Three NAU environmental science and policy students receive national conservation scholarships

Collage of 2023 Wyss Scholars

Northern Arizona University’s School of Earth and Sustainability and the Wyss Foundation recently recognized three Environmental Science and Policy graduate students, Isaiah Meza, Adriana Garcia-Rivera and Dusty Reed with the 2023-2024 Wyss Scholars award. Chosen for their commitment to the field of conservation and proven leadership qualities, the students are pursuing their interdisciplinary graduate studies to shape effective new approaches to meet emerging environmental challenges.  

The scholarship awards funding for graduate tuition at NAU, a $5,000 summer internship stipend and post-graduation payments for up to two years while the Wyss Scholars launch their professional careers in conservation.  


Isaiah Meza

Meza, a first-generation student, grew up in the New Mexican high desert, where he cultivated a deep physical and spiritual connection to public lands. These experiences shaped his devotion to western landscapes.  

“I feel a deep sense of gratitude and privilege to be chosen as a Wyss scholar,” Meza said. “As an underrepresented student, it has strengthened my conviction to be a groundbreaker at the conservation science-policy nexus. The scholarship resources have removed the financial challenges of attending graduate school and provided me with an opportunity to work with the Grand Canyon National Park—positioning me to advance my conservation career.”  

Adriana Garcia-Rivera

Adriana Garcia-Rivera backpacks in desertGarcia-Rivera, who is from Phoenix,, earned her undergraduate degree in environmental and sustainability studies at NAU before enrolling in the master’s program in environmental science andpolicy. Her research is working to restore the Emory oak, a cultural keystone species for the Western Apache tribe, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and tribal members.  

“I am deeply grateful for this Wyss conservation scholarship,” Garcia-Rivera said. “Becoming a Wyss scholar has already been a transformative and enriching experience, opening up doors to meeting scholars from across the nation, broadening my perspectives and elevating my enthusiasm.”  

Dusty Reed

Dusty Reed stands in front of cliffs at sunsetReed grew up in the mountains of northwestern Colorado. His formative years were spent exploring the outdoors and learning about his local ecosystems. He had an interest in science and conservation from a young age and always knew that he wanted to work outdoors. Following his undergraduate degree at Prescott College, Reed worked for eight years in environmental education, wilderness leadership and conservation monitoring before returning to Arizona for his master’s degree in environmental science and policy.  

“I am extremely honored to be selected as a Wyss Scholar,” Reed said. “It has allowed me to broaden my research experiences and explore conservation issues with other Wyss scholars to better understand the policy and legal opportunities for increased conservation efficacy.”   


Erik Nielsen, professor of environmental science and policy in the School of Earth and Sustainability, said the scholarship highlights the impressive work being done by these students; the Wyss Foundation’s support. will enable them to continue careers protecting and restoring landscapes that are important to diverse populations in Southwest and throughout the world. 

“These Wyss Scholars are creative, accomplished and committed to using science to advance conservation practices,” he said. “Their real impact will be in their roles as conservation leaders bringing new insights and approaches to conserving land and wildlife resources for future generations.”  

The highly competitive Wyss Scholars program is available to students attending innovative conservation programs at universities from diverse parts of the country, including NAU, Yale University, University of Michigan, Lewis and Clark College-Environmental Law, University of Colorado, and the University of Montana. All six schools are known for their leading programs in the fields of law and environmental sciences and policy. 

For more information about the Wyss Scholars Program at NAU, contact Nielsen at 

NAU Communications