FDA 2020 Residue Monitoring Report Results

Consumers Can Choose Organic and Conventional Produce With Confidence

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Report for Fiscal Year 2020. Since 1987, the report has summarized findings from the program’s annual monitoring of human and animal foods in the U.S.

The FDA found that 96.8% of domestic foods were compliant with the pesticide tolerances set by the EPA. No pesticides were found in 40.8% of the domestic samples.

The industry’s historical high compliance rate demonstrates its commitment to consumers’ health and safety. It is clear from this report that consumers can choose fresh fruits and vegetables with confidence. It also underscores that no one and no group should promote false rhetoric in an effort to discourage consumers from eating healthy and safe produce.

According to the FDA, “The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the FDA’s sample collection and analysis for this year’s report. Both human food and animal food samples collected in FY2020 were smaller than FY2019. Despite the obstacles, results from samples collected and analyzed demonstrated compliance rates similar to what has been shown in previous years.”

Through its Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program, the agency ensures that FDA-regulated foods comply with pesticides safety levels or tolerances set by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health. The EPA is responsible for establishing and enforcing those tolerances for domestic foods shipped in interstate commerce and foods imported into the United States.

The Alliance for Food and Farming recommends consumers who still have concerns about residues to just wash your fruits and veggies. FDA states that washing produce often removes or eliminates any minute residues that may be present.

Read, learn, choose – but eat more organic and conventional fruits and vegetables for a longer life!

2022-08-15T14:19:12-07:00August 15th, 2022|

HMC Farms Announces Autonomous Drone Harvest Pilot Program

By HMC Farms

HMC Farms has partnered with Tevel Aerobotics Technologies to pilot their drone harvesting system utilizing Flying Autonomous Robots. Each robot has the ability to fly, locate fruit, harvest and place the fruit all on its own with no human interaction required.

HMC Farms has a reputation for pursuing cutting edge ag technology. Drew Ketelsen, Vice President and Farm Manager, has a background in civil engineering which gives him a unique perspective on farming and technology. He and Jon McClarty, President of HMC Farms and Drew’s brother-in-law, work together to stay updated on the latest developments and test various forms of ag tech in order to determine the best fit for their farms.

Ketelsen attributes HMC’s high density stone fruit planting system with the ability to utilize drone harvesting. He says, “The years of work we’ve put into cultivating high density orchards are paying off as we implement technology like Flying Autonomous Robot harvesting. We have successfully harvested peaches, nectarines and multiple colors of plums using drones this summer. This project is still in an early stage, but the future potential is very exciting.”

Autonomous harvest options have great potential to fill a crucial need in the agricultural community, which has notoriously dealt with labor shortages over the years. In places like California’s Central Valley, this technology also may help with harvest during periods of extreme heat, as summer temperatures can often reach well above 100 degrees for many days in a row, right at the peak of stone fruit harvest.

2022-07-26T09:40:59-07:00July 26th, 2022|

Famed UC Davis Apiculturist Eric Mussen Passes

Honey Bee Authority Dr. Eric Mussen Passes

Celebrated honey bee authority Dr. Eric Carnes Mussen, an internationally known 38-year California Cooperative Extension apiculturist and an invaluable member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, died Friday, June 3 from liver cancer. He was 78.

Dr. Mussen, a resident of Davis, was admitted to a local hospital on May 25. He was diagnosed with liver cancer/failure on May 31 and returned to the family home June 1 for hospice care. He passed away the evening of June 3.

“Eric was a giant in the field of apiculture,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “The impact of his work stretched far beyond California.”

Dr. Mussen, known to all as “Eric,” joined the UC Davis entomology department in 1976. Although he retired in 2014, he continued his many activities until a few weeks prior to his death. For nearly four decades, he drew praise as “the honey bee guru,” “the pulse of the bee industry” and as “the go-to person” when consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media sought answers about honey bees.

“Eric’s passing is a huge loss,” said longtime colleague Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology. “He was always the go-to person for all things honey bee. He worked happily with hobbyists, commercial beekeepers and anyone just generally interested.”

Colleagues described Mussen as the “premier authority on bees and pollination in California, and one of the top beekeeping authorities nationwide,” “a treasure to the beekeeping industry,” and “a walking encyclopedia when it comes to honey bees.”

Norman Gary, a noted UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology who served as a faculty member from 1962 to 1994, described Eric as “by far, the best Extension apiculturist in this country.”

“Eric’s career was so productive and exciting that a book would be required to do justice for his many contributions to his profession as extension entomologist specializing in apiculture, better known as beekeeping,” Gary said. “His mission basically was facilitating productive and reciprocal communication between beekeeping researchers at UC Davis, commercial beekeeping as it affects California’s vast needs for the pollination of agricultural crops, providing helpful information to hobby beekeepers, and educating the general public concerning honey bees. His great professional successes in all areas have been recognized around the world. He has received numerous awards, especially from the beekeeping industry. He was by far the best Extension apiculturist in this country!”

“In addition to professional duties, he enthusiastically tackled other projects for entomology faculty,” Gary said. “For example, he critically reviewed most of my publications, including scientific papers, books, and bulletins. He worked diligently to help create the Western Apicultural Society and later served as president. (Mussen served six terms as president, the last term in 2017.) I especially appreciated his volunteering to moderate a video that historically summarized and recorded my entire 32-year career at UC Davis. And his tribute would not be complete without mentioning that he was one of my favorite fishing buddies.”

2022-06-14T10:20:05-07:00June 14th, 2022|

New Report Finds Over 35,000 Local Jobs Rely on Westlands Water District Agricultural Production

Water Restrictions Have Wide Reaching, Negative Impacts on Farms, Local Communities, and the Nation

By Westlands Water District

A new analysis highlights the significant, positive economic impact that agricultural production within the Westlands Water District has on the State of California and the country as a whole. The Economic Impact of Westlands Water District (Study), conducted by Michael A. Shires, Ph.D., outlines the far-reaching consequences of inadequate and unreliable water supplies on economies and communities.

The Study analyzes the economic impacts of the agricultural activities occurring within Westlands Water District. The Study also investigates how challenges such as water supply restrictions, climate change, inflation, supply chain disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic can seriously threaten the quantity and quality of food available to the people of this nation. Taken together, these challenges underscore the important role that California’s agricultural production plays in national security and why protecting America’s domestic food production is essential.

According to the Study, on an annual basis, agricultural production within Westlands Water District is responsible for generating over $4.7 billion in economic activity and supporting over 35,000 jobs across the regional economy. These jobs produce the wages, tax revenue, and consumer spending that drive economic activity throughout the state.

“The farms within Westlands Water District are significant suppliers of fresh produce and other agricultural products both to the nation and the world. Activities in Westlands directly and indirectly employ and support tens of thousands of households and creates billions of dollars of economic value,” said Dr. Shires. “While there are a range of complex, modern policy and economic crises that may influence the level of that production, there is no real domestic alternative for production of these critical agricultural products.”

The farms in Westlands and the associated share of the country’s food supply, are at risk. While farms in Westlands continue to produce billions in economic activity, support communities in the San Joaquin Valley, and employ thousands of farmworkers and growers, we recognize that this production – and the livelihoods of those behind it – is highly dependent on water availability,” said Tom Birmingham, General Manager of the Westlands Water District.

When farmers do not have adequate water supplies, they are forced to make difficult decisions. They fallow otherwise highly productive land, and, in some instances, abandon planted acres because they lack water to continue irrigating their fields. Those decisions have widespread impacts. The Study found a “striking” correlation between “poverty levels in [Fresno and Kings] counties…with the shortfalls in water deliveries from the [Central Valley Project] to the Westlands Water District.” Poverty rates in these two counties are directly related to the water supply available to farmers in the District – when the District receives little to no water, more people in those counties suffer from poverty, and when the District receives a higher water allocation, the counties’ economic stability improves.

Further, with no domestic alternative for the agricultural contributions of the region, the economic impacts and negative implications of an inadequate water supply extend well beyond the local community. “At a time where instability around the globe has had significant impacts on the entire continent’s access to core crops like wheat, corn, and sunflower oil – on top of rising inflation and fuel costs – protecting the Nation’s domestic agricultural production capacity is fundamental to the security of the United States,” said Tom Birmingham.

“The bottom line is that much of the food in your pantry, refrigerator, and on your dinner table continues to be available because farms in California continue to provide some 80 percent of the nation’s supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. If this domestic production is curtailed, it will make the nation dependent on foreign sources which are, in turn, much more subject to supply chain, transportation, and quality problems,” Dr. Shires said. “If water supplies continue to be uncertain and volatile, there will be irreparable harm to already disadvantaged communities in the region and the acreage available to continue growing this produce will be significantly constrained.”

To read the entire report, visit: wwd.ca.gov/news-and-reports/economic-impact/

2022-03-16T10:50:59-07:00March 16th, 2022|

Dry January Conditions Return Snowpack to Near Average Levels

By Department of Water Resources

The Department of Water Resources conducted the second snow survey of the season at Phillips Station. Following a dry January, the manual survey recorded 48.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 19 inches, which is 109 percent of average for this location for this date. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast. Statewide, the snowpack is 92 percent of average for this date.

“We are definitely still in a drought. A completely dry January shows how quickly surpluses can disappear,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The variability of California weather proves that nothing is guaranteed and further emphasizes the need to conserve and continue preparing for a possible third dry year.”

Snowmelt during January has been minimal. However, with little to no accumulation of snow during January, snowpack levels are closer to average February 1 conditions, meaning that a return of winter storms in the Sierra Nevada is needed during February and March to remain at or above normal levels.

Regionally, the Southern Sierra snowpack is not faring as well as the Northern Sierra. Water supply forecasts for the south San Joaquin Valley are below average due to the lack of rain and snow in this region.

“These dry January conditions demonstrate the importance of continuing to improve our forecasting abilities and why these snow surveys are essential,” said Sean de Guzman, Manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. “While we always hope for a generous snowpack, DWR’s ongoing investments in forecasting techniques will help the state better prepare for both drought and flood conditions.”

In light of last year’s poor runoff, DWR has increased its efforts to improve climate and runoff forecasting by strengthening its collaboration with partner agencies and academia and by investing in proven technologies to improve data collection and hydrologic modeling. One example is DWR’s investment in remote snowpack measurements through the Aerial Remote Sensing of Snow program by partnering with Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc. (ASO). Data from ASO has proven to be the most accurate assessment of snowpack conditions that, when coupled with newer, sophisticated runoff models, will improve runoff forecast accuracy.

Although early season storms helped alleviate some drought impacts, a lack of storms in January has underscored the need for Californians to continue focusing on conservation. Most of California’s reservoirs are still below average, and groundwater supplies are still recovering. California still has two months left of its typical wet season and will require more storms in those months to end the year at average.

DWR conducts four media-oriented snow surveys at Phillips Station each winter near the first of each month, January through April and, if necessary, one additional in May.

2022-02-02T13:07:34-08:00February 2nd, 2022|

EPA Looking At Pesticide AIs on Effect on ESA

EPA Announces Endangered Species Act Protection Policy for New Pesticides

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking action to further the Agency’s compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when evaluating and registering new pesticide active ingredients (AIs).

Before EPA registers any new conventional AI, the Agency will evaluate the potential effects of the AI on federally threatened or endangered (listed) species, and their designated critical habitats, and initiate ESA consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services).

Prior to this action, there was a litany of resource-intensive litigation against EPA for registering new AIs prior to assessing potential effects on listed species. EPA’s new policy should reduce these types of cases against the Agency and improve the legal defensibility of new AIs, which often have lower human health and ecological risks than older pesticides.

Under this new approach, if EPA finds through its analyses that a new conventional pesticide AI is likely to adversely affect listed species or their designated critical habitats, EPA will initiate formal consultation with the Services before granting a new AI registration. As part of its analysis and under its existing authorities, EPA will consider the likelihood that the registration action may jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or adversely modify their designated critical habitat and provide its findings to the Services.

To determine or predict the potential effects of a pesticide on these species and habitats, EPA will use appropriate ecological assessment principles and apply what it has learned from past effects determinations and the Services’ biological opinions.

If EPA determines that jeopardy or adverse modification is likely, the Agency will only make a registration decision on the new AI after requiring registrants to implement mitigation measures that EPA determines would likely prevent jeopardy or adverse modification.

If EPA finds that a new AI is likely to adversely affect listed species or their critical habitat, but that jeopardy/adverse modification is not likely, it may nonetheless require registrants to include mitigation measures on their registration and product labeling to minimize the effects of incidental take to listed species that could result from use of a pesticide.

2022-01-27T10:51:53-08:00January 27th, 2022|

UC Scientists Receive Big Climate-Smart Grant

UC ANR Scientists Receive $1.5M NIFA Grant For Climate-Smart Agriculture

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach

To help California farmers and ranchers adjust to uncertain weather and climate events, the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture has awarded $1.5 million to a team of scientists led by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The project is one of six projects funded by USDA NIFA’s $9 million investment to expand adoption of climate-smart practices.

“The Cooperative Extension system and the USDA Climate Hubs have unmatched capacity to reach agricultural, Tribal and underserved communities, as well as educators and students, and our nation’s farmers directly,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement announcing the grant recipients. “This partnership will strengthen climate research efforts and accelerate the development, adoption and application of science-based, climate-smart practices that benefit everyone.”

California has the largest and the most diverse agricultural economy in the nation, with revenue exceeding $50 billion, which is larger than the revenues of the other 10 Western states combined. Despite its size, the state is highly vulnerable to climate change.

“California farmers and ranchers need locally relevant climate information and adaptation resources,” said Tapan Pathak, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Merced and principal investigator for the grant. “Similarly, technical service providers are often ill-equipped to assist farmers and ranchers when asked questions about climate change, weather variability and local implications to implement those decisions.”

To train the next generation of workers to be climate-ready, colleges expose students to climate science and agricultural science separately, but often lack opportunities for the students to learn about the nexus of climate and agriculture.

Pathak plans to provide classes – along with opportunities for practical learning experiences – to farmers, ranchers, agricultural service providers and students.

“An overarching goal of this project is to develop robust multifaceted pathways to climate-smart agriculture by integrating Extension and participatory education program development and delivery to enhance agricultural resilience to climate change,” he said.

“To tackle this ambitious goal, we have a large team of multidisciplinary leading scientists and experts from local, state and federal agencies, the California Climate Hub and the University of California ready to work with diverse stakeholder groups.”

UC Cooperative Extension specialists Leslie Roche, Vikram Koundinya and Daniele Zaccaria at UC Davis; Mark Cooper, UC Davis professor; and Steven Ostoja of the USDA California Climate Hub, are co-principal investigators with Pathak.

They will begin with a needs assessment for all of their stakeholders, including socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Through three components, the project team will work to understand growers’ perception of climate change-related threats, build capacity for technical assistance providers to advance climate-smart agriculture research and delivery of science-based information, and educate community college and undergraduate university students.

Engaging with farmers and ranchers

With the help of community partners including the Community Alliance of Family Farmers and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the team will reach out to socially disadvantaged and limited-resource producers, including beginning and first-generation farmers and ranchers to attend regional workshops, led by instructors who are fluent in Spanish and Hmong.

Workshop content will address a broad range of topics including climate change trends and local impacts, drought planning strategies, optimization of agricultural productivity with limited resources and farm and ranch economic sustainability.

“California has so much diversity in terms of scale, crops, geography, micro-climates, market conditions and natural resource considerations that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work,” wrote Renata Brillinger, CalCAN executive director, in her letter supporting the project. “We support your plans to address the needs of producers though region-specific workshops.”

Five county-based UC Cooperative Extension academics will serve as regional leads for the farming workshops across broad geographic regions:

  • Andre Biscaro, UCCE irrigation and water resources advisor serving Ventura County
  • Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, UCCE small farms advisor for Fresno and Tulare counties
  • Surendra Dara, UCCE entomology and biologicals advisor serving San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties
  • Jairo Diaz, director of the UC Desert Research and Extension Center in Southern California
  • Jhalendra Rijal, UCCE integrated pest management advisor serving San Joaquin and Merced counties

Workshops for ranchers and rangeland managers will be coordinated by UCCE rangeland and livestock advisors in their respective regions:

  • Dan Macon, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor for Plumas, Nevada, Sutter and Yuba counties, will organize workshops for the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothill region
  • Grace Woodmansee, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor for Siskiyou County, will organize workshops in Northern California
  • Rebecca Ozeran, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor for Fresno and Madera counties, will organize workshops in Central California
  • Devii Rao, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor for Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, will organize workshops in the coastal region
  • Brooke Latack, UCCE livestock advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, will organize workshops in Southern California

Training technical service providers

The team will offer climate-smart agriculture trainings for technical service providers on how to prepare for key stressors in California agriculture such as floods, droughts, wildfires and heatwaves; effective climate communications; invasive pests and disease management under future climate; and weather and climate resources and decision support tools for managing risks.

One of the aims of this component is to encourage more coordinated efforts among different agencies to deliver climate change resources to their respective stakeholders, Pathak said.

California Cattlemen’s Association has expressed its support for the project.

“Given ranchers’ strong relationships with and reliance upon technical services providers – particularly those housed within the USDA and University of California – CCA also sees great value in the project’s goal of building capacity within those organizations to assist ranchers in addressing the challenges of climate change,” wrote Kirk Wilbur, CCA vice president of government affairs.

Nurturing future generations

For college students, there will be the UC Merced Summer Institute on Climate and Agriculture certificate course organized by Karina Diaz Rios, UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Merced; the UC Davis credit-based course “Science and Society: Climate Change and Agriculture;” and a certificate course for community college students, which will be overseen by the Bay Area Community College Consortium of 28 colleges.

“We will join you in this exciting work and shared vision towards inclusive education in climate resilient agriculture,” wrote Nancy Gutierrez, statewide director of the Agriculture, Water, Environmental Tech sector of the California Community College System.

Students from the three courses will be selected for paid summer internships to engage in Cooperative Extension projects.

“Through climate-smart agriculture education, the workforce will be prepared to advance climate science and research efforts for future generations,” Pathak said.

2022-01-18T08:08:21-08:00January 18th, 2022|

New Sacramento Museum Educates Residents About Farms’ Water Needs

Farm Credit helps fund three exhibits at Museum of Science and Curiosity that demonstrate why farms need water and how farmers are conserving this precious resource

Despite recent heavy rains, California is still experiencing one of its worst droughts in history, so reminding the public and policy makers that food does not grow without water is a critical need for the state’s agricultural community. That’s why Mike Wade and Farm Credit were excited to see the new SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity open recently.

The $52 million state-of-the-art science center in Sacramento contains dozens of interactive exhibits that allows visitors to explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math and specifically address global and local issues relating energy, water, health, nature, space and design engineering.

Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said the three water exhibits the coalition is sponsoring bring home the fact that water is essential to grow our food and that California farmers are leading the world in conserving the precious resource.

“The exhibits have been very popular with museum visitors so far. Both students and adults have been taking turns finding out about the water it takes to grow our food and how farmers use the latest technology to conserve it,” Wade said.

“It’s always been part of our mission to educate people about the connection between farm water and their food supply. It’s important that everyone know that farmers are using water in an efficient manner and that as consumers, we all depend on farmers.”

American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West collectively pledged $75,000 over five years to help build and maintain the exhibits. The organizations are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System – the largest provider of credit to U.S. agriculture.

Wade said one exhibit consists of a touchscreen monitor on which people can drag food items from an illustrated list to your plate. Once they’ve made their selections, they can click the “eat it” button and the display will show the nutrition value and water demand of the foods on the plate. And that in turn shows participants how close they are to meeting their nutritional needs and the amount of water needed to produce that food.

Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said the exhibit will be an important learning tool for visitors.

“The exhibit helps people understand that it takes a significant amount of water to grow the food we eat. It’s eye-opening to select the right foods to eat and then see at the end of the game how much water it takes to grow that food,” he said.

Another interactive exhibit demonstrates how technology is helping farmers use just the right amount of water to grow their crops, said Curt Hudnutt, President and CEO of American AgCredit.

“The More Crop Per Drop exhibit lets visitors irrigate their field with a set water budget without giving them any information about how much water the crops need,” Hudnutt said. “Then they can try again after getting information from water sensors and then a third time with additional information from drones that pinpoint areas that have enough water and areas that need more. In most cases, participants will do better with additional information, making this a great way of showing how farmers are already at the cutting edge of technology.”

Wade said the third exhibit is a map of California that shows the state’s major water projects and conveyance facilities.

“The highlight here are quotes from five farmers from the five major ag regions who describe how storage and conveyance have made it possible for them to farm,” he said.

The exhibits will be on display for 15 years at the museum, located in a building that once housed a century-old powerplant on the banks of the Sacramento River. The building was rebuilt and modernized and a new wing added that includes a planetarium, offices, and a café. The agricultural water interactive exhibits are part of the Water Challenge Gallery, located in the historic power plant section of the museum.

Wade said Farm Credit’s support has been extremely valuable in making the exhibits a reality.

“None of this would be possible without Farm Credit and the other donors giving so generously,” he said. “Educating the public is a shared responsibility of the entire agricultural industry, and Farm Credit is leading by example.”

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About Farm Credit: American AgCredit, CoBank and Farm Credit West are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. We specialize in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com

About the California Farm Water Coalition: CFWC is a non-profit, educational organization formed in 1989 to provide fact-based information on farm water issues to the public. The organization works to help consumers, elected representatives, government officials and the media make the connection between farm water and our food supply. For more information, visit www.farmwater.org.

2022-01-04T14:33:46-08:00January 4th, 2022|

UC Davis Entomology Major Known Internationally as ‘Gwentomologist’

UC Davis entomology major Gwen Edosh with a whip scorpion she collected in Tucson. The 21-year-old undergraduate researcher has 21,999 followers on her Instagram account.

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

If you follow “Gwentomologist” on Instagram, you’ll see fascinating images, videos and data on scores of insects, including bees, butterflies and beetles, and such curious critters as wasp-mimicking beetles (genus Clytus) and “burying beetles” or  Nicrophorus beetles (genus Nicrophorus). 

And you’ll see arthropods such as jumping spiders (family Salticidae) and scorpions (superfamily Scorpionoidea).
Who is Gwentomologist? 

She’s 21-year-old Gwendolyn “Gwen” Erdosh, a UC Davis entomology major and undergraduate researcher with 21,900 followers on Instagram, where she shares her fascination, passion and growing scientific knowledge of entomology with the intensity of a moth heading for light. 

Erdosh, president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, a scholar in the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), the recipient of a Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship (PUF) research award,  and a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, brims with enthusiasm.  

In a recent post, she related how she “raised this gorgeous female Hemileuca eglanterina (sheep moth) from a tiny caterpillar!! First time successfully rearing these species. I got a male and female, and I was hoping they’d mate but it never happened. Guess they didn’t like each other. I have some eggs overwintering, and I hope they make it ‘til the spring!”

“I’m in awe with this species of silkmoth,” Gwen continued. “They are one of the few northern California native silkmoths (Saturniidae) and feed on Ceanothus and choke cherry leaves. The adults are day-flying and can fly incredible fast in a zig-zag motion, making catching them extremely hard. The males can be seen flying high in the Sierra mountains in July. Females are much harder to spot, as they are slower and hide out in the foliage, emitting pheromones to attract the males towards them. 

“The best way to see the adult is to rear caterpillars,” Gwen noted. “In the past, I attempted to rear the caterpillars and ran out of host plant. With no method of transportation to the high sierras, I had to give them rose leaves, which worked…until it didn’t. They all got a disease and died. This time, I had tons of host plant, and was able to return to the mountains in my car to get more (they eat way more than you’d expect). I’m really happy that I was able to raise this species successfully, and hope to do it again next spring! The insect season is coming to a close, but certain species only come out around this time, so I’ll be on the lookout.” 

Gwen launched her Instagram account in 2013 to share her passion for moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera).  “Back then, it was one of only a few accounts that focused on such a niche interest,” she said. “It quickly grew in popularity and a community of insect-obsessed teenager formed, all with similar goals. Through social media, we were able to make amazing connections, which I still have today. Eventually, my passion expanded from just Lepidoptera to a fascination with every type of arthropod on the planet!” 

 “On my page, I mainly post my own macro-photographs with detailed captions about the featured insect,” Gwen explained. “My goal is to not only teach others, but also learn a lot myself. I also post fun and engaging videos to encourage others to pursue entomology. Many times, people have told me that my page helped them decide that they wanted to pursue entomology as a career! I love being able to spread the love of insects to others, and will continue to be active on my page.” Additionally, she maintains a YouTube account as “gwentomologist.” 

A 2018 graduate of Los Gatos High School, Santa Clara County, and a UC Davis student since 2019, she anticipates receiving her bachelor’s degree in 2023. In February 2020, she applied for—and was accepted—into the highly competitive RSPIB program, which aims to provide undergraduates with closely mentored research experiences in biology. She studies with community ecologist and professor Louie Yang, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, one of the three RSPIB founders.   

“I actually first met Gwen when she was still in high school,” said Professor Yang. “She was doing a research project with monarch butterflies and emailed me with a few questions. Even then, I was impressed with her knowledge, focus and determination, and was glad to hear when she came to UC Davis. She applied to the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology early on, and was a stand-out student in my ENT 105 Insect Ecology class in 2020. It has been great to have Gwen in our lab, and to see her continuing to develop as a scientist.” 

Gwen’s interest in entomology began with caterpillars. 

“Ever since I can remember, I have always loved caterpillars,” Gwen said. “As a little kid, I would collect any caterpillar I saw and raise it to adulthood.” Amazed that a caterpillar could “magically change” into a moth or butterfly, she decided “to make a book matching every caterpillar to its adult. I did my own research online and in books I had, and soon was quite knowledgeable about Lepidoptera. The summer before 9th grade, I attended Bio Boot camp, the summer camp for kids led by the Bohart Museum, and Tabatha Yang (education and outreach coordinator). “This was the experience that led me to choose entomology as a career. During this camp, I learned everything about entomology and had a chance to meet real entomologists at UC Davis, and do field work. I fell in love with it and kept coming back each summer for the camp.” 

Gwen started her own insect collection, inspired by Jeff Smith (curator of the Bohart Museum’s Lepidoptera collection). “Since then, I have never doubted my decision to be an entomologist, not even once. My passion only grew once I entered college, and I consider entomology a lifelong journey of discovering everything about these beautiful, intricate, and fascinating creatures.” 

“Gwen is one of those students who instantly shows you her enthusiasm and enjoyment of entomology,” Smith said, “and it is just this kind of person who we hope will continue in this important field of science. For those of us looking ahead at the oncoming ‘golden years’ we need to ensure that there will be competent young scientists who will continue the research and who will discover so many more fascinating things about the world of ‘bugs.’ Gwen clearly will be one of these, and I am proud to be associated with her.” 

Gwen said she is most interested in four insect orders: Hymenoptera, Neuroptera, Coleoptera and Hemiptera. “I also really like Mygalomorphs. I am really fascinated by parasitoids, and hope to do research with parasitoids (wasps, flies, etc.) in the future.” 

Following her UC Davis graduation, she plans “to work abroad for a year in South America doing research. I then want to apply for graduate school in the United States. I may decide to get my masters first in systematics, and then decide if I want to get my PhD in insect ecology or insect systematics. I cannot decide between the two. However, I definitely want to pursue a career as a professor and researcher.”

Some of her role models include Louie Yang, Lynn Kimsey (director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor), Greg Kareofelas (Bohart associate), Jason Bond (UC Davis spider specialist, professor and associate dean), and Jason Dombroskie (manager of the Cornell University Insect Collection and coordinator of the Insect Diagnostic Lab.) 

“It is always great to see someone be able to pursue their passion and be successful,” Kareofelas said, adding that Gwen sometimes accompanies him on his many field trips and “she is always welcome.  Her enthusiasm, knowledge and energy make these trips a memorable and learning event for both of us! Her photographic skills enable her to record the insects ‘in nature’ and as a curated specimen. Her curated specimens are an example of how a collection should be made and how it should look.” 

As a 15-year-old high school student, Gwen traveled to the Bohart Museum in 2016 for its annual Moth Night and conferred with many of the scientists. 

At age 16, she served an entomology internship at Cornell University, where her work included identifying microlepidoptra in the family Tortricidae; sampling monarch butterflies for Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) spores; catching and tagging the gray petaltail dragonfly (Petalurid) at a local state park; and collecting, identifying and presenting moths for a Moth Night program at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History. 

“It was incredible!” Gwen said. “That was my first exposure to insect systematics and I fell in love with it. We also did a lot of ecology projects in the field. The best part about it was that for the first time, I was taken seriously and treated like any other scientist–even though I was only 16. I was able to get out of my comfort zone, and grow from it. It was my first time living away from my family for an extended period of time, and it was my first experience in a professional environment. I learned how to dissect tiny moth genitalia, how to differentiate species, how new species are given names and how the process works, how to do public outreach events, how to conduct field research, and how to stay accountable. Jason Dombroskie was an amazing mentor and I seriously cannot thank him enough for his kindness, support, and encouragement.” 

That was not her first internship.  Gwen gained experience at a five-week internship in the summer of 2018 at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens in Costa Rica, where she studied insects, conducted tours, and cared for the arthropods in the insectarium.

At age 12, while attending Bio Boot Camp, Gwen learned about the UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “It had always been my dream to be president one day. From the moment I entered UC Davis, I immersed myself in the club, and became extremely active in it.”  She attends all the meetings and field trips; the members now include some of her closest friends.  Before advancing to president this year, she served as vice president in 2020 and social media coordinator in 2019. 

 “I’m super passionate about the club,” Gwen acknowledged. “In fact, it’s my favorite time of the week during the quarter. The people in the club are absolutely incredible, and we all inspire each other in so many different ways. I feel so grateful that this organization exists at UC Davis, and I’m glad I have a team of officers that really put in the work to make it an inclusive, fun, and educational environment for anyone who wants to join.” 

In addition, Gwen is vice president of the UC Davis STEM Careers Club, booking speakers, and inspiring students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She has also worked as a youth steward for Grassroots Ecology of Central California (removing invasive plants, planting native grasses and trees, and surveying mammals and birds using a motion-activated camera); and as a volunteer counselor at the Walden West Summer Camp, a nature summer camp for elementary-school age youths.   

Although sometimes mistaken for a teenager–“I look young for my age and I’m 5′ 1”–Gwen doesn’t let that stop her. “I now have accepted who I am and I do not let what others think of me affect me or my goals. I am glad that I am unique!” 

Gwen’s hobbies and interests closely align with her career plans. They include collecting, photographing, and pinning insects; exploring and observing wildlife; traveling; creating art;  producing music on FL Studio (digital audio workstation); and spending time with her friends—two-legged friends (people), six-legged friends (insects) and eight-legged friends (arachnids). 

2021-12-22T14:42:03-08:00December 22nd, 2021|

CDFA Celebrates 30 Years with USDA Pesticide Data Program

CDFA Food Safety Scientists Celebrate 30 Years of Continuous Growth Partnering With USDA Pesticide Data Program

 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) joins the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Agricultural Marketing Service Pesticide Data Program (PDP). CDFA’s Center for Analytical Chemistry (CAC) Food Safety group has partnered with PDP since its inception in 1991.

PDP is a federal partnership with nine states that monitors pesticide residues in the U.S. food supply. PDP data helps demonstrate the high quality of the U.S. food supply — analyses show that pesticide residues are lower than the limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in nearly all food samples (typically >99%).

The partnership between the agencies started with a screening list of 28 pesticide compounds. It has since expanded the scope to detect and quantify more than 515 compounds.

Partnering in this project has helped the CAC Food Safety program model its quality system framework into one that generates the highest-quality data for enforcement and regulatory purposes. Innovation was fostered through CAC scientists applying novel analytical methods and custom-made software to automate data processing and review.

“These endeavors opened doors to continuous technical improvement and enabled us to significantly increase our capability to generate high-quality, defensible data in a fast-turnaround work environment,” said CAC Environmental Program Manager Tiffany Tu. “The benefit gained from collaborating with other agencies in the pesticide analysis field in impactful scientific projects helped further our goal of being in the forefront of the pesticide analysis arena, which also ensures CAC Food Safety program’s relevance in our mission of promoting and protecting California agriculture.”

2021-12-15T10:46:09-08:00December 15th, 2021|
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