Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship: How to Apply

The 2024 application cycle has closed.

The Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship seeks to encourage individuals who have the potential to make a significant positive difference in understanding wilderness and how to protect it. The scholarship is available to currently qualified graduate students in the United States. It was created in honor of Gloria Barron, a dedicated educator and tireless advocate for wilderness protection.


To think like a mountain, as one of the founders of the Wilderness Society, Aldo Leopold, urged, is to take the long view of life on Earth.  To see the forests, air, water, and other species of this planet as permanent parts of ourselves.  For our well-being is unalterably tied to the well-being of the planet, just as human history is unalterably tied to geologic history.

This attitude guided my mother, Gloria Barron, throughout her long life.  As a conservationist, teacher, civic volunteer, parent, and lifelong learner, she walked lightly on the land and encouraged others to do so.  That is why I created, in 1987, the Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship—to honor this inspiring conservationist and to support conservation leaders of the future.

The goal of this scholarship, is—like the goal of The Wilderness Society—both bold and simple.  While the Society seeks to protect America’s wilderness forever, the scholarship hopes to encourage some of our nation’s best conservationists at a crucial point in their careers.  We want nothing less than to identify, support, and honor the future Aldo Leopolds in our midst—as well as future Rachel Carsons, Mardy Muries, John Muirs, Howard Zahnisers, Bob Marshalls, Rue Mapps and Gaylord Nelsons.

Our nation needs such visionary, capable conservationists.  So does our planet.  For the ultimate key to our survival—spiritually as well as physically—is to think like a mountain.


T.A. Barron

December, 2007

Two separate awards of $25,000 each will be given to two graduate students to support their research and preparation of a paper on an aspect of wilderness.

The Wilderness Society recently completed a strategic plan that identified two priorities: (1) Make public lands a solution to the climate and extinction crises by securing a resilient, continental network of landscapes and eliminating climate-changing emissions, and (2) Transform conservation policy and practice so all people benefit equitably from public lands. We are seeking applications from graduate students who’s work supports these priorities. Within this context, we are particularly interested in research projects that focus on one of three areas: (1) Conservation on and management of Bureau of Land Management lands, (2) Conservation of Old Growth Forests, and (3) Conservation in the Arctic. Proposals that focus on one of these three areas will be given priority. Within these three areas, research proposals can address topics as wide as biodiversity protection, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the social and ecological context of landscape conservation, among others.

Eligibility requirements

Graduate students meeting the eligibility requirements noted below may apply directly to The Wilderness Society. If you are an applicant, please make sure you meet all of the scholarship eligibility requirements, and follow the application procedures below. We welcome applicants from diverse academic disciplines, regions, and universities. 

Applicants for the Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship must:

  • Be currently enrolled in an accredited graduate institution in the United States at the time of application;
  • Have strong academic qualifications; and
  • Have academic and/or career goals focused on making a significant positive difference in the long-term protection of wilderness in the United States. 

Application requirements

Students applying for the Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship must submit all of the following materials in PDF format combined into one document for an application to be considered complete:

  • A two-page double-spaced cover letter
    The letter must offer insights into the personal motivations of the applicant as well as how wilderness has influenced your life. 
  • A 3-5 page double-spaced proposal
    The proposal must include a description of the proposed work and a timeline for the completion of a paper within 24 months. The 5-page proposal limit includes any images/tables/charts, but does not include your list of references/citations. Please use 12-point font with 1-inch margins. See Research Topics for guidelines. Within your proposal, please identify 1-3 TWS staff members you would be interested in interacting with during your time as a Gloria Barron Scholar, and explain how that interaction would benefit your project. See staff bios at
  • A current résumé or curriculum vitae
  • Two letters of recommendation
    The letters must describe the applicant's ability to meet the objectives of the scholarship and proposed work. One letter should be from the applicant’s major professor, advisor, or committee chair indicating support for the applicant’s project. The letters can be included with the rest of the application materials, or emailed to
  • Scanned undergraduate and graduate transcripts (official or unofficial).
  • 1-page budget summarizing how funds will be spent. The Gloria Barron Scholarship can be used for a wide range of costs and activities to support the scholar in their research and career development. Example expenses can include (but aren’t limited to) summer salary, school year stipend, travel expenses, conference fees, training workshops, research materials and supplies, etc.

Please ensure that any documents you include in your application (particularly your transcripts) are not password protected.

Research Topics

The research paper should address an aspect of the establishment, protection, or management of wilderness. The applicant may choose to discuss a subject relevant to current programs of The Wilderness Society or introduce a new topic. Proposed work may apply to a particular landscape or it may address issues broadly.

Scholarship Timeline

Typically, applications are accepted from late January to mid-April. Our selection committee reviews the applications and narrows the field to the top submissions. The Wilderness Society’s Governing Council then reviews those applications and selects the recipient in mid-July.

Scholarship Payments

The total amount of the scholarship, paid in two installments, is $25,000. The first installment is paid after the winners are notified in mid-July. The second payment will be made the following February after the recipient submits a short (~2 page) progress report and presents a short update via video call to science and conservation staff at The Wilderness Society on the status of the project 

The recipient may be liable for income tax on the scholarship. Please consult with your tax advisor on the proper treatment of the award. 

Additional funding may be available to pay travel expenses for the recipient to work with staff members of The Wilderness Society on this project. TWS wishes to encourage the publication of this work in an academic journal or other appropriate medium and has additional funds to help cover expenses of publishing and publicizing the final paper.  

Progress and Final Reports

In order to receive the second payment, the recipient must send a short (~2 page) progress report and present an update to TWS science staff. The progress report and presentation should describe the status of the project, preliminary results (if available), and the expected completion date of their research project. Recipients are also required to present a webinar presentation to The Wilderness Society staff within two years of receiving the award.

How to Apply:

The 2024 cycle has closed.

For more information, contact:

Mariah Meek, Director of Research

No phone calls please.

The Wilderness Society is an equal opportunity employer and actively works to ensure fair treatment of our employees and constituents across culture, socioeconomic status, race, marital or family situation, gender, age, ethnicity, religious beliefs, physical ability, veteran status or sexual orientation.

As an organization, we aspire to be inclusive in the work that we do and in the kind of organization we are.  Internally, this means working as a team that listens to different points of view, recognizes the contributions of every employee, and empowers each employee to bring their whole selves to work every day.  Externally, this means ensuring that public lands are inclusive and welcoming so that our shared wildlands can help people and nature to thrive.  We are committed to equity throughout our work, which we define as our commitment to realizing the promise of our public lands and ensuring that all can share in their universal benefits.

To learn more about our commitment, please see Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Gloria Barron Scholarship winners 1998 to present

2023 Kelsey Miller, Simon Fraser University
Co-Creating Equitable Pathways with Indigenous Nations toward Climate Impact Assessments of the California Coastal Wilderness

2023 Lee Toomey, University of Vermont
Restoring Our Floodplains Together

2022 Alexii Sigona, University of California                                                                                                                 Berkeley Achieving Equity Through Indigenous Co-Management

2022 Tracy Melvin, Michigan State University                                                                                                             Rapid biological inventories to assess potential for introducing functional grazers to steward biodiversity and complexity in a novel, climate-transformed landscape

2021 Mark Kreider, University of Montana, Missoula
Achieving ecological and environmental justice goals through the protected area network

2020  Maria Jesus, Claremont Graduate University
Using natural history collections and community science to protect wildlands of the California Desert

2019 Cristina Watkins, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Wilderness and Social Equity: Connecting Wilderness Benefits to a Diverse Society

2018 Annie Kellner, Colorado State University
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) terrestrial ecology within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and beyond

2017 Joan Dudney, University of California, Berkeley
Developing a science-based management plan for white pines in the southern Sierra Nevada

2016 Caitlyn Littlefield, University of Washington
Assessing potential climate refugia in the North Cascades

2015 Matthew Williamson, University of California, Davis
Quantifying the contribution of currently and potentially protected areas to climate adaptation: Centrality in the Northern Rockies

2014 Dominique M. Davíd-Chavez, Colorado State University
Whitebark pine distribution:  adaptation in a changing climate

2013 Adriana Zuniga, University of Arizona
From neighborhoods to wellbeing and conservation: optimizing the usage of natural open spaces through design

2012 Johanna Varner, University of Utah 
Too hot to trot? Connecting urban youth to wilderness areas through a collaborative climate change research initiative 

2012 Sarah Bisbing, Colorado State University
Conserving the Adaptive Potential of Western Forests: Using range-wide patterns of genetic population structure and niche modeling to predict the response of Pinus contorta to climatic change

2012 Jennifer Thornhill, George Mason University
Can New Metrics Help Us Bridge the Gap? A case study in the measurement of scientific literature’s impact on decision making.

2011 Lauren Oakes, Stanford University
Managing Forest Communities in a Changing Climate: Social and Ecological Responses to Yellow-Cedar Decline in Southeast Alaska’s Coastal Rainforests

2010 Rose Graves, University of Vermont
Re-Wilding the Northeast: Strategic Wilderness Reserve Design and Connectivity Conservation in the Northern Appalachian Ecoregion

2009 University of Michigan Jesse Fernandes, Natalie Flynn, Samantha Gibbes, Matt Griffis, Takahiro Isshiki, Sean Killian, Laura Palombi, Nerissa Rujanavech, Sarah Tomsky, and Merry Tondro
Renewable Energy in the California Desert: Mechanisms for Evaluating Solar Development on Public Lands

2008 Travis Belote, Virginia Tech
The Influence of Land Use on Ecosystem Carbon Capture and Biodiversity: The Role of Wilderness Areas in Maintaining Regional Productivity and Species Diversity

2008 Crystal Krause, Northern Arizona University
Conservation Ecology of Endemic Plant Species within the Greater Colorado River Corridor: Potential Climate Change Impacts on Range Shifts

2007 Stacey Schulte, University of Colorado
Environmental Implications of Benefits-based Management of BLM Lands

2005 Peter Morgan, Stanford Law School
Creating Buffers and Connectors for Wilderness Reserves

2004 Pauline Gaden, John Hopkins University
An Initiative to Support the Proposed Expansion of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park by Demonstrating Economic and Ecological Benefits

2003 Zack Holden, University of Idaho
Evaluating the Effects of 25 Years of Wildland Fire Use on Southwestern Ponderosa Pine Forests: Tree Mortality and Stand Structure

2002 Stacy Clark, Oklahoma State University
Restoration and Management Research for Ancient Cross Timbers Forest

2001 Monique Rocca, Duke University
Incorporating Spatial Variability into Fire Restoration Plans: What Kinds of Heterogeneity Matter to Plants

2000 David Lewis, Oregon State University
Land Conservation and Economic Growth in the Northern Forest

1999 Marcus Renner, University of Wisconsin-Madison
A Citizen's guide to Education and Outreach for Community-based Conservation Programs

1998 David Pilliod Introduction of Fish to Wilderness Lakes without Existing Predatory Fish

1998 Christina Cromley
Learning from and Improving Bison Management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem