The East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society advises everyone to follow all local, state, and federal orders and guidelines to protect themselves and others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citizen Science Activity Will Take Place with COVID-19 Precautions
UC Berkeley’s Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Matteo Garbelotto, is seeking volunteers to participate in the 2020 SOD (sudden oak death) Blitz and help identify SOD-infected trees in their local areas. This activity, which has taken place every spring for the past 12 years, has been redesigned for 2020 with specific COVID-19 safety precautions and procedures approved by UC Berkeley. In the East Bay, the SOD Blitz will take place between May 9 and May 12. Visit https://nature.berkeley.edu/matteolab/?page_id=5095 for more information and to register for the East Bay SOD Blitz.
In California, SOD has killed more than 50 million of the state’s iconic oak and tanoak trees between Humboldt and Monterey counties. Phytophthora ramorum, the causal agent of SOD, is a microscopic organism that spreads during periods of relatively warm, rainy weather, usually in late spring in northern California. This is the best time to monitor the distribution of SOD and help stop its spread.
This year, volunteers will complete online training in how to identify SOD and then collect symptomatic leaves from California bay laurels and tanoaks in their local areas. Even areas that were sampled in previous SOD blitzes need to be resampled this year because many aspects of SOD change at each location over time. Volunteers who have participated in previous years and canvassed their neighborhoods or favorite forests are encouraged to collect in those areas again.
Data collected by SOD Blitz volunteers is essential to researchers who use the information to map SOD distribution, identify new outbreaks and hotspots, and track the expansion and contraction of the disease. This information is important to land managers and residents for several reasons:
- Two new and dangerous strains of the disease are approaching the boundaries of California forests, and data from the SOD Blitz will enable researchers to identify and intercept them before they spread;
- Areas with recent SOD mortality are much more likely to support extremely hot wildfires;
- SOD-infected oaks can fail, often when still green, with obvious consequences for property and people;
- Local residents can use the information to protect their own oaks using science-proven disease management options.
More information about volunteering for the 2020 SOD Blitz is available at https://nature.berkeley.edu/matteolab/?page_id=5095.