LAURELS: Hernandez Shines in Biodiversity

solar farm
Rebecca R. Hernandez, right, and Sadie Olsen, a student intern in Hernandez’s lab, set up an experiment at a solar farm. (Andrea Martinez/UC Davis photo)

Quick Summary

  • ‘Father of biodiversity’ E.O. Wilson calls award recipient’s work ‘relevant and urgent’
  • Postharvest expert Suslow receives Valley of the World Education Award
  • Eric Post, of wildlife, fish and conservation biology, earns lectureship at Oxford
  • NACADA Pacific Region recognizes 5 at UC Davis for Excellence in Advising
  • International conference cites Bruce D. Hammock for outstanding achievement for his work in pain control
  • National Hispanic Health Foundation names Mary Lou de Leon Siantz an outstanding role model

Rebecca R. Hernandez, an assistant professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, has been named the recipient of this year’s E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation, given by the Center for Biological Diversity and named after the “father of biodiversity.”

The center cited Hernandez’s work aimed at protecting desert lands and developing sustainable renewable energy that preserves wildlife and community.

“I congratulate Dr. Hernandez and thank her for her important work to protect desert lands,” Wilson said. “Her research on sustainable solar energy development is relevant and urgent in addressing the modern extinction crisis.”

Hernandez studies how energy, ecology and the global environment affect arid lands. Her research helps find solutions to problems where human and natural system interact in water-limited environments. For example, one of her recent studies showed how siting solar energy projects on unconventional areas like rooftops and old landfill sites could provide more than enough energy for California while sparing prime agricultural lands needed to feed a growing population on a planet with decreasing available land.

Hernandez will receive the award at a ceremony in Oakland on January 23.  

Trevor V. Suslow, Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the Postharvest Technology Center, recently received the 2017 Valley of the World Education Award given by the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. The center established its Valley of the World Awards to honor key figures in the Salinas Valley agricultural industry.

Trevor Suslow mugshot

“In the spirit of John Steinbeck’s writings, the education award recognizes an individual who through his or her teaching and efforts has inspired and nourished a lifelong love of learning,” the center says on its website.

In presenting the award, the center described Suslow as having “one of the most active extension education and outreach programs” among extension specialists. “Conservatively, he has provided over 1,500 local, state, national and international technical, extension education, training and outreach presentations on crop protection, soil and phyllosphere microbiology, biotechnology, fresh and fresh-cut produce quality systems, and microbial food safety of fresh produce,” the center wrote.

His research combines lab, research farm, and regional on-farm and packing operations research on E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria. The diverse program addresses issues common and unique to conventional and organic production systems, for the purpose of identifying opportunities for optimal microbial reductions and delivery of safe food to the consumer.

Eric Post mugshot

The University of Oxford has bestowed upon Professor Eric Post an Astor Visiting Lectureship during which he will address climate change and the Arctic. He will be at Oxford for a week, delivering a series of talks intended for general audiences.

Post specializes in the ecological consequences of climate change and the impact of climate change on wildlife conservation. He founded and served as director of the Polar Center at Pennsylvania State University, where he was a professor of biology before joining the UC Davis faculty in 2016, as a member of the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology.

“The lectureships are awarded on a highly competitive basis, and decisions are made according to the candidates’ academic distinction and the potential contribution of the recipient to the academic life of the University of Oxford,” said Professor Marc Macias-Fauria, Post’s faculty sponsor at Oxford. “Professor Post’s nomination highlights both his academic excellence and the recognition by the host university of the strategic position of Arctic research in a rapidly changing environment.”

Excellence in Advising awards are coming UC Davis’ way for the second year in a row from the Pacific Region of NACADA, “the global community for academic advising.” The three-state region (California, Nevada and Hawaii) announced the following awards for UC Davis faculty and staff:

  • Jordan Dade, international academic counselor, College of Engineering — Excellence in Advising award, advisor primary role
  • Susan Ebeler, associate dean, Undergraduate Academic Programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and professor of viticulture and enology —Excellence in Advising award, advising administrator
  • Joseph Lee, academic counselor, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences —certificate of merit, advisor primary role
  • Katherine Parpana, academic counselor, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — Excellence in Advising award, advising equity champion
  • Louie Yang, associate professor of entomology, Department of Entomology and Nematology — Excellence in Advising award, faculty advisor

Carolyn Thomas, vice provost of Undergraduate Education, said in congratulating the award recipients: “The energy you’ve all put into improving academic advising on campus— on the individual level and on a structural level — so we can better support our students is inspiring.”

The International Conference on Bioactive Lipids in Cancer, Inflammation and Related Diseases recently presented an award for outstanding achievement to Bruce D. Hammock, distinguished professor who researches how to control acute and neuropathic pain.

The Eicosanoid Research Foundation established the conference in 1989 and continues to sponsor it biannually, most recently in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in October. Hammock was there, accepting his award and delivering a talk, “Control of Acute and Neuropathic Pain by Inhibiting the Hydrolysis of Epoxy Fatty Acid Chemical Mediators: Path to the Clinic,” tracing the history of his work back almost 50 years to his graduate studies at UC Berkeley.

It was 1969 when he and a colleague discovered soluble epoxide hydrolase, or sEH, a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids, which in turn control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, pain and inflammation, to name a few processes.

Today, Hammock and his company, EicOsis, are developing sEH inhibitors for pain treatment. EicOsis received a $4 million-plus federal grant in 2016 to move the inhibitors into Phase 1 clinical trials for diabetic neuropathic pain — and those trials are expected to start in 2018. In parallel, the company is developing a drug to treat laminitis, a commonly fatal pain condition in horses called laminitis as well as arthritic pain in dogs and cats. 

“The epoxide hydrolase work is a great example going from developmental biology in butterflies to blood pressure and pain in man,” he said. “The extreme and poorly treated pain that I observed as a medical officer in a burn clinic in the Army, is a major driver for me to translate this knowledge to help patients with severe pain.”

Professor Mary Lou de Leon Siantz is among six health care leaders — and the only nurse — recognized recently by the National Hispanic Health Foundation for transforming their community, academic and private sector organizations so that more Latinos will have access to health care.

De Leon Siantz, respected internationally for her research in migrant population health, is a faculty member in the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing and an investigator with the Latino Aging Research Resource Center at UC Davis Health. She is the founding director of the university’s Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science, or CAMPOS, which works to build diversity in STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Accepting this award is a magical moment for the daughter of Mexican immigrants,” de Leon Siantz said. “This is recognition that nursing leadership is critical to an interdisciplinary vision to eliminate the health disparities Hispanics experience, inspire the next generation to collaborate and lead research for public policies to advocate for underrepresented minorities.”

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