- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
New book offers advice for discussing misconceptions and oversimplifications
Research can inform people to take appropriate action to solve problems, but effectively communicating is key. Faith Kearns, who works on emotional and contentious water-related issues such as climate change, drought and wildfire, has learned firsthand that the way scientists communicate can deeply affect people and communities.
“The book offers an on-the-ground perspective on communicating emotional and contentious topics and is filled with concrete examples from practitioners, which is different from many science communication books written by journalists or researchers,” Kearns said. “It is centered around practical tools like relating, listening, working with conflict, and understanding trauma, all with an eye toward equity and justice.”
Among the many issues addressed in the book – ranging from food security to disasters – climate change is one of the biggest. Meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus notes in the foreword that giving people scientific facts isn't convincing many people that there is a climate crisis, much less solving the climate emergency. “This crisis is getting worse not because of a deficit of information, after all, but because of a deficit of action,” writes Holthaus.
Grist journalist Kate Yoder wrote, “For a long time, scientists have relied on a ‘deficit' model of communication. The idea is that if people are given enough facts and data about, say, climate change, then they'd accept the science— in a logical, rational way — and decide to take action. This idea isn't necessarily wrong, but it ignores the messiness of the world and the role that emotions play in guiding decisions.”
Kearns begins the book with a personal anecdote that changed the way she thought about science communication. After she and her colleagues gave a presentation on wildfire preparation to residents in Mendocino County, an emotional audience member explained to Kearns that he had labored to keep a recent wildfire from consuming his property and the way the researchers had presented their information without attention to the fact that a fire had just burned through the area had been re-traumatizing.
“Many communicators, including myself, have neglected other pieces of communicating that don't have to do with providing information,” Kearns said. “It's so important to know who you are in conversation with and what they've been through. Their history, communities, and personal experiences impact how they will receive scientific information. One of the most important skills you can have as a science communicator is to be able to listen well.”
Jonathan Wai reviewed Kearns' book in Science. He wrote: “The book offers a view from the front lines of science communication, profiling practitioners who explain their journeys and share stories of relationship building and community engagement. Framing herself as a scientist turned science communicator, Kearns describe her vision for the future of the field, one in which relational communication is fundamental.”
Kearns acknowledges in the preface that a single book cannot be all things to all people. “My hope is that I can fairly treat the argument that emotion, conflict, and power struggles are already present in science communication and engagement work and that ignoring them is counterproductive,” she wrote.
Getting to the Heart of Science Communication is written for science communicators and scientists working at research institutions, government agencies, consulting firms or nonprofit organizations. In addition, it will be of interest to those working with scientists including journalists and decision-makers. People interested in science will also find much to consider in this updated view of the science communication landscape.
The 280-page paperback is published by Island Press and can be ordered for $30 (use code HEART for a publisher discount) at https://islandpress.org/books/getting-heart-science-communication and wherever books are sold.
For more about science communication, see Kearns' blog at https://faithkearns.substack.com.
- Author: Laura R. Crothers
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program — a statewide program of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources — announced the recipients of its 2021 Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Small Grants Program today (April 13, 2021).
The grants program, which was reinstated this year after a 10-year hiatus, supports pilot projects focusing on strengthening California's sustainable agriculture and food systems. Together, 11 recipients are receiving $77,000 in funding to support their work.
"Many groups have innovative ideas on how to build a more profitable, environmentally sustainable and just food system in California, but they often need seed funding to get those ideas off the ground,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “That's what UC ANR and UC SAREP are bringing to the table with these small grants: an opportunity to bring a creative idea to fruition."
The recipients of this year's grants are:
Agricultural and Land-Based Training Association, to pilot an agricultural plastics recycling program among primarily Spanish-speaking small-scale producers. (Project lead: Nathan Harkleroad)
California State University, Fresno, to evaluate the effect of cover crops on water demands and weeds in table grape vineyards in the Eastern San Joaquin Valley. (Project lead: Anil Shrestha)
Napa Farmers Market, to communicate the importance of locally and sustainably grown produce from farmers of diverse backgrounds through a bilingual educational campaign. (Project lead: Cara Wooledge)
Red Bluff Joint Union High School District, to teach high school students environmentally regenerative agriculture and leadership skills through its School Garden to Cafeteria project. (Project lead: Marissa Stevens)
San Diego Second Chance Program, to offer classes and workshops on sustainable agriculture for low- to middle-income youth with prior involvement in the juvenile justice system. (Project lead: Caelli Wright)
Santa Rosa Junior College, to add hibiscus products and mutual-aid garden kits to a bilingual mobile herb clinic that offers culturally relevant holistic health programs to Latinx and Indigenous populations. (Project lead: Heidi Hermann)
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, to study the effects of livestock guardian dogs on wildlife species and the potential for conflict with recreationists. (Project lead: Carolyn Whitesell)
UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno County, to develop an equipment share program for equipment needed to apply compost on small-scale, diversified vegetable farms operated by socially disadvantaged farmers in Fresno County. (Project lead: Ruth Dahlquist-Willard)
UC Cooperative Extension in San Bernardino County, to provide interactive nutrition education classes, gardening lessons, and food safety and preservation demonstrations for ethnically diverse and limited-resource residents in San Bernardino County. (Project lead: Christine Davidson)
UC Davis, to build a team of researchers and community groups to develop a research and extension program to support beginning and first-generation ranchers in building resilience to environmental, economic, and social shocks and stressors. (Project lead: Leslie Roche)
UC Santa Cruz, to translate instructional videos on organic growing skills and practices into Spanish and to pilot a short course with Spanish-speaking trainees. (Project lead: Stacy Philpott)
“We're excited to watch these projects unfold over the coming year,” said Gail Feenstra, director of UC SAREP.
“This grant program isn't just important for supporting new ideas. It's also an opportunity for the University of California to build stronger connections with producers and other food system stakeholders across California. Those connections are essential for making the research and education that comes out of the university benefit everyone.”
UC SAREP was established in 1986 to strengthen California's agricultural production and supply chains to advance knowledge of the science of sustainability, support farmers and ranchers to develop more sustainable farming practices and assist communities to build healthy regional food systems.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Douglas Amaral is the new pomology, water and soils advisor in Kings and Tulare counties
“I am very excited to be part of the UC Cooperative Extension system and am looking forward to serving growers, producers, processors, and support industries for their research and extension needs in the Southern San Joaquin Valley,” Amaral said.
Before joining UCCE, Amaral was a project scientist and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. His research has focused on the physiology and biochemistry of plant nutrient uptake, and molecular and genetic aspects of nutrient acquisition and tolerance in citrus, almonds, pistachios and other crops.
Amaral said he is currently meeting growers in Kings and Tulare counties and assessing their needs.
“Numerous research needs exist in the tree nut industries, including, but not limited to, irrigation and fertigation efficiency, salinity management, and water use improvement,” he said. “I believe that the most relevant scientific inquiries start with observations of the challenges faced in the field and the opinions of observant growers and the vision of industry leaders.”
Amaral, who was born and raised in Brazil, is fluent in Portuguese and English. He earned a doctoral degree in plant and soil sciences at the University of Delaware, a master's degree in plant nutrition and soil fertility at Federal University of Lavras, Brazil, and a bachelor's degree in biological sciences at University Center of Lavras, Brazil.
Amaral is based in Hanford and can be reached at (559) 852-2737 and email@example.com. His Twitter handle is @UCCE_DougAmaral.
Apurba Barman named UCCE integrated pest management advisor in Imperial County
"I am very excited for my new role as IPM advisor based in Southern California and for the opportunity to serve one of the most important vegetable production regions in the state,” Barman said. “The diversity and intensity of crop production in this region demand targeted research to solve pest management issues and effective extension programs to reach out diverse clientele. I feel prepared for this job with my experience and passion to serve the community.”
Barman earned a bachelor's degree at Assam Agricultural University in India, and a master's degree at Texas Tech University, Lubbock. In 2011, he completed a doctoral degree at Texas A&M University in College Station, where he worked on insect pests of cotton. Subsequently, he worked as a cotton extension entomologist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service and developed a research program to understand the extent of damage and management of thrips in the Texas High Plains region.
Barman comes to UC Cooperative Extension from the University of Georgia, where he led a whitefly monitoring and management program targeting cropping systems in the southern region of the state. Barman can be reached at (209) 285-9810, firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter handle is @Ento_Barman.
José Luiz Carvalho de Souza Dias named area agronomy advisor in the northern San Joaquin Valley
Prior to joining UCCE, Carvalho de Souza Dias was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he worked on identifying management practices and environmental factors to ensure successful establishment of alfalfa interseeded into corn silage, sustainable management of waterhemp in established alfalfa for dairy systems, and weed control, clover selectivity and resulting yield of grass-clover mixed swards.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with growers, industry and academia within the agriculture industry in the Central Valley. It is amazing how diversified, complex, and productive the different production systems can be in the region,” Carvalho de Souza Dias said. “Knowing that I have the chance to work with many different challenges present in economically viable and sustainable crop production is something that makes me very excited and looking forward to the future.”
Carvalho de Souza Dias earned a doctoral degree in agronomy with a focus on weed science from the University of Florida, a master's degree in crop protection and bachelor's in agronomy from São Paulo State University in Brazil. He is fluent in Portuguese and English.
His doctoral research centered on developing and implementing integrated management practices to reduce giant smutgrass populations in bahiagrass pastures. For his master's degree, he researched herbicide selectivity in sugarcane. Based in Merced, Carvalho de Souza Dias can be reached at (209) 385-7403 and email@example.com.
UCCE feedlot management specialist to work at UC ANR's Desert Research and Extension Center
Carvalho grew up on his family's cattle and crop farm in the state of Goias in Brazil. In 2012, while an undergraduate, he came to the United States to work as an intern in the beef cattle reproduction and nutrition labs at The Ohio State University.
After earning a bachelor's degree in animal science at Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, he completed a master's degree at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He recently earned his doctoral degree at Pennsylvania State University, where he conducted research projects to enhance the efficiency of Holstein steers in the feedlot.
“My plan as an extensionist and researcher at the Desert Research and Extension Center is to first understand what the needs are from our feedlot operations in Imperial County,” Carvalho told Stacey Amparano, Farm Smart manager, who wrote a Q&A with him. “After that, I plan to implement and conduct actions (research projects and on-farm training) to help our beef producers and farmworkers. I really hope that I can bring value to our stakeholders by providing information on nutrition and management, as well as helping to train and improve the lives of the workers in feed yards of our state.”
Read the full text of Carvalho's Q&A with Stacey Amparano at https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=43442. Carvalho can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (217) 418-0202. Follow Carvalho on Twitter at @pedrocattle.
New youth, families and communities academic coordinator named for Central Coast counties
The new position was created in a reorganization, and allowed the office to maintain existing multi-disciplinary programs, including Master Food Preservers, Master Gardeners, 4-H and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC.
“I am excited to step into this new role,” Klisch said. “I know that my six years of experience managing the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC program will help inform my academic work in community health and that experience has definitely helped prepare me for taking on a leadership role in the other Youth, Families and Communities program areas.”
As community education supervisor, Klisch led the expansion of 4-H programming across San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties through the UC Garden Nutrition Extender program and the 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council youth engagement program. Prior to joining UC ANR, Klisch worked as a private consultant with the Center for Family Strengthening.
“I am looking forward to having the time and the mandate to publish the results and accumulated data of our work in food security, positive youth development and healthy communities,” she said.
Klisch earned a master's degree in community health education at San Jose State University and a bachelor's degree in anthropology and communication from UC San Diego. She holds credentials as a master community health education specialist and community health education specialist. Klisch is headquartered in San Luis Obispo and can be reached at (805) 781-5951 and email@example.com.
Gerardo Spinelli is the new production horticulture advisor in San Diego County
“Since I saw the job description for this position, I thought, ‘Wow, what a cool job!'” Spinelli said. “The agricultural setting of San Diego County is quite unique and so is this position. I'll be working with thousands of crops, ornamentals, flowers, succulents, palms. And if it wasn't enough, I also get to work with urban agriculture and a new and dynamic vegetable production industry in hydroponics. Can you dig it?”
Prior to joining UCCE San Diego, Spinelli worked for the Santa Cruz Resource Conservation District since 2015, focusing on irrigation and nitrogen management for strawberry and lettuce. He collaborated with UCCE advisor Michael Cahn to promote the adoption of CropManage, an online decision-support tool that helps farmers optimize irrigation and nitrogen application.
Spinelli also served as a visiting scientist at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources in the late 2010s, where he designed and built hydroponic farming systems for lettuce.
Spinelli grew up in Italy on an olive and vegetable farm on the hills overlooking Florence and is fluent in Italian, English, French and Spanish. He earned a bachelor's degree in agronomy and a master's degree in tropical agriculture at the University of Florence. He also earned a master's in international agricultural development and a doctorate in horticulture and agronomy at UC Davis. Spinelli can be reached at (858) 822-7679 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tian Tian is the new viticulture advisor in Kern County
“I feel very excited to join the UC Cooperative Extension and be part of this collaborative group,” Tian said. “I look forward to working with local growers and industry to improve management practices in the vineyard and increase the profit margin of table grape production.”
Tian earned a master's degree at California State University, Fresno, and a bachelor's degree at Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, China, both in viticulture and enology. For several years she worked in industry, including an internship at E. & J. Gallo Winery in Modesto and as the assistant vineyard manager at Berryessa Gap Vineyard in Winters.
Tian's doctoral research focused on development of better guidelines for vineyard nitrogen management for growers in the Willamette Valley. She and the research team evaluated the influences of vineyard nitrogen on vine productivity, fruit composition and wine characteristics in chardonnay and pinot noir.
Tian can be reached at email@example.com. Her Twitter handle is @TianUcce.
Laura Vollmer is the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for the Bay Area
“As a multigenerational Bay Area resident (born and bred on the San Mateo County coast), it's a dream come true to serve the community that raised me,” Vollmer said. “The Bay Area has long been a leader in child nutrition and I am particularly excited for the opportunity to help implement and evaluate innovative programs that support the well-being of children and communities.
Vollmer previously worked at the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, where she helped to coordinate the National Drinking Water Alliance, a national network of allies working to ensure that all children in the U.S. can drink water in the places where they live, learn and play. She also contributed to research on food security and the charitable food assistance system, and on the impact of community nutrition and physical activity on children's health. Vollmer served as a grant writer and institutional giving associate for City Harvest, an anti-hunger nonprofit in New York City, for two years.
Vollmer earned a bachelor's degree in English at Wesleyan University and earned a master's degree in public health from UC Berkeley. She is a registered dietitian. She is a board chair of Oakland-based Youth Outside, which works to ensure equitable access to the outdoors. When she's not at work, Vollmer enjoys swimming in the ocean, cooking and hiking.
Vollmer can be reached at (650) 276-7429, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace Woodmansee is the new livestock and natural resources advisor in Northern California
“As an undergraduate research assistant at the Chico State Beef Unit, I discovered my passion for rangeland science and management a discipline that combines my interests in social, ecological and livestock production research,” said Woodmansee. “I am very excited to join the community of Siskiyou County and to work with ranchers and land managers to identify research priorities, develop projects and address challenges related to livestock production and natural resource management.”
Woodmansee has a bachelor's degree from Chico State and completed a master's degree in agronomy at UC Davis in November. She will be based in Yreka and can be reached at email@example.com.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger in the early 1980s, Dahlberg was intrigued by sorghum, a staple food being cultivated by the country's vast population of subsistence farmers.
“I was impressed with the fact that sorghum was so drought tolerant,” Dahlberg said. “Nigerien farmers relied solely on rain for their sorghum and millet crops.”
Upon returning to the U.S., he earned a master's degree at the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. at Texas A&M, where his research focused on sorghum. He worked with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Puerto Rico for 7 years and then spent the next 10 years as research director with the National Sorghum Producers in Lubbock, Texas.
When Dahlberg took the helm of the 330-acre UC agricultural research center in 2010, he and colleagues at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center and at UC Davis began conducting sorghum forage variety trials. Sorghum wasn't new to California. In the past, it had mainly been used for animal feed. But Dahlberg believed the crop's adaptability – excellent for forage, biofuels and gluten-free human food – offered the grain a rosy future in the Golden State.
"With our research, we have provided California farmers who are thinking about growing sorghum access to locally generated, research-based information to help them make the decision," Dahlberg said.
In 2015, Dahlberg and UC Berkeley specialist Peggy Lemaux launched a sweeping drought research project at KARE. The five-year study, funded with a $12.3 million grant from the Department of Energy, researched the genetics of drought tolerance in sorghum and how soil microbial communities interacted with sorghum roots to battle drought stress.
A journal article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2018 presented the first detailed look at the role of drought in restructuring the root microbiome. The plant switches some genes on and some genes off when it detects water scarcity and access to water.
“That has implications for feeding the world, particularly considering the changing climate and weather patterns,” Dahlberg said.
In recent years, Dahlberg helped reestablish tea research at Kearney, initiated nearly 60 years ago in a study funded by Thomas J. Lipton, Inc. At the time, Lipton was seeking to grow tea for the instant tea market. When the Kearney tea research program was scrapped in 1981, a researcher had a handful of the best tea clones planted in the landscape around buildings at Kearney.
Those shrubs became the basis for a new tea research trial planted at Kearney in 2017 with UC Davis professor Jackie Gervay Hague to determine whether drought stress impacts the production of phenolics and tannins in the tea.
“We know we can grow good tea here and we can grow high tonnage,” Dahlberg said. “We want to determine if we can do that on a consistent basis and whether we can improve tea quality through irrigation management.”
In retirement, Dahlberg plans to relocate to Lake Ann, Mich., to be close to family. UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist Khaled Bali will serve as interim director of the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The 2020 Giving Tuesday donations for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources have broken records for the organization's previous giving campaigns.
“I am thrilled to report that we raised over $196,000 for UC ANR programs on Giving Tuesday this year – a 49% increase over the $130,000 raised during Giving Tuesday last year!” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
UC ANR received 854 gifts from 736 donors during the 24-hour campaign this year; in 2019, 494 donors gave 580 gifts for Giving Tuesday.
“Like most organizations across the country, we were worried that giving would be down,” said Lorna Krkich, executive director of Development Services. “This result is both inspiring and an affirmation of the value our programs provide Californians.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, UC Cooperative Extension advisors met with farmers to diagnose crop problems and they worked with homeowners and land managers to prepare for wildfire. UC Master Gardener volunteers demonstrated gardening practices for backyard gardeners and 4-H volunteers guided children in leadership and science projects.
In March, shelter-in-place restrictions gave rise to UC Cooperative Extension and other UC ANR employees finding opportunities to address their communities' new and urgent needs.
As restaurants closed, they began helping farmers find new markets for their produce and meat. To avoid public gatherings, UC Master Gardeners and other UC Cooperative Extension programs began offering virtual workshops online. 4-H youth sewed masks for people who needed personal protective equipment. In August, when lightning ignited wildfires all over the state, UC Cooperative Extension advised residents on defensible space around their homes and helped evacuate livestock.
“The resounding success of Giving Tuesday shows that more and more people are beginning to recognize and appreciate the amazing work UC ANR employees do to make life better for Californians,” said Emily Delk, director of annual giving and donor stewardship.
Humiston said, “Many thanks to everyone who gave money to expand research and outreach, and to those who volunteer their time to extend UC ANR programs to more people.”