Meet the 2023-24 Diana Liverman Scholars

Sophie Byde

Sophie Byde is a Senior at the University of Arizona majoring in Environmental Science with an emphasis in Soil, Air, and Water and a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she had the opportunity to spend lots of time
outdoors, but was also exposed to the harsh realities of local air pollution, sprouting her early interest in environmentalism. On campus, she acts as a Preceptor for the introductory Soil Science lecture and lab. She holds leadership roles in Epsilon Eta Pre-Professional Environmental Fraternity, Bear Down Camp, and Mortar Board Senior Honor society, in addition to being involved in Students for Sustainability and Phi Sigma Rho Sorority. In her free time you can find her hiking, painting, thrifting, enjoying live music, or pressing plants. She plans to pursue a career in environmental education, and is passionate about making the fields of sustainability and conservation more accessible and inclusive through outreach.

Ojas Sanghi

Ojas Sanghi is a sophomore majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Future Earth Resilience. He views the climate crisis as the most urgent challenge of our time, and works to push decision-makers at all levels to act on it; already, he has advocated for and contributed to policy change at the City and State level through his work as the Tucson co-lead of the AZ Youth Climate Coalition. He is also the co- Outreach Chair for UAZDivest, where he works to get the UA to divest from its $100M+ investments into fossil fuels. Additionally, he is providing input on the UA's climate response by serving on one of the advisory bodies for the development of the UA's Climate Action Plan. He also works to advise the City's climate action efforts in a more official manner through his role as a Commissioner on the City Commission on Climate, Energy, and Sustainability, to which he was appointed by a City Councilmember. Outside of these activities, he also works as a Computer Engineering Intern at the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, working on AI/ML approaches to improving video quality. In the future, Ojas hopes to employ his computer science degree to push forward climate tech/policy.

Naomi Kolodisner

Naomi Kolodisner is a freshman studying biosystems engineering at the WA Franke Honors College. Naomi found her passion for environmentalism through creating a home garden, being vegetarian, and hiking. Working with her Marine Biology class,
Naomi started the Plastic Diversion Project at her high school. This was a project conducted in conjunction with the Tucson City Council and ByFusion, a company with machines that are capable of turning unrecyclable plastics into useful building blocks
for houses, fences, benches and other construction. Naomi is interested in learning about energy engineering, biofuels, and sustainable agricultural technology, and believes that producing energy and food in a sustainable way is one of the most important challenges we face today. As a Liverman Scholar, Naomi hopes to learn to communicate new ideas to a wider demographic in a clear and efficient manner. She believes motivating and educating others is a crucial part of making a community more sustainable.

Lyndale Bondoc

Lyndale Bondoc is a sophomore at the University of Arizona majoring in Environmental Science with a soil, air, and water emphasis. Growing up in Tucson, she found her interest for sustainability and the environment through the exhilarating activity of hiking, which inclined her to spend more time outdoors. As Lyndale continued to explore the outdoors, she learned the importance of preserving and protecting our environment. Her appreciation for the nature around us has only gotten stronger as she pursues her passion in environmental justice. Lyndale is also the current philanthropy chair for the smores sophomore honorary, organizing volunteer and charity events to provide service to our numerous communities. She is most looking forward to developing her skills in communication, specifically in sharing information about environmental issues as a Liverman Scholar.

Lauren Stevenson

Lauren Stevenson is a senior at the University of Arizona. She is majoring in Plant Sciences, with an emphasis in Plant Health. Her minor is in Sustainable Plant Systems, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Growing up in Tucson, Lauren has developed a love for botany through the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert and the vastness of plant species found on and
around the Santa Catalina mountains in Tucson. Throughout her education and upbringing, she has developed a passion to learn more about natural medicine, and what the Earth can offer, alongside how to give back to the Earth. She aspires to continue to graduate school and study Plant Science and natural medicine, focusing on cannabis science. She aspires to educate the public on natural medicine, and break the stigma in the scientific community on cannabis science through meaningful research.

Katie Sweet

Katie Sweet is a sophomore at the University of Arizona double majoring in Environmental Science and Dance. Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, she enjoyed spending time outdoors, performing with her ballet studio, and baking. Now in Tucson, she enjoys volunteering, most recently at Saguaro National Park, as a way to connect with her new community. On campus, she is an Executive Board member of Students for Sustainability and involved in Epsilon Eta and Dance Collective. Katie is interested in exploring how art, specifically dance, can be paired with written word communication to reach a wide variety of audiences. As a Liverman Scholar, she looks forward to connecting meaningfully with Tucson and Southern Arizona communities through personal education and collaborative communication

Jessey Singh

Jessey Singh (she/her) is a senior majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional and Technical Writing. Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Jessey chose to come to the University of Arizona for the beautiful buildings and change of pace from scenery back home. She is the Arts Editor-in-Chief of Persona Creative, the University of Arizona’s only undergraduate literary magazine. Jessey is thrilled to be a part of the Diana Liverman Scholars program and learn from the interdisciplinary community there. She is very much a closeted introvert with a passion for reading and a new obsession with building Lego
sets. Jessey also enjoys traveling and hopes to obtain a career abroad upon graduation and grad school

Jacob Taylor

Jacob Taylor is a sophomore majoring in Environmental and Water Resource Economics and Computer Science. In his free time, Jacob enjoys rock climbing, hiking, and exploring the city of Tucson. Jacob’s passion for the environment came from his hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona through hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. On campus, Jacob has worked in the Applied
International Development Economics (AIDE) Lab, and is a member of the climbing club. Jacob hopes to apply his experience in the Liverman Scholars program in a research context, finding the most effective ways to make climate and environmental research accessible and understandable.

Greta Cotraccia

Greta Cotraccia is a sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies and Africana Studies. She grew up in Ithaca, NY surrounded by the Finger Lakes which fostered her love for the environment. She loves to sew and combining that passion with topics of the environment, has become interested in sustainable fashion and steering the world away from fast fashion. Greta plays in the Steel Cats, a steel pan band at the UA and is excited to see how her love of sharing music and the environment can intersect. Career-wise, Greta sees herself making waves in climate justice and would like to make a positive impact on the world both environmentally and socially.

Elyse LaVallee

Elyse LaVallee is a second-year at the University of Arizona majoring in Veterinary Science with a minor in Spanish, and she is a member of the WA Franke Honors College. Elyse was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and has been passionate about the outdoors her whole life. She grew up hiking, camping, and exploring National Parks with her family, as well as competitive swimming and playing Clarinet. The heart of her passion is dedicated to birds, as she loves to go birdwatching and photograph them. Elyse intends to be involved in the conservation and rehabilitation of Arizona birds/raptors and other wildlife throughout her hopeful future career as a veterinarian. She has taken multiple classes at the U of A involving sustainability, animal science, environmental ethics, and a “Sense of Place” course that sparked her specific passion for the Sonoran Desert and Tucson. Elyse is involved with clubs on campus including Navigators Christian Ministry, U of A Fish and Wildlife Society, and AZ Club Swim. This past summer, Elyse studied abroad in Costa Rica with the U of A to learn Spanish and observe tropical birds in her free time. She hopes to return there and aid in wildlife conservation. Elyse also enjoys creating art that aims to inspire curiosity and passion about birds. She also participates in activities hosted by the Tucson Audubon Society. Her beloved cockatiel Pico is her biggest supporter.

Daniel Conley

Daniel Conley is a senior at the University of Arizona majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Geoscience. Daniel began to love nature at a young age because of his father who took him to multiple national parks and taught him to value the
environment. Daniel is an employee in Dr. Thirumalai’s geoscience lab at the University of Arizona which focuses on paleoclimate. Daniel is passionate about both science and community work. Last semester, through the school garden workshop internship, he spent time with the students of Mission View Elementary School helping them build a garden and teach them the importance of sustainability. In his free time Daniel plays guitar in his band Desert Child with three of his best friends who he met at the U of A.

Caitlin Brady

Caitlin Brady is a senior at the University of Arizona majoring in Natural Resources with a Conservation Biology emphasis. She was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, and has a soft spot for the desert. Growing up, she spent most of her life outdoors, camping, hiking, and participating in activities through Arizona Game and Fish Department. Her favorite places are Alpine, Arizona, and Wilcox, Arizona. Having first-hand experience with resource management and seeing the effects of quarantine in 2020 inspired her to pursue a career path toward Environmental Law. Caitlin is an active member of the Wildcat Archery team and enjoys her fun part-time job at Dutch Bros. Through the Liverman Scholars Program, she hopes to refine her science-writing skills, connect with peers and communicate the importance of environmental health to local communities.

Brandon Vega

Brandon Vega is a senior at the University of Arizona studying Natural Resources with an emphasis in Wildlife Conservation and Management. His appreciation of wildlife stems from years of being an active outdoorsman in the southern Arizona region, where he developed a love for the Sonoran Desert. His passion for wildlife comes from many years of fishing and archery hunting, where he gained knowledge on the importance of protecting local ecosystems first-hand. Due to his love for the Sonoran Desert and his commitment to his community, Brandon aspires to pursue a career in wildlife management in Arizona. Along with his passion for the outdoors, he also has a passion for musicianship and performance. Brandon was a prominent member of the Pride of Arizona Marching Band between 2019-2022, where he was a part of one of the largest organizations on campus, worked in a team on a daily basis, and performed in front of thousands across multiple Pac-12 states. As a Liverman Scholar, Brandon is eager to improve his communication skills in the context of environmental science, in order to bring awareness to wildlife conservation in Arizona

Alec Mischke

Alec Mischke is a sophomore majoring in Biosystems Engineering with a minor in Engineering Management. Alec became interested in Biosystems Engineering because it combines the principles of engineering with agriculture and the environment. He enjoys playing sports, going to concerts, and spending time with friends. He has recently joined a couple of environmental extracurriculars including the Pre-Professional Environmental Fraternity Epsilon Eta. Alec was born in Chicago but quickly moved to Colorado at a young age. With parents who advocated an active lifestyle, he was bound to fall in love with all things that took place outdoors. He did activities like hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and skiing. Nature has always been a safe place for Alec, and as he got older he felt a stronger obligation to protect it. Alec is very excited to gain knowledge about sustainability and environmentalism in order to make the planet a better place.