New biomarker discovery can help scientists ID sudden oak death-susceptible trees

Adapted from an article by Mauricio Espinoza, Ohio State University

UC Berkeley and Ohio State University researchers have developed a way to predict the resistance or susceptibility of trees to sudden oak death disease, providing forest managers with the first effective method to manage trees in infested natural areas and in adjoining areas where the disease is expected in the future.

Sudden oak death, a forest disease caused by the invasive fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, was first detected in California in 1995. It has since killed millions of tanoaks and trees of several oak species on the West Coast. It is also a potential threat to the valuable Eastern oak species, some of which are known to be highly susceptible to the disease.


continue reading "New biomarker discovery can help scientists ID sudden oak death-susceptible trees" »

Ann Guy
posted April 15, 2014 1:17 PM

Classroom treaty talks speak volumes on climate politics

By Steve Hockensmith, UC Berkeley News Center

UC Berkeley announced recently that it had reduced its carbon emissions to 1990 levels two years earlier than expected, showing how quickly progress can be made — at least at the local level — in addressing climate change. Unfortunately, getting the world community to take significant action has proven far trickier, and a recent exercise in a Berkeley class demonstrates why.

Kate O’Neill, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, has been teaching international environmental politics since 1999. This year, she decided to make a simulated international climate-change conference the centerpiece of her fall course. Each of her 125 students was assigned one of 26 nations, chosen to represent a range of political and economic interests, from superpowers to some of the world’s smallest, poorest countries. The students then spent the semester studying and writing about their assigned nation’s population, economy, politics and vulnerability to climate change.

All that preparation was put to use last month, when the students were divided into four groups, each of which held its own mock treaty negotiations.

“It gave them a chance to really understand why it’s so difficult for countries to agree on climate change and what to do about it,” O’Neill says. “Plus it’s much more fun than having to write a long final essay.”

“It took the core concepts of the course and really made the students play them out,” adds one of O’Neill’s graduate-student instructors, Manisha Anantharaman, who served as moderator for one of the negotiation groups. “I think that’s really going to help them internalize what Kate’s been talking about this semester.”

continue reading "Classroom treaty talks speak volumes on climate politics" »

Ann Guy
posted December 13, 2013 9:58 AM

Discovery could lead to ‘molecular fountain of youth’

By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley Media Relations

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, represents a major advance in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind aging while providing new hope for the development of targeted treatments for age-related degenerative diseases.

Researchers were able to turn back the molecular clock by infusing the blood stem cells of old mice with a longevity gene and rejuvenating the aged stem cells’ regenerative potential. The findings were published online today (Thursday, Jan. 31), in the journal Cell Reports.

The biologists found that SIRT3, one among a class of proteins known as sirtuins, plays an important role in helping aged blood stem cells cope with stress. When they infused the blood stem cells of old mice with SIRT3, the treatment boosted the formation of new blood cells, evidence of a reversal in the age-related decline in the old stem cells’ function.

continue reading "Discovery could lead to ‘molecular fountain of youth’" »

Ann Guy
posted January 31, 2013 3:50 PM

Connecting Tortillas to the Garden: Teaching Entrepreneurship to Elementary School Students in Honduras

7.26.12 | Lolita & John Casazza School Gardens | No Comments » | ShareThis ORIGINALLY POST AT

As portrayed in the news, Honduras is a place of economic struggle and a challenged education system. Despite the country’s strife, Lolita and I decided to visit the area and were relieved to find evidence that efforts are being made to help the country’s children. Cerro Grande (the Big Hill) is a small elementary school located in a low income neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital. Incorporating entrepreneurship and small business management into the regular academic curriculum, this school is striving to change the outcome for its students. Under the leadership of the director, Professora Irma Lopez, the school staff has taken limited resources and a lot of creativity to develop school gardens and create workshops topics ranging from food preparation and manufacturing to carpentry and handicrafts for the home. Teachers work alongside students to produce goods for the local markets to earn money for the school’s needs while teaching reading, writing, mathematics, science, health and computer skills. The organization incorporates all grade levels, from first through sixth, and all students, boys and girls, into a comprehensive program recognized as a pioneer in elementary education.
We were met by Silvia Zavala, chief agriculture officer and head of the school garden program, and given a tour of the school’s facility. She took us around the workshops, school garden and to a couple of classrooms and introduced us to many of her colleagues and the students involved in the school’s activities.

School Garden
Situated on the steep hillside behind the school classrooms and assembly area are the terraces that contain the school garden. Soil is scarce atop the underlying rock base so used car tires are placed in rows and filled with soil and organic matter to serve as the substrate for the plantings of herbs and vegetables. Empty PET water and soda pop containers are trimmed and used for seedling trays or filled with water and used as boundaries for planting beds.
Drip irrigation is installed throughout the garden. It not only demonstrates a modern agriculture practice but teaches water conservation in a region subject to periods of drought. The school is able to partner with agriculture technicians supplied by iDE, an international NGO focused on establishing family gardens in Honduras. The group also built a large cistern to store water and installed mechanical pumps operated by the up-and-down action of the kids playing on a seesaw or on a modified step masters – providing both exercise and entertainment while filling an overhead container that gravity feeds water through the irrigation tubes.
The students study the soil and learn when they need to add compost or lime to fertilize the plants. They use worm bins to decompose the plant wastes and use vermicompost teas to supplement the natural fertilizers.
The lettuce, mustard, beets, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, chayotes, cilantro, parsley, squash, and beans are harvested throughout the year and sold in the local Saturday market outside the school grounds.

The School Kitchen
In this part of the school, the students learn the techniques of food preparation and food hygiene using produce from the school garden or from the local farmers market. The students learn how to elaborate products that are commonly consumed in the local households like jams made from tropical fruits such as pineapple, papaya, black berries and mango. Tortillas are eaten daily and the school produces their own value added version incorporating carrots and beets from the garden. Besides the corn base, the added vegetables enhance the nutrition and add color to the traditional staple. They taste great, too.
Silvia said that the program influences the children’s eating habits since the daily mid- morning snacks produced in the school kitchen may be the first meal for those not able to eat breakfast at home. She also went on to say that many students are now starting gardens in their homes. We were happy to see that Slow Food principles of good, clean and fair food are becoming part of the lifestyles of everybody connected to the Cerro Grande School.

John & Lolita Casazza
posted August 3, 2012 12:36 PM

Story of Stuff's Annie Leonard to Keynote Environment “Gradfest”


By Ann Brody Guy

When a 20-minute lecture about the economic supply chain goes viral, spawning a stunning 12 million views, a non-profit organization with a slate of multimedia offerings, and a vibrant online community of hundreds of thousands of citizens eager to make the world a better place, one has to wonder: what secret force is behind it?

The Story Of Stuff creator Annie Leonard is quick to tell you that a staff of six full-time people create the magic mixture of cartoons and intelligently and wryly distilled information, but it started with just her deep knowledge and commitment to the issue, and an infectious fire in the belly that jumps through the camera.

Leonard will be on the UC Berkeley campus to give the keynote address for the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management’s (ESPM’s) annual Gradfest event, when graduating Ph.D.’s show off the department’s depth and diversity with spirited mini-talks on their dissertation research on topics, which this year include topics as wide-ranging as biodiversity in Caribbean coral, sudden oak death at Point Reyes National Seashore, and conservation policy in Bottswana.

continue reading "Story of Stuff's Annie Leonard to Keynote Environment “Gradfest”" »

Ann Guy
posted May 1, 2012 10:13 AM