Murdock Grant Pairs UM Faculty, Frenchtown Teacher for Trout Research

June 05, 2019

UM News Service

MISSOULA – University of Montana assistant professor of fisheries and conservation genomics Andrew Whiteley and Frenchtown science teacher Julia Crocker are collaborating on a summer research project that could help improve the longevity of threatened cutthroat trout populations.

Their work is supported by a $15,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust as part of its Partners in Science program that pairs high school teachers with university professors to engage in research projects.

Crocker, who teaches biology and ecology at Frenchtown High School, will work with Whiteley’s UM research team in the lab and the field to research “genetic rescue” of westslope cutthroat trout in Montana. The promising conservation approach involves moving a small number of individual fish from one population to another to enhance genetic diversity. One of two subspecies of native cutthroat in Montana, westslope cutthroat trout are declining in the state. 

Crocker will share knowledge and her experience with her students over the course of the multiyear research project.

“The experience will benefit my students because I will see firsthand the way science is best learned,” she said. She also hopes to build a strong relationship with UM so she can provide opportunities to attend field trips and lectures to her students. 

The possibility for an ongoing connection also excites Whiteley, a faculty member in UM’s W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation.

“The teaching opportunity will extend to UM,” Whiteley explained. “In the fall, two UM graduate students will join me in visiting Julia’s classroom to help bring new content to her students.”

This marks the 30th year of M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust’s participation in Partners in Science. As a part of the program, the trust hosts a national conference each January where teachers like Crocker present their research results and network with others from across the United States.

“Our goal is to improve science education and change the habits of teaching to be more inquiry focused,” said Steve Moore, executive director of Murdock Trust. “We are honored to be involved with such a vital program at the University of Montana.”

The grant is part of Campaign Montana, a comprehensive, seven-year fundraising campaign that aims to inspire $400 million in philanthropic giving to UM by the end of 2020. Donors will help achieve UM’s vision of a university that puts student success at the forefront, driving excellence and innovation in teaching, research and learning.

The campaign is managed by the UM Foundation, an independent, nonprofit organization that inspires philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at UM.
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About Partners in Science program: The Partners in Science Program was founded by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement in 1988. The Murdock Trust joined Partners in 1990, and in 1999 became the administrator of the program. The program pairs high school science teachers for two summers with a mentor doing cutting-edge research in an academic lab or a lab associated with another nonprofit institution. Teachers then present the results of their research at an annual conference. For more information on the Partners in Science program or how to apply for grants, go to

About M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Murdock Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. “Jack” Murdock, provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest – Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington – that seek to strengthen the region’s educational and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. Since its inception in 1975, the trust has awarded nearly 6,700 grants totaling nearly $988 million. For more information, find the Murdock Trust on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and on our website.


Contact: Elizabeth Willy, director of communications, UM Foundation, 406-243-5320,