News In Brief

Scientists Explore Link Between Soil and Climate Change

UC Irvine and National Center for Atmosphere Research scientists have created a new microbial model that considers the effects of bacteria and fungi on soil carbon, an improvement upon their traditional earth system models that have been used to predict future climate and carbon cycle feedbacks.
“The microbial soil model is extremely important to understanding the balance of carbon in the soil versus the atmosphere and how carbon mass in soil is affected by these bacteria and fungi,” Steven D. Allison, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and Earth system science at UC Irvine, said.
Using this model, researchers have generated two scenarios, one in which microbial growth declines and one in which microbial growth adapts to and increases with global warming. The first projection shows that the earth’s soil will accumulate carbon, while the second predicts dramatic soil carbon loss and an increase of carbon into the world’s atmosphere.
“In our microbial model, we directly simulate how the activity of organisms like bacteria and fungi control the storage and losses of soil carbon,” William R. Wieder, a postdoctoral scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said.
Their research has shown that when carbon input to soil increases, microbes release the additional carbon into the atmosphere. This is a departure from traditional models that assumes storage of extra carbon and modest carbon losses with higher worldwide temperatures.
“Now that we can more accurately measure what happens to soil as temperatures increase, we hope to study the potential effects of soil carbon fluctuations within a changing environment,” Wieder said.
Allison was the study’s lead author and worked with two scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. with Gordon B. Bonan and Wieder. Their conclusions were submitted to Nature Climate Change early this year and were published online late last month.
“Our hope is that this new soil model will be applied to the global Earth system models to better predict overall climate change,” Allison said.

Campus Endorses SOAR Programs

The UC Irvine Student Outreach and Retention Center has officially received an annual budget increase and a two-year funding commitment extension through June 2016 from campus administration. These funds will allow the center to increase its staff, resources and programs.
“We are re-affirming our commitment of support to our students,” UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake said, “and are pleased with the initial success of SOAR.”
When the center’s referendum to secure funding did not pass in this year’s ASUCI spring elections, its members focused on securing a budget through the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, which has been the center’s source of funding.

UC Irvine Ranked First By Time Higher Education
UC Irvine was ranked first for universities under 50 years old for the second year in a row.
UC Irvine has been ranked first among universities under 50 years old in the United States for the second consecutive year in a report by Times Higher Education, a news organization from the U.K. that ranks universities. Times also ranked UCI fifth globally in the same category as well, with an overall score of 61.9 out of 100.
UCI was ranked first for the second year in a row and cements its place as a respected research university. The ranking is a source of pride for the administration and beneficial for the university. Chancellor Michael V. Drake was glad to hear the news of UCI’s second consecutive first place ranking.
“We are very proud to have earned this recognition, which directly reflects the hard work and dedication of tens of thousands of people over the past five decades, and validates the trust of the people of California that this university would accomplish great things,” Drake said.
Drake believes that UCI will continue to improve and live up to the expectation of its first Chancellor Daniel Aldrich, who wanted UCI to become a world renowned university.
“As we near our 50th anniversary, this recognition shows that we’ve fulfilled the vision articulated by our founding chancellor, Daniel G. Aldrich Jr., when he dedicated the campus,” he said.
The Times Higher Education ranks universities around the world based on 13 indicators, the most important are those involving research, which comprise 60 percent of the overall score. According to Times, indicators involving teaching comprised another 30 percent of the overall score, while international outlook comprised seven and a half percent of the score and industry income and innovation comprised the remaining two and a half percent.
UCI ranked first in large part due to its status as a leading research university. UCI is a major center for research in medical science, engineering and biology with research in stem cell technology, cancer and disease treatment, sustainability initiatives, new engineering methods and other projects around the world.
UCI is also a member of the Association of American Universities, an association comprised of the leading 62 research universities in the United States, and ranks in the 90th percentile among universities for the number of research citations.
UCI is currently teaming up with universities in Israel such as the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology for research projects in health and technology. There are also arrangements to team up with universities in Korea, China and Poland, according to a university press release.

UC System Releases Employee Salaries
As a testament to its “commitment to transparency,” the UC system released its annual report on employee pay for the 2012 fiscal year. The reports contain standard information on policy and departmental breakdowns, along with timely information about pay increases and student employees. For example, any employees who were students at the time of their employment, including medical residents, have their names blacked out for privacy reasons. The payroll reports note around twenty percent fewer Student Assistants than in 2011. However, examining overall payroll reports show that the UC system paid out $629,085,697 more to employees in 2012 than in 2011.
The “Report on 2012 Employee Pay” remarks: “Compensation for many UC employees is significantly below market,” citing a 2009 comparison study reporting that “cash compensation for many UC employee groups remained lower than comparable positions at competing institutions.” The report continues to note pessimistically that state funding continues on a declining trend, which could lead to increased challenges not only on a monetary level, but also in terms of recruiting. The report concludes by noting that of the Top 10 highest paid employees, most are “world-renowned specialists in their fields… and athletic coaches.”

UC Administrators Give Unions an Ultimatum
Unions representing University of California healthcare workers were recently informed that the University of California executives are finalizing their contract offers and giving the unions one last chance to negotiate a deal before implementing their own plan.
The 3299 branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union was recently informed by University of California administrators that there is one chance for compromise between both parties before the administration finalizes its salary and benefit package. News of the ultimatum reached AFSCME 3299 leaders and was strongly opposed by AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, according to a news statement.
“While AFSCME 3299 has negotiated in good faith and offered meaningful compromise, UC has chosen to hold the health and aspirations of millions of Californians hostage over its insistence on $300,000/year public pensions for its highest paid employees. We view this as a full frontal assault — not just on the collective bargaining process and the frontline workers at the backbone of the UC system — but on the students, patients and taxpayers this system is supposed to serve,” Lybarger said.
ASFCME 3299 has been attempting to lower pensions for University of California executives while raising wages and lowering hours for medical workers. The dispute has been continuing since June 2012, but has made headlines when AFSCME 3299 members first went on strike in May in front of UC Irvine, San Diego and San Francisco medical centers. The strikes resulted over disagreements between the union and UC executives over staffing, benefits for executives and salaries for workers. However, continued disagreements between the union and University of California executives dragged out, prompting University of California administrators to issue their ultimatum to the union.
Dwaine Duckett, the University of California’s vice president for human resources and programs, issued a statement informing the media of the administration’s move. Both sides have been unable to compromise, prompting AFSCME members to look to newly appointed University of California President Janet Napolitano as a mediator. Napolitano has been union-friendly in the past and AFSCME 3299 hopes to rely on her support. Lybarger is optimistic and believes that she “couldn’t pick a better time than now to stand up for basic fairness and call for real sacrifice from UC executives,” and fight for workers’ rights, according to a news release.
If Napolitano decides to side with AFSCME 3299, she could further drag out talks or even force the current administration to compromise with the unions on their terms. It may be Napolitano who will dictate the outcome of the conflict and not the current University of California administration.