Posts Tagged: Yana Valachovic
California oak woodlands are highly prized ecoregions where stately trees, many of them hundreds of years old, are cornerstones of a habitat for wildlife and native plants. Sadly, some of these ecosystems are seriously threatened by exotic pests and diseases, encroachment by less desirable vegetation, and wildfire.
Each year, UC Cooperative Extension hosts workshops to share scientific developments aimed at conserving these important habitats – and the economic value of ranching – on oak woodlands, which are found on the lower elevation slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the Coast Range and other foothill areas of California.
Typically, the workshops are held in person and draw moderate-sized audiences for presentations, questions and answers, and field trips. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's workshop was offered online in April with pre-recorded presentations available for viewing at the participants' convenience and a live question-and-answer session on Zoom.
The retooled event garnered 500 registrants, over 300 views of the YouTube videos and 140 participants in the live Q&A session. The presentations and Q&A session are still available online for future viewing as well.
“People from all walks of life participated, including those with professional and personal interest in oak woodlands,” said Yana Valachovic, UCCE forest advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties and a conference organizer.
Presentations at the 2020 conference included the following topics:
Encroachment by Douglas-fir
In Northern California, the biodiversity of oak woodlands is being threatened by Douglas-fir encroachment. The oaks' shade helps the young conifers get established with protection from harsh sun. In time, the fast-growing Douglas-fir trees pierce the oak canopies and begin to crowd out the areas' native understories, which are important for the diversity of birds, mammals and reptiles attracted to oaks.
As the Douglas-fir continue to grow and multiply, they threaten the very lives of the oak trees and the unique ecosystem they dominate.
To better understand the Douglas-fir encroachment, Valachovic established 10 research sites in Humboldt and Mendocino counties to gather information about the fate and the age of oaks. She and her research partners determined the ages of the oaks and firs, and counted the seedlings, saplings, snags and understory vegetation.
“With this research, we were able to demonstrate that even though the oak trees can be smaller in diameter they are much older than the Douglas-fir trees,” Valachovic said. “The encroachment process is happening quickly, and the oaks are falling out of the system.”
The shift appears to have been initiated in the mid-19th and early-20th centuries, coinciding with the Gold Rush and wildfire suppression.
With the data confirming Douglas-fir encroachment, Valachovic turned her attention to oak woodland restoration. At 14 sites in Humboldt and Trinity counties, her team studied the effects of Douglas-fir removal.
“Grasses and forbs under the oaks reestablished. Diameter growth on the oaks increased,” she said.
These research findings contributed directly to changes in policy that had previously limited land owners' ability to remove and sell conifers encroaching on oak woodland. The research also helped create new funding opportunities to support oak woodland restoration and conservation in Northern California.
Case study of oak woodland wildfire recovery
In July 2018, about two-thirds of the 5,289-acre UC Hopland Research and Extension Center was burned by the River Fire.
The transformation of the land, which had likely been without a large wildland fire for at least 100 years, was intense and stressful, said UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor Michael Jones. However, it also provided a unique opportunity for researchers to compare the impact of wildfire on the resiliency of vegetation on grazed and ungrazed oak woodland.
Jones established 35 one-fifth acre research plots at the research center and collected data two months following the fire and one year later. The research will continue in the future to better understand long-term impacts, but Jones was able to share revealing early results at the workshop.
Right after the fire, in severely burned areas areas, the future of the oaks looked ominous. Jones predicted 40% tree mortality.
“The oaks were exposed to persistent, intense heat. They were cooked,” he said. “But two months after the fire, we were already seeing basal sprouts. This was an amazing response by the trees. Oaks are pretty damn tough.”
A year after the fire, surveys showed that tree mortality in the burned areas was 25%, much less than Jones' early predictions. While some management for specific situations in severely burned areas may be necessary – such as removal of hazard trees, reducing fuels in defensible spaces or removal to control invasive species – the results of this work show the trees recover naturally.
“Esthetically, I know these systems aren't as pleasing as they were before, but ecologically, they are healthy and recovering,” he said. “In 100 years, it will look just as good as before the fire.”
Fire impacts in woodland areas previously grazed and not grazed
The fire on the research station also permitted Jones to compare the fire's differing impact on non-grazed and grazed oak woodland. At first, the grazed areas looked almost unscathed with minimal flame scorching on the bark, while an area where the pasture hadn't been grazed for 25 years had evidence of much higher severity fire.
“Grazing is a phenomenal way to help manage fuels,” Jones said. However, the grazed areas displayed ecological shortcomings a year later.
“In grazed pastures, the large mature trees were still alive, but there was no oak regeneration (basal sprouting or seedlings),” Jones said. “In the ungrazed area, a lot of biomass had been killed, but there's nearly 100% resprout of oak trees and we have an impressive amount of oak seedling recruitment.”
Jones said he isn't discouraging grazing.
“But it is important to protect sites from grazing, and especially wildlife browse, when a landowner or land managers' objectives are to regenerate or conserve oak woodlands,” Jones said.
New ambrosia beetle another threat to California oaks
Akif Eskalen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis, has identified a new insect-fungus team that causes oak borer wilt in Northern California Valley and Blue Oaks. It is an ambrosia beetle, commonly known as Mediterranean Oak Borer, which carries several fungi in its mouth. The beetle bores into the tree and introduces fungi to grow for food. The fungi spreads and disturbs the transportation of water and nutrients, causing wilt in the tree.
The oozing and staining lesions on the bark are similar to other oak fungal diseases, such as Sudden Oak Death. The beetle – native of Mediterranean basin countries in Africa, Asia and Europe – cannot fly far, so most likely is transported for long distances on infested firewood.
During the workshop, Eskalen suggested not moving firewood, removing heavily infested trees and chipping infested wood into 1-inch particles to reduce the spread of the ambrosia beetle and its fungal partner. He asked viewers to report any suspected oak tree infestations to the local agricultural commissioner, CDFA Diagnostic Laboratories, UC Cooperative Extension advisors or CALFIRE. Chemical options for sparing oaks from the ambrosia beetles' devastation are under investigation.
Threats to oaks and other native plants from root rotting Phytophthora
Restoration plantings have inadvertently introduced plant pathogens to native oak woodland ecosystems in California, said Ted Swiecki of Phytosphere Research, an organization that provides consulting services related to natural resource management, horticulture, urban forestry, and agriculture. The group of pathogens causing the damage are largely from the Phytophthora genus, first described in the 1860s. The name translates from Greek to “plant destroyer.”
Swiecki has observed when Phytophthora infested plants and soils are introduced to native habitats, the pathogens can attack various native plants, including toyon, madrone, manzanita and full-grown oaks. Once established, the pathogen can spread along drainages, by moving soil from one area to another and by hitchhiking on equipment, tires and hiking boots.
The pathogen can easily be overlooked at nurseries, which, by their nature, have conditions that favor Phytophthora development. Plants at nurseries are well watered, have high root density and are often placed on the ground where they can pick up pathogens.
He said the best approach to tackling Phytophthora is not using nursery stock for restoration or beautification of natural oak woodland. Direct seeding, using natural regeneration, or onsite propagation are safer ways to enhance vegetation in oak woodland.
“It's easier to prevent Phytophthora from being introduced in the first place and much cheaper and more effective than trying to eradicate it later,” Siewcki said.
Wrapping up a remarkable 37-year career with UC ANR, Richard B. Standiford IV, UC Cooperative Extension forest management specialist at UC Berkeley, will retire June 30.
In addition to being a highly regarded forestry expert, Standiford served as UC ANR's associate vice president from 2005 to 2009, and provided stability for the division as acting vice president during the 11-month transition from Reg Gomes stepping down to retire until Daniel Dooley succeeded him as vice president in 2008.
“There are a select few individuals who both excel at research, teaching, service and outreach and can lead and motivate others to try to do the same. Rick belongs to this rarest subspecies of academic,” said Keith Gilless, dean of the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, who has worked with Standiford for 35 years.
In 1980, after working two years as a research and extension forester at Purdue University, Standiford joined UC Cooperative Extension at UC Berkeley. The New Jersey native developed a research and extension program focused on sound management of California's forests, rangelands and other natural resources.
Standiford “personifies all that is best about Cooperative Extension,” said Maggi Kelly, director of the UC ANR Statewide Informatics and Geographic Information Systems Program, professor and Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy & Management at UC Berkeley.
His legacy in Cooperative Extension continued to grow as associate vice president of ANR, says Peggy Mauk, former director for Central Coast and South Region.
“Rick empowered people, empowered regional directors and county directors to implement programs for the betterment of California,” Mauk said. “Rick had the ability to bridge the gap between administrative concepts and regional (county) implementation. He wanted to know how higher level decisions would impact ANR's county-based personnel and programs and then adjust for those impacts. Above all, Rick valued people and positions, and supported the ANR mission.”
He also has provided leadership for county Cooperative Extension advisors developing programs in forestry and conservation of oak woodlands.
“Rick has a tremendous ability to pull people together,” said Yana Valachovic, UCCE director and forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, noting his leadership in getting people to work together to contain sudden oak death disease. “It takes passion, vision and an ability to communicate effectively.”
While tackling the emerging forest disease, Standiford also devoted time to mentoring young scientists.
“Early in 2000, Rick bounced into my office with the news that he had found emergency funds to study the disease, and had assembled a team of pathologists, ecologists, arborists, homeowners and forest managers to attack the problem,” said Kelly, a remote-sensing expert. “Rick asked if I would be able to use the money to fly to Marin County and develop critical baseline maps of the nascent disease. I was, and I did, and that generosity and foresight launched my applied research and extension program at Berkeley.”
“The disease was subsequently named Sudden Oak Death, and in 2015 ANR was been given a nationwide award in extension for its timely, quality, impactful multidisciplinary approach to the disease,” Kelly said, “and it all started with Rick.”
Standiford said working with people was the part of his career he enjoyed most. He recalled driving with UCCE colleagues to Mariposa County to deliver a workshop on managing oaks.
“The sun was setting, it's pretty dark, pretty desolate and we're wondering, ‘Is anybody going to be at the workshop?'” Standiford said. “At the grange hall in Catheys Valley, there's a ton of pickup trucks and cars. Inside, everybody is excited that the university has shown up to help figure out how to manage their trees. That's what my job has been about. It was always a lot of fun.”
An early adopter of technology, Standiford has used webinars to teach oak woodland management from a distance. While acknowledging the convenience of virtual meetings, he said, “I hope we don't lose sight of the value of personal contact.”
From 1985 to 1987, Standiford served as ANR program director for natural resources, leading efforts in forestry, wood products, wildlife and range management.
From 1988 to 1999, Standiford led collaboration among UC, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the California Department of Fish and Game for the ANR statewide Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program, which was established in 1986 by the California Legislature to address poor oak regeneration and ongoing woodland losses. The program continued for 23 years until its budget was cut in 2009.
At UC Berkeley, he coordinated all Cooperative Extension activities in the Department of Forestry and Resource Management from 1989 to 1993, served as associate dean for forestry and director of the Center for Forestry from 1998 to 2002 in the College of Natural Resources, and oversaw the College's capital projects program, space planning and research infrastructure as associate dean for forestry and capital projects from 2002 to 2004.
In retirement, Standiford plans to teach at the UC forestry camp and remain active with the Society of American Foresters. He also plans to travel with his wife, Judy, and spend time coaching and camping with his five grandchildren
“I have been blessed with the most wonderful job in the world,” Standiford said. “The best part was the honor of working with such wonderful people on campus, in the counties, and the wide group of landowners and managers who taught me so much.”
As we wrap up 2016, I want to take a moment to thank you for everything you've done on behalf of UC ANR this year. Whether you are conducting research, organizing extension programs, teaching nutrition, leading volunteers or quietly working behind the scenes to support our various activities, your work makes a huge difference in the lives of all Californians.
In addition to those activities, many of you also took the time to give feedback to the recent strategic planning exercise, gathered to exchange ideas at the Research to Policy conference, or contributed to enhancing the UC ANR mission in many other ways. A special thanks to the folks who chaired a committee, led a program team or served as county director – having strong, passionate leaders at every level of this organization is what makes us effective.
We are continuing to grow in numbers as hiring outpaces retirements. In 2016, 29 academics joined UC ANR and three more are poised to start in 2017. We also established four new endowed chairs with matching funds from UC President Janet Napolitano, the California Rice Research Board, the California Pistachio Research Board and, recently, the Orange County Farm Bureau. Thanks to the hard work of many stakeholders – both internal and external – we identified 26 academic positions (http://ucanr.edu/sites/anrstaff/files/253192.pdf) for a new round of hiring priorities over the next two years.
At the request of President Napolitano, we've submitted a five-year plan for UC ANR that will help us operationalize the Strategic Vision 2025 in a very thoughtful and timely manner. The next step is to further develop specific action plans for implementation and ensure the financial stability to support our vision. After the winter break, we will share the plan with the UC ANR community, as well as external stakeholders, and invite additional input as we move forward.
I'm very excited about 2017! Some great groundwork has been laid this past year to further enhance our ability to deliver the UC ANR mission and enjoy new partnerships. I hope you will have a chance to relax and enjoy the holidays with friends and family and return refreshed to tackle the challenges that await us in the new year.
DANRIS-X has been updated and will eventually be replaced with the newly created Project Board for UCCE specialists and advisors. When DANRIS-X opens for reporting, users will see a reduced number of data fields and an aesthetic refresh.
Project Board will open for 2018 reporting and will have an improved user experience and simplified data entry. Special thanks to the Project Board Academic Advisory Committee and Project Team for their continued involvement. More information can be found at http://ucanr.edu/sites/anrstaff/Divisionwide_Planning/Program_Planning_and_Evaluation/DANRIS-X/.
Upcoming dates and action items:
- DANRIS-X opens Jan. 9
- All CE specialists are invited to the Zoom webinar trainings offered on Jan. 20, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., or Jan. 24, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Topics include an overview of the reporting system, what and why we report, etc.
- Actions: Complete Annual Report for FY 2016 and Annual Plan for FY 2017 by March 6, 2017, at midnight.
- DANRIS-X opens on Feb. 2
- All CE advisors are invited to the Zoom webinar trainings offered on Feb. 6, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., or Feb. 7, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Topics include an overview of the reporting system, what and why we report, etc.
- Actions: Complete Annual Report & CASA for FY 2017 and Annual Plan for FY 2018 by Oct. 30, 2017, at midnight.
If you have questions or comments, please contact Kit Alviz, Program Planning and Evaluation, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 987-0027.
Mary Maffly Ciricillo brings more than 20 years of professional experience to her new role as the director of Annual Giving for UC ANR. She comes to ANR from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, where she was director of Development & Alumni Relations, steward of the Business Partnership Program and point person on building connections, community and involvement of the school's alumni.
Ciricillo has spent the last 10 years in diverse roles at UC Davis, creating and growing programs that help further university goals. She launched UC Davis goClub, the campus alternative and sustainable transportation program. To get goClub rolling, Ciricillo signed on sponsors, built new relationships across campus and the business community, and revved up the marketing plan to encourage campus commuting options, such as carpool, vanpool, bike, walk, bus and train.
Before joining UC Davis, Ciricillo was an account executive in the communications industry, developing branding and marketing solutions. Her clients included The Gap, Oracle, Knight Ridder Newspapers, the San Francisco Ballet and the Tech Museum of Innovation in Silicon Valley.
She earned a B.A. in history with a minor in business from San Francisco State University.
Based in Davis, Ciricillo can be reached at (530) 750-1302, cell (530) 219-1085 and email@example.com.
Karle and Lightle on team honored for conservation innovation
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and California Association of Resource Conservation Districts presented its prestigious Excellence in Innovation award to the Glenn County Soil Partnership, which includes the Glenn County Resource Conservation District, UC Cooperative Extension in Glenn County and the NRCS field office in Willows.
Betsy Karle, UCCE county director and dairy advisor, and Dani Lightle, UCCE orchard systems advisor, both based in Glenn County, are among the partners working together to promote and encourage healthy soils and greatly increased local interest among farmers. Their goal is to increase awareness of the importance of soil health and to create a forum for farmers to share information and learn from each other. To ensure a locally led process, the partners created a farmer-led Steering and Technical Advisory Committee made up of farmers and local experts.
“Dani Lightle was a key player in the process and she has taken the opportunity to tackle some very interesting questions about cover cropping in orchards,” said Karle. “UCCE specialist Jeff Mitchell has also been a key motivator and has logged hundreds of miles and countless hours to support the effort.”
“Your partnership is bringing back a focus on conservation planning, technical assistance and management change motivated by the desire to enhance the health of the soil resource,” said NRCS state conservationist Carlos Suarez, who presented the award.
“You wisely chose to root your leadership in local farmers and agencies, combining agency and university technical knowledge with private business skills and real world know-how. This makes your partnership credible and inspiring to local farmers who are open to improving the health of their soil.”
“This is the best way to engage our customers in conservation planning that results in regenerative agriculture and ecological benefits,” Suarez said.
The Soil Partnership received the award on Nov. 17 during the 71st annual California Association of Resource Conservation Districts' conference in Ontario.
UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor Sabrina Drill has been elected to the board of the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach Service Programs (ANROSP). Drill is associate director of the UC California Naturalist Program.
ANROSP is the national organization in which master naturalist programs from around the country share methods and information to train naturalists, build local and statewide communities, and support their efforts to protect, enhance, understand, and teach the public about each state's unique natural history.
“As a board member, the things I am most keen to work on are strengthening efforts to professionalize participatory citizen science, and build bonds with groups like the new Citizen Science Association and communities of practice like SciStarter,” Drill said. “In addition, I want to build on our individual efforts to increase the demographic diversity of naturalists.”
Drill's role in the national organization will support the continued growth and development of the California Naturalist program, which was established in 2012.
“Working across states, I think we'd like to again see how we might garner national support to grow our programs, and see where we can use nationally developed educational and evaluation tools,” Drill said. “For example, we recently published a paper in Conservation Biology with Virginia Master Naturalist looking at how our training programs enhanced individuals' experiences as citizen scientists, and the opportunity to compare programs was very enlightening. Being an active part of ANROSP leadership can enhance these efforts.”
ANROSP holds a national conference each year in September, where it presents awards in five categories: program of the year, outstanding educational materials, outstanding team, outstanding volunteer project and outstanding program evaluation. In 2015, the UC ANR California Naturalist program was named the “program of the year” by ANROSP