College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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November 23, 2009

Tom Graff: A practical environmental visionary

By Professor David Zilberman, Agricultural and Resource Economics

As the world is preparing for a big environmental summit in Copenhagen, knowing that an agreement is very unlikely, it’s become apparent how difficult it is to reach an environmental agreement that can stick and change the course of history. People that can bring about such agreement are really rare, and last week we lost one of them, Tom Graff.

Tom was an environmental lawyer who opened the west coast office of the Environmental Defense.

Water is the most precious resource of the west. The west was built by the diversion of water from wild lands to mine gold, build cities, and irrigate farmland. Some were cheering these activities that “make the desert bloom,” but in the meantime many regions, like Owens Valley, were ravaged. The legal establishment provided tools, like the prior appropriation doctrine, that enabled these diversions. This legal doctrine allowed diversions as long as the water provides “beneficial use,” was based on the principles of “first in time, first in right,” and “use it or lose it,” and restricted trading in water.

Continue reading "Tom Graff: A practical environmental visionary" »

November 19, 2009

CNR Entomology Alums Honored by Cal Academy

Maurice and Catherine Tauber, alumni of the doctoral program in Entomology at CNR, have been elected honorary fellows of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.

Maurice and Catherine met in the 1960s as graduate students, receiving their doctorates in 1967 and 1968 respectively. They went on to enjoy a long and successful partnership studying insect seasonality, evolutionary biology and speciation, biological control, and systematics at Cornell.

The Taubers are recently retired and now reside in Davis, California.

Read more about the Taubers

November 14, 2009

The College of Natural Resources morns the loss of a great environmental leader and friend

Tom Graff, 65, died yesterday, November 11, 2009, after a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer.

In 1971, Tom opened the first California Office of the Environmental Defense Fund and went on to be one of the most influential environmentalists in California water policy during the proceeding 30 years.

In 2008, to honor Tom’s work, as well as a long-standing professional association and friendship, George A. Miller and his wife, Janet A. McKinley, funded the Thomas J. Graff Chair in the College of Natural Resources.

For more information on Tom and his life’s work please see:

November 11, 2009

Insect Museum Launches “Essig Brunch” on Fridays


[the stick insect Epidares nolimetangere from the rainforests of northwest Borneo, taken by Yu Zeng, a student in IB]

Instead of a big fuzzy panda bear beckoning as the symbol of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), how about the giant flower-loving fly, or better yet, the California night-stalking tiger beetle? Images of iconic creatures such as the panda are commonplace in our society, and like many of our most venerated animals (think dinosaurs, puppies, and birds), they are vertebrates. But when’s the last time you heard of a “Save the Bugs” campaign, or a movie about a cartoon millipede? Why this bias against the spineless? It could be because it’s a lot easier to cuddle with a cat or dog than a hairy pine borer (it’s a beetle), or because we ourselves are vertebrates, and, well, we like us and things similar to us. Whatever the reason, Berkeley’s entomology students are on a mission to gain a little respect for the insects and other arthropods that dominate the earth, and their first salvo is the creation of a no-spines-allowed seminar series.

If popularity was measured in terms of pure diversity, the insects would be prom queen. With 1 million documented species and an estimated 9 million more awaiting discovery and description, insects comprise half of all the known biodiversity on Earth. The University of California’s own Essig Museum of Entomology houses over 5 million of the Berkeley Natural History Museums’ 12 million specimens. One of these museums, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ), runs a highly successful seminar series dubbed “MVZ Lunch” on Wednesday afternoons, drawing guest speakers from around the world to discuss their research on ecology and evolution. And while the entomology students enjoy attending these talks, they have decided to answer with a seminar of their own in order to bring a little taxonomic parity to the table.

Starting Friday, November 13, and continuing on the second Friday of every month, the Essig Museum will host “Essig Brunch,” a seminar covering the ecology, evolution, and conservation of all arthropods (insects, spiders, snails, and other spineless wonders). The seminar will run from 10-11 in the Museum of Paleontology’s “fishbowl” (1101 VLSB, at the feet of the giant T. rex skeleton), is open to everyone, and will have coffee and other refreshments. Talks will run about 30 minutes, with time for mingling beforehand and questions afterward. The series opens with a talk from ESPM professor Kip Will on 11/13 titled “How Feronista got its upside-down genitalia and more of Kipling’s (Just So?) stories of pterostichine ground beetles.”

While all of Berkeley’s natural history museums enjoy close camaraderie, a little friendly competition can’t hurt, right? So does the upstart Essig Brunch have a chance of unseating MVZ Lunch as the premier meal-related seminar on campus?

“No way,” said MVZ Director Craig Mortiz. “But I look forward to them trying,” he added with his trademark grin.

November 5, 2009

Physical education key to improving health in low-income adolescents

School-based physical education plays a key role in curbing obesity and improving fitness among adolescents from low-income communities, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and UC Berkeley.

The study, which identifies opportunities for adolescents to improve their health based on routine daily activities, finds that regular participation in PE class is significantly associated with greater cardiovascular fitness and lower body mass index.

“We took an incredibly comprehensive look at all of the opportunities kids have throughout their day to engage in physical activity and determined which are the most strongly linked to fitness and weight status,” said first author Kristine Madsen, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCSF Children’s Hospital. “Obesity continues to be a major public health concern, particularly in low-income communities, so it is imperative that we develop targeted interventions to improve the health of at-risk youth.”

“This research will help support moving physical education policy forward. Clearly, physical education in schools is an underutilized tool in our efforts to reduce pediatric obesity,” said Patricia Crawford, DrPH, RD, the study’s senior author and director of the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health at UC Berkeley.

The study appears in the November 2009 issue of the journal “Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine”.

Continue reading "Physical education key to improving health in low-income adolescents" »

November 4, 2009

War of the Ants, Berkeley Style!

ant-fight2.jpg

Ants in Argentina swarm into supercolonies and use war tactics to fight each other! Weapons of choice: chemicals which mark friend from foe. Evolutionary biologist Neil Tsutsui, UC Berkeley associate professor of environmental science, policy and management has discovered that Ants engage in inter-colony warfare to prevent overpopulation. Makes you wonder what our world might be like if we were so genetically similar that chemicals could only distinguish an enemy from a friend.

Continue reading "War of the Ants, Berkeley Style!" »

November 3, 2009

Discussing the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act

Professor Michael Hanemann of ARE discusses S.1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, on KPFA's "Letters to Washington."

Download the Show

(Scroll in to the 45-minute mark to hear the segment).

November 1, 2009

A New ARE Study Projects Growth Dividend from Comprehensive National Climate Policy

As the U.S. Senate debates clean energy and climate legislation, a new economic analysis finds that strong federal policy could stimulate both employment and income growth across the national economy. The new study was conducted by the University of California in collaboration with University of Illinois and Yale University and provides an in-depth, state-by-state examination of the impacts of three pillars of federal legislation: energy efficiency, renewable energy and limits on carbon pollution.

“This report shows that stronger federal energy and climate policies are compatible with economic growth,” said the report’s lead author David Roland-Holst, Adjunct Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. “Those who say we cannot afford to take action now may not understand the opportunity we stand to lose by not acting. By revenue, energy is the world’s largest industry, yet traditional energy use patterns have created unsustainable carbon liabilities that threaten all of us. The next great knowledge-intensive sector will arise in an emerging multi-billion dollar global clean energy market. To participate in this technology breakout, we need policies that price carbon risk responsibly and create appropriate incentives for investors and innovators.”

Using EAGLE, a new state-of-the-art forecasting model, the study assesses the detailed economic implications of climate and energy policies currently under consideration in Congress. On a state-by-state basis, the study models both moderate and aggressive implementation of policies that put a cap on carbon emissions, create a market based program to reduce carbon emissions, and standards for and investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The study is available in summary form as a PDF: Report: New ARE Study Projects Growth Dividend.

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Recent Posts

Tom Graff: A practical environmental visionary
CNR Entomology Alums Honored by Cal Academy
The College of Natural Resources morns the loss of a great environmental leader and friend
Insect Museum Launches “Essig Brunch” on Fridays
Physical education key to improving health in low-income adolescents
War of the Ants, Berkeley Style!
Discussing the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act
A New ARE Study Projects Growth Dividend from Comprehensive National Climate Policy

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