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Posts Tagged: May 2024

Waisen shares Papua New Guinea culture, language, food and agriculture

On right, Phil Waisen holds a yam, a major food crop in Papua New Guinea. On left and center are yam houses, where the crop is stored.

To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Philip Waisen, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops advisor for Riverside and Imperial counties, presented a webinar about his homeland, Papua New Guinea, on May 31.

He shared some of the rich history, culture, language, food and agriculture of the country that encompasses the eastern half of New Guinea. 

Bilum, the woven bags, are made from paper mulberry that is dyed.

The South Pacific island has a population of 10 million people, including about 1,000 tribes that carry on their traditions, he said. Of the 800-plus languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, Waisen speaks three, including Tok Pisin, the main language.

He opened with the Kamano Kafe greeting “kehuo” to say “hello” to one person, “kehi'o” for two people and “kehiho” for three or more people.

Waisen likes to cook kani, or banana, over an open flame to soften the fruit before eating it.

A recording of the webinar is at

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2024 at 1:28 PM

Celebration Corner

Takele honored for DEI achievements 

Eta Takele

The Agricultural & Applied Economics Association's Committee on Women in Agricultural Economics recognized Etaferahu Takele, UCCE area agricultural economics and farm management advisor in Southern California, for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion as a researcher, mentor and leader.

“Throughout Ms. Takele's life, before affirmative action, diversity, equity and inclusion were something to advocate for, she modeled and advocated for the underrepresented people in her community, at the university, within the county government and in her professional associations,” wrote a nominator.

From 2007 to 2020, Takele was director for UCCE in Riverside County, where she revived the 4-H Youth Development Program, expanded the Master Gardener Program and doubled the reach of the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to underrepresented clientele in Riverside County. 

In partnership with California State University San Bernardino, she received a $500,000 USDA grant for the Inland Empire Small Farm Initiative to provide risk management education to Hispanic minority growers and farm laborers with little or no experience with running their own farms in the United States. Takele worked with farmers to develop budgets and determine risks associated with production of various crops. To ensure the program was inclusive, it was delivered in Spanish. She provided minority farmers with regular financial counseling and helped them develop cost-benefit models of investing in minor crops. 

Her work with small-scale and minority growers influenced the introduction and expansion of new specialty crops such as blueberries and cherimoya in the coastal and the desert regions of Southern California. 

Read more about Takele's achievements at

AEOE honors Nelson with Lifetime Achievement Award  

Sarah-Mae Nelson

The Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education has recognized Sarah-Mae Nelson's career contributions to advancing environmental education with its Lifetime Achievement Award. The UC Climate Stewards Initiative academic coordinator for UC Environmental Stewards has over 28 years of experience as an educator, interpreter and climate communicator.

"Since the launching of the Climate Stewards program in 2020, Sarah-Mae's leadership has been instrumental in its remarkable growth and success,” wrote Nelson's nominator. “Under her guidance, 27 community-based organizations have conducted 80 courses, certifying nearly 1,000 Climate Stewards.

“In every endeavor she undertakes, Sarah-Mae approaches challenges with unparalleled determination and meticulousness. Her resilience in the face of adversity serves as an inspiration to all who have the privilege of working alongside her." 

The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to those who have made a significant impact in environmental and outdoor education over the course of their career, both within their organization(s) and the field at large, and who demonstrate a strong commitment to equity and inclusion.

Nelson's contributions were celebrated on May 4 at AEOE's Annual Statewide Conference in Orange.

Rethwisch elected Sigma Xi member 

Michael Rethwisch

Michael Rethwisch, UCCE field crops advisor for Riverside County, has been elected a full member into Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society.

He joins top scholars in the society such as Albert Einstein, Gerty Cori, Linus Pauling, Julian Lewis, Rita Levi Montalcini and Sally Ride. 

Rethwisch was nominated by Jamie Vernon, Sigma Xi executive director and CEO and publisher of American Scientist magazine, and Allen Thomas, Donald E. Fox Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Two of the journal articles that qualified Rethwisch for Sigma Xi membership are SY Wolf Winter Wheat Responses to RyzUp SmartGrass Application at Third Leaf Stage in East Central Nebraska and First Report of Western Trochanter Mealybug, Pseudococcus dysmicus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), in Nebraska and Observations from Soybean.

Vela named ACE Rising Star, five other communicators win awards 

Six communicators won major awards from the international Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), a professional organization that supports and showcases science communication in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences.

Ricardo Vela

Ricardo Vela, manager of UC ANR News and Information Outreach in Spanish (NOS), won the ACE 2024 Rising Star Award, an annual award that "honors communicators, instructors and researchers who demonstrate exceptional leadership and technical skills in their communication field, to their institution and service to ACE."

Vela is a 35-year, two-time Emmy-winning broadcast journalism professional. As program manager of NOS, he supervises a Spanish-language expert team that disseminates news and research about agriculture, nutrition and natural resources to Spanish-speaking communities across California. Vela is an advocate for Latino and other ethnic groups, promoting their contributions to society and creating for the first time events for the UC ANR community to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and Cesar Chavez Day.

Before joining UC ANR in 2017, Vela worked as a national news correspondent for Univision and CNN in Texas and Los Angeles. He started his journalism career at the Chicago Tribune and Univision in Chicago. While in Chicago, he collaborated with several Latino community organizations, always promoting equity and inclusion. He served as Univision's main news anchor in San Diego for 17 years and hosted a morning talk radio show, “Voces Hispanas,” for 10 years. He has served as news director and anchor at Entravisión (a Univisión affiliate) in Palm Springs and as a news anchor at Telemundo in El Paso, Texas. In 2006, Hispanic Magazine listed him as among the 100 most influential Latinos in the country.

Vice President Glenda Humiston appointed Vela as a founding member of the UC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. 

Kathy Keatley Garvey’s image of a honey bee buzzing over a zinnia won a gold award for “best feature photo."

Five other UC ANR communicators won gold (first place), silver (second place), or a bronze (third place) award.

    • Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and author of the Bug Squad blog, won a gold award for “best feature photo." Her image of a honey bee buzzing over a zinnia earned an award in the feature photo category, for "one image that effectively tells a story." 

  • Michael Hsu, senior public information representative; Ethan Ireland, senior videographer; and Evett Kilmartin, photographer, won a silver award for their “Farm-to-Corrections Project" video about a Nutrition Policy Institute partnership with Impact Justice, ChangeLab Solutions, Spork and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
  • Social media strategist Doralicia Garay won a bronze award for the social media campaign “Improving Lives in California,” designed to showcase UC ANR research and those who deliver it. 
UC Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger was among the people featured in the award-winning social media campaign.

The awards will be presented at the annual ACE conference, June 23-25, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Read more about the awards in Bug Squad at

ANR thanks Larson for 41 years of service

From left, Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, Stephanie Larson and Glenda Humiston. Photo by JoLynn Miller

Stephanie Larson, UCCE director and livestock range management advisor for Sonoma County, was honored for her 41 years of service at the county directors meeting on May 23. Vice President Glenda Humiston and Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, director of county Cooperative Extension, thanked Larson for her four decades of service.

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2024 at 10:25 AM

Names in the News

Coyne named Master Gardener assistant director of volunteer and community engagement 

Marisa Coyne

Marisa Coyne returned to the statewide Master Gardener Program office on May 22 as the assistant director of volunteer and community engagement. She was an instrumental member of the Master Gardener Program team from 2019 to 2021.  

Coyne will be building out her team by recruiting two regional operations coordinators, one for Southern California and one for Northern California.

Originally from Philadelphia, Coyne earned a master's degree in community development from UC Davis and a bachelor's degree in communications from Temple University. Her graduate work at UC Davis focused on issues of equity in sustainable agriculture education. 

Coyne is based at the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at

Rosenberg joins UCCE as regenerative agriculture farm advisor 

Sara Rosenberg

Sara Rosenberg joined UCCE on May 1 as a regenerative agriculture farm advisor for Mariposa, Merced and Stanislaus counties.

Her disciplinary focuses are agroecology, sustainable nutrient management, and extension research and methodology. Her past research centers on understanding the implications of diversification (with a focus on crop rotations and cover crops) for California rice systems. For her master's program thesis, she conducted a countywide assessment to learn from rice growers about their experiences with crop rotations and understand barriers to adoption, opportunities, and required resources for successful implementation. This two-year study engaged grower communities to help develop research goals for her Ph.D. studies.

Her doctoral research explored how different summer crop rotations affect multiple sustainability factors including soil health, crop yields, weeds, input use and economics. She also assessed different cover crop species performance in rice environments and their carbon and nitrogen contributions. 

She earned a master's in international agriculture development and a Ph.D. in horticulture and agronomy from UC Davis.

Prior to working on her Ph.D., Rosenberg was an agriculture advisor in the Peace Corps for more than three years. She worked closely with smallholder farmers in West Africa, implementing conservation agriculture programs and increasing agricultural resilience in both annual crops and tree crops, mainly in the cashew forestry sector. In California, she has worked on farms for more than eight years, including running her own small, diversified farm in Woodland. 

She is passionate about community-led development and using participatory research as a powerful tool for developing sustainable solutions. Her aim is to develop collaborative programming that will support a wide range of farm types, including commercial and small-scale, organic and conventional, annual crops, tree and vine crops, and livestock production systems.

She is developing a robust research program aimed at assessing farm sustainability impact across ecological, agronomic, social and economic factors. She will be collaborating with farmers to help overcome barriers to adopting regenerative practices and build their capacity to advance sustainability goals. Rosenberg also will be developing and promoting tested integrative management practices that increase climate resilience and ecosystem sustainability across diverse farming environments. 

Rosenberg is based in Mariposa and can be reached at and (209) 966-2417 ext. 1417. 

Pedroncelli named interim South Coast REC director 

Lindsey Pedroncelli

Lindsey Pedroncelli started her new role as interim director of South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine on May 1.

Pedroncelli, former staff research associate for UC Cooperative Extension in San Diego County, will serve as the liaison between South Coast REC and the community. Her primary responsibility is maintaining or expanding current partnerships and identifying new opportunities for academic and programmatic collaboration. Additionally, she is responsible for securing funding, supervising education specialists and communicating the significance of the REC. 

Pedroncelli first learned about UC ANR during graduate school at UC Riverside where she worked with Alexander Putman, UC Cooperative Extension plant pathology specialist. As a Ph.D. student, Pedroncelli studied a fungus (Macrophomina phaseolina) that kills strawberry plants and conducted research at the South Coast REC.

“California grows 90% of the nation's strawberries,” said Pedroncelli. “The fungus I was researching is economically important and since it is a somewhat new disease on strawberries, there isn't a lot of information on how to manage it.” She was particularly interested in how soil moisture can be applied as a management strategy.

Before earning a Ph.D. in plant pathology from UC Riverside, Pedroncelli completed her undergraduate degree in microbiology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. 

In September 2022, Pedroncelli joined the UCCE office in San Diego County as a staff research associate and helped establish a small-scale urban agriculture demonstration site at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad. A collaboration with Eric Middleton, integrated pest management advisor for San Diego County, the project is designed to investigate the economic feasibility of growing specialty crops in urban areas.

“Orange County has become so urban, and it used to be an ag hot spot. I don't want people to forget that,” said Pedroncelli, who emphasized the importance of expanding the REC's educational programs and spreading awareness of its community impact. 

Pedroncelli can be reached at and her Instagram handle is @theplantpathologist.

Barnes joins UCCE as director for Lake and Mendocino counties 

Matthew Barnes

Matthew Barnes joined UC ANR on May 1 as the UCCE area director for Lake and Mendocino counties. Dedicated to enhancing UCCE's outreach and research initiatives, he focuses on sustainable agricultural practices and environmental stewardship across both counties. Barnes brings over 20 years of experience in developing programs tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities of rural communities.

Prior to joining UC ANR, he created best-practice client service programs and led organizational development projects throughout Northern California. Most recently, Barnes served as the Lake County director for Sonoma State University's Pre-Collegiate Programs. 

Having spent most of his life in Lake County, where he now raises his two children, ages 5 and 14, Barnes is deeply connected to the community he serves.

He earned his bachelor's degree in social work from Cal Poly Humboldt, which propelled him into a career as a human services administrator specializing in the revitalization of underserved and Indigenous communities. 

Barnes is based in Lakeport and can be reached at Connect with him on LinkedIn at

Sangha joins UCCE as community water systems advisor 

Laljeet Sangha

Laljeet Sangha joined UCCE on May 1 as a community water systems advisor for Kern, Tulare and Kings counties.

To enhance community resilience, Sangha will lead an integrated extension education and applied research program in water resource management and community development.

He will address critical questions regarding the impacts of environmental stressors, such as chronic long-term droughts, water contamination and increased groundwater demand. Additionally, he will assist in water system consolidations and help communities meet regulatory goals such as those set by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP).

Originally from Punjab, India, Sangha earned his undergraduate degree in agricultural engineering from Punjab Agricultural University. He received his M.S. in biosystems engineering from Auburn University in Alabama and his Ph.D. in biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech.

Sangha's early research focused on the influence of climate variability on ecologically sustainable water withdrawals from streams for irrigation. For his doctoral studies, he evaluated the impact of permit exemptions, climate change and demand growth on water supply. Additionally, he developed methods to quantify unreported water use for crop irrigation.

Sangha also has collaborated on projects in the Colorado River Basin, which explore why the Colorado River no longer reaches the sea. His work includes evaluating the effects of limited water availability on irrigation operations and developing adaptive options for farming communities in the basin.

Sangha is based in Bakersfield and can be reached at and on LinkedIn at

Mobley joins UC Master Gardeners as evaluation coordinator 

Jocelyn Mobley

Jocelyn Mobley joined the UC Master Gardener Program on April 23 as a full-time impact and evaluation coordinator. She succeeds Tamekia Wilkins, who had served as .30 FTE evaluation coordinator since 2018 and is now an impact and evaluation program director at the University of Alabama.

Prior to joining UC ANR, Mobley evaluated multiple programs at the Center for Land-Based Learning. She also has worked for other sustainable food nonprofits to help make a difference in her immediate community. 

She earned her B.S. in health education from CSU Chico and Master's in Public Health from UC Davis.

Mobley is based at the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at

Atume joins SAREP as small farms technical assistance coordinator  

Ngodoo Atume

Ngodoo Atume joined UC ANR on April 17 as a Sustainable Groundwater Management Act small farms technical assistance coordinator in the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

She will provide technical information, services, policy analysis and recommendations needed to engage and protect small-scale farmers in the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). 

Before joining UCANR,Atume worked as a water policy analyst advocating for the implementation of the Human Right to Water in California. She also worked on the inclusion of underrepresented stakeholders inSGMA, Central Valley Salinity Alternative Long-Term Sustainability (CV-SALTS)Program and the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP).

Born and raised in Nigeria, Atume earned her bachelor's degree in water resources and environmental engineering at Ahmadu Bello University, where her research focused on the treatment and reuse of wastewater. She has a master's degree in sustainable water management from Tufts University.

Atume is based in the UC ANR office in Davis and can be reached at

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2024 at 9:43 AM

Legislators learn about Steam Weeder and CropManage at UC Innovation Day

Michael Cahn, center, and Aparna Gazula explain how the decision-support tool CropManage helps farmers save water and fertilizer.

On May 8, the University of California hosted an emerging science and technology innovation day at the UC Center in Sacramento. The UC inventions showcased at the event were examples of how academic research translates into real-world applications that benefit Californians and the world.

Of the 25 innovations featured, UC ANR was represented by two inventions – Steam Weeder and CropManage. Innovations were displayed for legislators and staff for most of the day.

During the Fireside Chat on innovation, UC regents Rich Leib and Lark Park listen as Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin speaks.

Vice President Glenda Humiston also participated in the Fireside Chat, where over lunch UC Board of Regents Chair Rich Leib and Regent Lark Park led a conversation on innovation, clean energy and biomedical discoveries.

Steam Weeder is a machine designed to inject steam into the soil, offering a safer alternative to chemical pesticides. By heating soil to a precise temperature, this device effectively eliminates pests by thermally rupturing their cell walls, protecting crops and reducing the need for hazardous chemicals. This innovative machine reduces weeds by 85% and decreases the incidence of soil-borne diseases. Steam Weeder is ideal for farmers managing row crops, vineyards and orchards, especially those facing increased costs and strict regulations for chemical fumigants. The Steam Weeder, developed by Steven Fennimore, UC Davis professor of Cooperative Extension and extension specialist for vegetable weed management, offers an effective, safe and economical solution for large-scale weed management.  

Steven Fennimore, left, describes the benefits of the Steam Weeder to a visitor.

CropManage is a web-based tool developed by UCCE Monterey County farm advisor Michael Cahn to help farmers manage and make informed decisions for efficient crop production. Using years of research and field studies, CropManage software integrates data from satellite imagery, water stations, soil maps and field sensors to tailor specific recommendations for irrigation and fertilization of crops. CropManage provides water and fertilizer management guidance while maximizing production efficiency.

UCCE Santa Clara County small farms advisor Aparna Gazula and grower Mark Mason participated in the event to explain to legislators and staff how CropManage helps growers save water and fertilizer.


Posted on Friday, May 31, 2024 at 9:17 AM
  • Author: Anne Megaro
  • Author: Sheron Violini
Tags: Advocacy (29), CropManage (1), Innovation (4), May 2024 (14), Steam Weeder (1)

ANR celebrates Pride in June

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated annually in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots and efforts to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for LGBTQ people.

Throughout the month, the LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group will be emailing information about LGBTQIA+ identities and history. 

June 28,1969, marked the beginning of the Stonewall Uprising, a series of events between police and LGBTQ+ protesters which stretched over six days at the StoneWall inn located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. The Stonewall riots served as a catalyst for the modern gay rights movement in the United States.

Here are some resources:

The Day the Stonewall Riots Shook America (2m52s)

Milestones in the Gay Rights Movement:

History of the Pride Rainbow Flag: (4m22s)

If you identify as LGBTQIA+ and are interested in joining the confidential LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group, please email Belinda Messenger-Sikes or Pia Wright

Posted on Thursday, May 30, 2024 at 3:15 PM

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