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Taming the Wild Wildfires Will Continue to Ravage California — Cal Poly is Poised to Help Page 6




Q&A ————

Bringing About Change When we planned this issue of Cultivate over the summer months, we decided to focus on the strategic efforts happening across campus to research and develop solutions for battling ongoing wild fire issues throughout California and beyond. Cal Poly has a long history of cultivating leaders who have the grit and determination to affect change, and the growing wildland-urban interface is a wicked problem that must be addressed. In this issue, you’ll read more about how Cal Poly is galvanizing great thinkers and doers to do just that. Unfortunately, as we wrap up this issue, even more communities are grappling with two devastating fires — the Woolsey Fire, and the state’s deadliest fire in history, the Camp Fire. Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by these terrible events. Now, more than ever, it’s time to invest in developing solutions to these and other problems facing the state. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll meet some of our newest faculty. In the last four years, we’ve hired 28 new positions — key faculty and staff in strategic areas of growth — as well as replaced nearly 90 faculty and staff through retirement and other attrition. This kind of talent infusion is unheard of in most universities, let alone colleges. As I walk through our labs and classrooms, I’m invigorated by the amazing things happening to prepare students to be the leaders of tomorrow. We couldn’t do any of this without your support. Now is the time to commit to helping us continue this important work. This is Reality — you, working with us, to support tomorrow’s leaders. I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful holiday season with family and friends! Warmest regards,



Cover Story TAMING THE WILD ————







THEN & NOW ————






CULTIVATE is published for alumni and friends by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES). Dean’s Office 805-756-2161 Communications Team Haley Marconett hmarcone@calpoly.edu 805-756-2933 AnnMarie Cornejo ancornej@calpoly.edu 805-756-2427

Publication Designer IE Design + Communications, Hermosa Beach, California Printer Lithographix, Los Angeles, California Staff Photographer Felipe Vallejo Cover photo and additional fire photos contributed by Professor Chris Dicus

cafes.calpoly.edu Andrew J. Thulin | Dean

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4,800 first-year and 1,000 transfer students applied to attend the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences in 2018. 900 freshmen and 185 transfer students were welcomed to the college in the fall. The average GPA of incoming freshmen who applied directly from high school: 4.02 CALENDAR OF UPCOMING EVENTS DEC. 15

Fall Commencement

JAN. 30

Alumni and Friends Reception at Unified Wine and Grape Symposium

FEB. 13 Alumni and Friends Reception

at the World Ag Expo

APRIL 11-13 Cal Poly Open House APRIL 12-13 Poly Royal Rodeo

Second Annual Strawberry Center Field Day More than 240 attendees representing all aspects of the strawberry industry, including growers, researchers and industry representatives, participated in the Cal Poly Strawberry Center’s second annual Field Day to observe and learn more about the latest research activities taking place at the center. Strawberry Center students and staff presented their research at nine different stations, covering diverse topics such as bug vacuum optimization, host plant resistance to Macrophomina crown rot and Verticillium wilt, Botrytis gray mold management, transplant cold storage treatments, fungicide resistance development, harvest aids and more. The Field Day is quickly becoming one of the largest forums in California, providing a platform for various affiliates of the strawberry industry to engage in current research and practices.





Taiwan: Environmental Management and Sustainability Seventeen students representing a wide range of academic disciplines traveled more than 6,500 miles to Taiwan this past summer to spend six weeks immersed in the culture, learning about environmental challenges ranging from community to global levels. Professor Yiwen Chiu, an assistant professor in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, led Cal Poly’s inaugural study abroad trip to the island in Eastern Asia. Chiu’s area of research encompasses quantitative sustainability, environmental life-cycle analysis, and environmental management.

Visiting places like the Industrial Technology Research Institute allows students to see how they can relate their major with actual action that can change a community or a country. Yiwen Chiu

Chiu, who was raised in Taiwan and earned her bachelor’s degree from National Taiwan University in Taipei, said the country was a perfect destination because it offers a rich biodiversity in a relatively small footprint – making available a gamut of topics to study. In just six weeks, students traveled from one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Taipei, to villages in the country’s rural mountainous terrain, where agriculture has sustained generations of aging farmers. This was Chiu’s first time leading a group of students abroad. “College is a crucial time for students to start to explore their interests, and as a faculty member at Cal Poly, the most important thing I can do is to facilitate that type of environment,” Chiu said. “This was a great opportunity for students to try out and apply the skillsets they have been learning in the classroom and see how they can make an impact.” Cal Poly students from five different colleges representing 12 majors joined the Environmental Management and Sustainability in Taiwan program – making the journey an interdisciplinary learning experience for all involved. Eight bilingual Taiwanese

students also joined the cohort, joining the lectures and field trips, while introducing Cal Poly students to the local culture on the weekends. Environmental management and protection senior Kingston Chen said that the trip expanded his worldview and helped him appreciate the culture and customs of Taiwan at a deeper level. Chen said learning customs such as hospitality from local students helped the Cal Poly students acclimate to the culture. Students visited the historic North Gate in Taipei, where they learned firsthand about urban sprawl, population growth and air pollution. “I wanted students to see what action has been taken and how government agencies collaborating with each other were able to make progress,” Chiu said. In Nantou, the only landlocked county in Taiwan, students visited with agriculturalists who are famous for growing Oolong tea. “It is a very rural area, but because of the economic benefits of growing a high-priced commodity, it is also an affluent place,” Chiu said. “It gave students an idea of how agriculture can shape a local economy but also of the environmental implications that can occur when such practices change the natural environment.” Students also visited the Industrial Technology Research Institute, a national research institute primarily sponsored by Taiwan Environmental Protection Agency, which represents Taiwan at a global level on issues such as climate change. “Visiting places like the institute allows students to see how they can relate their major with actual action that can change a community or a country,” Chiu said. “My hope is that it helped students to visualize themselves in society that way, as stewards of environmental management.“ A second Environmental Management and Sustainability in Taiwan study abroad trip, led by Chiu, is being planned for summer 2019. To learn more, visit https://bit.ly/2q5AexH.


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Succulentopia In October, the Horticulture and Crop Science Department held its second succulent sale, featuring more than 2,500 plants of 125 varieties. Four students were involved in the student-run project, one of several such hands-on experiences offered by the college. Students learned proper watering and propagation techniques and how to grow plants on deadline and market them. “Being involved in this project gives me a taste of what it’s like to work in a commercial nursery and provides me with valuable techniques in producing quality, marketable plants,” said Karianne Rydberg, an agricultural and environmental plant sciences senior and student succulent manager. “It’s the ultimate Learn by Doing experience.” Three additional agricultural and environmental plant sciences students also assisted with the succulent production: sophomore Boden Cunningham, senior Ted Fitzgerald, and senior Kelsea Jones. The sale raised more than $25,000 in two days.





Say Cheese This fall Cal Poly introduced three new cheeses as part of a larger revisioning of the Cal Poly Creamery, which included the facility, equipment and products. “For more than 20 years, the Cal Poly Creamery has produced the same variety of cheeses and dairy products,” said Creamery Operations Manager Tom Johnson. “They’ve served us well, but a lot has happened in those years. The success of the American artisan cheese industry changed the way we think about cheese. American cheesemakers are now making some of the most exciting cheeses in the world, and we think our students should be making some of these fantastic products too.” The first new cheese out of the gate is Bella Montaña, a sweet cheddar-like cheese. “You could call it ’modern cheddar’,” Johnson said. “We add special cultures during the process that remove bitter notes and accentuate the natural sweetness of the milk. The result is a complex cheese loaded with

flavor, and it’s likely different from anything you’ve tasted before.” Johnson also worked with Plant Manager Jennifer Pelayo to retool the Creamery’s Gouda recipe. The old version, Galloping Gouda, was replaced with Grand Gouda. “Each wheel is handcrafted, coated with a traditional yellow rind and aged on wooden boards,” Johnson said. A third new cheese, Seven Sisters, is a higher-moisture melting cheese inspired by European classics such as Havarti. Produced using a “washed curd” recipe, the cheese has a delicate, soft-mouth feel and a mild, buttery flavor.

are enthusiastic about the new products, but they are even more excited about what is to come, including the expansion into additional cheese categories, including bloomy rind (white mold), washed rind, and perhaps even blue cheeses. “Early in 2019, we will install new climate control systems to our aging rooms, which will enable us to begin producing some truly original artisan cheeses,” Johnson said. “We have big plans for ice cream, too. Stay tuned!” For more information or to order Cal Poly cheeses, please visit www.calpolycreamery.com.

The Creamery’s students and staff

Gift Boxes Cal Poly Holiday Cheese and Wine Gift Boxes featuring student-made products are available now. To order from a selection of new cheeses and traditional favorites available in a variety of gift box arrangements, visit www.calpolycreamery.com. To order from a selection of wine gift sets, including student-made wine, paired with an assortment of Cal Poly chocolate and cheese, visit www.calpolywine.com.


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Assistant Professor Richard Cobb, whose research is focused on forest health, recently headed a collaboration of 20 researchers across 17 countries to further understand the vexing global concern of why more and more forests die. He will soon publish an updated estimate of tree mortality, tying the problem back to the drought and sudden oak death, a disease that has killed millions of trees since the mid-1990s and continues to do so.

Q: Why are trees dying at accelerated rates? A: Tree mortality is a global issue, and in California we’re facing two distinct problems: drought and the bark beetle in the Sierra Nevada and sudden oak death in coastal forests. Both mortality events are increasing but for different reasons – mortality in the Sierra Nevada is tied to climate, while sudden oak death is caused by an ongoing pathogen invasion.

Q: How many trees have been impacted? A: The numbers are mind-boggling large, about 130 million dead trees in the Sierra Nevada and about 50 million in the coastal range of California from sudden oak death.

Q: What are the long-term implications? A: These problems are worsening. Sudden oak death is actively invading at-risk forests, and mortality will increase every year for the next few decades. In the Sierra Nevada, we’re seeing evidence of a second wave of tree mortality in higher elevation fir forests; I expect that mortality will get worse in the next five years.

Q: Does tree mortality affect wildfires? A: Yes, but not always in the way you would expect. In the first few years after a tree has died, dead foliage in the canopy can greatly increase fire intensity. Once this material is on the ground, controlling fire becomes more manageable but impacts to soil increase, which can reduce carbon sequestration and water quality.

Q: What can be done to mitigate the impacts? A: In many ways this is a self-inflicted problem. Decades of mismanagement set the stage for the severe mortality we’re seeing now. The thinning, burning and dead fuel removal we need to apply have not been widely adopted because they are expensive and will require decades of work. Our wildland ecosystems determine the quality of our air and water as well as represent many other economic opportunities. There is no question in my mind that investment in our forests is worth the effort and expense. Getting this work done will be the most important challenge for the next several generations of California natural resource professionals.





Taming the Wild The wildland-urban interface (WUI), where housing and wildland areas meet, and the fires that result are wreaking havoc on California as they increasingly cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage each year and a growing number of lives are lost. Each year, the fires continue to grow in size and magnitude, while the accompanying losses become more severe.


There is no single, easy solution. But something must be done. Cal Poly is working to establish an interdisciplinary Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Information, Research, and Education (F.I.R.E.) Institute to facilitate the research, education, training and outreach needed to address the catastrophic problem in California and beyond. The institute would facilitate a partnership between academia and external stakeholders. A holistic approach to reducing the impacts of such fires is needed; there is currently no such institute in the United States. “Wicked problems need interdisciplinary solutions and the brainpower to solve them,” said Jim Prince, associate dean for research and graduate programs in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “At Cal Poly we are already working with partners at Stanford, UC Santa Barbara and other outside institutions. We can’t just keep spending more money every year on fighting fires. Collectively we have to figure out how we can reduce the damage from them and plan smarter communities.” Cal Poly faculty and researchers in multiple areas of study, such as forestry and fire ecology, city and regional planning, construction management, landscape architecture, economics and fire protection engineering, are already doing research to find ways to alleviate the impacts of urban encroachment on wildland areas, yet they are doing it individually or in small groups. The


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institute would unify that effort and provide a path to meet the needs of today’s society by partnering faculty and students with stakeholder organizations. Dan Turner, retired San Luis Obispo Cal Fire chief and manager of the San Luis Obispo County Fire Safe Council, is working hand in hand with Cal Poly to establish the institute. “Cal Poly is poised to prepare future leaders using a holistic approach that encompasses forestry, city and regional planning, fire protection engineers and beyond in a coordinated effort with public agencies and industry to a path to long-term resiliency,” Turner said. “It took 100 years to get here; it will take time to fix it.”

Wildland-Urban Interface As both housing and commercial development continues to encroach on environments that are naturally dependent on fire to regenerate the ecosystem, disasters such as the recent Thomas Fire and mudslides in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties will continue to escalate. Fires in wildland-urban interface settings now represent the most frequent source of declared disasters in California and are occurring at an increased frequency. The threat of wildland urban fires will continue to grow because of demographic trends and climate

This problem is not going to be solved by more firefighters or firefighting equipment. Chris Dicus


Looking to the Future Rudy Uribe, 38, worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the Los Padres National Forest for seven years before enrolling at Cal Poly to pursue a master’s degree in forestry sciences. Growing up in the small Northern California area of Middletown in Lake County, Uribe experienced what it was like to live in a wildland-urban interface, with fires a common occurrence in his hometown.

change. “This problem began by continuing to build in ecosystems that are fire dependent. Just as we need rain, these natural ecosystems need fire,” said Chris Dicus, professor of wildland fire and fuels management in Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department and president of the Association for Fire Ecology (AFE), an international scientific society that promotes sound wildland fire ecology research, education and management. “When we choose to build in such an area, we have to understand that by the nature of California, it is going to burn.” The complexity of these WUI fires exacerbates the problem – they require both wildland and structural fire protection, which has long been viewed as two distinct problems. The Wildland-Urban Interface F.I.R.E. Institute will combine the efforts of both to enable suppression and community resiliency. “This problem is not going to be solved by more firefighters or firefighting equipment,” Dicus said.

Need for Change There are few people living in California

who have not been touched either directly or indirectly by the impacts of such fires. “Wildfires touch nearly everyone in California,” Dicus said. “Whether it’s an individual whose home was lost or a community whose critical infrastructure is compromised or its citizens’ health threatened because of smoke.” In December 2017 the Thomas Fire burned 281,893 acres, destroyed 1,063 structures and left 26 people dead. In the months prior, a series of fires in Sonoma and Napa counties destroyed nearly 9,000 buildings and left 44 people dead. The devastation is not isolated to California. In recent years, similar fires in Texas, Colorado and Tennessee have destroyed nearly 5,000 homes and killed more than a dozen people. From 2011 to 2015, the average amount of damage caused by wildfires in California per year was $679 million. The average cost of fire suppression per year was $413 million. Those figures do not account for the larger economic toll that results in communities devastated by a fire, such as lost jobs and diminished resources. “If we look at wildfire as a war, we need to prepare the battlefield for the hardworking firefighters on the front lines,” Dicus said. “We can only do that with a holistic

“I watched as we kept losing these communities over and over again, and I became interested in getting involved to see what I could do to improve the situation,” Uribe said. While working in the national forest, he worked the line, fighting fires deep in the forest. He decided to pursue a master’s degree to move into upper management and do more behindthe-scenes pre-fire planning and mitigation. Uribe’s master’s thesis will analyze which homes were spared and those that were not during the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. He hopes to find commonalities that might demonstrate effective prevention tools. Topography, building materials and fuel reduction treatments such as prescribed fires and cleared lines will all be considered. “Ventura has aggressive fuels management programs that requires homeowners to clear potential fuels such as overgrown vegetation. But that didn’t work,” Uribe said. “What can we do better?” He advocates for more prescribed fires in urban areas as a cost-effective way to remove surface fuels such as excess vegetation, which are a primary cause of fires in urban communities. “The general public doesn’t always understand its role in fire prevention. The build up of debris and vegetation around homes leads to fire,” said Uribe. “Once one house catches on fire, it creates a domino effect.” Fire, he said, is a natural part of the environment. “There are plants that have fire adaptive traits and that have evolved to adapt to fire; redwoods can’t sprout without fire,” Uribe said. “Just because an area burns doesn’t mean it is ruined. Prescribed fire isn’t going to destroy that land, but it will remove dead fuel and the area will come back abundant.”




approach, such as proper landscaping, building homes in such a way that utilizes fire-resistant materials, and by using established fuel treatments in wildland areas adjacent to communities.”

Photo by Patrick Record

Yet, smart building designs and materials, land use planning, and management of wildland ecosystems as a prevention and management tool are just the beginning. Elements of political science, economics, emergency preparedness and response, and public education are also necessary. The solution lies in a partnership of shared responsibility between public agencies and the community. The Wildland-Urban Interface F.I.R.E. Institute will serve as the center of that collaboration. “We know what is needed,” Dicus said. “We are now seeking various avenues of funding from the public and private sector, all of which have a stake in this to move it forward.” “Cal Poly is well suited to lead the effort,” Prince said. The university has the only Fire Protection Engineering Program west of the Mississippi. Ongoing research on fire-related issues, the economic impacts of fires, and best practices in landscape architecture and city and regional planning are already underway. Students work with real-world applications in both research and directly in local communities. The goal is to reduce the cycle of repetitive costs and losses associated with fires in the wildland-urban interface by taking a holistic approach moving forward. Cal Poly will serve as a center of excellence in all areas: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery by engaging public officials, fire and emergency managers, private industry and by conducting training and educational programs to lessen hazards and improve safety and effectiveness. “At Cal Poly we have a long history of doing applied research and serving the needs of California,” Prince said. “We have a critical mass of people here, ready to move forward. The institute will unify and grow our ability to offer solutions, a crucial need in California.”

Crew 7 Charles Watkins, 20, is a junior majoring in forestry and natural resources, concentrating in wildland fuels management. Each summer he works for the U.S. Forest Service in the Los Padres National Forest on a 20-person hand crew fighting wildland fires. “We hike into the forest to where we cut fire lines using chainsaws and axes to remove vegetation to stop the fire from advancing,” Watkins said. “Not all fires can be put out with water, but fire has a hard time crossing bare mineral soil.” Last summer he worked the Holy Fire, a wildfire that burned in the Cleveland National Forest in Orange and Riverside counties, burning more than 23,000 acres and destroying 18 buildings. He also worked the Box Fire in San Bernardino County and smaller fires throughout San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Prior to that he was called during finals week to work the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where he stayed until Christmas Eve. During the Thomas Fire, he worked tirelessly above the coastal town of Montecito, trying to stop it from advancing beyond the forest. Yet the fire burned hot, eventually crossing fire lines. “When the call comes over the radio with the report of a fire, the adrenaline kicks in,” Watkins said. “There is no guarantee of when you will get to sleep or eat again, no guarantee of when your next break will come. You simply get ready to do whatever needs to be done.” The reward, he said, comes from working hard and knowing that you have done all you can do. “A lot of times you are out in the middle of nowhere and there is no one to see the work that has been done,” Watkins said. “But when you turn around and look to see the fire line and one side is charred and the other green, the finished product is the most fulfilling feeling in the world.” Watkins initially planned to pursue a job in municipal firefighting but became passionate about wildland fires after taking classes in it his first year at Cal Poly. “It all ties back together – and is becoming more and more of an issue,” he said. “Fires are now burning from forests to neighborhoods.”


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Esteemed Alumnus Continues Efforts to Mitigate Fire Damage in California Dan Turner (Natural Resources Management, ‘76) had an esteemed career with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) before retiring in 2006 with more than 37 years of service. Today he serves as the manager of the San Luis Obispo County Fire Safe Council and is well respected throughout the state as an authority on fire. His path has now come full circle, back to Cal Poly as he helps to establish the Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Institute. Turner’s career in fire service began young, working as a volunteer and seasonal firefighter for the California Division of Forestry (now Cal Fire) his senior year of high school. It took root when he attended Cal Poly and was asked to work at the then-Cal Poly Fire Department. He was hired full time with Cal Fire in 1974. His ties to Cal Poly remained strong. Turner’s professional philosophy of unifying resources for consequence mitigation was guided by several key events that he can still recount with impeccable detail. One such event was the 1976 bombing at Hearst Castle. Mutual aid at the time was dictated by clear lines drawn between jurisdictions – meaning that other agencies would not respond to the call for aid until the closest jurisdictional engine arrived on scene. That day, he was the closest engine, despite being more than 50 miles away. “I remember driving north through San Luis Obispo, then Morro Bay, then Cambria, getting angrier and angrier,” recalls Turner. “I was furious that no one would respond until I arrived when they all had a vested interest in helping those in need and protecting the economic driver of the tourist economy in San Luis Obispo County.” It became a mission to convert mutual aid response to automatic aid, essentially boundaryless response, which directs the closest resource to respond, regardless of jurisdiction. Turner focused his resolve on tearing down the political walls that had long dictated mutual aid calls. In the 1980s he succeeded after working with leaders throughout the state to implement the Incident Command System, which standardized how agencies respond to emergencies. It is still used today by local, state and federal agencies nationwide and is considered a worldwide model for mutual aid response. As he progressed through his career, Turner continued to see the bigger picture. He witnessed catastrophic

fires destroy communities, knowing that something needed to be done to help lessen the aftermath. “It’s not the size of the fire, but the consequences that matter,” Turner said. It is this vision that has led him to be a staunch supporter of the Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Institute. One fire in particular, the 1,600-acre Oakland Hills Fire in 1991, stands out. “I watched 3,000 buildings burn down in six hours and 24 people died,” Turner said. “I was standing on Highway 24 looking east at the fire coming at us, and I felt cold air on the back of my neck and saw the fog coming through the Golden Gate. The wind switched and the fire went from unstoppable to done, just like that.” A domino effect of consequences would ripple through the communities after such a fire, leaving people displaced without jobs or homes, basic service interrupted and a depleted tax base. “I made my focus the consequences of fires and how to mitigate them,” he said. “There had to be a way to make communities more resilient. The costs to the communities far exceeded the cost to put out the fire or the actual physical damage.” His focus became the things of greatest consequence, mitigating the impacts of the fires that could not be prevented. That is what led him back to Cal Poly to focus his efforts on the Wildland-Urban Interface Institute. “We have to take a holistic approach and truly understand the consequences of these fires beyond the firefighters and those being initially harmed,” Turner said. “It is about involving all the other stakeholders who have a role to find potential solutions.” Cal Poly, he said, is the only college that has a wildland urban interface component to its forestry program. In fact, he helped to facilitate a class dedicated to the subject in the 2000s, which he still helps teach today. “It was the first course of its kind in the country,” Turner said. “It established Cal Poly on the WUI issue, and the university remains at the forefront of it.”

It was all over in six or seven hours. I was standing on Highway 24 looking east at the fire coming at us, and I felt cold air on the back of my neck and saw the fog coming through the Golden Gate. The wind switched and the fire went from unstoppable to done, just like that. Dan Turner

For Turner, it is about tearing down the walls as he once did with mutual aid response. “It is about creating a center of excellence for collaboration among people who are already doing critical research,” he said. “It is about looking forward and trying something different. It is about reaching out to industry, stakeholders and outside organizations and bringing them together to guide, counsel and advise on what needs to be done to mitigate the consequences of what we know is inevitably coming.” CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU



Israel Mondragon and Gary Gray, both senior agricultural and environmental plant sciences majors, tested the effects of compost on weed suppression by growing bell pepper plants in Cal Poly organic soil amended with different types of compost to evaluate its effect on weed germination and biomass. Anna Levine and Megan Bonwell, both seniors majoring in recreation, parks, and tourism administration, studied the impact of youth sports on young adults and their overall levels of happiness, essentially trying to determine if playing youth competitive sports was helpful or detrimental to young adults’ relationship with exercise. Levine and Bonwell conducted 26 interviews, transcribing each interview, looking for common themes. “The most interesting finding from our study was that a participant’s outlook on their experience was largely determined by the coaching experience they had,” Bonwell said. “For instance, a player who had a supportive and positive coach had a much happier sport experience and reflects back on that experience with more positive thoughts than that of a player who had a negative coaching experiences.” Levine added, “There was a clear trend showing those who had a better relationship with their coach during youth sports had a more positive experience with extracurricular activities later in life.”

In all, they filled 54 pots with a calculated mix of soil and compost and transplanted the peppers into each pot, then placed the plants in the field at the Cal Poly Organic Farm in a randomized design to account for environmental conditions. The project used the byproducts from olive processing, attempting to transform a potential waste product into a beneficial product to combat weeds. Fruit yield data from the bell pepper plants is being collected now; the project is in its final stages. “Improving farming methods has been a goal of mine and is what led me to enter agricultural sciences,” said Mondragon, who wants to help advance sustainable farming practices. “At Cal Poly, I have learned about the many difficulties that farmers encounter, weeds playing a major role. The search for tools to improve the cropping system rather than an attempt to find a silver bullet when managing weeds really interests me.”

Stephanie Robinson, a junior who changed majors from food science to wine and viticulture, researched ways to reduce sugar content in baked goods, while not compromising sweetness and texture. She worked specifically with the texture of cake samples, operating on the hypothesis that the physical state of sugar was a controlling factor in the perception of sweetness. “I have always been interested in the chemistry behind food and baking cakes all summer intrigued me right from the beginning,” Robinson said. “There were so many new things I learned through this project. I never realized that eggs supply the water content in a batter, and small particles, like sugar, can dissolve into it. We manipulated many parts of the recipe and were amazed how even the smallest differences can affect the taste of our products.” She said the research will continue. Additional trials, including a large-scale sensory test, will be done in the future. Robinson switched majors from food science to wine and viticulture after studying abroad in Australia learning more of the science behind winemaking. “I have always known that my passion lies with chemistry, and I was hoping to do something with that in the food and beverage industry,” said Robinson. “After learning about the incredible complexity behind wine, I knew the wine industry was where I wanted to work.” She hopes to one day be the head winemaker at a small winery.

More than 50 students participated in the college’s 10-week Summer Undergraduate Research Program, experiencing an immersive, hands-on research project in an area of their interest.


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Definition of success

• degree or measure of succeeding. • satisfactory completion of something. • the gaining of wealth, respect or fame. • a person or thing that succeeds.

Team members from L to R: Coach Rich Silacci, Robin Smithling, Samantha Schuessler, Brandon Almeida, Jack Vander Dussen, Michayla Davidson, Danica Valencia, Zayne Evangelo, and Jason Edwards.

The Cal Poly Floral Design Team ranked third in the nation at the American Institute of Floral Designer’s (AIFD) 2018 Student Floral Design Competition held in Washington, D.C. Alyssa Snow, a junior majoring in agricultural science, placed first in the wedding bouquet category and fourth place in the fashion flower category. She placed third overall in the competition. Allana Childs, who graduated in June with a degree in agricultural and environmental sciences, took third in the interpretive design category and eighth place for her wedding bouquet. Snow was also awarded a scholarship during the awards ceremony for her school fees for the 2018-19 school year from the AIFD Foundation Scholarship Committee. Cal Poly competed against teams from nine other colleges, including the University of Missouri Columbia, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Ohio State. The team was led by Lecturer Melinda Lynch.

Braden Povah, center, analyzes soil during the International Soil Judging Contest in Brazil.

The Cal Poly Dairy Judging Team placed sixth at the Accelerated Genetics Dairy Judging Contest on Sept. 16 in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Twelve colleges from throughout the U.S. were represented at the contest, including teams from Iowa State University, University of Minnesota and Kansas State University.

From L to R: Cal Poly Lecturer Melinda Lynch, alumna Allana Childs and junior Alyssa Snow.

Braden Povah, a senior majoring in forestry and natural resources, took third place in the world as an individual, and was one of four students on the world champion team, at the International Soil Judging Contest held near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August. The contest, sponsored by the International Union of Soil Sciences and hosted by the Brazilian Soil Science Society and the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, had 48 students on 12 teams from 10 countries: United States, Brazil, Mexico, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Great Britain, South Africa, Spain, and Russia. CAFES.CALPOLY.EDU



Alumni Come Home Homecoming, A Cal Poly Tradition BY LA U R A S O RVE TT I | University Archives Since 1924, Cal Poly has celebrated Homecoming. The first Homecoming provided an opportunity for alumni across the state to come back to their alma mater to reunite with school friends, recall their Cal Poly memories, and visit the expanding campus. Every fall, Cal Poly still welcomes alumni back to campus for Homecoming Weekend, which includes a home football game, events honoring alumni, and various activities across campus. The Homecoming Parade was introduced in 1949 at Cal Poly. A high point of many Homecoming celebrations in the 1950s and 1960s, the parade featured elaborate floats assembled by student clubs, the Cal Poly Marching Band, honored guests, and a special float for the Homecoming Queen and her court. The parade wound its way through downtown San Luis Obispo and was a major draw 12

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for the Cal Poly community, alumni and the San Luis Obispo community. This photo captures the Future Farmers of America float at the 1952 Homecoming Parade. In 1952, the parade theme was “There is Nothing Like a Dame,” reflecting the general campus excitement for a future in which Cal Poly returned to enrolling both men and women students. (Women were not allowed to enroll from 1930-55.) The FFA showed its optimism for the outcome of the Homecoming football game by exclaiming on its float, “Dames predict an ‘udder’ victory for Poly.” Although the outcome of the game against Whittier College was described by the El Mustang newspaper as a “disappointing loss,” the parade and the rest of the homecoming weekend was “generally hailed a smashing success.”

Future Farmers of America Homecoming Parade float, 1952. Courtesy University Archives.


Dr. Tong was a leader in dairy sciences and helped to establish and build the Dairy Products Technology Center at Cal Poly into one of the nation’s premier programs to provide innovative solutions and training for the dairy and food industries. We are honored to contribute to this legacy. Gayle Dilley

Honoring a Legacy

Alumni Helps Raise the Bar

The Phillip S. Tong Scholarship Fund was established by donors to provide scholarships to students majoring in dairy science, food science and nutrition, with an expressed interest in dairy foods sciences.

The Clif Bar Family Foundation donated $100,000 to advance two cross-disciplinary programs at Cal Poly: The Center for Sustainability and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to further work in organic agriculture and healthy food systems.

The $25,000 endowment honors retired Professor Tong, who over the course of his 30-year career built a dedicated team of faculty, staff and students who worked with the dairy industry and Cal Poly to realize a common vision and to establish and build the Dairy Products Technology Center (DPTC) into one of the nation’s premier programs. Upon Tong’s retirement in 2016, industry partners, alumni and friends endeavored to establish and fund a scholarship to honor his legacy by providing support for undergraduate and master’s students with an expressed and demonstrated record of interest in dairy food sciences. The California Association of Dairy and Milk Sanitarians served as the principal donor to the fund. “The California Association of Dairy and Milk Sanitarians was pleased to create a scholarship at Cal Poly in honor of Professor Emeritus Phillip S. Tong for his many contributions to campus and to the dairy foods industry in California and nationally,” said John Bruhn, executive secretary. Additional gifts came from Hilmar Cheese Co. and the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation, which gave a $3,500 donation to support dairy science students in perpetuity. “The Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation was delighted to support the Phillip S. Tong Scholarship Fund,” said Gayle Dilley, president of the foundation. “Dr. Tong was a leader in dairy sciences and helped to establish and build the Dairy Products Technology Center at Cal Poly into one of the nation’s premier programs to provide innovative solutions and training for the dairy and food industries. We are honored to contribute to this legacy.”

The Center for Sustainability, within the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, will use $60,000 to build an online educational series on soil health and to promote organic agriculture initiatives. The remaining $40,000 will be used by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, within the Orfalea College of Business, to support student summer accelerator companies working on solutions that align with the Clif Bar Family Foundation’s identified values such as healthy food systems and building stronger communities. Gary Erickson, founder of Clif Bar & Co., is a Cal Poly alumnus who graduated with a business administration degree in 1980. The Center for Sustainability’s Soil Health Dimensions online educational series will provide a comprehensive but concise overview of how healthy agricultural soils function and are maintained, with a special focus on the role of biological organisms and processes and how those can be assessed. The curriculum will be comprised of 10 segments and will be made available free to the public through the Center for Sustainability’s website in early 2019.

In addition, a recent $2,500 donation from Hilmar Cheese concluded fundraising efforts to permanently endow the scholarship. “Hilmar Cheese was honored to contribute to the Phillip S. Tong Scholarship Fund in support of Cal Poly students interested in pursuing careers in the dairy sciences,” said Kyle Jensen, vice president and general manager at Hilmar. “We believe that our industry will benefit by educating and training the next generation of dairy science leaders, and we are excited to partner with Cal Poly to invest in these aspiring young professionals.”




Fall Descends on Cal Poly’s Leaning Pine Arboretum


FALL 2018


New Faculty Karen Cannon Department: Agricultural Education and Communication Area of Specialty: Agricultural Communication Education: Ph.D. in agricultural education and communication from the University of Florida Hometown: Burlingame, California What book are you currently reading? “L.A. Noir: the Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City” by John Buntin and “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling

Shunping Ding Department: Wine and Viticulture and Horticulture and Crop Science Area of Specialty: Plant Pathology Education: Ph.D. in plant pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison Hometown: Kaifeng, China What book are you currently reading? “The Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides” by Patrick Marer

Matt Haberland Department: BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Area of Specialty: Automated/precision agriculture, swarm robotics, optimization Education: Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Hometown: Herndon, Virginia What book are you currently reading? “American Institute of Steel Construction Steel Design Manual”

Brian Larson Department: Animal Science Area of Specialty: Manager of the Animal Nutrition Center Education: Master’s degree in agricultural economics, North Carolina State University Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina What book are you currently reading? “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin

The Cal Poly community lost a dear friend, a dedicated leader and an inspired family member in August. Al Amaral, 78, graduated from Cal Poly in 1965 and returned three years later to teach agriculture management before taking over the helm of the Cal Poly Foundation, a role that he held for 28 years, until his retirement in 2000. Former colleagues recall a man who lived and breathed Cal Poly, and whose pride in the organization that he led was only outweighed by the pride he had in the staff. In 1989 he was the CAFES Honored Alumnus, and received the Outstanding Staff/Employee award in 1986. Amaral, alongside his wife, Rose, firmly believed in the importance of education and established the Al and Rose Amaral Ag Enterprise Endowment to benefit future generations of Cal Poly students.

Cal Poly Professor Greg Brown, whose research is focused on community engagement and participation, is working with a team of researchers from three universities and four local governments in New South Wales, Australia, to protect koalas, which are a nationally threatened species. Brown, who heads Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, said the overarching goal of the research was to identify locations that provide high koala conservation value and also have community support for conservation. The Australia Koala Foundation estimates there are fewer than 80,000 koalas today, down from millions in the last century. Human development and encroachment are the key drivers for the current decline in koalas, Brown said. “While humans are the source of the problem, they are also the solution,” he said. “Effective conservation outcomes require community and local government support to protect koalas in the future.” Brown recently submitted the first of several planned research articles addressing the many challenges of koala conservation to the journal Biological Conservation. The article evaluates the use of crowdsourced citizen observations of koalas to identify the location and distribution of koalas in a study area in New South Wales. “Community participation identifies where there is broad-based public support for koala conservation and provides an important counterweight to increased calls for new development,” said Brown. “The collaboration of local government is vital to the success of the research project.”




Summer at Swanton Pacific Ranch

Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch in Davenport, California, is a premier outdoor learning center, providing unique opportunities for cross-curricular education and research. Students and faculty come from departments and colleges across Cal Poly’s campus to explore, cultivate and protect the majestic redwood forests, lush riparian ecosystems, and expansive coastal grasslands that comprise the living laboratory. Swanton hosted 15 internships this past summer and more than 35 students participated in residential field classes and research.

Madison Gilmartin, a senior majoring in environmental management and protection, worked as a forestry intern this summer, and her project, “2018 Mortality Assessment Analysis,” involved field testing and calibrating a tree mortality model developed in 2010-13 as a tool for forest managers. Gilmartin’s field site was the area burned by the 2009 Lockheed Fire, and she derived data from 82 unique plots and more than 3,000 trees. Swanton Pacific Ranch gave Gilmartin the opportunity to combine science and policy. She learned how to collect and analyze field data, apply them in a model and inform management of forest resources in a sustainable way. Some of her challenges included working under harsh field conditions — heat, poison oak, wasps, rattlesnakes, rough terrain — on a daily basis. In addition to the physical demands, she was pushed intellectually to analyze a large data set and translate it into meaningful policy suggestions.

“My internship at Swanton reinforced

Mackenzie Zeimet, a senior majoring in agricultural business, joined the livestock and rangeland management internship at Swanton to learn more about cattle and marketing grass-fed beef. Growing up in Bakersfield, California, Zeimet had previous experience raising hogs and working as an agricultural extension agent to the almond and grape industries. Zeimet’s daily routine revolved around feeding animals, checking on cows and herding them to pasture, fence work, and repairing water lines. Outside of these tasks, she completed the research project “Rangeland Soil’s Untold Story,” which involved collecting and testing rangeland soils for texture and infiltration. The long-term goal of her project was to create a database that can track how Swanton’s rangeland management practices impact soils over time. Her primary challenge was to learn how to balance her animal husbandry chores with her research. In the process, she honed her observational skills, learned to analyze problems and develop solutions, and discovered that livestock operations is not all about the cattle, it’s also about the soils and grasses.

Growing up in redwood country, Kylen Maple was no stranger to the magnificent coastal redwood forests of Swanton Pacific Ranch. As a senior majoring in soil science, Maple’s summer internship experience was in the Crops Management program, where he worked and studied on an organic farm. His project, “Water Quality Monitoring Plan for Efficacy in Organic Agriculture,” sought to quantify the nutrient load leaving the organic farm and entering Scotts Creek, one of the southern-most tributaries for Coho salmon in North America. Maple’s research measured nitrate, nitrite, ammonia and phosphorus discharges, and considered how various agricultural land-use practices impacted discharge quantities and constituents. In addition, Maple worked in the Swanton apple orchard where he learned how to properly water, prune and propagate apples — all new skills to him. As a soil scientist, he was challenged to think about how crop management affected soils and water. Longer term, Maple hopes to pursue a career in groundwater management, focusing on research and development of remediation and management techniques.

my desire to pursue forestry as a

“My experience working on the

career after Cal Poly, either as a

rangelands this summer made

“I didn’t have much prior experience

research scientist or field forester.”

me realize that I want to be more

with crops, so I had to learn how to

involved in animal husbandry

connect my experience in soils and

and sustainable land-use manage-

watershed management to what

ment, a shift in focus that I am

was going on above ground — a

excited about.”

new perspective for me.”


FALL 2018

the future of

FOOD SAFETY Food safety is critically important and at Cal Poly we are committed to working with industry partners to

We are ambitiously developing new state-of-the-art food safety laboratories and programs to meet the world’s growing demand for food production and for the highly skilled individuals to address food safety challenges across the food chain. The Science and Agriculture Teaching and Research Complex will enable students and faculty to collaborate with industry partners. Please contact Tim Northrop at tnorthro@calpoly.edu or call 805-756-2166 to learn more about partnering with Cal Poly.

this future requires your participation

GIVING OPPORTUNITIES: • Food Safety Teaching Lab • Nutrition and Food Studies Lab • Teaching and Research Instrumentation Lab

California Polytechnic State University 1 Grand Avenue San Luis Obispo, California 93407-0250

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Cultivate Fall 2018  

The quarterly magazine of the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, a globally recognized center of excellence i...

Cultivate Fall 2018  

The quarterly magazine of the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, a globally recognized center of excellence i...