This week we’re catching up with our 2019 Borlaug CAST Communication Award winner, Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist in cooperative extension in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis. He is making a difference nationally and worldwide in how we view animal agriculture, its effect on greenhouse gases, and its role in nourishing the global population. Read below to see how he uses his communication skills and scientific knowledge to spread the word about animal agriculture and the environment.
What is your educational background?
I received a Master of Science degree in animal science and agricultural engineering from the University of Leipzig, Germany, and a doctoral degree in animal science from Texas Tech University. I came to UC Davis in 2002, to fill its first-ever position focusing on the relationship between livestock and air quality.
When did you realize how beneficial social media can be for talking to people who might not know much about agriculture?
A couple years ago I became fairly active on Twitter @GHGGuru and almost immediately I saw that there was a gap of communications around animal ag and the environment that was rooted in fact and science. I saw a lot of misinformation that was dominating the conversation. This eventually led to me creating the CLEAR Center website which is focused both on research and communications.
What was your most important scientific finding?
I’ve had a very productive career so far, but I want to point out a recent paper that shows the California dairy sector is on a path to climate neutrality–a point in which it won’t be contributing to climate warming. This is significant in that it shows that we can find environmental solutions within agriculture that have tremendous benefits while still meeting demand. You can read more about it on the CLEAR Center website: https://clear.ucdavis.edu/news/methane-cows-and-climate-change-california-dairys-path-climate-neutrality.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work life?
Much like everyone, COVID-19 has had a large impact on my work life. I’ve moved completely to communicating digitally, though have still managed to be fairly productive. We have several research projects that have continued and from a communications perspective, I’m still a very active speaker. Though these days it’s all done over webcam instead of in person.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
I’ve been fortunate to have had really good advice shared with me throughout my career, but I want to share a quote I find relevant for the work I do and the times we’re living in. I have it pinned on my Twitter account: “Those with the privilege to know have the duty to act.” – Albert Einstein. I do my best every day to bring accurate information to the discussion around livestock and the environment so that people can make the best decisions for themselves and their families. It’s a role I take very seriously and am proud to do.
Where can people learn more about the CLEAR Center?
Please check out my new center, the CLEAR Center at UC Davis. We’re taking science communication and research to a whole new level, focused on bringing context to discussions around animal agriculture. We’re also on Twitter @UCDavisCLEAR.
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