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.”
“We visited offices of 26 of California's 55-member congressional delegation in two days!” said Lucas Frerichs, government and community relations manager.
On March 6-9, a UC ANR delegation attended the 35th Annual Council on Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET) meetings in Washington D.C. CARET is part of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). They also made congressional visits to explain the importance of science and research to California.
good work UC ANR is doing throughout California, whether it's through our Cooperative Extension efforts, 4-H Youth Development program, nutrition programs, Integrated Pest Management, Master Gardeners, etc.,” Frerichs said, “and the value that Californians receive from the money Congress allocates to the university for UC ANR programs.”
Vice President Glenda Humiston was joined by AVP Wendy Powers, UCB College of Natural Resources Dean Keith Gilless, UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences Dean Kathryn Uhrich, Nutrition Policy Institute Director Lorrene Ritchie, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist Clare Gupta, Chief Innovation Officer Gabe Youtsey, and Frerichs. Industry partners Bill Frost, former UC ANR AVP; Cher Watte, executive director of the California Asparagus Commission; Mike Mellano, fresh cut flower grower; Dina Moore, Humboldt County rancher; and Jean-Mari Peltier, managing partner of Environmental Solutions Group, served as CARET delegates from California.
The group split up into teams to visit the offices of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, agriculture committee members, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and other California representatives.
Although no U.S. secretary of agriculture had been confirmed at the time of their visit, members expressed their support for agriculture.
“One thing that members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats – can certainly agree on is that the support for agriculture and the University of California is strong,” Frerichs said.
Read more about the CARET visits in Powers' ANR Adventures blog.
Mark Bell will join UC ANR on May 1 as Vice Provost–Statewide Programs/Strategic Initiatives position. Bell is director of the UC Davis International Learning Center, a position he has held since 2007.
In this newly created position, Bell will provide leadership for a unified UC ANR program with strong statewide, campus and local presences. He will oversee the California Institute for Water Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute, the five UC ANR Strategic Initiatives and the nine UC ANR Statewide Programs. In addition, he will coordinate the Division's participation in the UC Presidential Initiatives, including the Global Food, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UC-Mexico and Carbon Neutrality initiatives.
“Mark's record of success working with international extension systems in the combined roles of manager and field researcher makes him the ideal choice to serve as Vice Provost–Statewide Programs/Strategic Initiatives,” said VP Humiston in announcing his hiring.
“UC ANR can benefit from his skills and experience in leveraging research-extension linkages, adult education and information technology for agricultural development,” she said. Prior to joining UC Davis, Bell, who speaks Spanish, worked for nine years at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico and 11 years at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines.
At IRRI, he led development of the Rice Knowledge Bank – the world's major repository for rice-oriented training and extension materials aimed to help developing countries. He is currently leading development of Ag Extension, eAfghan Ag and e-China Apple at UC Davis International Learning Center.
As vice provost, he will serve on the UC ANR Program Council and collaborate closely with the Vice Provost of Cooperative Extension and the Director of the Research and Extension Center System. He will be located in the offices at 2801 Second Street in Davis.
Bell has a Ph.D. in soil science and bachelor's degree in agricultural sciences from the University of Queensland in Australia and a master's degree in soil science from the University of Reading, U.K.
Cassandra Swett joined UCCE on Jan. 2, 2017, as an assistant specialist in Cooperative Extension in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis.
Prior to joining UCCE, Swett was an assistant professor and extension specialist at the University of Maryland, College Park, studying small fruit and grape diseases. Previously, Swett worked as a postdoctoral researcher with Doug Gubler, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis.
Swett earned her B.S. in plant science from UC Santa Cruz, an M.S. in tropical plant pathology from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis.
Swett is located at 260 Hutchison Hall and can be reached at (530) 752-3377 and email@example.com.
Stephanie Parreira joined UC IPM as a writer/editor on Feb. 13. Parreira will develop new and evaluate existing publications and products such as the "Pest Management Guidelines," year-round IPM programs, online tutorials, videos, identification cards, and other training materials. She will also assist UC IPM's urban and community IPM team with training courses about the principles of integrated pest management for UC Master Gardeners and other extenders of pest management information.
As a graduate student, Parreira sought to fill five major research gaps in honey bee pesticide toxicology: effects on whole colonies, effects on nurse bees (the youngest adult bees in a honey bee colony, which do not leave to collect pollen and nectar), effects of long-term exposure to field-realistic concentrations of pesticides, pesticide interactions, and effects of exposure through multiple routes (such as nectar and pollen). Outside of her research, she took many opportunities to speak to the public about current problems in bee health and what people can do to help bees thrive. She became especially interested in working in extension because of these experiences.
Parreira earned a B.A. in environmental studies and planning with a minor in biology from Sonoma State University in 2013, and earned an M.S. in horticulture with a focus in entomology from Oregon State University in 2016.
Parreira is located at the ANR building in Davis and can be reached at (530) 750-1391 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Purnell joined the Statewide IPM Program on Feb. 2 as a programmer. He will be working on developing tools for the web that will enhance and add to the existing UC IPM products. Some of these tools include improving and upgrading the plant problem diagnostics tool, IPM decision support tool, bee precaution pesticide ratings, and herbicide symptoms photo repository.
Before joining UC IPM, Purnell was a project manager and technical lead for Intel Corporation in Folsom, CA where he and his team developed code and designed technical diagrams to integrate Intel's administrative systems with third party on-premise and cloud solutions.
Purnell earned his B.S. and M.S. in computer science at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University.
Purnell is based at the ANR building in Davis, with the IPM IT/Production team, and can be reached at (530) 750-1248 and email@example.com.
Ag Day at the Capitol was held in Sacramento on March 22. On Monday, March 20, Lucas Frerichs, Tyler Ash, Pam Kan-Rice and Meredith Turner of UC State Government Relations, visited the offices of all 120 legislators and the governor and lieutenant governor to invite them to visit the UC ANR booth at Ag Day. They handed out bags of UC-developed "Tango" mandarins, explaining that the seedless, easy-to-peel citrus variety is one of many California crops developed with UC ANR research.
We'll have more coverage of Ag Day at the Capitol in the next ANR Report.