student in wheat field

James Monroe McDonald Endowment

McDonald Endowment supports grad students who impact California


Funding for Graduate Student Research awards comes generously through the James Monroe McDonald endowment, in partnership with the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources. GSR award recipients go on to impact all of California and beyond, supporting healthy food systems, healthy environments, healthy communities and healthy Californians.

In 1927, the Mary J.L. McDonald Fund was established and used to set up the James Monroe McDonald Scholarships for educational purposes related to agricultural and horticultural research. Administered by ANR, funds from the McDonald Endowment now provide Graduate Student Research awards to trainee scientists who are undertaking a wide range of graduate-level projects with our stakeholders and partners.

GSRs are awarded for two years to M.S. students, and four years to Ph.D. students. GSR funding is matched by the students’ supervisors. Graduate students also are able to generate additional funding from granting agencies. On average, about $400,000 is used annually through the McDonald Endowment. An equal amount, or more, comes from the graduate student supervisors as matching funds and additional awards funded through other sources. This funding helps support approximately 10 to 20 graduate students each year.

These awards are critical to the academic success and future careers of many future scientists, and the students are grateful for this essential financial support.

Here, we post updates from just a few people who received early support in their studies through the McDonald Endowment-funded GSR awards. Many award recipients go on to careers within UC ANR. They are extending UC research and innovation to a wide range of users. Read how they have gone on to impact California: GSR grants from the McDonald Endowment are, truly, seeds planted wisely, year after year!

Recent GSR awardees

Jennifer Baumbach – UCCE Master Gardener Program coordinator, Solano & Yolo counties

Jennifer Baumbach coordinates the Master Gardner Program for UC Cooperative Extension in Solano and Yolo counties, translating scientific research into practical information that people can use at their homes and businesses. Statewide, the program has trained tens of thousands of volunteers -- about 6,000 active now -- who impact their communities with environmentally sound, science-based ways to manage garden pests, reduce water use and grow fruits and vegetables.

Leslie Roche ̶ Associate professor of Cooperative Extension

Leslie Roche is an associate professor of Cooperative Extension with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, with a focus on management of rangelands and pasture. Roche's early work as a Graduate Student Research award recipient helped lay the foundation for the later establishment of the UC Rangelands Research and Information Center, where she is now director. Her related work includes irrigated pasture management, ecology of grazing lands, grazing systems, drought and climate change adaptation.

Grace Woodmansee – UCCE advisor in Siskiyou County

Grace Woodmansee is the livestock and natural resources advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Siskiyou County. She works with ranchers to improve their production and address management challenges using science-based information. As a recipient of a Graduate Student Research award working with in the UC Rangelands lab, she honed her skills in applied research, outreach and science-communication, which prepared her for a career in extension

Whitney Brim-DeForest – UCCE director in Sutter & Yuba counties

Whitney Brim-DeForest is the UC Cooperative Extension director in Sutter and Yuba counties, and the CE rice and wild rice advisor. Her focus is weed management in rice. California is the nation’s top rice producer, with the 2022 crop valued at nearly $8.8 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Q: How did the GSR award help you? While I was a doctoral student, the GSR award funded my position, so I was able to conduct research full-time during my studies. 

Grant Johnson – UCCE advisor in Orange and Los Angeles counties

Grant Johnson is the advisor for urban agriculture technology, based at UC Cooperative Extension’s South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine, Calif. His specialties include fertilization, irrigation and water recycling in nurseries. Nursery and floral production account for 7.5 percent of California’s farm sales -- $3.5 billion in 2020, according to state figures.

Betsy Karle – UCCE director in Glenn & Tehama counties

Betsy Karle is the dairy advisor and county director for UC Cooperative Extension. She’s based in Glenn County, but provides support to producers from the Oregon border on down throughout the Sacramento Valley. She has been recognized by UC ANR for her outstanding service and teamwork. Dairy creates California’s No. 1 agricultural product, worth $7.6 billion in 2022, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

Johnny Campbell – Studying rice nutrition

“As a master’s degree graduate student at UC Davis, I study nutrient management in rice systems,” said Campbell. “I work to help improve our understanding of important soil-nutrient interactions that can greatly affect the ability of our soils to produce food. California rice is an important global commodity, and growers need information on producing it more sustainably and economically.”



Kelsey DeRose – Studying rangeland management

As a master’s degree student at UC Davis, DeRose is focusing on balancing ecological and agricultural production outcomes provided by riparian areas on public grazing allotments. The project involves an observational field study of riparian conditions in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges in California, as well as an analysis of existing research to gauge effectiveness of riparian grazing management practices.