UC ANR NEWS
An online publication, "Computer World - The voice of IT management," ran an interesting story today on the use of high-tech tools such as GPS technology, satellite imaging systems and aerial photography in fighting the Southern California fires and managing evacuations. For the story, reporter Todd Weiss spoke to two UC Cooperative Extension experts.
Glenn Nader, the natural resources advisor for UCCE Yuba City, said one technology that continues to help firefighters is geographic information system mapping data, which can be combined in layers to provide details on topography, fire history, roads, access and population.
"It gives you kind of a plan," Nader is quoted.
He told the reporter that GPS navigational technology helps fire fighters from other areas find fire hydrants and other water supplis and reverse 911 systems enable police and fire officials to quickly issue evacuation notices to thousands of residents at a time.
The reporter also spoke to Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at UC Berkeley, about his new "fire engine tool kit" Web site, where officials and residents can use databases of historical fire data to analyze new fires and determine how they might behave.
"Firefighters can use the tool kit to see what they're up against when fighting fires like this," Moritz is quoted.
According to the article, Moritz said the Web site is still evolving, but it's drawing interest from officials.
In California's current fire frenzy, reporters seem to be focusing on the breaking news, speaking mostly to firefighters and evacuees. Once the embers begin to cool and analysis begins, they will likely turn to UC experts, among others, to try to tease out reasons for the devastation and how to prevent it in the future.
Already, UC ANR experts have been tapped by two media outlets. ABC 30 News in the Bay Area spoke to UC Berkeley fire science professor Scott Stephens. He noted that, until the wind dies down, crews can only take a defensive position, and get people out of harms way.
"It's constantly jumping from one place to another, so it's making it impossible to catch," Stephens was quoted on the TV station's Web site.
The San Bernardino Sun, which reports on an area heavily affected by the fires, sought comment from Richard Minnich, a professor of fire ecology at UC Riverside.
In a story titled "Empire on fire," Minnich compared the fires to the severe blazes of 2003. He said this year the fires were of a "smaller scale," and that the weather conditions four years ago -- Santa Ana winds and low humidity -- are comparable in 2007.
Minnich predicted temperatures would rise and humidity would stay dangerously low today as winds could lighten. In the coming days, fire behavior will be based as much on the combustibility of the drought-stricken vegetation as it was Monday on the erratic wind, he said, according to the newspaper report.
UC ANR produces a monthly feature story for its Web site that is shared with the news media. For October, the feature on 4-H service learning projects was picked up by a reporter in the Fresno Bee South Valley Bureau, with a focus on the two Tulare County clubs who received substantial grants in 2006.
Reporter Roni Miller interviewed 12-year-old Elbow Creek 4-H members Rylin Lindahl and Jordan Dunn, who used the money for an autumn festival for blind children.
"Jordan and I go to a lot of groups and talk to them and they usually give us money, and now some just send us money for the festival each year," Miller quoted Rylin said.
The article says the 4-Hers and their families run the event, with activities to stimulate the senses of touch, hearing and taste. That includes a hayride trip to the pumpkin patch where the blind children choose their own pumpkins.
"We put beepers next to the pumpkins so they can hear where they are. Then they have to feel which pumpkin they like. It's neat," Rylin told the Bee.
The second Tulare County service learning grant went to the Visalia 4-H Club, who received $2,500 that permitted the group to work hand in hand with Visalia's Department of Parks and Recreation on the "1000 Hands Playground." Club members then raised more than $3,000 in additional funds in order to build an American Indian tipi in one section of the community-built playground at Visalia's new Riverway Sports Park, the article said.
As a style aside, the Fresno Bee spelled tipi as "teepee." In writing our feature, we considered using that traditional spelling, but instead went with the spelling that was used by the 4-H club in its grant proposal. According to Wikipedia, the word "tipi" comes into English from the Lakota language word thípi. The online encyclopedia says the verb thí means "to dwell" and a pluralizing suffix pi makes it "they dwell."
The 4-H tipi in Visalia's "1000 Hands Playground"
Years after former California Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Easton, who declared her intention to see a garden in every school, retired from state politics, efforts are continuing to make her vision a reality. And LA County UC Cooperative Extension's Common Ground Program is supporting the effort.
California Farmer magazine reported in its Oct. 11 issue on a recent school garden resource fair in Los Angeles; Common Ground was a sponsor. The story says LA Unified teachers will be receiving more than $1.7 million in grant funds to be used for supplies, professional development and technical assistance for school gardens at more than 500 sites this school year. The money comes from Assembly Bill 1535 (Nuñez), which authorized the California Department of Education to award $15 million in grants to promote, develop and sustain instructional school gardens.
A school in every garden
University of California Cooperative Extension made several appearances in California newspapers in recent days.
For last Friday's paper, the Contra Costa Times sought the comments of UCCE urban horticulturist Bethallyn Black about what appears to be a glut of acorns in local oak trees.
Black told the paper the acorn glut is part of a natural cycle. Once every few years when conditions are right, oak trees produce acorns in abundance, a botanical phenomenon known as a "mast."
"And is this ever a mast year," reporter Joan Morris wrote.
UCCE livestock advisor Glen Nader and UC Davis specialist Jim Oltjen were consulted for a story that appeared in the Sacramento Bee's business section today. The story, by Jim Downing, covers livestock producers' desire to improve "feed efficiency."
Downing wrote that Susanville rancher John Barnum is trying to build a herd of cattle that "sounds like something out a dieter's nightmare."
They eat less, but they still get fat.
"We started realizing that there's . . . the issue of how much feed does it take to get all those pounds, and maybe big isn't better," Downing quoted Nader.
Jim Oltjen told Downing a typical steer will eat 20 to 25 pounds of feed -- mostly corn -- and gain 3 to 4 pounds during each day of the typical three- to four-month stay at a feedlot. UC researchers have found that some steers beat the average by nearly 30 percent, though others have found improvements closer to 10 percent, Downing wrote.
The Monterey Herald ran a story today about the fact that the discovery of Light Brown Apple Moth in California has raised the profile for all the state's moths. Reporter Kevin Howe spoke to UCCE Monterey County staff research associate Frankie Lam about oak moths. The number of oak moths is usually linked to the number of nearby oak trees, he told the paper. Heavy hatchings usually occur about every five to 10 years, though the moths and their larvae are almost always present.
Yesterday the Modesto Bee reported on an honor for Stanislaus County UCCE director Ed Perry. Modesto Junior College agriculture students presented him the Honorary Young Farmer Degree.
The notice goes on to say that Perry is an expert on environmental horticulture, helps with MJC's
program in this area and writes a weekly column for home gardeners in
The Modesto Bee.