Merit and Research Scholarships for Students of Native Plants

A Legacy of Scholarship

The Milo Baker Chapter has a long history of supporting local students financially through our successful scholarship program. By gifting awards twice per year (spring and fall semesters) to Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College students, we are perpetuating a community of learning and service. Many past scholarship recipients have served on our Board, presented their research after graduating, or generously joined us in pulling invasive weeds while networking and learning skills they can carry through life.

We offer two scholarship types: a research scholarship which covers the cost of research materials and expenses, as well as a merit-based scholarship for general education costs. Over the past 10 years (as of Fall 2023), the Chapter has supported 51 students with $73,350 in scholarship funds to investigate everything from rare plant conservation to bull kelp forest restoration in our oceans to Indigenous stewardship of oak trees.

This investment will produce a return for our community in the form of an educated network of people that incorporate native plant conservation and stewardship into their lives and livelihoods.

With cost-of-living increases putting more pressure on our already stressed students, a scholarship gift can make the difference of a lifetime. If you are interested in supporting our scholarship program, we encourage you to donate directly to our Chapter by contacting Karen Thompson at or by mailing a check, specified for our scholarship program, to Milo Baker Chapter, P.O. Box 892, Santa Rosa 95402.

We have immense gratitude for our members and especially our generous scholarship-specific donors, who continue to support our organization so we can give this priceless gift to our community and keep the legacy of scholarship going and growing.

Deadline: Check back for more information about our 2024 fall scholarships
If you have questions, please email Michelle Halbur at

Awards from $1000 to $3500 for Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College Students:

  • Studying native plants or communities?
  • Interested in a plant-related career?
  • Need financial assistance for school or research supplies?

Merit Scholarships

Merit Scholarships are available for students studying native plants, plant ecology, plant genetics, or related studies. Applicants will be evaluated on a combination of academic background, work experience, and personal commitment to plant-related studies or profession.

  • Awards of $1,000
  • Must participate in one Milo Baker volunteer activity (outreach and education event participation, invasive species removal, native plant nursery, garden tour, or other approved activity)
  • Must provide a letter of appreciation to scholarship donor

To apply: Submit the online Milo Baker Merit Application using the link below.

Merit Scholarship Application

Research Scholarships

Research Scholarships are available for students that need funding for research related to plants in Sonoma County. Expenses may be used for new or existing projects. Applicants will be evaluated on a combination of academic background, work experience, and personal commitment needed to carry out proposed research successfully.

  • Awards up to $3,500 depending on project budget
  • Must participate in one Milo Baker Volunteer activity (See Merit Scholarship description)
  • Must submit short written or oral report of research activities to the Milo Baker Board within a year
  • Must provide a letter of appreciation to scholarship donor

To apply: Submit the online Milo Baker Merit Application using the link below. Include any other pertinent information to support your application (such as a resume or CV)

Research Scholarship Application

2024 Spring Scholarship Recipients

Vincent Distrola, 2024 fall research scholarship recipientVincent Distrola – Milo Baker Research Scholarship recipient

Vincent “V” Distrola currently works as a Nursery Technician for Point Blue Conservation Science’s STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) program. He has a B.S. in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration and currently takes classes part time at SRJC while he ponders going back for a master’s degree. Interested in sustainability and nursery management, V is grateful and excited for the CNPS Milo Baker research grant. Currently, most plants are grown in peat moss because it is reliable and provides exceptional germination rates for most plants. However, peat moss is a finite, natural resource and harvesting it is destructive to the peat-forming bog ecosystems that can take thousands of years to regenerate. V will be experimenting with alternative potting mediums and assessing the (1) ability to be sterilized properly to avoid the spread of Phytopthora ramorum, (2) number of plants that germinate, (3) plant health, (4) root development, and (5) survivability upon transplanting. Growing plants is something he is passionate about, and he cannot wait to start collecting and sharing the data results from this project!

Jared Lyons, 2024 fall merit scholarship recipientJared Lyons – Milo Baker Merit Scholarship recipient

I want to help the planet. My name is Jared Lyons and I’m a junior at Sonoma State University, where I am currently working towards a BS in Environmental Science while minoring in Sustainability. As a 38-year-old first generation college student, I love to learn from teachers, students, and mentors.

My background, before the last few years of college, is primarily management, product development and education programming. I see the climate crisis as a incredibly complex problem that has solutions that humans can solve. We simply must sequester more Co2 than we produce; native plant restoration is a great start! Wanting to help the planet, and utilizing the skill sets I have learned over the course of my life, has inspired me to pursue science in academics and in a future career. I am extremely grateful for the Milo Baker Merit scholarship as it will help me pursue my academic and career goals. I also enjoy hiking, cycling, paddle boarding, and going to Sonoma County Parks with my partner Sue and our dog Rigby.

Dawson Bell, 2024 fall merit scholarship recipientDawson Bell – Milo Baker Merit Scholarship recipient

My name is Dawson Bell and I am honored to be chosen for the Milo Baker Scholarship Award! I am a graduate student in biology at Sonoma State studying forest ecology. I am specifically interested in fire ecology and I am studying the California bay laurel’s resprouting response to wildfire. I have been fascinated by forests since I was a kid and as I continue to learn more, my wonder has only increased. Growing up in Sonoma County, I am excited to be conducting research here that I hope will have a lasting impact by informing local forest management. This award will help offset travel costs to and from my field sites and allow me to purchase a better scale for weighing bay laurel biomass! Thank you Milo Baker Chapter!

2023 Fall Scholarship Recipients

Shirah Strock 2023 fall research scholarship recipientShirah Strock – Milo Baker Research Scholarship recipient

My name is Shirah Strock and I am so grateful to have received a Milo Baker Award to help further my studies! I am currently a master’s student at Sonoma State University studying Biology with a focus on conservation and restoration research for a California native species, the bull kelp. My lab, the Hughes Lab, cultures bull kelp for restoration initiatives and performs research projects to improve our restoration techniques. My project focus will be to analyze the development of bull kelp under conditions with multiple stressors, specifically looking at varying temperature and salinity conditions. This project will help inform our restoration techniques and help us better understand the development of bull kelp in varying conditions. The CNPS Milo Baker scholarship that I received will help me purchase supplies and put together the infrastructure for this study. I am so excited to get started with this project, growing kelp cultures, and improving our understanding of this foundation species!

Dore Avanzi Mesquita 2023 merit scholarship recipientDora Avanzi Mesquita – Milo Baker Merit Scholarship recipient

My name is Dora Avanzi Mesquita and I am a student at Santa Rosa Junior College, studying Psychology. Research has always fascinated me, and propelled my desire to work in the science/medical field. My project is going to look at how P. ramorum (plant pathogen) infection will cause chromosomal reorganization of U. californica cells. By collecting root apical meristems from the California Bay Laurel, we can observe, and work with, active dividing plant cells. We developed a protocol for DNA visualization by optimizing DNA stains so we are able to see and analyze the chromosomes. As a part of Dr. Hua’s lab at Sonoma State University, I am able to carry out this research with the guidance of the lab, my mentor Jason Romero, and Dr. Hua. I’m very excited to be granted this opportunity to research California Bay Laurels, and in the future to present my data to the Milo Baker chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

Veronica Wade Lewis 2023 fall scholarship recipientVeronica Wade Lewis – Milo Baker Merit Scholarship recipient

My name is Veronica Wade Lewis. I have a deep love and knowledge of plants. Currently, I am an apprentice at Point Blue Conservation Science, STRAW program. At STRAW I am learning about how to restore local riparian and wetland habitats. I am also learning how to work with students in the field and the classroom to increase community awareness of the importance of native plants. I have studied Sonoma County plant life as a certified herbalist for many years and am excited to continue to learn. Most weekends you can find me hiking with my family at a local Regional or State Park. I am a mother of a special needs adult, who I have spent many years running an at home play therapy program for. This fall I will be transferring to Sonoma State University in pursuit of a BS in Environmental Science. I am grateful to receive the CNPS Merit Scholarship that will help me on my career path of connecting and learning more about local plant and human ecosystems.

Bob Schneider, Fall Scholarship recipientBob Schneider – Milo Baker Merit Scholarship recipient

I am a landscape designer and contractor by trade, and naturalist and amateur botanist by passion. I’ve worked in both residential landscaping and ecological restoration. These days, I work with the Sonoma Ecology Center, a conservation non-profit in Sonoma, CA, spearheading a regenerative landscaping program. My focus is on using local ecotype native plants in the built environment, while also responsibly utilizing stormwater, managing for invertebrate habitat, and following defensible space guidelines for fire safety. In order to better serve our community and grow my own career in the native plant movement, I am pursuing continuing education with Santa Rosa Junior College in their Environmental Horticulture department. The generous scholarship I’ve received from CNPS Milo Baker Chapter will allow me to continue advancing my skill-set in landscape design, construction, and horticulture, which in turn allows me to have a bigger and more positive impact in our community.

Amina Rand-McNeil, Fall Scholarship recipientAmina Rand-McNeil – Milo Baker Merit Scholarship recipient

My name is Amina Rand-McNeil, I am 21 years old. I am studying Natural Resources Management at Santa Rosa Junior College. I am currently working towards an Associates Degree before transferring to a four year university to get my bachelors. I have worked in the Santa Rosa Junior College’s Wildfire Resilience Program where I learned how to identify many California native plants, and applied that knowledge to hands-on field work of invasive species removal, and native plantings. I have always loved plants, and have experience in landscaping and permaculture design. However, my dream job is to work in restoration. The California Native Plant Society’s scholarship will help me focus on my education, and give me more free time to pursue extracurricular ways to get involved in the restoration community. I am living on my own as I go to school, which has proved to be difficult balancing work and school. With this extra money, I plan to study to get my firefighter 2 certificate, allowing me to work on prescribed burns, and taking me a step closer to my goals. I am very grateful to the California Native Plant Society for this scholarship, and I look forward to the opportunities that this has opened up for me.