ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

Friends and collaborators protecting animal health



Beatriz Martinez Lopez, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professor and agronomist, and Alda Pires, associate specialist in Cooperative Extension and agronomist, met during graduate studies in 2006 and were delighted to cross paths again at UC Davis. “Our collaboration started with friendship and our common interests in epidemiology and animal health,” said Pires.

They work on projects addressing animal health and food safety needs of backyard and alternative agricultural farms, threats of avian influenza and swine flu, the impact of wildfires on livestock production and more.

“Alda has a lot of experience and her work is amazing,” said Martinez Lopez. “In California, there has been an increase in backyard production systems so it’s highly needed.”

“Because organic, local, diversified systems are growing so much, there are a lot of knowledge gaps in the systems,” said Pires. “The tools that Beatriz works with and a lot of her work internationally are in identical systems, just with different diseases and problems. There is a great complement of expertise.”

They are proud of completing a series of needs assessments to understand the animal health needs of small farms and backyard systems. “It has helped us be more organized and structured in our outreach,” noted Pires. “From that small pilot study, we now have a multi-state project funded by USDA National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP). Our clients are benefiting from the structured network we created and materials that provide reliable information.”

Martinez Lopez said that small producers have very different needs than the large commercial systems she has worked with and are left out of the system somewhat because it is hard to implement the recommended biosecurity at smaller farms. “We are trying to address the gaps and provide useful tools. We are still in process, but we’ve created the foundation,” she said.


Diversified small-scale farm with fresh produce production




Beatriz and Alda

Alda Pires (left) and Beatriz Martinez Lopez

The pair has worked on several projects related to avian influenza, from a small Academic Senate project to a two-year USDA CARE grant. Surprisingly the first USDA proposal they submitted was rejected, followed two weeks later by the largest avian influenza outbreak in history. “We were seeing this coming, but it seems that was not yet the perception of other people,” said Martinez Lopez. They secured the grant the following year.
The major challenge of the project is the complexity of the human/wildlife interface and the difficulties of prediction. They have published several papers about models, and the work yields valuable information about hotspots for targeting surveillance strategies and wildlife surveys.
Their wildfire work involves a large team of Extension professionals formed during the 2017 fires. “We wanted to provide assistance because the livestock producers were being tremendously impacted,” said Martinez Lopez. “The goal was to identify which areas were at higher risk by looking at how CalFIRE maps overlap with livestock production, and to assess the true economic burden for the industry.”
These partners have also completed a large grant project on preharvest food safety in organic systems, which yielded practical tools and advice for farmers. “Ultimately we want to give back, not just focus on the research,” Pires said.
Though their collaboration began through friendship, Martinez Lopez and Pires stress the importance of networking, getting involved and taking risks. “My strategy was going to a lot of meetings at the farmers’ associations, knowing who my UC ANR colleagues were and talking to them about what they were doing,” Pires said. “Invite farm advisors and outreach partners from the beginning of the process so that they are part of the team.” 
Martinez Lopez said, “Take the risk to have a collaboration outside your department. The collaborations I have enjoyed the most have been very diverse in disciplines and have reached beyond the university.” 
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