I stand corrected; only a couple of SI Leaders pulled together the information for the Federal report. Thanks go out to Cheryl Wilen, Doug Parker, Clare Gupta, Neil McRoberts, David Lile, Chris Greer, and Yana Valachovik for their work! I met with Katherine Webb-Martinez, and we talked about all the many uses for the information provided. It is exciting to think about the opportunities to share your stories and successes.
Now that Cheryl Wilen has rotated off serving as an SI Leader, I don't see her every month for Program Council. She made a special appearance this month to attend a musical performance by Carl Winter, following the Program Council meeting last Tuesday. Carl shared with the Davis ANR building some of his parodies that he developed as a novel method of teaching food safety principles to students. A few years ago, he was awarded a USDA competitive grant to create and deliver the songs. I suspect he may have been disappointed a bit in his stoic audience, but everyone enjoyed the performance and our opportunity to experience both his musical talent and his creativity. We can talk about Mark Bell's dancing in a different post.
Carl's demonstrated his creativity following a Program Council ideation activity. Program Council members worked in small teams to brainstorm ideas that would position UC ANR for the future. Then we slept on it and reconvened on Wednesday to share out our thoughts and think about ‘who would get behind the idea' and ‘what would make the idea work'? The goal wasn't to move forward with the ideas themselves but to get to the development of guiding principles for making decisions going forward. This would include program reviews and resource allocation decisions. It had been a while since the guiding principles had last been reviewed (2009, I think). Like many of the Program Council members, I left thinking as much about the ideas I heard and ‘what if' as I did thinking about the guiding principles. What sunk in with me was that any single idea might be a challenge to implement but the combination of several of the concepts, while identified independently, could come together and forge a path forward. The other thing that stuck out was that those ideas that were the most innovative tended to be the ones that would be the most difficult to implement, often due to internal or external resistance, reinforcing the sentiment that change is hard. Carl commented that one of the challenges he continues to face is that often colleagues don't see him as a serious scientist. And yet, his approach to teaching is not only evidence of his scholarship and creativity, but far more impactful as far as learning and behavior change adoption, than most peer-reviewed journal publications could ever achieve.
I spent a fair bit of time this weekend reading the draft report to our Federal partners (USDA). It is a big undertaking to craft the 78 pages of activities and impacts, beginning with each of you entering data into Project Board. Strategic Initiative leaders or other leaders within the division comb through the data to pull out key impact stories. Each of those individuals or 2-person teams submits their information to the Program Planning and Evaluation team, and from there it is formatted and compiled before editing to read from a single voice. This year we were able to organize the report around condition changes that will resonate with our partners. Below are a few examples :
Condition Change: UC ANR contributed to increased agricultural efficiency and profitability.
- After presenting the sorghum trial results, 92% of 60 growers and industry consultants expressed a willingness to plant the low seeding rates that performed best in trials. Before the workshop, most growers were planting higher seeding rates because of industry recommendations. This increased efficiency should result in good yields with lower seed inputs, and thus improved profitability. (Note: this is a behavior change where follow up can confirm that the change in profitability occurred.
Condition Change: UC ANR contributed to improved animal management, productivity, and efficiency.
- In 2017, 780 dairies acquired the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program's environmental stewardship certification qualifying for a 50% fee reduction in water quality fees. The actual value to producers exceeds $2,250,000 annually.
Condition Change: UC ANR contributed to improved food security.
- Over 1,200 UC CalFresh participants responded to a survey about their experiences with the Plan, Shop, Save and Cook curriculum, designed to help adult participants stretch food dollars by learning shopping strategies and meal planning. Participants reported improved food security by running out of food less often (36%). Also, 4,000 EFNEP adult graduates reported an average monthly food cost savings of $38.20, which collectively saved California EFNEP families $2,916,340.The survey results support national data that, according to the USDA Economic Research Service, the estimated percentage of food-insecure households in 2013-2015 was 12.6%, which decreased by 3% from 2010-2012 estimates.
Condition Change: UC ANR contributed to increased ecological sustainability of agriculture, landscapes, and forestry.
- Concerning Asian citrus psyllid, more than 10 million natural parasitoid enemies have been mass reared and released in California in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Establishment has been confirmed at 95% of release sites, parasitoids have spread up to eight miles without human assistance, and pest populations have declined on average by about 70%.
Condition Change: UC ANR contributed to the increased ecological sustainability of agriculture, landscapes, and forests.
- Extension about oak restoration has led to planning and contracting several projects covering 300 acres. As of 2018, 212 acres of oak woodland have been successfully restored. Additionally, with support from UC ANR, the Natural Resources Conservation Service now has a legal permitting pathway for their oak restoration programs.
Condition Change: UC ANR contributed to improved water use efficiency.
- Garden Walks program participants saved over 9000 gallons a year on average when compared to control groups. Total water savings for all participants over the lifetime of the program are over 27 million gallons to date, and the program has cost less to run over that same time-frame than it would cost to directly buy 27 million gallons at the average rate paid by the Metropolitan Municipal Water District residential customers.
These are just a few of the many, many examples provided that are sure to impress our Federal partners as they have me.
If you happen to be following the ERS/USDA move updates, you will know that California is no longer under consideration despite, in my opinion, meeting the criteria as well as many options in the 27 states that remain under consideration. That's only eight states fewer than the original list; perhaps a strategic move on the part of the Secretary. Pretty much the whole state of Virginia remains under consideration, which makes far more sense to me than Tallahassee (the only area of Florida still under review). And, does anyone even know where Hanover Township, PA is, much less why a private citizen would submit a bid that remains under consideration? Perhaps the answers will be revealed soon.
Over the weekend I received the photo from Mark Bell. Care to take a guess where he is? That answer to follow.
If you happen to be keeping track, I have 61 dossiers remaining.
This week was the Regent's meeting where UC ANR had a chance to educate the Regents about who we are and the value we bring to California. I missed the first public day of the meeting because the Program Council was also this week. But I was to be there yesterday which was the scheduled day for Glenda's UC ANR presentation. The group was behind schedule by 9 AM. They ended up so far behind schedule that the UC ANR presentation was rescheduled to the May meeting.
The topic that put the agenda so far behind schedule? Student tuition. The proposal centered on a 2.6% increase to non-resident fees that would equate to just under $800 per year. Regents raised concerns that, while $800 may not seem like much, in some countries it is a month's wages. Additional concerns regarded DACA students who failed to meet the requirements for in-state tuition and the fact that they would be impacted by the $800. Those against the increase argued that the cost of running UC is not the financial responsibility of non-resident students. Those in favor countered that while they, too didn't like the idea of increasing costs to students, there is a $30M gap in the budget, state funding does not keep up with rising costs, and 2.6% is less than a cost-of-living adjustment. In the end, the decision was to undertake further analysis and make a decision at the next meeting (hopefully after the UC ANR presentation). I happened to be sitting near a large group of students who declared ‘victory.' By the way, did you know that snapping fingers have replaced clapping (less disruptive)?
I'm not sure who won what. Acceptance letters need to go out, and they will state that the non-resident fees may increase by 2.6%. That then turned into a discussion about the need for students to be able to know, in advance, what their education will cost without changing those costs mid-stream. If the increase goes forward, should it only then apply to incoming students? Then next year's acceptance letters would include the 4-year cost for the class entering in fall 2020, and so on. The commitment would only be made for four years, thus, promoting an increase in 4-yr graduation rates.
While tuition doesn't relate to UC ANR directly, I found the principles relevant. One could replace the word ‘tuition' with ‘REC research costs' and have the same conversations. In fact, I've had these same conversations. It all comes back to ‘who pays when the taxpayers don't?' Unfortunately, the Lt. Governor did not offer to help make a push for UC ANR like she did with state support for UC, in general, but perhaps that will come.
I'm still digesting the Program Council conversations, but in the meantime, I need to start working on my weekly quota for reviewing merit and promotion packages. So far, I am 0% complete for the week.
Between a group of us, we visited 32+ California Congresspeople and Senators. I found many supporters during my visits. The staffers asked great questions about our programs and the local impacts of our programs. While I didn't have all of the answers at hand, I will be doing follow-ups this week. Glenda and I were accompanied by some of our superstars, including Bill Frost, Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Monique Rivera, Darren Haver, Mark Lagrimini, and Teal Cody as well as David Ackerly and Government Affairs staff from UCD, UCB, and UCR. They all did a fantastic job talking about the details of their programs as well as the value of those efforts for the greater CA. The March trip to DC isn't particularly something I look forward to each year, but I think we all had good visits and I would say it has been the best of my three years thus far. Sometimes it is difficult to hold the attention of the staffers. You can't blame them; they pretty much spend the entire month of March visiting with teams of constituents armed with details about their cause. Even the meeting that precedes the Hill visits was better than it has been. Perhaps I am acclimating.
While in DC, we ran into Susie Kocher who was making visits of her own with forestry colleagues and program leaders. Doug Parker was in DC the week before us to talk about the water programs; another vital topic to CA and the US, as a whole.
I heard on 60 Minutes this evening that a record number of Americans have fallen behind on car payments; 7 million. My take away from that is that while our own ‘central funding' competes with many other important causes, the need for our work has never been stronger. That's why our elected officials welcome our visits and ask for invitations to see our work firsthand.
I am not making progress on my review of merit and promotion packages that I had hoped at this point. My goal is to be through all of the packets by June 1 so that I can then go through and review the Peer Review Committee and ad hoc reviewer comments before making decisions by June 15. I can't attribute my lack of progress to Daylight Saving Time. What I can say is that for the packets I have reviewed, I continue to be impressed by the work of the UC ANR team. All should proudly take the opportunity to show off their efforts and impacts with our elected officials.
I spent Friday with the Vice Chancellors of Research. We met on the UC Irvine campus, my first visit to that campus. We talked a bit about an effort to aggregate all of the patents across UC and, using artificial intelligence, identify expired or abandoned patents with potential for revival. What I learned is that UC holds more patents than any other public institution. Given that UC is comprised of 10 campuses, 3 National labs, and UC ANR it makes perfect sense.
Eric Rignot, a professor at UC Irvine and ‘glaciologist,' talked to us about ice sheet melt and what it means. His presentation was fascinating. We learned that while the current rate of sea level rise is 1 meter/century, it could go as high as 4 meters/century due to the impact of ice sheets. Note that if sea level were to rise 4 meters, most of the airports on both U.S. coasts would be under water. I had heard some years ago that much of Greenland is now cultivated due to glacial loss. Dr. Rignot shared data indicating that the melt rate of Antarctica and mountain glaciers are only a bit less than that of Greenland and all rates are increasing. As the only continent I have not visited, I was unaware of how different western Antarctica is from the eastern side of Antarctica. The western side has extensive glacial loss. The eastern side, not long ago inaccessible, now shows signs of ‘warming.' The Totten Glacier, in eastern Antarctica, alone would cause a 3.9-meter increase in sea level should it melt. As a result, there is close attention paid to eastern Antarctica to monitor where the melt rate is relative to a ‘tipping point.' Dr. Rignot's comment that "every day that passes by with inaction will penalize us down the road" has stuck with me and seems to apply in many situations.
Now I am in Washington, D.C. again, attending the CARET/APLU meeting. Barry Dunn, President at South Dakota State University, quoted C.S. Lewis during his comments. The quote was “You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” That sentiment certainly applies to climate change. Dunn, a former Extension Specialist who happened to start as a professor in Animal Science at SDSU the same year I started as a professor and Extension Specialist at Iowa State, also in Animal Science, also talked about his fascination with kaleidoscopes because you can change the lens slightly and the view changes tremendously. I found that an interesting thought.
Following the meeting sessions, we headed to our UC-DC office to plan for the rest of the week. Afterward, Dean David Ackerly, from UC Berkeley, met with alum and gave a talk about his work, also related to climate change. It is shaping up to be both a busy and interesting week.