Today, Dean David Ackerly sent the following message to the CNR community:
I am pleased to announce that Associate Professor Isha Ray of the Energy and Resources Group (ERG) has agreed to serve as the College's first Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion beginning July 1st, 2020.
Isha is an outstanding scholar and teacher and experienced administrator. Her research addresses barriers to resource access in underserved communities, especially access to clean and safe drinking water. She teaches courses on Social Science Research Methods, Water and Development, and Community-Driven Development and, through her research, works with low-income communities, in California's Central Valley and globally, on access to water, sanitation, energy, and information technologies. She has served as the co-director of the Berkeley Water Center and as the Head Graduate Adviser and Equity and Inclusion adviser for ERG. She also serves as a member of the editorial board of several academic journals, and frequently serves as an Expert Group Adviser to UN Women.
I look forward to working with Isha in her role as CNR's inaugural Associate Dean of Equity and Inclusion as she shapes the college's priorities on this critical aspect of our collective mission. Please join me in welcoming Isha to her new position in the College.
David AckerlyImage: Date: Thursday, January 16, 2020 - 14:45 Legacy: section header item: Date: Thursday, January 16, 2020 - 14:45 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Honors and Awards Expose in main "News river"?: yes
Last night we were thrilled to connect with 100+ of our talented and inspiring alumni at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.
In partnership with the George Wright Society, the Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity has launched the Parks Stewardship Forum, an open-access journal centered on issues of conservation and stewardship. The journal pulls from a variety of disciplines, from the natural to the social sciences, to provide interdisciplinary and robust analyses that address the past and future of parks, protected areas, cultural sites, and other place-based forms of conservation.
The inaugural issue of the journal, titled “Climate Change and Protected Places: Adapting to New Realities,” looks at how protected places build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The special double issue—which contains more than 25 essays, case studies, and a photographic essay—considers current responses and strategic approaches to climate change. It includes writings from several UC Berkeley alumni, including Rolf Diamont, who writes about his inheritance of historic park publications, and Caryl Hart, who coauthors a piece on vanishing coastal parks due to sea-level rise. Environmental Science, Policy, and Management professor Steve Beissinger and graduate student Kelly Iknayan are also among this issue’s contributing authors, detailing their research on the effects of climate change on desert bird populations.
This international journal continues and expands upon the George Wright Forum, a publication named for George Melendez Wright, a UC Berkeley forestry graduate who was an influential figure in preserving national parks. The Parks Stewardship Forum can be found online at the University of California’s eScholarship platform as well as the Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity’s website, where it is available to the public in both PDF and interactive formats.
“We are very excited to have joined forces with Berkeley’s Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity to create Parks Stewardship Forum,” said Dave Harmon, the executive director of the George Wright Society, and one of the new journal’s managing editors. “The inaugural issue’s focus on adapting to climate change is a prime example of a conservation challenge that begs for an all-hands-on-deck interdisciplinary response. We can’t afford to leave anyone’s expertise on the table. We want to make Parks Stewardship Forum the go-to source for innovative thinking on protecting the world’s natural and cultural heritage places.”
“The field managers of our parks and public lands are hungry for information about how to adapt to the climate changes they are already experiencing” said Jon Jarvis, who served as the inaugural executive director of the Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity and is now chair of the board. “The ‘Forum’ achieves one of the Institute goals by bringing the best available science to the practice of conservation.”Image: Date: Thursday, January 16, 2020 - 10:30 Legacy: section header item: Date: Thursday, January 16, 2020 - 10:30 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left Expose in main "News river"?: yes
Congratulations to MCB Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology and HHMI Investigator Jennifer Doudna on receiving the 2020 Wolf Prize in Medicine!
In large cities across China, traffic congestion and air pollution have risen dramatically over the past two decades. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global obesity rates have almost tripled since 1975. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight and 650 million were clinically obese. To better understand this phenomenon, researchers are exploring how shifting transportation landscapes could play a role.
In a new paper published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) today, Michael Anderson, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE), found substantial evidence that vehicle ownership in Beijing appears to lead to weight gain and long-term declines in physical activity.
By analyzing a vehicle permit lottery in Beijing, Anderson and his colleagues concluded that “continuing surges in car usage and ownership in developing and middle income countries may adversely affect physical health and obesity rates.”
In China, vehicle ownership has spiked dramatically in recent years—it nearly doubled from 2008 to 2010, according to the World Resources Institute. The Chinese government has taken action to curb air pollution and traffic congestion in the most populous cities, using policy and market-based strategies of “transport demand management.” In January 2011, Beijing began a randomized vehicle lottery, which capped the dispersal of automobile permits at 240,000 annually. By the following year, about 1 million Beijing residents had entered the lottery.
Speaking with Fangwen Lu, a former ARE graduate student in China, Anderson learned about the Beijing lottery and saw a rare research opportunity. Previous observational studies related to car ownership have relied on subjects opting into vehicle ownership, whereas the Beijing lottery assigned car ownership randomly. “The randomization of the lottery is what gives us confidence—we know that the winners should be comparable to the losers on all attributes other than car ownership,” says Anderson.
The study, titled “Physical activity and weight following car ownership in Beijing, China,” was conducted in collaboration with two colleagues at Renmin University of China and Beijing Smart Transit Tech Co, Ltd. Using sampling data from the Beijing Transportation Research Center, Anderson and his team analyzed 937 individuals. Of these, 180 people were awarded vehicle permits and about 91 percent of those winners bought cars.
The research team found that within five years of winning, adults of all ages took approximately three fewer rides on public transit each week, with reductions in daily walking and bicycling of about 24 minutes. Meanwhile, weight gain among lottery winners under 50-years-old was insignificant, but in those over 50 or over, it was nearly 23 lbs higher than among losers over the same timeframe.
Anderson says that higher weight gain among older participants isn’t really surprising, since physical activity declines with age. So, he says, eliminating active transport from one’s daily activities could have a larger impact for an older population. Anderson adds that other questions remain unanswered and require further study. For example, the study hasn’t established whether new car owners won’t replace declines in walking or cycling with other physical activity, such as gym visits.
On their face, the results might seem intuitive. But Anderson’s research provides important empirical data in a field rife with observational studies. Thanks to the randomization of the lottery, many other factors—such as household size, employment, age, gender, education level, household income, or marital status—can be discounted as potential explanations for the health outcomes in the study.
Overall, affluence seems to be one clear predictor for both weight gain and declines in physical activity. In countries like China, which have a rapidly growing middle class, weight trends increasingly mirror the rates in more highly developed countries like the United States.
“Obesity levels vary, and the U.S. is an outlier because of its high obesity rates,” says Anderson. “But I think the trends are somewhat similar in China. Certainly amongst middle income and above, you’re generally not likely going to find obesity declining rather than increasing.”
Though still less prevalent than in the U.S., unhealthy weight gain in China has spiked in the past ten years. In Beijing, a full quarter of adults are obese.
Anderson specializes in the complex relationships between economics and transportation, the environment, and health. He says that, in addition to traffic congestion and weight gain, booming car ownership in China further exacerbates already high air pollution. The WHO estimates that air pollution kills about 7 million people worldwide annually, contributing significantly to lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other serious ailments.
Whether to combat air pollution or traffic congestion, transport demand management schemes have taken shape in the U.S. and other countries in recent years. New York City adopted a pay-to-drive plan that would tax drivers in congested areas—such taxes exist in such cities as London, Singapore, and Stockholm. In San Francisco, officials recently approved a plan to prohibit private vehicles on Market Street, a main thoroughfare, and Seattle’s mayor has pushed for roadway tolls to reduce congestion and emissions.
Anderson’s study suggests that clear gains could be made with transport demand management. “The public-health impacts of automobile travel are really important,” he says. “While cars have saved trillions of hours of travel time globally, they’ve also likely shortened lifespans by trillions of hours in aggregate via traffic accidents, pollution, and obesity-related disease.”
- Physical activity and weight following car ownership in Beijing, China: quasi-experimental cross sectional study (BMJ)
- Fewer cars, healthier cities (BMJ)
The MCB Department had an extraordinary 2019! We are so grateful for our phenomenal community of students, postdocs, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends.
As part of the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee series, ESPM graduate students Robin D. López and Ataya Cesspooch consider the importance of inclusivity and justice within the field of geoscience and STEM fields more broadly. The AGU Committee seeks to bring forth unique perspectives from underrepresented communities within the geosciences. For López and Cesspooch, this means going beyond the surface to better understand what it means for science to fully embrace diversity and inclusion, and why it is so crucial. “A group of scholars that includes a variety of viewpoints is more likely to develop unorthodox and innovative ideas and solutions to address some of today’s most pressing geoscience problems,” note López and Cesspooch.
Read the full piece here.Image: Date: Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 14:45 Legacy: section header item: Date: Monday, December 9, 2019 - 14:45 headline_position: Top Left headline_color_style: Normal headline_width: Long caption_color_style: Normal caption_position: Bottom Left News/Story tag(s): Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Expose in main "News river"?: yes
A greenhouse full of corn at the Plant Gene Expression Center. Photo by Nanticha Lutt.Nanticha Lutt
In this photo essay, PMB graduate student Nanticha Lutt takes us on a virtual tour of the Plant Gene Expression Center (PGEC) and introduces us to some of the researchers in the labs there.
From Highway 580, you can see purple glowing lights right off the Albany exit after sunset. They pulsate with warmth, keeping diurnal patterns for the delicate research specimens growing under their lamps. In the daytime, humans tend to the cultivation of the plants, furrowing labels into the soil, adding fertilizer, measuring leaf length. The Plant Gene Expression Center’s greenhouse is the heart of a collaboration of the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Plant & Microbial Biology Department of the University of California, Berkeley. It’s heartbeat pumps in seeds, grants, graduate students, and dirt—ideas and doctorates flow out.
The Plant Gene Expression Center conducts fundamental research in plant molecular biology. Researchers there explore disease resistance, light perception, the circadian clock, vegetative growth, and the plant-associated microbiome. Using molecular, genetic, and biochemical approaches, they work to elucidate essential plant genes and the networks within which they operate. The Center's principal investigators are faculty at UC Berkeley, and researchers in their laboratories are graduate and undergraduate students from the university.[image caption]
The Plant Gene Expression Center (PGEC).
Halls of the PGEC are covered in research posters from graduate students and postdocs.
Michaell Busche is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Hake/Brunkard Lab. Michael studies leaf initiation in maize. “I love working here,” he says. “I’m surrounded by dedicated and empowering scientists, and I feel like I can be my authentic self in the workplace.”
Wassim Hage is a 3rd year PhD candidate in the Fletcher Lab. Wassim studies the effect of environmental signals, such as light, on plant meristem maintenance.
Kjel Johnson is a 3rd year undergraduate student in the Hake Lab. Kjel characterizes leaf shape maize mutants.
Nanticha Lutt is a 3rd year PhD candidate in the Brunkard/Hake Lab. Nanticha studies the metabolic regulation of plant growth and development by the TARGET OF RAPAMYCIN pathway.
Sam Leiboff, BS ’10 Environmental Sciences, is an NSF postdoctoral fellow and a UC Berkeley alum in the Hake Lab. Sam studies plant genetics with maize and sorghum. He’s interested in the way that shape and size of leaves develops over time. “The PGEC has an intimate research institute feeling, just a short bike ride away from the breadth of opportunities at the UC Berkeley campus,” he says. “We can interact with all sorts of fun applied agricultural and food research at our shared USDA facility. Also, convenient greenhouse and field space makes genetics a breeze!”
Cindy Chau is a 4th year undergraduate student in the Hake/Brunkard Lab. A recipient of the SURF Rose Hills Independent Fellowship, she studies how nitrogen supply affects the TARGET OF RAPAMYCIN pathway.
Emily Chau is a 2nd year undergraduate student in the Hake/Brunkard Lab. Emily characterizes genetic Arabidopsis mutants for further research.
Tuesday Simmons is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Colemann-Derr Lab. Tuesday studies microbial ecological interactions in drought stressed cereal crops.
Thai Q Dao is a 5th year PhD Candidate in the Fletcher lab. Dat studies meristem maintenance in flowering plants. “Plants are so powerful!”
Daniel Caddell is a postdoctoral researcher in the Coleman-Derr Lab. Daniel researches how the root microbiome contributes to improved plant growth during drought.
Student Stories Research News
A new study by University of California, Berkeley, microbial ecologists used experimental evolution to help identify the core microbiome of commercial tomatoes. They selected for those microbial taxa that best survived on the plants and then showed that these “domesticated” microbial communities are able to effectively fend off random microbes that land on the plants. In other words, these selected communities look like a stable, healthy plant microbiome, akin to what a robust tomato plant might pass to its offspring.
In a publication appearing today in the journal Science Translational Medicine, University of California, Berkeley, and Ben-Gurion University scientists report that senile mice given one such drug had fewer signs of brain inflammation and were better able to learn new tasks, becoming almost as adept as mice half their age.