She was one of 80 students nationally to receive up to $5,000 by the Morris K. Udall and Steward L. Udall Foundation. The foundation annually awards these scholarships to sophomore and junior level college students committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy or Native American health care.
Northcutt has done research in both environmental issues and Native American rights. She is founder and president of the University’s Native American Club and is involved in several campus activities, including the College Ecology Club and the Student-Led Unity Garden.
“I feel very honored,” Northcutt said. “My career goal is to collaborate with Native American youth through environmental restoration programs to create a stronger sense of community. I believe this scholarship will provide me with the connections and opportunities to begin to achieve that goal.”
An avid snowboarder, she performed research in 2008 on mountain stream health with University environmental science professors Steve Kolmes and Rev. Ron Wasowski, C.S.C.
The study involved four streams in the Mount Hood wilderness area. The researchers took water samples to test for dangerous bacteria. They also measured the flow, pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and other characteristics of each stream.
“Our goal was to try and understand why salmon only were present in two of the four streams because the streams were relatively the same size and in the same watersheds,” Northcutt said.
Their study found that the bacteria levels were extremely high in the streams that the salmon were missing from. The University researchers contacted the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, both which helped them confront the sources of bacteria.
“Kelly’s enthusiasm is contagious and exuberant,” said Kolmes, director of the Environmental Studies Program, professor of biology and occupant of the Rev. John Molter, C.S.C., Chair in Science. “She is a great student and a committed environmentalist, and her breadth of engagement with environmental, social justice and scientific issues that are important to this new century is what UP hopes to bring to all of its students.”
As for her future plans, Northcutt says she is considering several options, including volunteering as an environmental education director for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for a year or attending graduate school to pursue a degree in either environmental education or tribal studies.
Established by the U.S. Congress in 1992, the Udall Foundation honors Congressman Morris King Udall’s 30-year legacy of public service. The foundation seeks future leaders across a wide spectrum of environmental fields, including policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, business, health, justice and economics.