- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
This spring more scientists joined University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources to share their practical knowledge in counties across the state. UC ANR recently hired UC Cooperative Extension advisors and academic coordinators who bring expertise in small-scale farms, tree and field crops, water resiliency, weed management and pest management. In a sign of our changing times, UC Cooperative Extension added an urban agriculture technology area advisor.
UC Cooperative Extension advisors work directly with community members to apply research-based information to improve the lives and livelihoods of Californians. Increased funding from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature has enabled UC ANR to expand its expertise across the state.
To see a list of UC Cooperative Extension advisors who have joined in the past few months, visit https://ucanr.edu/About/DirectorySearch/Recent_Hires. The most recently hired scientists are introduced below.
“I was born and raised on a small prune and walnut farm in Gridley, in nearby Butte County, and am very excited to be putting down roots close to family,” said Wheeler-Dykes, who started in this role on June 1.
Covering olives, prunes, walnuts and almonds, with an emphasis on weed management research in those cropping systems, Wheeler-Dykes is spending her first months on the job getting to know the region's growers and broader agricultural community.
“I hope to form great relationships with the clientele in my counties, providing a resource that they can trust and rely on,” she said. “I want to serve as an advocate for our region in developing research and finding answers for the unique systems we have here. My interests are alternative weed management in orchard systems and canopy management, but I look forward to hearing what other areas need to be addressed.”
After earning both a bachelor's in crop science and business management and a master's in entomology (with a focus on integrated pest management in tree crops) from UC Davis, Wheeler-Dykes has conducted extensive agricultural research.
“I'm excited to bring those experiences to the Sac Valley as the newest advisor,” she said, encouraging growers and producers in the region to contact her with the challenges they are facing.
Based at the UCCE Glenn County office in Orland, Wheeler-Dykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aiming to build capacity to address growing challenges across California agriculture, she is excited to continue with the Small Farms and Specialty Crops Program in Fresno, where she has been working for the last three years as a project manager for the Healthy Soils Program.
Castiaux earned a Master of Science in conservation leadership from Colorado State University and a bachelor's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from UC Santa Cruz. She has eight years of practical cross-cultural experience in agriculture, teaching and implementing climate-smart agricultural practices and summarizing complex topics in a more simplified form to various diverse audiences.
Fluent in Spanish, Castiaux was a bilingual lead educator for community-based participatory climate change resiliency programs for sugar cane farmers in Paraguay and coffee farmers in Mexico. She also worked with the California Strawberry Commission as a grower education specialist for three years teaching farmworkers and growers food safety, practices and research.
Castiaux is based in Fresno County and is best reached by email at email@example.com.
“I was born and raised in Tulare County and have been working in agriculture my entire life,” he said.
After receiving his bachelor's degree in plant science from Fresno State, Angeles conducted pesticide efficacy trials at the DuPont Research Farm in Madera. He later earned a master's in plant science from Fresno State, writing his thesis under the supervision of weed science professor Anil Shrestha and retired UCCE advisor Kurt Hembree.
An employee of UCCE for the past six years, Angeles worked with a pair of emeritus UCCE academics, Steve Wright and Bob Hutmacher.
Currently, Angeles is talking with growers, pest control advisers and other farm advisors about the pressing weed-management issues across the region.
“One of my main goals is to find alternative control methods for some of the herbicide-resistant and invasive weeds that are a problem in different agricultural crops,” he said.
Based in Tulare, Angeles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (559) 684-3300.
Johnson provides unbiased, research-driven information to people working in urban agriculture, with a focus on controlled environments such as greenhouses. His clientele is interested in adopting technologies that can improve plant production, ranging from nurseries and commercial growers to community members managing local gardens.
In his newly created role, Johnson's efforts will influence the scope of work for urban agricultural technology advisors to come. One of the challenges that he anticipates is “focusing knowledge” or choosing a specific problem to prioritize.
“I'm really interested in irrigation, soil and plant culture. There's a lot to consider and there's a lot that can be done,” said Johnson.
Before he was hired as an advisor, Johnson worked as a staff research associate for five years at the South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine under Darren Haver, director of UC ANR's Research and Extension Center system.
“I learned a lot while I was an SRA, but there was only so much that I could do. I wanted more freedom to explore as a researcher, so I decided I wanted to become an advisor,” Johnson said, adding that his career goal inspired him to return to school.
Johnson earned a master's degree in horticulture and agronomy from UC Davis, as well as a bachelor's degree in biology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
One of the exciting aspects of the job, according to Johnson, is the ability to get creative and explore new territory. “I have some fun research interests, like how to grow wasabi or maximize saffron production using hydroponics,” Johnson explained.
“I'm interested in the kind of things that might be culturally important or significant to certain communities, and how they can be made more affordable and accessible,” he added.
Johnson is based out of the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center and can be reached at email@example.com.
Cohen earned her Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied how to develop agricultural practices to promote a diversity of beneficial insects and ecosystem services. She then conducted postdoctoral research at UC Riverside, where she studied pollinator health in Yolo County sunflowers.
Her research has been presented at national and international conferences, published in more than 14 peer-reviewed publications, and shared through blogs, fact sheets and field days with her local grower community.
Prior to joining UC ANR, Cohen worked as a commercial horticulture agent with the Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. This summer she will work with industry and university partners across Ventura County to evaluate the needs of the local growers and design an applied research and extension program.
Cohen is excited to address a myriad of issues related to pest management, including identification and monitoring, pest biology and phenology, crop loss assessment, pesticide resistance prevention, and evaluation of integrated pest management methods with an emphasis on biological and cultural controls. She is eager to conduct this work in regional crops such as berries, avocado, citrus and more.
“Ventura County is an important place to advance agricultural practices that reduce economic damage from pests while minimizing impacts on the environment, farmworkers and consumers,” said Cohen.
Cohen is based out of the UCCE office in Ventura and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram @beescientista.
Tang will be developing water resiliency strategies for stakeholders and diverse ecosystems across Napa County. In addition, he will design and implement creative research, acquire and share technical knowledge, and promote stewardship of surface and groundwater resources to meet the needs of competing users and natural systems.
This summer, Tang will collaborate with growers, UC Davis researchers and UC ANR colleagues to measure the crop coefficient of Napa grape vineyards.
“This work aims to support groundwater sustainability planning with water budget calculations and to provide crucial information for irrigation management,” he said.
Prior to joining UC ANR, Tang earned a Ph.D. in soil science from Pennsylvania State University, where his work focused on the ecohydrology of oak-maple forest. Fluent in Mandarin, he also holds a bachelor's degree in hydrogeology from Nanjing University in China. Tang took a one-year training at North Carolina State University as a postdoctoral scholar working on large-scale nutrient modeling.
He Is looking forward to applying his experience and learning new skills in his new role.
“I am very excited about this new journey,” said Tang. “Water problems are pressing, important and interesting.”
He had served as a UC Cooperative Extension agronomy advisor in Siskiyou County since 2019.
While in Siskiyou County, he worked on managing blue alfalfa aphids and investigating crop injury to Roundup Ready alfalfa with Rob Wilson, director of Intermountain Research and Extension Center and UCCE in Siskiyou County, and Tom Getts, UCCE weed and crop systems advisor for Lassen County. Galdi also conducted research on irrigation efficiency, winter groundwater recharge, and soil moisture sensors.
Prior to joining UCCE, Galdi was a junior specialist at UC Davis, where he worked on a variety of field trials, mainly alfalfa and forage crops, with the objective of improving the sustainability of water use and hay quality. As a master's student and student research assistant at Fresno State, Galdi evaluated salinity tolerance in different alfalfa varieties. He speaks Portuguese fluently.
Galdi earned a M.S. in plant sciences from Fresno State and a B.S. in agronomy engineering from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Galdi is based in Merced and can be reached at email@example.com.
Reyes is excited about developing climate-adapted management practices and working with the recently expanded team of orchard advisors serving the northern Sacramento Valley, but she also anticipates encountering some challenges.
“Some of the challenges I expect to face are low crop prices despite increasing costs to farmers, including labor and inputs; water scarcity; and more frequent and higher temperature heat waves affecting fruit development and quality,” explained Reyes.
Reyes earned a master's degree in horticulture and agronomy from UC Davis. She also earned a bachelor's degree in biology from UC San Diego.
When describing her journey into agriculture, Reyes said that she “likes the way food makes it easy to connect with people.” She also said that after realizing a career in biotech was “not a good fit,” she let her love for gardening alter her career path.
“I'm really into food systems and food is an important part of culture,” said Reyes. “So, it was the overlap of research and food. Even though the science part can go over someone's head, everyone understands food.”
Before joining Cooperative Extension, she worked as a junior specialist studying plant-water relations at UC Davis. While her research was focused on grapevines, she started working with walnut trees, which exposed her to opportunities in orchard systems. Afterwards, she became a staff research associate in orchards systems in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties.
Reyes is based out of the UC Cooperative Extension office in Yuba City and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Ashraf El-Kereamy named UCCE citrus specialist
Ashraf El-Kereamy was appointed UC Cooperative Extension citrus horticultural specialist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside on Feb. 1, 2019. He is based at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter.
El-Kereamy had been working as a UCCE area viticulture advisor serving Kern, Tulare and Kings counties since 2014.
Prior to joining UCCE, El-Kereamy was a post-doc research associate at University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, studying plant drought and heat stress tolerance in plants from 2013 to 2014, and studying the genotypes variation in nitrogen use efficiency and plant heat stress tolerance from 2008 to 2012. From 2012 to 2013, he was assistant/associate professor in the Department of Horticulture, Ain Shams University, Egypt, where he taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses for horticultural science and served as the principal investigator for a U.S.-Egypt joint collaborative research project between University of Wyoming and Ain Shams. As a post-doctoral scientist at the University of Guelph, El-Kereamy studied the pathogenesis-related proteins during plum fruit ripening. As a University of Manitoba post-doc, he studied the physiological role of abscisic acid in plants.
El-Kereamy earned his doctorate degree in agriculture with an emphasis in grape physiology and molecular biology at Toulouse University, in France, and a master's degree in pomology and bachelor's degree in horticulture, both from Ain Shams University, in Cairo, Egypt.
Giuliano Galdi joins UCCE in Siskiyou County
Giuliano C. Galdi joined UCCE on Jan. 2, 2019, as a UC Cooperative Extension agronomy advisor in Siskiyou County.
Prior to joining UCCE, Galdi was a junior specialist at UC Davis, where he worked on a variety of field trials aimed at improving sustainable water use and hay quality. Tasks included irrigation scheduling, planting/harvesting trials, and data handling and analysis. As a master's student and student research assistant at Fresno State, Galdi evaluated salinity tolerance in different alfalfa varieties and presented research in the form of posters and talks. He speaks Portuguese fluently.
Galdi earned a master's degree in plant sciences from Fresno State and a bachelor's degree in agronomy engineering from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Galdi is based in Yreka and can be reached at (530) 842-2711 and email@example.com.
Follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @uccesiskiyou.
Ian Grettenberger joins UCCE as field and vegetable crops specialist
Ian Grettenberger joined UCCE on Jan. 2, 2019, as a field and vegetable crops assistant specialist in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis. Grettenberger is interested in advancing integrated pest management in field and vegetable crops, plant-insect interactions, and applied insect ecology.
Grettenberger earned a doctorate degree in entomology from Penn State University and a bachelor's degree in biology from Western Washington University.
Prior to joining UCCE, Grettenberger was a postdoctoral research scholar at UC Davis, working first with UCCE entomology specialist Larry Godfrey and then UCCE entomology specialist Frank Zalom.
Yu Meng joins UCCE in Imperial County
Yu Meng joined UC Cooperative Extension on Jan. 2, 2019, as the youth, families and communities advisor serving Imperial County, UC Desert Research and Extension Center and communities near the U.S.-Mexico border. Her responsibilities will focus on providing community development programs in the area of youth, families and communities, with major outreach to Latino youth and families.
Prior to joining UCCE, Meng worked for a USDA-funded project known as "the WAVE~Ripples for change" in collaboration with Oregon State University professionals, extension, community partners, high school soccer coaches, school districts and other volunteers. The program was designed to prevent unhealthy weight gain among 15- to 19-year-old soccer players. Most of the youth she worked with were Latinos and from low-income families. During this time, Meng helped develop and test the first sports nutrition, physical activity, family and consumer sciences curriculum for active youth. Her work resulted in positive developments in youth, reducing added sugar intake, maintaining fruit and vegetable intake over time, and improving the awareness of sports nutrition. Participating youth also applied additional skills they learned from gardening and cooking workshops at their homes, and shared the lessons and practical applications with their families.
Meng is fluent in Chinese and originally from China, where she worked for food industries and started to notice the nutrition issues with processed foods and their effects on children's health. With that in mind, she came to the U.S. and studied nutrition.
She completed a doctorate degree in nutrition science from Oregon State University, a master's degree in food science and nutrition from Utah State University, and a bachelor's degree in food science and engineering from Southern China University of Technology, China.
Meng is based in Holtville and can be reached at (442) 265-7700 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann named UCCE advisor in urban forestry and natural resources
Beatriz Nobua-Behrman joined UC Cooperative Extension as an urban forestry and natural resources advisor serving Orange and Los Angeles counties on March 25, 2019.
As a UCCE staff research associate in Orange County since 2017, Nobua-Behrman provided management and direction to conduct a research and extension program focused on the impact of invasive insects on urban landscapes and wildlands surrounding urbanized environments. The main focus of the program was to conducting surveys of infestations in regional parks and open spaces in order to develop management strategies that are efficacious and economically feasible.
Nobua-Behrmann completed bachelor's and doctorate degrees in biology from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Nobua-Behrman is based at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine. She can be reached at (949) 301-9182, Ext. 1006, email@example.com.
Ryan Tompkins named forestry and natural resources advisor
Ryans Tompkins joined UC Cooperative Extension as a forestry and natural resources advisor on March 18, 2019, serving Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties. Prior to joining UCCE, Tompkins held forester positions with the U.S. Forest Service, worked in the fire effects program with the National Park Service and served as associate faculty in the Environmental Studies Department at Feather River College, teaching forest ecology and management.
Most recently, Tompkins served as the forest silviculturist and vegetation program manager at the Plumas National Forest, where he designed, planned and implemented landscape-scale forest restoration projects.
Tompkins earned master's and bachelor's degrees in forestry from UC Berkeley.
Tompkins can be reached at (530) 83-6125, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert York joins UCCE as silviculture and forest specialist
Robert York joined UC ANR on Jan. 2, 2019, as a UC Cooperative Extension silviculture and applied forest ecology assistant specialist and adjunct associate professor of forestry in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. He directs research and management activity on the Berkeley Forests, a network of five research forests covering the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mixed conifer forest from Shasta to Tulare counties.
York is a Registered Professional Forester in California. He earned a doctorate degree in forest ecology and silviculture, a master's degree in forest community ecology and a bachelor's degree in forest management, all from UC Berkeley.
Prior to joining UCCE, York has been the research station manager at Blodgett Forest Research Station with UC Berkeley.
York is based in Georgetown and can be reached at (530) 333-4475 and email@example.com.