Distinguished UM Researcher Honored with Critical Watershed Hydrology Chairship

UM's Kelsey Jencso accepts an endowment from Dave Franke in front of the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation.

MISSOULA – The University of Montana has announced that Kelsey Jencso, a faculty member and renowned researcher, will receive an endowed position to elevate research and teaching in water science and management.

Jencso will serve as the inaugural W.A. Franke Endowed Faculty Chair in Watershed Hydrology, a position created by the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation to lead in research, teaching and community engagement about the impact of watershed health and its importance to society, conservation and local economies, both in Montana and around the world. This endowed faculty chair is made possible with generous support from Bill and Carolyn Franke and the Franke family.

“I am excited to expand on the critical work UM and the college have done in order to expand access to important hydrology education and research,” Jencso said. “This endowment will help us fulfil our mission to advance the water science that is needed to make strong decisions for Montana’s land and water users.” 

As the chair of watershed hydrology, Jencso will oversee student training in watershed health and functioning and encourage field-based knowledge that prepares students for the local and global challenges emerging as a result of climate change.

“We are deeply grateful to the Franke family for once again creating unmatched opportunities for UM students and faculty,” said Alan Townsend, dean and Franke Professor at the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation. “This critical support will build on the foundation that is in place and ensure generations of UM students have access to world class education and research.”

Jencso currently serves on the faculty of the Franke College and as the state climatologist with the Montana Climate Office at the UM.

In 2020, Jencso was awarded more than $20 million by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install 205 weather stations for monitoring snowpack and soil moisture in the Upper Missouri River Basin.

Jencso and his team have worked to use those weather stations to provide critical down-stream data to farmers, ranchers and recreationists in central and eastern Montana, as well as in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska, who rely on a healthy Missouri River system for their way of life. These stations are also critical for improvements in the detection and early warning of drought and floods.

The W.A. Franke Endowed Faculty Chair in Watershed Hydrology was created with the $24 million gift made by the Franke family in 2016. That gift, the single largest gift in UM history, focused on students and programs that emphasize environmental research and hands-on learning and established two faculty chair positions in FCFC.

Since launching prior to the 2020-21 school year, the Franke College of Forestry and Conservation’s new major, Environmental Science and Sustainability, is one of the fastest growing majors in the Montana University System. It includes a track for students who study water resources.

The UM Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that has inspired philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at UM since 1950.


Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659, dave.kuntz@umontana.edu.