Wildfire activity is picking up across the state and this wind isn't helping. It is no surprise that wildfire is the topic of webinars around the state. Word is that Lenya was an incredible speaker for the federal UC Wildfire Briefing. There was great attendance, several questions were directed to or answered by Lenya, and she quickly had two legislative offices contacting her to arrange meetings. Anne Megaro commented that Lenya brought life to the briefing - she was interesting and engaging and connected the value of federal investment to real-world work reducing catastrophic wildfires and improving forest and land management. Take a look at the recording for yourself. You can find the recording here.
Safeeq Khan spoke at a UC Wildfire Symposium last week. I was unable to attend but hear that he explained the impact of the loss of snowpack and the forest ecosystem, more generally, such that all could understand. Congratulations, Safeeq!
Also on fire, is the Forever 4-H Endowment! Lassen County just established the eighth Forever 4-H Endowment! I know this was a high priority for David and his team. Congratulations, all!
Thank you to all who participated in Big Dig Day! I haven't heard the total raised, but the mid-afternoon progress was promising. I noticed that Missy and her team were doing particularly well when I made my donations. Hopefully we made new friends in the process.
Once again the week is flying by. It has been particularly hectic this week with standing meetings, wrapping up merit and promotion decisions, working through plans for returning to the workplace, Vice Provost interviews, and a few national meetings related to Cooperative Extension. I am not bored.
Soon I am leaving the garage to make a visit to the Hansen REC. Who knew this could be so exciting. Normally, I would look forward to the visit. This time, I am giddy with excitement just thinking about spending a day, not in the garage and not on Zoom all day. While we aren't even close to herd immunity, I am optimistic we can keep the incidence of new transmissions low and resume some semblance of normal activity.
The Pleasanton City Council voted unanimously to offer an “A” priority for designing the Community Farm at Bernal Park, then phase the final project through completion. Initial steps include planting cover crops to condition the soil and provide a pollinator habitat. Master Gardeners are planning for a demonstration garden at the site to encourage healthy environments with sustainable gardening, green waste reduction, and water conservation, while providing food security assistance for those in need. Congratulations to Dawn and team for their contributions to moving this forward!
The 2021 Colt Challenge on June 19th in Alturas, CA. Youth that took home weanlings from the Devil's Garden Wild Horse Territory submitted videos as part of the competition. Take a look at the winners from the video portion. Congratulations to the winners and, a huge ‘thank you!' to the Modoc National Forest for financial and programmatic support.
- 3rd Place, winning $50, was Grace and Murphy https://youtu.be/6YMLQIKzvfI from Santa Clara 4-H,
- 2nd Place, winning $100, was Wyatt and Narnia https://youtu.be/ZWRU8fAKQt8 from Siskiyou 4-H, and
- 1st Place, winning $150, was Goldie and Bella https://youtu.be/6NWD0gQrVwE from Shasta FFA
UC Federal Governmental Relations is hosting a briefing on Thursday this week to showcase the research being done across the University of California (UC) system to address wildfire impacts in California. I am thrilled to see that Lenya is part of the panel who will cover wildfire research performed on UC campuses and highlight the importance of increased federal investments critical for our ability to predict, plan for, and rebuild from wildfires. Way to go, Lenya!
If you are interested in another UC Wildfire event, consider attending the one on June 4th. The agenda features many of the Vice Chancellors for Research as well as researchers from across the UC system.
I won't make it to the briefing and Lenya's presentation on Thursday because I have the chance to spend Thursday with the REC directors, the REC superintendents, and the REC business officers. We will discuss progress on our recent undertakings, plan some next steps to advance the REC Strategic Framework, and talk about a pending grant opportunity that I personally think is perfectly suited for the REC system. I don't get to spend enough time hearing from the superintendents or business officers, so I am looking forward to the meeting.
What a beautiful week in the valley! I hope everyone gets a chance to spend some time outside. Other than our neighbor's fire in their hay barn, I have no complaints.
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.
Fortunately, those of us in the northern part of the state have seen rain recently, quieting concerns about wildfires in our areas. However, if you have tuned into the national news lately, you've heard about the concern over fire and climate change impacting the future of California's redwoods, some of the world's oldest living things. This concern isn't new to many of us. Hopefully, awareness has been raised for many, many more, thanks to people like Lenya. Lenya was recently quoted in the New York Times. It is always great to see UC ANR names in prominent publications!
This is a crazy week – the storm before the calm, I hope. Everyone is rushing to get things done before a 10- to 14-day break. Yesterday I spent half the day working with a small team to develop a strategic directions document and annual work plan for the Western Extension directors. There is more work to do next week to complete that effort. The REC directors spent today working on development of strategies to achieve the goals for the REC system. It was a good meeting with lively discussion and solid plans outlined. At the same time, it made for a bit of an exhausting day. It doesn't help that Wednesdays begin at 7 AM each week for me and that 7 AM meeting always has a full agenda for the 6 of us that meet.
Friday holds an interesting mix of meetings, some of which may translate into new exciting opportunities. I will be sure to share more as things develop. I look forward to the virtual winter celebration tomorrow. It will be different from ‘normal' years with a benefit that we can celebrate with people both near and far. The planning committee came up with clever ideas for breakout activities. I hope to see many of you there!
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.