Research Unit Established on the UC Davis Campus
The present Department of Environmental Toxicology at Davis originated, in 1957, as a pesticide residue project in the Department of Entomology. At that time, it was felt that available data on residues and toxicity of pesticides was inadequate to support the University's pesticide recommendations for California agriculture. In part due to public concern over pesticide residues in milk, the Legislature appropriated funds for the University to undertake research on the analytical and health aspects of pesticide residues. The Davis campus chose to establish a single research unit, the "Pesticide Residue Research Laboratory," under the guidance of an interdepartmental committee representing Botany, Entomology, Nematology, Plant Pathology, and Veterinary Medicine. The Laboratory was housed in an old entomology garage which was renovated, furnished, and provided with basic scientific equipment through grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In 1962, the Laboratory became an Organized Research Unit known as the "Agricultural Toxicology and Residue Research Laboratory" to identify more accurately its broad, long-range interests. With full University Laboratory status and a full-time academic staff, its responsibilities included routine residue analysis to support University pesticide recommendations, basic research aimed at the associated environmental and health hazards, and development of analytical methods and new instrumentation for the rapid identification and analysis of organic and inorganic chemicals at the sub-microgram level.
Expanded Facilities and Research Gain International Recognition
In 1964, a new laboratory building, financed primarily by UC Regent Norton Simon and the National Science Foundation, was completed to provide expanded facilities for the application of basic science to the environmental and health aspects of the use of agricultural and food chemicals. Although the early efforts were intended to serve the needs of the Agricultural Experiment Station, the staff rapidly gained national attention and international recognition for analytical, environmental and toxicological research.
In 1968, after six years of teaching its courses ad hoc and a growing involvement in graduate research, the Laboratory finally was transformed into the Department of Environmental Toxicology, with responsibility for a full range of teaching, research, and service functions.
Under the leadership of a professional staff including seven regular academic faculty, two research specialists, one cooperative extension specialist, and seven associated faculty members, the Department established research strengths in biochemical toxicology, hazard assessment, and analytical/environmental chemistry dealing with a wide variety of chemicals including pesticides and other economic poisons, natural toxicants, and chemical pollutants.
Training programs in the Department focus on instruction and research of graduate students who work with one or more of the faculty and receive their advanced degrees through interdepartmental graduate groups. The Department received an National Institute of Environmental Heath Sciences (NIEHS) Training Grant for pre- and post-doctoral programs in toxicology in 1969, one of the first toxicology training grants in the country and it is still in operation.
A First for USA Undergraduates
The undergraduate educational program was initiated in 1974 with a complete undergraduate curriculum; it was the first B.S. degree program in environmental toxicology offered in the United States, and perhaps the world. Training at this level consists of a major in environmental toxicology leading to a B.S. degree; a minors program in environmental toxicology for students majoring in biochemistry, chemistry, entomology, microbiology, and other fields; and extensive laboratory experience. A curriculum of 20 formal courses of instruction is offered by the Department to support training at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
Service activities of the Department include a trace analysis laboratory specializing in residue analyses, the Leader Laboratory for the Minor Pesticide Use Clearance Program for the Western United States (IR-4), the office of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Statewide Pesticide Coordinator, a Cooperative Extension Toxicologist, and the Environmental Toxicology Documentation Center. The Documentation Center, established in 1967 as the Documentation and Information Service of the Food Protection and Toxicology Center, always has been an integral part of the Department. It maintains the most comprehensive and up-to-date collection of pesticide information in the western United States. In addition to supporting the information needs of research and teaching activities of the Department, it is becoming increasingly well-known as a regional resource used by government agencies and private organizations.
In the fall of 1987, with the completion of the $41 million Food and Agricultural Sciences Building, the Department moved to the new site which contains teaching, research and office facilities for the departments of Animal Science, Avian Science, Nutrition and Environmental Toxicology.
Accelerated scientific studies, societal interest, and regulatory activities associated with the chemicals modern society encounters in workplace, food, household items, waste sites and general surroundings have created an urgent need for research and training in environmental toxicology, a need that is expected to continue long into the future.
During its 30-year history, department's staff, research, teaching, and service activities have increased markedly. The Department of Environmental Toxicology represents a unique academic unit solely in an agricultural and environmental college; that offers degree programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Our agricultural focus, formalized through our participation in Agricultural Experiment Station research and Extension, particularly set us apart from other "Environmental Toxicology" programs. These elements have been powerful assets in attracting extramural funding and qualified students. While enhancing our work related to public health, our proximity to, and interaction with faculty and research personnel in Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, the Primate Center, and allied areas allows us to pursue research beyond our physical and administrative settings. As a further example, the Department's long interest in ecotoxicology now includes marine and aquatic areas, an association with the UCD Bodega Marine Laboratory, and an active program in Aquatic Toxicology.
The future of teaching, research,
and public service in Environmental Toxicology seems unlimited and vindicates
UCD's decision to enter what was, in 1968, a new and controversial field
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