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Dan Hammer wins inaugural Pritzker Award

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 09:01

Dan Hammer, an Agricultural and Resource Economics PhD candidate who has worked to make information about the environment accessible and understandable for journalists, has been honored with the first-ever Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award.

The award was presented during a ceremony at the California NanoSystems Institute at University of California, Los Angelos (UCLA) on November 8. The honor, which carries a $100,000 cash prize, was created by UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to recognize individuals 40 and younger who have shown exceptional promise as champions for the environment.

Most awards in environmental studies are given to people who have already made their marks. The Pritzker Award, which was funded as part of a $20 million gift to UCLA from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation, is the field’s first major honor for young innovators—those whose work stands to benefit most from the prize money and prestige.

Hammer is an environmental economist and data expert, and the co-founder of Earth Genome, a nonprofit that seeks to provide environmental data to decision makers. His current project, Overview News, would give journalists and other storytellers easy access to satellite imagery and help them understand it—all in order to support lucid, reliable news about the environment. 

Dan Hammer

“There is nothing more unbiased than the flyby images from a small piece of metal in low Earth orbit traveling at 10,000 miles per hour,” Hammer wrote in his statement to the Pritzker Award judges.

In presenting the award, Scott Waugh, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, said that recent extreme weather and wildfires have been urgent reminders of the importance of dealing with environmental challenges.

“The last few months have demonstrated why we all have to take the environment seriously,” Waugh said. “We need innovation, we need courage and we need energy to help solve these problems, because they’re not getting solved on their own. It takes the dedication of people like [the Pritzker Award finalists] and the researchers at UCLA.”

Hammer also co-founded a platform called Global Forest Watch, which uses satellite images to detect deforestation. During the Obama administration, he was a senior policy advisor on technology to NASA and the White House. Democratizing scientific data—making it more accessible to the public—is a consistent focus of his work.

“Each time, it’s about provisioning environmental data in a way that modern web developers can use and incorporate into their applications,” Hammer said.

In addition to his efforts to make data more accessible, Hammer teaches math to inmates at San Quentin State Prison.

He was chosen from among six finalists whose interests range from protecting endangered elephants to ensuring equitable access to water. 

Read the full article at its source,  the California NanoSystems Institute.

Image:  Dan Hammer Date:  Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 08:45 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 08:45 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Honors and Awards

California birds nesting a week earlier than they did a century ago

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 16:09

A new study suggests that many of the state’s birds are adapting to rising temperatures by breeding earlier than they did a century ago.

A comparison of nesting data recorded in the early 1900s with similar data today for more than 200 species of California birds shows that overall they are breeding five to 12 days earlier than they did 75 to 100 years ago. Earlier studies found that many but not all birds in California’s mountains are moving north or to higher elevations to find cooler temperatures in the face of global warming.

“The shift to earlier breeding that we detected allows birds to nest at similar temperatures as they did a century ago, and helps explain why half the bird species in the mountainous areas of California did not need to shift upward in elevation in response to climate warming over the past century,” said co-author Steven Beissinger, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM).

1921 photo of scrubjays

California scrub jay nestlings in Berkeley, May 20, 1921. A new study compared nesting data from the early 1900s to similar data today and found that California birds are nesting earlier to avoid warmer weather. Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

The study, led by former ESPM graduate student Morgan Tingley, now an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, UConn postdoc Jacob Socolar, former ESPM postdoc Peter Epanchin, now of the United States Agency for International Development, and Beissinger will be published online the week of November 13 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Early spring arrivals have long been noted by the public and reported by scientists, but the assumption has been that the birds are tracking resources, primarily food: with warming temperatures, plants produce leaves and seeds earlier, and insects emerge earlier.

The new study spotlights another major reason: By nesting a week earlier, birds produce eggs and young at a temperature about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than if they nested at the normal time in the same place. This exactly counterbalances the approximately 1 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures over the past century.

“By nesting a week or 10 days earlier, birds are avoiding some of the negative effects of climate warming,” Beissinger said.

“The good news is that there may be more flexibility for species to respond to climate change than we thought, and not all species may need to move farther north or to higher elevations,” he added. “But we don’t know yet whether staying in place and shifting schedules earlier is a permanent solution, or only provides temporary relief from the 2 degree Celsius (3.5 degree Fahrenheit) rise in temperatures forecast to occur.”

Birds may find, for example, that the window of good temperatures for breeding becomes shorter, which may limit the opportunity to re-nest if they fail the first time. Larger species that have a longer nesting period might not have a enough time to complete their nests before it starts to become too warm, he said.

Early 1900s data from historic Grinnell survey

The researchers used historical data on animal species and numbers collected between 1911 and 1929 by UC Berkeley biologist Joseph Grinnell and his colleagues and students. These data have proved invaluable for assessing how the state’s birds and mammals have altered their geographic and elevational ranges over the past century. In 2009, Tingley, then an ESPM graduate student, and Beissinger used this data to show that about half the state’s birds had physically moved northward or to higher elevations to escape the heat as temperatures increased over the past 100 years.

With the Grinnell survey data as a baseline, UC Berkeley researchers have conducted resurveys of the entire state as part of the Grinnell Resurvey Project. Beissinger and his colleagues focused on the bird data, looking at the shift in nest timing for 202 species across most of northern California, from the northwest coast to Monterey, and in the western mountains from Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks to Lassen National Park. To help understand the relationship between temperature and nesting, the researchers also accessed data from 47,023 monitored bird nests across North America from over 100 species that had been collected by citizen scientists contributing to Project Nestwatch, run by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in New York.

Analyzing these data, the researchers discovered that nesting success varied significantly on the fringes of birds’ breeding ranges: At warmer temperatures, birds on the northern, cooler fringes saw higher success, while those on the southern, hotter fringes saw less breeding success. 

A dusky flycatcher bird photographed in 1925

A dusky flycatcher tends its nest near Battle Creek in Tehama County on June 17, 1925. Joseph Dixon photo courtesy of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

“In the colder parts of the breeding ranges, abnormally warm summers increase the survival of nestlings, but in warm southern parts of ranges, abnormally warm summers decrease their survival,” said Tingley. “Breeding earlier means breeding colder, and temperature matters for survival of nestlings.”

“Previously adaptations of range changes and timing changes have always been thought of separately. What we show is this might not be so simple and they could be intertwined,” said Socolar.

The project was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the California Energy Commission.

RELATED INFORMATION

Read the article at its source, UC Berkeley News

Image:  1921 photo of scrubjays Date:  Monday, November 13, 2017 - 16:00 byline:  By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley Media relations Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - 16:00 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Research News

Student Spotlight: Laura Driscoll

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 13:17

In our first graduate student edition of our Student Spotlight series, Laura Driscoll tells us about her dissertation research, the organic farming report that she co-authored, and how studying anthropology sparked her interest in ecology.

Laura Driscoll

Laura Driscoll

PhD candidate, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

You are in the process of completing your dissertation. What’s the focus of your doctoral research?

My doctoral research looks at how food safety measures on vegetable farms impact environmental sustainability goals. I’m comparing the landscape of regulatory tools and private food safety standards that exist in the United States and United Kingdom, to see which tools create the best outcomes for both food safety and the environment. Regulatory approaches are very different between the two areas, while private standards are fairly similar. I’m finding that outcomes for food safety and environment are best with a blend of public and private governance, and food safety rules seem to be less in conflict with environmental goals under EU rules than they are here in the United States. Working with professor Kate O’Neill, I’m exploring all this in my dissertation to get into the details of why it works differently in each location, and what lessons we can learn for better management of both food safety and the environment.

How did you become interested in this field?

Prior to beginning graduate school at Berkeley, I studied anthropology at Stanford. For my master’s thesis, I examined how tourism was impacting community cohesion and resource use in indigenous communities along the Tambopata river in southeastern Peru, potentially impacting nearby national parks. After completing my masters, I began working for the Center for Responsible Travel, a non-profit policy-based research organization promoting sustainable travel that benefits local communities and protects the environment. In partnership with governments and other NGOs, we conducted studies comparing stay-over tourism to cruise tourism in Mexico and Belize, and comparing ecotourism to conventional tourism in Costa Rica. The backbone of all this work was interviews with tourism employees and household surveys in the nearby communities, where I was using my anthropological training to understand the social and economic impacts of different styles of tourism.

Many of the questions that we asked during interviews ran up against agricultural issues, like the tense relationship between environmental conservation messages and the necessary income communities made from export agriculture in palm oil or bananas. There was also hunger in some of these communities, even though many of the people not working in tourism were farmers, and I saw that much of what they grew was exported. I became very interested in questions around food and agriculture through doing this work, and how agriculture is tied into environmental goals and social equity questions. I started exploring agriculture through a blended social science and environmental lens, and that’s what led me to become a graduate student at Berkeley.

Laura Driscoll and a tree

Laura beside a kapok tree in Tambopata National Reserve in Madre de Dios, Peru.

You co-authored a Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) report, Growing Organic, State by State: A Review of State-Level Support for Organic Agriculture. The report highlights the opportunities and challenges facing state departments of agriculture as they support a growing number of organic farmers. What led to your interest in organic farming research and how did you become involved in this report?

Working with farms of different sizes and types in my doctoral work got me interested in the unique challenges and benefits of organic farming. As the market for organic products continues to grow, it will be important to increase information and resources for supporting organic farmers. Environmental protection and sustainability in agriculture is a wide topic area that includes many different elements, but organic agriculture is one important component and we need to promote organic at the policy level. BFI selected me as a Graduate Student Researcher to conduct this study, to see what support currently exists for organic farming at the state level and how it could be strengthened.  

What was the interviewing and research process like as you were writing the report?

After choosing states that would create a representative sample accurately reflecting each region, I worked to communicate directly with the departments of agriculture in each state to learn about the portfolio of ways that they’re supporting organic farmers. We wanted to know: What services do they offer organic farmers, what are the biggest challenges that they’re facing, and what are some things that their state does really well in terms of supporting organic? It was fascinating to talk to department staff.

It wasn’t always easy to figure out who was the best person to talk to in each department, because organic isn’t managed the same way in all states. For instance, some state departments are organic certifiers, and others do not handle certification. Tracking down and speaking with the right people was the longest part of the process because resources are stretched thin in many of these departments.

What are some recommendations that states could potentially take away from this report?

Our research revealed that state departments of agriculture may offer very different services based on whether they offer certification in-house or whether they do not certify. Those that do certify must comply with specific rules, and they often offer fewer services as a result. It could be helpful to reorganize how services are offered, or to strengthen links to universities and nonprofits that can fill in those gaps.

Laura Driscoll at a vineyard Harvesting grapes at a community-run vineyard in Portola Valley, CA.

Another important takeaway from the report might be: Know your state’s organic farmer population and know how you can best help them. Many of the personnel working in these states have a good understanding of what’s most useful in their state. For example, in the northeast, there’s an emphasis on local products like dairy or maple syrup and organic is one group within that, and in the midwest a lot of energy is spent on issues of pesticide drift on grain farms. Some states have really large organic farmer populations so issues are around managing a high volume of service needs, and others have fewer organic farmers so their biggest work is around spreading information and growing that producer base. Different responses are needed for different farmer populations, in accordance with the resources each department has and how organic fits into their overall agricultural plan as a state. The states that were offering the best support for organic farmers were those that had a strong understanding of their farmers’ needs, and robust links to groups outside the department that could provide additional resources for farmers.

Of these recommendations and these conclusions, where do you see the most potential or the most political will?

This is going to be different for each state, and it remains to be seen what the response will be. It will be interesting to see what develops across the country on the heels of this work and other work that is being done to promote organic farming. One part of the report that is really promising is knowing which states are doing really well despite having few resources to put toward organic support. There are lessons there that could help other states, and opportunities for additional growth. Helping to connect farmers to resources outside the department is something that any state can work toward regardless of resources, so that is really promising.

There are ways that departments can facilitate or make space for work being done by university extension personnel and nonprofits, so strengthening the bonds between these state agencies and other players in the field is really important to best leverage limited resources. It was interesting seeing how organic regulations function on a national level and how they then trickle down into decisions and practices at the state level, different from state to state. How those different levels of regulation are articulated was really interesting to think about, since that is a topic I’m also dealing with from a different angle in my dissertation.

Image:  laura driscoll Date:  Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 08:00 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 08:00 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Student Spotlights

Four CNR faculty named 2017 Hellman Fellows

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 13:31

Four faculty from the College of Natural Resources have been named 2017 Hellman Fellows. The Hellman Fellows Program supports junior faculty research on the ten campuses of the UC system and at four private institutions.  

Established by Warren & Chris Hellman and their children in 1994, the purpose of the Hellman Fellows Program is to support the research of promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their chosen fields of endeavor. The Hellman Fellows Program has made over 850 awards during the life of the program. 

Headshots of James Sallee, David Anthoff, James Olzmann, and Matthew Traxler

CNR's 2017 Hellman Fellows from left to right: James Sallee, David Anthoff, James Olzmann, and Matthew Traxler.

James Sallee
Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics
Project Title: Heterogeneity, Equity, and Energy Policy

David Anthoff
Assistant Professor, Energy Resources Group
Project Title: Social Cost of Carbon Estimation for Climate Policy

James Olzmann
Assistant Professor, Nutritional Science & Toxicology
Project title: Global identification of endogenous ERAD substrates

Matthew Traxler
Assistant Professor, Plant and Microbial Biology
Project Title: Mining Unexplored Microbiomes for Antibiotics Discovery Using Mass Spectral Imaging

 

For fellowship information and a complete list of awardees, visit the Hellman Fellows Fund website.

Image:  Headshots of James Sallee, David Anthoff, James Olzmann, and Matthew Traxler Date:  Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 11:45 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 11:45 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Honors and Awards

Berkeley Noted for Environment/Ecology, Plant & Animal Science by U.S. News & World Report

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 15:27

In the U.S. News & World Report's “Best Global Universities Rankings,” published this week, UC Berkeley was ranked #1 in Environment/Ecology and #4  in Plant and Animal Science.

According to the report, “The field of environment and ecology includes subjects such as environmental health, environmental monitoring and management, and climate change” as well as the relationships between living things and the physical world. The report states that topics in the plant and animal science category include plant research, plant pathology, plant nutrition, veterinary medicine, marine and freshwater biology, and zoology.

CNR is honored to be a part of the campus community conducting groundbreaking research, teaching, and outreach in these subject areas.

UC Berkeley placed fourth in the overall global university ranking. Other highly ranked subject areas at Berkeley include Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Biology and Biochemistry, Microbiology, Engineering, and Space Science.

Image:  Bancroft library and Sather tower Date:  Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 15:15 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 15:15 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Honors and Awards Research News

UC Berkeley establishes the Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 14:51
Jon Jarvis in a redwood grove on the UC Berkeley campus

After 40 years with the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis will head up the new Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity at UC Berkeley. Photo by Jeremy Snowden.


UC Berkeley announced today the establishment of the Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity to tackle the most pressing issues facing the future of parks, including climate change and equitable access. The institute’s inaugural executive director will be Jonathan B. Jarvis, who served 40 years with the National Park Service (NPS) and as its 18th director from 2009 to 2017.

“Our national, state and local parks are facing a myriad of challenges from climate change while simultaneously expected to provide recreation, wildlife refuge, public gathering space, health benefits, and environmental justice,” Jarvis said. “I am very excited by this opportunity to bring together the extraordinary academic talents at UC Berkeley with the professionals in the parks and public lands to tackle these challenges.”

Jarvis brings a lifetime of park management experience to the institute. During his tenure as NPS director, he initiated extensive programs to address climate changes in the national parks, expanded the NPS by 22 new parks, and led the service through its Centennial with a vision for a second century of park stewardship, engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs.

Resources Legacy Fund (RLF) provided $250,000 in seed funding to launch the institute, continuing its nearly 20-year history of advancing conservation across the West. The nonprofit recently led efforts to help modernize the California park system through the Parks Forward Commission.

“The new institute will help inform future policy and management directions for parks,” said Michael Mantell, the founder and president of RLF. “Today we understand better than ever the economic, ecological, and societal values of protecting parks and biological diversity. That’s why we need a new vision for parks that includes equitable access and climate resilience, and policy to achieve that vision. Resources Legacy Fund is pleased to help UC Berkeley pioneer the interdisciplinary approach that can help advance our parks and serve society for the 21st century and beyond.”

The new institute continues Berkeley’s long tradition of involvement in the national parks system, starting with its very foundation. In 1915, Stephen T. Mather, class of 1887, and Horace M. Albright, class of 1912, gathered a group at Berkeley’s campus to plot a future for the country’s existing and evolving national parks. The result of their efforts was legislation establishing the NPS in 1916, with Mather serving as its first director and Albright as its second.

For more than 100 years, research at Berkeley has helped guide evidence-based management policies and actions for parks. Berkeley’s faculty, graduate students and natural history museums’ curators conduct research in and for parks that produce key data and insights. Interdisciplinary studies of ecosystems yield important information about the management of biodiversity in the face of climate change, introduced species and other threats, and assess how protected land contributes to the health of the economy and the health of the planet, including carbon sequestration and ecosystem services. Research on the social, cultural, and health benefits of parks contributes to decisions on park use and human enjoyment. The new institute will connect field managers and researchers to improve management of national, state, and local parks and other public lands.

Creation of the institute comes as the original concept of managing parks as discrete natural areas is increasingly out of date. Wildlife do not obey boundary lines, and climate change makes the historical record an unreliable predictor of future conditions. Park access must be expanded for underserved communities and urban populations, and to ensure continued support, parks must be managed in ways that engage younger generations.

One hundred years after the founding of the NPS, Berkeley hosted the 2015 summit “Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century” to advance the conversation about the future of parks. In the wake of this summit, the institute will help prepare parks, people and biodiversity for multiple futures, incorporating the best available science. The institute will bring together Berkeley faculty, researchers and practitioners across diverse disciplines to chart the course of park and protected space management for future. Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources will host the institute, but the academic talents of the university’s various colleges and disciplines will be involved, including public health, environment, education, design, business and law.

“We have world-class faculty who are already working on these issues, and we can look long term to study difficult questions across disciplines,” said Steven Beissinger, Berkeley professor of conservation biology in the College of Natural Resources, who led the push to start the institute.

MORE INFORMATION

  • Read the press release on the UC Berkeley News site
  • The Berkeley Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity webpage.
  • VIDEO: Science for Parks, Parks for Science – created by UC Berkeley and the National Park Service during the national parks centennial, this video highlights the importance of science in, around, and for parks.
Image:  Sunrise over a mountain and lake Date:  Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 14:45 byline:  By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley Media relations Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 14:45 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left

Berkeley Food Institute podcast features CNR researchers

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 13:27
The farm is full of native pollinators, such as this bumble bee.

Muller Ranch is full of native pollinators, such as this bumble bee. Images from BFI

“If honey bees disappeared tomorrow, we would definitely be compelled to change our farming system. We’d have to provide for the needs of native pollinators.” That’s Claire Kremen, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, and a conservation biologist who studies biodiversity loss. Kremen was recently interviewed about California’s native pollinators on an episode of Just Food, a new podcast series from the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI).

Just Food is a six-part podcast series that investigates food justice and health in California. Produced in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Advanced Media Institute, the series’ first episode focused on efforts to promote equitable agriculture, and included an interview with Christy Getz, an associate Cooperative Extension specialist. Getz, who has been studying an organization called the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), spoke about the challenges that many workers in agriculture face: “Farmworkers suffer from high rates of food insecurity so that’s kind of the paradox, that the very people who pick and harvest our food often can’t afford to eat that very food.” Efforts like the EFI aim to make farming healthier for workers and the environment through improving working conditions and farming habitats.

The podcast’s second episode, “Feeling the Sting: What Can Be Done to Protect Pollinators” featured Kremen as well as a local farmer and a beekeeper. Kremen addressed American agriculture’s reliance on honey bees—which aren’t native to the US—to pollinate crops. This has created a fragile ecosystem, according to Kremen: “Anytime you rely on only one thing, you have no buffer. It's kind of like the stock market—most people recognize that investing all of their assets into a single commodity is not a wise idea.”

To create more robust farming ecosystems, and to protect against disorders like colony collapse, Kremen calls for relying on a greater diversity of pollinators, including native pollinators. Additionally, farms need to create habitats in which native pollinators like green sweat bees can thrive. For many farms that focus on monoculture growing, this means incorporating natural plants and diversifying crops to include plants that bloom at different times of the year, providing food for native pollinators year round.

The podcast series will continue to tackle food justice and health issues in its upcoming episodes. Read more about the podcast and listen to episodes on BFI’s website.

Image:  Colin devotes much of his time tending to the farm’s honey bee hives. Date:  Friday, October 20, 2017 - 08:00 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Friday, October 20, 2017 - 13:15 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left

CNR experts on Northern California’s wildfires

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 14:38

After an already fierce fire season across the state, October has been a devastating month for wildfires in Northern California, resulting in the destruction of than 6,700 homes and businesses in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. The CNR community is sending thoughts of condolence and hope to those who have been affected. While firefighters work around the clock to evacuate communities and battle the flames, and as these counties look toward returning home and rebuilding, CNR’s faculty and researchers have been sharing research findings and strategies for wildfire management, as well as policy recommendations and concerns. Below are some of the interviews and commentaries in which CNR scientists offer advice, support, and policy direction.

Why California's wildfires, like everything else, keep getting worse
Cooperative Extension specialist Bill Stewart interview in Vice

California’s wildfires: why have they been so destructive?
Professor Scott Stephens in the New York Times

What to do if you’re trapped in a vehicle in the middle of a wildfire
Dean J. Keith Gilless in the Washington Post

San Francisco Is choking on a thick haze of smoke. These are the health risks
Professor Rachel Morello-Frosch in Buzzfeed

Op-ed: Spending more on fire suppression won’t reduce losses
Professor Scott Stephens in the San Francisco Chronicle

Why California needs more smart forestry
Cooperative Extension forest management specialist Richard B. Standiford in the Sacramento Bee

What needs to be done to stop wildfires in drought-killed forests
Assistant Cooperative Extension specialist Van Butsic on a recent report for the Public Policy Institute of California in News Deeply

More resources

Image:  Buildings engulfed in flames Date:  Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 14:15 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - 14:15 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Research News

Student Spotlight: Kimberlie Le

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 13:30

Kimberlie Le shares her experience in the CNR Honors Program, recalls conducting research in Taiwan, and tells us about the exciting new social venture she co-founded with her classmates.

Kimberlie Le in front of a particularly colorful mountain.

Kimberlie in Zhangye National Geopark in western China.

Kimberlie Le

4th year, Conservation and Resources Studies, Legal Studies, and Society & Environment, with minors in Food Systems and Music.

How do you see your majors and minors working together? Do they share any commonalities in how you approach these fields? 

As a competitive freestyle snowboarder, I have always been motivated to understand and protect our snowy mountain environments. My commitment to addressing environmental issues solidified during my gap year between high school and college when I taught and studied abroad in China, a place where I witnessed firsthand major air and water pollution. I entered Berkeley intending to study music and to just take other classes that interested me. As I was taking my breadth courses, I realized that there were large gaps in many of the analytical frameworks that are used in different disciplines to analyze environmental issues. In the end, I chose my majors and minors mostly to be able to gain a multidisciplinary view of how environmental issues are being understood and addressed from the scientific, economic, legal, and social points of view.

Kimberlie Le snowboarding Hitting the slopes in Park City, Utah.

One of the defining experiences during my time at Berkeley was the privilege of being able to travel abroad to conduct independent research in Taiwan through the CNR Honors Program. Through this experience interacting with and studying rivers in agricultural communities, I realized my passion for research that looks at issues within the globalized food system from an interdisciplinary perspective. I hope to be able to use all of the knowledge that I’ve acquired through my journey at Berkeley, both technical and theoretical, in my future studies and research. I think that the lenses that my three majors take to tackle food systems and environmental issues are very different. I hope that in my career I will be able to find an effective way to communicate and advocate for our environment to make legal and policy changes that positively impact our climate.

Could you tell us more about why you’re drawn to freestyle snowboarding?

Although I skated when I was a kid, I've always wanted to go faster and feel smaller in this huge world, and I dislike feeling trapped in an urban environment. Most of my high school experience was spent on the mountain where I learned how to effectively manage my time between school, training, and other extracurriculars such as teaching and music, both lifelong passions of mine. It's hard to describe why I snowboard, but I think that beyond the adrenaline rush and competition that keeps me going, the best way I can put it is that snowboarding gives me a way to be connected with nature and makes me feel small so I keep asking questions and finding answers. In a sense, my love for the mountains and snowboarding gave me drive and really motivated my path within science, which in my mind is the process of critical inquiry. Sometimes when I'm stuck inside most of the day, it seems like nature is small and distant, but when I'm on the slopes between large trees floating through fresh powder, there is a sense of harmony that is indescribable.

We heard that while you've been involved in a new social venture  - can you tell us about this project and how it came about?

I spent this past summer travelling throughout Asia working on a social venture that was born out of a course I took at Berkeley called Challenge Lab, which was sponsored by the Sutardja Center and the U.S. Department of State. The problem that we were tasked with solving was the lack of energy infrastructure in developing countries. The venture is called Povigo, which means “power” in Esperanto, a language spoken in more than 100 countries and often called a “universal language.” Povigo aims to connect artisan communities to consumers who want to make a direct impact by helping fund clean energy resources. My team came up with the idea by using the problem-solving skills, teamwork, and knowledge that we acquired through our time at Berkeley and we are really excited to see our work becoming a reality to impact the lives of others. Currently, we have a selection of teas and gift sets that were collected from our trip that can be purchased online via our website: www.povigo.org. Each of our products comes with a brief story and background about the regions we are targeting and how we are planning to help the communities in these areas. By purchasing these products, consumers can directly aid in the investment of much-needed clean energy resources for these communities. We will be using a community-based model to provide the clean energy resources which are essential to empower and educate future generations in these areas.

Kimberlie Le Conducting research in Shei-Pa National Park in central Taiwan.

What has been the most valuable part of studying at CNR?

One of the most valuable skills that I’ve learned from being in CNR is how to think critically and make decisions while also understanding and seeing different viewpoints. Something that was hard for me to learn was how there is rarely a clear-cut solution to issues and how critical inquiry is ever so important in a world where information is so readily available. Not only has the course content in my classes been helpful and thought-provoking, but my peers have inspired and motivated me throughout my journey at Berkeley.

What advice do you have for an incoming CNR student?

Make your own journey and don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable: Berkeley is a big place and it can be extremely overwhelming trying to figure out what you “should” be doing. I think it’s important to explore your personal interests and not get caught up trying to figure out what others are doing to try to fit in. There are tons of clubs, courses, and organizations on campus with most accepting students of all years and backgrounds. I’d also highly recommend studying abroad as it allows you to explore a new environment and forces you to get out of your comfort zone.

Make connections and take advantage of the resources that are available: Even as someone who is an extrovert, I found it hard and scary at first to approach and talk with my graduate student instructors and professors, but after you go to office hours a few times it becomes a lot easier. These connections were important for me as I have gotten invaluable help and advice about my academic and personal life. Professors and instructors have all been an undergraduate at some point in their lives, so they can relate! Cal is full of resources and people who are here to help students with everything from how to navigate scheduling to research resources. If you ever feel lost or want help finding resources, good sources of information are teaching staff, fellow students, and advisors.

Image:  Kimberlie Le in front of a particularly colorful mountain. Date:  Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - 13:30 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Monday, October 2, 2017 - 13:30 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Student Spotlights

Berkeley and Novartis collaborate to tackle ‘undruggable’ disease targets

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 09:55

UC Berkeley has joined forces with Novartis to develop new technologies for the discovery of next-generation therapeutics. The partnership will pursue the vast number of disease targets in cancer and other illnesses that have eluded traditional small-molecule compounds and are considered “undruggable.”            

The collaboration establishes the Novartis-Berkeley Center for Proteomics and Chemistry Technologies, based in existing labs at Berkeley, and includes support for joint research projects between Berkeley and Novartis scientists. The projects harness covalent chemoproteomics technology that rapidly maps locations on protein targets—including those that have been considered undruggable–-where compounds could form lasting bonds while providing starting points for novel therapeutics.                  

“Never before have we been able to explore what we call the proteome, the totality of over 20,000 proteins in the body, with such breadth, depth, and speed,” said Daniel Nomura, director of the new center and an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology. “Combining technology advances in proteomics and chemistry allows us to imagine creating compounds to bind every known protein in the body, especially those underlying serious diseases such as cancer.”                   

The alliance will also explore the potential of emerging therapeutics known as degraders, which involve the use of bifunctional molecules that bind to disease targets on one end and on the other end to a key component in a cell’s natural protein-disposal system. The collaborators plan to test whether the covalent chemoproteomics technology could aid in reducing the time required to create potential degraders from years to months.              

“Traditional drug compounds bind to proteins at places that cause them to malfunction, but many disease targets lack these functional binding locations,” said John Tallarico, head of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics at NIBR. “Degraders are different because they can bind to disease targets at non-functional sites and trigger the destruction of the target proteins, resulting in the interference of their function.”    

Other aspects of the collaboration include screening natural product compounds and using the covalent chemoproteomics system to discover their targets, understanding mechanism of action, and developing new platform technology enabling the discovery of compounds to bind to greater numbers of proteins.

“Novartis pioneers new therapeutic paradigms, creating definitive medicines for life-threatening diseases,” said Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “Our Berkeley alliance powerfully extends our ability to advance discovery of molecules aimed at the historically inaccessible drug targets.”                

Read more about the partnership on Novartis’s website.

Image:  Date:  Thursday, September 28, 2017 - 09:00 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - 09:45 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Research News

As biotic communities form, pollinators swap one plant for another

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 11:07

In the crops and orchards of California’s Central Valley, even the tiniest species can have a big impact. Consider wild bees: these pollinators visit a variety of native plants and agricultural fields, providing an essential role in cultivating our food crops.

A new study from UC Berkeley researchers helps create a clearer understanding of how networks of plants and pollinators form over time to create biotic communities. The results of their research, which could help scientists and conservationists rebuild communities when a species goes locally extinct, are published today in Ecology Letters. 

Close up of a bee on a yellow flower Pollinator species, like wild bees, often opportunistically change their plant partners as plant communities shift over time. Photo by Leithen M'Gonigle.

Insect pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hoverflies are important “ecosystem service providers,” according to Lauren Ponisio, who earned her PhD  in 2016 from the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM). Many of the foods we eat—almonds, blueberries, tomatoes, and more—depend on insect pollination for reproduction.

“Human activities are degrading our ecosystems at an alarming rate, and we want to know how to restore them,” said Ponisio, who was a postdoctoral fellow in ESPM before recently joining UC Riverside as an assistant professor. “If we understand how communities of pollinators and plants form, we might be able to reassemble communities of locally extinct species in the future.”

Ponisio, along with ESPM professor Claire Kremen and UC Riverside postdoctoral fellow Marilia Gaiarsa, tracked the number of times that common Central Valley pollinators such as wild bees and hoverflies visited selected areas of native plant growth. By studying how often pollinators visited plants, they hoped to better understand how these species assemble to make up the communities of plants, insects, and animals that form the biotic communities in and around food crops.

Researchers catch pollinators in nets in a field of flowing trees More than 100 field technicians, undergraduate and graduate students, and volunteers worked alongside lab managers and postdoctoral researchers to collect the data that culminated in this study. Photo by Leithen M'Gonigle.

To track the interactions between pollinators and plants, researchers gathered eight years of data that resulted in nearly 20,000 pollinator visitation records. The study was made possible by research that began in Kremen’s lab in 2006. In cooperation with local farmers, Kremen’s team planted hedgerows of native plants in five fields that are home to intensely managed agricultural plots.

Researchers then visited the hedgerows—borders of plants that surround fields—between two and five times each year. During each visit, researchers from Kremen’s lab used nets to capture bees and hoverflies that visited the newly planted hedgerows. More than 100 field technicians, undergraduate and graduate students and volunteers worked alongside lab managers and postdoctoral researchers to collect the data that culminated in this study, as well as many other ecology papers. Kremen’s team followed the same schedule to collect samples from two control locations: a group of older established hedgerows, as well as the overgrown borders of crops that were not replanted with native species.

Over the course of the 8-year study, researchers in Kremen’s lab spent more than 500 hours catching pollinator species. Once Ponisio analyzed the data, she discovered that pollinators’ visitation patterns are different from how ecologists have previously described plant-pollinator relationships. Using a statistical model to chart changes in the type of plant species that pollinators during the eight years, Ponisio and her co-authors found that pollinators’ preferences morph as communities of plants grow. This is known as opportunistic attachment: pollinators shift their preference for a particular plant species over time as different plants become available or go locally extinct.

According to Kremen, this finding is a new development in how ecologists understand biotic community assembly. “Our study shows for the first time that the most persistent and abundant pollinator species often opportunistically change their plant partners as the plant community itself changes in response to restoration,” she said.

Bee flying towards a flower This study's findings could help scientists and conservationists address how to rebuild plant and animal habitats when a species goes locally extinct. Photo by Leithen M'Gonigle

In an effort to make her results transparent and repeatable, Ponisio has published the computer code she used to create the study’s statistical models on the development platform GitHub. “To reproduce this computationally intensive study, you need a lot of code. I want others to have access to this code so they can evaluate the results for themselves,” she said.  

These findings will continue to be valuable as scientists and conservationists address how to rebuild plant and animal habitats. “This study demonstrates that pollinators may be malleable in terms of which plants that they visit and that dynamic shifts are part of the assembling process for a community,”  said Ponisio. This could mean that scientists might find ways to maintain and rebuild community functionality even when a plant species goes locally extinct.

Image:  Bee flying towards a flower Date:  Monday, September 18, 2017 - 11:00 byline:  By Mackenzie Smith Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Monday, September 18, 2017 - 11:00 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Research News

Reinvestment in research supports potential for increased crop yields

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 17:10
Image of researcher holding research plants

Photo by Jim Block.

A University of Illinois research project on which UC Berkeley Professor Krishna Niyogi has been a longtime collaborator announced today that it has received a $45 million, five-year reinvestment to continue research on photosynthetic improvements that could increase yields for farmers worldwide.

The funding for the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) research project—which has already demonstrated yield increases of 20 percent—comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the U.K. Department for International Development.

“Today's report on world hunger and nutrition from five UN agencies reinforces our mission to work doggedly to provide new means to eradicate world hunger and malnutrition by 2030 and beyond,” said RIPE Director Stephen Long, the Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. “This investment is timely. Annual yield gains are stagnating and means to achieve substantial improvement must be developed now if we are to provide sufficient food for a growing and increasingly urban world population when food production must also adapt sustainably to a changing climate.”

Building on half a century of photosynthesis research at Illinois, Berkeley, and other partner institutions, RIPE researchers identified seven potential objectives to improve photosynthesis—and with the support of an initial $25 million, five-year grant from the Gates Foundation—began work in 2012 to try to turn their ideas into sustainable increases in crop production.

Niyogi, chair of the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, has been involved with RIPE since its inception. He was engaged in securing original funding for RIPE from the Gates Foundation, and his research related to the project focuses on the “Relaxing Photoprotection” objective. In a study published in the journal Science last year, Niyogi, Long, and their collaborators demonstrated that one of their approaches could increase crop productivity by as much as 20 percent—a dramatic increase over typical annual yield gains of one percent or less.

Niyogi hopes this is just the beginning. “We are actively working on optimizing our approach, as well as investigating complementary approaches to improve crop productivity that should be synergistic with the increase we’ve already achieved,” he said.

Two other RIPE objectives have now led to even greater yield improvements in greenhouse and preliminary field trials.

“Our modeling predicts that several of these improvements can be combined to achieve additive yield increases, providing real hope that a 50 percent yield increase in just three decades is possible,” Long said. “With the reinvestment, a central priority will be to move these improved photosynthesis traits into commodity crops of the developed world, like soybeans, as well as crops that matter in the developing world, including cassava and cowpeas.”

RIPE and its funders will ensure that their high-yielding food crops are globally available and affordable for smallholder farmers to help feed the world’s hungriest and reduce poverty, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

But we still have a long road ahead of us, Long said.

“It takes about fifteen years from discovery until crops with these transformative biotechnologies are available for farmers,” he said. “It will therefore be well into the 2030s before such superior crops are seen at scale in farmers’ fields.”

Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is engineering staple food crops to more efficiently turn the sun’s energy into food to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the U.K. Department for International Development.

Niyogi’s work in partnership with Long is funded by a subaward from the University of Illinois, which works in partnership with UC Berkeley as well as the USDA/ARS, University of Essex, Lancaster University, Australian National University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and Louisiana State University.

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Image:  Image of researcher holding research plants Date:  Friday, September 15, 2017 - 17:00 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Friday, September 15, 2017 - 17:00 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left

New research: synthetic molecule targets breast cancer growth

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 14:42

Withania somnifera grows in dry pockets across India—Punjab, Gujarat, Kerala, and Rajasthan. Commonly known as Indian winter cherry, the fruiting plant has been cultivated for centuries for use in ayurvedic medicine and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

 Jessica Spradlin, Carl Ward, and Elizabeth Grossman.

Professor Daniel Nomura co-authored the study with graduate students from his laboratory. Pictured left to right: Jessica Spradlin, Carl Ward, Dan Nomura, and Elizabeth Grossman.

Today UC Berkeley researchers published a study that identifies and maps how a natural chemical found in Indian winter cherry suppresses breast cancer cell growth. The study adds to a growing body of research that examines the effects of natural products on cancer cells in order to develop cancer treatments.

The paper was published Cell Chemical Biology by professor Daniel Nomura and researchers from the Departments of Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology, Chemistry, and Molecular & Cell Biology. The full study is available online, ahead of print publication on September 28.

Natural products have been a source of cancer treatments for decades: the drug paclitaxel was first isolated from Pacific yew tree bark in the 1970s and continues to be a common chemotherapy treatment today. While many other natural products exhibit anticancer activity, they are difficult to synthesize and isolate from their natural sources, a crucial step toward creating reliable therapeutics from natural chemicals.

To understand how the anticancer compound in Indian winter cherry functions, Nomura's lab employed chemical proteomic technologies to identify the protein targets of withaferin A, the active natural chemical found in the leaves of the plant. “Using a chemoproteomic technology called activity-based protein profiling (ABPP) enables us to identify natural product protein targets and even the binding pocket or ‘druggable hotspot’ within the protein target,” said Nomura.

Using this protein profiling technology, Nomura and his team studied how the compound targets proteins that impair breast cancer cell growth. They determined that withaferin A targets a regulatory subunit of a tumor suppressor called protein phosphatase 2A, which inactivates the protein kinase B and prevents breast cancer cells from proliferating. After identifying this druggable hotspot, Nomura’s team developed a covalent ligand—a synthetic molecule that binds to the same site as withaferin A—called JNS 1-40 to create the same anticancer activity in breast cancer cells.

The study was co-authored by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research associates in the Nomura Research Group; these include co-first authors Elizabeth Grossman and Carl Ward, as well as Jessica Spradlin, Leslie Bateman, Tucker Huffman, David Miyamoto, and Jordan Kleinman.

The new research builds on a growing map of druggable hotspots that are being drawn within the field of proteomics, the study of proteins. “We use this general chemoproteomic technology to enable drug discovery against the "undruggable" proteome,” said Nomura. “Most protein targets in our cells are seemingly "undruggable" because they lack known pockets into which drug therapies can bind. This technology helps us develop cancer drugs that are much easier to make that have the same therapeutic action as their more complex natural products.”

The process of identifying protein targets of chemicals found in nature and creating a synthetic equivalent could help researchers develop drug therapies for cancer. “Isolating these natural products and understanding how to translate chemicals like withaferin A into drugs has been difficult,” said Nomura. “But the approach demonstrated in this paper will enable us to rapidly identify new cancer targets and cancer drugs.”

Image:  Nomura lab Date:  Thursday, September 14, 2017 - 14:30 byline:  By Mackenzie Smith Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Thursday, September 14, 2017 - 14:30 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Research News

Scientists-in-training learn to tell a CLEAR story

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 14:13

This story originally appeared in the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Green Blog.

On the second Saturday of every month, Tuesday Simmons heads to the downtown Berkeley farmers market. Among the produce stalls and coffee stands, she sits behind a table with a sign that reads “Talk to a scientist!” She and other students spend the day fielding questions from strangers about topics that range from genetically modified foods to climate change and more. “We never know who we'll talk to at our public events, or what kinds of questions we'll be asked,” said Simmons, a graduate student in the UC Berkeley Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB). “This makes the farmers markets fun.”

The Clear Project representatives can be found educating the public at the local farmers market with their "talk to a scientist" poster

Tim Jeffers and Tuesday Simmons are ready to answer the public’s science questions at the downtown Berkeley farmers market.

Simmons’ monthly visits to the farmers market are organized by the student group CLEAR (Communication, Literacy, and Education for Agricultural Research). The group aims to mentor the next generation of science communicators by engaging in open, transparent, and active conversations with the public about science and research. Funded through the University of California Global Food Initiative, CLEAR offers a series of scientific outreach events including activities at the farmers market, student-led lectures at libraries, and discussions with the public at local pubs.

The events are aimed at making science accessible. “For members of the public who think scientists are a group of scary, isolated individuals funded by companies with special interests, these brief exchanges can be enough to make them question that assumption,” said Simmons, who also noted that translating her microbiology research for the public has helped improve her communication skills.

Learning to create compelling and impactful science communications is also a draw for Daniel Westcott. As a PMB graduate student who studies a specialized field—photosynthetic energy conversion in algae and plants—Westcott noted that discussing his research with non-scientists felt like a challenging hurdle to overcome.

Students like Westcott practice their communications skills through writing for the CLEAR blog. In their monthly blog posts, group members have tackled the economics of the meat industry, and the science behind the Impossible Burger, and the difficulty in labeling foods as “natural,” as well as highlighting CLEAR’s ongoing outreach efforts.

Westcott understands that sharing his research with the public through the blog and other CLEAR activities is essential. “Nearly two million scientific articles are published each year,” Westcott said. “Today’s successful scientists must be media savvy in order to rise above the noise.”

Launched in 2015, CLEAR began as a project across three UC campuses—Berkeley, Davis, and San Diego. At Berkeley, co-founders Peggy Lemaux and Dawn Chiniquy, a PMB postdoctoral fellow, saw the funding as an opportunity to focus on outreach activities and mentorship opportunities, such as helping graduate students write for and talk to non-scientific audiences.

Lemaux, a PMB faculty member and ANR cooperative extension specialist who studies food crop performance and quality, emphasizes that CLEAR is a student-driven organization. All members of CLEAR are volunteers, and a mix of undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers participate in the group’s activities. Many of members are PMB students, but students from other scientific fields also participate in CLEAR’s events and monthly meetings. Student scientists from across campus are welcome.  

A clear project rep, Sonia, educating the public with a powerpoint at the library

Student Sonia Chapiro speaks about GMOs as part of the "Popping the Science Bubble" scientific seminar series at the Berkeley Public Library on June 19, 2017.

As the faculty organizer of CLEAR, Lemaux mentors students by providing feedback and guidance on their public presentations and blog posts. Recent student-led lecture topics include pesticide use and genetically modified foods, and as new members join the group, they’ll continue to add new presentations to their calendar of events.

CLEAR also hosts workshops and trainings to foster students’ science communication and writing skills. Last spring, the group invited NPR science writer Joe Palca to present a talk, “Real News or Fake Science.” More recently Brian Dunning of Skeptoid gave a presentation titled “Science Communication in a Minefield of Fiction.” This fall, Sara ElShafie, a graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology and founder of Science Through Story, will give a science communication workshop for CLEAR students.

In recent years, Lemaux has seen a shift in students’ interest in outreach and science communication. “Today’s generation of scientists understand that they must be scientists in the lab and translate the message of their research—and research in general—for the public,” she said.

Some CLEAR students have pursued careers in public communication after leaving Berkeley. Mikel Shybut, PhD ‘15 Plant Biology, is now a fellow at the California Council on Science and Technology where he provides scientific analyses to state legislators. After arranging a day of informational meetings in Sacramento for a group of CLEAR students, Shybut commented, “It's heartening to see what CLEAR has accomplished in the last two years. The group’s outreach efforts demonstrate that scientists can be effective messengers.”

Visit CLEAR’s calendar to learn more about upcoming events. In September join CLEAR at the following events:

  • Downtown Berkeley Farmers Market: Come chat with CLEAR members and check out their science demos at the farmers market. They feature a different science theme each month and are always looking forward to listening to community members’  science questions and concerns.
  • Science Cafe with PMB professor John Taylor: Join CLEAR members for a beer, fun fungus exhibits, and Dr. John Taylor's tentatively titled, Felons, Fungi and Rats: California's Valley Fever Epidemic.”
Image:  The Clean Project Date:  Monday, September 11, 2017 - 13:45 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Monday, September 11, 2017 - 13:45 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left

Student Spotlight: Megan Conner

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 14:49

In our first student spotlight of the fall semester, Megan Conner shares her passion for writing and analysis, her favorite CNR class, and her experience as the Cal Energy Corps program.

megan Conner Megan Conner 3rd Year, Environmental Economics & Policy, and English

How do you see your majors working together? Do they share any commonalities in how you approach these fields?

English and environmental economics are drastically different areas of study; one is writing-intensive while the other focuses on developing analytical skills. Initially, I didn’t see these majors as complementary. I had a desire to pursue a career with a sustainable, positive impact. At the same time, I had a knack for writing. While these majors seem to have little overlap, I’ve found that my english background supports my pursuits in the Environmental Economics & Policy realm. The english major pushed me to develop a hypersensitivity to how I communicate with others. This is incredibly helpful when I’m working a job or engaging in research, because my power in words often translates into strong collaboration and articulation in my work.

What is your favorite CNR class or professor and why?

Environmental Economics and Policy 100 with associate professor Ethan Ligon has been my favorite course so far. It was a challenging class that pushed my critical thinking skills to the point of exhaustion, but it was well worth it! I came out of that class with a fresh perspective on how economic theory can translate into practical application, as well as a renewed faith in mathematical modeling. The course definitely gave me insight into what the field of environmental economics can offer. Plus, Professor Ligon is a great teacher who really engages his students in thought-provoking ways.

We heard that you participated in the Cal Energy Corps this summer - can you tell us about your internship experience and the organization that you worked with?

Center for Carbon Removal team members pose for a photo

Megan Conner (back row, second from right) at dinner with her Center for Carbon Removal coworkers.

This summer I had the opportunity to participate in the Cal Energy Corps program through the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute. The program places students in internships at companies that pursue sustainable energy and climate solutions. At the end of the internship, participating students are featured in a research symposium in which we present projects related to our work.

Through this program I interned at the Center for Carbon Removal in Oakland. The Center works to accelerate the widespread cleanup of atmospheric carbon dioxide by collaborating with industry leaders, policymakers, and technical experts to deploy carbon removal techniques. While I was there I worked on many projects, but my main research project focused on strategies for enhancing carbon mineralization and assessing current economic barriers to large-scale implementation. The work proved to be engaging. The people I worked with had such extensive knowledge on everything from business to science to engineering. It definitely was a fruitful experience.

Best study spot on campus?

I like to change up my study spots on a regular basis, but I always find myself circling back to the Rosberg Reading Room in Doe Library and the Maps Library in McCone Hall. Both are tucked away and rather quaint—good locations to ease a stressed mind.

What advice do you have for an incoming CNR student?

There are so many opportunities at Cal—especially in CNR—so take advantage of them! Do research with a professor through SPUR (Sponsored Projects for Undergraduate Research), get involved in a program through the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, or join an environmentally-focused student organization. Explore interests that spark your curiosity and stimulate your intellectual growth. In the process, you'll meet some really amazing people.

 

Image:  Student Megan Conner outside Date:  Wednesday, September 6, 2017 - 14:30 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Wednesday, September 6, 2017 - 14:30 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Student Spotlights

KQED takes a "Deep Look" at daddy longlegs

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 12:21
Image:  A Daddy Long leg up close. Photo by Josh Cassidy/KQED Date:  Friday, August 25, 2017 - 12:15 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Friday, August 25, 2017 - 12:15 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Research News

KQED takes a "Deep Look" at daddy longlegs

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 12:21
Image:  A Daddy Long leg up close. Photo by Josh Cassidy/KQED Date:  Friday, August 25, 2017 - 12:15 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Friday, August 25, 2017 - 12:15 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left News/Story tag(s):  Research News

CNR welcomes new faculty

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 15:22

The College of Natural Resources is pleased to welcome four new faculty to the College in 2017. Their expertise ranges from agroecosystems to water rights to the economics of rural land titling and more, and they study a myriad of issues that include sustainable resource use, urban air pollution, and ecological responses to climate change. The College looks forward to their upcoming research projects—noted briefly below—and to the academic excellence and mentorship that they will offer students at UC Berkeley. Welcome to CNR!

Headshot of Timothy Bowels Timothy Bowles

Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Timothy Bowles is an agroecologist dedicated to making the world’s agricultural systems resilient by increasing reliance on biodiversity and ecological processes. His research—at the intersection of agroecology, soil ecology, and biogeochemistry—centers on how plant-soil-microbe interactions underpin sustainable resource use in agriculture. He obtained a PhD in ecology from UC Davis, where he used a participatory approach in working with local organic farmers to demonstrate how their management enhances soil organic matter and microbial activity to support both high yields and low potential for harmful nitrogen losses. As a USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Hampshire's Department of Natural Resources and Environment before joining ESPM, Bowles worked to identify strategies that could reduce vulnerabilities of agricultural systems to changing precipitation patterns. He will continue this work at UC Berkeley and begin new projects focused on barriers to and benefits of improving soil health.

Headshot of Marco Gonzalez Marco Gonzalez-Navarro

Agricultural & Resource Economics

As a development and urban economist, Marco Gonzalez-Navarro has published studies on retail globalization in emerging markets, rural land titling, road infrastructure, crime, and political economy. His research has appeared in journals such as American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economics and Statistics, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, and Journal of Development Economics. He holds a BA in economics from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, and a PhD  in economics from Princeton University. Gonzalez-Navarro was a Robert Wood Johnson postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley before spending six years as an assistant professor at University of Toronto. In addition to his appointment in the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, Gonzalez-Navarro is an affiliate of the Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and the Center for Effective Global Action. Currently, he is studying the effects of subway transportation systems on urban air pollution, and on how improved water access reduces clientelistic behavior among citizens in rural Brazil, thereby improving local democratic functioning.

Headshot of Lara Kueppers Lara Kueppers

Energy and Resources Group

Lara Kueppers is an interdisciplinary environmental scientist whose research focuses on ecological responses and feedbacks to climate change. Kueppers uses field experiments and observations, as well as models, to understand climate-ecosystem interactions in forests and agroecosystems. She has conducted fieldwork in the high-elevation forests and alpine areas of the Rocky Mountains, recently studying factors that constrain upslope shifts of subalpine trees with climate warming. She has also investigated the effects of crop growth and management on local and regional climate. Kueppers is currently deputy director of Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments—Tropics, a multi-institution project funded by the Department of Energy to better understand and project tropical forest feedbacks to climate change. Previously, she was a research scientist in the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division at Berkeley Lab and an assistant professor at UC Merced. She holds BS and MS degrees from Stanford University and a PhD from UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management; she also completed postdoctoral training in regional climate modeling at UC Santa Cruz.

Headshot of Michael Mascarenhas Michael Mascarenhas

Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Michael Mascarenhas is an environmental sociologist who focuses on postcolonial and development studies, environmental justice and racism, and science and technology. His first book, Where the Waters Divide (Lexington Books, 2015), examines the market-based policies that produce inequitable water resource access for Canada’s First Nations. His second book, New Humanitarianism and the Crisis of Charity: Good Intentions on the Road to Help (Indiana University Press, 2017), applies a similar methodological approach to investigate the privatization of humanitarian aid following disasters. Mascarenhas holds an MS in forestry from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and a PhD in sociology from Michigan State University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Applied Ethics at UBC and has held teaching appointments at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His current research and book project examines water access in the cities of Flint and Detroit. Mascarenhas was an expert witness at the Michigan Civil Rights Commission on the Flint Water Crisis, and an invited speaker to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning.

 

 

Image:  Aerial view of Hilgard, Wellman and Giannini Halls Date:  Thursday, August 24, 2017 - 14:45 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Thursday, August 24, 2017 - 14:45 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left

CNR welcomes new faculty

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 15:22

The College of Natural Resources is pleased to welcome four new faculty to the College in 2017. Their expertise ranges from agroecosystems to water rights to the economics of rural land titling and more, and they study a myriad of issues that include sustainable resource use, urban air pollution, ecological responses to climate change. The College looks forward to their upcoming research projects—noted briefly below—and to the academic excellence and mentorship that they will offer students at UC Berkeley. Welcome to CNR!

Headshot of Timothy Bowels Timothy Bowles

Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Timothy Bowles is an agroecologist dedicated to making the world’s agricultural systems resilient by increasing reliance on biodiversity and ecological processes. His research—at the intersection of agroecology, soil ecology, and biogeochemistry—centers on how plant-soil-microbe interactions underpin sustainable resource use in agriculture. He obtained a PhD in ecology from UC Davis, where he used a participatory approach in working with local organic farmers to demonstrate how their management enhances soil organic matter and microbial activity to support both high yields and low potential for harmful nitrogen losses. As a USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Hampshire's Department of Natural Resources and Environment before joining ESPM, Bowles worked to identify strategies that could reduce vulnerabilities of agricultural systems to changing precipitation patterns. He will continue this work at UC Berkeley and begin new projects focused on barriers to and benefits of improving soil health.

Headshot of Marco Gonzalez Marco Gonzalez-Navarro

Agricultural & Resource Economics

As a development and urban economist, Marco Gonzalez-Navarro has published studies on subway infrastructure, retail globalization in emerging markets, rural land titling, road infrastructure, crime, and political economy. His research has appeared in journals such as American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economics and Statistics, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, and Journal of Development Economics. He holds a BA in economics from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, and a PhD  in economics from Princeton University. Gonzalez-Navarro was a postdoctoral scholar at the Robert Wood Johnson at UC Berkeley before spending six years as an assistant professor at University of Toronto. In addition to his appointment in the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, Gonzalez-Navarro is an affiliate of the Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and the Center for Effective Global Action. Currently, he is studying the effects of subway transportation systems on urban air pollution, and on how improved water access reduces clientelistic behavior among citizens in rural Brazil, thereby improving local democratic functioning.

Headshot of Lara Kueppers Lara Kueppers

Energy and Resources Group

Lara Kueppers is an interdisciplinary environmental scientist whose research focuses on ecological responses and feedbacks to climate change. Kueppers uses field experiments and observations, as well as models, to understand climate-ecosystem interactions in forests and agroecosystems. She has conducted fieldwork in the high-elevation forests and alpine areas of the Rocky Mountains, recently studying factors that constrain upslope shifts of subalpine trees with climate warming. She has also investigated the effects of crop growth and management on local and regional climate. Kueppers is currently deputy director of Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments—Tropics, a multi-institution project funded by the Department of Energy to better understand and project tropical forest feedbacks to climate change. Previously, she was a research scientist in the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division at Berkeley Lab and an assistant professor at UC Merced. She holds BS and MS degrees from Stanford University and a PhD from UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management; she also completed postdoctoral training in regional climate modeling at UC Santa Cruz.

Headshot of Michael Mascarenhas Michael Mascarenhas

Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Michael Mascarenhas is an environmental sociologist who focuses on postcolonial and development studies, environmental justice and racism, and science and technology. His first book, Where the Waters Divide (Lexington Books, 2015), examines the market-based policies that produce inequitable water resource access for Canada’s First Nations. His second book, New Humanitarianism and the Crisis of Charity: Good Intentions on the Road to Help (Indiana University Press, 2017), applies a similar methodological approach to investigate the privatization of humanitarian aid following disasters. Mascarenhas holds an MS in forestry from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and a PhD in sociology from Michigan State University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Applied Ethics at UBC and has held teaching appointments at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His current research and book project examines water access in the cities of Flint and Detroit. Mascarenhas was an expert witness at the Michigan Civil Rights Commission on the Flint Water Crisis, and an invited speaker to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning.

 

 

Image:  Aerial view of Hilgard, Wellman and Giannini Halls Date:  Thursday, August 24, 2017 - 14:45 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Thursday, August 24, 2017 - 14:45 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left

J. Keith Gilless Commences Final Year as CNR Dean

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 11:47
Dean Keith Gilless

After 11 years leading the College of Natural Resources, Dean J. Keith Gilless will step down from his post in June 2018.

As Dean, Gilless has been dedicated to supporting CNR’s diverse research, teaching, and outreach activities. He has led the College through major growth, overseen the launch of a number of interdisciplinary initiatives, completed infrastructure renewal projects, and skillfully steered the College through difficult cost-saving measures.

Known for his ability to foster collaboration, Gilless was instrumental in many significant partnerships with other campus units, including the launch of the Energy Biosciences Institute, the Innovative Genomics Institute, the Berkeley Initiative for Global Change Biology, and the Berkeley Food Institute. He was involved in welcoming the Energy & Resources Group as a CNR unit in 2011, and his efforts have resulted in a major expansion of UC research forest lands.

Under his leadership the College has been recognized internationally for excellence. In recent years, UC Berkeley has consistently ranked at the top of many fields in which CNR plays a major role, including environmental sciences, ecology, agricultural and resource economics, nutrition, plant biology, and microbiology.

"Dean Gilless has provided great leadership at the College of Natural Resources through his successful efforts to streamline its operations and to maintain its intellectual greatness,” said Henry Brady, Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy. “He has been a leader among deans in his work on the Berkeley Food Institute and on many other university initiatives, and he has constantly reminded all of us that Berkeley must continue to live up to its reputation for teaching and research excellence, for service, and for access."  

Keith Gilless in discussion with students from around the world.

Dean Gilless in discussion with students of the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program.

From expansion of the popular Sponsored Projects for Undergraduate Research program and improvements to the Student Resource Center to involvement in STEM outreach and support programs, Dean Gilless will also be remembered for his ongoing support of the undergraduate experience in the College and across campus. During his tenure, undergraduate enrollment in CNR majors has more than doubled, and Gilless oversaw the centralization of undergraduate advising in 2009. Today, CNR is known for its small college feel and boasts consistently high undergraduate satisfaction ratings.

Gilless has also championed international and professional education. He was involved in the creation of the Berkeley Master of Development Practice program and he expanded upon the long-running Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program to establish CNR’s International & Executive Programs.

“The College has been extremely fortunate to have Keith as dean, and we truly appreciate his many accomplishments that have supported students, increased philanthropic giving, and—through the creation of the CNR Alumni Association and many other efforts—strengthened alumni engagement,” said Steve Hurst ‘78, current chairman of the CNR Advisory Board and founder, president, and CEO of Savant HWP, Inc. “Keith leaves all of us with words to live by, words that reflect not only CNR’s mission but also his personal values and integrity: ‘See the Bigger Picture. Make a Better World.’”

Dean Gilless earned his B.S. in Forestry from Michigan State University and a joint Ph.D. in Forestry and Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A professor of forest economics and management at Berkeley since 1983, he holds appointments in both the departments of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and of Agricultural and Resource Economics. He received the UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award in 1989 and held the S.J. Hall Chair in Forest Economics from 1996-2006. After serving as interim dean in CNR from 2007-2008, Gilless was formally appointed to his first term by the UC Board of Regents in July 2008. 

VIDEO: Dean Gilless reflects on his years teaching at the UC Berkeley forestry field camp.

“Keith has that fantastic combination of depth of knowledge on many topics plus the people skills to really influence opinion and create impactful change,” said Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, Vice Chair of the Academic Senate and Professor of Environmental Engineering. “He’s a true devotee of Berkeley, and as Dean of CNR, he’s been a force of nature. He has shown true leadership during difficult times for the campus.”

Dean Gilless and members of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection

Dean Gilless (third from right) and members of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection with Cal Fire Leadership at the Hemet-Ryan Air Attack Base.

An ambassador for the campus in many capacities, Gilless has held multiple administrative and leadership roles with the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and he is currently serving as the chair of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. He is a member of the California Forest Carbon Action Team and a senior advisor to Wildfire Breakthrough, a nonprofit working to encourage the government to commit to intensive research and development to find a scientific solution to wildfires. He served twice as a member of the USDA’s Forest Research Advisory Council, and has been a member of the steering committees of several international forestry organizations.

"I have known Keith as both student and colleague; he has been a mentor and a friend,” said Glenda Humiston, Vice President of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  “I've watched him reinvigorate CNR, lead the California Board of Forestry, handle a dozen emergencies, and still find time to take care of family and friends—and all with a smile.”

Dean Gilless’ contributions to fundraising efforts have resulted in significant support for the College. He was deeply involved in what was at the time the largest single estate gift in the history of the campus, which resulted in an $18 million general fund for the college, the John H. Gross endowment. He secured funds for a number of infrastructure projects, including renovations in Morgan Hall in 2010—the first lab renovation on the Berkeley campus to receive LEED Gold certification. He also led a fundraising effort to support Berkeley’s 100-year-old forestry program and to increase philanthropic giving for students in forestry. During the Campaign for Berkeley, the College exceeded its goal by $10 million. Additionally, under Gilless' direction over the past decade, CNR has grown its endowment—which supports research, instructional programs, and financial aid—from nearly $38 million to almost $93 million. 

Keith Gilless speaking at a podium

Dean Gilless addressing the audience at a Berkeley Food Institute workshop on policy engagement. Photo by Jonathan Fong.

As he looks ahead to the last year of his second term, Dean Gilless isn’t losing any steam. He plans to focus on two new ambitious projects for the College: a renovation to CNR’s kitchen—the only teaching kitchen on campus—and a major building campaign in collaboration with the College of Chemistry and the College of Engineering, which capitalizes on the research synergies between the three colleges. He’s also excited to be working on a brand new campuswide energy, environment, and climate initiative.

“I feel deeply honored to have been able to serve the college and the campus as CNR’s dean, and stepping down from this position is just a transition in my relationship to Berkeley,” said Gilless. In addition to resuming his faculty position, Gilless expects to continue his engagement in the expansion of the College’s professional programs.

“I can’t think of any institution in the country whose mission aligned so well with my own values, or that could have had a more positive influence on informing and shaping them,” he added. “Berkeley has given me opportunities and experiences I could not have dreamed of as a young environmentalist deciding to pursue a career in forestry. I’ve done my best to return the favor, and will continue to do so in support of those stepping up to lead the college and the campus.” 

Image:  Dean Keith Gilless Date:  Monday, August 21, 2017 - 11:45 Legacy:  section header item:  Date:  Friday, August 11, 2017 - 11:45 headline_position:  Top Left headline_color_style:  Normal headline_width:  Long caption_color_style:  Normal caption_position:  Bottom Left