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Ahead of Earth Day, Walton Family Foundation Announces Emily Fairfax and Meaghan Parker as New Environment Fellows

April 18, 2024
Fellows will leverage expertise in tackling and reporting on the climate crisis

Washington, D.C., April 18, 2024 - The Walton Family Foundation today announced two new fellows: Emily Fairfax, PhD, and Meaghan Parker. Fairfax is an Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota. Parker is currently a Public Policy Fellow at the Wilson Center. She previously led the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ). The fellows will bring their expertise and perspectives to reporting on water and ensuring resilience in the face of climate change.

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“We need to take action to protect water and nature to be resilient to climate change,” said Moira Mcdonald, Environment Program Director of the Walton Family Foundation. “From nature-based solutions – like beaver-based restoration, to fact-based environmental journalism, this year’s fellows are taking action for a brighter, more sustainable future where people and nature thrive together.”

Finding solutions to help communities and nature become more resilient requires daring, ambitious ideas, creativity and teamwork. With the help of the Fellows Program, experts in the field are working to find solutions to these complex problems. The foundation supports the fellows while they conduct independent research in their areas of expertise.

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Emily Fairfax

Fairfax is a broadly trained environmental scientist. She holds bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry and Physics from Carleton College. She obtained a doctorate in Geology from the University of Colorado Boulder. Fairfax now works in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society and as Affiliated Faculty at the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the ecohydrology of river corridors and how beaver dams impact ecosystems. She also works with community groups and others to share information and learn from each other. Her goal is to advance climate change mitigation and adaptation goals collaboratively. Fairfax’s work has been featured in many popular media outlets. Her background will help her find creative solutions to harness the power of nature to meet the challenges of climate change.

“I’ve been passionate about science since I was a kid,” said Fairfax. “I look forward to exploring the many ways we can partner with nature to help build resilience in our communities.”

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Meaghan Parker

Parker will research the funding landscape for philanthropically supported environmental journalism. She is an experienced figure in the field with a history of successful leadership. During her tenure as executive director, SEJ doubled its revenues. The value of grants made by the organization and its membership diversity also doubled. She served for six years on the SEJ Board of Directors, before stepping down to join the staff. She has returned to the Wilson Center as a public policy fellow, drawing on her previous 15 years of experience there. She currently volunteers as the Chair of the SEJ Future Council. She serves on the Board of Directors of The Uproot Project and on the Advisory Council of Planet Forward.

“Communities must have independent, reliable and fact-based journalism to understand what is happening to the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat," said Parker. “But many news outlets need philanthropic support to pay journalists to cover these critical local challenges, particularly in marginalized communities. This Earth Day, I hope we will focus on how to support environmental journalists so that they can continue to tell the world’s most critical stories.”

About the Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation is at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit