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First national celebration for citizen science in April

Citizen science is really picking up steam with the White House honoring 12 “Champions of Change” for their dedication to increasing public engagement in science and science literacy and the recent launching of a new Citizen Science Association. This year the momentum continues and everyone will be able to celebrate the first national Citizen Science Day on April 16, 2016, when the Citizen Science Association and SciStarter will promote and inspire organizations around the country to host events in celebration of public participation in scientific research. A major celebration will be held in conjunction with the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, DC. This will kick off a series of citizen science open houses and activities to be locally sponsored by science centers, museums, libraries, universities and schools, and federal agencies nationwide.

What is “citizen science” exactly? Citizen science involves engaging non-professionals in scientific research. While applied across many disciplines of science, including biochemistry, astronomy, and psychology, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Naturalist Program (CalNat) specifically empowers participants and partners to use citizen science to inform natural resource management. To understand and protect natural resources, scientists and decision makers often need information over long time periods and across many locations. Citizen science is one crowd-sourced

Naturalists in the Sierra Streams Institute California Naturalist course conduct water quality surveys.
approach to gathering that information. More feet on the ground can translate into more data collection to fill any gaps in knowledge. Because we live in an increasingly connected and technology-driven world, the potential of citizen science to solve real-world problems is considerable. Low-tech ways to engage in citizen science exist, but with the advent of hand-held devices, apps, high resolution camera phones, and Internet connections that know no geographic boundaries, the public is a particularly well outfitted resource for ecological data collection.

The CalNat Program has incorporated citizen science in the training curriculum from the program's inception. One of the program's primary goals is to increase public participation in natural resource conservation and citizen science projects throughout the state. Each partnering organization offering a CalNat certification course must adopt a class citizen science project so that each course participant gains experience in data collection and entry. Course participants are introduced to the interactive, on-line iNaturalist tool, where users can record observations from nature, develop online species lists and journals, meet other naturalists, and contribute to research-grade observations at the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. While some partner organizations already have an active

Back in the lab, Sierra Streams Institute Naturalists learn how to analyze their water samples for macro invertebrates and contaminants.
go-to citizen science project, other partners may decide to choose a project from the CalNat Program's public, vetted online database of California citizen science and PPSR projects, the largest of its kind in this state. The searchable citizen science database is a useful tool for anyone who is eager to explore the myriad of citizen science opportunities, to get or stay involved in a particular field, and to keep developing new skills and interests.

Together, with the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs (ANROSP), we anticipate celebrating the first national Citizen Science Day on April 16 with our 16 scheduled spring California Naturalist courses and the 26 other Naturalist programs around the nation.

California Naturalists contribute to a variety of citizen science projects.
California Naturalists contribute to a variety of citizen science projects.

Posted on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 7:05 AM

Impact of grazing livestock on public lands under drought conditions

Annual grasses on the range are very resilient, said UC ANR expert Sheila Barry. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
In a new report, the U.S. Forest Service said that drought conditions accelerate invasion of invasive plant species on grasslands in the West, leading to wind and water erosion, reported Tove Danovich in Takepart.com.

Poor management of grazed rangelands can "exacerbate the effect of drought," the report said.

The Forest Service identified the need to reduce cattle numbers on public land during a severe drought - in come cases to 50 or 70 percent of total carrying capacity, which is the number of animals the land can support before causing environmental degradation. Plants that have been overgrazed "are less able to recover after a drought," the report said.

For expert commentary, Danovich turned to a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) source. Sheila Barry, the livestock and natural resources advisor for UC ANR Cooperative Extension, said ranchers do have to reduce herd size in times of extreme drought.

Cattle that graze on the open range are usually finished at a feed lot. In the first year of drought, ranchers have the option of weaning cattle early to reduce demands on the land without reducing the herd size. In the second year of drought, ranchers have to consider cutting into their herds. "As soon as they do that," Barry said, "it can take up to eight years to build it back."

Posted on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 3:32 PM

The UC Pest Management Guidelines just got spicier!

Whether or not your favorite team is playing in Sunday's big game, the Super Bowl is often a great excuse to gather with friends and family and enjoy some tasty treats. Maybe your favorite snack involves chips with salsa or guacamole, or perhaps you prefer shrimp with a delicious avocado dip. Whatever your snack of choice, chances are that you might spice it up with a little cilantro or parsley.

Cilantro and parsley growers have something else to be happy about: The UC Statewide IPM Program just released new Pest Management Guidelines for Cilantro and Parsley.

Cilantro and parsley are herbs used both fresh and dry for preparation of many popular dishes in almost all parts of the world including California. Apart from their pleasant flavor, both plants are also known for a number of nutritional and health benefits.

In California, cilantro and parsley are grown commercially on more than 7,000 acres, primarily along the southern and central coast. Cilantro (also known as Chinese or Mexican parsley) and parsley are examples of specialty vegetable crops important in crop rotations and in contributing to California's overall agricultural diversity.

Cabbage looper larvae can contaminate leaves, reducing crop marketability.
Although pest problems aren't too common for home gardeners growing cilantro or parsley, for commercial growers, crop damage due to insect pests
Bacterial leaf spot on cilantro can be a serious problem.
and diseases may be devastating and cause important economic losses.The new UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for cilantro and parsley provide pest and management information for insects pests (including beet armyworm, cabbage looper, and aphids), diseases (including apium virus Y, bacterial leaf spot, carrot motley dwarf, cilantro yellow blotch, Fusarium wilt, and septoria leaf spot), and nematodes. Because weed management costs can be very high in cilantro and parsley unless weed control programs are carefully planned and implemented, a comprehensive weed management section is also included.

Check out the new guidelines and other pest management information on the UC IPM website.

Posted on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Local food movement drives interest in home food preservation

An abundance of fresh, locally grown food in California is sparking interest in home food preservation. (Photo: USDA)
The UC Master Food Preserver program is teaching Californians how to safely preserve their summer bounty for winter consumption, reported Pamela Kan-Rice in Edible Sacramento magazine.

In years past, canning knowledge was passed down from grandmothers and mothers to children. Access to commercially canned and frozen fruits and vegetables put home food preservation on the back burner. The Master Food Preserver program was established in the 1980s, but is now seeing a surge in interest as consumers want more control over the sources and additives in their food.

"The UC Master Food Preserver Program serves as a reliable resource for research-based information on home food preservation," said Missy Gable, who overseas the program for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Improperly preserved food can cause serious illness. Meats, vegetables and any food containing meats or vegetables - such as soup or spaghetti sauce - must be pressure-canned to prevent potentially fatal botulism. Incorrect procedures can allow micro organisms to spoil canned foods.

"Each UC Master Food Preserver volunteer understands food safety and the steps needed to safely preserve and store foods," Gable said. "They also understand the science behind home food preservation and help the public identify the best food preservation methods for the items they would like to store."

The Master Food Preserver Program is available in 10 California counties. Learn more about food preservation and find a local program on the UC ANR Master Food Preserver website.

Posted on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 2:41 PM

'Four Little Pigs' blow the house down with a super bowl of chili

Jaxson Ivie of the Pleasants Valley 4-Club listens intently to the panel of evaluators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Their first time proved to be the charm — just as Super (souper) Bowl Sunday beckons.

Using a grandmother's favorite recipe and all locally grown ingredients, the Four Little PIGS (Pork in Green Sauce) from the Suisun Valley 4-H Club swept the five-team competition at the Solano County 4-H Chili Cook-Off. The event took place at the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day in the Community Presbyterian Church, Vallejo.

The quartet — Spencer Merodio, 10, Alexis Taliaferro, 11, Natalie Frenkel, 12, and Kate Frenkel, 10 — drew a round of applause as they appeared on stage to accept the award, movie tickets to the Brenden Theatre. It was their first time entering the annual competition.

The Suisun Valley 4-H'ers opted for Spencer's grandmother's recipe, “Chili Verde, aka Pork in Green Sauce,” using cubed pork shoulder, tomatillos, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, garlic cloves and black beans. The condiments: sour cream, cilantro and diced radishes.

“We made it from scratch with vegetables purchased from Larry's Produce in Suisun Valley,” they told the evaluators, Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert of District 2 and James Luka and his son, Jim, of Vallejo. “Nothing from a can.”
Competition proved keen, as all the dishes were delicious, the evaluators said.

Suisun Valley 4-H'er Alexis Taliaferro smiles as her team is announced the winner. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“It was almost impossible to decide  among the five outstanding chilis,” said Seifert. “They varied from pork and chicken to vegan.”

“I could eat any of the five chilis any day of the week,” said James Luka,  a retired network administrator for the U.S. and Europe stock market in Illinois.

Son Jim, a maintenance worker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, agreed. “They all did an amazing job.”

The evaluators praised the flavor and texture of the champion chili, but also the enthusiasm of the presenters and their eagerness to share the recipe and answer questions.
 
For the occasion, the youths wore special pig costumes. They decorated their long-sleeved pink T-shirts with pig drawings and lettering on both the front and the back. An added touch: little chef hats, complete with pink pig ears.

The members of the championship team are enrolled in their club's food and nutrition project and other projects, including Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and outdoor adventures.

“They're all close friends and competitive swimmers,” said Spencer's mother, Heather. They swim competitively with SASO of Fairfield-Suisun, which holds practices at Solano Community College.

The other teams competing were:

Chili Peeps of Suisun Valley 4-H Club (Irma Brown, Arianna Henriquez, Enrique Henriquez and Clairese Wright) who made “Chipotle Chicken Chili”

The Chilibaccas of Dixon Ridge 4-H Club (Brayden Gish, Shayley Gish and Maya Prunty) who made “2/2/2 Chili”

Los Verdes of Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville (Coleman Ivie, Jaxson Ivie, Kyndal Kelly and Justin Means)  who made “Los Verdes Chili”

ExtraVEGANza of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo (Jarred Burkett, Halle Newell, Megan Torres and Julietta Wynholds) who made “Mama B's Vegan Chili.”

Valerie Williams serves as the Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program representative.  Some 500 members are enrolled in Solano County 4-H. For more information on the 4-H program, contact Williams at vawilliams@ucanr.edu or access the web site at http://cesolano.ucanr.edu/

The recipes:

The Four Little P.I.G.S. (Pork In Green Sauce)
Chile Verde  
Suisun Valley 4-H Club

Sauce Ingredients
10 fresh tomatillos (firm, medium sized)
4 jalapeño peppers
2 bunches of cilantro (about 2 cups)
Small garlic clove, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste

Other Ingredients
6 pounds pork shoulder cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 yellow onions
Garlic to taste 

Preparation
Peel and rinse tomatillos. Add tomatillos and jalapeños to sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil and watch for tomatillos to change color. Add garlic and cilantro to a blender followed by tomatillos and peppers from boiling water, reserving water. Blend with up to 1/2 to 3/4 cup water from pan depending on the consistency desired. Set sauce aside. Season cubed pork generously with salt and pepper. Sear meat over high heat and par cook. Sauté onions and garlic until golden and caramelized. Add sauce to pan and scrape pan bottom to release cooked ingredients. Stir in onions, garlic and pork. Simmer for two hours and serve with minced onions, radishes, and cilantro on top, and a warm tortilla as desired.

Suggested condiments:
Crema (sour cream)
Cilantro
Diced radishes

Chipotle Chicken Chili
By the Chili Peeps
Suisun Valley 4-H Club

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole onion, diced 
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into a small dice
1 bottle (12-ounce bottle) Good Beer
1 can (14-ounce size) diced tomatoes 
1 whole chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce, minced (more can be added, up to 3)
1 can (14-ounce size) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14-ounce size) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14-ounce size) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/4 cup masa harina 
1 lime, juiced

Condiments, for serving 
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Cilantro
Lime wedges

Instructions
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat then add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until onions soften. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Add 3/4 of the beer, reserving the rest, then cook for a couple of minutes to reduce.

Add the tomatoes, chipotles, beans, chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir to combine, then cover the pot and cook for 1 hour.

Combine the masa harina with the rest of the beer and stir to make a paste. Add this into the chili, along with the lime juice. Stir and cook for 10 more minutes or until thick. 

Serve with sour cream, cheese, cilantro, and another squeeze of lime!

The Chilibaccas Recipe
2/2/2 Chili
Dixon Ridge 4-H Club

2 pounds pork shoulder cut in 1/2-inch chunks
2 pounds ground beef
Olive oil (as needed to brown meat)
2 cans of tomatoes (chopped or diced work best)
2 cans of beans (1 kidney and 1 pinto), drained
2 Pasilla peppers      
2 Serrano peppers
2 Anaheim peppers
2 green bell peppers
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
Water (approximately 1 cup)
Cornstarch

Seasonings to taste:
Beef bouillon  
Chili powder              
Ground cumin 
Garlic salt 
Black pepper

In a large stock pot, brown pork in the olive oil. Add in the ground beef and continue cooking over high heat until beef is browned (about 30 minutes). Add the water and seasonings. Cook an additional 30 minutes. Add tomatoes and beans. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. While mixture is simmering, coarsely chop onions and peppers and finely chop garlic. Add these to the pot and continue cooking until pork is tender ( about another 30-45 minutes). Check flavor and add seasonings to taste. If needed, thicken chili with cornstarch.

Mama B's Vegan Chili
ExtraVEGANza
Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo

3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 ­ 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup bulgur, rinsed
1 medium purple onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground saigon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4  teaspoon cayenne powder
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 ­ 15-ounce can organic black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ­ 15-ounce can organic red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 ­ 15-ounce can organic pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Ghirardelli cocoa powder, unsweetened

Instructions
In a large heavy skillet, roast corn kernels over medium­high heat, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet over medium heat and cook eggplant, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper with a pinch of salt until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the bulgur and stir until well combined. Set aside. 

In a large saucepan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in jalapeño, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth and lime juice. Bring to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in corn and eggplant. Add chocolate and stir just until melted. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Los Verdes Chili Recipe
Los Verdes, Pleasants Valley 4-H Club

3 pounds pork shoulder roast
1 pound pork sausage
3 large cans green enchilada sauce
2 cans white beans
2 white onions
3 green bell peppers
2 poblano peppers
1 serrano pepper
2 bunches cilantro
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoons chicken stock powder

Brown the meat, add spices and sauce, then onions, peppers and cook on medium high in a large pot on the stovetop for about 2 hours or until meat is done. Add corn starch to thicken. 

The Four Little PIGS (Pork in Green Sauce) drew applause as the winners of the 2016 Solano County 4-H Chili Contest. From left are Spencer Merodio, Alexis Taliaferro, Natalie Frenkel and Kate Frenkel, all of the Suisun Valley 4-H Club. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The Four Little PIGS (Pork in Green Sauce) drew applause as the winners of the 2016 Solano County 4-H Chili Contest. From left are Spencer Merodio, Alexis Taliaferro, Natalie Frenkel and Kate Frenkel, all of the Suisun Valley 4-H Club. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Four Little PIGS (Pork in Green Sauce) drew applause as the winners of the 2016 Solano County 4-H Chili Contest. From left are Spencer Merodio, Alexis Taliaferro, Natalie Frenkel and Kate Frenkel, all of the Suisun Valley 4-H Club. (Photo by Kathy Keatey Garvey)

Judging the Solano County Chili-Cookoff are evauators (from left) Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert of District 2 and James Luka and his son, Jim, of Vallejo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Judging the Solano County Chili-Cookoff are evauators (from left) Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert of District 2 and James Luka and his son, Jim, of Vallejo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Judging the Solano County Chili-Cookoff are evauators (from left) Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert of District 2 and James Luka and his son, Jim, of Vallejo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pleasants Valley 4-H Club member Justin Means (right, in black hat), Vacaville, serves the evaluators with fellow 4-H'ers youths Coleman Ivie (next to him) and Jaxcson Ivie (foreground). The evaluators are (from left) Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert, James Luka and Jim Luka. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pleasants Valley 4-H Club member Justin Means (right, in black hat), Vacaville, serves the evaluators with fellow 4-H'ers youths Coleman Ivie (next to him) and Jaxcson Ivie (foreground). The evaluators are (from left) Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert, James Luka and Jim Luka. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Pleasants Valley 4-H Club member Justin Means (right, in black hat), Vacaville, serves the evaluators with fellow 4-H'ers youths Coleman Ivie (next to him) and Jaxcson Ivie (foreground). The evaluators are (from left) Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert, James Luka and Jim Luka. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of the champion chili, Chili Verde, aka Pork in Green Sauce. At right are black beans and at left, condiments. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of the champion chili, Chili Verde, aka Pork in Green Sauce. At right are black beans and at left, condiments. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of the champion chili, Chili Verde, aka Pork in Green Sauce. At right are black beans and at left, condiments. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 8:27 AM

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