UM Students Become Wyss Conservation Scholars

April 04, 2019

MISSOULA – Four University of Montana students have been named 2019-20 Wyss Scholars for Conservation in the American West.

This year’s scholars are Anna Wearn from Portland, Oregon; Taylor Simpson from Rome, Georgia; Hannah Leonard from Missoula; and Daniel Brister from Arlee.

The Wyss Scholars Program provides financial support to UM students who have committed to careers in Western land conservation with a federal or state land management agency or at a nonprofit in the region. It is Anna Wearnfunded through the Wyss Foundation, a private charitable foundation dedicated to supporting innovative, lasting solutions that improve lives, empower communities and strengthen connections to the land.

Wearn holds degrees in geography and Spanish from Dartmouth College. She worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco prior to joining UM’s Environmental Studies master’s program in fall 2018. Wearn currently is a National Forest Foundation Conservation Connect Fellow and Environmental Law teaching assistant. Her goal as a Wyss Scholar is to “learn how to develop, effectively advocate for and implement scientifically informed policies Taylor Simpsonthat safeguard critical habitat for the benefit of threatened species and local communities.”

Simpson has a degree from Montana State University in biological sciences with a concentration in ecology and conservation biology. He also entered UM’s Environmental Studies master’s program last fall, focusing primarily on policy coursework prior to undertaking his Juris Doctorate in the Blewett School of Law later this year. He believes the joint degree program will provide a “diverse science-based background to conservation initiatives” involving wildlife and lands in the West.

Hannah LeonardLeonard earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from UM before pursuing a master’s degree in resource conservation at the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation. Using the field of marketing in terms of data collection and analysis is necessary for public land conservation, she says, as resources in our world become limited. Leonard seeks to work with a variety of stakeholders on the collaborative goal of preserving the lands she calls home.

Daniel BristerBrister received his master’s degree in environmental studies from UM and is in his second year of the Juris Doctorate program in the Blewett School of Law. He has a long history of environmental advocacy and served as the executive director of the Buffalo Field Campaign, from which he wrote a book of essays on the herds of Yellowstone. “I will spend the rest of my life working with grassroots nonprofit conservation organizations and the tribes in fighting to protect the unique wild landscapes and species of the West,” he said.

To read more about Wyss Conservation Scholars, visit


Contact: Julie Tompkins, UM Environmental Studies program, 406-243-6284,