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Sep 01st
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Environment

News - Environment

Growing Berries Without Bromide

Growing Berries Without Bromide

Researchers test a new alternative to a controversial chemical

The scarecrows perched in Santa Cruz strawberry fields do little to scare away the birds, much less the insects and fungi harbored in the soil. Everything likes to eat strawberries, which makes growing them a risky business.

This predicament led UC Santa Cruz professor Carol Shennan to take an unconventional approach to pest management. Nine years ago, the fatal plant disease Verticillium wilt was wiping out strawberry plants at the university farm. Chemicals hardly phase the pathogen, and Shennan saw little improvement with crop rotation, which is typically used to treat infested fields. A visiting plant pathologist from the Netherlands recommended a little-known organic technique called anaerobic soil disinfestation, and, with so few other options, Shennan decided to give it a try. 

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News - Environment

Bring Your Own Bag

Bring Your Own Bag

Single-use plastic bag bans are underway

Shoppers in Capitola, Watsonville, the City of Santa Cruz, and the unincorporated parts of the county are, by now, becoming accustomed to the absence of plastic bags.

On Sept. 20, 2011, Santa Cruz County became the first local jurisdiction to pass an ordinance that banned single-use plastic bags and implemented a fee for paper bags, which took effect last spring. Watsonville, Capitola, and Santa Cruz followed suit with similar actions: Watsonville’s ordinance went into effect last September, and, as of last month, the bans in Capitola and the City of Santa Cruz are now in place.

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News - Environment

Land of Lions

Land of Lions

New research provides foundation to look at protecting mountain lions, particularly when it comes to Highway 17

An adult male mountain lion called simply “Number 16” by the Santa Cruz Puma Project led a scientifically interesting life for the more than two-year period he was tracked by the UC Santa Cruz-based research project.

According to Chris Wilmers, associate professor of environmental studies at UCSC and head of the Puma Project, the group initially caught and collared Number 16 in Loch Lomond. He then proceeded to cross Highway 17 several times, where he was eventually was hit, but survived. In an unusual move for an adult male, Number 16 then shifted his home range to the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. Recently, the lion’s tracking collar went on “mortality mode.” The day before Wilmers spoke to Good Times, the researchers found his skeleton.

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News - Environment

Stop and Go

Stop and Go

Where does the Highway 1 expansion project stand?

Commuters will be cruising new lanes on Highway 1 between Morrissey Boulevard and Soquel Avenue by mid-April, according to Bruce Shewchuk, the resident engineer overseeing the project for the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). However, the freeway will not be three lanes in each direction until August.

“There may be some landscaping to be completed,” says Shewchuk. “But the [La Fonda] bridge will be open and all the lanes useable by late summer.”

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News - Environment

Looking to the Labor

Looking to the Labor

Cesar Chavez Day provides a good reminder for locavores to thank the farmworkers

The county’s seven farmers’ markets are signs of growing interest in buying local and knowing where one’s food comes from. But the cheery bustle of these local food hubs is still worlds away from the dusty, sun-drenched farm fields of the outlying county. As consumers pick from the colorful produce at the market, how many also think of the hands that picked it from the field?

This question worries Sarah Broker, who says she gets frustrated when people congratulate themselves for buying local food but overlook those who labored for it.

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News - Environment

Extreme Clean

Extreme Clean

The evolution of Santa Cruz’s DIY cleanup crew

It takes the group less than 10 minutes to find around a dozen syringes stashed in an unmarked paper sack. The bag appears innocuous, lying in grass just three feet from a high-traffic thoroughfare, Delaware Avenue, near the park at Natural Bridges State Beach.

So begins a typical Saturday for Santa Cruz's DIY waste-collection effort, The Clean Team.

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News - Environment

Islands In The Sun

Islands In The Sun

Former Santa Cruz reporter brings national attention to a local nonprofit’s mission to save endangered species 

On thousands of islands all over the planet, rare and exotic species are being killed off at overwhelming rates by non-native predators such as rats, feral cats, pigs and goats that were introduced into those ecosystems by humans over the centuries.

With the mission to prevent these at-risk species from becoming extinct, the Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Island Conservation (IC) works to remove predators that are harming native fauna, often by tracking and killing them using poison, traps, and high-powered rifles.

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News - Environment

Mini Microbes Make A Big Splash

Mini Microbes Make A Big Splash

Local scientist earns prestigious ocean research award to continue microbe research

In a lab bursting with state-of-the art equipment and analytical instruments, Alexandra Worden pores over the latest genetic data from microbes freshly scooped out of sunny ocean waters. Around her, a team of UC Santa Cruz graduate students, visiting scientists, and interns are hard at work delving into the mysteries of these tiny organisms.

Worden is an internationally recognized scientist whose bustling research lab at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is a mecca for studying ocean microbes—invisibly small creatures essential to ocean ecosystems and the planet's health.

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News - Environment

Gold Rush, Take Two

Gold Rush, Take Two

Is California’s Central Coast prepared for a potential fracking boom?

It has only been in recent years that drilling techniques have been developed to tap the enormous gas reserves trapped in Marcellus Shale beneath the Appalachian Mountains. Now, the rolling hills are scattered with thousands of new wells that utilize high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing—a method that injects water and chemicals into the surrounding rock to create fissures through which oil and gas can flow.  

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News - Environment

Searching For Safety

Searching For Safety

An upcoming public safety meeting aims to improve coordination between local agencies

There has been a surge in community concern over public safety and the environment due to drug dens—like one among the rocks at Cowell Beach that was documented by surf instructor Dylan Greiner and aired on television news several weeks ago—where used syringes and human waste litter the area and wash onto the beach and into the surf.

Michael Becker, co-president of the community action group Take Back Santa Cruz, says photos and videos of the problem zones being shared on social media sites and the local news have prompted a significant increase in the number of community members voicing concerns and getting involved.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.