College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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February 25, 2011

Homoplasy – A good thread to pull to understand the evolutionary ball of yarn.

Similarity can arise in two species for a number of reasons; studying these can lead to a fuller and more profound understanding of the processes underlying genetic, developmental and evolutionary interrelatedness.

By: Karyn Houston, PMB Communication Specialist

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Innovative research at UC Berkeley to better understand the patterns and processes of evolution is featured in the issue of Science coming out February 25, 2011.

Continue reading " Homoplasy – A good thread to pull to understand the evolutionary ball of yarn. " »

February 22, 2011

Tick population plummets in absence of lizard hosts

By: Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley Media Relations
Photograhy by: Anand Varma

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A Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) can often be found with dozens of ticks attached to it. However, they have a unique influence on the ecology of Lyme disease. The lizard's immune system clears the Lyme disease bacteria from ticks after the ticks feed on the lizard.


The Western fence lizard’s reputation for helping to reduce the threat of Lyme disease is in jeopardy. A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that areas where the lizard had been removed saw a subsequent drop in the population of the ticks that transmit Lyme disease.

“Our expectation going into this study was that removing the lizards would increase the risk of Lyme disease, so we were surprised by these findings,” said study lead author Andrea Swei, who conducted the study while she was a Ph.D. student in integrative biology at UC Berkeley. “Our experiment found that the net result of lizard removal was a decrease in the density of infected ticks, and therefore decreased Lyme disease risk to humans.”

The study, to be published online Tuesday, Feb. 15, in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, illustrates the complex role the Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) plays in the abundance of disease-spreading ticks.

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February 17, 2011

Green Lit at SF Green Film Festival

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Lauren Selman ’07, Conservation Resources Studies with her Senior Project Advisor, Professor Emeritus John Hurst.

One of the biggest challenges environmentalists face is effectively communicating and implementing change. CNR alumna Lauren Selman is tacking those challenges head on. Only three years out of college, Lauren is an entrepreneur extraordinaire – she founded ReelGreenMedia, an environmental consulting and media company dedicated to environmentally friendly production and messaging. Lauren’s business provides services and resources that ensure eco-friendly production practices for film, television, radio and theater around the world.

You can see Lauren at work in Miranda Bailey’s documentary film “Green Lit” at the San Francisco Green Film Festival (March 3-6, 2011). A wonderful documentary that acknowledges the creativity and perseverance needed to encourage each individual to do their part for the environment. It shows that convenience and daily habits are entrenched in even the most liberal-minded people—those left-leaning, California movie makers.

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Green Lit at the SF Green Film Festival

February 15, 2011

Berkeley Green Chemistry Conference

The Philomathia Foundation Conference 2011
Green Chemistry: Collaborative Approaches and New Solutions

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Green Chemistry: Collaborative Approaches and New Solutions is the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry’s first national conference. It will introduce the collaborative approaches to sustainability piloted by the center and will feature leaders from many fields, who will speak to the role of green chemistry in responding to society’s most pressing health, environmental and economic problems.

Sponsored by The Philomathia Foundation, the conference will take place on the Berkeley campus on Thursday, March 24, 2011. The conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall.UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will welcome participants with opening remarks.

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China Confronts Looming Water Shortages

By: Li Jiao, Science Insider

The Chinese government plans to spend a whopping $600 billion (4 trillion renminbi) over the next 10 years on measures to ensure adequate water supplies for the country. But scientists who have glimpsed the details of the grand effort worry that it may end up harming wetlands and may be ineffective, as several ministries that handle water issues work poorly together.

Much of northern China is in the grips of a months-long drought that could threaten yields of wheat and other crops this spring. Exacerbating the problem are a rapidly retreating groundwater table in the north (Science, 18 June 2010, p. 1462) and pollution of major waterways. Seeking a long-term solution, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council announced on 29 January the massive investment, which aims to achieve sustainable water use by controlling total water consumption, improving irrigation efficiency, and restricting groundwater pumping, among other measures.

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Globe-trotting researchers find natural enemies of the olive fruit fly

Janet Byron, University of California Green Blog

UC scientists and cooperators traveled the world looking for natural enemies of the olive fruit fly — the most important pest of olive trees — and found several parasites of the fruit fly that may help control efforts.

First detected here in the late 1990s, the invasive (nonnative) olive fruit fly is now found in more than 40 California counties, and presents significant challenges for the state’s olive industry.

Insecticide-based control programs are costly and can not fully eradicate the olive fruit fly, in part, because olive trees along roadsides and in residential areas serve as reservoirs, allowing the flies to reinvade treated commercial orchards.

“Classical biological control — the importation of novel natural enemies from the pest’s home range — offers the best opportunity to economically suppress olive fruit fly in these situations,” UC Berkeley specialist Kent Daane and colleagues wrote in the January-March 2011 issue of California Agriculture journal.

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Frances Moore Lappé

Living Democracy and Social Justice: Everyday Connections Between Global Hunger, Environmental Sustainability and Food Policies

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Thursday, April 7, 2011
5:00 - 6:00 pm Reception
6:00 - 7:30 pm Presentation

Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall, UC Berkeley

Sponsored by: School of Social Welfare
Co-Sponsored by: College of Natural Resources and Graduate School of Journalism

Prolific author and former School of Social Welfare student Frances Moore Lappé began a revolution in 1971 with her first book and best-seller, Diet for A Small Planet, which forever changed the way people think about food, world hunger and the human practices that lead to poor and unjust systems of resource distribution.

With a career spanning four decades, Lappé’s dedication to exploring the root causes of starvation, poverty and environmental crises and advocating for solutions through her “Living Democracy” movement has resulted in 17 books, including Democracy's Edge: Choosing to Save our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life and most recently Getting a Grip 2: Clarity, Creativity and Courage for the World We Really Want. She is also the co-founder of three organizations, including Food First: The Institute for Food and Development Policy in Oakland and the Cambridge, Mass.-based Small Planet Institute. Her work has been recognized by Gourmet Magazine, which listed her among the top 25 individuals who have changed the way Americans eat, and by the James Beard Foundation, which granted its Humanitarian Award to Lappé in 2008.

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February 11, 2011

Scientists Warn Against Stifling Effect of Widespread Patenting in Stem Cell Field

By: Michael Pena, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

In an opinion piece published on Feb. 10 in the journal Science, a team of scholars led by a Johns Hopkins bioethicist urges the scientific community to act collectively to stem the negative effects of patenting and privatizing of stem cell lines, data and pioneering technologies. This means grappling with the ambiguity of several fundamental distinctions typically made in ethics, law, and common practice, the experts insist.

The team, led by Debra Mathews, Ph.D., M.A., of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, says failures to properly manage the widespread patenting by both private and public organizations threatens to obscure what is and what isn’t in the public domain. In addition, this disarray may well hinder progress toward breakthroughs that could lead to new treatments the public desperately wants.

“Pervasive taking of intellectual property rights has resulted in a complex and confusing patchwork of ownership and control in the field of stem cell science,” says Mathews, assistant director for science programs at the Berman Institute. “While intellectual property provides a critical incentive to take basic scientific discoveries and translate them into marketable products, transparency about such property is equally critical.”

Continue reading "Scientists Warn Against Stifling Effect of Widespread Patenting in Stem Cell Field" »

February 10, 2011

Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a land ethic for our time

Join us for the west coast premiere of Green Fire!

See the first full-length, high-definition documentary film ever made about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold and his environmental legacy! Today, Leopold’s ethic inspires projects nationwide that connect people and land.

Date & Location:
Monday, February 28th,
Berkeley Art Museum and
Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA
Time: 5:30pm, reception and science discussion to follow at Berkeley Alumni House

More Info

Please RSVP by February 14th to events@sbcouncil.org or 530.582.4800.

Space is limited.

Presented by the Northern Sierra Partnership and the following partners:
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See the Flyer

February 9, 2011

Forestry Genetics Giant Bruce Zobel Dies

By: Ann Brody Guy, CNR Communications Director

Bruce John Zobel died at his home in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday, February 5, 2011. He was E.F. Conger Distinguished Professor of Forestry at North Carolina State University and a pioneer in the field of forest genetics. Zobel graduated from UC Berkeley in 1943 with a degree in forestry. After working as a logging engineering in Northern California and a Forestry Officer in the Marines, he returned to Berkeley for master’s and Ph.D. degrees in forestry, specializing in the new field of forest genetics.

From 1951-1956 Zobel ran the new program in forest genetics for the Texas Forest Service, associated with Texas A&M College. In 1957, he joined the cooperative research program with the forestry industry, where he mentored graduate students from all over the world. After his retirement in1979, Zobel continued to teach part-time and consulted all over the world.

Continue reading "Forestry Genetics Giant Bruce Zobel Dies" »

February 4, 2011

Fire Management is Key to Preserving China’s Changing Landscapes

by: Meg Krawchuk

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Fire and climate change is a really hot topic – pardon the pun – when it comes to climate science. Why? We know quite a bit about the tight relationship between fire and climate and that future climate change will alter the geographic distribution and abundance of vegetation fire. Where, how, and when this occurs are very much open questions.

Fires are complicated. First, they release greenhouse gases, but keep in mind that if vegetation regrows, that carbon is recaptured and stored. Second, fires disturb ecosystems, but the ecological effect depends very much on whether an ecosystem is fire dependent or fire sensitive. Third, even in fire-dependent ecosystems, flames can hurt people and damage property. So thinking about fire and climate is a must for conservation scientists like myself.

The recent work The Nature Conservancy has been doing on climate change and fire in China uses statistical models to predict various possibilities of changing fire activity related to climate change. I looked closely at a handful of landscapes – 32 areas designated as priorities for conservation by The Nature Conservancy China Program.

Continue reading "Fire Management is Key to Preserving China’s Changing Landscapes" »

February 3, 2011

Berkeley professor hails agroecology success for Chile apple project

By: Fresh Fruit Portal

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Agroecologists Miguel Altieri and Emilio Fernández

Not just a buzzword synonym for organic farming, ‘agroecology’ aims to mimic the self-sustaining productivity of natural ecosystems in a man-made setting. University of California, Berkeley, professor and Chilean national Miguel Altieri says an apple project in his country’s Casablanca region proves agroecology not only helps the environment, but cuts production costs too.

Altieri says there is no choice for farmers but to go down the path of agroecology, which uses the lowest amount of chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, while at the same time combining plant life to enrich the soil.

“I believe that climate change and water management will force many farmers to understand that the way they make their crops more resilient is diversity and increasing organic matter in the soil,” says the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) consultant.

“The native forest for example, doesn’t need to be fertilized, or irrigated, it doesn’t have plagues, because it is in equilibrium, thanks to its diversity, and it has a lot of life in the soil, which is to say that it has features that permit it to run by itself.

“There are many farmers who moved from chemicals to organic but kept the monoculture, so they have to keep using products.”

Continue reading "Berkeley professor hails agroecology success for Chile apple project" »

February 2, 2011

Ants' genome project might unlock mysteries

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor, San Francisco Chronicle
Photo Credit: Alex Wild


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Argentine ants, those nasty invaders of homes around the world, have yielded their innermost secrets to an international team of biologists who have deciphered their genetic code, revealing new clues to their evolution, their social lives - and perhaps to their ultimate defeat as pests.

Led by scientists at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley, scores of gene hunters joined in what amounted to an Ant Genome Project - a smaller-scale version of the Human Genome Project that was completed a decade ago.

This week, four groups of biologists and ant geneticists are announcing that they have completed draft sequences for the Argentine ant, the huge red harvester ant, the vicious stinging fire ant and the peaceful, fungus-farming leaf-cutter ant. Their reports appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and PloS, the Public Library of Science.

Homeowners around the world are probably most familiar with tiny brown Argentine ants, which year after year and time after time invade their cupboards and countertops looking for morsels of food.

"We now have blueprints for understanding the genetic basis of behavior in the Argentine ants," said Christopher D. Smith, a molecular biologist at San Francisco State. "We've found the genes for determining their development as queens and worker ants, for how queen ants produce chemicals that prevent ant larvae from developing into adults, and for their resistance to toxic chemicals."

Continue reading "Ants' genome project might unlock mysteries" »

Wildfire Expert Speaks: Discusses the Behavior of Landscape Fires

By: Kiran Aulakh, The Santa Barbara Independent

Dr. Max Moritz delivered a lecture on the nature of wild fires at UCSB’s Buchanan Hall on Thursday, January 27. The colloquium was one of several mandatory seminars conducted by experts for graduate students, according to Micah Brachman, a graduate student in geography.

In the lecture hall, Moritz sipped from a Klean Kanteen as the crowd of approximately 40 people trickled down to their seats. Moritz received his Ph.D. in Spatial Ecology Research from UCSB and currently leads fire seminars at the Moritz lab at UC Berkeley.

Continue reading "Wildfire Expert Speaks: Discusses the Behavior of Landscape Fires" »

U.C. Berkeley renews Peace Corps push on 50th birthday

Steven E.F. Brown, San Francisco Business Times

The University of California, Berkeley, is urging its graduates to join the Peace Corps as that organization celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Although U.C. Berkeley is still the No. 1 all time producer of Peace Corps volunteers, with more than 3,400 of its graduates joining the organization since 1961, it has slipped to No. 6 on the annual college ranking this year, with just 92 volunteers. Cal finds itself behind the University of Colorado (117 volunteers this year), the University of Florida (97) and the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina and the University of Washington (94 each).

“I would like to challenge our graduates to recapture the No. 1 spot,” said Cal Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

Continue reading "U.C. Berkeley renews Peace Corps push on 50th birthday" »

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Recent Posts

Homoplasy – A good thread to pull to understand the evolutionary ball of yarn.
Tick population plummets in absence of lizard hosts
Green Lit at SF Green Film Festival
Berkeley Green Chemistry Conference
China Confronts Looming Water Shortages
Globe-trotting researchers find natural enemies of the olive fruit fly
Frances Moore Lappé
Scientists Warn Against Stifling Effect of Widespread Patenting in Stem Cell Field
Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a land ethic for our time
Forestry Genetics Giant Bruce Zobel Dies

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