Jeffrey White Ph.D.

Professor - Botany | Biogeography | Science Education

Jeffrey White
(707) 826-5551
SciB 336 | NHM

Jeffrey is a fifth generation Californian who has spent much of his life exploring the State’s diverse landscapes and peoples leading to his interests in science and education.   His interests have led to extensive international travel, and teaching abroad in India and Brazil.  Jeffrey’s professional career began as a science and mathematics teacher in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and then in Los Angeles.  Later, after Ph.D. training and a postdoc, he joined the faculty at Cal Poly Humboldt in 2000.  His scientific work focuses most notably on rare plants and biogeography.  However, he has spent much of his professional activities on science education including: filmmaking, development of curricula, professional development for K-12 teachers and university faculty, and educational research.  He is an Emmy® Award winning producer for his film, Becoming California.

Specialty Area

 Biogeography, Rare Plants, Systematics, Climate Change Education, Media and Communication in Science, STEM learning and Pedagogy.


Ph.D. (1999) Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Botany & Plant Pathology, Michigan State University.
California Teacher Certification (1985) California State University, Los Angeles (1987-1988), and California State University, Fresno (1985). Three Credentials: Life Sciences, Mathematics, and Multiple Subjects.
Bachelor of Arts (1984) : Biology (with Honors), University of California at Santa Cruz.

Courses Taught

General Biology
Directed Studies in Biology
Professional Training in Biology
Science, Media and Film


Scholarship & Programs

Jeffrey’s scientific research focuses on the biological aspects of rarity in pants as well as plant biogeography.  He also conducts educational research on science and STEM learning.  Jeffrey is the Director of the Cal Poly Humboldt Mathematics and Science Teaching Initiative, and is actively involved in state-wide collaboration on climate change and sustainability education for higher education.  He is advisor and coach with the statewide Humanizing Online STEM Academy.


Scholarly Work

  • Xu, D., Perez Lopez, J., Liu, Y., Hill, M., Li, X; Bañuelos, M., Pacansky-Brock, M., Smedshammer, M., Vincent-Layton, K., & White, J. (2022). Humanizing online STEM: Preliminary research findings.

  • Ramanathan, V. (J. White, contributing author). 2019. Achieving Climate Stability and Environment Sustainability:  PK–12 education as part of the solution for bending the curve. UC–CSU Environmental and Climate Change Literacy, Project Steering Committee. University of California at Los Angeles.
  • Fraser, J., J. Baxter, J. White, R. Gupta & V. Yocco. 2014. Conversion Aversion: Environmental Learning and PBS Viewer Preferences. Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism, 4(10).
  • Crain, B., A. Sanchez-Cuervo, J. White, & S. Steinberg. 2014. Conservation ecology of rare plants within complex local habitat networks. Oryx. 02/2014; DOI: 10.1017/S0030605313001245
  • Crain, B. & J. White. 2014. A checklist and floristic summary of the vascular plants of Napa County, California. Phytotaxa.  04/2013; 95(1):1-60. DOI: 10.11646/phytotaxa.95.1.1
  • Crain, B., J. White & S. Steinberg. 2011. Geographic Discrepancies Between Global and Local Rarity Richness Patterns and the Implications for Conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation, 27 Aug 2011.
  • Crain, B. & J. White. 2011. Categorizing Locally Rare Plant Taxa for Conservation Status. Biodiversity and Conservation, Vol 20, pp. 451-463.
  • Tout, J. & J. White. 2008.  Sampling Rare Plants Efficiently: an Evaluation of Adaptive Cluster Sampling.  Northern California Botanists Symposium.
  • Leppig, G. & J. White. 2006. Conservation of Peripheral Plant Populations in California. Madrono, Vol 53(3), pp. 264-274.
  • White, J. 2004. Range size, error rates, and the geometry of rare species distributions. Proceedings of the 2002 Rare Plant Symposium: The Ecology and Management of Rare Plants of Northwestern California. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento, CA.
  • White, J. 1999. Rarity and the Phylogeography of the Large-flowered Piptoloboid Clade of Astragalus (Fabaceae). Dissertation: Michigan State University.
  • White, J. and C. Preston. 1997. Ecological Systems. In Ecology, Law, and Economics, 2nd edition. N. Mercuro editor. University Press. New York.


  • Becoming California, a PBS Broadcast Film. September 2014, 112 minutes. Jeffrey White (Executive Producer), Jim Baxter (Executive Producer), Kit Tyler (Director/Producer), Jane Fonda (Narrator), Pat Metheny (Original Musical Score). A California Environmental Legacy Project and The American Mercury, Inc. Co-Production. PBS Broadcast Premier September 10, 2014 on KQED San Francisco, CA. Broadcast Nationally on PBS since September 24, 2014.  Two Emmy® Awards: Best historical/cultural documentary, and Best editing on June 6, 2015. Two additional Emmy nominations also for Best writing and Best photography. Distribution also via DVD and Blu-ray sales.
  • Changing Places Initiative Film Series: Point Reyes National Seashore, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park; Anza Borrego Desert State Park; Redwood Forests. July 2013, 83 minutes total. David Scheerer (Director/Producer), Jeffrey White (Executive Producer), Jim Baxter (Executive Producer), Jane Fonda (Narrator), Pat Metheny (Original Musical Score). A California Environmental Legacy Project and Humboldt State Co-Production.

Mentoring and Advising

As Post-doctoral Advisor

  • Andreana Ososki – Science Education: Teaching and Research (2005-2007)

As Teacher in Residence Advisor

  • Cindy Condit (2001–2003)
  • Shannon Morago (2003–2005)
  • Diana Skiles (2005–2006)
  • Julie Van Sickle (2006–2008)
  • Michael Kauffmann (2010–2012)

As Master’s Degree Advisor

  • Jessica Coming – The Biological Implications of Modern Food Production (Book)
  • Jennifer Westenberg – Facilitation and Competition of Achillea millefolium at Varying Levels of Stress (Thesis)
  • Ben Crain – Globally and Locally Rare Plant Distributions in Napa County, California: A Multi-scaled Approach (Thesis)
  • Jeremy Tout – Adaptive Sampling Methods for Rare Plants (Thesis)
  • Malinda Bailey – An Integrative Secondary Life Science Curriculum Using Select Ecological Topics Pertaining To Forest Ecosystems of North Coast California (Curriculum)
  • Michael Kauffmann – Conifers of Northwest California (Book)
  • Martha Cardona – Short film series: Natural History of the Anza Borrego Desert (Media)