The academic programs of the CA&ES are presented in two sections:
- Core Programs that represent the strong foundations of the college.
- Opportunities for Programmatic Investment that build upon our foundations and are our priorities for projecting the college to even higher levels of excellence.
Three programmatic themes characterize the academic endeavors of the college. Within each we identify several programmatic areas. A major feature of these programs is that they are highly integrative, involving collaborations across disciplines within and outside our college. Following are summaries of the three programmatic themes:
Improvement in the production and utilization of agricultural products is a long-standing strength of the CA&ES and one that remains critical to the economic vitality and quality of life in California. We have strong programs that focus on the development of new technologies and production systems that increase the competitiveness of California agriculture. Technological advances strive to develop production systems that either are benign or beneficial to the environment; that enhance the nutritive value and safety of food products; that improve non-food consumer products; or that use scarce resources (e.g., water) efficiently. Often, success is accomplished through interdisciplinary teams that can effectively address increasingly complex problems.
Underpinning these practical objectives are exceptional programs in the life sciences, including molecular, cellular, organismal and population biology. The integration of fundamental science with applied science and extension programs ensures the continual development of new knowledge and technologies for solving important problems and the successful delivery of that knowledge to end-users. Major programs include: production and consumption systems; genetics and biodiversity; organismal biology; agricultural ecosystems; and agricultural/urban interfaces.
Environmental Sustainability and Ecosystem Function
In a world with a burgeoning population, we must be stewards of the environment and ensure that natural resources are used judiciously. Solutions to California's multifaceted environmental problems that reflect the complex agricultural systems, expanding urban populations and diverse ecosystems of the state will serve as global models. CA&ES research addresses natural and managed ecosystems and issues relating to sustainable agriculture, biological conservation, water and watersheds, land use, air quality, and range and forested ecosystems. Carrying out these missions requires strong programs in ecological and physical sciences.
The social science programs in the college add further knowledge about human behavior and preferences and integrate the knowledge generated by the other disciplines into policy information and alternatives. Major programs include: water and watersheds; ecology, biodiversity and conservation; climate change; science, education and policy; the continuum between ecosystem and human health; and land conversion and use.
Human Health and Development
Improvements in food quality and safety, the environment, the quality of family and community life and efficient use of economic resources are targets of the Human Health and Development (HHD) program area. HHD programs provide direct linkage among the college's agricultural and environmental programs, and consumers and stakeholders. HHD activities are described in the context of six major programs that focus primarily on the human dimensions of agriculture and the environment: postharvest processing and distribution of agricultural products; nutrition, food safety and toxicology; consumer behavior; economic and human resources; environmental design;
and individual, family and community development.
Opportunities for Programmatic Investment
As retirements occur over the next few years, the college will strive to maintain and enhance core areas of strength. At the same time, we will develop programs that take advantage of our formidable strengths to address future challenges facing society. Five areas are identified as priorities for development. These are recognized as opportunities for academic investment because of their:
- Potential for significant disciplinary, societal or educational impact
- Alignment with the campus and DANR missions
- Alignment with existing CA&ES and campus strengths
- Potential for sustainability through extramural support
These efforts will be highly collaborative, drawing upon expertise across departments and requiring college-wide coordination. Some of these programs will require additional faculty FTE to fill critical gaps, while others will require investment in specific research or teaching facilities. Another strategy will be the development of new centers for research and extension. In each case, faculty consultation will provide a basis for developing implementation strategies that effectively advance these initiatives. Some of the targeted areas will play central roles in campus-wide initiatives, and all present opportunities for campus-wide collaboration.
Agricultural and Environmental Genomics
As a consequence of genomics, which enables genome-wide analysis of gene sequences and function of organisms, biology is undergoing a major technological and conceptual revolution. The CA&ES has noteworthy strength in genetics, breeding and germplasm conservation, and its programs have laid the fundamental groundwork for genome mapping and sequencing. Genomics, coupled with the college's breadth of expertise in animal and plant physiology, provides a powerful opportunity for the college to advance the field of functional genomics, where the analysis of genes will require extensive expertise at the organismal level. Research programs in genomics will lead to major advances in agricultural productivity, environmental quality and human well-being. The CA&ES is poised to become an international leader in functional genomics.
Water and Watersheds
Water is essential to the world's expanding human population, agricultural industry and natural ecosystems. It is particularly important in California's semi-arid environment. Indeed, water is the "life-blood" of the ecosystem, sustaining and nourishing flora and fauna while removing waste, and linking physical, biological and chemical functions from the microscopic to global scales. These linkages make excellence in the water area an essential element of UC Davis' drive to become the leading campus in environmental sciences, management and policy.
During the past decade an array of public and private institutions noted that the next frontier in watershed study lies in the integration of disciplines. UC Davis, with its diverse watershed-related research and teaching programs, its extensive public outreach program, and its ongoing collaboration with federal, state and local watershed agencies, is ideally suited to be a national and international leader in integrated watershed studies. Although the campus Watershed Initiative has focused primarily on non-agricultural watershed issues, the term "watershed" in the CA&ES academic plan encompasses the entire hydrologic basin, including agricultural lands.
Agriculture, Environment and Human Health
Research, policy and public education programs that improve the quality of human life are central to the mission of the CA&ES. The combined programs currently in the college provide the campus with a leadership role in this area. The need for the identification and development of diet and food strategies that reduce the onset and progression of chronic disease and enhance an individual's general well-being provide exciting opportunities. The development of programs that ensure the delivery of safe, acceptable and health-promoting foods will be fundamental to this area, particularly since the introduction of genetically modified organisms is raising so many scientific and policy issues. Apart from food, agricultural products have many other impacts on human health that must be addressed through research on clothing, shelter and practices to make agriculture and related occupations healthier and safer.
Agricultural and Environmental Sensing and Informatics
A better understanding of managed ecosystems requires technologies that describe biological and physical systems in real time. Technologies to accomplish this are evolving rapidly. Remote and nondestructive sensing of variables such as water quality, crop yield, species identification, soil nutrients and air quality, coupled with global positioning satellites, will allow scientists and engineers to track the complex spatial and temporal relationships between system variables. The CA&ES is positioned to advance this area through the design of better sensing technology and the construction of geographical information system-dependent models to describe biological systems. This will lead to the development of new decision-making tools for better management.
Science, the Public and Governmental Policy
Because different segments of society vary in perceptions and values, the transmission of scientific information must be grounded in a good understanding of how values interact with facts. Science is characterized by competing assumptions about the validity of certain scientific processes and debate on the appropriate role of scientists in policy development. The university must provide leadership in devising new approaches and techniques for communicating complex issues to broaden public understanding and inform policy. In order to achieve the above, the college will develop new programs to more effectively communicate scientific research results to diverse audiences. This will be particularly critical for issues such as genetic engineering, chemical applications, food additives and loss of biodiversity.