What Drives SAEMS?

At SAEMS, we are driven to help empower those individuals who want to experience meaningful and rewarding careers in environmental sciences. For that reason, we have developed several scholarships throughout the years. Some of these are scholarships have come from partnerships with local government entities and corporations, while others are through internal fundraising efforts.


Whether you’re applying for one of our scholarships or curious about our past winners, read on to meet some of the lucky — and talented — people who’ve earned various scholarships sponsored by SAEMS.


SAEMS 2017-2018 Scholarship Winners Announced

Thanks to proceeds from SAEMS annual seminar fees and sponsorships, the organization awarded a total of $10,500 in scholarships to 10 very deserving University of Arizona students. The initial 32 applicants requested more than $100,000 in scholarships. With many outstanding undergraduate and graduate students, the SAEMS scholarship committee had a difficult task narrowing the applicants to 14 finalists, and determining the final awards.


Camila Madeira, a Graduate student in Environmental Engineering (with a minor in Environmental Science) was the First Place Scholarship Winner overall, and was awarded the Woody Turner Honorary donated by B.J. Cordova.


Diego Martinez-Lugo, a student in both Geography and Environmental Studies, was the Undergraduate Level First Place Winner.


Additional Graduate Level Winners Included:

  • Mojtaba Azadi – Environmental Engineering/Chemical Engineering
  • John Feather – Chemical Engineering/Chemistry
  • Warren Kadoya – Environmental Engineering
  • Derek Koller – Public Health – Industrial Hygiene
  • Gloria Jimenez – Geosciences/Global Change

Additional Undergraduate Winners Included:

  • Rayanna Benally – Natural Resources
  • Mely Bohlman – Environmental Sciences/Sustainable Plant Systems and Spanish/Portuguese
  • Tasnim Zahlan – Public Health, Global Studies, and Arabic

Thank you to B.J. Cordova, SAEMS Education Chair (Tucson Clean & Beautiful), along with scholarship reviewer Dawn Weyer (Pima Community College), and interviewers Erin Lansey (HDR, Inc.) and Max DiSante (Turner Laboratories) for their dedication in assisting with applications! Our thanks as well to the University of Arizona Foundation (Iran Andrade) for providing meeting space on campus for the interviews. Scholarships awards are based on both merit and financial need. Scholarship winners and interested students are also provided a SAEMS membership to encourage continued academic and professional growth through interaction with environmental professionals.

SAEMS 2016-2017 Scholarship Winners Announced

The SAEMS Scholarship Committee Members (B.J. Cordova, SAEMS Education Chair; with the assistance of Max DiSante, Erin Lansey, Nancy Turner, and Dawn Weyer) reviewed nearly 30 applications and conducted interviews with more than a dozen scholarship finalists. Ten University of Arizona students were selected to be recipients of SAEMS scholarship awards of between $500 and $1,800 for a total of $10,200 for the 2016-2017 school year!


As the committee’s top-rated applicant, Sarah Richman, Graduate Student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was the recipient of the Lynn Straughn Honorary Scholarship!


Additional graduate-level winners included:

  • Noelle Espinosa
  • Nicolas Lopez-Galvez
  • Luke Parsons
  • Jessie Pearl
  • Chao Zeng

 Undergraduate level winners included:

  • Rayanna Benally
  • Sandi Garrick
  • Trevor Ledbetter

Thank you to all who contributed to the success of SAEMS seminar events, which help to make these scholarships possible. Special appreciation to Nancy Turner for her additional personal contribution to the scholarship fund, in memory of Lynn Straughn (SAEMS Treasurer 1989-1990, SAEMS President 1990-1991).

SAEMS 2015-2016 Scholarship Winners Announced

SAEMS was proud to announce its 2015-2016 environmental studies scholarship awards. As a volunteer-run organization, SAEMS is committed to enhancing environmental education opportunities and developing innovative future environmental leaders. Proceeds from the organization’s environmental professional development seminars and sponsor donations support communitywide environmental education efforts including scholarships for students in the environmental field.


The SAEMS Scholarship Committee consisted of:  B.J. Cordova, of Tucson Clean & Beautiful, Inc.; Terri Garcia, of Turner Laboratories; and Kim Stone, of Sanofi. The committee awarded a total of $11,500 in scholarships to several University of Arizona students. A portion of this amount was a special honorary donated by the Arizona Laboratory Association honoring retiring SAEMS and ALA member Nancy Turner. Award recognition, student awardees, and their respective majors included:


Nancy Turner Honorary Scholarship:
–              Guangbin Li (Environmental Engineering Grad Student)


Nancy Turner Honorary Research & Travel funding:
–              Amanda Veals (Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation & Management Grad Student)
–              Emily Soderberg (Sustainable Built Environments Undergraduate Student)


Graduate Student Scholarships:
–              Mojtaba Azadi Aghdam (Environmental Engineering)
–              Noelle Espinosa (Watershed Management & Ecohydrology)
–              Bridget Guiza (Planning)


Undergraduate Student Scholarships:
–              Cynthia Hernandez (Environmental Science)
–              Trevor Ledbetter (Environmental Science and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology)
–              Derek Koller (Public Health/Environmental & Occupational Safety & Health)


Scholarships awards are based on both merit and financial need. Scholarship winners and interested students are also provided a SAEMS membership to encourage continued academic and professional growth through interaction with environmental professionals.

2015 Tucson Clean and Beautiful (TCB) Youth Environmental Education Mini-Grants

TCB, in cooperation with Southern Arizona Environmental Management Society and Arizona Native Plant Society-Tucson Chapter, awarded $4,000 in mini-grants plus more than 130 trees, tools, and additional technical assistance to 11 Tucson area schools over the year! Applicants received a cash grant of up to $500 for environmental improvements, assistance with tools, and/or up to 30 trees and related technical assistance for a school site planting project through Trees for Tucson. In cooperation with Girl Scout Troop # 4 several schools and neighborhoods plus TCB’s office also now have Little Free Libraries made from repurposed and redecorated newspaper vending bins!


2015 grant winners included:

    • Tucson Unified School District: Borton Magnet; Davis Bilingual Elem.; Mary Belle McCorkle K-8 (tools); and Henry Elementary (trees)
    • Sunnyside Unified School District: STAR Academic Center
    • Vail Unified School District: Cienega High School
    • Marana School District: Tortolita Middle School
    • Sahuarita Unified School District: Sahuarita Middle School (trees only)
    • Private/charter: International School of Tucson; Western Institute for Leadership Development; and St. John the Evangelist School.

Congratulations, and we look forward to seeing the progress on these projects! Please call ((520) 837-6832or email to receive future grant round announcements.


Update on Mini-Grant Winner – International School of Tucson (IST) Garden

International School of Tucson (located at the former Jefferson Park Elementary site) – Their garden is complete/ongoing now, and they will also be working with the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association (JPNA) on tree planting efforts in the fall via this grant.


From Joan Hall, President of JPNA: Subject: JPNA: The rain garden is done! Hi Everybody, Thanks to everybody who showed up to help install the rain garden at the entrance to IST, and the basins on the north side. The butterflies were already circling as we finished. Next planned workshop will be planting more trees in the right of way on the west side of the school – scheduled for Sept. By the way, did you know that IST offers “proximity” scholarships? Yes, the closer you live, the less you pay. A benefit to JPNers. Now, pray for rain!!

SAEMS 2014 Scholarship Winners – University of Arizona 2014-2015 Academic Year

The SAEMS Education Committee awarded a total of $10,500 in scholarships to University of Arizona students in support of their environmental studies for the 2014-2015 academic year, based on a combination of merit and financial need. SAEMS scholarship winners and selected Honorable Mention interviewees were also provided a SAEMS membership to encourage their continued academic and professional growth through interaction with other environmental professionals. Even with slightly fewer applications than in past years, with the high quality of applicants, the committee had a difficult task selecting interviewees and awarding scholarships. Winners included:


  • 1st Place Undergraduate Student Scholarship Winner: Derek Koller
  • 2nd Place (Tie) Undergraduate Student Scholarship Winner: Kaitlyn A. Elkind and Taylor Sanders
  • 3rd Place (Tie) Undergraduate Student Scholarship Winner: Chloe Jackson and Rachel Wehr
  • 1st Place Graduate Student Scholarship Winner: Valerie Rountree *(was also last year’s 2nd place winner)
  • Graduate Student Research, Travel, Training & Project Funding: Ling-Yee Huang, Chase Voirin, Christopher Olivares, and Daphne J. Szutu
  • Honorable Mention: Emily Pecilunas(Undergraduate); Frank Zadroga (Graduate)

SAEMS appreciates all attendees and sponsors of SAEMS’ periodic seminars which help fund the scholarships, with thanks to interviewers B.J. Cordova (Tucson Clean & Beautiful), Nancy Turner (Turner Laboratories), and Kim Stone(Sanofi), and special thanks to Nancy Turner, who personally donated $500 to increase

2014 Tucson Clean and Beautiful Youth Environmental Education Mini-Grants

A combined review committee consisting of SAEMS members along with Tucson Clean & Beautiful (TCB) and the Arizona Native Plant Society awarded $2,500 in school environmental project funds. Five schools from throughout the Tucson area applied and were approved for funding. Review committee members presented checks for the allocated funding, along with additional feedback and ideas for other potential resources that may assist the schools’ projects.


New applicants included Cottonwood Elementary, which planned to build a Desert Tortoise Habitat, Canyon del Oro High School, which planned a Campus Beautification Project, and Sky Islands Public High School, which planned a Courtyard Habitat Restoration. Returning applicants for expanded and continuing efforts were also improved, including a Butterfly Habitat and Passive Water Harvesting project at Borton School, plus continued improvements at the Student/Community Garden at Rio Vista Elementary.


An additional $800 contributed by TCB, but not needed in this grant cycle, was allocated to a new TCB education program piloted in the summer, focusing on prevention and removal of graffiti by youth.


Thank you SAEMS members and our partnering groups for supporting and funding environmental education throughout Southern Arizona!


Update on Mini-Grant Winner – Tortoise Habitat Project Update November 23, 2014, Submitted by Lorena Sutton, Cottonwood Elementary


We have successfully met and exceeded all of our project objectives with the exception of our dedication assembly. Our tortoise was adopted and placed in its habitat during fall break, but our students and families have spent a lot of time visiting the habitat and learning more about her. Our Coyote Patrol made announcements in each classroom and gave students reminders about how to keep her safe. Our principal introduced her on CometTV (our school broadcast) and we have a few “tortoise thoughts” boxes around campus for questions and comments. Students voted on the name Sassy! We currently have 4th and 5th graders on Tortoise Habitat duty to ensure its safety. It is also used as an incentive for positive behavior for all students. We also invited our preschoolers to meet her and learn about the conservation of desert tortoises. We are all very excited about having her on campus and look forward to the countless learning opportunities in the future.


Because of the generous donations of labor and project materials, we actually still have money left over from the grant. We spent a total of $271.52 on plants and materials for the irrigation and burrow. Project materials were donated by Cabco. Labor services were completed by district employees and volunteers (mostly my husband). We plan on ordering a few signs to promote awareness and a few decorative rocks with the remaining funds. Thank you so much for helping us make this project a reality!

Tucson Clean and Beautiful Youth Environmental Education Mini-Grants for 2013

SAEMS helped to fund two environmental education mini-grants for Tucson area schools. In order to qualify, applications were submitted by schools for environmental education and/or improvement projects, including those relating to recycling and waste reduction, community cleanup/beautification, invasive plant removal/native plant/habitat restoration, school-community gardens, or other similar projects; projects had to involve youth from Tucson-Pima County K-12 school or community education groups; proposals had to demonstrate how youth are included in planning and implementing the project; funds for site improvements relating to the youth project had to be used at schools, nonprofit organizations, or public/publicly-accessible sites; applicants had to agree to project progress site visits, photography and publication of implemented project, and submission of a final project summary. A final on-site presentation or dedication was suggested.


The mini-grants funded by SAEMS were awarded to Andrada Polytechnic High School, a relatively new school in Vail, which received a $500 grant for their greenhouse, and Drachman Montessori Magnet School’s PTA, which also received $500 grant for their campus ecology project. The grants were awarded through a process led by Tucson Clean & Beautiful, through which seven schools were awarded a total of $3,300 in funds to help jump-start their students’ hands-on learning about the environment. In addition to funds provided by SAEMS and TCB, the Arizona Native Plant Society was another partner in this effort. Stay tuned for more updates on these projects!


Update on Mini-Grant Winner – Drachman Elementary


Drachman Elementary School is a Tucson Unified School District Montessori Primary School. During the 2011-2012 school year, students were introduced to reclamation ecology through a partnership with the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank. The students enjoyed composting and teachers looked for a safe and convenient alternative to digging a hole. The grant funds received were used to purchase compost tumblers. They have a total of five, one for every day of the week. The students and staff really appreciate these easy to use tumblers and on inspection, no cheese or meat was found! The tumblers are emptied into the compost area where temperatures are on the rise.