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First national celebration for citizen science in April

Citizen science is really picking up steam with the White House honoring 12 “Champions of Change” for their dedication to increasing public engagement in science and science literacy and the recent launching of a new Citizen Science Association. This year the momentum continues and everyone will be able to celebrate the first national Citizen Science Day on April 16, 2016, when the Citizen Science Association and SciStarter will promote and inspire organizations around the country to host events in celebration of public participation in scientific research. A major celebration will be held in conjunction with the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. This will kick off a series of citizen science open houses and activities to be locally sponsored by science centers, museums, libraries, universities and schools, and federal agencies nationwide.

What is “citizen science” exactly? Citizen science involves engaging non-professionals in scientific research. While applied across many disciplines of science, including biochemistry, astronomy, and psychology, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Naturalist Program (CalNat) specifically empowers participants and partners to use citizen science to inform natural resource management. To understand and protect natural resources, scientists and decision makers often need information over long time periods and across many locations. Citizen science is one crowd-sourced

Naturalists in the Sierra Streams Institute California Naturalist course conduct water quality surveys.
approach to gathering that information. More feet on the ground can translate into more data collection to fill any gaps in knowledge. Because we live in an increasingly connected and technology-driven world, the potential of citizen science to solve real-world problems is considerable. Low-tech ways to engage in citizen science exist, but with the advent of hand-held devices, apps, high resolution camera phones, and Internet connections that know no geographic boundaries, the public is a particularly well outfitted resource for ecological data collection.

The CalNat Program has incorporated citizen science in the training curriculum from the program's inception. One of the program's primary goals is to increase public participation in natural resource conservation and citizen science projects throughout the state. Each partnering organization offering a CalNat certification course must adopt a class citizen science project so that each course participant gains experience in data collection and entry. Course participants are introduced to the interactive, on-line iNaturalist tool, where users can record observations from nature, develop online species lists and journals, meet other naturalists, and contribute to research-grade observations at the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. While some partner organizations already have an active

Back in the lab, Sierra Streams Institute Naturalists learn how to analyze their water samples for macro invertebrates and contaminants.
go-to citizen science project, other partners may decide to choose a project from the CalNat Program's public, vetted online database of California citizen science and PPSR projects, the largest of its kind in this state. The searchable citizen science database is a useful tool for anyone who is eager to explore the myriad of citizen science opportunities, to get or stay involved in a particular field, and to keep developing new skills and interests.

Together, with the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs (ANROSP), we anticipate celebrating the first national Citizen Science Day on April 16 with our 16 scheduled spring California Naturalist courses and the 26 other Naturalist programs around the nation.

California Naturalists contribute to a variety of citizen science projects.
California Naturalists contribute to a variety of citizen science projects.

Posted on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 7:05 AM

The UC Pest Management Guidelines just got spicier!

Whether or not your favorite team is playing in Sunday's big game, the Super Bowl is often a great excuse to gather with friends and family and enjoy some tasty treats. Maybe your favorite snack involves chips with salsa or guacamole, or perhaps you prefer shrimp with a delicious avocado dip. Whatever your snack of choice, chances are that you might spice it up with a little cilantro or parsley.

Cilantro and parsley growers have something else to be happy about: The UC Statewide IPM Program just released new Pest Management Guidelines for Cilantro and Parsley.

Cilantro and parsley are herbs used both fresh and dry for preparation of many popular dishes in almost all parts of the world including California. Apart from their pleasant flavor, both plants are also known for a number of nutritional and health benefits.

In California, cilantro and parsley are grown commercially on more than 7,000 acres, primarily along the southern and central coast. Cilantro (also known as Chinese or Mexican parsley) and parsley are examples of specialty vegetable crops important in crop rotations and in contributing to California's overall agricultural diversity.

Cabbage looper larvae can contaminate leaves, reducing crop marketability.
Although pest problems aren't too common for home gardeners growing cilantro or parsley, for commercial growers, crop damage due to insect pests
Bacterial leaf spot on cilantro can be a serious problem.
and diseases may be devastating and cause important economic losses.The new UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for cilantro and parsley provide pest and management information for insects pests (including beet armyworm, cabbage looper, and aphids), diseases (including apium virus Y, bacterial leaf spot, carrot motley dwarf, cilantro yellow blotch, Fusarium wilt, and septoria leaf spot), and nematodes. Because weed management costs can be very high in cilantro and parsley unless weed control programs are carefully planned and implemented, a comprehensive weed management section is also included.

Check out the new guidelines and other pest management information on the UC IPM website.

Posted on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Research can help Californians live safely with wildlife

A ewe and her lamb at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. (Photo: Robert Keiffer)
Winter is typically lambing season on Northern California sheep ranches - a perilous time of year. Baby lambs are vulnerable prey for wildlife like coyotes, mountain lions and bears. With increasing numbers of wildlife, both rural and urban neighborhoods are being impacted.

At the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center, we are braced for our first winter under a new policy that minimizes the use of lethal control against native wildlife that prey on our lambs and ewes. As director of the 5,300-acre Mendocino County research facility, I'm nervous for the well-being of our 500 sheep and lambs soon to be born. 

The animals are defenseless, therefore it is our responsibility to protect them from predation by wildlife or other animals, such as domestic dogs. Many non-lethal methods of protecting the sheep have been implemented over the past several months. We installed and repaired fences and brought in five new guard dogs to protect the sheep.

Our new practices seemed to work last spring and summer. We can't draw research conclusions from one year of data, but the number of sheep confirmed killed by wild carnivores in 2015 was much smaller than the year before, 10 vs. 48. And the number of coyotes taken so far in 2014 – 15 – was about half the amount in 2014.

I'm encouraged by the numbers. But we want to do better. As a University of California research center, Hopland is the ideal place to study ways for sheep ranchers throughout Northern California to maintain sustainable flocks even in the presence of the growing, and increasingly diverse, wildlife population. At Hopland, we are interested in learning more about how to prevent conflicts with wild animals and reduce the need for lethal control of wildlife. This information will inform policies for wildlife control in cities, rural areas and on ranches.

The Hopland REC was a working sheep ranch when it was purchased by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources for rangeland and animal management research in 1951. From the 1990s to the 2000s, 10 to 15 percent of lambs or more were killed each year by predators – mainly coyotes – despite aggressive non-lethal and legal lethal control, according to Bob Timm, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist who served as director of the station for 30 years before retiring in 2014.

We will always have predators threatening our sheep. We need research-based information to inform us how to deal with them humanely while maintaining economically viable ranching operations in Mendocino County and throughout California.

Justin Brashares, a professor of wildlife ecology at UC Berkeley, has developed a research plan for the center. We are seeking funding and, in the coming years, will use Hopland as a living laboratory to answer many questions scientists and ranchers have about wildlife in Northern California. The research will help us estimate the wildlife population. We plan to use high-technology GPS collars on prey and predator species to develop very fine-scale information about their interactions. Hopland will also be a site to study the very fencing we and other sheep producers are earnestly installing to protect our sheep from hungry carnivores.

I believe we are lucky to have the wildlife among us. I'm committed to helping our community protect wildlife and raise sheep with research and education programs at Hopland. 

We will always have predators threatening our sheep. We need research-based information to inform us how to deal with them humanely while maintaining economically viable ranching operations in Mendocino County and throughout California.

Posted on Friday, January 15, 2016 at 8:53 AM
  • Author: Kimberly Rodrigues

International experts to discuss water pricing Feb. 2-3 in Sacramento

Although rain has begun falling in California after four years of drought, living with limited water is the new normal for Californians, according to University of California water experts. To manage its water for the future, California needs to look into a long-term set of policies that change the way water is valued and used in the state.

On Feb. 2 and 3, international experts will convene in Sacramento to share their experiences with the use of market-based incentives to address water scarcity. The workshop “Water Pricing for a Dry Future: Policy Ideas from Abroad and their Relevance to California” will be held at the University of California Center at 1130 K Street in Sacramento. The public is welcome to attend.

“The workshop will provide an opportunity for individuals in various sectors to interact with scholars from several countries who will illustrate how water-pricing mechanisms have been used creatively in their countries to promote water conservation,” said Ariel Dinar, UC Riverside professor of environmental economics and policy, who is co-organizing the workshop.

Experts from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Israel, South Africa, Spain and California, will present their water-pricing cases. California-based researchers, water district staff, representatives of government agencies and policymakers will be participating in the workshop.

“The discussions will help people realize how economic incentives might be used to address some of the challenges faced by California's water economy,” Dinar said.

Policies to address water scarcity include water-use quotas, water rights trading, promotion of water conservation technologies, and water pricing. Available water-pricing mechanisms can range from simple cost recovery to sophisticated economic incentives in the form of budget block-rate structures.

The workshop is sponsored by the University of California Center at Sacramento, UC Riverside School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

For more information about the workshop, visit http://spp.ucr.edu/waterpricing. Registration is free, but space is limited and Jan. 26 is the last day to register.

Posted on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 3:46 PM
Tags: Ariel Dinar (1), drought (29), Water (11), water pricing (1)

Pastured poultry farm to foster innovation for small chicken farms

Student creators of the Eggmobile. (Photo: Don Preisler)
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) provided seed money to launch a new Pastured Poultry Farm at UC Davis. The farm is home to 150 young chickens and a living laboratory where students and faculty researchers hope to develop innovative solutions benefiting pasture-based farms, integrative crop-and-poultry farms and backyard flocks.

Pasture-based chicken production offers many benefits as well as some challenges in terms of food safety, animal health and welfare, and environmental impacts, said Maurice Pitesky, UC ANR Cooperative Extension poultry specialist with the School of Veterinary Medicine and co-leader of the poultry project.

The new 4.5-acre farm, located about one mile west of the central UC Davis campus, includes a seeded, irrigated pasture, where the chickens can forage. In the center is a bright red student-built Eggmobile for night time housing. The ‘coop on wheels' can be strategically moved around the land for consistent fertilization. The pasture uses a portable electronic fence to protect against predators and is surrounded by a 50-foot band of uncultivated land to serve as a wildlife buffer.

“This is a unique innovation, research and outreach resource for the Western United States,” Pitesky said. “The project includes faculty and students with expertise in veterinary medicine, husbandry, welfare, pasture management and engineering, which allows us to address issues related to predator control, welfare, food safety and food efficiency.”

Debbie Niemeier, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and her team have already developed a number of innovations for the project, including a tarp-pulley system, portable-shade and predator-mitigation structures, an automatic watering system, and modular roll-out nest boxes.

One of the advantages of the pasture-based system is the opportunity for a farmer to integrate chicken production with a farm's existing cropping system, with the chickens providing natural fertilizer for the crops.

“It's also a way for crop farmers to move into poultry production without expanding their land or adding nitrogen fertilizer to their farming system,” Pitesky said.

Chickens walking the ramp to the Eggmobile. (Photo: Don Preisler)
The new project is largely driven by students - drawn from the School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Engineering, and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - who designed and constructed the Eggmobile. The mobile barn includes 32 nest boxes, each capable of accommodating several chickens. As it is moved to different locations in the pasture, chicken droppings gradually fertilize the grass. The student and faculty research teams will be delving into issues involving diseases and chicken health, predation by wildlife, and occupational health for workers.

Eggs produced by the project's flock will initially be donated to food shelters. The potential for eventual egg sales to the community is being explored. Eventually, the research team hopes to construct multiple Eggmobiles with different designs, and in time would like to expand the project to include broiler chickens, as well as cropping systems that integrate poultry, in order to fully maximize the potential of the land for food production.

A list of donors and other information about the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm can be found online. The School of Veterinary Medicine has established an online site where individuals interesting in supporting the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm financially can make donations.

Author: Patricia Bailey

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