Wilen earned a bachelor's degree in horticulture at the University of Maryland, a master's degree in horticulture at University of Arizona and a doctoral degree at UC Riverside. Following graduation, Wilen worked a year at UC Riverside as a post-doctoral fellow.
In 1995, Wilen was hired by UC ANR to conduct applied research in the turf, ornamental horticulture and nursery industries to develop and promote the use of integrated pest management in San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties. She shared her results and information generated by scientists across the university with growers and pest control advisers to reduce the use of toxic pesticides, cut the cost of pest control and use environmentally sound methods in production.
Over the years, Wilen was frequently tapped to take on leadership roles while maintaining her academic program. She served as acting and interim director of the Statewide UC IPM Program, program leader of UCCE's Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases Strategic Initiative, and as county director in San Diego County. Wilen also had opportunities to take sabbatical and study leaves to improve her Spanish-speaking skills, learn about international participatory extension methodology and receive training on research methods to study snails and slugs.
“I love working with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources,” Wilen said. “The positions I held matched well with my professional and personal style. I always felt that I was responsible for choosing my destination and the journey to get there, whether that was my career or my research and extension programs.”
Wilen said she also valued the relationships she developed over the years in her job.
“I met and became friends with people in UC that I would never have been so lucky to know without the opportunities afforded me by serving on diverse committees,” Wilen said. “If I could give one piece of advice to early career people, it would be not to look at these requests as ‘but I'm so busy, I can't do it,' but rather, ‘this will expand my network and my worth to UC and the communities we serve and pay off in the long run.'”
Wilen has been awarded the honor of emeritus status, which will continue her academic relationship with UCCE even after her stint in the director post is complete.
“I have a couple of grants I'm continuing to work on,” she said.
She also has plans to do things that she didn't have time for while working full time.
“Plans for my free time include entering sweepstakes, organizing electronics cables, continuing to paddle with my outrigger canoe club, exploring the outdoors, travel, volunteering and enjoying time with my partner and the rest of my family,” she said.
After earning a bachelor's degree in botany at Humboldt State and a master's degree in plant, soil and water science at the University of Nevada Reno, McGourty worked as a Cooperative Extension urban horticulturist in Las Vegas. Later he was a lecturer in the Environmental Horticulture Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and managed his family's walnut farm in nearby Paso Robles part time.
When McGourty was named a UCCE farm advisor, UC was beginning to endorse a systems approach to sustainable farming.
“I was certainly one of the people who took it to heart,” McGourty said.
In the late 1980s, most grape growers in Mendocino County disked the soil in vineyard rows every year to reduce weeds. Insecticides were applied that kept workers out of the vineyard for three weeks.
“Vineyards seemed pretty barren and not friendly to nature. We had a lot of soil erosion and water quality issues,” McGourty said. “My colleagues and I tried to find solutions that would boost soil organic matter and encourage beneficial insects and mites. One of our landmark research projects was coming up with good cover cropping systems for wine grapes.”
Those practices are widely implemented today, and across California interest in soil health and sustainability continue to grow. McGourty was assigned to also serve Lake County, where wine growers there adopted a strong interest in sustainable wine-growing practices.
“We have the Healthy Soils Program, in which CDFA is paying farmers to grow cover crops and use compost to sequester carbon in the soil. This came out of our research on alternative farming systems conducted in our region,” McGourty said.
Another research interest has been evaluating wine grapes from the Mediterranean region adapted to warm climates.
“After many years of working with ornamental plants, I realized that the plants that do best in California are all from a Mediterranean climate region,” McGourty said. “It made sense for me to look for wine grape varieties that like that climate, too.”
His research included trips to the Mediterranean area where he visited the wine grape varieties he had evaluated in their native habitat. He was invited to speak at foreign universities and conferences in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Australia on projects focused on alternative wine grape farming systems, including sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming in California.
McGourty has been honored by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources with emeritus status. As an emeritus advisor, McGourty plans to work on a national online database of wine grape varieties adapted to warm climates. In addition, he will be involved in a Lake County research project conducting a detailed evaluation of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on multiple clones and rootstocks.
Retirement promises to be busy for McGourty. In March, he received the most votes in the primary election for a position on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. He will be immersed in campaigning until the runoff election in November.
Even if the election doesn't go his way, McGourty won't be idle. He manages a 10-acre wine grape and walnut farm on the Russian River, where he farms with the sustainable practices he taught local farmers during his career.
“I am so lucky! I have had one of the best jobs in UC and live in one of the prettiest places in California,” he said.
With a bachelor's degree in home economics from California State University, Sacramento, Martin took a part-time position in 1993 as an educator with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program in San Joaquin County. A year later, she was elevated to full time to also work on the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program, which is now called CalFresh Healthy Living, UC. Both programs are federally funded initiatives administered by UC Cooperative Extension to help low-income families use their food budgets to put healthful meals on the table.
In 2001, Martin completed a master's degree in community nutrition and was named to the academic position she held in San Joaquin County the next 19 years.
“I designed my program to promote individual, community, system and environmental changes to positively impact the health behaviors of low-income youth and families,” Martin said. “Working with my colleagues across the state, we sought to understand and address obesity and chronic disease prevention, health disparities, food safety and food insecurity.”
Martin studied the health behaviors of low-income populations to develop curricula, delivery methods, evaluation tools and other materials that could be incorporated into the education programs. Over the years, Martin co-authored 26 peer-reviewed publications, 62 abstracts or posters, and 52 non-peer reviewed publications or reports.
Despite these many achievements, Martin said she most valued the interactions with current and past co-workers and colleagues in San Joaquin County and across the state, the people she describes as her “work family.”
“I think the experience has been so positive because we come together around projects and programs that make a difference in the health and welfare of the families we serve,” Martin said. “My years with Cooperative Extension have created strong bonds within UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and within my community that I foresee will last a lifetime.”
“He instilled in me a real appreciation for both the art and science behind weed management,” Hembree said.
Hembree started working as Fischer's agricultural assistant when he was a plant science student at Fresno State. After graduation in 1986, Hembree was promoted to staff research associate, a position he held for eight years.
Recognizing the opportunity to succeed Fischer in his academic role, Hembree returned to Fresno State to complete a master's degree. Fischer retired in 1994 and Hembree was named UCCE weed science advisor later the same year.
Hembree said he was privileged to work with a tight-knit group of academic and non-academic staff, growers, consultants and the allied industries.
“Everybody knew everybody. I developed strong friendships over my career,” he said. “I cherish that.”
An early research success set a course for the future.
The weed nightshade posed a significant problem in seeded fields of processing tomatoes, a plant in the same family. Hembree conducted trials on a new product that selectively removed the nightshade.
“That was a major breakthrough,” Hembree said. “We were able to get the product labeled for tomatoes and it made a huge impact right away.”
That was just the beginning.
“When I came on board, there weren't many products registered for weed control in orchards, vineyards and agronomic crops,” Hembree said. “We worked closely with the industry and there were lots of opportunities to look at new products. These new tools were economically sound and reduced the hard labor of hand weeding.”
In retirement, Hembree plans to move with his wife to northern Mississippi to be closer to family.
Grafton-Cardwell – who holds a bachelor's degree in biology from UC Berkeley, a master's in entomology from Purdue University and a doctorate degree in entomology from Berkeley – was named the UC Riverside citrus entomology specialist for the San Joaquin Valley in 1990. Her initial focus was on helping growers reduce their use of harsh pesticides through careful pest monitoring, choice of selective pesticides and preservation of natural enemies.
Along with her staff, Grafton-Cardwell studied the release of predatory mites for control of thrips and mites, validated degree-day units and pheromone traps for citrus cutworm, determined the effects of insect growth regulators on vedalia beetle (a natural enemy of cottony cushion scale), studied the best use of more than 30 new insecticides and miticides, and monitored pesticide resistance of California red scale and citrus thrips.
“It has been a wonderful career full of interactions with colleagues, growers and pest control advisors who shaped the direction of my research,” Grafton-Cardwell said.
During the last decade of her career, pesticide use in citrus has increased once again because of three issues: The drought and increasing temperatures exacerbating pests, new treatments required for pests of export significance, and invasive pests, most importantly the Asian citrus psyllid that can spread the devastating bacterial disease huanglongbing.
“It has been very rewarding to help growers navigate these challenges,” she said. “We have innovative citrus growers in California and excellent scientists at UC. I have every confidence that they will be able meet these challenges and maintain a vibrant California citrus industry.”
In June 2006, Grafton-Cardwell was named director of the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter, a 175-acre facility that supports research projects on citrus breeding, horticulture and pest management. Last year, Grafton-Cardwell hosted the launch of a fundraising program to build an educational complex at Lindcove to be called the Ray Copeland Citrus Center.
“Expanding the capacity of the Lindcove REC to conduct research and extension programs has made the directorship a very rewarding experience,” she said.
In retirement, Grafton-Cardwell plans for frequent travel to visit her children and grandchildren in Missouri and Massachusetts, working with community organizations in the Visalia area and, as an emeritus specialist, writing up past research and assisting with Lindcove's fundraising campaign.