Willamette alumna earns national environmental graduate fellowship

Willamette University alumna Mariah Mayfield '07 is a recipient of the prestigious Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowship, an award that will help her pursue her master's of science in fisheries management.

The fellowship provides up to $37,000 per year towards master's or doctoral studies in environmental fields. Students across the nation from diverse fields compete for the award — from traditional environmental science to social anthropology to decision sciences.

Mayfield majored in biology at Willamette and is currently enrolled in a master's program at Montana State University. She plans to use her fellowship to support her study of trout populations and movement in the Upper Clark Fork River Superfund site near Butte, Montana, where deposits of hard rock mining wastes in the early 20th century polluted the river and surrounding area.

"I radio track fish and measure water quality to try to find out what habitat types fish are using during different environmental conditions and how movement patterns change in regards to environmental factors," she says. "The goal of my project is to identify areas of the river that should be priority for restoration."

Besides giving her a solid education, Willamette provided Mayfield with diverse experiences and broadened horizons that shaped her into a worthy candidate for the fellowship, she says.

"The STAR Fellowship does not just look for students who have a great project — they look for students with the most academic, research and volunteer experience, and the potential for your project to benefit environmental and human health. I think that my time at Willamette really helped me to have well-rounded interests and a passion for outreach and education."

Mayfield's career goals parallel those passions — she hopes to continue working with native fish conservation and stream habitat restoration, and eventually do research for a non-profit organization. She acknowledges Willamette's focus on community and her small-school experience for pointing her in the right direction.

"There really is an attitude at Willamette of trying to better the world, and I think that studying in that environment made me want to conduct research that has the potential to really improve the environment," she says. "Willamette also prepared me well for graduate school. My graduate professors routinely comment on my ability to synthesize difficult concepts and to express my ideas clearly, and I think that is entirely thanks to my liberal arts background."

For more information on national scholarships for students, visit Student Academic Grants and Awards.