Our program reach continues to expand. We remain a long way from having participation that reflects the population of California, but we are making progress. Our recent annual federal report shared that the California Naturalist Program has developed new partnerships with the following organizations serving underrepresented groups: Community Nature Connection, Nature for All, Outward Bound Adventures, Southern California Mountains Foundation's Urban Conservation Corps, and several more community colleges. Southern California has seen the largest growth of partner organizations serving underrepresented groups. In the Central Sierra region, non-white participation has gone up from 20% in 2019 to 35% in 2020.
In addition, I learned through our report that counties with large UC Master Gardener volunteer enrollments, including Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Alameda, have adopted implicit bias training requirements for volunteers involved in the selection process. This will help reduce implicit bias in the application review and interview processes leading to a more diverse volunteer population, and improve the cultural competency of the current volunteer population. Volunteer sense of belonging within and commitment to an organization, depends both on the practices of staff and also on the other volunteers. While implicit bias training alone is not sufficient to address inequity in hiring and by extension volunteer selection, implicit bias awareness can be a critical component of equitable volunteer selection.
I am excited to see what additional steps we will take in the near future, in both our programming and as an employer.
I can't believe Friday is upon us already! I hope everyone had a chance to get out and walk on Wednesday, as part of the UC Walks event. The weather perhaps was more appropriate for a swim but at least a cool down is on the way before yard work resumes this weekend. Before we get to the weekend, there are more meetings to attend, not to mention learning about the Governor's May budget revise. Let's keep our fingers crossed for good things for UC!
New case numbers in California remain more than 10-fold higher than they were at this time last year. I hope the numbers continue to decline, and we don't see an upward trend such as Oregon is observing at the moment.
We have done quite a bit to help others through this time, and that work continues. The News and Outreach in Spanish team uses radio and television to reach underserved Spanish-speaking communities. And, I learned the following from Project Board and Federal reporting data.
- Sixteen small-scale strawberry farmers from Southeast Asian communities implemented use of UC ANR-provided personal protective equipment and displayed the signs, also provided by UC ANR, at their farm stands. Farmers reported that “posting the signs helped a lot, it kept customers from touching produce and they wore masks" and “customers were able to read the signs ahead, and understand what needed to be done and was expected at the fruit stand. While the customers were waiting in a single-file line, they were all six feet apart."
- UCCE in Santa Clara County distributed over 80 COVID-kits to farmers from socially disadvantaged communities to ensure worker safety. Observations during farm visits showed that farm workers were wearing masks when working. Interviews revealed that they were washing their hands more often.
I know there are many more examples out there. Keep up the good work, everyone! We are so close to our new normal if we can just continue safe practices!
More fires are popping up around the state; it is far too soon for this! This year's Federal report shares that Andrew Gray, an AES researcher at UC Riverside, studies the aftermath of fire and storm events to understand debris flows. The findings will help the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works personnel modify their approach to assessing debris flow risk after fires to better mitigate danger during post-fire storms. UC Davis AES scientist, Rahel Sollman, completed an intensive study of the plants, invertebrates, mammals, birds, bats, pollinators, and flowering plants within the burn perimeter of the 2014 King Fire. The goal was to map and understand the food web networks and assess species vulnerabilities. These baseline data provide critical information for forest managers to evaluate recovery and species declines.
This is Program Council week. The Program Council meetings conflicted with Asian Pacific Heritage Month activities, but I hope many others were able to participate. There are many meetings this week. Perhaps next week with bring a lighter schedule, no new fires, and fewer new COVID cases.
The first half of each week seems to go by slowly, then all of a sudden we are at the end of another week. I don't know how or why that happens! Perhaps I am alone in experiencing this. UC ANR has had some nice call outs in the press. Last weekend I caught part of a show that referenced the 2019-2020 Annual Report and interviewed 4-H youth from Oroville and Chico! The youth talked about the life lessons learned through animal projects. Hopefully a future show features SPIN (special interest) activities.
It is hard to believe that May 12 will be the second UC ANR Walks event during COVID. With less than 40% of adults fully vaccinated across the U.S., I have to wonder if it will be the last. Availability isn't the barrier now. I am ready to resume normal work load and schedule, return to the office, and put the face masks away. It is time to get back to in person meetings, travel, and our traditional events, but lack of herd immunity stands in the way.
In the meantime, I spent a fair bit of time this week reviewing merit packages and annual evaluation documents. I need to prepare for next week's Program Council meeting. It promises to not only be lengthy, but also lively.
The fire season is already lively. I can see what I believe to be the Calaveras County fire from my house. I would prefer to just see the snowpack, but it is receding quickly. Even cows that have escaped their fencing next door are a preferred view from my office garage. We have much work to do to reduce fire risk, among other things. On to another week that seems to run, not walk.
After a long year there's hope that accountability happens. The week started with a meeting to discuss the new DEI Advisory Council Charter. I am excited about the possibilities that the Council brings to conversations and action. Yesterday began with a small team of Extension Directors strategizing to advance change across the Cooperative Extension System through peer support, identification of best practices, and craft a developmental growth plan for the system. Small steps that may seem insignificant in isolation, but when summed across all efforts conveys that this is a movement, and not merely a moment. Yet, there is much work left to do before we can all breathe.
I am making progress on merit and promotion packages. Single digits remain to complete my first round reviews, then approximately another 40 hours of work in May to finalize decisions. I completed annual conversations with all but 2 employees so there is progress there, too. I have yet to learn the new systems for both UCOP and UC ANR review processes. Once I do, I suspect we will change to a new system. Everyone has worked so hard to adjust and advance goals; change was the norm. There is some fascinating work going on all around the state. We would need a Town Hall every day to feature all of it.
This week we celebrate Earth Day. My car will remain parked again this year. I hope travel resumes soon, even if to a lesser extent than in the past, to provide the chance to connect with new faces, see programs in action, and meet prospective partners. Later this week I have meetings to plan two separate meetings, both virtual again this year; one in late June and one in October.
The upside of staying home is that I believe we have finally gotten ahead of the yard work. In part, that may be because I seem to welcome the yard work as a nice alternative to Zoom meetings from the garage. My favorite flowers are blooming right now; ice plants. I love the orange color. However, allergy season is definitely upon us. I hear face coverings help with the allergen effects, but I haven't taken that approach. Should pollen make it difficult to breathe, I might have to test the theory. In the meantime, I will hope for rain and celebrate Earth Day weekend in the yard looking for hummingbirds. Each of us has the right to birdwatch or enjoy nature in our own way, without having to hold our breath in worry of what may come.
The team in the Central Sierra are quite creative! Take a look at the elevator pitch they put together to describe UC ANR! Of course, UC ANR is so much more, but for a 2-minute video, this team captured the essence of ANR while putting their new skills to use. Nice job!
I am working my way through merit and promotion packages, so just how much more UC ANR is, is at the forefront of my thoughts these days. Every year, I am so impressed with the accomplishments and commitment of the academics and their teams who are core to success. The impact statements improve each year and I suspect it is rewarding for some who are later in their careers to look back on long-standing programs and see all that has been accomplished. This is my fifth year reading the packages. Many in the process this year are second or third time reviews for me now, so I can see how programs have grown or matured since my first read. As much as I enjoy reading the dossiers and as important as it is to understand every academic's program, I will be okay 6 or 8 weeks from now when I put that task aside for another year.
Mark Bell is on the road this week, tired of being cooped up at home, I bet. Mark's been helping me learn Utah geography. Who knew the Great Salt Lake photographed better than it looks live!
I am ready to get out of the garage and back to an office environment and make some visits to our county and REC locations. I can't put faces to all of the new hires since late 2019. As a result, I feel a bit disconnected from everything, despite Town Halls and other Zoom events. I will sit tight a bit longer and let this 4th wave pass us by. Then, perhaps, we will be ready to move to our new normal. The upside is that I interact with pollen less when I am not commuting.
In the meantime, I continue to meet with partners via Zoom. There are some exciting opportunities for partnerships out there! Some of those opportunities are at the national Cooperative Extension System level; others at the UC ANR level. I have a couple of meetings scheduled to see what might materialize.