It's an extra short week for me. I am having a ‘no meeting' Friday to take care of a few personal meetings and then catch up before the weekend hits. I look forward to cooler temperatures to make yard work a bit easier. I envy David's trip up north this week where the temps are more comfortable. I was surprised to hear from Lenya about the Monument Fire in Trinity County. As large as it is, I am surprised it hasn't made the news like the other fires have.
The week has entailed a series of 1-hr meetings, a few of which have ended early. Salary advancement conversations have been the purpose of several of the meetings. In addition, I met with National 4-H Council, Extension Foundation, and the Northeast Extension Directors. I am working on my workplan as incoming chair of ECOP, that national Cooperative Extension organization. We are strategizing how to build resources for the system as a whole. Hopefully, I won't spend the year meeting with people through virtual meetings, only. We can only speculate where the pandemic is headed. I continue to keep travel to a minimum, unless I can hop in the car to get somewhere.
One of the recent achievements for the national Cooperative Extension organization is funding from CDC to encourage vaccination. Ricardo, Marcel, Linda, and others have worked hard to develop TV spots targeting non-English speakers. Here's just one of 8 30-second TV spots: Variantes del Coronavirus / COVID-19 variants. Leyla has actively shared some of the other UC ANR activities with the CDC project manager around this topic. I learned today that another, much larger grant with NOAA focused on climate smart communities is right around the corner. Start formulating ideas and how we might partner with Sea Grant to prepare communities across California. We will continue to look for more novel partners and assess how we can work with other states to achieve project goals.
I hope everyone enjoys the weekend!
I am heading out on vacation tomorrow. That means I spent much of the week trying to check things off the list that aren't due until early August. No doubt, I will still be behind when I return the week after next, but we all need some down time!
I had the chance to participate in a UC Wildfire Symposium this week. Our CE Advisor and Specialists knocked it out of the park with their presentations addressing Strategies for the Wildlands Urban Interface. Congratulations to Lenya, Max, and Van for a job well done! The 600+ participants remained online despite cutting it close with the schedule. Clearly, they were interested in the discussion.
On Monday, we met with the DEI Advisory Council. The Council is eager to get to work advising UC ANR how best to advance the inclusivity of our culture. A few of us continued the conversation about that work the next day while we planned how to undertake the task of efficiently hiring a large number of academics while attracting top candidates. A challenge, but, a welcomed one.
The week has gone by quickly. Before I knew it on Tuesday, it was past 5 PM. The summer feels the same. I can tell the days are getting shorter because I am getting fewer strawberries each day. Three dogs contribute to the reduced yield, but isn't new. I'm not sure how many field days or in person meetings were held this summer. Hopefully we were able to host a few following reopening in mid-June. I haven't made it to any, but it looks like Mark was in attendance at a field day today. If we can keep COVID from getting out of hand, perhaps I can get a couple of outings on the calendar when I return.
I still have a few loose ends to wrap up before I disconnect. Here's hoping the fires and COVID stay far away and the heat dissipates in the next week.
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.
March madness is here. I have 79 merit and promotion packages to review, 54 annual discussions to have with direct reports, my own annual review materials to prepare, 3 conferences to attend, and my household taxes to prepare. I have made some progress on all fronts but have decided I would welcome a little boredom. Ten minutes each weekday would suffice; 30 minutes on weekends.
While one of the conferences is this week, I have participated at a minimal level. Instead, I have had a number of annual discussions this week, mostly with County Directors. I do enjoy the conversations. After not having visited any of our locations in the last 15 months, I am feeling disconnected, particularly with our new hires. The conversations, while not a substitute for a site visit, provide some level of connection with what's going on in the county offices.
During the conversations with County Directors and others, it is apparent that many of us are acutely aware of the approaching anniversary of our personal lock downs. Due to other commitments, I don't plan to participate in the interviews that Ricardo and his team are conducting this week, but I have given the questions some thought.
- Last March, when California announced it would shut down all non-essential businesses, how was your immediate day-to-day affected?
Beginning the week before the shut down and extending the first month following, I spent at least 2 hours per day, 7 days per week, with various groups to develop practices and procedures for conducting our work. A year later, I am down to 2 meetings per week (just reduced from 3 meetings per week) plus a third meeting every other week. Zoom replaced TSA checkpoints and both my commute and wardrobe were simplified. Priorities, both personal and professional, changed. All of this, despite not recognizing at the time that ‘normal' would not yet have resumed even a full year later. The 1918 pandemic warned us so. One key benefit of the lock down was initiation of a daily group text with my siblings, just to check in, that continues today.
- For parents with kids: What have been the biggest challenges of parenting during the pandemic? How have you and your kids coped?
Many throughout UC ANR are challenged by having kids schooling from home. Everyone has their own challenge, even those without children. For some that live alone, it's the isolation. Others are caring for grandchildren or parents. Many have suffered sudden, tragic loss. And while COVID may not have caused the loss, it is responsible for robbing one of a normal grieving process. Some have all of the above. Challenges are presented at work or at home, or both at home and at work. Each one of us has something.
- Looking back now, what has been the biggest surprise about how this past year has unfolded? What have you learned about yourself and your community?
I can't predict human behavior. The last year has brought out the best in some; that is evident from our programs. No doubt, the prolonged lock down makes it difficult to remain vigilant, even for the most introverted. While few, if any, have accomplished what they had planned, we have accomplished differently, yet no less importantly. True success isn't measured by speed of advancement, but by quality of impact.
I went into lock down assuming the collective ‘we' would unite around beating the death toll projections, committed to a quick economic recovery, and accepting of safety protocols. At a time when disparities were pronounced by the pandemic, I would have thought we would come together to eradicate social inequality. Racism is at the forefront of thought while stockpiling toilet paper remains off my radar. I think I have cooked dinner more consecutive nights over the last year than I had over the previous decade. I have made no improvements in my ability to do so. Nor have I made any improvements in my ability to cut hair.
I, as so many others, have a different sense of what's important and a new sense of strength. We adjust, and then adjust again. I choose to believe that on the other side, we will be stronger people, better people for this.
The view of the snow pack from my garage window has improved somewhat over the weekend, in part due to snow fall and in part due to less fog. It is great to see snowfall at the lower elevations and rain across many areas of the state. I have become a big fan of rain, but not to the extent that I welcome sandhill cranes take up residence in my back acreage again this year. Let's all hope for a slow, soaking rain. The wind is a whole different story. Mark Bell was able to sneak away to the snow this past weekend. The photo he so eagerly shared with me is beautiful. I suspect he might be preparing for the next photo competition, vying for Dustin's title.
Neither cooler, nor warmer, temperatures seem to slow this coronavirus. I came across a cool tool for estimating separation distances for estimating aerosol movement and infection risk. Perhaps the tool will require modification as the prominent variant changes. Also released this week, by CDC, are tools to support vaccine education. The toolkit serves as a starting place to tailor materials to specific audience needs and concerns.
The UC ANR team in Imperial County (UCCE plus the Desert REC) was recently recognized for their contributions to the region. In particular, the new hires were welcomed and introduced to the local community. Congratulations to Oli, Jairo, and their teams!
While the wind has made some Zoom calls a challenge, the meetings continue. NIFA held a day of listening sessions to gather stakeholder input on priorities in animal agriculture. APLU hosted a webinar to talk about broadband's role in rural economic development. Other Zoom discussions have focused on potential partnerships and new funding in the Governor's proposed budget. Yet to occur this week is a meeting of the Vice President's Council where we will cover topics such as funding strategies, supporting volunteers, expanding DEI efforts, and navigating policies. Friday winds down with action steps to move the REC Strategic Framework forward.
I see we have a new feature in Interfolio that notifies me when academics have submitted their annual evaluation materials or dossiers for supervisor review. Nice work to all who have been able to submit in advance of the February 1 deadline! I hope those individuals get to enjoy this weekend. I know everyone else is working hard to put on the finishing touches. Good luck on your submissions. I hope the power stays on for you!