ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

2014 New Call for Positions

2014 URS Call for Positions

This proposal has been formally submitted for the 2014 cycle.

Position Details

116 Toxicologist Specialist

Proposed Location/Housing

Department of Environmental Toxicology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis

Proposed Area of Coverage

California - statewide


Associated Documents



The democratization of science and the rise of citizen-scientist mark significant change for UCCE programs in this century. In the past, Extension has done research and passed the bread of science to farmers, who were the consumers.
Still consumers, farmers are emerging scientists too, because the EPA inaugurated a new form of regulation dubbed "adaptive management:" do-measure-adjust. No longer one-size-fits-all of the do-this or don't-do-that paradigm, farmers develop their own suite of BMP's to protect environmental quality - and not just farmers, but also timber harvests, GM releases, even construction sites bow to AM regulations and the BMP. AM is sited, and one farm can use a suite of BMP's inasmuch as the adjacent farm with the same environment uses diametrically opposite BMP's. the CA Water Code 13360, i believe, makes the owner or his agent solely responsible for BMP's, and not even the court can dictate. This is regulation that nobody has seen before and a quiet revolution in government control! See MANAGEMENT MEASURES FOR THE CONTROL OF NONPOINT POLLUTION FROM AGRICULTURE, an EPA textbook for regulators.
I needn't address the rise of citizen-scientists, a trend you will know. The ALA published a book last year on the history of citizen science. May saw Citizen-Scientist Day. Even National Geographic March 2013 presented a page on C/S.
To deploy environmental protection as the EPA envisions it, the farmer practices citizen science, and the role of UCCE must be supportive. This is a different future than the past.
do-measure-adjust means monitoring, and monitoring means one of three things: barefoot technique, such as Yolo County's guide for farms, handheld devices such as those found in catalog of Hach Chemical, the original agricultural monitoring company. And of course, labs - Cooperative Extension has to bridge the gap between citizen science and the university lab.
"Eating is an agricultural act," ejaculated Francis Moore Lappe, and a "food systems" toxicologist is the highest priority position.
I offer one example to symbolize the need. The NPS studied brook trout in high-elevation western national parks - our most pure & pristine waters in America - and NPS scientists found mercury, dieldrin & DDT in tissue samples from the fish sometimes above the EPA's threshold for consumption. I will interpret for you: therse have all been agricultural pesticides, like MeHg which coated seeds. The initial RfD drew from seed poisoning in Iran. All of them banned today, these legacy pesticides are moving through the food chain in a virtual wave of toxicity and no one knows the upshot or final fate - except it will make its to human meals. All three are endocrine disruptors, mimicking estrogen - I bet you didn't know that! And we don't regulate "combination effects" of cocktail loads. The EU Issue Tracker just came out with the new thrust: "Chemicals: Cocktail Effects" as Europe embroils is what to do about them.
UCCE, sad to say, has had its head in the sand when it comes to agrichemicals. I am reminded of "Cadmium levels in Europe: implications for human health" that appeared in ENVIRONMENTAL GEOCHEMISTRY & HEALTH in 2010. Toxic cadmium is a contaminant of rock phosphate fertilizer and "the highest levels of cadmium were found to occur in topsoil." The conclusion was obscene: "Food ... was found as the only major route of exposure to cadmium in the nonsmoking population." China also found cadmium in its topsoils for the same reason. The US has a problem with cadmium in oyster beds of the coast - same reason! cadmium, by the way, is a metallohormone and mimicks estrogen.
The peer-reviewed article "Pesticide use in the US and policy implications: a focus on herbicides" [1999] suggests that 60% of herbicides are estrogenic. Charles Taylor of DISCOVERY News claimed, "It is possible that there are going to be many more chemicals that are antiandrogenic than are estrogenic." Since hormones menace epigenomes, the thought is staggering.
Although I can produce dozens of scientific articles - 100's actually - that paint a dismal future for the health of people, wildlife and the environment, one startling statistic comes to mind which appeared in the December 1999 TOXICOLOGY AND INDUSTRIAL HEALTH: "Food contributes about 0.25 milligrams of DEHP per day to your diet." DEHP is one type of phthalate ester used as a plasticizer in plastics, inks and pesticides. These phthalates are hormone-disruptors and they cause [rather are linked] to hypospadias, the second most common birth defect in boys. The EPA once flirted with a safe level of 5 nanograms/L for estrogenic substances. The Food Quality Protection Act of 1995 requires the EPA to identify and safety-test "estrogenic substances."
I am aware of other issues that have been proposed, and while I give them a nod, I rate them a lowe priority. For example, Mary Delany mentioned the priority of food waste. True, but the issue is wrong. Food waste is not the focus; sustainability is. A good perspective is in the Spring 2014 Leopold Letter of Iowa State in the article titled, "From energy to food and back again." The NEW SCIENTIST carried a similar article titled "Dial up the heat to turn feathers into fertilizer." Feathers are food waste and the world produces 5 milion tons of feathers yearly. 2% of the world's energy goes to make ammonia. Researcher Dr. Chen has orchestrated a way to convert feathers into ammonia heating them to 600 degrees for 3 hours!
As Mary delany said, "These are all priorities" but choosing between them is what UCCE evaluation teams do. I think a "food systems toxicologist" who can access labs is what we need in Extension, to support citizen science at a level never seen before. Bud Hoekstra [209.293.3432 BerryBlest Farm]
Posted Jul 5, 2014 10:12 AM by bud hoekstra
We already have two UCCE toxicologists and a few faculty members. Is this position really that different? If the additional areas of research are important - can the existing toxicologists in the system expand to address those issues?
Posted Jul 15, 2014 3:21 PM by Maxwell Norton

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