Category Archives: Living Among Giants

Events Happenings and Heads Up

80 UCR Students Pledged For Neighborhood Clean Up

Pi Kappa Alpha Cleans Up Watkins DriveA major spring cleaning is slated for the neighborhood, Saturday, May 17 th. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Reply with an area in need of some attention.
  2. Contribute to the foodie fund – cash or dish
  3. Tell your neighbors.


So far we’ve had a graffiti rock on Coyote Hill, illegal dumping along the trail starting at the Hyatt parking lot, Islander Park, Watkins Driver along Coyote Hill from Piccacho to the freeway ramp. What else?

1st Graffitti On Coyote Hill in  37 years






Honoring Earth Day

Gathering data may not only be good for the planet, it could become a source of neighborhood bragging rights. Sign up and find out more.

The City of Riverside wants your help! Our community has a chance to become California’s Coolest City by participating in the CoolCalifornia City Challenge.  Now through August 31, sign up and commit to reducing your carbon footprint to help Riverside earn points and compete against other California cities.  The more points Riverside earns, the closer we get to becoming California’s Coolest City.

And, there’s even prize money – $100,000 will be distributed to participating cities!


Signing up is easy:

1.   Click here to sign up .

2.   Take the CoolCalifornia City Challenge survey (each survey is worth 500 points!)

3.   Spread the word – Tell other Riverside residents about the CoolCalifornia City Challenge and encourage them to sign up!

Learn more by visiting , or call 951-826-5817.

Want to help save water, too?  Then check out the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation and sign the pledge.


Grow our city’s impact by inviting your friends!  Email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

Plant a Seed Of Energy Savings

You’ve already pledged to honor the planet with everyday, energy-saving actions. Each of your simple deeds adds up to significant reductions in energy waste for our community.

However the biggest little actions you can take grow your community’s commitment to action. Please take one minute to forward this message to a friend and include a sentence about why the Challenge matters to you. If you have five minutes, reach out to five action-oriented friends this Earth Day. 

What is the Cool California City Challenge?

The CoolCalifornia City Challenge is a statewide competition engaging thousands of households in ten cities across California to save energy, reduce their carbon footprints and help build more vibrant and sustainable communities. Participants in ‘the Challenge’ earn points for reducing their household energy use and transportation emissions. Each new participant and point earned in the program results in prize money to fund local sustainability projects selected by the community.

In its pilot year (2012-2013), the program enrolled 2,670 participants in 8 participating cities. The city of Davis was crowned “Coolest California City” and the cities of Chula Vista and Tracy were each named “Cool California City” for their efforts to engage hundreds of households in local sustainability efforts.

Join us in our effort to make every day Earth Day!

Join the East Side and Develop a Healthy Eating Plan for your Neighborhood

Heal Zone Neighborhood  Healthy Eating Plan

15th Annual Primavera in the Gardens and the Gardens 50th Anniversary
Food & Wine Tasting Fundraiser, May 18th, 2014, 2:00 – 5:00 PM

Primavera In the Gardens

Grape Extract May Eliminate Mosquito Born Diseases

Discovery opens door to better insect repellents

Anandasankar Ray, associate professor of entomology at UC Riverside

UC Riverside researchers say they have found the long-sought receptors in mosquitoes that are affected by DEET, the most common active ingredient used in popular insect repellents.

Identifying the receptors, they say, could lead to more effective and less annoying chemicals for deterring mosquitoes, as well as other insect pests. One compound they’ve identified so far is a grape extract that, unlike DEET, doesn’t damage plastic and nylon.

Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor of entomology and the study’s director, said the discovery opens new doors for dealing with mosquito-borne illness as well as other insect-related problems, possibly even as treatments for agricultural crops. Finding better ways to keep the insects at bay is important worldwide, where mosquito-borne diseases kill hundreds of thousands of people every year.

In recent years, Ray’s lab has made other mosquito discoveries, such as finding ways to block a mosquito’s ability to detect carbon dioxide, the primary method it uses to find human or animal prey.

This most recent work, he said, “is certainly as important if not, potentially, more important than our earlier discovery.”

DEET was developed in the 1940s by the U.S. military. Armed services personnel were being sent to tropical regions wherer mosquitoes spread illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever. But the exact mechanism that made DEET effective remained a mystery.

It is not used much in developing countries where mosquitoes carry illnesses that infect millions annually; the chemical is too expensive and requires frequent application.

“Scientists had been unable to figure how mosquitoes can detect DEET vapors,” Ray said. “Without knowing the protein receptors that activate the insect repellent pathways, it was very difficult to design substitutes for DEET that are better.”

While it is an effective repellent — estimates are that one-third of Americans use a DEET containing product — it can be a skin irritant. It also can damage some plastics and nylon, Ray said.

He and his team found the DEET receptors by using a protein that causes nerve cells to fluoresce green when stimulated. The researchers placed fruit flies — which have the same antennae receptors as mosquitoes — in confined tubes where their only sensory stimulation was from DEET. They then dissected the insects, looking for nerve cells with the tell-tale fluorescent green.

Such receptors usually are found on the hairs extending from the antennae. These, however were imbedded inside the antennae, in a little-studied structure called the sacculus. “That is perhaps why others had missed it,” Ray said.

Once they found the receptors, the researchers began looking for other materials that would stimulate the nerve cells in the same way as DEET does. Using a computer model that was able to suggest similar compounds, they screened half a million chemicals.

“We were able to find 1,000 predicted new repellents,” Ray said. From those, they identified 150 that were natural compounds. “We realized we could find some that were pleasant-smelling and affordable,” he said. “We purchased 10 of these, and eight turned out to be strong repellents.”

They ran complete tests on half of those, three of which already are widely used in food manufacturing as flavorings and are derived from common fruits. The advantage of such chemicals, Ray said, is that they are already FDA approved and will not require extensive testing.

Ray already helped launch one Riverside company that is manufacturing wearable patches that block a mosquito’s ability to detect carbon dioxide; now he is exploring the potential for another company to work on commercializing a new repellent.

Because insects have so many similarities, he said, the repellents could be effective on other insects such as agricultural pests.

“For plant pests, if we can make it work, that would be quite a big breakthrough,” he said.

“That has not been made yet, but it opens the door.”

Mosquito Facts

Species worldwide: About 3,500

Diseases spread: Malaria, West Nile virus, encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue fever

Malaria toll: Millions of people infected annually; 660,000 deaths estimated in 2011

Prey location: Mosquitoes are attracted by odor, temperature, carbon dioxide; documented preference for beer drinkers.

Food: Only females consume blood; both sexes eat nectar and other plant sugars.

Breeding: Water required, since that’s where eggs are laid.

Lifespan: 2 weeks to 6 months

Bites: Red, itchy bump is an allergic reaction to female’s anticoagulant saliva.

Scary fact: One mosquito species, found on all continents except Antarctica, can carry a disease called “chikungunya” which means “that which bends over.” It causes joint pain so severe it leaves people unable to stand or even sit up for weeks or months. The disease has been spreading from Africa into Southeast Asia, and it has shown up in Italy. “A widespread population of Asian tiger mosquitoes combined with globe-trotting humans means that chikungunya can arrive in the United States at any time,” according to a June 2011 article on


UCR Herbarium Founder, Plant Expert Dies

Naturalist Oscar Clarke, author and founder of the UC Riverside herbariumOscar Clarke, a self-taught botanist, author and founder of The Herbarium at UC Riverside, died Saturday. He was 93

Mr. Clarke’s friends and colleagues described him as a “walking encyclopedia of local natural history,” said his friend, Elizabeth J. Lawlor, in an email. He started the university’s herbarium in 1966 and was its curator until 1979.

After his retirement, Mr. Clarke traipsed  along Inland waterways, collecting specimens to document in his 2007 book, “The Flora of the Santa Ana River and Environs.”

Even as late as February, Mr. Clarke still occasionally volunteered at the herbarium, a resource for researchers, farmers and private biological consulting firms, Lawlor said. “Oscar was known as a larger-than-life character and a mentor to many botanists and ethnobotanists,” she said.

Mr. Clarke also was active in education and conservation groups, including the California Native Plant Society, Audubon Society, Sierra Club and Tri-County Conservation League.

” Mr. Clarke was born in Colton in 1919 and grew up collecting bird eggs for ornithologist Wilson Hanna. In 1941, he began work at UCR when it was known as the Citrus Experiment Station. After a stint in the Army during World War II, he returned to the Citrus Experiment Station and worked in nematology and plant pathology before starting the herbarium.

“Oscar was an amazing natural historian and enthusiastic teacher. He was brimming with ideas and information and was very generous with his time. He touched our hearts and our minds,” said Arlee Montalvo, Mr. Clarke’s co-author and a plant restoration ecologist at the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District.

Mr. Clarke had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was in hospice care at home for the last month, she said.

He is survived by his wife, Marsia Alexander-Clarke, and children Taffy, Ken and Diane and their families.

A memorial for Mr. Clarke will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 17, at the UCR Botanic Gardens off Big Springs Road and North Campus Drive.

In lieu of flowers, Mr. Clarke’s family asked that donations to be directed to The Herbarium at UCR, in care of professor Giles Waines, UCR Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, 900 University Ave., Riverside, CA 92512.