wyss Foundation has a reputation for doing meaningful conservation work in the West, and it’s exciting to be inducted into this network of accomplished conservation professionals,” Kruse said.

“Once again the Wyss Foundation has chosen to support very impressive NAU master’s students as they complete their studies and begin careers protecting the western landscapes that we cherish,” said Tom Sisk, Olajos-Goslow chair of environmental science and policy and director of the Landscape Conservation Initiative at NAU. “Collin and Audrey already have track records as driven students and stellar conservationists. We can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish next.”

For information about the Wyss Scholars Program at NAU, contact Cari.Kimball@nau.edu.