College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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September 29, 2008

Professor's startup company empowers consumers to see through "greenwashing"

Even when it was just an idea, Professor Dara O'Rourke's plan to deliver environmental, social responsibility, and public health information about consumer products directly to shoppers was making headlines.

Now, after an extended leave from campus to pursue the project as an entrepreneur, O'Rourke and his colleagues have publicly launched


"I think there's a burgeoning awareness that there is a global supply chain behind a product," Dara O'Rourke, GoodGuide's founder and a Berkeley professor, told "People are seeing that there are real costs to these everyday low prices. The question is, can we deliver this information in a way that is simple and easy and helps people make decisions?"

Other stories:

Video: Goodguide helps knowledge of products

GoodGuide Launches to Shine a Light on Products

September 24, 2008

Ushering out tree-sitters, forestry alum ushers in a new era in Humboldt County

CNR Forestry alumnus Mike Jani has had a big transition on his hands this summer as the Mendocino Redwood Company took possession of the holdings of the bankrupt Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) in Humboldt County, Calif. Jani is president and chief forester of Mendocino Redwood and its new subsidiary, Humboldt Redwood Company.

Among the issues handed over by PALCO were the last two tree-sitters living in the giant redwoods of Nanning Creek grove. The activists were part of a 20-year battle to protect old-growth redwood giants from PALCO's aggressive harvesting practices.

As reported by the Associated Press, the protesters agreed to come down after Jani hiked into the woods to meet the tree-sitters.

"I went out, looked at the trees, looked at the stand of trees that were around them and I explained to them that under our policy, we would not be cutting those trees," said Jani, a 35-year veteran of logging companies.

Protecting old-growth trees was part of the plan that Humboldt Redwood, largely owned by Don and Doris Fisher of The Gap Inc., submitted to acquire Pacific Lumber in bankruptcy court. It also pledged to avoid cutting down trees in vast swaths, or clear-cutting, a practice that the timber giant had aggressively practiced under its previous owner, Maxxam Inc.

Since the owners of Humboldt Redwood had a track record... environmentalists are cautiously optimistic that it will do as it promises, including sparing any redwood born prior to 1800 with a diameter of at least four feet.

So for weeks, the tree-sitters at the Nanning Creek and Fern Gully groves, where Pacific Lumber timber harvest plans had ancient trees on the chopping block, have been clearing out their encampments, removing their platforms and figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives.

September 23, 2008

Michael Hanemann receives European Lifetime Achievement Award in Environmental Economics

W. Michael Hanemann, professor of agricultural and resource economics, has received the 2008 European Lifetime Achievement Award in Environmental Economics.

From the prize selection committee:

Excellence in our field comes in many forms, which include the following: publishing an article that, forever and a day, from Aberdeen to Zaragosa, is cited by researchers as the starting point for almost all further work in the field; straddling the interface between theory and evidence, such that the former is enriched, decisions are improved, and the credibility of our profession with key policy audiences is enhanced – the intellectual garment is not just woven, it is customised and put to good service; helps enhance and embed the reputation of resource and environmental economics in the field of economics; challenge the status quo, the received wisdom and change the terms of the intellectual and the policy debate; connect with different and disparate audiences and impress all with the originality, relevance and intellectual rigour of one’s contribution; publish widely, fitting the contribution, its style and context from the most prestigious to the more mundane. Michael Hanemann has done all of these and more.

A few illustrations:

Continue reading "Michael Hanemann receives European Lifetime Achievement Award in Environmental Economics" »

September 11, 2008

Award-winning paper prescribes how to improve upon Kyoto

Larry Karp, professor of agricultural and resource economics, and Jinhua Zhao, an economist at Iowa State University (and Berkeley ARE Ph.D.) were recently named winners of the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements research paper competition.

As reported in Breakthroughs last year, their paper proposes a design for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

"The successor to the Kyoto Protocol should impose national ceilings on rich countries' greenhouse gas emissions and promote voluntary abatement by developing countries," the authors write. "Our proposal gives signatories the option of exercising an escape clause that relaxes their requirement to abate. This feature helps to solve the participation and compliance problems that have weakened the Protocol. We support the use of carefully circumscribed trade restrictions in order to reduce the real or perceived problem of carbon leakage."

The full paper is available here.

Geochemist Garrison Sposito, a "legend" of chemistry

Professor Garrison Sposito (ESPM-Ecosystem Sciences) was one of 15 scientists and engineers honored in a special symposium of the American Chemical Society, entitled “Legends of Environmental Chemistry,” at its fall, 2008 annual meeting in Philadelphia.

Sposito is internationally recognized for his research on environmental aqueous geochemistry applied to terrestrial ecosystems, soils, and aquifers. His hundreds of publications and books in this area mark him as the world's foremost authority on surface coordination chemistry and transport in porous media. He is a Foreign Member of the French Academy of Agriculture, Horton Medal winner from the American Geophysical Union, and a Highly-Cited Researcher in the area of Ecology and the Environment by the Institute for Scientific Information.

Each “legend” presented a 50-minute talk on his or her professional accomplishments that was videotaped for archiving by the Chemical Heritage Foundation. The talks are available to teachers and others interested in the history of environmental chemistry.

Other symposium speakers included Nobel Chemistry Laureate Sherwood Rowland, atmospheric scientist John Seinfeld, and water chemists Charles O’Melia and René Schwarzenbach.

The American Chemical Society is the world’s largest scientific organization.

Geospatial Innovation Facility: New name, new logo, new web site. . .

There have been many exciting changes for at CNR's Geospatial Innovation Facility (GIF) -- formerly the Geospatial Imaging & Informatics Facility (GIIF).

The facility has a new and improved website,, with simplified navigation and a useful search tool, making it easier for users to locate geospatial tools and techniques, workshops and training opportunities, and facility locations and events.

Along with the new visual identity, the GIF is offering a variety of fresh additions to its already well known support and services. New workshops this year will include advanced geospatial topics in Land Cover Change Analysis, Species Distribution Modeling, and Photo-point GPS Monitoring.

Keep an eye on the website for the latest workshop schedules. GIF staff, Kevin and Jeremy, will also continue to provide support geospatial queries with office hours available throughout the week. This is a great opportunity to get advice on developing a project or to get help with software. The staff share a wide range of experience and are happy to assist. For more complex geospatial research, staff is always interested in collaboration. Contact them to learn what innovative geospatial components the GIF can offer to research projects and grant opportunities.

Chelsea Specht honored with Prytanean Faculty Award

Chelsea Specht, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, was named the winner of the 2008 Prytanean Faculty Award, given annually by the women’s honor organization founded on the Berkeley campus in 1901.

The award, which comes with a financial grant of $25,000, goes to an outstanding woman junior-faculty member who “has demonstrated scholarly achievement, a record as a distinguished teacher, and success as a role model for students at UC Berkeley.”

Specht, a former Fulbright Research and National Science Foundation fellow, specializes in the study of the processes and patterns involved in the evolution and diversification of plants.

September 9, 2008

Teaching Biology at Prison University

CNR graduate student Rebecca Carter volunteers as a biology teacher at San Quentin prison as part of the Prison University Project. The project offers inmates the chance to take classes towards earning college degrees.

Continue reading "Teaching Biology at Prison University" »

$1.4 M grant funds PMB researcher's work on "jumping genes"

Damon Lisch, Ph.D., a research professional in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Plant Genome Research Program.

The four-year, $1.4 million award supports research on the ways in which genomes recognize and inactivate “jumping genes,” or transposons.

"These molecular parasites can make up the majority of DNA in many species, including humans," Lisch explains. "If not controlled, transposons can be highly disruptive. Fortunately, they can be tamed through the activity of a recently discovered and ancient immune system, which can detect and silence these rogue genes. Interestingly, versions of this system are also used by a wide variety of species to regulate other genes, such as those involved in development and cancer, in such a way that they are only active in the proper times and places."

September 8, 2008

A Nobel Cause

Barbara Allen-DiazProfessor Barbara Allen-Diaz has always been a little ahead of the curve. After fast-tracking
through her M.S./Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 4 years, Allen-Diaz was snapped up by the U.S. Forest Service, only to be lured back to Cal to become the first female range management faculty in the country. In the mid-1990s, she was tapped to participate in the second installment of a massive, international research effort called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which had the prescient hunch that humans were having a significant impact on global climate.

That pioneering research culminated in the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC's 2,000 scientists including Allen-Diaz and ESPM’s Inez Fung.

Allen-Diaz’s contributions focused on the effects of climate change on rangeland, which comprises 51% of the planet’s land surface. Among her team’s early findings were that changes in climate directly alter the species composition of landscapes, shifting the boundaries between rangelands and other ecosystems.

Continue reading "A Nobel Cause" »

September 5, 2008

Michael Rodriguez, MD, tackles health care disparities

When Michael Rodriguez replied to an ad for undergraduate research subjects, he had no idea it would be the beginning of his career as a medical researcher and physician. His intent had been to be a guinea pig, but Sharon Fleming, professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology, suggested he come aboard as a researcher instead. Rodriguez agreed to the higher-paying gig and went to work studying the effects of fiber on the digestive system. He ended up as a co-author on the resulting research paper. "I probably wouldn't be here without her," Rodriguez says.

Read the full story in Breakthroughs...


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Recent Posts

Professor's startup company empowers consumers to see through "greenwashing"
Ushering out tree-sitters, forestry alum ushers in a new era in Humboldt County
Michael Hanemann receives European Lifetime Achievement Award in Environmental Economics
Award-winning paper prescribes how to improve upon Kyoto
Geochemist Garrison Sposito, a "legend" of chemistry
Geospatial Innovation Facility: New name, new logo, new web site. . .
Chelsea Specht honored with Prytanean Faculty Award
Teaching Biology at Prison University
$1.4 M grant funds PMB researcher's work on "jumping genes"
A Nobel Cause


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