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Names in the News

Chen named woody biomass and wood products advisor 

Cindy Chen

Cindy Chen joined UC Cooperative Extension Sept. 6 as a woody biomass and wood products advisor for the Central Sierra and Alpine and Mariposa counties.

After receiving her bachelor's in social ecology and master's in demography from UC Irvine, Chen completed her Ph.D. in environmental and forest sciences from the University of Washington, specializing in wood products processing and marketing. Chen has worked and lived in all three West Coast states over the past 20 years and she is familiar with the natural environment in the western U.S. 

Her multidisciplinary expertise allows her to work on a wide range of projects covering topics such as population forecasting, environmental assessment, woody biomass transportation logistics, the end-of-life treatment of wood products and mass timber production optimization.

Chen has worked with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, research scientists, and local stakeholders to investigate the environmental and economic benefits of wood utilization in the construction and energy industries. Her work in evaluating the environmental impacts of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) production helped prepare for the opening of North America's largest mass timber manufacturing facility in the State of Washington. 

In addition to her work in the U.S., Chen also has collaborated extensively with international partners in research projects that explored the global market potential for wood products and bioenergy.

About this position, Chen says, “As the woody biomass and forest products advisor at UC ANR, my goal is to work with the Central Sierra communities in exploring innovative ways to better utilize California's forest resources and biomass, developing biomass processing programs that are appropriate for the region and contributing to local economic development.”

Chen is based in Tuolumne and can be reached at cxnchen@ucanr.edu.

Low brings fire expertise to communities statewide 

Katie Low

Katie Low, who began as the University of California Cooperative Extension statewide fire coordinator on Sept. 1, will fulfill two important functions for UC ANR's team of fire experts.

First, she will coordinate and partner with UCCE fire advisors throughout California to develop and deliver wildfire-related science and outreach materials for a wide range of communities across the state. Low said encouraging diversity in the network of fire experts and engaged communities will be crucial.

“One of my goals is to help build and maintain a diverse and inclusive community of fire and natural resource professionals,” she said. 

Second, based at the UCCE office in Auburn, Low will collaborate with local natural resource professionals and residents in Nevada and Placer counties on projects that bolster community and ecosystem resilience to wildfire and climate change.

“I look forward to working with community groups, land managers and scientists to implement viable fire-resilient management strategies for ecosystems in the region and statewide,” Low said.

Equipped with bachelor's degrees in geography and ecosystems management and forestry, as well as a master's in forestry, all from UC Berkeley, Low brings to UC ANR a wealth of knowledge and a variety of experience.

As a fire and forest ecologist, she studied the impacts of fuels-reduction and forest-restoration treatments on Sierra Nevada mixed-conifer forests. Low also worked as operations coordinator for the California Outdoor Engagement Coalition, and as a forestry aide for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Forest Biometrics Program. 

Low can be reached at (530) 889-7385 and katlow@ucanr.edu; follow her on Twitter @lowseverityfire.

Deak named fire advisor for Mariposa, Fresno and Madera counties 

Alison Deak

Alison Deak joined UC Cooperative Extension on Aug. 22 as a fire advisor for Mariposa, Fresno and Madera counties. Since she began work, Deak has been focused on conducting a needs assessment and building rapport with community leaders.

Her role as fire advisor will include promoting the use of prescribed fire to help restore fire adapted landscapes. She will also prioritize community education, applied research and partnership building efforts that are based on scientifically informed ways to help communities mitigate, prepare for, and recover from wildfire.

Originally from northeast Ohio where there are no wildfires according to Deak, it was not until she moved to Colorado for college that she learned of their impact.

When the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire occurred, Deak felt like her playground was burning down so she acted. She began volunteering with the wildfire recovery effort and her career into fire science took off from there.

Deak earned a bachelors in geography and environmental studies from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and master's degrees in geography and nonprofit management from the University of Oregon. 

Before moving to California and joining UC ANR, Deak worked as a wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.  

When asked what she is looking forward to most, Deak shared that she is passionate about increasing diversity in the fire science field and, particularly, empowering more women to join. She is eager to help community members prepare for wildfire and mitigate fire risk in a safe and competent manner. 

Deak is located at the UC Cooperative Extension office in Mariposa County and can be reached at aldeak@ucanr.edu.  

Henry joins UC ANR as food systems advisor for capitol region 

Olivia Henry

Olivia Henry joined UC ANR on Aug. 15 as regional food systems area advisor for Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, Placer and Nevada counties. Henry will focus on issues related to marketing, resilient supply chains, distribution infrastructure, processing infrastructure, financing models and food waste.  

Prior to joining UC ANR, Henry worked in various newsrooms – including CapRadio, the Mendocino Voice, KALW Public Radio, San Francisco Public Press and Mother Jones – in community engagement, membership and communications roles. She also worked with Internews, a media development organization, to conduct information needs assessments in the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire regions. Henry is still involved with community media, and currently serves as the assistant editor of a bimonthly, English and Spanish-language newspaper, “The Ivanhoe Sol,” in rural Tulare County. 

She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Western Washington University and master's degree in community development from UC Davis. While at Davis, Henry studied models of community- and employee-owned news enterprises, with a focus on how stakeholder ownership can protect journalism as a public good. She also earned a graduate certificate in extension outreach and communication. 

Henry said she is excited to be a part of UC ANR, which she has benefitted from as a certified California Naturalist and candidate California Master Beekeeper. She has previously worked at local farms, including a diversified orchard and targeted grazing operation.  

Henry is based in Fairfield and can be reached at omhenry@ucanr.edu and (707) 389-0723.

Neas named 4-H advisor for San Mateo, San Francisco counties 

Sally Neas

Sally Neas began working as the 4-H youth development program advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in San Mateo and San Francisco counties on Aug. 1.

In her role, Neas incorporates environmental education into youth programs at Elkus Ranch and 4-H community clubs. She is also responsible for conducting research and developing new programs.

Neas has worked in youth development and environmental education for several years. When she first moved to California 12 years ago, she worked for Veggielution Community Farm in San Jose and helped launch their first youth development program. 

Since then, she has worked in after-school programming focused on gardening and nutrition in Santa Cruz and has dedicated her time and energy to engaging youth in conversations about climate change.

“I'm interested in building conversations around climate change that focus on culturally relevant and personally meaningful approaches. Not a deficit approach that asks what we're going to give up, but what can we do as a collective,” said Neas. 

Neas earned a doctorate in environmental education at UC Davis and a bachelor's in environmental studies from the University of the South in Tennessee.

Neas centered her dissertation on how young people understand and define climate change. Her research relied on oral histories collected from “youth that, historically, are not represented in the climate change space” such as youth of color and queer youth. To capture their stories, Neas initiated a digital storytelling project, drawing on the collaboration between art and science. 

“I really felt bothered by not hearing educators adequately address climate change. It felt like a looming elephant in the room, where we either didn't talk about it at all or what we were saying wasn't helpful,” she said. 

According to Neas, youth have a moral compass that, unlike in adults, has not been so degraded. Their creativity, compassion and drive inspire Neas to preserve these parts of herself. Moving forward, she is eager to create programs that are inclusive and representative of all youth that she serves. 

Neas is based in Half Moon Bay and can be reached at seneas@ucanr.edu.

Ireland joins UC ANR as senior videographer 

Ethan Ireland

Ethan Ireland joined Strategic Communications as the new senior videographer on Aug. 31.

Ireland is an experienced science communicator and visual storyteller, well-versed in translating and simplifying complex ideas for general audiences. He brings 20 years of experience working in television and feature films as well as running his own videography business.

His role is not only to create engaging videos to promote the impact and value of UC ANR, but also to train and support academics in using video in their research and extension work.

Ireland is based at the UC ANR building in Davis and can be reached at eireland@ucanr.edu.

Meng, CFHL, Farm Smart win NEAFCS awards

From left, Yu Meng, Stacey Amparano, Stephanie Collins, Chris Wong, Vincent (contract gardener), Paul Tabarez, Rigo Ponce and Martha Lopez. The CalFresh Healthy Living, UC and Farm Smart teams delivered garden kits to preschools.

Yu Meng, UC Cooperative Extension youth, family and community advisor for Riverside, Imperial and San Bernardino counties, received two awards from the National Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences on Sept. 13 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Meng accepted the Communications Television/Video Award and Family Health & Wellness Award on behalf of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC and Farm Smart teams.

In addition to Meng, the teams included Stacey Amparano, Farm Smart manager; Stephanie Collins, Farm Smart outreach assistant; Chris Gomez Wong, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC community education supervisor; Paul Tabarez, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC community education supervisor; Rigo Ponce, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC community education specialist; and Martha Lopez, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC community education specialist.

The Communications Television/Video Award honored their garden video project “Grow Healthy Foods, Harvest Healthy Families” (“Cultiva Alimentos Saludables, Cosecha Familias Saludables”). 

“The instructional garden video presented a great opportunity to connect with our targeted audience for distance program delivery during the pandemic,” Meng said.

They developed a series of English and Spanish videos, teaching low-income Hispanic families how to grow edible plants with resources accessible through UC ANR's Master Gardener Program and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC.

The videos give step-by-step instructions from seed germination to harvesting and food preservation and engage audiences with healthy recipes, climate adaptive strategies and fun activities in the garden for all ages.  

The Family Health & Wellness Award honored the Farm-to-Preschool Festival project, which was developed by the Farm Smart Program staff and UC Cooperative Extension CalFresh Healthy Living staff. They provided families with instructional videos and garden kits during pandemic. In 2019, they invited families with children 0-5 years old to participate in a day on the farm with educational activities, field trips and community organization family resource booths at UC Desert Research and Extension Center. About 700 to 800 people participated.

During the pandemic, the team made and delivered 344 festival bags to preschool sites. Migrant Head Start Program Preschool provided places to distribute festival bags to families with children 0-5 years old. QR codes and email links led to activities including Green Thumb Planting and Storytime (garden videos for adults), MyPlate activity, Music on the Farm, Lets Get Active, Scrub a Dub handwashing activity, and Let's Craft. All materials were in both English and Spanish because over 80% of residents are Hispanic.

Gable wins national early career award 

Missy Gable

Missy Gable, statewide director of the UC Master Gardener Program, received the 2022 Extension Master Gardener National Coordinator Award for Distinguished Early Career at the organization's annual conference on Sept. 20.

Throughout her nine years with the program, Gable has worked diligently to ensure the program makes an impact and follows its mission to support gardeners and sustainable gardening across the state.

Through her leadership, Gable has provided a clear vision for the future of the program while advocating and supporting county-based programs with 6,216 volunteers across 53 counties in California. Gable's impact on the UC Master Gardener Program, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and its national and local partners has been transformational. 

In announcing Gable's award, the organization said, “Her passion for the UC Master Gardener Program's mission is evident in her tireless advocacy for support and continued recognition of its volunteers.”

Nationally, Gable served as the Southwest Regional Representative for the Extension Master Gardener National Committee in 2016. This role grew to include an appointment as Secretary, Vice-Chair, and Chair. Since 2018, Gable has served on the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) Executive Committee, on the inaugural Board of Directors, and the NICH Farm Bill Committee. In her national leadership roles, Gable has been involved in strategic planning efforts, collaborating with colleagues to provide vision and future direction.

Wang named one of Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 

Zheng Wang

Zheng Wang, UC Cooperative Extension vegetable crops and irrigation advisor in Stanislaus County, has been recognized by Vegetable Grower News as one of Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40. 

The Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Awards honor 40 outstanding individuals under age 40 employed in the fruit and vegetable industry who demonstrate leadership qualities and propel the industry forward.

Wang, who joined UCCE in 2018, focuses his research and extension on innovative production practices to enhance vegetable productivity, water use efficiency and crop health through multidisciplinary collaborations with local producers and various industry and commodity organizations. Using vegetable grafting, precision irrigation tools and managing insects and diseases, he has generated measurable benefits for the vegetable industry.

In one of Wang's projects, growers reported that their successfully grafted watermelon plants produced 15% to 25% more watermelons than non-grafted fields per acre, while using 30% fewer plants and the same amount of water and fertilizers. 

The 40 young professionals represent the best in the industry, according to Vegetable Grower News. The Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Class of 2022 will be honored at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO in December in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and recognized in the October 2022 issues of Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News.

 

Posted on Friday, September 30, 2022 at 1:47 PM

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