A woman in front of a rice field, next to a table, speaking
Whitney Brim-DeForest received a Graduate Student Research award while at UC Davis, and now she is the UC Cooperative Extension director in Sutter and Yuba counties, and the CE rice and wild rice advisor. In her role, she shares the latest research during rice field days – here, at the Rice Experiment Station in Biggs, Calif., in 2022. (Trina Kleist/UC Davis)

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

GSR awards are seeds that bear much fruit

Whitney Brim-DeForest is the UC Cooperative Extension director in Sutter and Yuba counties, and the CE rice and wild rice advisor. Her research focus is weed management. 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. Sutter and Yuba Counties are in the heartland of our rice-growing region.

Q: You received a Graduate Student Research award as a student in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. How did that help you? The GSR award funded my position while I was a doctoral student, so I was able to conduct research full-time during my studies. 

A man and a woman standing in front of a table, with rice plants in pots in the foreground.
Whitney Brim-DeForest, right, and colleague Troy Clark, both with UC Cooperative Extension, during the Rice Field Day in Biggs, Calif., in 2022. (Trina Kleist/UC Davis)

Q: How did this research training prepare you for your current role? While a graduate student, I was already engaging with growers and PCAs, plus working with key stakeholders in the rice industry. I was also working with the other rice researchers at UC, some who are now my colleagues, so I had well-established connections when I started at UC ANR. 

Importantly, I learned how to effectively run a research program, conducting field-level research and greenhouse studies. I even gained some background in agricultural economics from my MS studies.

Q: What was your research during your graduate studies at UC Davis? My Ph.D. was in weed science, as a member of the horticulture and agronomy graduate group. I studied the ecology of weed species in California rice, in relation to irrigation management and herbicide resistance, with a focus on yield impacts and interactions between weed species and rice.

I started at UC Davis as a master's degree student in international agricultural development, where I conducted a study on rice weed management in Senegal, West Africa.

Q: What outreach and extension research did you undertake as part of your studies?

I was heavily involved with research at the Rice Experiment Station in Biggs, Calif., where my principal investigator, Albert Fischer, ran the Rice Weed Science program. I took part in the California Rice Field Day every year, setting up our demonstration plots and running the weed science portion of the tour.

I also helped with the herbicide resistance testing program for growers and PCAs, where they could submit their seed samples to be tested. As a part of that program, I met with growers and PCAs individually to discuss management options. I also participated in UC Davis Weed Day as a speaker, and was asked to speak at some rice industry meetings during my last couple of years as a Ph.D. student. I also wrote extension articles with my PI, as well as with some of the current UC Rice members. 

Seeds that bear much fruit

Thanks to the James Monroe McDonald Endowment, the Department of Plant Sciences has been able to support dozens of our very best graduate students - scientists-in-training such as Whitney Brim-DeForest - with awards that supplement their finances. Graduate Student Research awards provide $20,000 yearly for two years to master's degree students, and for four years to doctoral students.

Like Brim-DeForest, many go on to careers in UC Cooperative Extension. The McDonald Endowment, administered by UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, provides these funds so that our students can translate research into action, making an impact on California and beyond.

In this series, we highlight a few of our GSR award recipients who have gone on to careers supporting healthy food systems, healthy environments, healthy communities and healthy Californians.

Related links

Apply for a GSR award.

The James Monroe McDonald Endowment, administered by UC ANR, funds our GSR awards.

Media Resources

  • Trina Kleist, UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, tkleist@ucdavis.edu, (530) 754-6148 or  (530) 601-6846

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GSR Awards