College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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August 26, 2011

John Helms Emeritus Professor of Forestry receives Gifford Pinchot Medal


Helms is professor emeritus of silviculture at the University of California-Berkeley, where he has taught approximately 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students and supervised numerous master’s and doctoral candidates during his career. His research has focused on regeneration, stand structure control, silvicultural systems, and tree physiology, particularly in regard to carbon dioxide exchange and water use of trees experiencing stress from competition, drought, and air pollution.

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August 25, 2011

UC Research Will Guide Air Pollution Policy

By Erik Vance, University of California Research


UC scientists built and worked in towers as part of the largest single atmospheric research effort in the state. The data they've collected will guide policymakers dealing with air pollution.

When geologists want to catalogue California’s rock layers, they bring a few axes, a compass and broad-brimmed hats. When biologists want to understand birds, they need decent binoculars and good hiking boots. But when scientists catalogue California’s air pollution, they bring planes, a large ship and instrument-equipped towers, some as tall as 1,500 feet.

At least that was the case with CalNex, the largest single atmospheric research endeavor in California history. The effort partnered the California Air Resources Board (ARB), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and numerous universities and research teams throughout the country, including many in the UC system. “It approaches the largest field study that we’ve been involved in,” says David Parrish, a lead NOAA scientist for CalNex.

The idea behind the project was to create a massive database of the state’s air over an intensive six-week period to focus on air pollution problems in its most affected regions. On the American Lung Association’s list of America’s most polluted cities last year, four of the top five spots were in California.

For those who live in places like Bakersfield, Los Angeles and Fresno, the air pollution means high levels of emphysema, asthma and cancer. Yet the project also offers opportunities to study the complex relationships between chemicals in the atmosphere as well as to lessen health effects. CalNex was an opportunity for the best atmospheric minds in the country to assemble, further their understanding of the skies and offer solutions to policymakers desperately in need of guidance.

“No group has the capability to measure all these parameters,” says Jochen Stutz, an atmospheric scientist at UCLA. “So the only way we can really do cutting-edge science is by getting together — everybody specializing in a certain type of measurement — and then combining all our efforts into these huge data sets.”

Stutz’s tower, which he co-managed with CalTech and NOAA, held 70 different monitoring devices used by 40 independent teams. Located in Pasadena, it was designed to monitor urban air pollution.

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August 24, 2011

Lemaux Elected President of Plant Society

By Karyn Houston

Lemaux-Breakthroughs130.jpgCooperative Extension Specialist Peggy Lemaux has been elected President of the 5,000-member American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), a key position that brings some attention to Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and the University of California. Lemaux, a leader in educational efforts in agriculture, food and farming methods, has been a member of the Society for 27 years and is the fifth UC Berkeley scientist to lead this professional group in its 87-year history as a plant biology-focused organization. (Photo: James Block)

Lemaux will provide input on important decisions related to plant research and funding - issues that affect the plant biology community in the United States and around the world. Owing to its membership, the society has extensive international influence. Sixty percent of its members are from the US, but the rest are from more than 50 other countries worldwide. One of her top goals with the society will be to press for increased funding for plant research – particularly important for scientists in the early stages of their careers.

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Teaching Science and the Imagination

By Ann Brody Guy


There are plenty of freshman science classes on campus, but it's safe to say that Introduction to Environmental Studies (ESPM C12, English C77) is the only one in which students are introduced to the scientific method through studying a surrealist painting.

The class, which hints at its unique content by satisfying both science and philosophy breadth requirements, might more aptly be named Introduction to Environmental Thought. It is co-taught by Garrison Sposito, a professor in the department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), whose contributions to environmental science have been honored by the American Geophysical Union and the American Chemical Society, and English professor Robert Hass, former U.S. poet laureate (1995-97) and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

The class is not interdisciplinary in the sense that it brings together the humanistic, literary, and scientific aspects of the environment. Rather, say Hass and Sposito, their point is to show students that those elements are never separate.

They point to their own interests as models: Sposito is a scientist, but also has an abiding interest in the history of modern art. Hass is an accomplished amateur naturalist who sometimes leads field trips to look at Bay Area wildlife.

"Science and the imagination are always in dialogue, always have been," says Hass, who launched the class in 1997.

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August 21, 2011

Steve Quarles, Home Fire-Protection Expert, Retires from UC

By Pam Kan-Rice

California homeowners enjoy reduced risk of losing their houses to wildfire due to the research of Mill Valley resident Steve Quarles. The UC Cooperative Extension wood durability advisor retired Aug. 1 after 26 years of university service.

Although he was based at the UC Richmond Field Station in Contra Costa County, Californians throughout the state use Quarles’ research-based information on the performance of wood products and wood-framed structures to protect their homes from wildfire. Serving on a national committee, he helped develop fire standards for ASTM, a professional society that develops consensus-based standards for building materials.

“Steve Quarles has worked tirelessly for many years to help develop the country's leading building material solutions to the wildfire problem that plagues our communities,” said Kate Dargan, former California State Fire Marshal.

“Steve's research is valuable, and will be for many years to come, to the firefighters that are in harm’s way, to the communities that struggle for disaster resiliency, and to the homeowners that choose to protect their lives and valuables using material and information he has provided,” said Dargan, who is now president of emergency intelligence software company Intterra Inc. in Nevada County.

“For years the major emphasis on what to do to prepare for wildfires was to clear def

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August 18, 2011

Obituary: CNR Research Associate Rebecca Wenk

By John Battles, Professor of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management


BERKELEY — Rebecca Wenk, a research associate in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), died after a brief battle with thyroid cancer on Thursday, July 14. She was 31.

Wenk started working in ESPM while still an undergraduate at UC Davis in 2001. She began working in the range and forest ecology labs in ESPM, and after graduation continued there for the next 10 years. Along the way, she spent two years earning her M.S. in botany from San Francisco State University and the California Academy of Sciences. Since 2007, she split her time working at Berkeley as a research associate and at the Cal Academy of Sciences as a curatorial assistant.

Wenk's fascination with plants is renowned. While she was a dedicated ecosystem scientist, plants were her primary passion, an interest that she shared with great relish. Her botanical expertise will be hard to replace. She was also a talented photographer and artist, capturing her love of plants and the outdoors.

We will greatly miss her friendship, enthusiasm, and sense of humor.

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Recent Posts

John Helms Emeritus Professor of Forestry receives Gifford Pinchot Medal
UC Research Will Guide Air Pollution Policy
Lemaux Elected President of Plant Society
Teaching Science and the Imagination
Steve Quarles, Home Fire-Protection Expert, Retires from UC
Obituary: CNR Research Associate Rebecca Wenk


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