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Posts Tagged: Lucia Varela

Names in the News

Pratap Devkota
Devkota joins ANR as weed advisor

Pratap Devkota joined UCCE on Jan. 6, 2017, as an area low-desert weed science advisor for Imperial and Riverside counties. His primary research will address the weed management challenges on agronomic and vegetable crops (alfalfa, bermudagrass, Sudan grass, wheat, cotton, sugarbeet, lettuce, carrot, onion, spinach, cole crops and cucurbits) grown in Imperial, Coachella and Palo Verde valleys.

Prior to joining UCCE, Devkota was a graduate research assistant while working on his Ph.D., evaluating the influence of spray water quality factors on herbicide efficacy. He also researched the interaction of foliar fertilizers with herbicide and the use of adjuvants for improving herbicide efficacy as part of his Ph.D. research. From 2010 to 2012, Devkota studied weed management in vegetable crops as a graduate research assistant. For his master's thesis, Devkota evaluated the efficacy and economics of herbicide programs and soil fumigants as alternatives to methyl bromide for weed control in plasticulture tomato and bell pepper production.

Devkota earned his Ph.D. in weed science from Purdue University, an M.S. in weed science from University of Arkansas and a B.S. in agriculture science (major in agricultural economics) from Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

Based in Holtville, Devkota, who is fluent in Nepali and Hindi, can be reached at (760) 352-9474 and

Gordon named orchard systems advisor

Phoebe Gordon

Phoebe Gordon joined UCCE on Jan. 3, 2017, as an area orchard systems advisor for Madera and Merced counties. As a native Californian, Gordon is excited to be able to share her knowledge with growers to improve orchard production and sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley and beyond. She will be covering all tree crops, including stone fruit and figs in Merced. Gordon's extension and research efforts may include water quality, soil salinity, plant nutrition and pests and diseases.

Prior to joining UCCE, Gordon had worked as an agronomist for A&L Western Agricultural Laboratories in Modesto since March 2015. Her responsibilities involved maintaining the soil fertility and plant nutrition status database, providing clients with advice on proper sampling procedures and aiding them in interpreting soil, plant and irrigation water tests performed by the laboratory, and providing fertilizer recommendations based on soil data. At the Ohio State University, her graduate work was in ornamental shade tree production and outplanting and growing trees from seed or tissue culture to liner size using technologies of interest to the nursery industry. She planted a subset of these trees in an urban highway environment and monitored two years of growth and evaluated soil physical properties of the site.

Gordon earned a Ph.D. in horticulture and crop science from the Ohio State University and a B.S. in plant biology from UC Davis.

Based in Madera, Gordon can be reached at (559) 675-7879 and

Deepa Srivastava
Srivastava named NFCS advisor for Tulare and Kings counties

Deepa Srivastava joined UCCE on Jan. 3, 2017, as an area nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for Tulare and Kings counties.

Srivastava earned a Ph.D. in human sciences from University of Nebraska-Lincoln with two certifications on transdisciplinary obesity prevention and mixed methods. She earned an M.S. in child development and family science from North Dakota State University. At University of Allahabad, India, Srivastava completed an M.A. in medieval history and a B.A. in English literature, economics and medieval history.

Prior to joining UCCE, Srivastava was project lead for SBSRC Methodology and Evaluation Research Core Facility at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was responsible for designing and developing process evaluation methods including logic model and fidelity protocols, serving as lead for data collection and classroom observations, and assisting in curriculum development for EAT-Family Style project. From 2011 to 2015, Srivastava was a graduate research assistant in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was involved in multiple evaluation projects in nutrition and has taught graduate-level courses. Her work included evaluation of a middle school nutrition education program; process evaluation/fidelity testing of nutrition curriculum across childcare programs and middle schools; focus groups with EFNEP and a local food bank; implementation and evaluation of NAPSAAC program in early childcare settings; Fuel Up to Play 60 project; and Healthy Home Project for limited resources families. Her research interest is interdisciplinary, intersecting three areas: parenting, healthy lifestyle and culture.

Srivastava, who is fluent in Hindi, is based in Tulare and can be reached at (559) 684-3318 and

Mandeep Virk-Baker
Virk-Baker named NFCS advisor for Fresno and Madera counties

Mandeep Virk-Baker joined UCCE on Jan. 10, 2017, as a nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for Fresno and Madera counties. Virk-Baker is a registered dietitian and registered dietitian nutritionist.

Virk-Baker's doctoral training at University of Alabama at Birmingham focused on nutrition and cancer prevention including basic lab science and epidemiology. She received an independent competitive grant as the principal investigator to examine the prevalence of equol-producing status  (a bacterial metabolite of the soy isoflavone daidzein) and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women undergoing a physician-recommended breast biopsy. This trial was among the first to evaluate the metabolite-producing status in African American women.

Prior to joining UCCE, Virk-Baker was a cancer prevention postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health for four years. At NCI, Virk-Baker's research was focused in the areas of nutrition, tobacco, dietary carcinogens, and cancer prevention. As a senior fellow, she led multiple independent projects and conducted cancer prevention research, establishing collaborations with investigators from various agencies, participating in professional workshops, preparing manuscripts for publications, and presenting research at national and international scientific conferences. Virk-Baker received the Sallie Rosen Kaplan Postdoctoral Fellowship award at the Center for Cancer Training/National Cancer Institute in December 2015. At this highly competitive leadership development postdoctoral fellowship program for female scientists at the NIH, Virk-Baker received state of the art didactic training for being an effective leader. While working on a health policy detail in the Division of Science and Policy, Office of the U.S. Surgeon General in Washington, D.C., she had an opportunity to gain valuable public health experience.

Virk-Baker earned her Ph.D. in nutrition sciences from UAB in 2012. She received a Master of Public Health and a Global Health Certificate from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2013. She also completed the Didactic Program in Dietetics from CSU Fresno, and completed a dietetics internship at Iowa State University. Virk-Baker also earned an M.S. in food and nutrition and a B.S. in home science from Panjab University, India.

Virk-Baker, who is fluent in Punjabi and Hindi, is based in Fresno and can be reached at (559) 241-7515 and

Karina Diaz Rios
Díaz Rios to co-lead Blum Center at UC Merced

UC Merced is relaunching its branch of the Blum Center for Developing Economies with a focus on food security for the first two years of the faculty-led effort. Karina Díaz Rios, a UC Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist, and Kurt Schnier, economics professor  with the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, will lead the rejuvenated Blum Center, with administrative help from the Health Sciences Research Institute.

They hope to make the Blum Center a hub for all food-security-related research and outreach on and off campus.

“We want to create a community on campus to address issues of food security,” Schnier said. “We want to help engage students, faculty members and the community to have a direct effect on people's lives.”

Plans include bringing speakers to the campus and community; supporting efforts such as the campus food bank, which serves students and others who don't always have enough food; helping support student researchers such as the students who serve as Global Food Initiative fellows; and facilitating — including through small grants — faculty research centered on food-related topics such as diabetes, communicating about food, and food and social justice issues.

“We're hoping to help translate research into projects that are relevant to the community,” Díaz Rios said.

Merced County's economy is largely based around agriculture, yet many residents do not have adequate access to food or information to help them make healthy choices.

Alec Gerry
Multistate fly project receives national award

Alec Gerry, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside, is part of a research team honored with the 2016 Experiment Station Section Award for Excellence in Multistate Research. The award, given by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Cooperative Extension System and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), honors the team for “S-1060: Fly Management in Animal Agriculture Systems and Impacts on Animal Health and Food Safety.”

Flies are serious pests of livestock and poultry. House fly, stable fly and horn fly species are responsible for damage and control costs that reach over $2 billion each year in the United States.

Through this project, the scientists developed new chemical, biological and microbial control methods, such as using adult flies to deliver pyriproxyfen, which disrupts insect growth, to sites where larvae are developing. A new fly trap for controlling horn flies removed between 1.3 and 2.5 million flies from a herd of 150 pastured dairy cows. The trap doesn't use insecticide and costs $1.50 less per cow than traditional chemical-based treatments.

Through research and outreach, they have given producers the information and tools needed to select appropriate control methods and apply them in a timely manner. Studies have shown what kinds of weather events and landscape features support fly population growth, and national surveys have shown where insecticide resistance is present. Effective fly management practices result in increased profits, a higher quality of life for animals, a safer food supply and improved quality of life in residential and recreational areas near animal facilities. Adoption of new non-chemical control methods significantly reduces the use of expensive insecticides, cutting costs for livestock producers and reducing harm to the environment.

Gerry shares the award with colleagues at Auburn University, Cornell University, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, the Ohio State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M AgriLife, University of Arkansas, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, University of Massachusetts, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Tennessee, USDA-ARS, Washington State University, Central Garden and Pet Co. in Walnut Creek, Calif., and Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada. The project is supported in part by USDA NIFA.

For more information about the multistate project, visit

APLU recognizes one multistate project each year for high scientific quality, the level of collaboration and the professional leadership shown in conducting the project. 

A plaque and a small monetary award of $15,000 to support the research project were awarded to the group by the Experiment Station directors on Nov. 14, 2016, at the annual APLU meeting.

From left, California Department of Pesticide Regulation director Brian Leahy presented the IPM award to Ben Byczynski, director of Fetzer Vineyards and Grower Relations, Glenn McGourty, Houston Wilson, Lucia Varela and Ryan Keiffer.

DPR honors Virginia creeper IPM team

UC Cooperative Extension,winegrape growers, the Lake County Wine Grape Commission and the Mendocino County Farm Bureau were awarded a 2016IPM Achievement Award by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation for their leadership in protecting crops from Virginia creeper leafhopper.

In 2011, the tiny insect showed up in Mendocino and Lake counties, causing severe losses of wine grapes. By 2014, the new leafhopper had spread across thousands of acres and was devastating vineyards. Some organic growers began using conventional pesticides to stay in business.

Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Mendocino and Lake counties, Houston Wilson, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (ESPM) at UC Berkeley, Lucia Varela, UC IPM advisor for the North Coast, Ryan Keiffer, UCCE agricultural technician in Mendocino, Kent Daane, UCCE specialist based in ESPM  and located at Kearney Research and Extension Center, and Serguei Triapitsyn, principal museum scientist at UC Riverside, have contributed to the efforts.

UCCE, grower-collaborators, pest control advisers, the Lake County Wine Grape Commission and the Mendocino County Farm Bureau collaborated to provide newsletters, videos and field days to teach growers to recognize the new leafhopper and its natural enemy, a tiny parasitic wasp that lays its eggs in leafhopper eggs. However, the plentiful natural enemies weren't adequately doing their job in Mendocino and Lake counties. Researchers brought in a new, effective strain of the wasps from the Sacramento Valley, which are now reproducing quickly on their host in the lab and are becoming established in the counties. Eventually, the wasp will enable both conventional and organic growers to reduce synthetic pesticides used to combat the new leafhopper.

The 2016 Achievement Awards were presented at a ceremony at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters on Jan. 26 in Sacramento.

To learn more about the Virginia creeper leafhopper project, visit



Posted on Monday, February 27, 2017 at 8:19 AM

ANR honors 13 academics with Distinguished Service Awards

Diane Barrett receives research award from VP Glenda Humiston.
VP Humiston has announced the 2015-16 recipients of the ANR Distinguished Service Awards, which are given biennially for outstanding contributions to the teaching, research and public service mission of the Division.

Awards were given in five categories:

  • Outstanding ResearchDiane Barrett, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science & Technology at UC Davis, whose research program benefits both the California food processing industry as well as consumers of processed fruits and vegetables. 
  • Adina Merenlender was honored for outstanding extension work.
    Outstanding ExtensionAdina Merenlender, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, who designed and developed the California Naturalist Program to bring an awareness of land use issues to Californians.
  • Outstanding New AcademicBrad Hanson, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, whose research and extension program for weed management in woody perennial crops has gained recognition on state, national and international levels.
  • VP Glenda Humiston presents Brad Hanson with the new academic award.
    Outstanding Team
    – the European Grapevine Moth Team:

o   Walter Bentley – UC Integrated Pest Management entomologist emeritus

o   Larry Bettiga, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey County

o   Monica Cooper, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Napa County

o   Kent Daane, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley

o   Rhonda Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sonoma County

o   Joyce Strand, IPM academic coordinator emeritus

o   Robert Van Steenwyk,  UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley

o   Lucia Varela, UC Cooperative Extension area IPM advisor in the North Coast

o   Frank Zalom, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Entomology at UC Davis

Humiston presented the team award to, from left, Bob Van Steenwyk, Lucia Varela, Rhonda Smith and Frank Zalom on behalf of the European Grapevine Moth team.
The European Grapevine Moth Team coordinated a program that saved the wine and table grape industries from economic disaster caused by an invasive insect. The impact of the team's work has reduced quarantines for European grapevine moth from 10 counties in 2010 to a portion of one county at the end of 2015 and no moths have been trapped in the last remaining quarantine zone since 2013. If no European grapevine moths are trapped in this zone in 2016, the last remaining quarantine for the pest will be lifted.

The team is an excellent example of UC ANR working with government and industry partners under the Endemic and Invasive Pests and Diseases Strategic Initiative.

  • Pete Goodell received the leadership award.
    Outstanding LeaderPeter Goodell, UC Cooperative Extension IPM advisor, Kearney Research and Agricultural Extension Center, whose  leadership throughout his 35-year career has contributed to the success of the Statewide IPM Program. He has led the IPM advisors, first as IPM advisor coordinator for 12 years, and more recently as associate director for Agricultural IPM. As interim director 2006 to 2009, Goodell provided consistency during a time of budgetary challenges and leadership vacuum, and was a leader in the Western Region IPM coordinators group, where he promoted greater state collaboration in IPM research and extension. He has been a thought leader in the application of techniques from the social sciences to the extension challenge of changing people's actions.

The DSA nominations were reviewed by the Academic Assembly Council Program Committee, which sent its recommendations to the vice president. The committee was chaired by Becky Westerdahl and included Keith Nathaniel, Susie Kocher and Jennifer Heguy.


Posted on Friday, July 1, 2016 at 12:46 PM

Names in the News

Amanda Crump
Crump named director of Western IPM Center

Amanda Crump, former associate director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis, rejoined ANR on May 2 as director of the Western Integrated Pest Management Center.

From June 2008 to December 2009, she was a UCCE environmental horticulture advisor in Fresno County.

She left ANR to take a position at the Horticulture Innovation Lab, which builds international partnerships for fruit and vegetable research that improves livelihoods in developing countries. There, she provided programmatic leadership, managed international horticulture research projects, and worked with stakeholders, federal donors and an advisory board to identify the most pertinent horticultural research needs worldwide and to disseminate the results of this research to farmers in 19 countries.

Crump completed a B.S. in agricultural education from University of Idaho and a M.S. in plant pathology and weed science from Colorado State University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in agricultural education at UC Davis.

Crump is based at the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1271 and

Amber Vinchesi

Vinchesi named vegetable advisor

Amber Vinchesi joined UCCE on April 11 as an area vegetable crops advisor for Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties.

Prior to joining UCCE, Vinchesi was a postdoctoral research associate at Washington State University, Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, where she implemented Lygus management strategies in alfalfa seed production. She developed methods to analyze gut contents of beneficial predators to determine what predators ate when candidate insecticides reduced preferred prey numbers in alfalfa fields. 

From 2014 to 2015, Vinchesi was a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University's Hermiston Agriculture Research and Extension Center, where her research focused on using thiamine (vitamin B1) as an alternative control method for insect-vectored potato diseases like Potato Virus Y and Zebra Chip. She also conducted pesticide trials in the greenhouse and surveyed wireworm species in the area.

As a graduate research assistant from 2009 to 2014, Vinchesi conducted research on the alkali bee, a native, solitary, soil-nesting bee used for alfalfa seed pollination in southeastern Washington. Her work included conducting environmental mitigation studies for the Department of Transportation to determine how rerouting a four-lane highway would affect populations of commercially managed native alkali bees.

Vinchesi completed a B.S. in entomology from Purdue University and both an M.S. and a Ph.D. in entomology from Washington State University.

Based in Colusa, Vinchesi can be reached at (530) 458-0575 and

Greg Douhan
Douhan named citrus advisor

Greg Douhan joined ANR on March 1 as a UC Cooperative Extension area citrus advisor for Tulare, Fresno and Madera counties.

Prior to joining UCCE, Douhan had been a staff research scientist in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at UC Riverside since 2013. At UC Riverside, he was involved in virus and viroid diagnostics of citrus, studying the interaction between citrus tristeza virus and Fusarium solani (citrus quick decline disease), and conducting research on the postharvest pathogen Penicillium digitatum. At the same time, he also served as the coordinator of the National Clean Plant Network for Citrus, which has centers in California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland, Florida and Puerto Rico. From 2005 to 2013, Douhan held a faculty position as assistant professor in the department.

He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in plant pathology from Washington State University and completed a B.S. in botany/biology from Humboldt State University.

Douhan is based in Tulare and can be reached at (559) 684-3312 and

Tolgay Kizilelma
Kizilelma to lead IT infrastructure and support

Tolgay Kizilelma joined ANR as the IT infrastructure and support manager on Feb. 29.

He is in charge of modernizing how ANR provides IT support services, overseeing the redesign of our technology infrastructure, and serving as a key lead in upgrading and running ANR's network infrastructure across the state.

“Tolgay has extensive experience in key technology areas such as cyber-security and technical project management,” said Gabriel Youtsey, chief information officer. “He comes to us with many years of experience running IT in both private companies and higher education.”

Kizilelma has 20-plus years of professional IT experience in the business sector, healthcare and higher education. Prior to joining ANR, Kizilelma was the IT manager at Shields Harper & Co based in Martinez, leading companywide IT initiatives for multiple locations in three states. He managed his company's U.S. operations remotely from Turkey from 2007 to 2012. During this time, he also lectured undergrad IT courses and led IT projects within the computer engineering department of Pamukkale University in Turkey.

“I am an advocate of lifelong learning, and I really would like to emphasize the effective and efficient use of resources and tools available for all ANR clients, such as and LMS (learning management systems) for most of our training needs,” Kizilelma said.

He earned a Ph.D. in business management at Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey, an MBA at Saint Mary's College of California and a BSc in computer engineering at Ege University in Turkey.

Kizilelma is located in the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1233 and

Jennifer Caron-Sale
Caron-Sale joins Program Planning and Evaluation

Jennifer Caron-Sale joined ANR's Office of Program Planning and Evaluation as a policy analyst on May 9. She will be assisting Katherine Webb-Martinez and Vanessa Murua with ANR strategic planning efforts and program evaluation. 

Caron-Sale has been a regulatory analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco for the last eight years. At the CPUC, she focused on overseeing the planning, implementation and evaluation of demand response and energy efficiency programs. Prior to joining the CPUC, she taught environmental science at various non-profits in the Northeast and Midwest.

She earned a B.A. in environmental studies from Mount Holyoke College, a M.S in natural resource policy and management from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and a M.P.A. (public administration) from Syracuse University. 

Caron-Sale is based at UCOP and can be reached at (510) 987-0214 and

Mark Takata.
Takata named IPM web coordinator

Mark Takata joined the UC Integrated Pest Management Program on Feb. 29 as a web production coordinator.  

Takata has over 10 years of experience in programming, web production workflow, and user interaction/user experience design. Last year, he spent two days a week working with UC IPM as a contractor from UC Davis Information and Education Technology (IET) to help design and code the user interface for the Urban Plant Diagnostic Tool, mobile Pest Management Guideline framework and other infrastructure projects.

In the private sector, Takata consulted for UC Davis, UC Merced, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Avanade, HDMI, VISA and Accenture among others. In 2015, he returned to UC Davis where he provided technical solutions for the Office of the Chancellor and Provost, Mondavi Center and other campus units as an employee with IET.

For UC IPM, Takata will coordinate and ensure that IPM content is clearly laid out and efficiently published to the UC IPM website. He will also work with the rest of the IT and production staff to transition the current web pages, as well as any new projects, to a more mobile-friendly look and feel.

Takata is located at the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1386 and

Lucia Varela
Varela honored for achievement in extension

Lucia Varela, UCCE area IPM advisor in the North Coast, was honored with the 2016 Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America's Distinguished Achievement in Extension Award. 

Varela, who serves high-value wine vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties, was nominated by Pete Goodell, UCCE area IPM advisor based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

In his nomination letter, Goodell wrote: “The impacts from her extension program and team efforts have resulted in a reduction of insecticide use in several crops. Her work with invasive species task forces has mitigated the spread of several invasive species.”

As a specific example, he wrote, “She has taken on a major leadership role in turning back the European grapevine moth (Lobesia) infestation in the North Coast wine region by coordinating with county, state and local agencies.”

Varela received the award at the branch's annual meeting in Honolulu on April 5.

Steve Lindow
Lindow honored by plant pathology peers

Steven Lindow, professor in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley, has been ?selected to receive the Award of Distinction, the highest award made ?by the American Phytopathological Society in honor of ?his ?significant contributions to the science of plant pathology. 

?Lindow, who is also executive associate dean for the College of Natural Resources, will receive the award at the APS annual meeting in Tampa, Fla., which will be held July 30-Aug. 3.

Posted on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 4:26 PM

Varela briefs congressional staff on IPM in grapes

Lucia Varela
Lucia Varela, UC Cooperative Extension area integrated pest management advisor, was invited by the Office of U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, to participate in a panel discussion for the Congressional Invasive Species Caucus and Congressional Wine Caucus on Nov. 16 in Washington, DC. 

Varela, who serves the North Coast, was one of three speakers, which included Osama El-Lissy, USDA-APHIS deputy administrator, and Tremain Hatch, Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension viticulture research associate.

Varela highlighted three invasive species of concern in California: Glassy-winged sharpshooter as a vector of the pathogen that causes Pierce's disease; vine mealybug as a vector of grapevine leafroll virus; and European grapevine moth. She described research being conducted by Agriculture Experiment Station faculty and UCCE specialists and advisors on these three invasive species and on disease epidemiology. The UC IPM advisor also discussed strategies for prevention and early detection of exotic pests.

The panel was convened to help educate Congressional staff about how environmentally sound pest management research is to ensuring the sustainability and growth of the wine industry for years to come.


Posted on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 5:30 PM

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