We’re getting into the weeds in this story — to tell you that weed expert Joe DiTomaso has been named the recipient of this year’s James. H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award.
It’s the Academic Federation’s highest honor, given annually to one of its members in recognition of distinguished achievements in his or her career, and for service to the campus, UC and beyond.
“Dr. DiTomaso’s career and leadership at the state, regional and national level exemplify the spirit of this award,” says his nomination letter from the Department of Plant Sciences.
DiTomaso is a plant sciences professor and Cooperative Extension specialist. As a professor, he belongs to the Academic Senate; as a CE specialist, he belongs to the Academic Federation and has served in the Academic Federation Assembly. The federation comprises some 1,600 academics with titles such as lecturer, adjunct professor and adjunct instructor, agronomist, professional researcher and project scientist, academic administrator and academic coordinator, librarian and program coordinator.
He completed his undergraduate studies at UC Davis, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife and fisheries biology in 1978, before going to Humboldt State University for a Master of Arts (1981). He returned to UC Davis for his Ph.D. in botany and weed science (1986), and began his academic career as a faculty member at Cornell University.
This alum came back
He came back to UC Davis in 1995 and has spent the past 21 years conducting a statewide research and extension program focused on the biology and management of invasive weeds in rangelands and noncrop systems.
“Dr. DiTomaso has had an incredibly productive career in terms of both research and extension,” his nominators said. They tallied his more than 160 peer-reviewed journal articles, along with six books and 37 book chapters, and hundreds of proceedings, abstracts, extension and other limited-distribution articles; and his “tremendous extension program” typified by in-person presentations (averaging in excess of 50 a year), online video and weed ID programs, and response to thousands of phone and email contacts from growers, consultants and regulatory agency personnel annually.
He has co-taught the undergraduate weed science class (PLS 176) for many years as well as an upper division grass identification and ecology course (PLS 131). He also frequently lectures on invasive weeds, weed management and weed identification in other courses.
In addition to his teaching, he organizes several weed science short courses, including the multiday Weed Science School and Aquatic Weed School, which are held in alternating years.
“As a teacher and mentor, Dr. DiTomaso has had a large impact on the discipline of weed science, including serving as the major professor for 12 Ph.D. and 13 M.S. students. He also has mentored five postdoctoral fellows, hosted two visiting scholars, and has served as an informal mentor to many early weed science faculty, specialists and advisors during his time at UC Davis.”
‘Strong leadership, generous service’
“By any measure, Dr. DiTomaso has been successful as a scientist and educator in his position as a specialist in Cooperative Extension. However, his strong leadership and generous service to his department, the university and his scientific discipline is where he truly is remarkable.”
He’s served on the Executive Council for nine years, and as the crop and ecosystems section chair. He has served twice as acting chair and is interim chair this year during a national recruitment. He has been the director of the Weed Research and Information Center for nearly 20 years and has served on many departmental committees, including search panels for faculty and specialists (chairing six such committees).
At the college level (College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), he was a graduate advisor for eight years, and served on the Dean’s Council, Dean’s Specialist Advisory Committee and the Joint Personnel Committee.
In addition, he served three terms on the National Invasive Species Advisory Committee, by appointment of the secretary of the Interior; and two terms on the California Invasive Species Advisory Committee, by appointment of the state secretary of food and agriculture.
DiTomaso also has a record of leadership in professional organizations, serving as president of the Weed Science Society of America, Western Society of Weed Science, California Invasive Plants Council and Davis Botanical Society. He was instrumental in the launch and served for eight years as first editor-in-chief of the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management.
“Clearly, Dr. DiTomaso has a strong record of quality research and service to his department, the University of California and his scientific discipline,” his nominators said. “What really sets him apart from other successful scientists and makes him so deserving of the Academic Federation’s James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award is the combination of careerlong leadership, selfless service, incredible work ethic, ability to encourage excellence in the people around him, and a vision to see and act on ‘big picture’ needs for science-based management of invasive plants in California and the western U.S.”