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Public Service Research Program

Photo: Program History

Program History


From its inception in 1976 as the "Kellogg Program" by founding director Noreen Dowling, the Public Service Research Program has facilitated and supported research and scholarly outreach on public policy issues of interest to the State of California and has acted as a catalyst for new partnerships, providing opportunities for UC Davis faculty, staff, and students to work collaboratively and across disciplines on critical public issues with members of the campus and outside communities, especially in California.

Fostering partnerships and outreach activities on California's issues has been a recurrent objective for PSRP with the focus shifting between social, environmental, and natural resource problems. Activities have ranged from developing and hosting seminar series, workshops, forums, and research briefings, to participating in planning activities and research studies, providing funding for co-sponsored events, representing the university in regional initiatives, and creating partnerships for regional sustainability. The work has ranged from rural sociology and agriculture, to climate change, to biodiversity and natural resource protection, to bioregions and watersheds, to environmental health and communities.

Over the years, PSRP developed a distinctive style of operation where we promote partnerships among campus researchers and between campus and public partners on collaborative, interdisciplinary research, teaching, and outreach on issues particularly addressing California's environment. It has served as a point of contact for research information originating both on and off campus. The Program has represented the University in the region and State through its work with public communities and agencies. PSRP has increased the capacity of campus constituencies to engage in collaborative interdisciplinary research and scholarly outreach and the program has created new initiatives and new infrastructures for this purpose. It has helped to establish communication and cooperative research between public agencies, community organizations, and UC faculty, staff and students and develops workshops, conferences and publications in support of public service research and outreach. PSRP developed initiatives that increase the capacity of campus members for engagement and scholarly outreach.

Promoting Research and Outreach Initiatives on Campus

Over the years, PSRP has been instrumental to the development of campus initiatives, programs and centers which focus on applied interdisciplinary problems and collaborations with public agencies. We helped found the following UC Davis centers and programs: National Institute for Global Environmental Change, Toxic Substances Teaching & Research Program, John Muir Institute of the Environment, Information Center for the Environment, Putah-Cache Bioregion Project, Sustainable Communities Consortium, and the Center for Biosystematics. PSRP directors have had long-term participation in campus outreach councils and the Public Service Committee and were active in the creation of and initial support for the Office of University Outreach and International Programs. The Putah-Cache Bioregion Project is a distinctive example of our role in the development of an organized research project that crosses disciplines and learning communities and connects the campus with communities beyond the campus. Once PSRP joined the John Muir Institute of the Environment, the unit collaborated to develop seminar series and presentations for campus and community audiences that address the Search for Environmental Solutions.

Partnerships and Initiatives with State Agencies

Under the directorship of Dennis Pendleton, PSRP hosted several government speaker series to facilitate collaboration between state agencies and UC Davis. Speakers have included Secretaries of the California Resources Agency and CAL-EPA, Directors of California Fish and Game, California Department of Water Resources, California Health Services and many others. PSRP has maintained close relationships with state and federal agencies through Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) and, for a period, was the administrative home for campus MOUs with the Resources Agency and CAL-EPA. In 1994, a MOU was signed by Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef and then Resources Secretary Douglas Wheeler formalizing a broad partnership. The MOU was an outgrowth of a series of "Executive Briefings" on natural resources issues, organized by PSRP for Resources Agency professionals and campus faculty and administrators.

Activities of the MOU were directed by a joint steering committee of campus faculty and senior managers in Agency departments, and included a Natural Resources Fellowship Program and jointly-sponsored conferences and research briefings. The Fellowship Program, for Resources Agency professionals and members of the UC Davis academic community, permitted each Fellow to work collegially with a host in the other organization for three to six months on a project addressing a significant natural resources issue in California. Campus hosts include faculty from every college and school except the Medical School. Hosts emphasized the value of the program - in offering fresh perspectives, fostering long-term working relationships, and in contracts and sources of funding.

Most of the 25 Fellows who participated since the program began in 1995 were from State Agency departments, including the Department of Water Resources, Department of Fish and Game, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Energy Commission, and California Coastal Conservancy. Projects covered diverse issues, including: studies of social behavior designed to improve incentives for energy conservation, research on the law and policy of in-stream protection of aquatic species, fish screen design for water intake elements of state water projects, and modeling habitat and transportation planning variables to improve land-use planning in the Sierra foothills.

The Natural Resources Fellowship Program and research briefings on key environmental resource policy issues are examples of activities conducted through these agreements. Other activities with the California Resources Agency through contracts included initiatives designed to foster community capacity for more effective natural resources management and land-use planning in the Sierra Nevada. This work resulted in the multi-year project "Getting Data and Analysis into Local and Regional Decision Making", which led to new models of thinking about how universities could provide assistance to watershed and other community-based groups.

Regional Partnerships and Initiatives

A major focus of PSRP has been on the seven county Sacramento Region, with collaborative studies involving other cities, counties, and regions across western North America. In the mid 90's, PSRP co-founded, with members of the Community Development Graduate Group, the UCD Sustainable Communities Consortium, an interdisciplinary campus unit which conducted research and outreach on issues pertaining to urbanization and its impacts on the quality of human life, the environment, and agriculture. SCC members conducted sustainable development research, developed and disseminated outreach information, and worked together with California communities to develop sustainable development practices and processes. Youth needs for open space and education in urban villages was investigated, quality of life indices were identified, and linkages were developed with other campus programs. In 2005 regional issues became a focus with a forum on The Future of the Region.

Started in the late 1990's and continuing into the present, PSRP, in collaboration with the Putah-Cache Bioregion Project, has been active in collaborative planning and resource management in the Yolo, Solano, Lake, and Napa County areas for watershed conservation, management, and public outreach, e.g. through partnerships with the Blue Ridge-Berryessa Natural Area Conservation Partnership, the Putah Creek Discovery Corridor Cooperative, Putah Creek Council, and the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee. These partnerships have lead to extensive and sustained work in the Putah and Cache Watersheds. PSRP provided the administrative home for the Bioregion Project for its duration, and both Dennis Pendleton and Joyce Gutstein were founding Directors along with David Robertson, Peter Moyle, and Rob Thayer.

Under Joyce Gutstein's leadership, PSRP served as campus representative to regional agencies for the planning and implementation of public outreach and education, e.g. Yolo Basin Foundation's Pacific Flyway Center and Solano County Park's Nature Center. PSRP participated in the design and implementation of regional environmental education programs through partnerships with regional and campus organizations. An example is the Return of Salmon environmental education program, sponsored by U.S. EPA, a university program that facilitated collaborations between environmental educators, teachers, and university students to improve environmental learning in the Putah Creek watershed. PSRP cofounded the Putah Creek Discovery Corridor Cooperative, an interagency collaboration of public and private agencies and entities dedicated to increasing public awareness of Putah Creek. PSRP has been an active participant in the planning for the annual CreekSpeak public talks series in collaboration with Putah Creek Council and other members of the Putah Creek Discovery Corridor Cooperative.

PSRP has been active in promoting awareness, appreciation, and use of the UC Davis Natural Reserves by campus, public agency, and community members. In past years, PSRP developed and implemented educational programs at the reserves for regional school students. At Jepson Prairie Reserve between the UC Davis natural reserves and the UCD Educational Outreach Initiative for Sacramento high school students, and at Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, a school outreach program with elementary schools in Woodland, Yolo County. This project led to the ongoing and highly successful WaterWays education program.

The Environmental Leaders Program

The Environmental Leaders Program was launched in Spring 2006 as an interdisciplinary program for solution-oriented research and engagement addressing environmental issues in California and emphasizing graduate student leadership, civic engagement, and partnerships with communities to solve local environmental problems. The impetus for the development of a Environmental Leaders Program on the UC Davis campus arose out of the UC Davis project which provided technical and scientific assistance to watershed groups in the Sierra Nevada who were actively learning and making decisions about their watersheds. This program, entitled "Data and Analysis into Local and Regional Decision Making", began in 1998 by the then California Resources Agency Science Advisor Greg Greenwood and former PSRP director Dennis Pendleton. Assistance over the course of a few years was provided to two watershed groups by "dedicated liaisons" - university personnel who served as links between university and agency knowledge and on-the-ground watershed group decision making.

In 2002-03, Culley Thomas, PSRP evaluator, and Joyce Gutstein, examined the model of dedicated liaisons working between the University and Sierra watershed groups and thought it could be applied to university graduate students who desired more applied work with communities on real world environmental problems. The dedicated liaison model provided a vehicle for a more collaborative university role in community-based environmental decision-making. In 2006 the Environmental Leaders Program was founded by Joyce Gutstein and a group of graduate students. The program in its initial years focused on community partnerships that would address local and regional environmental problems. But in recent years, graduate students confronting limitations of time and funding to take on community projects have more often participated in ELP seminars such as the Translating Research beyond Academia series, workshops, and ongoing interdisciplinary discussion groups.