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The Latest Dirt - Nov 2023

New Admin Assistant Joins CoCoMGs

By Simone Adair

Photo by Rosa Angelica Castañeda.
Photo by Rosa Angelica Castañeda.
Please join me in welcoming our new Contra Costa County UC Master Gardener Administrative Assistant, Diana Garcia–Colmenarez. Diana is also a San José State University graduate student in the Environmental Studies Department, focusing on Fire Ecology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Diana comes to us with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Saint Mary’s College of California. She studied Environmental Economics and Politics, Hydrology/Ecology/Geology and Environmental Justice. Her thesis project was Heavy Metal Pollution and Algal Identification in the Las Trampas Watershed. “The watershed runs through urban and rural land, seeing many types of land use. Hiking through this area, you get a sense of the land use and the possible pollution sources,” Diana said.

Diana studied Botany and California Flora and Environments as part of her routine coursework. She also participated in a one–month Study Abroad intensive semester in Nepal and Singapore. During her trip, she studied their ecology and culture while “comparing and contrasting life on the side of a crumbling mountain or living on a terraformed island. Her professor for those classes as well as the trip was Dr. Carla Bossard, a UC Davis graduate. “She really inspired an academic passion for plant ecology in me.”

While at St. Mary’s, Diana worked with other student leaders to organize intercultural programs, faculty lectures and cultural graduations as part of the Student Leader Initiating Diversity Education (SLIDeR). She created informational programs centering around topics of social justice, as well as handled many of the administrative duties that were needed.

In early 2015, Diana became a Seasonal Staff Member for Danzantes Unidos, a cultural network of Mexican folk artists that supports the Mexican Folk experience through the performing and visual arts. Some events that she participated in include the Danzantes Unidos Festival, Festival Sin Fronteras and the University Folkorico Summit. Her roles include participating on the Media Team, creating graphics and managing social media. She was also the Maestro Coordinator, the Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director and a Teaching Assistant. She continues to collect participant data, questions and feedback.

Photo by Rosa Angelica Castañeda Diana seen here during a Festival Sin Fronteras event in Hierve el Ague, Oaxaca, MX.
Photo by Rosa Angelica Castañeda Diana seen here during a Festival Sin Fronteras event in Hierve el Ague, Oaxaca, MX.
Diana’s aim with her graduate studies is to learn how to model fire behavior and map out the impacts that fire will have on various surface processes. “I want my research to be able to inform emergency response teams and create meaningful management plans.”

Diana co-authored an article with her Professor, Nekesha Williams, titled “Sustainable Water Resources Management in Fire-Prone Landscapes: Taking a Closer Look at Contra Costa County, California.” You can find the full text at https://digitalcommons.stmarys-ca.edu/school-science-faculty-works/1160/.

“I’m as excited about Diana joining the office as she is! With her academic interests in fire, what better place could she be than working as part of the Cooperative Extension,” said Dawn Kooyumjian, Coordinator for the UC Master Gardener Programs of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

“Not only does Diana bring over–the–top admin skills, but she is already an expert in navigating the byzantine maze of the UCANR system. She's an incredibly creative person and brings innovative ways to finding solutions.

“She’s also amazing in digital art creation. She put together a fantastic accordion book of visual timeline of the evolution of the Richmond Low Water Garden that was part of the recent presentation given for the EBMUD event,” Kooyumjian added

Diana is hoping to tap into the UC Master Garder expertise for her studies. “I hope to interview UC Master Gardeners in several counties because they have a wealth of knowledge,” she said. “They care so much. I love the energy.”

“I come from a long line of gardeners, especially my grandmother.” Diana added, ”Where she loved orchids, I love mushrooms.” She is currently trying to figure out how to grow Stropharia rugosa–annulata, also known as Wine Cap Mushrooms. “So far, I have produced one cap and am very proud of it.”

The next time you are at the Bisso Lane offices, stop in and say hello to Diana. She is in the office Thursdays through Fridays from 8:30 – 5:00 pm.