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Changes to UC ANR Hopland REC Sheep Program

UC Hopland REC Reduce Sheep Flock

For over 65 years, the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) has been well known as one of the last large scale sheep ranches and research facilities in the northwest. Their woolly forms are a familiar sight against the backdrop of the 5,358 acre site, well loved by the community for school field trips during the lambing season and for the sheepdog trials during the fall. In addition, they have a long history of being on the forefront of emerging research and management strategies related to sheep for topics such as: sheep biology and management, rangeland management, livestock/predator/wildlife interactions, as well as grazing as a tool for vineyard owners, fire prevention, and noxious weed control.

 

This summer the HREC flock will be reduced from 500 breeding ewes to approximately 125 and their full time shepherd position will be cut. The sheep will be sold at auction on the site (4070 University Road, Hopland, CA) on June 3. The sale will allow sealed bids from 8am-11am, with a minimum lot size of 20 animals. This reduction echoes a change that can been seen across the state in flock size and management styles.

 

Agriculture moves in cycles, following both the seasons and market demands. The sheep population in Mendocino County has fallen from 140,000 in 1954 (UCANR) to 10,400 in 2018 (USDA), and statewide sheep numbers have fallen from 2,034,000 in 1954 (UCANR) to 550,000 at the end of 2018 (USDA). As California flock numbers have declined, so has sheep research interest and funding.

 

Magnifying the impact of these changes, HREC is facing a significant reduction in funding from the University of California system. HREC is one of nine Research and Extension Centers (RECs) under the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) division which has seen significant budget challenges in the last few years due to flat state funding. Overall, budget reductions of $3.1 million from central (ANR) funding across the REC system are planned, and HREC's share of these cuts will amount to over 30% of its budget. The scale of this budget reduction is driving a statewide reevaluation of priorities and strategic decisions about where ANR should allocate limited funds to best meet its mission of strengthening the health of California's people, communities, food systems, and environment.

 

“While we must strategically adjust to financial realities and changes in research and extension priorities, we are sad to see the flock reduced and to face the coming loss of our dedicated and talented shepherd Jim Lewers. The smaller HREC flock will continue to fulfill an important role at the site, allowing us to continue to offer sheep focused educational programs and events, and to share our experience and research with sheep owners. The flock is a key tool in reducing the risk of wildfire through grazing for fire fuel reduction. Targeted grazing also helps to reduce invasive species and provides food and fiber. We plan to continue to welcome our community youth to “meet the lambs” and celebrate the services and products provided from the HREC flock at our events, for example our Wool Growers Field Day which takes place on June 1” said John Bailey, Interim Director at HREC. “We are also working to pivot our livestock programs to meet a broad array of identified research and extension needs. This will include working with private producers and potential diversifying into other species such as cattle.”

 

Although sheep have been considered a core feature of HREC, many other aspects of natural resource management and education are offered at the site. The diverse landscape offers oak woodland, chaparral, and riparian areas, as well as the ability to compare areas affected and unaffected by the 2018 River Fire. This landscape provides an important site for researchers from across the University of California system and beyond to study diverse aspects of the ecosystem services and working landscapes that makes California the wonderfully productive and diverse state that it is.  Currently 19 research projects are studying topics including: climate change effects on soils and oaks: to tick-borne diseases: to wildlife ecology and management: rangeland ecology: fire science and sustainable land management practices.

 

In addition to diverse research opportunities, HRECs Community Education Specialist, Hannah Bird, has built and continues to develop a rich portfolio of extension and education events including workshops, field trips, and field classes. With the goal of educating and inspiring connection to and knowledge of diverse aspects of agriculture and natural resources, program offerings include not only sheep and wool focused events but also naturalist trainings, fire science education, birding trips, a youth summer camp, and extensive field trips which have brought over 2000 community members to the site in the past year.

“We are excited to share this wonderful site and extend the deep and broad knowledge which researchers and passionate individuals have developed about California ecosystems and agricultural systems. In this era of increasing focus on digital devices, we offer an alternative of hands-on, science-based educational opportunities for youth and people of all ages to engage with and deepen their love for our rich environmental and agricultural heritage.”

 

Despite the system-wide budget challenges, HREC continues to build its research and educational programs. Donor support and grants have become an integral part of their future. “Over the last year, we have been successful in obtaining grant awards from the Environmental Protection Agency with our partner REC in the Sierra Foothills for $100,000 to support fire education for middle school youth and adults, local grants to support youth education from the Mendocino Community Foundation, and individual donors have supported us with over $18,000 in 2018. Never has there been a time when such support is more needed at HREC to help us to continue to fulfill our important role in northern California.” commented Bailey in closing.

 

For further information regarding the sheep sale on June 3rd please visit http://bit.ly/HRECSheep . For information regarding the Wool Growers Field Day on June 1st please visit http://bit.ly/WoolGrowers . To find out more about HREC or donate to their work visit: http://hrec.ucanr.edu/ or call Hannah at (707) 744 1424 ext 105.

 

 

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2019 at 12:49 PM

UCCE lunchtime webinars to be offered during Invasive Species Action Week, June 3-7

When insects, animals, weeds and disease-causing microbes make their way into California from other parts of the nation or the world, the economic and environmental impacts can be catastrophic.

A recent UN report that details the world's biodiversity crisis assigns part of the blame to the proliferation of invasive alien species. “The numbers,” the report says, “have risen by about 70%, across the 21 countries with detailed records” since the 1970s.

“It's time to better understand how invasive species affect California's biodiversity, as well as our water supply, fire regimes, recreation and agriculture,” said Sabrina Drill, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Drill worked with the California Invasive Plant Council and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to offer five free 40-minute mid-day webinars on invasive species as part of the multi-agency sponsored California Invasive Species Action Week.

During the first part of the week the series cover a range of organisms, from killer algae and incestuous beetles to rodents of unusual size. Later in the week, it's Weeds-A-Palooza, with talks focusing on invasive plants.

The webinars will be offered using Zoom Video Communications from 12:10 to 12:50 p.m June 3-7. All details are available online at https://ucanr.edu/sites/invasivelunch/invasivelunch2019/. Links to the Zoom meeting space will be posted on that webpage before the webinars begin.

In 2008, zebra mussels were found in San Justo Reservoir in central California and have not been observed in any other water body in California, Nevada or Oregon. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife)
Monday, June 3: “How they get here: Aquatic invasive species being moved around the world”

Sabrina Drill, UCCE natural resources advisor, and Edwin Grosholz, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis 
Most people only hear about an invasive species when they are here causing problems. But preventing new invasive species from getting here in the first place requires understanding the “pathways” of introduction. From tsunamis to aquariums, container ships to canoes, Grosholz and Drill will discuss ways that freshwater and marine organisms travel to California, and how we can prevent spreading them once they arrive.

Tuesday, June 4: “What's killing California's trees? Shot hole borers, palm weevils and the rest”

Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann, urban forestry and natural resources advisor, UC Cooperative Extension in Orange County
Tree pests come to Golden State from around the world and threaten street trees, agriculture, and natural areas. Last year the legislature in Sacramento allocated $5 million to begin addressing the latest threat – shot hole borers that kill a wide variety of trees in Southern California. Nobua-Behrmann will describe how these insects damage trees and what we can do about it.

Nutria, native to South America, have been found in Central California near permanent water sources, such as rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands.
Wednesday, June 5: “Rodents of unusual size: Nutria in the Delta”

Valerie Cook-Fletcher, Nutria Eradication Incident Commander, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Nutria, a South American rodent, have caused extensive damage in Louisiana wetlands for decades. Now nutria have been found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and its tributaries and state agencies are working to find them before they can breed and spread. Cook-Fletcher will provide an update on efforts to locate this elusive swimmer in the maze of sloughs and backwaters of California's San Joaquin Valley.

Thursday, June 6: “Citizen stewardship: Tackling giant reed in Contra Costa County”

Mike Anciaux and Bob Simmons, Walnut Creek Watershed Council
Giant reed (Arundo donax) is one of the most damaging wildland weeds in California. More than $20 million was spent to remove it from the Santa Ana River watershed in Southern California to protect the endangered Least Bell's Vireo, a songbird that nests in native streamside vegetation. On the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, citizens are uniting to find and remove hundreds of populations along Contra Costa County's creeks.

Japanese knotweed. (Photo: National Park Service)
Friday, June 7: “Organizing to stop one of the world's worst weeds: Marin Knotweed Task Force”

Eric Wrubel, San Francisco Bay Area Network, National Park Service
Invasive knotweed species are some of the worst weeds in the world. They have become notorious for destroying property values in Europe. Knotweed is extremely difficult to get rid of because its underground rhizomes store energy and resist herbicides. Wrubel will describe the partnership that has formed to eradicate recently found invasive knotweed in the San Geronimo Valley and Lagunitas Creek watersheds in Marin County before it can spread.

Posted on Monday, May 20, 2019 at 8:56 AM

UCCE advisor is tracking down answers to a lettuce aphid mystery

When Alejandro Del Pozo-Valdivia started his new job as UC Cooperative Extension entomology advisor in the Salinas Valley last year, he immediately faced an urgent problem in organic lettuce production.

Pest control advisers were finding lettuce aphids in plants that were supposed to be resistant.

Because lettuce aphids crawl deep within the heart of the lettuce head, and because organic growers do not have many options for chemical pest control, the industry relies on patented lettuce varieties that have been conventionally bred to be unpalatable to the pest.

Alejandro Del Pozo-Valdivia, UC Cooperative Extension entomology advisor in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, in an iceberg lettuce field in Chualar, Calif.

“With other types of aphids, they stay on the outer leaves. When you harvest and clean the head, you are taking the aphids out,” Del Pozo-Valdivia said. “But with the lettuce aphid, it's almost impossible to remove them. We don't want consumers to buy a lettuce with these tiny red insects inside.”

Organic producers pay a premium for resistant seeds to grow lettuce without the lettuce aphid and are mystified by the sudden appearance of the pest inside lettuce heads. Has the aphid developed the capability to feed on resistant varieties? Is there a different lettuce aphid biotype in the area? Since Del Pozo-Valdivia is an entomologist, he is focusing on the pest.

With funding from the California Leafy Green Research Board, Del Pozo-Valdivia and his co-principal investigator, USDA scientist Jim McCreight, have launched a research project to collect and identify the lettuce aphids that are feeding and reproducing in the resistant lettuce in the Salinas Valley.

“I'm asking growers and PCAs to contact me if they find any red aphids in resistant lettuce so we can confirm the type of aphid,” Del Pozo-Valdivia said. “

Comparison between a healthy lettuce plant (right) vs. aphid-infested lettuce (left). Plants were grown inside a greenhouse to sustain a lettuce aphid colony during 2018. (Photo: A. Del Pozo-Valdivia)

Seed companies that hold the patent on resistant lettuce also experienced broken resistance in Europe a few years ago, Del Pozo-Valdivia said. They found that the pest in Europe was a different biotype and are already working on identifying genes to maintain the lettuce aphid resistance.

“We haven't seen any scientific report for the U.S. That's why we decided to take the lead. To take the bull by the horns and identify the aphids here in the Salinas Valley,” Del Pozo-Valdivia said.

The lettuce aphid, Nasonovia ribisnigri. A distinct feature of this aphid is the presence of black stripes at the abdomen of the adults. This species is one of the most difficult aphids to manage in lettuce; since colonies are formed inside (inner leaves) of the lettuce head. (Photo: A. Del Pozo-Valdivia)
Posted on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 8:55 AM

UCCE advisor Rachael Long receives prestigious award

UCCE advisor Rachael Long (Photo: Evett Kilmartin)
Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension advisor covering integrated pest management for field crops in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties, is the recipient of the 2019 Bradford Rominger Agricultural Sustainability Leadership Award.

Long will receive the award at a presentation at 4:30 p.m. May 28 in the Alpha Gamma Rho Hall (AGR) room of the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. A reception begins at 4.

The award, established in 2008, honors individuals who have a broad understanding of agricultural systems and the environment, takes the long view, and aims high to make a difference in the world. Awardees exhibit the leadership, work ethic and integrity epitomized by the late Eric Bradford, a livestock geneticist who served UC Davis for 50 years, and the late Charlie Rominger, a fifth-generation Yolo County farmer and land preservationist.

The award presentation prefaces the Agricultural Sustainability Institute's Distinguished Speakers' Seminar, “Building a Better World, the Opportunity to Achieve Climate Drawdown and a Safe Future" by environmental scientist Jonathan Foley, executive director of Drawdown.  Foley, ranked by Thomas Reuters as among the top 1 percent of the most cited global scientists, will address the audience from 5 to 6 p.m.

Long received her bachelor's degree in biology from UC Berkeley and her master's degree in entomology from UC Davis. She was hired as one of the first sustainable agriculture advisors with UCCE in 1992, with a charge to, “Develop, evaluate, and implement nonchemical approaches to pest management in field crop production that maintains environmental and economic viability of agriculture."

During her career with UCCE, Rachael was a pioneer in developing practices to protect water quality from agricultural crop production, helping farmers meet state mandates for clean surface water. She worked on hedgerows, documenting that field edge plantings of native California plants attract beneficial insects, including bees and natural enemies, for better pest control and pollination in adjacent crops. She documented that birds and bats are farmer allies; they help control codling moth pests in walnut orchards. She's promoted hawks and barn owls for control of rodent pests. She has also written numerous publications focusing on agronomic practices for managing pest, weeds, and diseases in field crop production.

At the time she started her research projects over 25 years ago, her ideas were way outside the box and on the fringe. Now her work is mainstream with the UC IPM guidelines incorporating the value of habitat planting for enhancing natural enemies and pollinators on farms for better pollination and biocontrol of crop pests. The California Healthy Soils Initiative and Natural Resource Conservation Service have cost share funding for hedgerow establishment on farms, for pest management and carbon sequestration. She continues to do research on hedgerows, but more importantly, she strives to be a leader by teaching others about agriculture and the need to have co-existence between farming, food production, and wildlife conservation for a better world for all. Her work is documented in many peer-reviewed publications, UC ANR blogs, cost studies and crop production manuals.

“I'm honored to receive this award, especially in recognition of two extraordinary people, Charlie and Eric," Long said. "I owe thanks to so many people who helped in this journey and feel lucky to work in a community that is open to new ideas. I'm especially grateful to farmers in the Sacramento Valley who allowed me to work on their farms. I couldn't have done all this work without their support.”

Posted on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 8:34 AM

The City Nature Challenge: A win for science and nature

All of our certified California Naturalists know how to use iNaturalist. Since uploading at least one observation is part of the course requirements, the City Nature Challenge was the perfect opportunity for Naturalists to reconnect with each other, offer their skills to their city's efforts, and contribute to a global scientific database.

The 4th annual City Nature Challenge was a huge success around the world. Together with the 159 cities that participated, we uploaded almost one million observations of biodiversity to iNaturalist in just 4 days. More than 35,000 people took part across the globe, and over 31,000 species were documented, including more than 1,100 rare, endangered, or threatened species.

This was also the biggest week for observations recorded in iNaturalist history, as demonstrated in the graph below.

With the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County organizers publicizing the Challenge for their cities and working to highlight events, we wanted a chance for our Sacramento Region Naturalists to join the fun, too. Beginning in September of 2018, we co-organized for the Sacramento Region with Ryan Meyer and Julianna Yee from the UC Davis School of Education's Center for Community and Citizen Science, our UC Davis Evolution and Ecology California Naturalist instructor Laci Gerhart-Barley, and environmental educator Chelle Temple-King.

Douglas Iris from Certified California Naturalist Bruce Hartsough.
The California Naturalist program wants to recognize the contributions of our Naturalists to their city's final counts. We know many of you were out there at bioblitzes or in your backyards taking photos all weekend, and celebrate all that you contributed to science and nature. Congratulations on your achievements both large and small! We want to take a moment to highlight a few of our certified Naturalists, instructors, and partners for their involvement this year:

  • Partners that held Bioblitzes outside of city boundaries over the weekend: Hopland Research & Extension Center, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum
  • Sacramento Region CalNat partners: Many thanks to American River Conservancy, Yolo Basin Foundation, Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and UC Davis' Wild Davis for organizing Bioblitzes as first year guinea pigs
  • Bay Area CalNat partners: thanks to Sonoma Ecology Center for a Bioblitz and Grassroots Ecology for contributing observations during their class field trip
  • Certified California Naturalist Cedric Lee as the number one observer for Los Angeles County!
  • Certified California Naturalist and Tuleyome instructor Mary Hanson came in 5th for the Sacramento Region; UC Davis' Wild Davis instructor Laci Gerhart-Barley and 3 current CalNat students came in the top 10
  • Certified California Naturalist Millie Basden came in 8th for San Diego County
  • Certified California Naturalist Amy Jaecker-Jones is a co-organizer for the international City Nature Challenge through the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Despite the final results, the real winner of the City Nature Challenge is science and nature. A database holding a greater number of research-grade observations to draw from allows scientists to further study our natural world. You can take a look at publications that have used data from iNaturalist to see just where our contributions are going. And of course, the more people who get outside during the Challenge, the more people engage with the nature around them. Everybody wins!

California Sister butterfly from Certified California Naturalist Kim Moore

Highlights of San Francisco Bay Area City Nature Challenge 2019:

  • 1st place for number of observers with 1,947 (This includes more than 550 observers who were new to iNaturalist)
  • 1st place for number of identifiers with 813
  • 4th place for number of observations with 38,028
  • 5th place for number of species found at 3,183
  • Participants submitted anywhere from 1 to 698 observations
  • Most observed species: California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

 

Western Kingbird from California Naturalist Academic Coordinator Greg Ira

Highlights of Los Angeles County City Nature Challenge 2019:

  • Los Angeles had the greatest increase in number of observations over last year: increase of 14,702 observations!
  • Los Angeles had the greatest increase in number of people observing over last year: increase of 700 people!
  • Over 1/3 of our observers were new to iNaturalist in the two weeks before CNC began

Highlights of Sacramento Region City Nature Challenge 2019:

  • Overall, Sacramento came in 30th out of 159 participating cities
  • Of 27 the other participating cities with a population of 2,500,000-5,000,000, Sacramento came in 9th
  • In all of 2019 leading up to the Challenge, post-Challenge our region was able to increase the number of observations by 7.8% (9832 observations), species by 2% (124 species), and observers by 3.5% (233 observers).
  • Sacramento came in 5th for the number of total observers for a region > 20,000 km2
  • For all the observations we collected in the Sacramento region, 57% ID'd to species became research grade (or useable for scientific quality data).
Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 8:49 AM

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