From left, Vice Provost Chris Greer, Rick Standiford and Peggy Mauk at Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center. Greer presented Standiford with a certificate of appreciation for his 37 years of service to UC ANR.
Wrapping up a remarkable 37-year career with UC ANR, Richard B. Standiford IV, UC Cooperative Extension forest management specialist at UC Berkeley, will retire June 30.
In addition to being a highly regarded forestry expert, Standiford served as UC ANR's associate vice president from 2005 to 2009, and provided stability for the division as acting vice president during the 11-month transition from Reg Gomes stepping down to retire until Daniel Dooley succeeded him as vice president in 2008.
“There are a select few individuals who both excel at research, teaching, service and outreach and can lead and motivate others to try to do the same. Rick belongs to this rarest subspecies of academic,” said Keith Gilless, dean of the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, who has worked with Standiford for 35 years.
In 1980, after working two years as a research and extension forester at Purdue University, Standiford joined UC Cooperative Extension at UC Berkeley. The New Jersey native developed a research and extension program focused on sound management of California's forests, rangelands and other natural resources.
Standiford “personifies all that is best about Cooperative Extension,” said Maggi Kelly, director of the UC ANR Statewide Informatics and Geographic Information Systems Program, professor and Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy & Management at UC Berkeley.
“Part of his legacy has been the ways in which he navigates the Cooperative Extension mission - intuiting and understanding natural resource and environmental problems, reaching stakeholders, liaising with state officials, finding funding, conducting quality applied research, and leading practical,impactful extension activities,” Kelly said.
His legacy in Cooperative Extension continued to grow as associate vice president of ANR, says Peggy Mauk, former director for Central Coast and South Region.
“Rick empowered people, empowered regional directors and county directors to implement programs for the betterment of California,” Mauk said. “Rick had the ability to bridge the gap between administrative concepts and regional (county) implementation. He wanted to know how higher level decisions would impact ANR's county-based personnel and programs and then adjust for those impacts. Above all, Rick valued people and positions, and supported the ANR mission.”
He also has provided leadership for county Cooperative Extension advisors developing programs in forestry and conservation of oak woodlands.
“Rick has a tremendous ability to pull people together,” said Yana Valachovic, UCCE director and forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, noting his leadership in getting people to work together to contain sudden oak death disease. “It takes passion, vision and an ability to communicate effectively.”
While tackling the emerging forest disease, Standiford also devoted time to mentoring young scientists.
“Early in 2000, Rick bounced into my office with the news that he had found emergency funds to study the disease, and had assembled a team of pathologists, ecologists, arborists, homeowners and forest managers to attack the problem,” said Kelly, a remote-sensing expert. “Rick asked if I would be able to use the money to fly to Marin County and develop critical baseline maps of the nascent disease. I was, and I did, and that generosity and foresight launched my applied research and extension program at Berkeley.”
“The disease was subsequently named Sudden Oak Death, and in 2015 ANR was been given a nationwide award in extension for its timely, quality, impactful multidisciplinary approach to the disease,” Kelly said, “and it all started with Rick.”
In addition to academics, he has worked with professional foresters and natural resource managers,forestandrangeland owners and managers, timber operators, government agencies, forestry organizations, policymakers and others interested in natural resource management.
Standiford said working with people was the part of his career he enjoyed most. He recalled driving with UCCE colleagues to Mariposa County to deliver a workshop on managing oaks.
“The sun was setting, it's pretty dark, pretty desolate and we're wondering, ‘Is anybody going to be at the workshop?'” Standiford said. “At the grange hall in Catheys Valley, there's a ton of pickup trucks and cars. Inside, everybody is excited that the university has shown up to help figure out how to manage their trees. That's what my job has been about. It was always a lot of fun.”
An early adopter of technology, Standiford has used webinars to teach oak woodland management from a distance. While acknowledging the convenience of virtual meetings, he said, “I hope we don't lose sight of the value of personal contact.”
From 1985 to 1987, Standiford served as ANR program director for natural resources, leading efforts in forestry, wood products, wildlife and range management.
From 1988 to 1999, Standiford led collaboration among UC, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the California Department of Fish and Game for the ANR statewide Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program, which was established in 1986 by the California Legislature to address poor oak regeneration and ongoing woodland losses. The program continued for 23 years until its budget was cut in 2009.
At UC Berkeley, he coordinated all Cooperative Extension activities in the Department of Forestry and Resource Management from 1989 to 1993, served as associate dean for forestry and director of the Center for Forestry from 1998 to 2002 in the College of Natural Resources, and oversaw the College's capital projects program, space planning and research infrastructure as associate dean for forestry and capital projects from 2002 to 2004.
Standiford earned a bachelor's degree in forestry from North Carolina State University, where he ranked second in his graduating class. He earned his master's degreeinwildland resource science, with an emphasisonsilviculture, from UC Berkeley and his doctoral degree in agricultural economics from UC Davis. The American Association of Agricultural Economists honored his “ABioeconomic Model of California'sHardwoodRangelands” as Dissertation of the Year in 1989. Over his career, he has published hundreds of articles and publications on the sound management of forestandrangelands.
In retirement, Standiford plans to teach at the UC forestry camp and remain active with the Society of American Foresters. He also plans to travel with his wife, Judy, and spend time coaching and camping with his five grandchildren
“I have been blessed with the most wonderful job in the world,” Standiford said. “The best part was the honor of working with such wonderful people on campus, in the counties, and the wide group of landowners and managers who taught me so much.”
By Ann Brody Guy, College of Natural Resources
A key University of California, Berkeley, research station is threatened by the King Fire in El Dorado County. Blodgett Research Forest, 4,270 acres located 10 miles east of Georgetown, is home to scores of UC Berkeley investigations on trees and other plants, fish and wildlife populations, insects, diseases, soils, atmospheric chemistry and wildfire management techniques.
Backfiring—controlled burns to contain greater wildfire damage—are expected to begin today (Friday, Sept. 19) on the Blodgett property. The arson-sparked King Fire has burned more than 75,000 acres, triggering evacuations, incinerating trees, and closing Highway 50 and local roads. As of this morning the fire was only 10 percent contained, according to Calfire. University personnel have been evacuated from the research station and UC Berkeley fire experts in El Dorado County and on the Berkeley campus, based at the College of Natural Resources (CNR), are coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service, which manages wildfires in this region, and Calfire on priorities for defending the property.
UC Berkeley's Blodgett Research Forest, the marked, colored block to the east of the main King Fire blaze, likely will begin backfiring today to protect it from being overtaken by wildfire.
“With 50 years of annual harvests and 40 years of annual measurements of permanent plots, Blodgett is the Rosetta Stone for the Sierra Nevada with respect to the interactions of forests, management and fires,” said William Stewart, a forestry researcher and co-director of UC Berkeley's Center for Forestry. In addition, Stewart said, the half-century of monitoring gives Blodgett the longest continuous record on forests in the Sierra Nevada.
While the spread of the King Fire to Blodgett would result in a discontinuity in the long-term data collection, it simultaneously would launch the start of data collection on a new continuum—a unique opportunity to learn, fire experts say.
“You'll change that continuous record, but also start a whole new record that reflects the fundamental role of disruptive elements of Sierra ecology,” said J. Keith Gilless, CNR dean and a forest economics professor.
Researchers would also get valuable information on current experiments and hypotheses.
“Our investments in improving forest resiliency will be severely tested if the King Fire enters our property,” Stewart said. “We will find out how effective those investments have been.” For example, effectiveness of vegetation treatments, such as cutting low brush and young trees, or creating patchworks of smaller clear-cut areas, will be tested in a more severe way than is possible under normal research conditions.
“You never say, ‘let's light a really, really hot fire and see how the stand holds up,'” said Gilless. “But you can go in and do analysis after an event like this: We hypothesized these treatments would be effective; do they actually deliver when put to the test by an uncontrolled wildfire?”
The King Fire is burning in the El Dorado National Forest, 56 miles east of Sacramento.
Scientists are already preparing to collect data—soil samples, tree mortality rates, information on char height (burns to the trunks) and scorch height (burns to the treetops)— both to understand how the fire burned and increase the potential to bring back a healthy forest.
Not every tree dies in a wildfire. But damaged trees become more susceptible to pests and pathogens, which can kill them or inhibit the growth of other vegetation. “We can measure the potential resilience of a forest by understanding the level of damage and mortality, and how our forest-management practices influenced those outcomes,” said fire science professor Scott Stephens.
The researchers say it's also opportunity to employ adaptive management, a forestry best practice that involves learning from the results of each fire, analyzing what worked, what didn't, and why; and then applying those lessons.
With the fire advancing and Blodgett in an area currently slated to be allowed to burn, researchers are scurrying to organize their efforts.
“Unlike much of the research we do, an event like this imposes its own timetable. You have to deal with it in real time,” Gilless said. And while collective fingers are crossed that Blodgett will survive, Berkeley's fire researchers must prepare for any outcome. “Everything that transpires in nature is an opportunity to learn,” added Gilless.
A Trove of Past—and Future—Data
The research station is located in an area where danger posed by severe wildfires is very high. For the past two decades it has been a center for UC Berkeley research projects that evaluate the effectiveness of treated plots against control plots—unmanaged ecological reserves.
The findings from this research have already had broad impacts on how fires are managed locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally. Data gathered at Blodgett have helped scientists, forest managers, and fire experts understand:
• How different forest and fuel management techniques work over time;
• How forest management approaches affect biodiversity;
• How processes like nutrient cycling and carbon cycling actually operate in forests.
For example, biodiversity studies showed that a mosaic of tree sizes and openings create more habitat niches for birds and animals. Fuel treatment studies have show that reducing tree and shrub densities increase the probability that medium and large size trees can survive wildfires.
Stephens, whose recent research includes thinning young forests to reduce fire risk and greenhouse gas emissions, says the King Fire is a symptom of California's larger forest problem.
“Almost all of the Sierra Nevada is in a state of high fire hazard because of past fire suppression, and harvesting that focused on large trees,” a practice that left the more susceptible smaller trees and debris, increasing fuel loads. “It will take decades of active management to reduce hazards and produce resilient forests,” Stephens said. “This will not be easy but it is possible. If we don't get this work done, future generations will not enjoy forests as we have, and forests will be fundamentally different, with much more severe wildfire impacts.”
-Fire map on UC Berkeley Center for Forestry
-Incident Information System map
-Blodgett Research Forest