Emerging Leader Award

The Emerging Leader Award at River Network, established in 2019 by former board member Leslie Lowe, recognizes a burgeoning leader working at the intersection of water and justice. This award provides early career recognition to expand their aspirations, gain confidence, and widen their network.

The Emerging Leader receives a $1,500 honorarium from River Network and a full scholarship to attend River Rally. The awardee works with a designated team at River Network to develop a scope of work that will inspire change and build capacity within their community. This work often includes but is not limited to blogs, online workshops (independent or co-facilitated), social media engagement, and workshops or presentations at River Rally.

River Network is not currently accepting Emerging Leader nominations.

Read the 2023 award guidance.

2024 Emerging Leader

Hira Ahmad (she/her), Masters Candidate University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability in Environmental Justice and Conservation Ecology (Ann Arbor, Michigan).

Hira embodies a passionate commitment to environmental justice and conservation ecology. As a key member of a research team investigating equitable community engagement strategies across the Great Lakes Region, she demonstrates an unwavering dedication to diverse representation and co-ownership of data and information. Hira’s unique ability to foster connections and uplift marginalized voices, combined with her interdisciplinary educational background spanning Ecology, Literature, Psychology, Sociology, and Political Science, positions her as a formidable force in driving positive change and mutual learning within the environmental justice sphere. She envisions leveraging the Emerging Leader platform to amplify visibility for community organizations and foster greater inclusivity within the water justice movement on a national scale.



2022 Emerging Leader

Headshot of Mariah Davis, with trees in the background

Mariah Davis, Senior Policy & Campaigns Manager at Choose Clean Water Coalition (Annapolis, MD).

As Senior Policy & Campaigns Manager of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, Mariah manages outreach, grassroots advocacy, and civic engagement efforts to support the Coalition’s policy priorities. Mariah coordinates conservation organizations efforts in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. This includes working with conservation organizations at the local, state and regional level to enact sound state policies to ensure progress in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.

Mariah is an active member in the Chesapeake community. She is deeply committed to efforts that foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and played an active role in the formation of Virginia’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice established under Governor McAuliffe. She served as a founding board member of Annapolis Pride and chaired the city’s first Pride Parade and Festival.

Mariah is a graduate of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s Political Leadership Program. In 2020, she earned her master’s degree in Public Management from the University of Maryland. In 2013, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, with a minor in Chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University.

2021 Emerging Leader

Charles Miller, Law Student & Junior Board Member at the Alabama Rivers Alliance (Birmingham, AL). Charles is a third-year law student at the University of Alabama School of Law and a board member at the Alabama Rivers Alliance. He has a strong interest in water law and democracy, with a focus on how this essential resource can be managed for the public good and with meaningful public input in the face of climate change. He has worked for One Roof, a non-profit dedicated to ending homelessness in Central Alabama, and at a local land trust. He has also interned at American Rivers in their Government Relations office and the Southern Environmental Law Center. Growing up on Green Mountain in northern Alabama, he gained an appreciation for the importance of wildlands and open space, especially in urban and suburban areas. Charles enjoys traveling, flatwater kayaking, and photography.

2020 Emerging Leader

Megan Nguyen, Bay Area Hub Coordinator at Sunrise Movement (San Francisco, CA). At her previous role at California Trout, Megan managed both educational content for social media and programming for outreach events. She believes that uplifting diverse voices in conservation will inspire the next generation of science communicators. Megan is an energetic advocate using her voice to inspire people to turn their passion into action. Her energy and creativity as a musician and organizer shines bright in her activism work with the Sunrise Movement, a national movement of young people fighting for policies that address climate change. She has led strikes, sit-ins, and trainings for Sunrise, and through this work, Megan hopes to empower young leaders to challenge injustice in their communities. Meet Megan.

Watch “Finding My Voice” and read Megan’s blog “Advancing Racial Justice”.

2019 Emerging Leader

Kevin Jeffery, Graduate Student at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (Austin, TX). A student of landscape architecture, Jeffery is the creator of the Blue Index project and a burgeoning force in the water world. Blue Index, a participatory research project, strives to measure emotional responses to water in the community and will be used to inform Planet Texas 2050 Bridging Barriers Initiative. Before returning to school, Jeffery worked in water management in Washington D.C. for public, private and commercial entities. He plans to return to the public sector upon graduation. Meet Kevin.