The remote and beautiful UC Intermountain
Research and Extension Center near Tule Lake will be under
new leadership when its long-time director, Harry Carlson,
steps down from what he calls the "best job in UC
Carlson retired in June but will serve as
interim director of the center on a part-time basis while a
search for his replacement takes place.
Carlson graduated from Davis High School
and later attended UC Davis, where he earned a bachelor's
degree in 1970 in wildlife and fisheries biology, a master's
degree in 1981 in agronomy and a doctorate in 1984 in
He was named the agronomy advisor for
Modoc and Siskiyou counties in 1981, but almost immediately
took on the additional role of director of the 140-acre
research and extension center, where studies focus on
potatoes, alfalfa, grains and onions. Attesting to the
appeal of the job, Carlson held the position for 28 years
and was preceded in the post by only one other farm advisor,
Ken Baghott, in the station's 62-year history.
Carlson attributes his enthusiasm for
working in the extreme northeastern part of California in
part to its distinction as one of the last California
locations for homesteaders. Following World War II,
college-educated veterans began farming the area's
agricultural land around the same time the station was
"When I came on board, the original
homesteaders were still making decisions, but the operations
were beginning to be turned over to the next generation,"
Like their parents, the younger farmers
were bright, innovative, early adopters.
"Unlike other areas where farm advisors
might be trying to convince farmers to adopt new practices,
I was in the position of asking people to wait a year to be
sure of our research results," Carlson said.
Early on in his career, farmers began
raising concerns about a new nematode found in their potato
fields. Twenty acres of nematode-infested land was donated
to the center for University team research on nematode
biology and control, Carlson said. Ultimately the research
resulted in a dozen recommendations for nematode management.
Over the course of his career, Carlson also conducted
research and educational programs in insect, weed and
disease management and in variety development in several
crops. He conducted many research projects and held
workshops on crop water use, irrigation efficiency and
A defining moment in his career came in
2001, when drought conditions triggered a cut-off of all
irrigation water to producers in the area in order to
protect two species of endangered suckers and endangered
salmon in the Klamath River and upper Klamath Lake.
Carlson served as an advisor and educator
to producers, scientists and regulators as the crisis
unfolded. For example, he coordinated a symposium on
evapotranspiration to counter unsupported claims about how
much water agriculture uses compared to wetlands.
"Decisions were often clouded by
misinformation," Carlson said. "There were missteps, mainly
due to the way laws were written and enforced by wildlife
agencies. The crisis was a wakeup call that such decisions
can have wide-ranging impacts. The stakeholders are
determined to develop more of a planned response so future
water shortages don't come as such a drastic shock."
The two sucker species have made a
comeback in the region, but are not at historical levels of
abundance, Carlson said. Salmon are still struggling.
Government agencies, Indian tribes and irrigators are
continuing their efforts to implement a settlement
In 1997, Carlson was promoted to director
of UC Agriculture and Natural Resource's 10-site research
and Extension center system and based at UC Davis. However,
three years later, the call of Tule Lake's wide open spaces,
wildlife, beautiful climate and innovative farmers drew him
back, where his old job was still vacant.
Even in retirement, Carlson says he will
stay in the area. Retirement will give him time to enjoy the
area's hunting and fishing, complete home remodeling
projects and train his four Labrador retrievers for field
Carlson said he is proud of the many
improvements made at the center during his tenure, including
land acquisition, new research facilities and field research
equipment. The center, he said, is well equipped and staffed
with top-notch research personnel.
"My successor may also lay claim to the
best job in the university," he said.