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  • Jennifer Jewell


FOODSCAPING - with Brie Arthur. Photo courtesy of Brie Arthur, all rights reserved.



Did you know that grasslands account for between 20 and 40 percent of the world's land area? Generally open, fairly flat, and accessible they exist on every continent except Antarctica. Ecologically as important as but different than other large ecoregion types such as forests or desert, grasslands are even more vulnerable to pressure from human populations – for settling, for planting, for livestock, for development.

Threats to natural grasslands, as well as the wildlife that live on them, include farming, overgrazing, invasive species, illegal hunting, and climate change. At the same time, one study found California's grasslands and rangelands could store more carbon than forests because they are less susceptible to wildfires and drought. Still less than 10 percent—of the world's grassland is currently protected in large part due to lack of understanding around their ecological role.

Which is where Dr. Justin Luong comes in. 

Grassland ecosystems fill an ecological role as important as and different than our charismatic forests, our extreme deserts, our coastal or chaparral scrub. And in fact, much of the general home garden lanscapes with their mix of perennial flowers, annual vegetables, and grasses, in many ways mimic grassland meadows.

In partnership with several state and federal agencies, Justin is forming The Grassland Restoration, Actions, Science, and Stewardship Network, which will work with additional partners to develop climate-smart restoration protocols and tools related to drought resilient plant selection and site assessment. The project will increase access to the best available science for restoring coastal California grasslands, inform nature-based solutions, strengthen climate resiliency, and leverage existing resources.

Luong’s project aims to work collaboratively with land managers across the state to establish best practices for successful and climate-adaptive grassland restoration and sharing restoration and seed knowledge.

Grasslands support carbon and water storage, flood mitigation, ecotourism, and forage production. These biodiverse habitats span 25% of California and serve as the foundation for the ranching economy. California’s grasslands are biodiversity hotspots and globally unique, but climate change will make it unsuitable for endemic species; so innovative restoration must focus on climate resilience for a diverse suite of species.

This project will support two graduate students and several undergraduate students. One undergraduate student is currently working on examining the effects of drought on the threatened north coast semaphore grass. Several other undergrads will assist as lab or field assistants.

The Grassland Restoration Action, Science, and Stewardship Network (GRASS-Net), which Luong is forming with several state and federal agencies, will work with partners to develop climate-smart restoration protocols and tools related to drought-resilient plant selection and site assessment. The project will increase access to the best available science for restoring coastal California grasslands, inform nature-based solutions, strengthen climate resiliency, and leverage existing resources.

Ecologist and educator Dr. Justin Luong of Cal Poly Humboldt joins Cultivating Place this week to share more about his journey (including being a worm wrangler) in science, practice, and education focused on biodiversity and climate resiliency most recently through grassland restoration ecology. 

Listen in!

You can follow Justin's work online:

and on Instagram: @wormwrangler

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JOIN US again next week, when we are joined by three members of the Institute for Applied Ecology, currently preparing for the upcoming National Native Seed Conference being held virtually February 7th and 8th. Conference highlights include Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning discussing the new Interior-Led Native Seed Initiative. That’s next week right here - Listen in!


Cultivating Place is made possible in part by listeners like you and by generous support from

supporting initiatives that empower women and help preserve the planet through the intersection of environmental advocacy, social justice, and creativity.



Thinking out loud this week....

Cultivating Place is on the threshold of completing its 8th full year of production elevating the way we think and talk about gardening, elucidating the true scope and scale and substance of who gardeners are, where they are, what they are growing, and why this matters to us all. More than 400 episodes engaging with, exploring, encouraging, and emboldening gardeners to dig more fully into their power to grow our world better – environmentally, socially, economically, and spiritually – through the people, places, and plants that grow them individually and us collectively.


In November of 2023 The Catto Shaw Foundation, which funds initiatives that empower Women and help preserve the planet through the intersection of environmental advocacy, social justice, and creativity, awarded Cultivating Place a $75,000 matching grant to support our next 5 year goals including new recorded live with an audience episodes conducted around the country highlighting people, places, and plants growing us all better.


To date, an incredible $40,000 has been pledged by individuals and groups to help us meet this match! Thank you to everyone so far who has chipped in the fertile seed money for this goal in 2024, which includes ALL of you who so generously support Cultivating Place with one time gifts or recurring monthly donations through the support button at


Interested in participating with a larger tax-deductible donation to help us meet our goal? Please send me an email at and I will send you details. I am humbled and catalyzed by this challenge and opportunity being offered to Cultivating Place – and I am grateful to all of you in helping me to meet this moment. From my garden heart to yours – thank you! Make your contribution of support through the SUPPORT button at the top of every page at Cultivating – and thank you – from 1,000 a year, to 10 per month, every contribution helps grow this program you love hearing.

It’s been a while since I shared some of the wonderful notes and messages that come my way about the importance of Cultivating Place in your days, lives, work places, and even in your winter rest and dreaming.

Donna in Chicago planted a tree in honor of Cultivating Place and wrote: I am thankful for Cultivating Place and my ongoing opportunity to be taken so many places through the program. I love your voice and the questions you pose for us all.

Rebecca in NY wrote: Your writing and spiritual connections to gardens and gardeners makes me feel and know that there is always fellowship, kindness, and love in our world.

Judith in Georgia wrote: Cultivating Place is always Inspirational, thought provoking, and searching. Thank you!

Diane in Seattle wrote:

I love, love, love your podcast. I listened regularly through Covid and am back listening now that I am retired. You do such an amazing job getting your guests to share their stories in meaningful ways. The show is always inspiring, thoughtful!


Paolina wrote recently on how her garden helped to raise her: I love your podcast. I planted my first backyard flower garden when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2020, it was a bed full of tulip bulbs that I planted in the fall before my first surgery as an act of hope, something to look forward to through winter, that come spring there would be renewed/new life. The garden and gardening brought me back to the seasonality of life and how beautiful things can come out of the darkest places. Flowers, gardens, nature is a constant anchor to those truths. With love and Kindness, Paolina


No matter when you listen, how often, or why– thank you and I am truly gratified and supported to know you’re out there listening and growing along.




Cultivating Place is a co-production of North State Public Radio, a service of Cap Radio, licensed to Chico State Enterprises. Cultivating place is made possible in part listeners just like you through the support button at the top right-hand corner of every page at Cultivating

The CP team includes producer and engineer Matt Fidler, with weekly tech and web support from Angel Huracha, and this summer we're joined by communications intern Sheila Stern. We’re based on the traditional and present homelands of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of the Chico Rancheria. Original theme music is by Ma Muse, accompanied by Joe Craven and Sam Bevan.

SHARE the podcast with friends: If you enjoy these conversations about these things we love and which connect us, please share them forward with others. Thank you in advance!

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DONATE: Cultivating Place is a listener-supported co-production of North State Public Radio. To make your listener contribution – please click the donate button below. Thank you in advance for your help making these valuable conversations grow.

Or, make checks payable to: Jennifer Jewell - Cultivating Place

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PO Box 37

Durham, CA 95938


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