- Author: Mike Hsu
John Karlik, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County for environmental horticulture and environmental science, will retire July 1. Karlik began his work in Kern County in 1984 with an emphasis on the commercial rose plant industry and local horticulture outreach.
Karlik's teaching activities included five levels of 12- to 15-week horticulture education classes offered in three locations in Kern County, usually two or three classes held each year. For the past 25 years, he has collaborated with Darrell Feil, co-owner of Abate-a-Weed in Bakersfield, to hold landscape management seminars that connect community members with experts on a wide range of topics.
“What I love about John is a couple of things: first, his knowledge base is amazing – he's a treasure of Kern County, for what he's done education-wise,” Feil said. “And second, he has a very active mind – and so many people benefit from that in our community.”
Karlik expanded his teaching to include 10 horticulture study tours to gardens and landscapes of Europe and Asia, and the photographs from those visits enhanced his outreach and contributed to his chapters on landscape design in the Arizona and UC Master Gardener Handbooks.
He earned his B.S. in soil science from the University of Minnesota and M.S. in horticulture from Michigan State University.
Taking advantage of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' flexibility and sabbatical leave, he completed a doctorate at UCLA in Environmental Science and Engineering, and changed his research focus to air-quality-related projects. That led to a lecture series on atmospheric science and policy, including climate change, which Karlik offered annually for 15 years as a visiting professor at Central European University in Budapest, and resulting in a service award from that institution.
In recent years, he led four tours to study ecosystem response in the still-radioactive Exclusion Zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine, site of the world's worst nuclear accident.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Karlik shifted from in-person classes and offered 75 hour-long Zoom presentations on horticulture, landscape design, climate change and environmental science topics, finding an audience in California and in other states.
Karlik also has held a variety of positions in ANR committees, including Academic Assembly Council and the Communications Advisory Board.
“I especially appreciate the many collegial relationships I have within UCCE, ANR, and on several campuses,” Karlik said. “Authorship on many publications reflects those relationships.”
In retirement, Karlik expects to offer assistance at the UCCE office in Kern County and as an editor for a forthcoming ANR book. He intends to pursue interests in instrumental music and the study of languages.
“We've been really blessed to have a guy like John around,” Feil said.