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Posts Tagged: UC Davis

College students create wildlife habitats in a Wild Campus program

Students prepare to plant oak seedlings.
Put together a group of hard-working, do-good college students who care about environmental issues, and you end up with a really “Wild Campus.” At UC Davis, students formed the student-run Wild Campus organization two years ago to conserve wildlife in the greater UC Davis area.

Working with campus experts (such as faculty and staff in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology) and local environmental and conservation organizations, the volunteer students are improving the habitats for local wildlife and engaging the public in hands-on activities.

This is an extraordinary program that gives the students real-world environmental management skills, along with leadership opportunities and communications experience. Professor John Eadie, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at UC Davis, said of the Wild Campus program, “Hands-on activity is a huge part of the educational experience.”

Students plant tules in Putah Creek.
In the UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, the students are establishing wildlife habitat areas and monitoring populations of amphibians, birds, fish, insects, mammals, and reptiles. They will record the changes over the course of time. Recent work in the riparian reserve (aka “the living classroom”) has included planting native oak seedlings, and installing tule plants to provide protection for the Western Pond Turtle, a species of concern.

A past project — Build a Wild Home Day — involved working with the UC Davis Arboretum on a successful public outreach program to build bird and bat boxes for installation on campus. (Great photos of this program are on the group’s Facebook page.)

The Wild Campus organization has a large cadre of eager and dedicated students who are improvising and making the most of limited resources. However, they are in need of donated field equipment (used equipment is fine) and financial contributions.

Visit the Wild Campus website and Facebook page for a feel-good look at what these ambitious students are doing to improve the environment, along with ways you can help them succeed.

A juvenile Western Pond Turtle.
A healthy turtle habitat, a few months after planting.

Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Institute ushers in new era of marine sciences

The new Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute at UC Davis will bring a new undergraduate program in marine sciences, a spruced-up Bodega Marine Laboratory, and enhanced opportunities for collaboration and education among marine scientists spread across UC Davis.

From the laboratories at the university’s main campus near the state’s political center of Sacramento to the shores of Bodega Bay on California’s north coast, a diverse group of marine scientists and policymakers at UC Davis has been studying the most critical issues affecting oceans, and the creatures and people who depend on them. Now, the Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute will begin to connect, strengthen, and leverage those efforts.

UC Davis evolution and ecology professor Rick Grosberg (above) is the institute’s founding director.

“I hope to take the incredible expertise on our main campus and at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory to assemble a comprehensive, interdisciplinary program in marine science,” said Grosberg. “One of our goals is to pull together an exceptionally strong and diverse group of faculty and really build the health of the coastal ocean.”

The institute’s work primarily will focus on coastal Northern California — from north of Monterey to the California-Oregon border.

Ten faculty currently reside at Bodega Marine Laboratory, while 69 campus faculty consider themselves marine scientists. By providing a collaborative framework, the institute aims to enhance opportunities for research, teaching, outreach and stakeholder engagement surrounding marine sciences.

The Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute features four key components, expected to be rolled out over the next five years:

  • Research enterprises that use novel combinations of existing expertise at UC Davis in the physical, biological and social sciences to address issues affecting coastal and ocean environments.
  • New degree programs. CMSI plans to introduce a highly interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program in marine sciences, expected to launch in 2014. New graduate and professional training programs in marine sciences are also being developed.
  • The Bodega Learning Center aims to educate and engage the public — from “K to gray” — about marine and coastal issues. It will be located at Bodega Marine Laboratory, with plans to further develop visitor exhibits and programs for schools, professional training and lifelong learning throughout Northern California. 
  • The Center for Coastal Ocean Issues will provide a forum for engaging with stakeholders, from the beginning, to identify and address challenges related to human, natural and economic coastal health. This includes bringing together scientists, government agencies, policymakers, ocean industries and the public.

The UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory sits amid the Bodega Marine Reserve about 100 miles west from the UC Davis campus and is ideally located for studying coastal health and human impacts that could affect it. The facility is in one of the world’s four major upwelling areas, which are highly productive — yielding 20 percent of global fish production while occupying less than 1 percent of the ocean surface area. BML is also near one of the most densely populated regions of the state — the San Francisco Bay area — where coastlines are increasingly impacted by human activities. 

The laboratory was founded in 1960 by UC Berkeley and was transferred to UC Davis in 1983. Recent work includes research on ocean acidification and climate change, invasive species, fisheries management, the effects of oil spills on marine life, and a program to bring back the endangered white abalone from the brink of extinction.

Posted on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 9:00 AM
  • Contributor: John Stumbos
  • Author: Katherine Kerlin

Cattle grazing and clean water not mutually exclusive

Cattle grazing and clean water can coexist on national forest lands, according to research by the University of California, Davis.

The study, published June 27 in the journal PLOS ONE, is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date.

Cattle graze a meadow in Plumas National Forest. Credit: Anne Yost/USDA Forest Service


“There’s been a lot of concern about public lands and water quality, especially with cattle grazing,” said lead author Leslie Roche, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We’re able to show that livestock grazing, public recreation and the provisioning of clean water can be compatible goals.”

Roughly 1.8 million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western United States each year, the study said. In California, 500 active grazing allotments support 97,000 livestock across 8 million acres on 17 national forests.

“With an annual recreating population of over 26 million, California’s national forests are at the crossroad of a growing debate about the compatibility of livestock grazing with other activities dependent upon clean, safe water,” the study’s authors write.
UC Davis postdoctoral scholar and lead author Leslie Roche takes a water sample from a public grazing land. Credit: Kenneth Tate/UC Davis

“We often hear that livestock production isn’t compatible with environmental goals,” said principal investigator Kenneth Tate, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “This helps to show that’s not absolutely true. There is no real evidence that we’re creating hot spots of human health risk with livestock grazing in these areas.”

The study was conducted in 2011, during the grazing and recreation season of June through November. Nearly 40 UC Davis researchers, ranchers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service staff and environmental stakeholders went out by foot and on horseback, hiking across meadows, along campsites, and down ravines to collect 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California.

These areas stretched from Klamath National Forest to Plumas, Tahoe, Stanislaus and Shasta-Trinity national forests. They included key cattle grazing areas, recreational lands and places where neither cattle nor humans tend to wander.

UC Davis researchers analyzed the water samples for microbial and nutrient pollution, including fecal indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorous.

The scientists found that recreation sites were the cleanest, with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria. They found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall, 83 percent of all sample sites and 95 percent of all water samples collected were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks for human health.

The study noted that several regional regulatory programs use different water quality standards for fecal bacteria. For instance, most of the study’s sample sites would exceed levels set by a more restrictive standard based on fecal coliform concentrations. However, the U.S. EPA states that E. coli are better indicators of fecal contamination and provide the most accurate assessment of water quality conditions and human health risks.

The study also found that all nutrient concentrations were at or below background levels, and no samples exceeded concentrations of ecological or human health concern.

The study was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Region 5.

The study has been covered by Bloomberg, Cattle Network, Progressive Cattle, Science Daily and AgWeb.

Posted on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Bodega Marine Lab keeps watch on ocean temperatures

Ocean waters are warming, sea level is rising, seawater is becoming more acidic, and shoreline erosion is intensifying. The world’s oceans are reacting to increased carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere.

“The physical and chemical environment of the ocean is changing with the climate,” said John Largier of the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory. “This affects ecosystems — like tidal marshes and coral reefs that protect us from storms and flooding.”

The ocean brings stability to the earth’s climate. It heats up and cools down more slowly than the land and the air. With climate change, the ocean absorbs excess heat trapped in the earth’s system by the increased concentration of gases in the atmosphere.

As seawater warms, it expands. The increase in the ocean’s heat content has contributed to one of the most visible effects of global warming — rising sea level. Thermal expansion, along with melting polar ice caps and glaciers, has led to global sea level rise of more than seven inches over the last century.

“When the ocean begins to warm up, then you know that the earth’s climate is changing,” said Largier, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. “Even if we stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere right now, the ocean has warmed up, and it will take centuries for it to cool down. People don’t realize that we’ve already made a long-term commitment to climate change.”

At the Bodega Marine Lab, Largier and other scientists are studying the regional impacts of climate change on the waters off California, which include an increase in coastal upwelling. Driven by winds, upwelling pulls cold water and nutrients from the ocean depths to the surface along the shore and contributes to the “marine layer,” the blanket of cool moist air that moderates California temperatures. Largier’s research shows a trend toward stronger winds and an increase in upwelling since 1982, leading to cooler waters off central and northern California.

“Worldwide, the ocean’s surface water is getting warmer, but in California, the ocean is getting colder near shore,” said Largier. “This is intriguing because it shows that climate change is not going to have the same effect everywhere. There will be regional differences.”


This article was condensed slightly from UC Davis “CA&ES Outlook” magazine. Read the full article on page 7.

Read John Largier's scientific advisory group report on how changes in the ocean might affect two valuable marine sanctuaries off the northern California coast: "Climate Change Impacts: Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries"

John Largier along the northern California coast. (Photo: Jennifer Sauter/UC Davis)
John Largier along the northern California coast. (Photo: Jennifer Sauter/UC Davis)

Posted on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Votes needed for UC Davis teams in international food challenge

World population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. (Photo: UN Human Development Report)
With the world population reaching 9 billion by 2050, creative solutions are needed for global food security. The 2013 Thought for Food Challenge has put the call out and two UC Davis teams have responded. One group, Team UC Davis, proposes a social networking game that spreads awareness through crowd sourcing and draws donations through virtual purchases.

“The team is using a game platform like Farmville, which they call Global Village,” said Patrick Brown, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, the team’s mentor, in comparing the proposal to the popular social networking game. “The difference is that the settings for Global Village are realistic and representative of developing world farm settings, the game has a strong educational function and the profits from the game and purchases within the game go to fund development activities.”

Team UC Davis is made up of undergraduate and graduate students from International Agricultural Development and the Department of Plant Sciences. Their idea is to create a game application for the Facebook social media network. Players are given information and choices for farming based on real-world information gathered from developing countries, such as from a cacao orchard in Cote d’Ivoire or a maize farm in Zambia. Based on the limited resources of these farmers, they deal with issues like diseases, soil types, crop planting, where to deliver fertilizers and more.

The purchases they make in the game for virtual items like chickens or fertilizer lead to real purchases for the farmers. Partnerships with corporations like Grameen-Intel and Mars will provide the game with the real-time data those companies have gathered on current projects, while global nonprofit organizations like Heifer International will help transform the virtual purchases into real items for the farmers. The hope is to educate game players about these regions and existing farming issues, while raising donations and promoting corporate responsibility.

For the proposal to become reality, Team UC Davis must get enough votes to pass to Round 2. A total of five teams will be selected to present their business plan in Berlin, Germany, in September. Prizes include grants up to $10,000.

Voting takes place online from now to May 10. At the top of the Thought for Food page supporters can click “Like” for their favorite team. These “likes” account for 25 percent of the criteria for who ultimately moves to the next round, with a panel of three judges providing the remainder of the decision-making power.

Also representing UC Davis in the competition is Team Foodisclosure, which proposes low-cost, solar-powered LED lights for raising chickens in regions with less winter sunlight, encouraging the hens to remain productive throughout the year.

To vote, click on the “Like” icon at the top of these pages:

Team UC Davis

Team Foodisclosure

See a video about the Global Village game below:

See the Foodisclosure slideshow here:

 

 

Posted on Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 10:27 AM
  • Author: Bradley Hooker

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