New UC ANR academics and director start programs with shelter-in-place guidance

Giulia Marino

Giulia Marino was named the UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in Orchard Systems in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis on Jan. 22. She is based at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center in Parlier.

Marino's research focus is tree physiology and its impact on productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of fruit orchards.

Marino is currently studying the correlation of pistachio nut growth and ripening with temperature and crop load in orchards in Woodland and at Kearney.

“This information will help growers to better predict hull maturity and shell splitting patterns and allow the industry to understand when nuts become susceptible to navel orangeworm, the most damaging pest in California pistachio production,” Marino said.

A second study in pistachios will examine how salinity, boron and hypoxia (low oxygen associated with salinity) impact young trees' growth and water use. In cherries, Marino is working to understand the physiological impact of traditional rest-breaking agents on tree seasonal carbohydrates dynamics to improve effectiveness of their applications under warmer conditions caused by climate change.

These research projects are built in collaboration with UCCE advisors and specialists and UC professors, and are funded by the California Pistachio Research Board and the California Cherry Board.

Prior to joining UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Marino was a researcher in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, where she studied pistachio water use and tree performance under saline-sodic conditions. Marino earned a doctorate degree in fruit and forestry tree systems and master's and bachelor's degrees in agricultural science, all from the University of Palermo in Italy.

Marino can be reached at


Frank McPherson

Frank McPherson joined UC ANR on Feb. 3 as a regional director for UC Cooperative Extension serving Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, and Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in Half Moon Bay.

Shortly after taking on this new role, McPherson was charged with quickly converting many UCCE operations from in-person to online to comply with the state's shelter-in-place guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“The Contra Costa County UC Master Gardener program's largest fundraiser had to be canceled and we were forced to quickly come up with processes and procedures to donate more than 30,000 tomato plants to give to school children,” McPherson said.

The educational programs for inner city youth at Elkus Ranch also were canceled. McPherson is now working with staff to open the facility for family tours of up to 10 people at a time, an opportunity which is proving popular.

The second major tragedy that rocked the U.S. during his short tenure – the murder of George Floyd and ensuing unrest – was another opportunity to put his knowledge and experience to work for UC Cooperative Extension.

“The topic came up during my ‘social hour' calls with my staff,” McPherson said. “I have now scheduled a Racial and Social Equity Forum for my teams in which they can express their thoughts and feelings. It's a place where they can hear and be heard.”

Prior to joining ANR, McPherson was director of Customer Service at San Jose-based BD Biosciences. From 2000 to 2013, McPherson served as a senior manager at Applied Materials, where he led a team of account service representatives, directed and managed Contact Center start-ups across the globe, negotiated contracts, and interfaced with planning, purchasing, order fulfillment and logistics to meet customer requirements.

“Cooperative Extension for me is a great place to work, as it allows me to give back to our underserved and most vulnerable population. I am able to make an impact with those that need the help the most.”

McPherson holds a bachelor's degree in business management from University of Maryland and a master's degree in business management from Troy State University in Alabama. He is fluent in German.

He is based at the UCCE office in Concord and can be reached at (925) 608-6674 and

Carolyn Whitesell

Carolyn Whitesell started her job as the UC Cooperative Extension human-wildlife conflict advisor for San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Sonoma counties on Feb. 18. She is based at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resource's Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in Half Moon Bay.

In her new position, Whitesell will foster knowledge and tolerance for local wildlife, implement research projects and run educational programs aimed at various audiences, from school kids to adults.

During the first few months on the job, under shelter-in-place guidelines, Whitesell has been getting acquainted with potential partners for her research and extension program by virtually meeting with livestock producers, mountain lion researchers, regional agencies and land trusts. She participated on panels for the online 4-H Animal Science Symposium and the Santa Cruz Mountain Stewardship Network Mountain Lion Salon.

“I can't wait to further develop relationships with my clientele and collaborators and dive into new research and outreach projects,” Whitesell said.

Among her projects, she plans to conduct research on the effectiveness of guardian animals for protecting livestock from wildlife and already teamed up with UCCE advisor Dan Macon to develop a fact sheet on Selecting a Livestock Guardian Dog Puppy.

Whitesell earned doctoral and master's degrees in ecology at UC Davis and a bachelor's degree in ecology, behavior and evolution at UC San Diego.

A Bay Area native, Whitesell, lived for years in rural farming communities in southern Africa. For her dissertation research, Whitesell studied human-carnivore conflict in a cattle ranching region in Botswana. In addition, she conducted a wildlife survey in Angola, and served as an ecology research assistant at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. When in Namibia, part of her work involved breeding livestock guardian dogs that were placed with local farmers to protect their livestock from carnivores. 

Whitesell can be reached at


UC ANR welcomes, left to right, Frank McPherson, Carolyn Whitesell and Guila Marino.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist