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'Citizen scientists' needed for Sudden Oak Death research

Greta Mart/KCBX

With a surge of rain over the winter months, scientists at UC Berkeley are on alert for the spread of Sudden Oak Death disease, or SOD. And they need the help of ordinary citizens for research. 

SOD has been prevalent recently in Monterey County and experts believe is beginning to spread into San Luis Obispo County.

The invasive pathogen phytophthora ramorum started causing SOD in California’s oak trees during the 1990s. The pathogen spreads to oak trees through water pathways, like streams, rivers, and lakes.

And with the recent rains and flooding throughout California, scientists in Berkeley are saying 2017 is poised to be the most prevalent year in a decade for the spread of the pathogen.

Katie Harrell from the California Forest Pest Council said the data set for the spread of SOD is difficult to track with a small team of people. And that’s why they are recruiting “citizen scientists” all over the state to help track trees that are affected by the disease and holding workshops on how to recognize them.

“So this is really cool because there’s so many more eyes on the ground than any other researcher could possibly do on their own,” Harrell said.

Harrell said so far, there’s no cure for SOD. And the only way to really prevent the pathogen from spreading is to make sure known contaminated water pathways don’t come in contact with uncontaminated water.

“Making sure that no mud or organic material adheres to your shoes or your tires or your equipment,” Harrell said.

Local workshops include:

May 11 at 1:00 p.m., San Luis Obispo County Extension Office, Conference Room, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, CA

May 12 at 6:00  p.m., Atascadero Library, Martin Polin Room, 6555 Capistrano Ave. ,Atascadero, CA

You can find more information here

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