James D. MacDonald received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from the University of California- Davis (UC-Davis) in 1973 and 1978, respectively. Following graduation, he joined the faculty at the university, advancing through the professorial ranks to become professor in both the Department of Plant Pathology and the Department of Environmental Horticulture.
Dr. MacDonald is an extremely dedicated and effective teacher who has been in the forefront of integrating computerassisted instruction in plant pathology and mycology within the curriculum at UC-Davis. He has taken the leadership in assisting other faculty to introduce this format for instruction in their own courses. It is his ability to innovate and implement his ideas into reality that distinguish him. Dr. MacDonald has been tireless in his efforts to make mycology and plant pathology available, interesting, and relevant to today’s students.
Early in his career, Dr. MacDonald developed an advanced undergraduate course on plant pathology—diagnosis and control of plant diseases. This course has served as a second course in plant pathology for many students interested in acquiring more hands-on and in-depth knowledge about the isolation of pathogens from diseased specimens and the subsequent identification of the pathogen and disease. He also is a regular contributor to courses in environmental horticulture, capitalizing on his extensive knowledge of diseases of ornamental crops. It is within these highly regarded courses that he developed the sense of what is interesting to students and crafted his superb pedagogic style.
More recently, Dr. MacDonald has been a pioneer in computerassisted instruction in plant pathology, particularly in the area of mycology. Several years ago, a gap in the delivery of the introductory and advanced mycology courses at UC-Davis arose upon the retirements of several key people. Dr. MacDonald took the lead in essentially resurrecting the introductory mycology course. He, in essence, totally revised the course. The course is taught by Dr. MacDonald, now in collaboration with David Rizzo. They have created a series of multimedia lecture and lab reviews that are, in a word, spectacular. His development of these multimedia lessons was an extremely demanding task and required sequestering the necessary resources, developing new computer facilities for the department, and learning new programming, as well as a establishing a complete review and organization of knowledge on the fungi. This has involved image scanning and micro- and macrophotography to develop a large and outstanding digital image collection of the fungi. As was noted recently by one faculty member knowledgeable in mycology, “this is a very sophisticated presentation relative to other materials available on the fungi.” This work will be published by APS Press in a CD-ROM titled Introduction to the Fungi.
This is not Dr. MacDonald’s first venture into electronic publishing. In January 1997, he co-authored with Gail Schumann a CD-ROM titled Turfgrass Diseases: Diagnosis and Control that also was published through APS Press. As a result of this accomplishment, Drs. Schumann and MacDonald were named the 1998 winners of the “Excellence in Media Award” by the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture for having authored “the top instructional media in the past year.”
Dr. MacDonald’s teaching evaluations have always been first rate. Student comments are uniformly laudatory of his instruction, for example, “I love his enthusiasm, his interaction with students, and his dedication to enhance our learning.” Many students comment specifically on the value of the computer lessons.
Dr. MacDonald is active in graduate education, serving on many qualifying exams and thesis committees, as well as having chaired the departments’ Graduate Affairs Committee and two graduate programs. He has demonstrated effective leadership in these functions and has a clear vision of what is needed in a contemporary graduate program.
Perhaps more unusual is his encouragement and support of quality undergraduate and graduate instruction by his faculty. Many faculty have noted his excellence in teaching and effective leadership in education. As department chair, Dr. MacDonald has encouraged and aided other faculty to develop additional courses related to the fungi (mushroom cultivation, fungal ecology, and more). The mycology curriculum has developed to the point that he is now seeking to establish an undergraduate minor in fungal biology and ecology. He has helped to bring mycology at UC-Davis back from near-extinction to a thriving curriculum under the wing of plant pathology.