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UC Cooperative Extension Positions to Connect Research, Community

June 11, 2014

Two UC Cooperative Extension specialists are being deployed to UC Merced to take advantage of its location at the center of California agriculture and build on ongoing research into agriculturally significant matters related to climate, food security and nutrition.

The two UCCE specialists, from the UC Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources, will help further connect campus research with local farmers and residents.

One of the positions, which will be housed in the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, will help farmers and ranchers adjust to the problems created by climate change and participate in statewide efforts, which include state and federal agencies in addition to UC, address climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The other position, housed in the Health Sciences Research Institute, will focus on nutrition research and education and food security, aiming to improve the lives of local residents. The UCCE nutrition specialist will connect with a larger team of nutrition researchers and educators throughout the UC system addressing issues related to healthy food and human health.

UC Merced Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Tom Peterson said even though the campus doesn’t have an agriculture school, current areas of faculty research can and do benefit San Joaquin Valley citizens and farmers. For example, research on unmanned aerial vehicles offers more efficient means to monitor soil and crop conditions. UC Merced scientists are also conducting research into factors that affect the flow of water out of the Sierra Nevada and into the San Joaquin Valley.

“These positions come with a focus on interacting with the community, conducting applied research, and translating UC research to help the agricultural economy and local residents,” he said. “This is a recognition that we’re making important contributions to the agricultural industry and that we have research and outreach important to it.”

Both positions require applicants with Ph.D.s who are ready to start projects that will work toward solving pressing problems. 

The climate change specialist could potentially study precision technologies that help better manage agricultural systems or increase the quality and scale of information.

The nutrition specialist will work with experts in the field to understand regional and state research needs and outreach priorities. The specialist will also have an emphasis on nutrition and disease prevention.

“We’re an ideal lab for these kinds of research experiments,” Peterson said.

“Serving California agriculture with UC science-based solutions is what we do on an everyday basis. California agriculture is a world-recognized marvel, and we’d like to think the university, through its Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is a big reason why,” said Barbara Allen-Diaz, Vice President of ANR. “This collaboration with UC Merced will only strengthen UC efforts.”

ANR focuses on agriculture, nutrition, natural resources and youth development. UC Cooperative Extension, which is part of ANR, conducts research on campuses, at research and extension centers and in counties.

UCCE advisors and educators work directly with people in their communities to conduct and apply this science-based research on the farm and field and in classrooms and homes. UCCE’s 20,000 Master Gardener Program and 4-H Youth Development Program volunteers help extend UC’s information even further into communities around the state.