College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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July 17, 2010

CE Specialist Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Peggy Lemaux, Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, was presented with The Society of In Vitro Biology Lifetime Achievement Award for 2010.

Dr. Lemaux is considered by many as being overall the most influential contributor to the field of monocot transformation. She is recognized internationally for her groundbreaking research in corn and barley transformation, and her work has also been critical in the development of transformation protocols for other species such as wheat, rice, oats, sorghum and turf/forage grasses.

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July 14, 2010

Jesse Reynolds Receives Fulbright Award

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Mr. Jesse Reynolds of California has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarship to Netherlands in Law, the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board announced recently.
Reynolds is one of over 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2010-2011 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Since getting his master's from ESPM in 2000, Reynolds has worked at the Center for Genetics and Society for the last nine years. http://www.geneticsandsociety.org CGS is a Berkeley-based organization that advocates for the responsible development and use of human reproductive and genetic biotechnologies.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The Program operates in over 155 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics. Forty Fulbright alumni from 11 countries have been awarded the Nobel Prize, and 75 alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes. Prominent Fulbright alumni include: Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director and Founder, Grameen Bank, and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient; John Atta Mills, President of Ghana; Lee Evans, Olympic Gold Medalist; Ruth Simmons, President, Brown University; Riccardo Giacconi, Physicist
and 2002 Nobel Laureate; Amar Gopal Bose, Chairman and Founder, Bose Corporation; Renee Fleming, soprano; Gish Jen, Writer; and Daniel Libeskind, Architect.

Fulbright recipients are among over 40,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. For more than sixty years, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has funded and supported programs that seek to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education .

For further information about the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, please visit: http://fulbright.state.gov or contact James A. Lawrence, Office of Academic Exchange Programs, telephone 202-632-3241, or e-mail fulbright@state.gov

July 9, 2010

Ferns and fog on the forest floor

By: Richard Hund, American Journal of Botany

Redwood forest ecosystem of northern California depends on fog to stay hydrated during rainless summers

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As the mercury rises outdoors, it's a fitting time to consider the effects of summertime droughts and global warming on ecosystems. Complex interactions among temperature, water cycling, and plant communities create a tangled web of questions that need to be answered as we face a rapidly changing climate.

Drs. Emily Limm and Todd Dawson (University of California, Berkeley) recently tackled one aspect of the challenging question of how climate change can impact plant communities that obtain water from fog. Their results are published in the July issue of the American Journal of Botany.

Fog is an important source of water to ecosystems around the world, because fog allows plants to stay hydrated even during times without rain. Fog may condense and drip to the soil, where it can be taken up by roots. Alternatively, some plants are able to absorb the water from fog through their leaves, allowing these plants to immediately benefit from the atmospheric moisture that may never reach the forest floor. The fern Polystichum munitum covers the forest floors of the redwood forests in northern California. Limm and Dawson examined variation in the ability of the leaves of P. munitum to absorb the water from fog.

The researchers found that the quantity of water the plants absorbed varied in the different regions of the redwood forest. "Today, summertime drought conditions are greater in the southern end of the redwood forest ecosystem of Northern California, and this reduces P. munitum abundance and plant size. These smaller ferns in the south are less able to capture fog water that drips to the forest floor during the summer, and they may therefore suffer more drought stress than ferns in the northern end of the redwood forest ecosystem," Limm stated.

This has important implications for the structure of plant communities. Limm explained, "If climate change causes further shrinkage of these ferns, this will change how fog water is distributed on the forest floor and may lead to dramatic changes in how the redwood understory functions."

Limm and Dawson are hoping that native ferns may be able to acclimate to increasing drought conditions, and this acclimation would allow the plants to mitigate the effects of drought on the ecosystem and reduce the potential for local population extinctions. "If these ferns can make morphological and physiological adjustments to survive when drought intensifies, then they will be less impacted by climate change in the near future," Limm commented.

Limm and Dawson have involved the public in their research through a Citizen Scientist program. The public helps to collect data on the abundance of P. munitum in a redwood forest near Oakland, California. This not only has contributed to the research on the effect of climate change on P. munitum, but also has resulted in a change in people's impressions of the forest.

"I've often heard people exclaim that they never realized that there where even plants on the forest floor in the redwood forest because they are always looking up at the giant coast redwoods…After they learn about P. munitum's amazing ability to absorb fog water through their leaves in much higher rates than the coast redwood, they often tell me that they will never look at a fern the same way again," Limm said.

Limm and Dawson's findings appear in the July issue of the American Journal of Botany, and the article is currently online at http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/97/7/1121

City Hopes to Address Urban Deer Attacks

By: Leah Moskovich, DailyCal

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Sara Lopus, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. student, always regarded the wild deer in her Thousand Oaks neighborhood of North Berkeley as tranquil, non-aggressive creatures. Naturally, she never expected to be charged by a female doe half a block from her home on Capistrano and Colusa avenues May 6.

A marked rise in the "urban" deer population has led to three separate incidents of wild deer attacks on dogs and humans within the last year, according to city officials, and the city is looking to alleviate the situation.

The Berkeley City Council directed City Manager Phil Kamlarz Tuesday night to meet with representatives from the East Bay Regional Park District and the California Department of Fish and Game to determine how to address the growing wild deer population's impact on residential neighborhoods at Tilden Park's interface.

On a weekly basis, about 30 to 40 deer sightings are reported by residents in the North Berkeley area. A decade ago, that number was reported every six months, according to Jill Martinucci, legislative assistant to Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

According to Reginald Barrett, a UC Berkeley professor of wildlife biology and management, the deer, which wander as far down from the hills as the North Berkeley BART Station and as far west as Sacramento Street, become aggressive near dogs or when a doe is protecting her fawn.

"Every time we call (the Department of Fish and Game) about these incidents, they say it's normal behavior," Martinucci said.

Barrett said the urban environment in Berkeley is especially hospitable for deer because there is little to no predation and plenty of vegetation from residents' gardens.

"It might be surprising to people that the deer population density is higher in the city than in Tilden Park," Barrett said.

In response to the attack on Lopus, a Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association meeting was held in May and Roxanne Bowers, a warden for Alameda County from the Department of Fish and Game, offered advice regarding wildlife intrusion.

Residents were advised to replace all plants of interest to deer with deer-resistant plants, to keep any fallen fruit from remaining on the ground and to carry umbrellas as weapons when walking through their neighborhood.

For Lopus and other residents, this advice was not helpful.

"I don't think my attack was a fluke, and I think the advice that was offered to us was really absurd," Lopus said in an e-mail.

Residents can obtain "depredation" permits from the Department of Fish and Game to have an individual deer removed via entrapment, but these permits are rarely issued and do not help the ongoing issue, Barrett said.

"Depredation permits are an example of one short-term solution," he said. "Currently, there is no definite answer."

July 8, 2010

Professor elected as an Academician by Academia Sinica

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Professor Inez Fung, a professor of both Earth and Planetary Sciences and Environmental Science, Policy and Management, is elected as one of the 18 Academicians recognized by Academia Sinica. Academia Sinica holds its twice-yearly Convocation of Academicians. This year, the Convocation was held from July 5 to July 8 culminating in the announcement of the 2010 list of Academicians on July 8, 2010.

Professor Inez Fung received her Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1971. She, then, received her Doctor of Science degree in Meteorology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977. Her research interests include the many aspects of biosphere-atmosphere interaction, with the goal of gaining predictive capability of how atmospheric composition may evolve in the future.

Academia Sinica, the most preeminent academic institution in the Republic of China, was founded in 1928 to promote and undertake scholarly research in sciences and humanities. After the government moved to Taiwan in 1949, Academia Sinica was re-established in Taipei.

To learn more about Professor Inez Fung and her work, please visit her website.

To see other elected Academicians, please visit this website.

To find out more information on Academic Sinica, please go here.

Exposing the Student Body: Stanford Joins U.C. Berkeley in Controversial Genetic Testing of Students

By: Ferris Jabr, Scientific American

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This week, the University of California, Berkeley will mail saliva sample kits to every incoming freshman and transfer student. Students can choose to use the kits to submit their DNA for genetic analysis, as part of an orientation program on the topic of personalized medicine. But U.C. Berkeley isn't the only university offering its students genetic testing. Stanford University's summer session started two weeks ago, including a class on personal genomics that gives medical and graduate students the chance to sequence their genotypes and study the results.

The idea behind the two novel projects is that students will learn about optimizing treatment based on one's genetic profile most effectively if they are studying their own DNA—an idea that has met with both praise for educational innovation and criticism centering on potential ethical issues.

"The concerns did not revolve around whether students should be taught about genetic testing—everyone agreed about that," says Gilbert Chu, a Stanford professor of medicine and biochemistry. "The concerns surround allowing students to undergo genetic tests themselves. I don't think it's been an easy road to get to this, and I don't think we know whether it's going to be successful."

George Annas, a bioethicist at the Boston University School of Public Health, worries that the projects are premature. "This potentially is a model that other schools will copy. I think it's an innovative idea that can get students engaged, but from my perspective they are facing a very steep learning curve about how to do this. I don't think they're ready."

Stanford and Berkeley faced the same essential ethical dilemmas in creating their programs: avoiding coercion, protecting students' privacy and adequately preparing students to interpret the results of their tests. But the two universities took markedly different approaches to designing and executing their respective projects

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The fewer Island marmots there are, the crankier they get

By Sandra Mcculloch, Times Colonist

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When they were facing extinction, the 25 or so Vancouver Island marmots remaining in the wild were cranky, uncommunicative and aloof.

That's one of the findings of research published in the latest edition of the Journal of Animal Ecology, written by biologists Justin Brashares, Jeffery Werner and Anthony Sinclair, who were based at the University of B.C. during the study.

The research, carried out from 2001 to 2005, focused on a phenomenon called the Alee effect -- the social meltdown of animal populations that sometimes occurs when their numbers are dwindling.

At the time of the research, the number of Vancouver Island marmots left was at their lowest. But thanks to a captive breeding program involving four Canadian zoos and animal rehabilitation centres, the population has since rebounded to several hundred. The Vancouver Island marmot recovery teams expect the target of 500 marmots will be reached by next summer.

"What Alee said was ... if you reduce a population, particularly for social animals, you can get to a point where their sociality breaks down and they don't get the benefit of having big families or big social groups anymore and that can put them in a spiral to extinction," said Brashares from the University of California at Berkeley, where he now works, earlier this week.

Marmots rely on each other to whistle their alarm calls, signalling predatory eagles overhead or the approach of wolves, "and this is how a marmot colony works," said Brashares. "So what happens when there's only one member in a colony? There's no one watching your back, basically."

Brashares and his team found the marmots greeted one another 10 times less than they used to and fought more frequently.

The research also showed that as the marmot numbers decreased, the numbers being eaten by predators went up. "It fits this idea that Alee had long ago that social animals get a lot of benefits by being in groups," Brashares said.

Marmots also hibernate together, which increases their chances of surviving a cold winter. It was surprising to see how far a single marmot would roam in search of other marmots, Brashares said, since other marmot species are much more social and sedentary.

While hoary marmots, found on the mainland, range over two or three hectares, the Vancouver Island marmots wander over 25 or 26 hectares at a minimum. The largest home range for a Vancouver Island marmot colony was mapped at more than 200 hectares, he said.

Don Doyle of the Marmot Recovery Team said he has tracked marmots travelling as much as 35 kilometres. He believes much of that travel could be to find a mate.

"The mountain [Brashares] was studying a lot had a very skewed male ratio," said Doyle. "If I was a male up there and there were very few females, I'd probably roam around a lot. It might have been unusual conditions or it might be because of Vancouver Island marmot habitat that these guys have to roam around a lot."

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July 2, 2010

Scientists study Global Warming Effects on Redwoods in CA

By: Paul Rogers, Mercury News
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When two of his colleagues dangled on ropes 100 feet above from the gnarled branches of a giant sequoia tree in Big Trees, CA, Steve Sillett could hardly contain his excitement.

"This site is just juicy. It's loaded," said Sillett, gazing up at the ancient canopy at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. "There are amazing lichens up there. There are aphids being hunted by ladybugs. I found a sizable dogwood tree growing from a branch 210 feet off the ground."

The foggy, lost worlds atop the world's biggest trees are about to come into sharper focus.

Concerned that rising temperatures across California could threaten the future of the state's coast redwoods and giant sequoias in the next century, Sillett, one of the nation's top redwood scientists, and a team of researchers have embarked on a first-of-its-kind project to measure how global warming is affecting California's iconic trees.

Over the next three years, the team members, funded by Save the Redwoods League in San Francisco, are climbing immense redwoods and sequoias at 13 locations as part of the $2.5 million project. The study's locations extend from the remote corners of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park near the Oregon border to Big Basin in Santa Cruz County to the timeless groves of Sequoia National Park in the central Sierra Nevada.

Researchers are fitting individual trees — many of which were growing before Europe's medieval cathedrals were built — with sensors to measure for temperature, humidity, rain, fog, light, wind and barometric pressure.

Their goal is to see how the trees respond to changes in temperature and rainfall, along with a reduction in fog, a trend that already is under way.

"These are trees that have inspired people for hundreds of years," said Ruskin Hartley, executive director of Save the Redwoods League. "But what does their future look like? We really don't know."

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Recent Posts

CE Specialist Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award
Jesse Reynolds Receives Fulbright Award
Ferns and fog on the forest floor
City Hopes to Address Urban Deer Attacks
Professor elected as an Academician by Academia Sinica
Exposing the Student Body: Stanford Joins U.C. Berkeley in Controversial Genetic Testing of Students
The fewer Island marmots there are, the crankier they get
Scientists study Global Warming Effects on Redwoods in CA

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