Posts Tagged: Tapan Pathak
UC Cooperative Extension researchers convey need for more climate change communication and curriculum tools
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from natural and working lands is one of California's key climate change strategies. In particular, the potential for farm and rangeland soils to serve as carbon sinks has been getting a lot of attention lately in the national media — and during California Healthy Soils week, which wrapped up Dec. 7.
These are areas where UC Cooperative Extension, with its local presence across the state, is well-positioned to drive change. But as a recent survey of UCCE advisors, specialists and faculty found, while there is a good deal of climate work happening, there are also some significant obstacles.
The survey results — reported in an article by UCCE academics Ted Grantham, Faith Kearns, Susie Kocher, Leslie Roche and Tapan Pathak in the latest issue of California Agriculture — showed that while nearly 90 percent of respondents believe it is important to incorporate climate science into extension programming, only 43 percent currently do so.
Respondents pointed to a number of issues. One was "limited familiarity with climate science fundamentals." It's one thing to cite the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and is being driven largely by human activity; it is another to be able to respond quickly and convincingly to detailed questions from doubters. This list from Grist, for instance, details more than 100 common arguments raised by climate skeptics, many of which have non-trivially complex answers.
Another important issue cited by respondents was "fear of alienating clientele by talking about a contentious topic," a response that highlights the importance of personal relationships in UCCE's work, and the challenge of communicating an area of science that is highly politicized.
The authors conclude: "To further increase the capacity of UC ANR staff to support the needs of their clientele and the broader public, professional development around climate science fundamentals, communication, and adaptation strategies is critical." As an initial follow-up, the UCANR climate change program team (led by authors Grantham, Kocher and Pathak) is presenting a workshop and professional development meeting for extension professionals in February.
For more from California Agriculture, the research journal of UCANR, see the full issue with articles on mapping soil salinity in the San Joaquin Valley via satellite; choosing forage seed mixes for rangeland restoration; growing oilseeds in winter without irrigation; keeping dairy cows cool in the summer; breeding better carrots; and more.
The article included the thoughts of two relatively new UC Cooperative Extension academics and outlined a new UC program to support graduate students interested in cooperative extension careers.
Distinct skills are needed to be an effective cooperative extension academic. The role requires the ability to know and understand how to work with and through people, how to bring about change in communities and how to engage buy-in at the grassroots level.
"You should have good listening skills," added Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor based in Humboldt County.
Quinn-Davidson also said she likes the diversity of her job. “I can be out in the field and then do a radio interview, work on a grant application, or host an event, and I'm always building relationships," she said.
John Battles, forest ecology professor at UC Berkeley said Cooperative Extension can offer an alternative academic career track for many students, but they need a way to learn the skills needed for extension success.
“In extension, you must communicate science effectively to the general public, and you don't have a 50-minute lecture to do it. You need to know how to facilitate a productive discussion in a public meeting, how to run that meeting so that everyone is heard,” he said.
To prepare students for extension jobs, UC Berkeley launched the Graduate Students in Extension program. The internship offers up to a year of funding for graduate students to conduct applied research projects and learn the principles of outreach.
Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in climate change adaptation in ag, also commented Tibbetts' article. He said extension specialists have the academic freedom to undertake research in their field as long as it addresses the needs of their clients.
University of California Cooperative Extension has headquartered two new specialists on the UC Merced campus, reported Scott Hernandez-Jason of UC Merced University News. Karina Diaz-Rios, specialist for nutrition, family and consumer sciences, joined UCCE on Sept. 2. Tapan Pathak, specialist for climate adaptation in agriculture, will start Feb. 2, 2015.
"These positions come with a focus on interacting with the community, conducting applied research, and translating UC research to help the ag economy and local residents,” said Tom Peterson, UC Merced Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. “We are pleased that UC Merced can partner with UC ANR (UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources) on these important issues.”
Health Sciences Research Institute and focus on nutrition research and education and food security. She will connect with a larger team of nutrition researchers and educators throughout the UC system addressing issues related to healthy food and human health.
Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced, will help farmers and ranchers adapt to new conditions created by variable and changing climate. He will collaborate with UC colleagues and state and federal agencies in statewide efforts to address climate variability and climate change adaptation and mitigation. He is currently an extension educator in climate variability at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
UC ANR continuously provides research-based solutions to the California agriculture industry, said Barbara Allen-Diaz, ANR vice president.
“California agriculture is a world-recognized marvel, and we'd like to think the university, through ANR's research and outreach, is a big reason why,” she said. “Adding UC Merced to our existing, thriving partnerships with UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside will only strengthen UC efforts in helping California and the world to sustainably feed itself.”