The widespread evacuations and associated air quality have certainly added to already challenging times. I know many across the state have ‘go bags' ready and are anxious about what every hour brings. Others have had to evacuate. And some of our UC ANR family have suffered significant losses. Fortunately, some had a brief, but welcomed, rain Sunday night/early Monday morning. In my part of the state, the rain arrived Monday night. This unusual August event brings me great hope!
Members of UC ANR have actively engaged in assisting those negatively impacted by the fires. JoLynn Miller (@JoLynn_Miller) has been busy volunteering with a non-profit in response to the fires. She's been picking up donkeys, chickens, pigs, and alpacas and finding temporary homes for them. Thanks, JoLynn! Scott Stephens was on KQED talking about the need for a fire extension program statewide. Yana, Scott, and Lenya have been working hard to secure new resources to do exactly that - expand the network of UC ANR fire resources that are desperately needed. Let's all send good thoughts to them for their success.
In the good news department, it sounds like Kamal has secured an increase in CalFresh support for programming in Los Angeles and Sacramento Counties! Kamal's near $1M success will make a huge difference for families in those counties. Congratulations to Kamal and the entire nutrition program!
The Department of Pesticide Regulation has made research awards to three UC researchers, including Mark Hoddle and David Haviland, whose research teams were each awarded $500,000 to study chlorpyrifos alternatives. Excellent work, and good luck carrying out the research objectives. Let's hope the researchers identify sound chlorpyrifos alternatives!
Mark Bell found and shared this article that outlines the history of the Cooperative Extension System (CES) and the modern-day relevance of CES in meeting community needs, noting the method of distribution for federal funds among states. An interesting read if you aren't familiar with the CES background.
I read an interesting article in Nature that has me thinking about what we can do to ensure that those across UC ANR who conduct our essential work, feel safe doing so. We want to do all that we can to encourage science and Extension as career options for youth. I suspect the article triggered, in part, other thoughts.
As I watched the ash floating in my pool, just shortly after the filter had ceased its morning cycle, I realized that I am angry. My anger stems from the COVID environment that has me homebound for months, unable to travel and see our programs in action, watching the impact of limited socialization on others, all while some have no concern about the risks they impose. Compounding the quarantine is the election circus, coupled with law enforcement behavior that ceases to learn any lessons, the long-run economic impact of the pandemic and the toll that will take on getting our important work out to those who need it most, and now the fires. I don't know anyone who has tested positive for COVID, lost their job due to the pandemic, or lost their home due to the recent fires. I can go for a walk without worry that my skin color puts me in danger. Yet, I want to scream, "Give us a break!" When I boil it down, the anger is due to helplessness, that I cannot 'fix it' for those who check any of the boxes for the conditions I outlined above. I can't even imagine how difficult life is right now for so many, many people and I feel for all. The situation weighs heavily, even on those who are not directly impacted.
I won't scream, because it won't get the work done. Work that continues, by all of us, to the benefit of all California. A thick haze won't stop us.
It may be Halloween week, but clearly, the real scare is the fire activity and the effect that the howling winds have on fire threats. It seems unfathomable to think about 43 counties under red flag warnings. Then there's the power outages and 3 million Californians without power for an extended period. I feel for those who need power for medical reasons or to keep kids and the elderly comfortable. My household has been very fortunate. The winds were nothing more than a routine Midwestern breeze, and we have yet to be without power due to an intentional shutdown.
If you haven't read the recent article by Faith Kearns and Max Moritz, I highly recommend you spend a few minutes to do so. No doubt, a number of us are experiencing air quality impacts. Hopefully, any water quality impacts miss us.
If you didn't catch 60 Minutes on Sunday, I would recommend the story about the legalization of marijuana in California. Much of the conversation was similar to conversations I've had with our CE Advisors in the far north about the tax revenue that hasn't materialized, environmental impacts of grow sites, and marijuana as part of the social fabric in the Emerald Triangle. The failure for Prop 64 to result in County revenue came up during our visit with the San Benito County Chief Administrative Officer last Wednesday.
I spent last Thursday in Oakland meeting with the Vice Chancellors for Research. Some of the continuing topics include foreign influence, the next UC President, and State and Federal Government Relations updates.
Tomorrow I head to Riverside for the day. I believe this will be my last trip to Riverside in 2019. I seem to have made several trips to Riverside this year for a variety of reasons. Similarly, San Diego was frequently visited. I have one more trip there in mid-November, less than three weeks from now.
In the meantime, I have a report to pull together, which is on my priority list this week. There's nothing spooky about it; I just need to focus a bit and get it done.
It turns out that I didn't need to attend the meeting in Denver this week. I suppose for some states it is important Director or Associate Director to attend this meeting, to learn more about reporting requirements, USDA guidelines for capacity fund acquisition, or want to expect during a NIFA review. But UC ANR is fortunate to have Joni, Katherine, Deb, and Jennifer who know the ‘ins and outs' of all of these things, freeing up the senior leadership team from needing to know the last detail of how to navigate the systems.
I attended sessions about capacity funds – these are the federal funds that result from, primarily, the Hatch Act and the Smith-Lever Act (the McIntire-Stennis Act to a much lesser extent). In short, these are funds that primarily pay salaries and benefits of academics, support staff, and a few program staff. While I've known for some time that the capacity funds aren't the ‘safe' support it once was, the conversation this week reinforced the concern. Beginning FY20/21, we will need to submit a funding proposal, much like that provided for competitive grant programs, though hopefully in a more aggregated manner. The rationale is that USDA needs to show how their federal funds are spent, across the land-grant system, on people, on program, or used as match. The devil will be in the details.
During one of the other sessions, we talked about the Pygmalion Effect whereby our beliefs influence our actions that impact the beliefs of others causing the actions of others to reinforce our beliefs. In a sense, a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs. I had been thinking about this concept earlier this week but in a different context. I had no idea there was a term for it. Beyond that awareness, I have to admit that I didn't get much out of the session.
Perhaps during my newly found ‘free week' next year, I will attend a programmatic event. I wasn't able to attend the Fire Summit, but I have heard only good things about it from Glenda and Mark Bell, both of whom attended. It was a full house with a waiting list. Congratulations to Yana, David, Lenya, and the rest of the team that put so much effort. Maybe, I will have a chance to attend the next Climate Summit; I've wanted to attend the last two, but the schedule hasn't allowed.
In the meantime, I will keep working on dossiers.
15 left! I am in the homestretch! I should finish the merit and promotion reviews tomorrow and then just need to enter them into the system. I'm not sure how Justify felt about it, but I am glad to be wrapping things up so that I can move onto other items I have putting off. This means I have next weekend free to work on a Letter of Intent for a grant program and catch up on email that I am overdue on! Who ever thought I'd be eager to work on such things.
After a great weekend, weather-wise, it's shaping up to be a hot week. That's how it was last week for many. While we had fantastic weather in Butte and Sutter/Yuba Counties, others were on fire. Two of the RECs were conducting controlled burns. At the Hopland REC (@Hopland REC), Cal Fire performed prescribed burns last week as part of a wildfire prevention plan. Crews were onsite a couple of days in order to cover the amount of ground that was planned. On the other side of the state, Kate Wilkins (@WilkinKate) and a crew of UCCE Advisors held a workshop to teach principles of prescribed burning. It was unfortunate that Kate and Dan were unable to participate in our visit, but it looks like they were with a number of their peers. Can you identify all of the UCCE Advisors?
Out in the Pacific, last week brought fire to one of my other happy places, Vacationland Hawaii. The lava flows meant not only structural fires that resulted in complete destruction of the neighborhood but loss of the marine reserve and the old growth trees. Fire Goddess, Pele, must have had her reasons.
Back on the homefront, VP Council meets on Thursday this week. And with Tu's return from a much-needed break, we resume conversations about the FY18-19 budget. It's late to be still making budget decisions. Unfortunately final decisions remain on hold while we wait to learn our allocation for the upcoming year. The end of the week brings a Project Board update.
As emeritus requests come in, it's a reminder what that means in terms of loss of expertise. While the number of Advisors retiring in June is relatively low (5 or 6) it still creates a gap. Our visit last week included discussion about the need for mentoring of new Advisors. While the Vice Provost – Academic Personnel and Development hire is suspended for a bit, I'm confident we will fill that position in the near future. A key component of that position is a mentoring program.
In addition to academics, a number of staff are fortunate to have reached their retirement year. And with this group, too, goes a wealth of knowledge and expertise. But congratulations to all of the soon-to-be retirees for achieving this point! You, too, are in the homestretch!