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Posts Tagged: natural resources

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

Forest research and outreach compiles forestry voices in new story map project

Napa County Forest Stewardship Workshop participants gather during the series’ in-person field day. Photo by Kim Ingram.

For the past four years, Kim Ingram has been listening closely to the private forest landowners who participate in her Forest Stewardship Workshop series. During the workshops, landowners share their experiences clearing thickets of vegetation, replanting post-wildfire and tackling invasive species, and their concerns of who will take care of their forest when they're gone.

To alleviate their stress, Ingram–Forest Stewardship Education coordinator with University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources–turns to natural resource professionals from CAL FIRE, local Resource Conservation Districts, and the U.S Forest Service who can share knowledge and resources with participants. Recently, Ingram developed a story map that aims to provide landowners with a platform they can use to share their experiences and ways that they have been empowered to manage their land.

"It's not uncommon for small forest landowners to feel overwhelmed with their forest management responsibilities and uncertain over what steps to take first," said Ingram. "Through the Forest Stewardship Workshops and this story map project, we hope to show that there is an entire community of forest landowners in the same situation, learning from each other and moving forward towards their management goals."

The Forest Stewardship Story Map team used ArcGIS StoryMaps to design the project, with 15 participants providing interviews and visual content. StoryMaps provides a user-friendly interface where website visitors can either click on a county to view specific interviews or scroll to view the stories.

The forestry team plans to interview at least one landowner and natural resource professional in every forested county in California so private forest landowners have a local contact or can become inspired by a project in their area.

Theresa Ciafardoni, a forest landowner in Nevada County, said that the UC ANR Forest Stewardship Workshop helped her manage postfire restoration and long-term land use planning.

"It opened up so many options and possibilities," said Ciafardoni. "All the individuals who presented in the Forest Stewardship Workshop were open to phone calls for specific questions and provided invaluable technical assistance."

Sonoma County forest landowner, Craig Hayes, piles slash to burn, a typical forest management activity. Photo by Craig Hayes.

Involving landowners and forestry professionals with this project was an early decision made by Ingram, who believed it was important that the map held appeal beyond hosting stories. Now, the project functions as a networking tool for landowners seeking professional assistance, too.

Past Forest Stewardship Workshop presenters shared their contact information and the motivations behind their forest management work so that landowners could find assistance in their area. The professionals currently hosted on the map include Resource Conservation District managers, UC ANR forestry advisors and private contractors. 

"The most motivated landowners are invested not only economically, but their heart is into it," said Ryan Tompkins, UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor for Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties. "The natural world is full of uncertainty, but they're committed to continuing education and learning about how to be a good land steward. This takes a certain level of humility recognizing that our tenure as a steward on the land is a very short period of a forest's lifetime."

View from a Lake County Forest Stewardship field day. Photo by Kim Ingram.

Looking ahead, the team envisions the map as a working document that will eventually include interviews with indigenous tribal members who focus on traditional ecological knowledge projects, interviews and information from the UC ANR Postfire Forest Resilience Program, and a feature that will filter stories by topic (e.g. reforestation or prescribed burning).

"This isn't a project that could be completed by one person," explained Grace Dean, Forest Stewardship communications specialist. "The same way that Kim and other presenters explain forest management as a collaborative process holds true for this project."

The Forest Stewardship Workshop series gives participants the ability to start as beginners and build upon their knowledge and experiences. In the same vein, this story map provides the Forest Stewardship team a solid base of real stories to add on to over time. The hope is that it will grow into a multifaceted tool reaching new forest landowners, eventually enveloping their stories within the small forest landowner community.

To view the Forest Stewardship Story Map, visit:

Posted on Monday, July 10, 2023 at 3:30 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

UC Cooperative Extension advisor John Karlik retires after a 38-year career in Kern County

John Karlik, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Kern County for environmental horticulture and environmental science, will retire July 1. Karlik began his work in Kern County in 1984 with an emphasis on the commercial rose plant industry and local horticulture outreach.

Karlik's teaching activities included five levels of 12- to 15-week horticulture education classes offered in three locations in Kern County, usually two or three classes held each year. For the past 25 years, he has collaborated with Darrell Feil, co-owner of Abate-a-Weed in Bakersfield, to hold landscape management seminars that connect community members with experts on a wide range of topics.

John Karlik has shared his knowledge extensively across the globe, including on horticulture study tours to places like Iceland.

“What I love about John is a couple of things: first, his knowledge base is amazing – he's a treasure of Kern County, for what he's done education-wise,” Feil said. “And second, he has a very active mind – and so many people benefit from that in our community.”

Karlik expanded his teaching to include 10 horticulture study tours to gardens and landscapes of Europe and Asia, and the photographs from those visits enhanced his outreach and contributed to his chapters on landscape design in the Arizona and UC Master Gardener Handbooks.

He earned his B.S. in soil science from the University of Minnesota and M.S. in horticulture from Michigan State University.

Taking advantage of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' flexibility and sabbatical leave, he completed a doctorate at UCLA in Environmental Science and Engineering, and changed his research focus to air-quality-related projects. That led to a lecture series on atmospheric science and policy, including climate change, which Karlik offered annually for 15 years as a visiting professor at Central European University in Budapest, and resulting in a service award from that institution.

In recent years, he led four tours to study ecosystem response in the still-radioactive Exclusion Zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine, site of the world's worst nuclear accident.

Karlik prepares to take down a mulberry tree at a UC Research and Extension Center.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Karlik shifted from in-person classes and offered 75 hour-long Zoom presentations on horticulture, landscape design, climate change and environmental science topics, finding an audience in California and in other states.

Karlik also has held a variety of positions in ANR committees, including Academic Assembly Council and the Communications Advisory Board.

“I especially appreciate the many collegial relationships I have within UCCE, ANR, and on several campuses,” Karlik said. “Authorship on many publications reflects those relationships.”

In retirement, Karlik expects to offer assistance at the UCCE office in Kern County and as an editor for a forthcoming ANR book. He intends to pursue interests in instrumental music and the study of languages.

“We've been really blessed to have a guy like John around,” Feil said.

Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at 11:11 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment, Health, Natural Resources, Yard & Garden

College of Natural Resources receives $50 million naming gift

Former dean Gordon Rausser has gifted $50 million to Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, the largest amount ever received by the college. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

The College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, has been renamed the Rausser College of Natural Resources in honor of a landmark $50 million gift by Gordon Rausser, former dean of the college and the Robert Gordon Sproul Distinguished Professor Emeritus of agricultural and resource economics at UC Berkeley.

The gift, the largest donation ever received by the college and the largest naming gift of any academic unit at UC Berkeley, will support the school's land-grant mission to take on key economic, social, environmental and health challenges facing the state and the nation. Major initiatives led by the college include mitigating and adapting to climate change, accelerating the clean energy transition and improving food security and nutrition for all. 

“The state of California, and the nation as a whole, face enormous environmental risks today that didn't exist 20 years ago, and we as a society haven't found the will to address them squarely,” Rausser said. “Rausser College has some of the best economists in the world and some of the best scientists in the world, and by working together, as they must, they uniquely position the college to provide not only the fundamental science, but also the practical solutions, needed to tackle these challenges.” 

Rausser's gift is a major component of UC Berkeley's landmark $6 billion “Light the Way” fundraising campaign, which officially launched Saturday, Feb. 29.

“Gordon Rausser's incredible contribution of his own personal resources to support the mission of UC Berkeley and Rausser College is an unparalleled vote of confidence in the college, the university and our mission,” said Chancellor Carol Christ. “Gordon's legacy of outstanding leadership at the college in and of itself left an indelible mark on our campus and community. His willingness and ability to now provide a strong financial foundation for the college's future is a contribution whose true value is beyond measure.”

The majority of the funds will create an unrestricted endowment that can be used at the direction of the dean, in consultation with faculty leadership, to support a variety of needs across the college's five departments — from supporting graduate students to launching new interdisciplinary research programs.

In addition, a portion of the gift will be used to establish the Gordon Rausser Endowed Chair in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, where Rausser served for over four decades. Another portion will help set up a Rausser-Zilberman Program Endowed Fund for the Master of Development Practice (MDP) Program, which will support students, curriculum enhancements and field opportunities abroad. 

“An endowment gift of this size and nature provides the college with a permanent funding source that will fuel innovation and creativity, enhance the quality of our programs and help us stay competitive — it is truly extraordinary,” said David Ackerly, dean of Rausser College. “We will invest in graduate student support to recruit and train the world's best scholars and support innovative interdisciplinary research to tackle major problems at the state, national and global levels.”  

Other priorities include faculty recruitment and retention, equity and inclusion programs and curriculum innovations, Ackerly said.

More than 40 years of commitment to Berkeley

Rausser first joined the Berkeley faculty in 1978 after leaving his faculty position at Harvard University. He went on to serve as chair of the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics on three separate occasions before being appointed dean of the College of Natural Resources in 1994. As dean, Rausser oversaw a massive expansion and reorganization of the college, growing the number of faculty at the college by approximately 20%. 

Rausser foresaw the need to increase the college's fundraising enterprise, and under his leadership the college greatly expanded its philanthropic activity. During his time as dean he worked in partnership with the alumni community to create eight new faculty endowed chairs. Today, these endowed chairs are a crucial tool for recruiting and retaining the highest-quality faculty. He also spearheaded the Berkeley-Novartis Agreement, a creative research and development agreement between the College's Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and the Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute to advance fundamental research in plant biology and genomics. The Berkeley-Novartis Agreement was novel at the time and laid the groundwork for future public private partnerships.

Outside of Berkeley, Rausser has distinguished himself as an economic and policy adviser to the U.S. government and the state of California, as a business consultant and venture capitalist and an entrepreneur. While on academic leave, he served as senior economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisors (1986-1987) under Ronald Reagan and subsequently became chief economist of the U.S. Agency for International Development (1988-1990). His accomplishments also include co-founding Emeryville-based OnPoint Analytics, which provides business consulting services specializing in expert testimony in economics, data analytics, finance and statistics, and co-founding with Berkeley colleagues the Law and Economics Consulting Group. 

He is the recipient of 29 academic research, teaching and leadership awards. The most recent of which is having his professional society — the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) — honor his work by naming the conference keynote, in perpetuity, in recognition of his lifetime research achievements and exceptional intellectual leadership of the profession. The first Rausser Keynote address will take place this year at the AAEA annual society meetings. 

Rausser said the gift is a continuation of his more than 40-year commitment to the campus and its public mission — and that his success as a business leader and entrepreneur enabled him to make it happen. 

“Personally, I can think of no institution in California that's had a greater impact on our past, or has a greater power to shape our future, than Berkeley has, and I take great pride in the fact that Rausser College is one of the cornerstones of this remarkable institution,” Rausser said. “I know what the college is capable of, given the right resources, and I want to ensure that the college achieves an unparalleled level of excellence.”


Posted on Monday, February 24, 2020 at 2:38 PM
  • Author: Kara Manke

California Institute for Water Resources drafts new strategic plan

The California Institute for Water Resources recently completed a strategic plan. During 2018, the Institute went through a thorough strategic planning process with the help of appointed committee members from within and outside of UC ANR.

The committee was carefully selected to represent the diverse stakeholder interests of the institute. Through a variety of inputs during an assessment phase, which included several stakeholder surveys, committee members gathered information to help identify the strengths, opportunities and challenges of the organization to help formulate the plan. The final plan is a living document, which will be used as a flexible framework to develop annual priorities and evaluate progress.

The mission of the California Institute for Water Resources is to integrate California's research, extension and higher education programs to develop and communicate research-based solutions to water resource challenges. CIWR directly impacts California water issues through research and extension programs. The institute keeps its partners informed through its website, newsletter, blog and social media outlets and actively contributes, shapes and diversifies the conversation on California water issues. Meeting the objectives set forth in its strategic plan will increase the effectiveness of CIWR in helping California meet its future water challenges.

CIWR identified five strategic goals to focus on over the next five years:

  1. Foster and incubate research and extension focused on California's critical water challenges.
  2. Engage with and convene the water community to define and address California's water challenges.
  3. Enhance communication and engagement capacity and increase visibility.
  4. Strengthen the relationship between CIWR and UC ANR.
  5. Increase resources to better incubate research and engage the water community.

The complete plan is available at or by visiting CIWR's website:

Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 10:56 AM
  • Author: Jennifer Caron-Sale
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

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