College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

News & Events

December 15, 2003

College Hires Nation’s First Wildland Fire Specialist

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by Kathryn Stelljes

BERKELEY — As part of UC Berkeley’s recently expanded research and outreach program on wildland fires, Max Moritz will join the College of Natural Resources on Jan. 1 as the nation’s first Cooperative Extension specialist devoted to wildland fire.

Moritz will join the faculty of the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and will work closely with the college’s Center for Forestry.

Moritz, who earned his Ph.D. in spatial ecology from UC Santa Barbara, wrote his doctoral thesis on the relationships between fire, land management techniques and chaparral vegetation in Los Padres National Forest. He holds a bachelor's degree in management science from UC San Diego and a master's degree in energy & environmental studies from Boston University.

He has broad expertise in fire modeling, fire effects, brushland fire ecosystems and spatial patterns of fire disturbance. In addition to continuing his own fire management and ecology research, Moritz will serve as a link between faculty researchers and county Cooperative Extension advisors. He will also provide direct links with professional resource managers, landowners, policy-makers and a diverse array of public and private organizations on issues related to fire.

Before joining UC Cooperative Extension, Moritz was an assistant professor of geography at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“We already have one of the largest wildland fire programs in the nation. Max adds expertise in shrubland ecology and fire management and helps serve the campus and community with the outreach component of Cooperative Extension,” said Rick Standiford, UC Berkeley associate dean for forestry.

The center’s expertise in wildland fire is well recognized, as evidenced by Assistant Professor Scott Stephens’ invited testimony at the recent Congressional hearing on the 2003 Southern California wildfires, which burned more than 739,000 acres.

Moritz will join the following College of Natural Resources fire researchers:

- Frank Beall--evaluation of housing and nearby vegetation for vulnerability to fires in the urban-wildland interface

- Keith Gilless--wildland fire protection planning, forest economics and management, evaluation of prescribed burning

- Peng Gong--remote sensing, map analysis, fire emissions

- Richard Harris--landowner-based stewardship plans, community education

- Maggi Kelly--GIS and landscape change, including statewide tracking of resource changes related to fire

- Doug McCreary--oak regeneration, woodland management, agroforestry, effects of fire on oaks

- Gary Nakamura--community-based forestry, helping Fire Safe Councils and Resource Conservation Districts to understand fire issues and the role and impacts of biomass harvesting on fuels and fire

- Tom Scott--wildlife conservation, response of wildlife to human disturbances such as fire

- John Shelly--forest products and use of trees, shrubs and other vegetation that accumulate to unacceptably high levels in coniferous forests, oak woodland, rangeland and even in urban forests

- Richard Standiford--resource economics, forestry, hardwood rangelands, forest management, and the effects of thinning oaks to reduce fire threat

- Scott L. Stephens--interactions of wildland fire and ecosystems

- David Wood--bark beetle infestation of pine forests in Southern California

For more information about Berkeley’s fire program and Center for Forestry fire experts, visit The Fire Center, or contact Rick Standiford at (510) 643-5428 or standifo@nature.berkeley.edu.

Inez Fung Receives Prestigious Revelle Medal

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by Kathryn Stelljes

Inez Fung, one of the world's pioneering researchers on global climate change and the Earth's carbon cycle, has been selected as the recipient of the 2004 Roger Revelle Medal of the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest society of Earth scientists.

The prestigious Revelle Medal "recognizes outstanding accomplishments and contributions toward the understanding of the Earth's atmospheric processes, including its dynamics, chemistry, and radiation, or the role of atmopshere, atmosphere-ocean coupling or atmosphere-land coupling in
determining the climate, biogeochemical cycles, or other key elements of the integrated climate system."

The first recipient of the medal was E.N. Lorenz of MIT, who discovered chaos. Fung is the first woman and the second UC Berkeley researcher (after Professor Emeritus Harold Johnston of Chemistry) to have received the medal since its inception in 1991.

Fung is a professor in the College of Natural Resources' Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and the College of Letters and Science's Department of Earth and Planetary Science. She joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1993 as the first Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor for the Physical Sciences and is the founding
director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center.

In 1990, she deduced that the terrestrial biosphere has been absorbing a large fraction of the atmospheric carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion. Though controversial at the time, the terrestrial carbon sink has since been confirmed and has become a central negotiation theme in international protocols.

Fung is the acknowledged pioneer and principal architect of the field of Earth System Modeling, where the complex physical, biological and chemical reactions on Earth are distilled into mathematical equations to be solved on the fastest computers to predict the evolution of Earth's climate. Her current research is focused on whether global warming will be accelerated through destabilization of carbon storage in the biosphere.

Fung was one of the authors of the National Academy of Sciences' 2001 report "Climate Change Science", which led to President Bush's acknowledgement, in a Rose Garden speech on June 11 2001, that global climate change is a serious issue. As co-Chair of the Biogeochemistry Working Group of the Community Climate System Model of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, she is spearheading the US effort in the coupling of interactive terrestrial and ocean carbon biogeochemistry with mathematical models of the physical climate system.

In 2002, she became a charter member of the National Academies Coordinating Committee on Global Change, which will serve as an advisor to the Presidents of the National Academies on an issue deemed high priority by the National Academies.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards, starting with the 1977 Rossby Award for Outstanding Thesis from her MIT department, given for her doctoral research which drew the parallel between spiral galaxies and spiral rainbands in hurricanes to explain hurricane rain patterns. Her
other honors include the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, and elected Fellowship in the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union. In 2001, she was one of three women Berkeley faculty members (in a class of 72) elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Fung will receive the Revelle Medal in December 2004 at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco.

Christmas Trees May Carry Pitch Canker

by Jeannette Warnert, ANR

University of California scientists recommend the public dispose of their Christmas trees quickly and properly after Christmas to help stem the spread of pitch canker, a disease that is now affecting Monterey pine Christmas tree lots, landscape plantings and native coastal forests in 16 California counties.

"People can buy healthy-looking trees that are infected with pitch canker. If they are left for a long period in the backyard, insects could visit and spread the disease to landscape pines," said Tom Gordon, UC Davis plant pathologist.

Infected Christmas trees have been found in San Mateo, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties at choose-and-cut tree lots. After the holiday, Gordon suggests all Christmas trees be promptly turned over to community recycling programs, or chipped and spread as a thin mulch or composted.

Scientists' biggest fear is that pitch canker will spread to the Sierra Nevada. In research studies conducted at UC Davis, Gordon found that many trees native to Sierra Nevada forests are susceptible to the disease.

"These are ongoing studies," Gordon said. "Some trees are being tested now, and other trees are growing to a size where they can be tested."

However, his research has already determined that gray pine, coulter pine, Torrey pine, ponderosa pine, shore pine and Douglas-fir are susceptible to pitch canker when they are exposed to the disease in growth chambers.

To help prevent the spread of pitch canker to the Sierra Nevada, scientists recommend that no Monterey pine or other pine firewood, cones, logs and chipped pine material be transported from west of Interstate 5 to east of Interstate 5. The state has also designated a "Zone of Infestation," which counties may use to place restrictions on the movement of potentially infested materials.

Pitch canker, caused by the fungus Fusarium circinatum, was first discovered in the pine plantations of the Southeastern United States 60 years ago. The disease was not known before that anywhere in the world. In the Southeast, pitch canker was not much more than a curiosity until the mid 1970s, when it became a serious problem on slash pine.

In 1986, foresters found pitch canker in California. It quickly developed an association with native insects and spread to many native pines, including Monterey pine, Bishop pine and knobcone pine. Infected trees in landscape plantings and native forests are found in coastal areas from San Luis Obispo to Mendocino counties.

While young Monterey pines are bushy and can be shaped into a cone for Christmas, mature Monterey Pines grow 50 to 100 feet tall, are often multi-trunked and carry all their vegetation high in tufts.

Monterey pines are greatly prized for their esthetic value in the three California locations that comprise the only native populations of Monterey pine on mainland anywhere in the world. Stands are found at Año Nuevo in San Mateo County, on the Monterey Peninsula and near the quaint coastal town of Cambria.

"All those populations became infested with pitch canker and are still today," Gordon said. "Although the situation from a statewide perspective has more or less stabilized, on a local scale, it is becoming more severe."

Gordon and UC Berkeley entomologist David Wood have found some Monterey pine trees to be naturally resistant to pitch canker and some trees observed over many years have only a very limited amount of damage caused by the fungus. These trees are not expected to die from the disease unless new strains of the fungus are introduced into the state and are able to overcome the natural levels of resistance. The scientists believe pitch canker that where young trees are exposed to pitch canker, many of those that survive will be resistant.

For that reason, they say natural regeneration is the first choice for pitch-canker-infested forests. Monterey pine, Gordon said, regenerates best after fires. However, since prescribed burning is not an option for these highly populated areas, Gordon and his colleagues are conducting studies to determine whether mechanically removing or incorporating vegetation in the forests will improve Monterey pine regeneration.

At Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds and at Pebble Beach Golf Links, both on the Monterey Peninsula, UC scientists are working with landscape specialists to take a more proactive approach to Monterey pine regeneration.

"The landscapes are carefully managed at these facilities. The staff is actually screening seedlings as they grow up to see what looks resistant before they are planted," Gordon said. "We provided them with the methodology, gave them the inoculum and helped them get their programs established."

December 14, 2003

New at CNR v1

This week (12-8-03 to 12-12-03) at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco

College of Natural Resources scientists are presenting 19 papers and posters on topics including the benefit of exercise on the reduction of oil consumption, the emission of terpenes from forest thinning, the diversity of organisms in acid mine drainage, and the influence of plant and microbial interactions on nitrogen retention in Puerto Rican forest soils.

This month (December) in Applied and Environmental Microbiology

CNR researchers discovered that while Pierce's disease of grapevines (PD) and almond leaf scorch (ALS) are caused by the same species of bacteria, the bacteria are two distinctly different strains. Pierce's disease, where bacteria cause blockage in the roots denying water and nutrients to the grapevine canes and leaves, and ALS, which also results from congestion in the water flow, are both believed to be caused by the organism, Xylella fastidiosa. In the study, X. fastidiosa isolates from grapes and almonds, previously thought to be identical, were tested to see if almond strains could cause PD in grapevines and vice versa. The researchers determined that the organisms are not biologically interchangeable. Another CNR research team in the same issue reported a genetically modified green fluorescent protein to better understand the pattern of host colonization and its relationship to disease.

Paul Ludden named AAAS Fellow

Paul Ludden, dean and professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, was named a 2003 fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for research elucidating regulation of nitrogenase activity, biosynthesis of the iron-molybdenum cofactor of nitrogenase, and mechanisms of carbon monoxide metabolism in microorganisms.

December 10, 2003

Researchers Discuss Scientific Freedom

Ignacio Chapela, assistant professor of ecosystem sciences at UC Berkeley, was one of four scientists at a discussion on December 10, “The Pulse of Scientific Freedom in the Age of the Biotech Industry.” At the on-campus event, the researchers discussed the challenges they have faced and the controversies that have ensued as a result of their research.

December 9, 2003

A Scientists Fulfills His Dream: An Ecologist Goes to Space

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by Kathryn Stelljes

Charismatic British-born astronaut Piers Sellers thrilled an audience of more than 150 on December 7 with photos and a video of his mission in October 2002 to help construct the International Space Station.

"The thing that impressed me the most was being outside in a space suit and listening to my breathing. It was dark. " said Sellers of his impressions from space. "Pam [Pam Melroy, Shuttle pilot] said, 'Sun up in one minute.' I had lost track of where the horizon was going to be. I turned I think forward, and the horizon suddenly appeared as a very thin blue line, at right angles, and went all the way across. The sun came up in the middle of it, just shooting up like a rocket. The earth lit up below me and I could see it moving toward me below my boots. What I could not believe was how big it is. When you looked at the horizon, you could see the atmosphere as a
thin layer with thunderstorms half way up. The whole thing was rotating, almost rumbling beneath you. I was not ready for the scale of it, to see the Earth as a planet, not the place you're on, but to be away from it and to see it as a planet. It is really amazing. "

An ecologist and biometeorologist by training, Sellers acknowledged the scientific value of the space station, but said its greater benefits are in moving us ahead towards manned space exploration and in fostering international relationships among 16 nations.

"The space station is the most useful, peaceful, scientific collaboration ever done," he said.

Sellers presented his experiences at the invitation of Inez Fung, director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center and professor of atmospheric sciences in the College of Natural Resources' Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

Before joining the astronaut corps to fulfill a lifelong dream, Sellers was principal author of a classic mathematical model that encapsulates the interaction between photosynthesis and climate. He was also the leader of numerous field campaigns that combined ground and aircraft measurements and satellite observations to define how processes at the scale of stomates on leaves could be up-scaled to that observable from satellites. Sellers and Fung (see sidebar below) were key members of the scientific team that developed the use of satellite technology and global mathematical models to study
global environmental processes.

A webcast of the talk is available at

Sidebar: Berkeley Professor Inez Fung, Pioneer in Global Climate Change

In 1990, Professor Inez Fung deduced that the terrestrial biosphere has been absorbing a large fraction of the atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel combustion. The terrestrial carbon sink was inferred from atmospheric signatures of biospheric functioning rather than from direct observations
of the biosphere. Though controversial at the time, the terrestrial carbon sink has since been confirmed and has become a central negotiation theme in international protocols. Fung is the acknowledged pioneer and principal architect of the field of Earth System Modeling, where the complex physical, biological and chemical reactions on Earth are distilled
into mathematical equations to be solved on the fastest computers to predict Earth's climate evolution. Her current research is focused on whether global warming will be accelerated through destabilization of carbon storage in the biosphere.

Fung joined the Berkeley faculty in 1993 as the first Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences. She is the founding director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center, a campus-wide focal point for the study of the agents and consequences of climate change, and a professor in the College of Natural Resources and the Department of Earth & Planetary Science. In 2001, she was one of three women Berkeley faculty members (in a class of 72) elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

December 4, 2003

Stephens to Testify at Fire Hearing

by Sarah Yang

Scott Stephens, assistant professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley, College of Natural Resources, will testify Friday at the first congressional hearing on the 2003 Southern California wildfires, which burned more than 739,000 acres of land and killed 26 people. He will discuss resource management strategies to prevent future wildfires.

The hearing, called by the U.S. House of Representatives Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, comes two days after President Bush signed the Healthy Forests Restoration Act into law. Stephens says the legislation would have had little impact on the recent wildfires because approximately 90 percent of the burned area was chapparal and shrublands, not forests, and most of the land that burned was privately owned. Complicating the reduction of fire hazards in Southern California forests is the lack of biomass utilization facilities in this region. He warns that more attention needs to be paid to reducing shrubland fire hazards in areas that border urban developments.

Stephens is part of the newly expanded UC Berkeley Fire Program, one of the biggest university-based fire research programs in the country. Managed by the Center for Forestry at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, the program brings together faculty and Cooperative Extension specialists with internationally recognized expertise in such fields as ecology, biodiversity, atmospheric sciences, soils and resource policy. Details about the program, and the text of Stephens' testimony, are available online at http://nature.berkeley.edu/forestry/fire.

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College Hires Nation’s First Wildland Fire Specialist
Inez Fung Receives Prestigious Revelle Medal
Christmas Trees May Carry Pitch Canker
New at CNR v1
Researchers Discuss Scientific Freedom
A Scientists Fulfills His Dream: An Ecologist Goes to Space
Stephens to Testify at Fire Hearing

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