UC Riverside Professor of Entomology Thomas Perring actively engages the UCCE network in his research and teaching. One example is his work with Area Viticulture/Pest Management Advisor Carmen Gispert to evaluate Pierce’s disease (PD) and sharpshooter vectors in Coachella Valley vineyards. He also exposes undergraduate and graduate students to the work that farm advisors do, which has led to many of them choosing to stay in academia and consider careers as farm advisors.
Perring says it was a natural fit to work with Gispert on the PD problem because they knew the disease had been found in the desert, but they didn’t know the extent of the sharpshooter distribution or the number and distribution of infected plants. Gispert’s relationships with and access to grower’s fields yielded critical information for their research.
“She’s really good at listening to her stakeholders and bringing those questions to the collaborative team,” Perring said. As a campus-based academic, he feels it is critical to have collaborators in the field who have that knowledge base. “We’re going to be better, and it benefits everybody this way rather than one person trying to do everything on their own,” he said.
Gispert values the combination of strengths and expertise in collaborative teams. “We have certain training and specialties that are essential to bring together to have this panoramic view of the problem,” she noted.
Gispert encourages early-career people to network. When she was hired at UC ANR, she introduced herself to professors on the UC Riverside campus. She got her Ph.D. there so she knew some of the people she could potentially be working with, but she let everyone know she had a new job. She continues to make these kinds of connections. “Just this morning, I’ve been emailing Dr. Michael Rust, and he has a program and I have a problem that the growers told me about. He’s going to set up some traps, he’s going to test the lures and here we go.”
Perring appreciates the partnership because it amplifies what anyone could do on their own. “It makes the project more efficient, helps the research move faster, and provides solutions quicker. And it does it without beating everybody up – all of my team traveling to the valley every day is impossible.”
“We are connected with growers and we are really the intermediate part – bringing those needs that require research,” said Gispert. “That’s when the researchers from campus come in and then we can develop tools that in the end will be used by whatever industry we are working with.”
Gispert noted that the specialists on campus are also highly engaged in working with her. “That’s another example of the campus partnership and part of the whole picture of the power of the UC network,” she said.
Perring added that because many of our new Entomology faculty are more molecular, physiological and/or laboratory oriented, it may be even more important now for these faculty to connect with county-based advisors, because that’s where many of the research results can have direct application for solving problems.