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Posts Tagged: Loren Oki

UCCE academics enliven Western Region International Plant Propagators’ Society meeting

Bruno Pitton takes a photo of the Spanish lavender growing at Altman Plants Nursery in Fallbrook. All photos by Saoimanu Sope.

In late January, the University of California Nursery and Floriculture Alliance co-hosted the 62nd Western Region International Plant Propagators' Society (WR-IPPS) Annual Meeting in Temecula.

UCNFA, associated with the Nursery and Floriculture Workgroup of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, is a statewide partnership of researchers and educators, growers, floriculture associations and allied industries. It serves the educational needs of California's agricultural industries that produce greenhouse crops and nursery products including vegetable seedlings, ornamentals, fruiting trees, vines and shrubs.

“Up until 2007 and before almonds and grapes became a big deal, nursery and floricultural products were the top crop commodity in the state,” said Loren Oki, specialist emeritus of Cooperative Extension at UC Davis and co-director of UCNFA. “Nurseries and floriculture are a $3.6 billion industry in California, but not many people know about it.”

Since its inception in 1951, IPPS has sought and shared plant production knowledge globally with an emphasis on nursery production. Oki has been a member of IPPS since the 1980s. His father, George, who owned and operated Oki Nursery, helped establish the Western Region in the 1960s, paving a path for Oki who served as president of WR-IPPS in the 1990s.

Although this year was the first that UCNFA co-hosted, Oki is confident that it won't be the last. “We're already planning a conference for the fall in conjunction with WR-IPPS. Since the target audience of UCNFA are growers, it just makes sense to partner with growers for these events,” Oki said.

Attendees toured First Step Greenhouses in Temecula and learned about their operation.

This year's meeting involved 145 attendees, 29 exhibitors and 23 speakers and occurred over four days – two of which were dedicated to grower tours and the other two offering educational presentations in both English and Spanish, another first for WR-IPPS.

Gerry Spinelli, UC Cooperative Extension production horticulture advisor for San Diego County and member of UCNFA's administrative committee, was instrumental in coordinating the event. When he wasn't moderating sessions or facilitating Q&A, Spinelli was sharing his expertise on measuring pressure, distribution uniformity and improving irrigation management in English and Spanish.

“It's rewarding to see so much statewide interest in nurseries and floriculture,” said Spinelli.  “WR-IPPS is a great opportunity to showcase the extraordinary San Diego nursery and greenhouse industry on an international stage, and a perfect occasion for clientele to meet our new UC Cooperative Extension advisors.”

Bruno Pitton, who became the UCCE environmental horticulture advisor for Placer and Nevada counties in November, appreciated the increase in science-based talks compared to previous years.

L to R: Gerry Spinelli, Don Merhaut, Johanna Del Castillo Munera, Bruno Pitton, Grant Johnson and Emma Volk.

“Before, there were more talks on production practices from grower to grower. This year, I noticed that there's more science extension talks – which is a good thing,” said Pitton, who also gave a presentation on nitrogen management in nursery production and irrigation training.

Recent UC ANR hires like Emma Volk, production horticulture advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, had the opportunity to learn not only from industry leaders nationwide, but fellow ANR colleagues. For example, she heard Don Merhaut, UCCE specialist for nursery and floriculture crops based at UC Riverside, present on controlled release fertilizer dynamics in containers during a one-year growing cycle for Southern California.

UCCE advisors and specialists had a significant presence at this year's meeting, leaving a positive impression on attendees, including Tony Shireman, WR-IPPS president, who said that partnering with UC ANR experts helps IPPS achieve its mission to seek and share plant knowledge globally.

“We're fortunate to have connections to people like those joining us from Cooperative Extension. It allows us to expand our knowledge and extend our reach,” Shireman said. 

Loren Oki and Karen Ross after the keynote address.

Johanna Del Castillo Munera and Kosana Suvocarev, two professors of Cooperative Extension at UC Davis, also attended and joined Spinelli for both English and Spanish sessions. Del Castillo Munera presented on disease challenges and management for nurseries, and Suvocarev talked about crop water requirements for irrigation scheduling in nurseries and greenhouses.

“There's a good sense of community here and there's a lot of passion from the speakers,” said Grant Johnson, UCCE urban agriculture technology advisor for UCCE Los Angeles and Orange counties, adding that he valued the opportunity to learn from growers and scientists simultaneously.

After attendees spent an entire day touring local nursery and floriculture operations and learning from growers in North San Diego County and Riverside County, they concluded the day with a dinner and keynote address from Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary.

On the last day, Chris Shogren, UCCE environmental horticulture advisor for Los Angeles County and member of UCNFA's administrative committee, and Eric Middleton, UCCE integrated pest management advisor for San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties, talked about pest and pathogen management. The advisors offered fascinating visuals including photos comparing the size of agave mites to a penny, and led a stimulating Q&A session.

To learn more about the UC Nursery and Floriculture Alliance, visit

L to R: (top) Chris Shogren, Don Merhaut, Loren Oki, Bruno Pitton, Emma Volk, (bottom) Eric Middleton, Grant Johnson and Gerry Spinelli.



Posted on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at 9:48 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources, Pest Management

Names in the News

Hales begins as new AVP at UC ANR 

Brent Hales

Brent Hales joined UC ANR as the new associate vice president for research and Cooperative Extension on July 3. 

Hales brings over 20 years of higher education research and leadership experience, including at land grant institutions and in Cooperative Extension. He most recently served as an associate dean of Pennsylvania State University's College of Agricultural Sciences and director of Penn State Extension. 

Before joining Penn State in 2019, he served as the senior associate dean and chief financial officer of the University of Minnesota Extension, associate dean for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality, and the director of the Economic Development Authority Center at University of Minnesota, Crookston. 

Hales earned a Ph.D. in rural sociology from Iowa State University, a master's degree in sociology from Middle Tennessee State University and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Brigham Young University in Utah.

While attending the UC ANR statewide conference in April, he was interviewed by Rodger Wasson for the “Farm To Table Talk” podcast. You can hear Hales explain that “Cooperative Extension is more than just kids, cows, sows and plows” at

Hales is based at the Second Street building in Davis and can be reached at, (530) 786-0256 and on Twitter @BrentDHales. Vanya Woodward, who is providing his administrative support, can be reached at

Wayne joins UCCE as food systems advisor 

Laurie Wayne

Laurie Wayne joined UC Cooperative Extension on July 5 in Modoc County as a nutrition and food systems advisor for Modoc, Lassen and Siskiyou counties. Wayne will work with community members on healthy lifestyles, nutrition, food access and security, local food production, preservation and availability. 

Wayne brings years of high-desert food systems experience to her role: she owned and operated Locavore Farms in Fort Bidwell, helped found the Surprise Valley Saturday Market and Modoc Harvest, and was on the team that started the Modoc Harvest Food Hub. She also has worked supporting healthy communities for Oregon State University Extension in Klamath Falls, and at the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance in Bend, Oregon. 

She earned a master's degree in TESOL (to teach English as a second language) from Portland State University and worked in school and community gardens with immigrants and refugees as part of her research project. She earned a bachelor's degree in Italian literature from UC Santa Cruz. 

This job feels like the culmination of the farming, studying, supporting farmers and working in food systems she has done in the past 15 years, Wayne said. 

“I'm especially interested in working on expanding access to affordable, healthy, local food year-round, including extending and preserving the harvest,” Wayne said. Her goal is to help everyone feel empowered to make healthy food choices, and she's learning what resources producers need to improve processing, transportation and production strategies, and overcome barriers that are unique to the region.  

To better understand both the food systems needs and the abundant food assets of northeastern California, she will be meeting with community members; state, local and regional nonprofits; schools and other organizations in the next few months. They will discuss ways to strengthen community food system resilience.

“It's all about healthy community members who can eat good local food without breaking the bank, and producers who can make a living feeding them,” Wayne said. 

Based in Alturas, Wayne can be reached at and (530) 233-6400.

Hyland named UCCE environmental health sciences specialist 

Carly Hyland

Carly Hyland joined UC ANR in July as a UC assistant Cooperative Extension environmental health sciences specialist/assistant professor in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

She recently finished a mixed-methods project at Boise State University examining pesticide exposure and perceptions of the risks of pesticides among Latino men and women farmworkers in Idaho. In California, she is pursuing projects examining interventions to protect farmworkers from pesticides, extreme heat and wildfire smoke in collaboration with community partners.

“There are so many reasons I wanted to come back to Berkeley, and I think one of the biggest motivating factors for me was the collaborative environment focused not just on conducting innovative research, but also translating those findings into solutions to improve community health,” Hyland said. “Farmworkers are increasingly experiencing the health impacts of climate change on a daily basis, and this position will provide me with the resources and collaborations necessary to identify strategies to address these urgent issues.”

Hyland earned her Ph.D. in environmental health sciences and master's degree in global health and the environment, both from UC Berkeley, and bachelor's degree in environmental science from Carthage College in Wisconsin. 

Hyland is based at UC Berkeley and can be reached at and on Twitter @c_hyland1. 

Sam-Chen joins NPI as policy analyst 

Samantha Sam-Chen

Samantha Sam-Chen joined the Nutrition Policy Institute on June 15 as a new project policy analyst.

She began her work at NPI as a graduate student and received her master's in public health with a concentration in public health nutrition from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

Her primary research interests include food and nutrition insecurity, evaluating food and nutrition programs, and early childhood nutrition interventions. Through her work, Sam-Chen hopes to contribute to research that will result in policies that eliminate nutrition-related health disparities. She brings over a decade of experience working with California school districts, primarily in rural and predominantly Latino communities. At NPI she works on several projects, such as evaluating the California Nutrition Incentive Program and California's Universal Meals Program

Sam-Chen is based at UC Office of the President in Oakland and can be reached at

Murillo-Barrick named BIPOC advisor for Bay Area

Cristina Murillo-Barrick
Cristina Murillo-Barrick transitioned into a new UCCE position on June 1 as the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community development advisor serving Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. 

Murillo-Barrick, who had worked as UCCE academic coordinator focused on planning grants for Fresno, Merced, Madera and Tulare counties since 2021, described her new role as “more holistic,” prioritizing historically marginalized communities. Murillo-Barrick will be identifying opportunities to leverage the strengths of BIPOC communities. 

In addition to conducting a needs assessment, Murillo-Barrick is planning to form a language access group at ANR – something she is very passionate about. This group will focus on identifying language barriers and best practices by engaging programs like CalFresh Healthy Living, UC and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program that have expertise conducting multilingual programs throughout California. For example, they may recommend increasing accessibility using infographics and/or video, both of which can be translated into different languages and/or dialects.

The realm of diversity, equity and inclusion is not new to Murillo-Barrick, who has worked in outdoor education spaces, serving historically underserved communities of color. “I worked in DEI before it was considered ‘cool,'” she said.

“I have a lot of influence over program development in this role,” said Murillo-Barrick, who is fluent in Spanish. “So, my goal as an advisor is really focused on the community engagement part,” she added.

Murillo-Barrick earned a master's degree in geography and community development and a bachelor's degree in Spanish and international relations at UC Davis. During graduate school, she studied conservation issues in Nicaragua, as well as in her homeland, Costa Rica. 

Aside from her academic training and previous work, Murillo-Barrick believes that mentors – including Mary Blackburn, UC Cooperative Extension health and nutrition advisor for Alameda County – who were instrumental in creating the BIPOC community development advisor position, have prepared her well for this role.

“I'm the only one within UC ANR who has ‘BIPOC' in my title, but everyone has BIPOC among their clientele,” said Murillo-Barrick. “I'm tasked with leading our community development efforts, but we all play a part in this work.”

Murillo-Barrick is based out of the UCCE office in Hayward and can be reached at

Oberholster honored with American Dream Award 

Rep. Mike Thompson, left, presents Anita Oberholster with his American Dream Award.
Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-04) recognized Anita Oberholster as the 2023 American Dream Award recipient for Yolo County. The American Dream Award is presented to California's Fourth District residents who have come to the United States and made outstanding contributions to our communities.

“Dr. Oberholster is an example of the promise of the American Dream and importance that immigrants play on education in our country,” said Thompson. “UC Davis is one of the premier research universities in the world, and it is thanks to people like Dr. Oberholster that a UC Davis education is highly sought after. I am proud to honor Dr. Oberholster with the American Dream Award and I look forward to seeing how her research and contributions at UC Davis continue to benefit our region and the world.”

Oberholster was born in South Africa, where she received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and chemistry and an honors degree in chemistry from Stellenbosch University. She earned a Ph.D. in wine science from the University of Adelaide in South Australia in 2008. In 2011, she moved to the United States to work as UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Davis. 

Oberholster has been a board member of the American Society of Viticulture and Enology for six years and is currently the 2nd vice-president of the society. She also has worked as the secretary of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture Foundation, which fundraises to give scholarships to viticulture and enology students. Furthermore, she is a member of the LLC Management Committee that organizes the Unified Grape and Wine Symposium. She is currently the chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology's coordination and extension committee. Previously, she was the chair of the Viticulture and Enology graduate group and advised incoming students.

Oberholster is vice-chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology and is doing important research to benefit the grape and wine communities. She focuses on grape and wine challenges, including grapevine red blotch disease and the impact of wildfire smoke on grape and wine quality. Oberholster helps the wine community become more sustainable, such as improving the quality of winery wastewater recycling methods.

The American Dream Award honors immigrants who have excelled professionally, through entrepreneurship and innovation, in the arts and culture, or through community service. 

Diaz Rios wins Early Professional Achievement Award 

Karina Diaz Rios
The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior honored Karina Diaz Rios, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist based at UC Merced, with its Early Professional Achievement Award.

Informed by the socioecological determinants of nutritional health, Diaz Rios studies methods of reaching groups at risk of malnutrition. She specializes in applying cross-cultural adaptation methodologies to develop nutrition education and to measure the value of tools. She has contributed to the production of culturally relevant educational resources to improve the food environment for people at critical stages of development, especially young children. Her approaches to adapt and validate evaluation tools for cultural relevance allow for accurate and reliable documentation of the impact of nutrition education programs in California and nationally. Recently, she has been exploring approaches to improve nutrition education in medically underserved communities.

Diaz Rios's published work informed the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior's guidelines for authors, reviewers and editors on publishing race and ethnicity data. One of her studies pointed out the scarcity of quality studies on interventions to improve diet-related health disparities. Her research also highlighted structural factors affecting food security among Latinas during the pandemic.

As a member and later chair of SNEB's journal committee, Diaz Rios led the creation of a mentorship program and recruitment of the first JNEB Mentored Editor; oversaw approval of three of the society's position papers; and participated in advancing the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in the journal.

This award recognizes one SNEB member who has made notable contributions in the field of nutrition education and behavior and to SNEB as an organization during the early stages of their career, defined as less than 10 years as a nutrition educator.

Diaz Rios, who joined UC ANR in 2014, received the award at the SNEB International Conference in Washington D.C. on July 21.

UC IPM wins ACE gold award for online course 

Cheryl Reynolds, Petr Kosina and Karey Windbiel-Rojas

The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program won a gold award from the Association for Communication Excellence for its online course “Urban Pyrethroid and Fipronil Use: Runoff and Surface Water Protection.”  

Cheryl Reynolds, UC IPM interactive learning developer, led development of the self-paced course and served as lead instructional designer, audio/video editor, photographer and narrator. Petr Kosina, UC IPM content development supervisor, contributed instructional design, cartoon animations and photography. Karey Windbiel-Rojas, associate director for Urban and Community IPM, and Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, were principal investigators for the project. California Department of Pesticide Regulation's Robert Budd, Aniela Burant and Carlos Gutierrez served as subject matter experts. 

Pesticides are the most common way structural and landscape pests are managed in urban environments. It has been estimated that more than 2 million pounds of urban pesticides are used for structural and landscape applications annually in California, resulting in the potential for pesticide residues to be washed into storm drains during rain or irrigation events. Water carrying this residue runs directly into creeks, lakes, and rivers, harming aquatic organisms and disrupting the entire food chain within sensitive water ecosystems.

The “Urban Pyrethroid and Fipronil Use: Runoff and Surface Water Protection” online course presents information on California's Surface Water Protection Regulations that were put into place in 2012 to reduce the amount of pyrethroids in surface water runoff. The course illustrates the types of applications allowed under the regulations, as well as those that are prohibited and those that are exempt.  

This course was developed for licensed pest management professionals who work primarily in structural pest control or landscape maintenance and use pyrethroid pesticides and fipronil for their work.

Funded by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the interactive course has received positive comments from participants such as, “This was a good course to take. It was interesting and well done. It will make you think about what goes down the storm drains.”

The course was developed using the Adobe Captivate authoring software and is hosted on the eXtension platform, which uses the Moodle learning management system.

To learn more about the course, watch this video:

Keatley Garvey wins ACE photo award

A monarch caterpillar on milkweed, award-winning photo by Kathy Keatley-Garvey.
Kathy Keatley Garvey, communication specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won a bronze award (third place) in the picture story category from the Association for Communication Excellence. She was honored for a series of spectacular images depicting the life stages of monarch butterflies published July 27, 2022, on her Bug Squad blog on the UC ANR website.  

Headlined “Monarch Butterflies: Closer to Extinction,” the blog included photos of a monarch egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and male and female butterflies, all images she captured in her family's pollinator garden in Vacaville.  

The blog noted that the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced on July 21, 2022, that the migratory monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was now on its "Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered--threatened by habitat destruction and climate change."

Gosliner appointed to National Institute of Health working group

Wendi Gosliner
Wendi Gosliner, Nutrition Policy Institute senior researcher, was recently appointed as a workgroup member to the National Institutes of Health, Agriculture and Diet: Value Added for Nutrition, Translation and Adaptation in a Global Ecology, also known as the ADVANTAGE Project.

The ADVANTAGE project is an effort to better understand the intersection of food systems, diet, nutrition and health in a changing environment by addressing how the current realities of climate/environmental change are affecting dietary choices, patterns and relevant aspects of the food system, as well as implications for specific public health outcomes of interest. This effort seeks to determine how an ecological approach can be applied to assess the nature and impact of these relationships and how to best translate the evidence generated to promote health and prevent disease.

Gosliner is a member of the ADVANTAGE Working Group 5, tasked to focus on translation and implementation to support context-specific, equitable, safe and efficacious interventions, dietary guidance and standards of care in a changing environment.

Working Group 5 conducted a virtual workshop on June 12. Gosliner and collaborator Jenn Otten from the University of Washington hosted “A Conversation about Dissemination and Translation.” The recording from their presentation is available online and their talk begins at 1:46:30.


$1 million grant expands climate-ready landscape plants program

Landscape plants under varying irrigation levels are evaluated at South Coast REC to determine the best irrigation level for optimal plant performance.

A research project initiated in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis evaluates landscape plants in two-year trials under varying irrigation levels to determine the best irrigation level for optimal plant performance in regions requiring supplemental summer water. Creating water budgets is required by California's Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO), and the results from these research trials help landscape professionals and home gardeners make informed decisions when specifying, selecting or promoting low water-use landscape plant material.

This year, the CDFA/USDA Specialty Crops Multistate Program funded a new Climate Ready Landscape Plants project, which will replicate the successful fields that are currently installed at UC Davis and UC ANR South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine.

Loren Oki will oversee a new Climate Ready Landscape Plants project. Photo by Ann Filmer

Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, is the lead principal investigator and collaborators include researcher Jared Sisneroz;  project leader Karrie Reid, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County; and Darren Haver, UC Cooperative Extension water resources and water quality advisor and director of South Coast REC and UCCE in Orange County.

Under Oki's oversight, this new $999,992 grant will support the development of additional fields at several western universities:

  • University of Washington, Soo-Hyung Kim
  • Oregon State University, Lloyd Nackley and Ryan Contreras
  • Utah State University Center, Youping Sun and Larry Rupp
  • University of Arizona, Ursula Schuch

Conducting these new experiments on landscape plants at diverse sites across the western U.S. will reveal differences in recommendations since irrigation guidelines for landscapes vary depending on climate and soil type.

The initial project was initiated as Reid's master's degree thesis research in 2004, with Oki as her major professor, and has been ongoing since then.

Project descriptions, results and images can be seen at the UC Landscape Plant Irrigation Trials website at

Posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 9:13 AM
  • Author: Ann Filmer

Storm-water runoff study planned for ANR’s backyard

In addition to the storm-water runoff project, the 3031 Second St. site will add 92 full-sized, paved parking spaces and 40 parking spaces on gravel to the existing 96 spaces at 2801 Second St.

Construction of a new parking lot for the ANR building in Davis is providing an opportunity for UC ANR to demonstrate science at the site by integrating an ongoing water-quality research project.

The research project on the recently purchased 10 acres at 3031 Second St. was developed by Missy Gable, director of the Master Gardener Program; Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in environmental horticulture at UC Davis; Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension urban forestry advisor for San Mateo County; and Marq Truscott, a retired landscape architect who lectures for the Landscape Architecture Program at UC Davis.

The researchers will evaluate the effect of parking surfaces paved with different materials and coupled to rain garden swales on storm water runoff quality and quantity, according to Jan Corlett, chief of staff to the vice president, who is overseeing the project.

The study area of the parking lot will have the swales and three different surface types – typical asphalt, a cellular confinement system and permeable pavers. The researchers will study how these features improve water quality by removing pollutants and reduce runoff volumes by improving soil infiltration. They will be able to collect samples of runoff water from the different paved surfaces.

In addition, all trees planted in the parking lot will have engineered substrates to demonstrate their long-term effect on tree health and condition.

The new lot will add 92 full-sized, paved parking spaces and 40 parking spaces on gravel to the existing 96 spaces at 2801 Second St.

In 2016, a team that did planning for the 3031 Second St. site envisioned a collaborative, systemwide showcase, supported by the following key goals:

  • Enhance the visibility of ANR's mission, research and educational programs that affect the lives of all Californians
  • Ensure an inclusive approach to design and programming that welcomes all members of the ANR community, as well as outside researchers and stakeholders
  • Support the core mission of ANR by ensuring the campus has a full suite of properly-sized and flexibly programmed facilities and spaces
  • Capitalize on the opportunity to tell ANR's story both to the University of California community and outside stakeholders
  • Promote community health and wellness in every aspect of site design and facility programming
  • Reflect the natural California landscape through appropriate site design and landscaping

“This project reflects many of those goals by demonstrating that everything ANR does, even building a parking lot, can include research and extension opportunities,” Corlett said. “The City of Davis is very supportive of this effort, and we expect that it will draw many visitors each year.”

The project broke ground Sept. 5 and is expected to be completed in November.

Posted on Monday, September 25, 2017 at 2:16 PM

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