College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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September 29, 2011

Five CNR Students Join Cal Energy Corps

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CNR students presented posters at the Cal Energy Corps Symposium, held at the Alumni House Sept. 22. Left to right: Miles Ten Brinke, Max Schubert, Ted Kim, Farah Ereiqat, Xiao Su. (Photo: Susan Kishi)

Five College of Natural Resources students completed a 10-week research internship over the summer and presented their work at a symposium at the Alumni House last week as part of the inaugural Cal Energy Corps cohort.

The Cal Energy Corps is an undergraduate internship program launched in February of this year to engage UC Berkeley's brightest students in the design, development, and delivery of sustainable energy and climate solutions around the world.

Learn more about the research projects of the 2011 Cal Energy Corps cohort.

Read the UC Berkeley News Center story on the Cal Energy Corps.


September 22, 2011

Bees Outpace Orchids in Evolution


By Sarah Yang, Media Relations

Orchid bees aren’t so dependent on orchids after all, according to a new study that challenges the prevailing view of how plants and their insect pollinators evolve together.

A long-standing belief among biologists holds that species in highly specialized relationships engage in a continual back-and-forth play of co-evolution.

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A male orchid bee collects fragrance compounds from flowers of a Notylia orchid. Female orchid bees choose mates based upon the mix of these chemical compounds. (Photo: R. B. Singer)

“What we found was that this reciprocal specialization did not exist for orchid bees and orchids,” said study lead author Santiago Ramirez, post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Neil Tsutsui, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. “The bees evolved much earlier and independently, while the orchids appear to have been catching up.”

Continue reading "Bees Outpace Orchids in Evolution" »

September 15, 2011

Allen-Diaz Named New ANR VP

allen-diaz_barbara_130crop.jpgToday (Sept. 15) UC Regents approved Barbara Allen-Diaz as Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources, effective Oct. 1. Allen-Diaz is a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and currently an associate vice president of ANR.

In a video message posted today, ANR VP Dan Dooley announces changes in his role in the UC Office of the President.

Appointed to lead the Division in January 2008, Dooley accepted the additional responsibilities of the Senior Vice President for External Affairs in November 2008, and has served since then in both roles.

After consultation with President Yudof and others at the University of California office of the President, the decision was made to restructure the Division's senior management to enhance ANR's representation within the University. Dooley will retain the title of Senior Vice President and continue to be involved in the strategic direction of ANR as a "Senior Advisor to the President for Agriculture and Natural Resources."

Watch the 3:22-minute video.

September 13, 2011

ESPM and ERG Students Named Switzer Fellows

ChristianCasillas.jpgChristian Casillas of the Energy and Resource Group (ERG) and Kendra Klein of the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) have been named Switzer Environmental Fellows by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.

Christian Casillas’s research explores rural poverty and marginalization. Much of his work over the last seven years has focused on understanding how electrification using renewable energy sources can complement development goals in rural communities. His dissertation research is based on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, and he has been involved in various aspects of design, testing, and implementation of renewable energy systems in the United States, Central and South America, and Africa.

Casillas is also passionate about the role of education and innovative learning methods for empowering marginalized communities. Part of his dissertation research explores the efficacy of collaborative game playing with rural fishers and farmers as a means of strengthening local knowledge and exploring new decision-making strategies.

Casillas has worked as an atmospheric and ocean research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and has served in the Peace Corps teaching math and science in rural Namibia. Currently a doctoral candidate in ERG, he has an environmental engineering degree from Harvard University and a master’s degree in applied mathematics from Johns Hopkins University.

KendraKlein.jpgESPM Ph.D. candidate Kendra Klein works at the nexus of public health and sustainable agri-food systems. In collaboration with Health Care Without Harm’s “Healthy Food in Health Care” campaign, she is researching the supply chain obstacles and opportunities for increasing hospital procurement of local, organic, fair trade, and other sustainably produced foods nationwide. She is involved in pilot trainings organized by Health Care Without Harm to educate health professionals on an ecological approach to nutrition and to inspire them to advocate for a healthier, more sustainable food system within their health practices, communities, and at the federal level.

Continue reading "ESPM and ERG Students Named Switzer Fellows" »

September 12, 2011

Consortium Awarded $860K to Study Oil Spill

ESPM professor Allen Goldstein and Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Evan Variano are part of a research consortium funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI) to study the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

A total of $112.5 million over three years will support this phase of the GRI research effort, which comprises eight research consortia. The UC Berkeley team, led by Texas A&M University at College Station, will have approximately $860,000 of support over three years.

The eight teams will investigate the fate of petroleum in the environment, the impacts of the spill, and the development of new tools and technology for responding to future spills and improving mitigation and restoration.

Read the press release.

Hummingbird Tails Generate Sounds During Courtship

Released by the National Science Foundation

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A male Allen's Hummingbird. Hummingbirds produce a diverse array of sounds with their tail feathers. (Photo: Anand Varma)

Though famous for their mid-air hovering during hunting, tiny hummingbirds have another trait that is literally telltale: males of some hummingbird species generate loud sounds with their tail feathers while courting females.

Now, for the first time, the cause of these sounds has been identified: a paper published in the Sep. 9, 2011 issue of Science by [Integrative Biology alumnus] Christopher Clark of Yale University reveals that air flowing past the tail feathers of a male hummingbird makes his tail feathers flutter and thereby generate fluttering sounds.

View a video of hummingbird feathers fluttering in a wind tunnel.

Male hummingbirds only produce fluttering sounds during their elaborate courtship rituals. Typically, during such a display, a male hummingbird will climb into the air five to 40 meters, and then quickly dive-bomb down past a perched female; when the courting male bird reaches the lowest point of his dive, he rapidly spreads and then closes his tail feathers. This spreading exposes the tail features to air, which causes them to flutter and generate sound.

Clark's research, which he began as a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, shows that the males of each hummingbird species have their own signature sound — largely determined by whether and how the fluttering frequencies of its different tail feathers interact with one another and blend together. For example, the fluttering of one of a hummingbird's tail feathers may cause a neighboring feather to flutter, similar to the way that the vibrations of one tuning fork may cause another nearby tuning fork to similarly vibrate.

Continue reading "Hummingbird Tails Generate Sounds During Courtship" »

September 7, 2011

Symbiotic Species Reconnect Across Distances, Study Finds

Species that are mutually dependent on each other can, in some cases, become separated and reconnect again over distances of thousands of miles, a new study from UC Berkeley has found.

The researchers found evidence that leafflower trees (Glochidion) and leafflower moths (Epicephala), two species that rely upon each other, established themselves independently on islands in the South Pacific.

The findings, published this week in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, contradict a long-standing paradigm in island biology, which holds that highly specialized species cannot colonize remote islands. It is a rare example of species in a symbiotic relationship – known as a "specialized mutualism" by biologists – that is resilient to disturbance.

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Epicephala moth pollinating the female flower of Glochidion grayanum on the Taravao Plateau in Tahiti, French Polynesia (Photo: David Hembry)

"We found an unusual example of a mutualism that can be broken apart and actually puts itself back together," said study lead author David Hembry, graduate student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. "Mutualisms are important because they are fundamental to ecosystem functioning. This is one reason they have received so much attention from biologists and environmental scientists in recent years."

Continue reading "Symbiotic Species Reconnect Across Distances, Study Finds" »

Tree-killing Pathogen Traced to California

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations

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A row of Italian cypress trees near Siena, a city in Italy's Tuscany region, show symptoms of cypress canker disease. Researchers have traced the origin of the pathogen responsible for the disease back to California. (Photo: Robert Danti, Italian National Research Council)

Genetic detective work by an international group of researchers may have solved a decades-long mystery of the source of a devastating tree-killing fungus that has hit six of the world’s seven continents.

In a study published today (Thursday, Sept. 1) in the peer-reviewed journal Phytopathology, California emerged as the top suspect for the pathogen, Seiridium cardinale, that is the cause of cypress canker disease.

It was in California’s San Joaquin Valley in 1928 that S. cardinale was first identified as the culprit causing the disease. The fungus has made its way since to Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, South America and Africa. In many regions, the pathogen has infected and killed up to 95 percent of native trees in the cypress family, including junipers and some cedars.

“The fungus was likely introduced from California either in the South of France or in Central Italy 60 to 80 years ago, and that introduction resulted in a global pandemic that has devastated the region’s iconic Italian cypress trees,” said Matteo Garbelotto, adjunct associate professor and cooperative extension specialist in ecosystem sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.

The fungus kills a tree by entering through cracks in its bark, producing toxins that wreak havoc with its flow of sap and choke off its supply of water and nutrients. The disease has left an indelible mark throughout Southern Europe.

“Italian cypress trees are important to the ecosystem, but they are also considered the quintessential trees of the Mediterranean, the ones that dot the Tuscan countryside and that form the landscape of much of Greece, the South of France and Spain,” said study lead author Gianni Della Rocca, researcher at the National Research Council in Florence, Italy. “It is difficult to put a price tag on the impact this pathogen has had. It’s hard to imagine the Tuscan or Provence landscape without cypresses.”

Continue reading "Tree-killing Pathogen Traced to California" »

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Recent Posts

Five CNR Students Join Cal Energy Corps
Bees Outpace Orchids in Evolution
Allen-Diaz Named New ANR VP
ESPM and ERG Students Named Switzer Fellows
Consortium Awarded $860K to Study Oil Spill
Hummingbird Tails Generate Sounds During Courtship
Symbiotic Species Reconnect Across Distances, Study Finds
Tree-killing Pathogen Traced to California

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