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In addition to maintaining an active research lab, Dr. Peggy G. Lemaux is involved in outreach efforts with, for example, the public, legislators, media, food professionals, teachers and K-14 audiences. Those efforts cover plants, agriculture, food production and the impact of genetic technologies on crops and foods. Her outreach program embraces a wide variety of efforts.
For over twenty-five years, Lemaux has had many speaking engagements and performed numerous public education efforts. She is sought out as an expert on agriculture, food and the impact of genetic technologies on crops and foods.
One important aspect of this effort is an award-winning website, ucbiotech.org. The site is devoted to providing educational resources focused broadly on issues related to agriculture, crops, animals, foods and the technologies used to improve them. Among other resources, the site has links to her presentations and an expansive slide archive, organized by topic. These resources can be downloaded and used by others for educational purposes.
Started in 2015 with funds from the UC Office of the President’s Global Food Initiative, Lemaux initiated, with UC Davis and UC San Diego, the CLEAR (Communication, Literacy and Education for Agricultural Research) program. It aims to train undergrad and grad students and postdocs to improve their communication skills with the general public, sharing fact-based information on agriculture, food and science in general.. CLEAR members practice their skills by speaking in public forums, sponsoring roundtable discussions, writing pieces for the media and blogs and creating informational videos.
Lemaux and her long-time assistant, Barbara Alonso, a graphic designer, have developed educational resources on food and agriculture, which are, disseminated to professionals, the media and consumers. These resources include the following.
Afterschool curricula: 4-H/afterschool curricula, aimed at middle school audiences, cover topics from plant diversity to genetics. DNA for Dinner, Backyard Mystery and All in the Touch are available for free, complimentary download. Many activities are stand-alones and can be modified for other age groups.
Games: Educational games are available to help make connections between seeds, plants and foods. They include “Who’s In Your Family”, “Dirt to Dinner” and “Who’s the Culprit” and cover topics from food families, what plants for what foods and microbes involved in diseases. They are intended to enhance observational and communication skills. Suitable for K to gray.
Displays: Three colorful, tactile displays available on loan for free: Biotech and Foods, Genetics and Diversity and Biotechnology for Sustainability, all with companion educational cards. Suitable for K to gray.
Cards and Handouts: Easy to use group activities can be used alone or with the educational displays. Cards and activities are available in English and Spanish. Suitable for K-6+
Teaching Tools: Cards and teacher handouts in English and Spanish accompany the displays. The GENEie juice bar with an accompanying video makes DNA extraction from food easy. Suitable for K to gray.
In addition to their resources being available online, Lemaux and Alonso meet with teachers and afterschool facilitators at various meetings through the state to demonstrate how these materials can be used in classrooms.
At the national level, Lemaux has served as the lead PI for extension and education for the USDA CSREES Rice CAP (Coordinated Agricultural Project) and Barley CAP and was on Advisory Boards for Wheat CAP and Conifer CAP,.
Lemaux and Alonso are presently involved in USDA-funded projects to educate growers, end-users and non-agricultural citrus owners on the research and methods being used to protect citrus from damage by a microbe responsible for Huanglongbing or greening disease. These efforts are described on the Science for Citrus Health website.
The Millet Project (http://themilletproject.org/) involves a group of PMB students and researchers, who launched a campaign to grow, cultivate and market millets, a nutritious, gluten-free cereal grain, higher in protein and micronutrients and lower in water needs than corn and rice. Funded by the Berkeley Food Institute (http://food.berkeley.edu/) and the UCB CLEAR project (http://clear-project.org/), the project has engaged growers in numerous CA locations to cultivate several millet varieties and hosted a Gill Tract event for two summers to introduce the community to millet through field tours and foods made from millet.
Frequently, writers and reporters seek Lemaux out as an expert to provide information and expert opinions on various topics relating to food, agriculture and genetic technologies used to modify crops and foods. Topics range from food safety to intellectual property, from environmental concerns to farming practices, from labeling to organic practices. Because consumer’s attitudes are increasingly shaped by what they read and hear, this activity is one of her most important efforts and one in which CLEAR members are being trained..