The Utom Conservation Fund Scholarship/Fellowship Programs are managed by a consortium of groups* that are dedicated to protecting the Utom River and its watershed in southern California. We are passionate about the region, its wildlife, culture, botany and waters. In an effort to further protections and interest for this remarkable landscape we are dedicating a portion of our funds to students that share our passion for the natural world and the cultural integrity of the area. We have a Scholarship program that is open to high school and undergrad students that live within the Utom watershed and a Fellowship program for Graduate students that are focused on the health and well being of the Utom river.
|For Immediate Release, October 30, 2023
Mati Waiya, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, (805) 667-7818, [email protected]
Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 907-1533, [email protected]
Mike Traphagen, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, (805) 688-7997, [email protected]
Liv O’Keeffe, California Native Plant Society, (916) 738-7602, [email protected]
Students Receive Nearly $17K for Utom Conservation Studies Scholarship, Fellowship Aimed at Protecting Southern California Watershed
VENTURA COUNTY, Calif.— The Utom Conservation Fund announced today that it has awarded nearly $17,000 to Southern California students committed to protecting the Santa Clara River, also known as Utom.
This is the second year that a group of cultural and environmental organizations has awarded scholarships and fellowships to students dedicated to protecting Utom, a 116-mile-long river flowing from the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County to the Pacific Ocean in Ventura County.
“We want to see the iša kowoč, or steelhead, recover in healthy and sustainable numbers,” said Mati Waiya, executive director of the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation. “To achieve this, we must maintain the ongoing efforts to protect the living river ecosystem. Southern California steelhead are a vital cultural keystone species and our relatives. They are currently facing high risk of extinction. Culture bearers and students are key to advancing much needed and ongoing protections. It is our hope that these scholarships will be of meaningful assistance to students in accomplishing their work.”
“The future of this unique and ecologically important watershed depends on the investments we make today,” said Peter Galvin, cofounder and director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If we want people and wildlife to enjoy a flowing Utom for generations to come, it’ll require fresh conservation ideas from today’s students.”
This year’s fellowship, worth $12,000, was awarded to Christian Cormier, a biology student at Cal Poly Pomona. Two scholarships worth $2,000 each were awarded to Daija Patterson, a biology student at UCLA, and Nathan To, a mathematics student at UC Santa Cruz.
“It’s an honor to be chosen for this fellowship and a great privilege to be able to study the avian ecology of the Utom watershed,” said Cormier.
“I am grateful and honored to the Utom Conservation Fund for awarding me this scholarship and support,” said Patterson.
The Utom watershed is a biodiversity hotspot with more than 110 special-status species, including California red-legged frogs, arroyo toads and unarmored threespine sticklebacks. The Chumash people call this river Utom, or Phantom River, because water flow comes and goes like a phantom.
“We are heartened to see continued student interest in studying Utom and identifying the best ways to protect it,” said Kenneth Kahn, Tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “Our tribe is proud to contribute to the Utom Conservation Fund and help these students pursue their educational goals.”
“The Utom watershed is home to some of California’s most unique plants and habitats,” said Nick Jensen, conservation program director at the California Native Plant Society. “As a long-time partner in the effort to understand and protect this special place, CNPS is incredibly proud to support the next generation of conservation stewards of Utom and the biodiversity it supports.
”The scholarship and fellowship is managed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the California Native Plant Society. The Utom Conservation Fund was established with settlement funds from litigation to protect this unique watershed.
In 2022 the Utom Conservation Fund awarded $60,000 in scholarships and fellowships to students dedicated to the conservation of the Utom River. Please see the press release below for more on our 2022 awards.
The application process for the 2023/2024 Scholarships/Fellowships will open on June 1st 2023. For more information the Scholarship criteria and application please click here. For more information on the Fellowship criteria and application please click here.
For Immediate Release, November 30, 2022
|Mati Waiya, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, (805) 794-1248
Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 907-1533
Mike Traphagen, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, (805) 688-7997
$60K Awarded to Students Focused on Protecting Southern California’s Signature River
Scholarship, Fellowship Highlight Need to Conserve Utom Watershed
VENTURA COUNTY, Calif.— The Utom Conservation Fund, a group of cultural and environmental organizations, has awarded $60,000 in scholarships and fellowships to students dedicated to the conservation of the Santa Clara River, also known as Utom.
Five undergraduate students received scholarships of $2,000 each and four graduate students received fellowships of $12,500 each to further their study and research in watershed and environmental protection.
Utom is a 116-mile river that flows from the Angeles National Forest in northern Los Angeles County to Ventura County, where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. The Chumash people named it Utom, or Phantom River, because water flow can come and go like a phantom. The watershed is home to more than 110 special-status species, including California red-legged frogs, arroyo toads and unarmored threespine sticklebacks.
“We’re honored to help support the next generation of water protectors, scientists and cultural practitioners on the Utom,” said Mati Waiya, founder and executive director of Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation. “Our investment in these scholars is an investment toward the enormous amount of work needed to protect the natural flow and kinship relationships between the diversity of species that exist throughout the river ecosystem, especially in the face of climate change and ongoing drought.”
“The future of this biologically diverse watershed depends on the commitment of dedicated scientists and activists like these students,” said Peter Galvin, cofounder and director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As California enters its fourth consecutive year of a severe drought, it’s more important than ever to invest in ways to keep this special river flowing in its natural state.”
The nine recipients are students from colleges and universities across Southern California. Four graduate students who are pursuing their master’s degree or doctorate, with research projects specific to Utom, were selected.
“It is an honor to receive the Utom Conservation Fund Fellowship, which will support my doctoral research on how changing flows along the Utom River affect people and biodiversity,” said Melissa von Mayrhauser, a fellowship recipient studying environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley. “I hope this research will provide local partners with valuable data and support future restoration efforts in this beloved Southern California watershed in the ancestral homelands of the Chumash people.”
Also receiving a fellowship are: Rachel Bockrath, who is studying biology at Cal State Polytechnic University in Pomona; Noah Szceszinksi, who is studying biology and plant ecology at Cal State Polytechnic University, Pomona; and Lyna Ngor, who is studying environmental science and entomology at UC Riverside.
The five scholarship recipients are undergraduate students who show passion and dedication for protecting the environment and the Utom watershed. They are: Misheel Unur and Caroline Shoemake from College of the Canyons, Sarah Azzoto from Cal State University Northridge, Claire Kosek from Occidental College and Kenna Gonzales from UC Berkeley.
“Our tribe is proud to help these exceptional students pursue their educational goals through scholarships and fellowships from the Utom Conservation Fund,” said Kenneth Kahn, Tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “We are inspired by their passion for the environment and hope their studies result in new insights on how best to protect the Utom River and the surrounding landscape.”
The Utom Conservation Fund Scholarship and Fellowship is managed by the Center, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the California Native Plant Society. The Utom Conservation Fund was established with settlement money from litigation to protect this unique watershed.