College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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October 26, 2011

Art and Science Converge at Botanical Garden

By Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan, Special to The Chronicle

A garden of mouthings. Purple, scarlet-speckled, black
The great corollas dilate, peeling back their silks."

Sylvia Plath's poem "The Beekeeper's Daughter" is about as cheerful as most of what she wrote concerning her (or her narrator's) father - which is to say: not at all - but its setting, a garden peopled with bees, is dizzyingly lush. Landscape artist Shirley Watts' "Mouthings" installation in the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, a happy confluence of art and science, takes the poem as a step into context, the human emotion evoked by the natural world and woven within it, part of a barely seen whole.

Watts pays homage to the natural shapes of honeycombs, and UC Berkeley entomologist Gordon Frankie and insect photographer Rollin Coville contributed signage about the unsung ecosystem services of native bees. The result is both visually stunning and thought-provoking.

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October 24, 2011

Cal Forestry Stalwart Paul Casamajor Dies at 92

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Paul Casamajor, editor and principal author of Forestry Education at the University of California—The First 50 Years, died at his home in Walnut Creek on Sept. 25. He was 92 years old.

Casamajor was well known to students, faculty, staff and alumni at UC Berkeley’s School of Forestry, now part of the College of Natural Resources.

He completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the forestry school, and joined the staff in 1956 as a lecturer. He taught undergraduate and graduate course in forest-fire control and delivered in-service training to the U.S. Forest Service and other land-management agencies. He also worked closely with students and prospective students, doing career counseling and organizing an annual job-placement service.

In 1968, Casamajor began a 15-year tenure as the first and only assistant to the director of the statewide Agricultural Experiment Station, providing continuity through seven AES directors. He returned to UC Berkeley to serve for one more year before retiring in 1984.

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October 21, 2011

First "Ethics of Green Chemistry" Class to Launch at Berkeley

By Ann Brody Guy

The University of California, Berkeley, will develop the first-ever college course on the public ethics of green chemistry, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, it was announced last week.

The Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC), which launched in 2010, will develop the course.

"As chemistry takes a concerted step toward sustainability, students need tools to address the questions of ethics and values that are at the intersection of technology, public health, business practices, societal norms and governance," said Dr. Megan Schwarzman, a research scientist with the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, who with Alastair Iles, an assistant professor of environmental science, policy and management, is a principal investigator of the project.

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October 20, 2011

Researchers Discover Potential New Pathway to Pain Relief

By Mika Ono, The Scripps Research Institute

LA JOLLA, CA, October 20, 2011 – A team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute has identified a new metabolic pathway for controlling brain inflammation, suggesting strategies for treating it.

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Daniel Nomura, assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology, UC Berkeley

The new report, which appears in the October 20, 2011 edition of Science Express, focuses on the type of inflammation normally treatable with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen. The study shows this type of inflammation is controlled by different enzymes in different parts of the body.

“Our findings open up the possibility of anti-inflammatory drugs that are more tissue-specific and don’t have NSAIDs’ side effects,” said the study’s senior author Benjamin F. Cravatt, chair of the Department of Chemical Physiology and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and the Dorris Neuroscience Center at Scripps Research.

A Serendipitous Discovery

The serendipitous discovery originated with an attempt by Cravatt and his colleagues to develop a new kind of pain-relieving drug targeting an enzyme known as monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL). This enzyme normally breaks down a natural pain-relieving neurotransmitter known as 2-AG, a “cannabinoid” molecule whose actions are mimicked by certain compounds within marijuana. To reduce the rate of 2-AG breakdown, allowing 2-AG levels to rise and provide more pain relief, the Cravatt lab developed a powerful and selective MAGL-inhibiting compound, which the scientists described in 2009 and are still investigating as a possible pain drug.

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October 11, 2011

Mutant Maize Genes May Help Harness Biofuels

Alex Morales, www.bloomberg.com

Mutant maize genes can be inserted into switch grasses to increase their viability as a biofuel crop, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Transferring the so-called CG1 corn gene into switch grass can more than triple the amount of starch stored in the plant stems and make it easier to convert into the sugars needed for biofuels, researchers led by George Chuck at the University of California, Berkeley, said yesterday in the study.

The discovery may help make cellulosic ethanol output on a commercial scale cheaper and easier. Poet LLC, the largest U.S. corn-based-ethanol producer, BP Plc (BP/) and Abengoa SA (ABG) all plan U.S. factories by 2013. Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi began building a plant in Italy in April to make the fuel, a second-generation, or 2-G, biofuel, meaning it’s derived from non-food crops.

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October 5, 2011

CNR Student a Finalist in Int’l Competition

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Devin Richards

Conservation and resource studies senior Devin Richards is one of four UC Berkeley students to place at the top of an international competition for undergraduates.

This year, for the first time, the Undergraduate Awards of Ireland, historically an all-Ireland awards competition, was opened to seven of the United States’ leading institutions, including Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, as program organizers sought to foster collaborative paths among students across subjects and international borders.

UC Berkeley was the sole public university selected from the United States. The international competition was limited to just three categories.

Richards was named as a finalist in the category of sustainability for his paper titled “Urban Growth, Future Opportunity: Can urban growth provide a means for creating a sustainable future for 8.2 billion people?”

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October 4, 2011

Bay Area Sudden Oak Cases Jump, Survey Says

Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle

The deadly pathogen known as sudden oak death is spreading throughout the Bay Area, infecting more trees in more places than have ever been seen before, according to scientists tracking the disease.

The Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory at UC Berkeley used 10,000 tree and plant samples collected by 500 citizens between April and June this year to document a dramatic increase in the infection rate from Napa to the Carmel Valley and virtually everywhere in between.

"We found that the number of positives were double and in some cases triple what they were last year," said Matteo Garbelotto, the UC Berkeley forest pathologist who organizes the annual surveys. "We were surprised. That was a big jump."

The findings are part of a major effort over the past four years to involve citizens in the battle against the mysterious pathogen, which has killed hundreds of thousands of oak trees from Big Sur to southern Oregon.

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Art and Science Converge at Botanical Garden
Cal Forestry Stalwart Paul Casamajor Dies at 92
First "Ethics of Green Chemistry" Class to Launch at Berkeley
Researchers Discover Potential New Pathway to Pain Relief
Mutant Maize Genes May Help Harness Biofuels
CNR Student a Finalist in Int’l Competition
Bay Area Sudden Oak Cases Jump, Survey Says

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