Become a Citizen Scientist to Prevent Sudden Oak Death

Alameda once was home to one of the largest forests of California-native coastal live oak trees in the known world. Today, few of these trees survive, shading backyards and streets on the main Island.

The California Oak Mortality Task Force invites residents of Alameda to learn about and help prevent the most significant disease these trees face: sudden oak death (SOD). Citizen scientists in 21 coastal California communities from San Luis Obispo to Mendocino County will come together this Saturday in an effort to help stop the disease from spreading.

SOD is a serious invasive disease that is killing tanoak, coast live oak, California black oak, Shreve’s oak, and canyon live oak trees in California. It is the primary cause of tree mortality in coastal California, with more than three million trees having died in 15 counties since its discovery in the mid-1990s.

People living near areas known to be impacted by SOD (an invasive plant disease caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum) are encouraged to attend a meeting to learn how to look for the disease in their community, facilitating early detection of new outbreaks.

"Early detection is essential for containment, and possibly even local eradication of the pathogen," said Matteo Garbelotto, UC Berkeley faculty. "Really, citizen scientists are the cornerstone to maintaining such a large-scale, ongoing urban monitoring program. We simply couldn’t generate the necessary people power without them."

Two free one-hour training sessions are scheduled in the East Bay for this Saturday, April 11.

• 10 a.m. Garden Room, Orinda Library, 26 Orinda Way in Orinda.Contact Bill Hudson at wllhh@ymail.com for details.

• 1:30 p.m. 159 Mulford Hall, UC Berkeley campus in Berkeley. Contact Garber Park stewards at garberparkstewards@gmail.com for details.

These activities are coordinated by local organizers and co-sponsored by the California Native Plant Society. They are funded by the U.S. Forest Service, State and Private Forestry and the PG&E Foundation. Data collected in the last eight years by hundreds of volunteers can be viewed at www.sodmap.org.

For more information on SOD, go to the California Oak Mortality Task Force website at www.suddenoakdeath.org or contact Katie Harrell at 847-5482 or kpalmieri@berkeley.edu.