Get Involved

Wild Fish For All Scholarship

Academic Scholarship for BIPOC in Fisheries Conservation

Wild Fish For All Scholarship - Application due November 15, 2023

Academic Scholarship for BIPOC in Fisheries Conservation

The Native Fish Society believes that supporting diverse voices builds a groundswell for the revival of abundant wild fish in the Pacific Northwest. To elevate these diverse voices and breakdown barriers to racial and gender diversity in fisheries conservation, we created the Wild Fish For All scholarship. In 2023, we are again joined by the Tualatin Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and will be offering two Wild Fish For All Scholarships.


Two students will be selected this year as our Wild Fish For All Scholars. We will provide the winners with a $1,000 scholarship to put toward college tuition, fees, housing, and books. The top five applicants will also receive a free one-year membership to the Native Fish Society.


  • Identify as BIPOC; BIPOC women strongly encouraged to apply.

  • Passionate about reviving abundant wild fish, free-flowing rivers, and thriving local communities in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Enrolled in a fisheries conservation program or demonstrable academic focus or project/work experience on fisheries science, conservation, or policy.

    • If you're not sure you qualify please contact us at

How to Apply:

  • Send a 500-word essay on the following question: Why do wild, native fish matter to you, your homewaters, and your region?

    • Don’t worry about the exact word count; just aim for around 500 words.

  • Include one letter of recommendation from a person in your department

  • Email these items to with the subject “Wild Fish For All Scholarship Application” or fill out the application directly in the form below.


November 15, 2023

Wild Fish For All 2023 Scholarship Application

Maria Kuruvilla
Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management (QERM) Program, University of Washington

My ancestral land has lush rainforests, rivers fed by incessant rains, estuaries teeming with fish, a mountain range to the east that provides wild food to the native tribes and the ocean to the west that feeds the coastal communities. Although this sounds lot like the Pacific Northwest, I am describing Kerala, a small state in South India. While my family moved to Bangalore, a nearby city, for better job opportunities, all my summers were spent in my grandparents’ farm gathering fruits and having fish atleast for one of the meals of the day. Living of the land and subsistence fishing was not just important to our family but it defines the culture of Kerala. As with other biodiversity hotspots, the fish in Kerala are threatened by climate change, habitat loss and the introduction of other species during colonialism.

The Pacific Northwest is the only other place that I have visited where I have seen the land, rivers and animals having a cultural importance in the lives of the people that live here. Even as an immigrant woman of color, I felt at home in the Pacific Northwest when I first visited for a class on marine conservation in the San Juan Islands. This is why I decided to apply to University of Washington for graduate school through the Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management (QERM) program. I am currently studying the collective behaviour of fish to understand how they use social information to interact with their conspecifics, their environment and their predators under Dr. Andrew Berdahl in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences department. My goal is to use basic science research towards conservation needs.

Although Pacific salmon are keystone species that are culturally and economically important in this region, the numbers of wild fish have been drastically declining. While hatcheries are producing fish for harvest, the potential negative influence of hatchery fish on the wild fish population is concerning. Salmon are not only influenced by their environment but also by the presence and behavior of other salmon, including salmon from the hatcheries. In my thesis, I want to analyse salmon count data to examine whether hatchery fish negatively influence wild fish to migrate during a specific time of year causing a shortening of the seasonal range of migration. I also want to examine whether they influence wild fish to migrate more during the day rather than during the night. The results of this collaborative project with scientists from academia and the state as well as the Puyallup Tribal Fisheries can help us in our next step to explore simple ways in which hatcheries can make changes to their release schedule to mitigate the negative influence that hatchery fish have on the wild populations. As a grateful guest on this beautiful land, I hope to help conserve wild fish populations that benefit the land and its people.

Michelle Pepping, MS UC Davis
Animal Biology Ph.D. Student

Michelle's Scholarship Essay:

My homewaters are both the Guadalupe River in Santa Clara County, California, and the Rio Yaqui in Sonora, a northwestern state in Mexico. My connection to life-giving waters and the fish they support comes from my mother, born in the pueblo Batuc in Sonora. She grew up in a village with no electricity, depending on the river for her and her community’s life and wellness. I have been to Batuc many times with my mother, but it is a shadow of the pueblo it once was. As a girl, her family moved to California hoping for an opportunity at a better life. A dam was built after she left and all of the people were forced to leave. With climate change and drought, all I ever saw was ruins of an old stone church and small wooden houses dry and crusted over with what used to be a lake bottom. She tells me about sitting on the banks with my grandmother washing clothes with the rocks and a washboard. With good water and healthy fish so far away, family in Mexico now have to make a trip to the ocean to have good fish for tacos. They all miss the river. In California, my mother took me to the creek by our home and taught me what and how to eat what the water provides. When I started competing in science fairs, I went straight to that creek and conducted water quality surveys to track down points of pollution.

When I made my way into conservation science and ecology during my undergraduate career at the University of California, Santa Barbara, it was no surprise that I fell into salmon research. Working to improve wild salmon populations fits into the values and experiences of my family. Salmon are also choked and displaced when dams are in place. Respecting salmon means respecting indigenous peoples and tribal/village life. To have healthy wild salmon, you need healthy wild rivers. Now, I am a PhD candidate at the University of California, Davis working under the mentorship of Dr. Mike Miller as I use genetics as a tool to better understand and manage steelhead and salmon. I am currently looking at the distribution of run-time in the North Umpqua Basin in Oregon to better understand the evolutionary advantage of summer-run steelhead. It is extremely rewarding to work in fish conservation. I am excited to look back at my career and point to the physical rivers with healthy fish where my efforts mattered, hopefully while eating tacos de pescado.

2024 Alaska Rapids Camp Lodge Raffle Tickets on Sale NOW! Spend 4 days of world-class fly fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska, for just $100! Raffle tickets are on sale NOW - and are going fast! *Only 250 tickets will be sold | Tickets are $100 each | Drawing held on Friday, May 31st, 2024 at 3pm.*