Posts Tagged: golden eagles
Cooperative Extension fire advisor and UC graduate students gather around the fire
Besides starting fires for the sake of research, Luca Carmignani, UC Cooperative Extension fire advisor for San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties, has started leveraging his connection to local UC campuses by providing opportunities for hands-on learning.
Early one morning in May, students and staff from UC Irvine and UC Riverside gathered at the South Coast Research and Extension Center to collect data for their own research projects. South Coast REC, located in Irvine, is part of a statewide network of research and education facilities operated by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In one area of the field, graduate students picked leaves and twigs from dried shrubs, carefully placing them in a device that measures moisture content. In another area, a postdoctoral scholar set up a device that records levels of particulate matter, carbon dioxide and other air pollutants emitted by a fire.
Tirtha Banerjee, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Irvine, coordinated the field day with Carmignani. The two first connected as members of iFireNet, an international network of networks that connect people to fire research, when Carmignani was a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley.
Now, the two are collaborating to help environmental science and engineering students realize the potential of their research interests.
Jacquelynn Nguyen, a Ph.D. student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at UC Irvine, is interested in understanding how ash from wildfires and prescribed burns can be used as a treatment for per- and polyfluorinated substances. PFAS are a group of “forever chemicals” that can be found in heat-resistant materials – including fire extinguisher foam – and are extremely difficult to eliminate.
Before Nguyen could collect her ash samples, Carmignani needed to cautiously set the dried shrubs on fire, providing a realistic situation for data collection purposes.
“We're trying to figure out if the ashes from these fires can be used as activated carbon, which could be used as a treatment for PFAS,” said Nguyen. “We want to see if this treatment can basically absorb PFAS and prevent it from traveling into soil and groundwater.”
While Nguyen is concerned about the impact that wildfires have on the land, Soroush Neyestani, a postdoctoral scholar in the Environmental Sciences department at UC Riverside, is interested in its impact on the air quality.
During a fire, it's difficult to determine how much emissions are a result of flames versus smoldering, the process of burning slowly with smoke but no flames, and current air quality models do not provide accurate guidance on this matter. Using an air quality sensor, Neyestani wants to quantify the difference in emission levels during the two phases.
“There are assumptions that 50% of emissions come from smoldering, but every fire is different. Our main objective is to improve the accuracy of air-quality forecasting,” Neyestani said, noting his concern that these assumptions might not be realistic.
Although the field day was created with the students in mind, Carmignani used the opportunity to polish his own research efforts. Since fall 2022, he has been investigating the flammability of low-water use landscape plants based on various irrigation applications.
“Every time we burn, I feel like we get better. We get better data, and we conduct better analysis, and that's really important for us so that we can figure out how we can apply our research and measure its outcome,” said Carmignani.
In addition to welcoming more collaborations with UC campuses and other organizations, Carmignani is hopeful that these combined research efforts will spark an interest in wildfire awareness everywhere.
Public invited to observe prescribed fire training June 4-9
The Monterey Bay area will host part of the first California Central Coast Prescribed Fire Training Exchange, or Cal-TREX.
Fire practitioners from across the state, greater North America and international locations (Spain, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador) are gathering for a Prescribed Fire Training Exchange on June 3-10.
The training is hosted by the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association, which empowers the public to build a culture of “good fire” and helps private landowners conduct prescribed burns in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.
Prescribed burns will be open for the public to observe on various days throughout the training, most likely June 4-9, depending on the weather. Please see the CCPBA webpage for updates on upcoming burns: http://calpba.org/centralcoastpba.
Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX) first came to Northern California in 2013, and have made a dynamic, positive cultural shift concerning prescribed fire, within both regional fire services and the general public. These “good fire” TREX events have drawn significant attention, especially in the context of more severe wildfire seasons.
After months of cross-organizational cooperative planning, participants in the weeklong training will be burning a mix of grassland, oak woodland and shrub vegetation types, and make a lasting, positive change concerning “good fire” on the Central Coast.
The TREX will provide experiential training opportunities to advance regional prescribed fire capacity, while also enhancing research to better understand the ecological response of wild plant and animal species following fire.
At this TREX event, participants will learn how to safely conduct prescribed burns in various vegetation types across three counties. Along with multiple prescribed burns, the weeklong program will include lectures and seminars on local fire ecology of plant and animal species, tribal burning practices and burn planning led by multiple burn bosses and other experts.
Burn locations may include the Nyland property (owned by Trust for Public Land and San Benito Agricultural Land Trust) near San Juan Bautista, the Santa Lucia Conservancy near Carmel Valley and the Kechun Village (owned by the Nason family) in Arroyo Seco.
Be advised, while the CCTREX works closely with the Monterey Bay Air Resources District (MBARD) to assure good smoke dispersal, smoke may be seen and present in these areas during and after a burn. Please see the CCPBA webpage for updates on upcoming burns: http://calpba.org/centralcoastpba.
BurnBot, a new technology featuring a mobile burn chamber, remote-controlled mastication and fire drone systems, will be used for the prescribed burn on June 4. To observe the Nyland burn on June 4, register at https://bit.ly/CCPBApublicRxfire. Details including time and directions will be emailed to registered participants.
Participants and partners include members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, CAL FIRE, local land trusts, scientists, ranchers, students, researchers, land managers and others. The CCPBA is funded by two CAL FIRE wildfire prevention grants.
For more information, contact Jamie Tuitele-Lewis, fire fuel mitigation program and forest health coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Barb Satink Wolfson, UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor, at email@example.com.
Nearly 70% of private label avocado oil rancid or mixed with other oils
Researchers identify key markers to help professional retail buyers choose authentic products
Avocado oil has become a popular choice for many people in recent years because of its heart-healthy benefits and versatility in cooking. However, not all avocado oil products on store shelves are created equal. Some products are labeled as “pure” avocado oil when they contain other oils or additives. No enforceable standards defining the chemical and physical characteristics of avocado oil exist yet.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, analyzed samples of 36 private label avocado oil products and graded them based on quality and purity. Private label products are made by a third-party processor and sold under a grocery store or retailer brand label. Their findings, published in the journal Food Control, show that 31% of the samples tested were pure, and 36% were of advertised quality. Quality refers to whether the oil is fresh or has gone bad due to aging, heat or light exposure. For purity, researchers measured fatty acids, sterols and other components that differentiate avocado oil from other oils.
The study included oils purchased from 19 retailers in the U.S. and Canada with various price points. They found that lower-priced oils were more likely to be tainted with other oils.
“We found that low-cost products indicate a higher probability for adulteration, but high cost didn't guarantee purity or quality,” said Selina Wang, associate professor of Cooperative Extension in the Department of Food Science and Technology. She and Hilary Green, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, co-authored the paper.
Researchers also identified certain chemical markers in avocado oil that professional retail buyers can use to make more informed decisions when it comes to choosing suppliers. This way, consumers can feel confident about the products they buy.
This is the second comprehensive study conducted by UC Davis researchers on the quality of avocado oil sold in the U.S. The first study released in 2020 found that many of the test samples were of poor quality, mislabeled or adulterated with other oils.
“This study demonstrates that although progress is being made in standard development since our first market study in 2020, there are still issues with purity in avocado oil and these issues extend significantly into private label oils,” Wang said.
Avocado oil standards
Since the release of the first UC Davis study, Wang said there's been a coordinated effort by researchers, industry leaders and government agencies to establish enforceable standards. The Avocado Oil Expert Group was formed in collaboration with the American Oil Chemists' Society to discuss potential standards and future research projects.
Wang's research group has been studying how natural factors like different types of avocados, harvest times, geographic origins and processing methods could affect the chemical composition of avocado oil. They want to create standards that will accommodate natural variations while detecting any adulterations.
Wang hopes that the study's findings will contribute to the establishment of standards that benefit both consumers and avocado oil producers who want to compete in a fair market.
“I'm very optimistic for the future of the avocado oil industry,” Wang said. “It's a high-value product with high consumer demand, similar to what I saw with olive oil 10 years ago. Olive oil quality and purity have improved significantly, which is where I see avocado oil going, if we can establish fair standards and eliminate fraudulent products.”/h3>/h3>
$1.5M North Coast project to improve food access even during disasters
New food systems partnership to aid disaster response in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties
To improve people's access to food during disasters, University of California Cooperative Extension advisors Dorina Espinoza and Julia Van Soelen Kim received a combined $1.5 million from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Regional Food Systems Partnership Program and crucial matching contributions from local government, nonprofits and foundations. Over a three-year period, they will create a California North Coast Emergency Food System Partnership across six counties – Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa and Marin – to strengthen local and regional food systems and build community resilience.
“We wouldn't have been able to access these funds without UC providing the backbone,” said project partner Suzi Grady of Petaluma Bounty, an urban farm and food security project. “The trusted relationship with UC allows us to broaden our reach and scope; the neutrality piece is also really important. It's a natural fit for UC to step in.”
Grady added, “I'm excited by this opportunity because UC can provide evaluation, reflect back to us what happens in disasters, and help build our collective capacity when those of us who are busy doing are too busy to step back and reflect. Having academic partners helps us retain institutional knowledge, learn from the past and strategize for the future."
Meredith Knowles with the Del Norte and Tribal Lands Food Security Project agreed, “I have seen so many times that the relationship building, coordinating and making space for sharing is so important and the momentum that comes from that is powerful. I'm excited for the space to share that.”
Learning from past disasters
Following earthquakes in Humboldt County last December, UC Cooperative Extension advisor Espinoza took part in the Community Organizations Active in Disaster or “COAD,” collaborating with local government, agencies and organizations to support a Local Assistance Center in Rio Dell, the town hit hardest by the quakes.
Espinoza and partners worked to connect impacted neighbors with local, state and national services, including ensuring community members could access food right in their community through the local food bank and local food trucks, which prepared meals for residents who were unable to use their kitchens.
In January, with storms in the forecast, Mimi Enright, UCCE Sonoma County community food systems program manager, activated the COAD's Emergency Food Group in Sonoma County. She discussed with Van Soelen Kim, UCCE North Bay food systems advisor, as well as local emergency food providers, how their network could respond to food needs that might arise if flooding occurred.
“Before the storm, we met and asked, ‘What populations might be most impacted? What organizations might be offline because of the storm? Who will be able to deliver groceries and meals to sites in the community?'” Enright explained.
Further north in Del Norte County along the Oregon border, there are limited entry points and no major highways, leaving the region vulnerable to natural disasters. Road access to and from the county is frequently blocked by landslides, wildfires and floods, resulting in disruptions to food deliveries.
The Del Norte and Tribal Lands Community Food Council – a group that works to build a more local food system by providing healthy, culturally appropriate food to families – learned from past closures and from the pandemic the importance of having local and regional systems in place to better respond to the emergencies that impact the isolated area of the state. Their Choice Pacific Pantry includes local products in its food distribution programs and their Pacific Fresh Mobile Market brings food directly to vulnerable rural communities with limited access to nutritious food.
Over the past five years, Northern California has experienced catastrophic wildfires, floods, landslides, drought, earthquakes and the pandemic, all of which have put increasing pressure on local producers, the local/regional food system and emergency food aid.
“Food is implicated in every disaster,” said Patti D'Angelo Juachon with the Marin Community Foundation.
Through the various challenges to their communities, Espinoza, Enright and Van Soelen Kim have extended their expertise related to emergency food systems. Collectively the UCCE team has gained firsthand knowledge about what works well and what doesn't in getting local food to food-insecure community members. They hope to share this knowledge with partners regionally and expand collaboration at a larger scale.
“Local food production is critical to the resilience of the North Coast,” said Lynda Hopkins, Sonoma County District 5 supervisor. “I'm thrilled that UCCE will be working with our farmers to ensure that we can feed our residents healthy, local food no matter what disaster we're facing – be it future flood, fire or pandemic. This is a huge step towards food security for Northern California!”
Collaborating across the North Coast
“The Regional Food Systems Partnership Program will help to build a more resilient and stable food system in times of disaster and in times of stability,” said Heather Irwin, founder of Sonoma Family Meal. “This is very important work for the future of Northern California disaster relief efforts, and we are excited to be part of it. During disasters, Sonoma Family Meal coordinates resources between the restaurant industry and emergency meal providers in order to provide quality emergency meals for those who have been impacted.”
One way the team hopes to strengthen local and regional food systems is by reducing the risk of lost income and creating additional market channels for local food producers in emergency food supply chains. The team also plans to create a network of partners, develop emergency feeding plans, and inventory local emergency food supply chain infrastructure. They also plan to create recommendations for policies and practices that support local/regional emergency food supply chains./h3>
Exploring the complexities of cannabis farming in rural areas
Land use change in agricultural frontiers can have far-reaching social and environmental implications, such as habitat loss, water contamination, or worker demographic shifts — particularly when it involves the rapid expansion of a new industry such as cannabis production. A recent study published in Landscape and Urban Planning offers an interdisciplinary perspective on the drivers of cannabis production in rural areas, using interviews with farmers and spatial modeling to uncover key factors.
Led by researchers from UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) and the Cannabis Research Center, the article “Where money grows on trees: a socio-ecological assessment of land use change in an agricultural frontier” provides a social-ecological systems approach for assessing drivers of cannabis production in Southern Oregon, using interviews with farmers and spatial modeling to uncover key factors.
"Unlike other crops, we have less understanding of where and how cannabis is grown, making it an important area of ongoing research," said Van Butsic, a professor of cooperative extension in ESPM and the senior author of the study.
The researchers interviewed 14 cannabis farmers to identify major themes around their relationships with land use, and used those themes to generate predictors for models of land use change. Most of the interview-derived drivers were significantly associated with cannabis distribution and development, including parcel size, human footprint, distance to the nearest cannabis farm, the density of local cannabis production, clearable land cover, farm zoning, elevation, roughness, and distance to rivers. The interview data also provided insights into the relationship of cannabis with social and environmental dynamics.
“We gained many insights from the interview data,” said lead author and ESPM postdoctoral scholar Phoebe Parker-Shames. “For example, we knew from previous research that cannabis development tends to be clustered, but we understand a little better now that this is related to the ways in which cannabis farmers rely on each other to share knowledge, labor, and navigate uncertainty during difficult policy changes.”
One of the major themes that emerged from the interview data was the environmental stewardship values of the farmers. “There is a large untapped potential for education and management outreach to target farmers who got into this industry in part because of their ability to connect with the land,” Parker-Shames said. “The farmers we spoke to had a genuine desire to learn best practices in an industry without a lot of formal standards for production. I'm grateful that they were willing to share their experiences and insights with us.”
Additional Berkeley co-authors include ESPM professor Justin Brashares and alumni Hekia Bodwitch (PhD '17 ESPM). The study's findings provide valuable insights into the drivers of cannabis production and the environmental stewardship values of cannabis farmers, which can inform environmental policy, regulation, and best practices for sustainable cannabis production.