ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

ANR news blog

UCCE advisor's new book featured in San Francisco Book Review

Valley of Fire
UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Rachael Freeman Long wove her scientific knowledge into a book series for children, reported the San Francisco Book Review in conjunction with the release of the second book in the trilogy. Valley of Fire details protagonist Jack's adventures in the Black Rock Desert with his animal friends, Sonny the coyote and Pinta the bat.

The Book Review's Susan Roberts conducted an interview with Long, exploring her inspiration for the series, writing challenges, research and more.

Long said her young son inspired her to create the characters in the book. During long drives, she would tell him stories.

"After 12 years of storytelling, I had this collection of unique adventures," Long said.

One of the challenges she encountered was turning off her bent for science and letting creativity flow.

"I'm a science writer and facts come easy for me, but describing what feeling sad or happy looks like takes work," Long said. "I love my creativity in figuring out the plotting, but writing in all the descriptive details is still challenging."

During the interview, Long told the SF Book Review about a research project she conducted in her UC Cooperative Extension work to determine what bats eat at night and their value to farmers. She and her staff collected guano, which revealed which insects they were eating.

"One farmer has a 300-acre walnut orchard and he estimates he has bout 15,000 bats," Long said. "The study we worked on showed each bat provided $6 of pest control services. The farmer received about $90,000 worth of services."

Long's book is available in paperback and digital download on the Tate Publishing website and in Kindle edition on Amazon.com.

Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 10:21 AM

Mike Janes to head UC Agriculture and Natural Resources strategic communications

Mike Janes
Mike Janes, the public relations and communications officer at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, will become the strategic communications director for the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources on Feb. 2, reported Jeb Bing in the Pleasanton Weekly.

The article said Janes represented Sandia to the media for nearly 13 years. According to the Sandia website, the company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, is a science and engineering laboratory for national security and technology innovation.

In his new position, Janes will report directly to UC ANR vice president Barbara Allen-Diaz and will be responsible for overseeing a variety of functional communications areas. The article notes that the ANR division is located in Davis, but is not a part of UC Davis.

"It's been an honor and a pleasure working here at Sandia," Janes is quoted. "Though it's a cliché to say it's 'all about the people', it's really true in this case. I'll miss the people and the mission of Sandia but know the lab will continue to do important work in the national interest."

Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 8:47 AM

Winegrape growers concerned about drought

Foothill vineyards have water worries.
Winegrape growers who rely on groundwater are worried about the dismal rainy season so far, reported Ed Joyce on Capital Public Radio. He quoted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as saying that, barring "epic rain and snowfall," the drought will likely continue through the spring and summer.

Joyce spoke to a a dismayed winemaker, a worried vineyard manager and he gathered background for his four-minute story by interviewing Lynn Wunderlich, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.

"There's a lot of concern out there amongst growers that I work with in the four counties in the Central Sierra," Wunderlich said. "Generally in the foothills we have a shorter depth in the soil from the surface to the bedrock, so that all impacts the available water that a grower has."

Because of the drought, Wunderlich said some growers are extending their wells or digging new wells to increase groundwater supply.

"I even had an email from a small grape grower who said he's collected rainwater this season," Wunderlich said. "So people are getting quite creative in their attempts to conserve water, knowing that we're going to have potentially a tough season."

Posted on Friday, January 23, 2015 at 3:17 PM

UC ANR rebuilds its academic staff

Barbara Allen-Diaz, left, and Chris Greer spoke with AgAlert about their efforts to rebuild the ranks of UC Cooperative Extension academics.
By hiring 68 new UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists since 2010 - and with 23 positions being actively recruited plus more planned - UC leaders are reversing a downward trend in the number of UCCE academic staff, reported Ching Lee in AgAlert.

Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, noted in the story that 2013 was the first time in recent years that UC hired more Cooperative Extension faculty than had retired. In December, she approved hiring of another 29 advisors and 16 specialists for the 2015-16 cycle.

"So we turned the corner for the first time in this long downward spiral," she said. "My goal is to continue to rebuild the footprint of Cooperative Extension."

Lee also interviewed UCCE vice provost Chris Greer, who said he expects ANR to end 2015 with a net gain of academics.

"It's not huge leaps and bounds; it's a small gain, but we're hoping as we continue this process of filling these positions, that we'll start gaining some ground," he said.

Rather than automatically refilling vacant positions, Greer said much thought is put into revamping job descriptions or creating new positions to better fit the evolving needs of agricultural business. To help prioritize which positions should be hired first, UC sought public input, receiving more than 900 individual comments last year, including from agricultural organizations.

Jim Sullins, the UCCE director for Tulare County who is planning to retire in mid-2015, said more advisors are covering multiple counties and must travel longer distances to make farm visits, so they are turning to new communications strategies in their work, such as email, social media, and other web technology. But traditional farm calls are still a mainstay service.

Katherine Pope, the new UC Cooperative Extension orchard systems advisor in Yolo County, was also featured in the AgAlert story. She talked about the importance of having enough staff to enable advisors to call on farmers personally. Pope said going out to the farm gives her a fuller picture of what she's dealing with that she can't get over the phone or with photos via email. Sometimes she may notice other issues unrelated to the original problem, or the visit may prompt other questions from the farmer.

"My job is to spread information and knowledge, and doing that in person is absolutely the best way to do that," she said.

Posted on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 9:28 AM

Fewer big trees found in today's forests

Forest study finds fewer big trees and an increasing number of small trees. (Photo of Tenaya Canyon in the Sierra Nevada from Wikimedia Commons.)
A study conducted by scientists from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Geological Survey found that since 1930, the density of large trees in California has decreased, reported John Fowler of KTVU News Channel 2.

The story said scientists compared exquisitely detailed tree data collected in the 1920s and 1930s with tree surveys made between 2001 and 2010. They identified significant and rapid changes in basic forest structure. As large tree density fell across the state, and the density of small trees increased.

"The thing that I think is particularly worrisome is how widespread this is," said Maggi Kelley, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of  Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. "These changes will have an impact on how animals use the forest, how fire moves through the forest and the way we view the forest."

"Our grandkids will definitely see a difference," she said.

The Los Angeles Times also covered the new research, which will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

LA Times reporter Taylor Goldenstein spoke to study co-author Mark Schwartz, a professor of environmental science and policy at UC Davis and director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment. Schwartz said a denser forest allows fire to travel faster, causing more devastation. After a fire, new, smaller trees grow that are more likely to catch fire, and the cycle continues.

“These are historically fire-maintained ecosystems,” Schwartz said. “The firemen are faced with this notion of when a fire is reported and started, do they go out and bring out helicopters, trucks and people and put the fire out or do they let it burn?”

Just how much the change in forest structure is due to fire suppression and how much results from climate change is hard to tell because the two are interrelated, Schwartz said.

National Geographic magazine invoked Peter, Paul and Mary's mournful ballad in its headline, "Where have all the big trees gone? They've gone to logging and housing - but especially to climate change."

Reporter Warren Cornwall wrote that no area was immune to the forests' decline, from the foggy northern coast to the Sierra Nevada mountains to the San Gabriels above Los Angeles.

The loss of big trees was greatest in areas where trees had suffered the greatest water deficit. Large trees in general appear to be more vulnerable to a water shortfall. Though the 2011-14 drought might have an impact on  forest change, it was not reflected in this study because the data was collected before the drought began.

Posted on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 2:01 PM

Next 5 stories | Last story

Webmaster Email: pam.kanrice@ucanr.edu