WSU researcher wins prestigious NIFA Fellowship

Studio portrait of researcher.
Horticulture doctoral student, Margaret McCoy, conducts most of her research at the WSU IAREC Center in Prosser, Wash.

Margaret McCoy (‘20) has been awarded a predoctoral fellowship from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

McCoy, who earned her undergraduate degree in agronomy from Wilmington College, master’s degree in soil science from WSU, and is completing her doctorate in Horticulture, felt honored to receive the competitive fellowship.

“These fellowships are meant to help students gain experience before joining the workforce and also helps them develop skills within food and agricultural sciences,” McCoy said.

Each year, NIFA awards fellowships to researchers across the country who are addressing current and future agricultural challenges. McCoy was awarded $117,000 for her research.

As a researcher in horticulture, McCoy has a focus on Extension and conducts most of her work at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, Wash. Working in Extension places McCoy at the crossroads between science and the growers and producers who rely on that science to improve their crops.

Much of McCoy’s research centers on precision agriculture, using state of the art technology such as electrostatic sprayers in the vineyard to help wine-grape growers produce better fruit and yields, thereby improving the quality of Washington wine.

“I am excited to be involved with this fellowship because it gives me the opportunity to give back to the industry that has supported research like mine,” McCoy added. “These relationships are valuable to my current research and my ability to secure a job in Washington once I graduate.”

One of McCoy’s primary research objectives entails integrating her findings on these precision technologies into an Extension curriculum that is accessible to an increasingly diverse cross-section of agriculture’s populace.

McCoy is not only grateful to have won a NIFA predoctoral fellowship, but she is grateful to the WSU faculty who encouraged her to apply in the first place. McCoy’s major advisor, Michelle Moyer, saw the NIFA application process as a good way for McCoy to get her feet wet in the grant-writing process.

Researcher inspects a tracer spray in tank of farm equipment.
McCoy, who won the coveted NIFA Fellowship, focuses on precision agriculture technologies to help growers improve crops.

“She helped me formulate my ideas and thoughts before I submitted,” McCoy said.

Gwen Hoheisel, McCoy’s co-advisor, also played an important role. “She was instrumental in helping me talk through the plans I had to make sure I was being reasonable and thorough,” McCoy added.

The significance of the award is not lost on her. “I’m humbled to have been one of the students chosen for this award, and one of the five within the WSU system.”

This research was funded by Washington State University, Auction of Washington Wines, and all Washington State grape growers and wineries through the Washington Wine Commission.