2015 Winner & Finalists

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Winner: Rebecca Lawton

Rebecca Lawton's winning project and proposed book, titled "The Oasis This Time," will focus on California fan palm oases and their role as barometers of the effects of falling groundwater levels in communities around the American West. Her proposal was selected for its quality of writing and meaningful contribution to the body of desert literature. Lawton, who lives in Sonoma, California will return to the U.C. Irvine Steele-Burn and Research Station in the Anza Borrego Desert, California to continue her research. 

Lawton is the Executive Director of PLAYA, an artists and scientists residency program in Summer Lake, Oregon. She is an author, instructor, and fluvial geologist whose work explores wild and human nature. An early woman guide on Western whitewater, Rebecca rowed the Colorado in Grand Canyon and other wilderness rivers for fourteen seasons. Her work as a scientist has focused on ancient and modern ephemeral streams, the movement of sediment, and water turbidity levels that affect fish growth and survival.

Her writing honors have included a 2014 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair Award, a 2014 WILLA Award for original softcover fiction, the 2006 Ellen Meloy Fund Award for Desert Writers, residencies at Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers and The Island Institute, and nominations for three Pushcart Prizes (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry). She has published articles and stories in Aeon, Orion, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Shenandoah, Sierra, and many other journals. Rebecca is the author of seven books and four stage plays.

Finalist Nathaniel Brodie's submission, "Entangled in the Land," told the story of the seven years he spent working on the Grand Canyon National Park Service Trail Crew. On one level this story is about his search as a young man for intimacy and belonging, in both place and in romantic love, with all the accompanying tensions of wilderness and domesticity, wanderlust and rootedness, freedom and responsibility. A story of the man he was, the man the Canyon helped him become. But this narrative of coming to know myself is inextricably entangled with the quest of coming to know the Grand Canyon—the Canyon is the true protagonist of this book, and I delve deeply into its natural and cultural histories, present(s), and possible futures.


Brodie received his MFA in Nonfiction Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, where he served as the Beverly Rodgers Fellow and an 1885 Graduate Fellow in the Arts and Humanities. His essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies—including Creative Nonfiction, High Country News, and Terrain.org. Brodie was the recipient of the 2014 Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency.

Finalist May Kapoor proposal, "The Familiar and Wild,"  was a nonfiction essay collection that is a mix of science writing and memoir. The collection focuses on often overlooked life forms from the Sonoran desert—the uncharismatic or under-appreciated species existing in marginal spaces where the human and natural complicate one another’s identities. Each organism’s story is a window into questions of what it means for something to be wild or urban (or wild and urban) in the Anthropocene. 


Kapoor graduated in 2015 with an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona. While enrolled at the UA, Maya became founding president of Many Voices, a student club dedicated to supporting the social and professional needs of creative writing students of color. Maya worked in field biology and environmental education for more than a decade and holds a master's in biology from Arizona State University. Kapoor lives in Tucson where she works in science communications and in fostering intersections between the arts and environmental research. Maya's writing is published or forthcoming in An Essay Daily Reader (Coffee House Press); The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide(University of Arizona Press); ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment; Edible Baja Arizona; and Terrain.org.

Finalist Caroline Treadway's proposal, "Step on This: Desert Ants," bridged the divide between entomologist and layperson, bringing these tiny creatures to life through narrative and imagery. While living in Cambridge, she photographed ants at Harvard University’s entomology department for Dr. Gary Alpert. Alpert received the first research permits to collect ants on the Navajo Reservation, near Shiprock, N.M. He invited Caroline on-board as research assistant and journalist. Since then, she has taken over 20 trips to the southwestern desert in search of new species of ants, and plants. She planned to continue fieldwork with Dr. Alpert and Stefan Cover on the Navajo Reservation, in the Grand Canyon and the Sky Islands of the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. The desert Southwest is home a high diversity of ant species. Ants are one of the most successful and widespread organisms on the planet.

Treadway is a writer and photographer based in Boulder, Colorado. Her words and images appear in magazines, books and newspapers worldwide. Her advertising clients include New Balance and National Geographic Online. A native of Washington D.C., Caroline attended the Potomac School. In 2000, she graduated magna cum laude from Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., with a Bachelor’s degree in World Religion. Caroline graduated in 2010 from Boston University with a Master’s degree in Journalism.