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Professor Named One of the World’s Most Impactful Scientific Researchers

The head of Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences was named to the 2017 list of Highly Cited Researchers. Professor Gregory Brown was included on the annual list produced by Clarivate Analytics, which recognizes the most frequently cited researchers spanning the globe in 21 fields of the sciences and social sciences, representing leading researchers whose papers have supported, influenced, inspired and challenged others.

Brown is the first Cal Poly professor to be named to the list and the only professor from the California State University system to be included. “I am honored to be named to the list recognizing some of the most forward-thinking scientists in the field,” he said. “Cal Poly is known for its high-quality undergraduate education across all disciplines. This international recognition confirms the university’s increasing impact in applied research and scholarship as well.” Brown joined Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department in 2016, after serving academic leadership positions at the University of Queensland, Central Washington University, University of South Australia, Alaska Pacific University, and Green Mountain College in Vermont.

Brown’s current research is focused on methods to enhance and expand public involvement in land use planning and management by integrating social spatial information using “Public Participation Geographic Information Systems” (PPGIS). These methods allow people to identify important places and preferences for acceptable land uses that will improve their quality of life.

Food Safety of Packaged Foods to Be Studied

Food Science Associate Professor Amanda Lathrop was awarded a $360,000 grant by the Center for Produce Safety to study the effects of storage  conditions on fresh-cut salad ingredients.

Recent outbreaks and recalls of produce due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination have increased the need to better understand the factors that contribute to its growth.

Lathrop and a cross-disciplinary team from Cal Poly, including Professor Jay Singh and Associate Professor Koushik Saha from the industrial technology and packaging program in the Orfalea College of Business, and Professor Christopher Kitts  from the  Cal Poly Center for Applications in Biotechnology in the College of Science and Mathematics will study the effects of storage conditions and the natural microbiome of nontraditional fresh-cut salad  ingredients on Listeria growth. 

Consumer demand for “superfoods” and the need to create sustainable products by using more of the whole plant in new salad blends to reduce food waste continues to increase. New ingredients now being widely marketed in prepared salads, such as beet greens, kale, Brussels sprouts and shredded broccoli stalk, have not been as broadly studied as other fresh-cut salad ingredients for conditions that may cause Listeria growth. 

The research project will determine if, and under what conditions, the bacteria that causes Listeriosis  will grow on non-traditional salad ingredients. 

Several graduate and undergraduate students will be involved in the research. A postdoctoral researcher will also assist in managing the project. 

“Cal Poly prides itself on incorporating students into research that is directly applicable to industry needs,” Lathrop said. “There is clearly a void as far as the industry goes in understanding how Listeria behaves in these environments and our research will help provide a scientific basis for the decisions being made by producers.”

Kitts, director of Cal Poly’s Center for Applications in Biotechnology, will help oversee the collection  of DNA needed to analyze the bacterial growth.

“Students will get a look into how the presence of specific microbes in an environment can affect other microbes and is elected by environmental conditions,” Kitts said. “These are difficult concepts to understand without direct involvement in the process of answering questions; that is: doing the research.”

Healthy Soils Grant to Fund Research at Local Wineries

Cristina Lazcano, assistant professor in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department teaching soil ecology, was awarded a $206,771 grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture to study the effects of compost application and no-till methods on soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions relevant to the production of wine grapes on the Central Coast.

The grant is part of California’s Healthy Soils Initiative, which seeks to promote the development of healthy soils. Cal Poly’s Center for Sustainability, the Horticulture and Crop Science Department, the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department and the Wine and Viticulture Department are all collaborating on the research, which will take place at two vineyards in Paso Robles over a three-year period.

“The wine industry wants to better understand soil management practices and the impacts on the environment,” Lazcano said. “Industry representatives came to us with this request and we found a way to help them.”

Lazcano said that two graduate students will help oversee the research and undergraduates will also be given the opportunity to assist. Soil measurements will begin early this year and that data will be processed at year’s end. Lazcano and her Cal Poly partners will hold seminars and various field days to share the results once they are available. “Outreach and dissemination of information we obtain is a higher priority,” Lazcano said.

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