UD alumna Sara Albrecht works with Maryland Department of the Environment to reduce nitrogen in Chesapeake Bay

When Sara Albrecht graduated from the University of Delaware in 2015 with a degree in Natural Resource Management (NRM) from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and followed that up with a Master’s in Agricultural and Resource Economics in 2017, she wanted a job that would allow her to implement conservation practices with regards to nature, but do so in a way that would benefit everybody.

Now working with the Maryland Department of the Environment in their On-Site Systems Division as part of the Bay Restoration Fund, Albrecht gets to do just that, working with members of the local community to upgrade their septic systems to cut down on the amount of nitrogen coming out of their systems and into the Chesapeake Bay.

UD alum Sara Albrecht lowers a well camera to monitor a well as part of her duties with the Maryland Department of the Environment.
UD alum Sara Albrecht lowers a camera to monitor a well as part of her duties with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Using what are known as Best Available Technology (BAT) units to cut down on a minimum of 50 percent to as much as 76 percent of the nitrogen coming out of home owners’ septic systems, Albrecht said that her responsibilities include managing the database of the units and working with counties and contractors who do the actual installation, operation and maintenance of the units.

“Some of my work involves being out in the field, which I greatly enjoy,” said Albrecht. “I do inspections of the units to ensure that they’re running properly, and I’m also being trained to do soil and site evaluations to help repair failing systems.”

Along with installing the BAT units, the Bay Restoration Fund also helps farmers plant cover crops. Both of these practices are integral in trying to cut down on the amount of nitrogen entering the Chesapeake Bay, which affects everything from shellfish harvesting and crab populations to swimming and recreational uses for the bay.

“The bay is a precious natural resource whose ecosystems have suffered greatly from pollution. It can sometimes take a long time to see results, but we’re finally starting to see impacts of bay restoration efforts,” said Albrecht.

As for her time at UD, Albrecht said that the NRM program suited her perfectly.

“I’ve always loved nature, so I knew I was interested in pursuing that. I loved NRM because it’s all about a balance. I feel that when people think of conservation, they can think of it in isolating terms of ‘don’t develop anything’ or ‘develop everything.’ NRM helps show that there can be a compromise between the two that can benefit everyone. That’s what I really like about it,” said Albrecht.

And while she jokingly admits that she never envisioned herself going into a career involving septic systems, she is enjoying getting to learn more about them while also helping the environment.

“People don’t think about septic systems but they involve really interesting processes. I’m excited to be in this field and I’m excited to be working for the state and the Department of the Environment. I love working here in Baltimore and feeling like I’m giving back to my home state of Maryland,” said Albrecht.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Sara Albrecht

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

Seven graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors – the George M. Worrilow Award as well as three Distinguished Alumni Awards and three Distinguished Young Alumni Awards – during a ceremony held Friday, Oct. 20, as part of Homecoming festivities.

The awards are given based on a clear record of outstanding career accomplishments, service and leadership to the profession, and community service, including service to UD.

George M. Worrilow Award

James L. Glancey was presented with CANR’s George M. Worrilow Award, named for the dean of the college from 1954-65 whose career was dedicated to better agriculture and better agricultural education.

James Glancey receives the Worrilow AwardIt is given annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a graduate of the college who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture.

Glancey is a professor with appointments in the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Glancey’s work includes the development of new or improved products and automated processes, the forensics of product failures, as well as a better understanding of the underlying physics of many natural and man-made phenomena.

His research utilizes a combination of analysis and simulations, prototyping, and testing. Cooperation with several centers on campus is typical including the Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research and the Center for Composite Materials. Glancey and his students have co-authored more than 120 manuscripts and papers since 1997 and several students have received national awards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Processing Engineering (SAMPE).

Distinguished Alumni

Robert Cohen receives distinguished alumni awardRobert Cohen has had a distinguishable career both as a practitioner and business entrepreneur in veterinary sciences. Cohen attended the University of Delaware and graduated with a Degree with Distinction in 1972. He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and has been a practicing veterinarian for over 40 years. During his tenure there, he was awarded the American Animal Hospital Association Student Achievement award for his outstanding scholastic and clinical performance. He continued his post-graduate veterinary medical and surgical training at the world’s largest animal hospital, the Animal Medical Center (AMC) of New York. He eventually became the head of the section of cardiology and director of clinics at the world-class facility.

While at the AMC, he founded, with another veterinary cardiologist, a high-tech innovative computer based cardiac and internal medicine consulting service for veterinarians. This venture evolved into the largest provider of veterinary consulting services in the world. The company, CardioPet went public in 1984. The AMC and Cohen sold their interests in that company in 1987. Currently, Cohen owns Bay Street Animal Hospital, a six-doctor veterinary practice on Staten Island in New York.

Ronald Ferriss receives distinguished alumni awardRonald Ferriss graduated from the University of Delaware in 1975 with a B.S. degree in Plant Science, and earned his M.S. (’79) and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics (’80), both at the University of Minnesota. He has led an exemplary career in plant breeding. In 1979, Ferriss initiated his career as a corn breeder in Minnesota with Northrup King Co., an international seed company. From 1983 to 1990, he served as area manager for corn breeding and managed Seed Production Research and Agronomic Research functions. From 1990-1996, Ferriss served as Director of Corn Breeding, North America managing corn breeding programs and off-season nurseries across 15 locations. In 1996-1997, as Sandoz merged with Ciba Geiger to form Novartis, he led the integration of the corn breeding research programs into a single functional unit and until 1999, was Global Head of Corn Breeding.

As the power and complexity of plant breeding increased, Ferriss focused his leadership efforts as Head of Global Inbred Line Development and Hybrid Identification. Ferriss continued in that role as Novartis and Astra-Zeneca agribusinesses merged to create Syngenta. In 2002, Ferriss became Director of Strategy Facilitation, Seeds Product Development. Ferriss joined Syngenta’s Legal Team as Head of Product Clearance and License Compliance from 2006 to 2012, followed by Head, Global Germplasm Contract Compliance from 2013 until retiring in December 2014.

David Morris receives distinguished alumni awardDavid Morris is currently the Business Integration Leader, leading integration activities for the agriculture division during the Dow DuPont merger. Morris holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Entomology and Plant Pathology from the University of Delaware and a Master of Science Degree in Entomology from Virginia Tech.

He joined the Dow Chemical Company in September 1982 and has held positions as field sales representative, market research analyst, product marketing manager, district sales manager, human resources manager, group marketing manager, global business leader, six sigma champion, global commercial processes leader, Urban Pest Management Commercial Leader, U.S. Government Affairs and Public Affairs Leader and most recently U.S. Seed Affiliates Leader. Morris currently represents Dow AgroSciences on the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Distinguished Young Alumni

Sara-Beth Bittinger receives distinguished young alumni awardSara-Beth Bittinger has served as the vice president of the Allegany County Board of Education since 2010, when then Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley appointed her to the position. She is currently the Director of Assessment and Institutional Research at Frostburg State University in Western Maryland and previously served as the Director of Institutional Research at Allegany College of Maryland. Bittinger’s area of expertise is in analytics and managing institutional data that reports to external and internal constituents, information essential for critical decision-making.

Bittinger received her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Frostburg State University (FSU) and her Master of Science degree in Applied Economics from the University of Delaware. In 2017, she earned her Doctorate in Education from FSU.

Phung Luu receives distinguished young alumni awardPhung Luu owns and operates Behavior and Training Solutions, an animal and staff training consultancy company; and Animal Behavior and Conservation Connections, a free-flight bird show production company.

As a graduate of the University of Delaware, Luu developed a foundation for animal care and wildlife education. Working on the University farm provided practical understanding for working with chickens and corn. Fostered by a passion for working with animals from an early age, he has been training animals for over twenty-five years. Luu’s life mission is to connect people to nature and wildlife and he does this through the production of free-flight bird programs presented at schools, state parks, and zoos throughout the country. These bird programs have been featured at the Philadelphia Zoo, the Brandywine Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and the North Carolina Zoo to name a few. Not only are the shows entertaining and educational, they raise awareness and money to support conservation projects for wild birds.

Joseph Rogerson receives distinguished young alumni awardJoseph Rogerson is a Certified Wildlife Biologist and has worked for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife for nearly 12 years. Currently, he is the program manager for Species Conservation and Research where he oversees the conservation and management of the state’s game and nongame wildlife and plant communities. Before being promoted to this position 2.5 years ago, Rogerson spent the previous nine years as Delaware’s Deer and Furbearer Biologist. Prior to working for the Division, he worked for nearly a year with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services as a Wildlife Specialist and before that he received his B.S. degree in wildlife and fisheries resources from West Virginia University in 2003 and a M.S. degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Delaware in 2005.

NAMA Club at UD sets students on the path to career success

Since 1993, the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team at the University of Delaware has been preparing students for careers after college by giving them real world opportunities and immersing them in the experience of creating and pitching a food product to marketing executives.

The team is sponsored by the NAMA Marketing Club, which was established by Ulrich Toensmeyer, professor of Food Marketing and Management in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics. The team went to their first NAMA competition in April 1994 and 2017 marked the team’s 24th competition.

The team spends a portion of the year brainstorming and coming up with food products to present to a panel of industry professionals at the NAMA competition which is held every year in various cities across the United States.

To develop the products, the team looks at market dynamics, market characteristics and demographics and tries to understand what the industry is looking for in a product. Once the product is developed, the team goes through all the marketing channels, looking at design, packaging, how the product should be priced and what kind of customers they should target.

The product is then presented at the national competition and the judges decide if they would want to go forward with the product or not.

Two notable alums from UD that participated in the NAMA team during their time at the University include Eric Ziegenfuss and Jacqueline Cascio. They both said that they also enjoyed their interactions with Toensmeyer, or “Dr. T.”

Eric Ziegenfuss

Ziegenfuss, who spent four years on the NAMA team, said that getting ready for the competition is a very real world experience because “you have to understand your product completely. The panel of judges [at the national competition] would ask us questions about the product so it was like what a boss would do if you were going to present a new idea to a company.”

NAMA Club at UD sets students on the path to career successZiegenfuss works in the sales department for The Oppenheimer Group in Newark, a company that imports produce from 26 countries around the world and sells it to nationwide retailers such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and Costco and local retailers such as Acme and Shop Rite.

“I sell all 10 of our produce categories and I manage our tropical department which includes mangoes and pineapples,” said Ziegenfuss. “I work with growers from around the world gathering info about the timing and size of the crop, setting market prices based on supply and demand, and then I work with our sales team to get this product to retail stores.  Every produce item is different and no season is ever the same. It is very fast and dynamic”

At UD, Ziegenfuss studied food agribusiness marketing and management and knew that he wanted to do something food and produce related once he graduated. He said that his favorite part of the job is “the speed of the business. It’s almost like we’re stock brokers in a way because every day we wake up, we look at the weather, and we look at all the different market factors such as supply, demand, and exchange rates as we try to bring the best value to our customers while also keeping our growers happy.”

Ziegenfuss said that being a part of the NAMA team was a great experience and that he loved his time at UD.

“I love the University of Delaware and I feel very fortunate that I got to be a part of the NAMA team for 4 years and work with Dr. T.  Being a part of NAMA was probably one of my most valued experiences because of the real-world environment that the team created. Dr. T encouraged us to think outside the box but his teaching style and guidance helped us prepare for the real world and was unlike any classroom setting I experienced at UD. The most rewarding part was creating a product from scratch and then knowing every detail about what it would take to launch the product in real life. It was a great talking point on many job interviews and it was a perfect stepping stone to a career after I graduated,” said Ziegenfuss.

Jacqueline Cascio

Cascio graduated in 2001 with a degree in Food and Agribusiness Management. Now a trade marketing senior manager at Perdue, Cascio said that she works closely with the sales team and vets opportunities through logistics, operations, and marketing.

“We let the sales team focus on selling and then we work through all their opportunities whether it’s new items and their distribution, promotion, all that kind of stuff and I have responsibility for our organic chicken. That’s my little piece of the business,” said Cascio.

NAMA Club at UD sets students on the path to career successCascio, who grew up in Connecticut and had a dad and grandfather that worked in the chicken business, worked as an intern twice with Perdue in food service and retail during her senior year at UD. Right before she graduated, she was offered a full-time job in Salisbury, Maryland working in customer service.

“That’s kind of the starting point of having someone right out of college is to work inside in customer service so I spent two years there and then went on the outside and spent most of my career in outside sales,” said Cascio.

As for her experience with the NAMA team, which she joined her sophomore year, Cascio said that it provided her with “real world experience. It prepares students for their career and life post UD. From learning how to work as a team, writing a business plan, presenting in a public atmosphere to selling yourself and your product to a group of individuals. My experience on the marketing team was invaluable and helped prepare me for what I do today.”

Cascio also said that Toensmeyer was a great professor and continues to be a great mentor.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that takes such an interest in his students’ life and their success and I just find that absolutely remarkable being out of school for as long as I have, I still have that close connection to UD and that’s because of Dr. T,” said Cascio. “I still talk to him on a regular basis as relates to UD and my career and it’s a very special relationship that he forms with his students because he wants them all to succeed.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Peruvian embassy hosts exhibit featuring indigenous culture

Peruvian embassy hosts exhibit featuring indigenous cultureAn exhibition highlighting one of the last indigenous cultures of the Peruvian Amazon and featuring field research, photography, art conservation and curatorial work by University of Delaware faculty, students and alumni will open this week in Washington, D.C.

The Ese’Eja People of the Amazon: Connected by a Thread will be on view at the Embassy of Peru until Sept. 15, and will then travel to numerous museums throughout the U.S. An opening reception and book signing will be held at the embassy on Thursday, July 13.

A parallel exhibit created by the same team will be on display July 27-30 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, where it will be part of the Kaypi Perú (“This Is Peru”) festival celebrating the nation’s cultural heritage. More than 30,000 visitors usually attend the free, annual festival.

Also connected to the exhibit, a new documentary book, Ancestral Lands of the Ese’Eja: The True People, has been published by the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research(ACEER). All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to ACEER’s Community Development Fund in support of Ese’Eja and other indigenous development projects and conservation education in the Peruvian Amazon.

The team that created the exhibition was led by Jon Cox, assistant professor of art and design and a graduate of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR); Vicki Cassman, associate professor of art conservation; Monica Dominguez Torres, associate professor of art history, all at UD; and Andrew Bale, lecturer in art and art history at Dickinson College. Bale, who earned his master of fine arts degree at UD in 2005, and Cox are photographers whose work is showcased in the exhibit and the book.

Objects displayed in the exhibit include baskets, bark cloth, carved wooden bows, arrows with elaborate feather arrangements on their shafts, a necklace of wild-pig teeth and various items dyed with berries and other natural materials.

The Ese’Eja, who now live in three villages in Peru, are an indigenous hunting, gathering and fishing people. Their numbers have plummeted in recent years, and their traditional culture is threatened by development, industry and restricted access to their ancestral lands.

“One of the goals of having the exhibition and the book was for the Ese’Eja to have a voice in the policies that directly affect them,” Cox said. “My goal was to facilitate them telling their story with the hope that projects like this one will start a conversation.”

Exhibit inspired by 2014 expedition

The exhibit of artifacts and photographs, many previously on view in UD’s Old College Gallery, grew out of a 2014 “cultural mapping” project in Peru led by Cox and Rainforest Expeditions.

In that project, UD faculty members, four undergraduate students and two alumni, including Bale, spent three weeks in Ese’Eja communities. The interdisciplinary group documented the everyday lives of the people through photos, video, oral histories and maps created from GPS coordinates and the recollections of older Ese’Eja who remember the good hunting and fishing locations and sacred places.

The mapping project resulted in a video titled “The Ese’Eja: From a Cotton Thread in the Sky to Protectors of the Amazon.” The title refers to the traditional belief that the Ese’Eja traveled down to Earth on a cotton thread.

The video, hosted on the National Geographic website, can be viewed via a link on the overall project website, “The Ancestral Lands of the Ese’Eja — The True People,” at www.eseeja.org. The cultural mapping project was supported in part by National Geographic’s Genographic Legacy Fund, and in 2015 Cox was named a “National Geographic Explorer.”

For the students who took part, the expedition was a unique learning experience that encompassed research in anthropology, ethnobotany and education, as well as hands-on photography, videography and mapping skills.

For Brian Griffiths, who graduated in 2016 with degrees in environmental engineering and plant science, the project led him to a new passion and altered career plans.

“That trip was really my first research experience in the field, which was huge for me because now that’s what I do,” said Griffiths, a doctoral student in environmental science and policy at George Mason University who continues a particular interest in Peru.

“I’m studying environmental science in terms of people—their impact on the environment and how environmental change affects them. My focus is always on indigenous people.”

Another student from the cultural mapping expedition, Chelsea Rozanski, is completing her Peace Corps service in Panama. A 2014 graduate in anthropology and women and gender studies, Rozanski said the experience ”profoundly influenced” her plans to study and teach cultural anthropology.

“The opportunity of being a part of this interdisciplinary collaborative effort was the richest personal and educational experience during my time at UD,” she said in an email from Panama. “I grew as an aspiring anthropologist, world traveler and advocate for environmental and indigenous rights.”

Photographs hold deeper meaning

When Cox and Bale were deciding how to select and display photographs for the exhibition and book, they wanted to do more than show what the Ese’Eja people and communities look like.

They came up with the idea of using photographic processes that would symbolize some of the challenges the Ese’Eja face from outside influences.

Portraits of community members were created using mercury-developed gold-gilded daguerreotypes, a labor- and time-intensive technique that was first developed in 1839 to make the earliest photographic images.

The use of mercury and gold was important, Cox said, because illegal mining of gold in the Peruvian Amazon releases some 38 tons of mercury a year, threatening the Ese’Eja’s health and ecosystem, as well as their way of life.

In addition, because daguerreotypes have a kind of mirrored surface, the viewer sees his or her own reflection as well as the image of the person who was photographed.

“You see living people in the image, but you also see yourself, because we’re all [as consumers] part of the problem,” Cox said.

Other photographs show sacred sites and ceremonies in platinum-palladium prints, a process developed in 1873. The prints are made on Japanese Kozo paper, symbolizing the influence of Japanese refugees who settled on Ese’Eja ancestral lands after World War II.

Program support

Support for the project has come from the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research, Dickinson College, the Greater Philadelphia Latin American Studies Consortium, National Geographic’s Geographic Legacy Fund, Hahnemuhle, Notchcode Creative and Rainforest Expeditions in Peru.

University of Delaware units supporting the work include the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Art and Design, a General University Research Grant, the Institute for Global Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning, and the School of Education.

Article by Ann Manser

Photos by Jon Cox and Andrew Bale

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alumna Criztal Hernandez finds success with Produce Marketing Association

UD alumna Criztal Hernandez finds success with Produce Marketing AssociationWith grandparents who farmed in Mexico and parents who farmed in Sussex County, it only made sense that one day, University of Delaware alumna Criztal Hernandez would end up in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Hernandez, who graduated in 2012 with a degree in food and agribusiness marketing and management (FABM) from CANR’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC), said that her passion for agriculture was instilled at a young age.

“My grandparents had always done a lot of farming back in Mexico, and when we came to the United States in 1990, my parents started working in the fields picking tomatoes, strawberries, watermelons, you name it. Pretty much anything you could grow in southern Delaware,” said Hernandez.

Originally an accounting and finance major, Hernandez said that she transitioned over to FABM after meeting Steven Hastings, professor and associate chair of APEC, who eventually became her adviser.

“Dr. Hastings successfully helped me transition from a two-year plan into a four-year plan. One of the reasons I ended up in CANR was because of a course I took with Dr. Hastings. I enjoyed the material and realized that there was a lot of opportunity for me in the agribusiness sector. I would say that thanks to him, that’s why I ended up in the produce industry,” Hernandez said.

Not even a month after she graduated, Hernandez landed her first job as a junior marketing operations manager for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

Now a marketing strategy manager, Hernandez said that her work focuses on developing marketing campaign plans and associated strategic positioning and messaging that supports PMA and the Center for Growing Talent by PMA.

“I have a team that supports pre-campaign analysis, based off of that I help draft the marketing action plans and oversee the execution for specific programs and events,” she said.

As the first person to graduate college on either side of her family, Hernandez said that she is immensely proud of her education.

“Coming from both mom and dad being of Mexican descent, it’s something that I am very proud of. Everyone from both of my families are still in Mexico, so that’s a huge accomplishment for anyone growing up in a different country. I am blessed to have had the support along the way,” she said.

Having worked at the UDairy Creamery and as an usher at the Bob Carpenter Center as an undergrad, Hernandez singled out her boss, Sylvester “Vest” Johnson, for being a huge help throughout her college journey.

She also said that for other first generation students out there, her advice is to always look to higher education for life changes and future career success.

“I always talk to my Hispanic community and encourage them not to sit and wait for opportunities. College should always be the option. That’s one of the very first things that I tell someone when I’m mentoring or when they come to me for advice,” said Hernandez. “It’s okay not to know what you want to do as long as you’re working your way toward getting your foot into a college. Once you’re actually there, then you can find out what you’re interested in and what you’re passionate about.”

Hernandez said that she is grateful for her college experience that helped her discover a career in the agriculture industry.

“For me, I found my passion as I went along. For some, obviously, it’s not going to be as easy, but as long as you have that strive and continue to search and to want more, to ask questions and find the right people, I think that will be key for anyone’s success,” she said.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

First generation farmers reflect on introduction to agriculture at UD

First generation farmers reflect on introduction to agriculture at UDFirst generation farmers Amanda and John Place not only found their love of agriculture while undergraduates in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), they also found each other.

Now, 14 years later, they both have careers in what they studied as undergrads: Amanda as a veterinarian and the medical director at VCA Northside Animal Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and John as the general manager of Profeta Farms, an organic farm in Readington, New Jersey that farms 1,300 total acres.

In addition, they also run their startup family farm, Keepsake Farm and Dairy, in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where they raise wholesome food — such as grass-fed beef, raw milk, rose veal and fresh range pasture eggs — in a natural environment.

They credit UD for introducing a girl from Long Island and a boy from the suburbs of Philadelphia to the world of agriculture.

“The College of Agriculture [and Natural Resources] played a huge role in sending Amanda and I in this direction through the education and the guidance we had,” said John Place.

Originally a biology major, who had always aspired to be a veterinarian but was intimidated initially by the years of education needed to pursue a veterinary degree, Amanda (Satriano) Place took an Animal Science 101 class with Lesa Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor in CANR. The experience of that course convinced her to stick with her longtime goals and she changed majors and moved over to the CANR in her sophomore year. She met John through their involvement in the Animal Science Club.

John Place said he looked at CANR originally to work with horses but after interning on the campus farm with Scott Hopkins, farm superintendent, and Larry Armstrong, farm manager, he knew that was the direction he wanted his career to head.

“Ever since I got to college, agriculture was what I was going to do. I wanted to farm. I didn’t really have that experience until I got there and that changed the trajectory of life,” he said.

Both agreed that a study abroad program to New Zealand they took with Griffiths was a game-changer as it exposed them to pasture-based agriculture — letting cows roam and eat grass in a pasture as opposed to the practice of feeding them grain — something they carried with them when they started Keepsake Farm and Dairy, which is now an exclusively grass-fed raw milk dairy.

“When we went to New Zealand and were seeing commercial size dairies that were 100 percent grazing operated, a light bulb went off in my head because I had never seen it on that scale outside on grass and I realized ‘Wow, this can be done,’” John Place said. “From that point, it was learning progressive grazing techniques and management of grazing and applying it to a more finicky animal — the dairy cow versus the beef cow — and a lot of trial by fire. We learned some important lessons but in the end, it does work and it works well.”

Amanda Place said that it was “eye opening to see animals on pasture and how you can successfully do things so much differently than what’s standard here.”

Because their cows are all grass-fed and not given hormones or antibiotics, and they don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers on their farm, she said they tend to have healthier animals.

“Animals that eat grass produce healthier products, whether it’s meat or milk, just like humans who eat more than grains are a lot healthier. From the veterinarian’s perspective, mimicking nature produces healthier animals. We just don’t see sick cows. Many dairies have a standing veterinarian appointment once a week to take care of whatever sick cows have popped up and yet we rarely see our vet outside of our annual herd check,” said Place. “When cows are permitted to eat grass at their leisure, raise their own calves and be milked only once per day without any antibiotics or hormones, you’d be amazed how healthy they can be. That’s what they’re built for, so I think if you take some tips from how nature did it, you end up with a lot healthier happier creature.”

John Place added that even though he and Amanda chose to go the organic route, they are not disparaging toward conventional farmers.

“We’re all in this together. It’s not like I can’t talk to the conventional world, but we’re just trying to do something a little bit differently and provide a product that there’s a waiting customer base for,” said Place.

For more information on Keepsake Farm and Dairy, visit their Facebook page.

Article by Adam Thomas

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Outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee Reflects on Ag Week, time at Cooperative Extension

Outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee reflects on Ag Week, time at Cooperative ExtensionDelaware Agriculture Week finished on a high note when the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition (DUFFC) recognized outgoing State Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee for his strong advocacy of urban agriculture during a session held Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Delaware Center for Horticulture in Wilmington.

“Through Secretary Kee’s efforts and leadership, microgrants and seed money have helped many gardens and urban farms establish themselves and grow,” said Faith Kuehn, plant industries administrator at the Delaware Department of Agriculture and member of the DUFFC planning committee. “With his drive to develop Delaware’s next generation of farmers and consumers, he has helped us find ways to bring agriculture to urban schools, community centers, churches and a wide variety of other settings where kids and youth can learn about how wholesome and healthy food grows.”

Kee said that the award was meaningful for many reasons.

In my first two weeks on the job, the Delaware Center for Horticulture came to me to explain the work they were doing. My mother grew up on Clayton Street, so I certainly had an affinity for Wilmington, and my goal has been to connect southern Delaware produce to bring it in to Wilmington. Maybe I was a catalyst, maybe I was a spark, but you, [the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition], was the fuel, and were ready to make things happen. I am really proud of the work you are doing. I am proud — humble — that one of my legacies is the expansion of urban agriculture.”

This recognition caps Kee’s stellar career in the agriculture industry that began at the University of Delaware, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1973 and a master’s degree in plant science in 1975. He returned to obtain a master of arts in liberal studies in 1996.

Kee retained close ties to the University in several capacities. He joined UD’s Cooperative Extension Service, where he had a 30-year tenure, as the Kent County agricultural agent, the state vegetable crop specialist for UD, and as the agricultural program leader.

A national and international expert in vegetable science, he taught plant science classes and authored books such as Delaware Farming, which recounts the agricultural heritage of the First State and is often found on office shelves at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

“Ed Kee has been a tremendous supporter and friend of UD throughout his career,” said CANR Dean Mark Rieger. “UD and our college are extremely grateful for Ed’s generosity and leadership in funding efforts. It was our privilege for the Ag Alumni Association to honor Ed with the 1996 George M. Worrilow Award, which recognizes outstanding service to agriculture by a graduate of the college. We’re also grateful for his establishment of the Ed Kee Endowed Scholarship Fund that enables graduates of Delaware high schools to study agriculture at UD.

“Kee was elected to the UD Wall of Fame in 2013 and it’s a great legacy for our college as we educate future leaders in our industry who will grapple with critical issues affecting food production and natural resources throughout the world.”

As another lasting accomplishment, Kee co-launched Delaware Agriculture Week in 2005 to consolidate a number of agriculture meetings held during winter months.

“Doing so made it easier for the attendees, the supporters and exhibitors, and for the UD staff because now it all happens in one week,” Kee said. “I was the Extension ag program leader at the time and, working with Delaware State University and the Delaware Department of Agriculture, we pulled it together. Attendance and interest were great, and a tradition was born.”

Kee also cited Delaware Cooperative Extension’s impact on Delaware Agricultural Week.

“It is a venue for information and technology transfer from UD and other great sources to the agricultural community. Equally important is Ag Week’s value as a venue for grower and industry feedback, which helps extension professionals identify needs and priorities,” said Kee.

As Delaware Agriculture Week ended, it seemed a fitting moment for Kee, who announced his retirement in October 2016, to reflect on his life, career and the future of agriculture.

Q: As Secretary of Agriculture, you introduced Delaware Agriculture in a global context. How have famers responded?

Kee: It is a great venue to raise awareness that we live in a global economy, and the farmer who is producing corn, soybeans and chickens in Delaware is impacted by these trends and technologies that are occurring around the world. I have always found — I’ve been to 15 countries working on agricultural projects, over 30 some years — that farmers really like listening to other farmers, and if it happens to be another farmer from another country, they are intrigued by that, and they find commonalities and begin to understand the challenges of other countries.

Q: In your eight-year tenure as secretary, what are you most proud of?

Kee: The Young Farmers Program, which provides zero interest loans to qualified young farmers who are buying a farm. This represents an investment into the human capital of the future of agriculture.

I am also proud of being so engaged with all the issues with a wide range of people related to water quality and nutrient management. We have helped farmers enhance their nutrient management practices without being burdensome, which has led to real improvements in the water quality of our surface and ground waters. Nutrient loading of nitrogen and phosphorus has been reduced by 40 percent.

I have been touched and impressed by emails, handwritten notes, phone calls and letters where people are thanking me for the eight years as secretary, and I am proud to know that I made a serious contribution. But I am humble enough to know that is all about working as part of a team. It has been a team effort. I am proud of the people that we’ve hired during my tenure; they bring a lot of enthusiasm and skill to the department.

Q: How did your 30-year career in Delaware Cooperative Extension prepare you for the role of secretary of agriculture?

Kee: I got to know so many farmers, and they got to know me. Relationships were already established, so that they felt comfortable that I was accessible as secretary. Extension had a lot to do with the relationship part. Extension is about delivering the science, the information, the technology, but also equally important to understand that farm families are trying to make a living, and we really have an impact — to let them know that somebody cares, that we are interested in them.

I have made the comment that being secretary of agriculture is a continuation of being in Cooperative Extension. One of the differences, though, is we have regulatory responsibilities, and extension is strictly education. At the Department of Ag, we like to do regulation through education. It is all connected. Being in extension, knowing about farming, knowing the farmers themselves, and them knowing me and then having an appreciation for the agricultural sciences across the field — that is what really helped me be an effective ag secretary.

Q: You didn’t have an agriculture background, yet chose it. Why should others consider a career in agriculture?

Kee: I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my dad was in the food business. At 16 I started working at Nassau Orchards and frankly I fell in love with it. I liked the work and the physicality of the work. There is a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. I was also intrigued by the science, by the business, and by the logistics of farming. Now at the age of 65, I am still as intrigued by agriculture and positive about its future today as I was when I was 20.

Agriculture has a fascinating future on many levels — sciences, business, at the farm level, food manufacturing, food distribution, ag policy level — it all makes a difference. We are going to go from 7 billion to 10 billion people by the time 20-year-olds today turn 50. That generation has to continue to work on solving the food production issues, keep it growing, but do it in a way that will not compromise quality of our environments around the world.

Q: What are the most significant moments in our agricultural history and what do you anticipate for its future?

Kee: The Farmland Assessment law, passed by the Delaware General Assembly in the 1960s, with the provision where farmers do not have to pay for taxes on farmland was tremendous. On the production side, no-till that was started in the 1970s increased yields, decreased energy use and proved to be good for our soils.

Another major positive development was an investment in irrigation. In 1973, when I got out of school, there were 20,000 acres of irrigated land, and most of that was hand-moved pipe for vegetable crops. Today, nearly 150,000 acres, or almost 25 percent of farmland, is irrigated. That has been huge in improving crop yields, but also helping to guarantee a good and profitable crop for farmers. The other is the whole evolution of technologies in poultry that has been incredibly productive.

Another is improved genetics for many crops. We get better yields, and they can withstand stress and pests better. More recently, information and spatial technology, global positioning, is creating efficiencies that have real positive economic impacts for growers.

Q: As a grandfather of five, what lessons do you impart about agriculture?

Kee: I want them to know how crops grow, how animals grow, where their food comes from, that they understand what photosynthesis is, why you put fertilizers down. The take home-message for them, and this is most important, is that farmers have to be profitable. All of the decisions we make about the future of farming is driven by that reality. So I tell the kids profit is not a bad word.

Q: What is next in your future?

Kee: I am involved in several ag-related projects, including a fellowship program that sends young American farmers overseas to learn. Grandchildren will be a big part of what I do. In addition, I’d like to write my third book on agriculture. Being with my family and enjoying the great state of Delaware will be the priority, along with being a UD fan, a Phillies fan and sailing.

Article by Michele Walfred

UD alum turns experience with AmeriCorps into job after graduation

UD alum turns experience with AmeriCorps into job after graduationAmelia Nolan, a 2015 graduate of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do after college, but she did know one thing for sure – she wanted to work with birds.

“I have always had a passion for birds; they’re amazing to me,” Nolan said, recalling her time at UD and a trip to Tanzania with Jacob Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and Nolan’s undergraduate adviser, where she studied taxonomy and identification of African species of birds.

“Dr. Bowman was extremely influential to me. It was literally like we were bird watching for a straight month, which only strengthened my crazy obsession with birds,” said Nolan.

Following graduation, Nolan and her family looked into moving to the West, home to many ski resorts and enthusiasts, just like her.

She was living in Wisconsin, doing a wildlife rehabilitation internship, and soon learned about AmeriCorps, part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that fosters community service and provides a variety of different programs and ways to get involved. Then she landed her first volunteering experience at the Teton Raptor Center in Wyoming in January 2016.

Nolan lived at the Teton Science Schools, a school system rooted in Wyoming whose primary focus is to educate by putting a high priority on the outdoors and the physical environment, during her service term.

By the end of her service term in September, she found out about an educational position opening within the Teton Raptor Center.

“I didn’t think I was very qualified for the educational one because it said you have to have 2-3 years’ experience with people. I worked at a nursing home for eight years, but that was only a narrow scope of people. But that is the great thing about AmeriCorps, you don’t necessarily need the experience in the field you are applying to,” Nolan said.

During Homecoming weekend of last year, Nolan was on her way back to Delaware to reunite with her fellow alumni when the center contacted her to tell her she had gotten the position. “It was unreal, I almost turned the car back around right then,” she said.

Nolan now has been working as the program assistant at Teton Raptor Center for the past year, teaching the public about the importance of birds and working at raising interest in raptors.

Every day has something new to offer, and since the beginning of her time with Teton Raptor Center, they have conducted over 400 different programs on-site and off-site, including at Grand Teton National Park.

“There is no typical day, every day is different here,” Nolan said.

Of working with AmeriCorps right after graduation, Nolan said that she highly recommends the program.

“This past year was probably one of the best experiences of my life. AmeriCorps brought me to the Raptor Center where I am now. It was one of those experiences where I can now say I have a friend in every state. I have met so many people along the way,” said Nolan.

Article by Courtney Messina

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Animal science alumna goes off beaten path after graduation

kelly-rowe
University of Delaware alumna Kelly Rowe is the hospital administrator at Hunt Valley Animal Hospital in Maryland.

University of Delaware animal science alumna Kelly Rowe has always loved animals. She wanted to be a veterinarian ever since she was a little girl. Now, she is the hospital administrator at Hunt Valley (Maryland) Animal Hospital.

Rowe, who graduated from UD in 2002, initially wanted to make it to vet school, as animals were always a part of her life. “’Dog’ was the first word I ever spoke. I finally got my first dog at 5 years old. As a kid, I had friends, but I’d much rather have been outside catching rabbits and saving kittens,” said Rowe.

At UD, Rowe said she fondly remembers the swine production class taught by Lesa Griffiths, T.A. Baker Professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Rowe recalls raising her pig – named Sassafras – with a group of students, and the deep bond she developed with her group members. She and her group were in charge of monitoring the pigs, regulating feed, and assisting with labor and delivery.

“It was one of the most memorable times at UD altogether. Not having a pet while in college, this pig quickly became my pet,” Rowe said. “There were two nights around the due date that we actually stayed in the barn and slept on bags of grain, waiting on the babies to come. It exposed us to a lot of the sides of production and farming and everything that goes into it.”

Rowe got to know Griffiths from taking multiple classes, and said, “Dr. Griffiths is one of my favorite professors and mentors. She never left anyone behind; she always took time to get to know everyone. She was very hands-on, and I could tell she genuinely cared about my well-being.”

During college, Rowe took up an internship at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, doing animal enrichment studies. In the study with which she assisted, researchers were testing whether positive reinforcement and toys help strengthen an animal’s immune system.

Rowe said they found that toys and a stimulating and rewarding environment do indeed help the immune system. “It was really neat seeing how just changing their environment could help them,” she said.

Though Rowe initially had planned on going to vet school immediately after college, once she reached that point in life she said, “It just didn’t feel right. I was too empathetic to be a vet. I care about anything that had a beating heart, so it was just too much for me.”

Rowe had worn many different hats before finally becoming hospital administrator. She worked at a local animal clinic, then worked for Flavorx, a company that adds flavorings to medicines for children and pets. She then became territory manager for Vet’s First Choice, which involved a lot of great traveling experience. She finally came across the opportunity at Hunt Valley, and went running with it.

As the hospital administrator at Hunt Valley, Rowe’s job is full of variety – she manages the staff, makes protocols, managed inventory, manages the facility, and marketing. “The thing I really like about my job at Hunt Valley is that no day is the same. You never know what is going to walk, waddle, even fly through the door,” she said.

Rowe suggests that pet owners can avoid many common problems with their pets by being more observant of their pet’s behavior, and also proactive if they notice something different going on with their fuzzy friends.

“Notice everything and don’t put things off,” she said. “Small changes in your pet’s behavior are often symptoms of a bigger issue. Because life is busy, pet owners will often notice these things and fail to do anything about them until the bigger issue rears its ugly head.”

Article by Courtney Messina

Originally published on UDaily

Aspiring vet turns passion for horses, teaching into Sprout therapy center

UD alumna Brooke Waldron leads the Sprout Therapeutic Riding and Education Center in Virginia.
UD alumna Brooke Waldron leads the Sprout Therapeutic Riding and Education Center in Virginia.

University of Delaware alumna Brooke Waldron always had a passion for horses and for teaching, and she has combined the two interests by founding Sprout Therapeutic Riding and Education Center in Aldie, Virginia.

Sprout, a non-profit organization, offers therapeutic riding to those in need of improving their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Waldron, who graduated from UD in 2005 with a degree in the animal science pre-veterinary program in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in biology and biotechnology, initially wanted to become an equine vet.

As a child and teen, Waldron rode and competed horses and said she cherished her relationship with the animals. During her time at UD, she was on the equestrian team and served as president of the Agriculture College Council and Sigma Alpha professional sorority.

She took many animal science classes, including an equine management and reproduction class that specialized in studying the University’s Haflingers.

She also participated in a study abroad program to New Zealand with Lesa Griffiths, T.A. Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Dr. Griffiths was an incredibly influential person in my life,” said Waldron.

While at UD, Waldron worked as a lab assistant for Robert Dyer, associate professor of animal and food sciences, where she assisted in teaching anatomy and physiology lab.

This experience fostered a love for teaching in addition to her love for horses, and Waldron went on to get a master’s degree in education at Marymount University in Virginia and to begin teaching life sciences at a middle school.

Waldron was settling in to her teaching career when a surprise opportunity to start a farm came upon her and her family. As a proponent of inclusion, she had many students with special needs in her classes and wanted to do something where she could combine her passions.

“When the opportunity to start a center came along, I jumped at it. Now my job combines the best of all worlds – kids, horses and teaching,” Waldron said.

According to Waldron, Sprout was a soybean farm when her family bought it in 2009. The farm had no barn, arena, fields or even grass for horses.

With what she learned during her time at UD, Waldron was able to transform the old soybean farm into a horse sanctuary. “Being prepared by what I learned in college and having the know-how to take a care of a farm was very beneficial to me,” she said. “We planted grass seed according to what the horses required, designed the facility, secured the necessary horses, tack and volunteers, and started running in 2011.”

During the farm conversion, Waldron also became a certified therapeutic riding instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH International) and worked to make Sprout a PATH center, which requires strict adherence to administrative, facility, program and equine care standards.

Waldron said she is proud of the professionalism of the industry and is now an advanced instructor and certified mentor.

In five years, Sprout has grown from that soybean farm to an organization that serves an average of 125 individuals each week, from an organization with a budget of $0 to $424,000 annually, from empty stalls, and a farm with no horses or equipment to 14 horses in service, bountiful lesson materials, tack and adaptive options.

The growth validates the community’s need for this form of support, Waldon said.

Sprout offers several areas of programming that meet the various needs of riders with disabilities:

  • Therapeutic riding, the largest program, teaches riding skills that relate to the life goals of the participants.
  • Therapeutic carriage driving utilizes the same goals but is a preferred program for individuals that fall below or above the size restrictions for riding, in addition to people who have equipment that cannot fit on the back of a horse, such as ventilators.
  • Equine movement therapy is designed to support physical improvement for muscles, joints and systems, which is done with the help of a physical therapist.

The default for many people with special needs is to spend time in clinical therapy – physical, occupational, speech, behavioral therapies – and those can be stressful and unpleasant environment for children, Waldron said.

“Kids get anxious about going to the doctor, and many of my students don’t do too much else but go to clinic, so this is literally a breath of fresh air for them,” she said.

The horse’s three-dimension movement replicates the movement the human body experiences while walking, therefore strengthening and stimulating similar muscles in a repetitive pattern that regulates the nervous system.

“A horse gives movement to someone when, typically, the alternative is only sitting or using large-scale clinical equipment,” said Waldron. “Most clients prefer riding to any other activity or therapy and it meets so many of their needs at the same time.”

Miracles happen at Sprout because of the range of physical, emotional and cognitive support that is given when riding, Waldron said, adding that riding is a unique therapy that meets people “where they are, wherever they are,” with the horse as a mediator and partner in achieving their life goals.

“The thing I love so much about my job is seeing an animal that I am so passionate about impact others on a large and multi-dimensional scale. My horses are my partners and humble co-workers. Together, we change people’s lives,” said Waldron.

Sprout also offers equine assisted learning/psychotherapy, which is an off-horse program that provides experiential mental/physical/cognitive activities that meet clients’ needs.

The instincts of the horse are used to help people become aware of their behaviors and norms, reactions, communication and body language. Being such large animals, their reactions are large and also very easy to see, Waldron said, adding that ss prey animals, horses are also extremely sensitive to their environment and “present.”

Their ability to give clear, unbiased, real-time feedback to clients allows them to improve the way they interact with the world and other people in it, she said.

“Many times, people don’t realize how they’re coming across to others, and the horse allows you to have conversations to help them realize and improve their emotional and mental outlook – and, consequently, their relationships with others,” said Waldron.

As a non-profit, Sprout is reliant on a community of supporters who give of their “time and treasure,” Waldron said.

Sprout has a database of 500 volunteers with upwards of 100 are active each week. Volunteers complete necessary jobs that allow the centre to run, she said.

Sprout has internship opportunities available and is thankful for the support of college interns who have served in various capacities, Waldron said.

The center is also reliant on donors to subsidize fees for the riders. In the state of Virginia, insurance does not cover animal-based therapies and horses are expensive to maintain. Because of this, Sprout is a non-profit, which allows the organization to raise funds to subsidize costs at a level that is affordable for those in need of the service, Waldron said.

“Sprout is committed to providing hope, healing, empowerment and recovery to a population that is all too often overlooked and undervalued,” Waldron said. “We invest in changing lives, in proving what people can do and in supporting the whole person. In a world where limitations and restrictions abound. We are the believers, we are the do-ers, we are the possiblitarians.”

Article by Courtney Messina

Originally published on UDaily

UD alumna opens Fork in Road Café near Delaware Memorial Bridge

University of Delaware alumna Leigh Ann Tona at her Fork in the Road Cafe.
University of Delaware alumna Leigh Ann Tona at her Fork in the Road Cafe.

Right before or after the Delaware Memorial Bridge, depending on whether a traveler is heading north on I-295 to New Jersey or south to Delaware, lies the Fork in the Road Café, the newest venture taken on by University of Delaware alumnus Leigh Ann Tona, who has already experienced culinary success with her I Don’t Give a Fork food truck.

Tona – who graduated from UD in 2012 with a bachelor of science degree in business management and a minor in entrepreneurial studies, and who worked at the UDairy Creamery – said that in addition to serving as its own eatery open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Fork in the Road Café will allow her to offer more variety in her food truck offerings — such as sliced deli meat sandwiches — and open an avenue for her to expand her catering services, as well.

“When I just had the food truck, I didn’t have a kitchen and was doing a lot of my prep on the food truck, and so I was pretty limited with what I could serve because the food truck doesn’t have an oven, just a fryer and a grill top,” said Tona. “But the café has a steamer and an oven and a six burner stove, so we started cooking our homemade pork every day and we slow cook it for 15 hours in an oven, which is really nice. We also slice all of our own meats for our sandwiches, same thing with our cheese, so it was really just an opportunity to go back and start to offer those items again on a menu.”

Located off of Route 9 in the Vincent A. Julia Center, where the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) has a walk-in E-ZPass center — Tona said that visitors can follow the purple E-ZPass signs to get to the restaurant — the Fork in the Road Café facility served as an office cafeteria until 2013.

“They had such a big kitchen, and it is a large and beautiful facility,” Tona said. “They realized that the only way someone was going to come in and take it over was if they have an existing business where they can utilize that kitchen somewhere else.” That made her the perfect tenant.

Because the cafeteria had a built in customer base when it was still in operation, Tona said she is trying to offer similar, low-priced fare to bring that clientele back.

“The menu for the café is more expansive and we do made-to-order breakfast, with pancakes and French toast and this grab and go cereal dish, plus we do all different kinds of breakfast sandwiches,” Tona said. “Lunch is a good portion of what I’ve had on the food truck over the years condensed into one menu and since we have a meat slicer again, we can go back to doing the deli sandwiches and all different things like that.”

In addition, Tona has a crew of three employees — one full time manager and two cashiers — who oversee the café while she is out on the food truck.

The biggest difference between operating a food truck and operating a stationary café is the ability to move in order to get customers.

Tona said the food truck heads to different, pre-determined locations every day: Wednesdays at Rodney Square in Wilmington, Thursdays at Barclay’s in Newark and Fridays at Barclay’s in Wilmington.

If she decides to go to another location and it doesn’t have as many customers, she can simply move the food truck.

“With the café, if people aren’t coming in for lunch, and if we’re not busy, I can’t say, ‘Let’s just try a new place tomorrow,’” said Tona.

With the new kitchen space, though, Tona is hoping to be able to expand her catering services.

“We can do catering whenever. We can do drop off catering, pick up catering, and we’ve been trying to get offices or business meetings to select us for catering because that’s something that’s really easy for us to do out of the café. We’re already making sandwiches anyway and that’s our goal,” said Tona.

She also stressed that the café is a great spot for visitors to eat.

“It’s literally right in the middle of 295 north and south. You can see both sides of the highway from my building. There’s outdoor tables and umbrellas. It’s definitely a cool spot to eat if you’re there. I’m just trying to get people to find it,” said Tona.

For those interested in learning more about the Fork in the Road Café and its services, email Tona at forkintheroadde@gmail.com.

Article and photo by Adam Thomas

Orginally posted on UDaily – Fork in the Road

UD alumna runs community supported agriculture farm in New Jersey

UD alumna Kristin Ward Hock is the manager at Caramore Farm in New Jersey. Photo by Matthew Hock
UD alumna Kristin Ward Hock is the manager at Caramore Farm in New Jersey. Photo by Matthew Hock

University of Delaware alumna Kristin Ward Hock always knew that she wanted to be a farmer but there was just one problem – she knew nothing about farming and didn’t know anyone to ask.

When she used Google to search for “farming in New Jersey,” however, the results led her down the path to where she is today, working as the farm manager for Caramore Farm, a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm that she helped create earlier this year at Collier Youth Services in Wickatunk, New Jersey. The project allows her to combine her love of farming with her love of education.

While Hock knew that she wanted to be a farmer, the decision to walk away from a full-time position as an environmental educator with the Monmouth County (New Jersey) Park System that provided a good salary and benefits was not an easy one.

“I was 30 at that point so I thought I needed to grow up and stick with my real job but I really wanted to be a farmer, and so instead of quitting my job, I did a work share at a local farm,” said Hock.

After a year, the lure of farming took hold and Hock, who majored in animal science and wildlife conservation in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and went on to receive her master’s degree in environmental education from the Audubon Expedition Institute, decided to pursue farming full time.

“I went from a salary, health benefits, vacation and sick time to making $1,000 a month with no benefits, no sick time, no vacation time, and no holidays. I was working longer hours, more days, so it was definitely a commitment and I loved it,” said Hock.

Having support from her family was key in Hock making the transition to farming, and after years of traveling across the United States — working jobs such as a bald eagle nest watcher in Arizona and an environmental enrichment and education coordinator in Montana — she said that she was glad to be back in New Jersey with a close support system around.

“I moved home to New Jersey in 2010 and I thought I was just coming back to visit for the summer to spend time with my family and then figure out what I wanted to do from there, but an old friend and I got together and hung out and then we got married. I never thought I’d move back to New Jersey but I’ve been back for six years now and I’m definitely happy to be back and close to friends and family,” said Hock.

Farm origins

Hock apprenticed at Fernbrook Farm, a large enterprise with about 20-25 acres of vegetables, for a year. She wanted to get more experience working on a smaller and newer farm so in 2015 she cut her hours at Fernbrook and took a position at the smaller Appelget Farm CSA in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.

“I got the experience and even a visual of what a small farm looks like. It was hard to have a visual of what three and a half acres looked like going from the 20-25 acres that we were growing at Fernbrook,” said Hock, who added that she continued working at the larger farm because of the farm manager, Jeff Tober, who she called her farm mentor.

“If I have any questions or concerns, I call him. He’s a lifelong friend, just a really great person,” said Hock.

Having gained that smaller farm experience, Hock got the job at Caramore Farm in January and said that it has been an interesting transition going from a farm apprentice to creating and managing a farm.

The farm is starting out as a little over an acre and a half and Hock said that they will grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter and summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, kale and collards, among other crops.

Hock has a farm assistant who works 40 hours a week and two work-shares who work in exchange for food from the farm, which is how Hock began her farming career.

Her husband also volunteers at the farm and set up the farm’s irrigation system.

“I’m very grateful that I married someone who is smart and handy because as a farmer, you’re supposed to be all these different skills like a mechanic, a plumber, and I’m still learning those things,” said Hock.

With regard to the education component, Hock will meet with Collier staff this winter to discuss how to incorporate farming into the curriculum, as Hock said that almost any subject can be taught on the farm.

“Math students can do statistical analysis on the farm crops successes and failures, the English class can get inspired to write poems by walking through the farm fields, the photography class can capture the beauty of working the land, science class can do soil tests. The possibilities are endless. Plus, the students would be able to snack on vegetables straight from the vine and hopefully develop a passion for locally grown food,” said Hock.

This summer, however, she will be able to have students out at the farm in the extended school year program helping out for two hours every morning doing tasks such as hand weeding, transplanting, and making flower bouquets.

She said she is looking forward to interacting with students again, as teaching is something she feels has been missing from her life lately.

“When my husband and I go hiking and we see a family with children, my inner educator comes out and I have to stop them and point out the goldfinch in the tree and share information with them such as it being New Jersey’s state bird and that they like to eat thistle seed; so he is relieved that I will have students again to teach and maybe we can actually just go for a walk in the woods without distraction,” she said. “So I’m definitely excited to be able to work with students again. I have such a love for nature and the environment and farming, and I want to tell as many people as I can. And who better than kids who will hopefully incorporate that and bring it into their future lives?”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD graduate finds career success with Massachusetts Land Court

UD graduate finds career success with Massachusetts Land CourtWhile an undergraduate at the University of Delaware, Courtney Simmons majored in natural resource management and agriculture and natural resources and minored in wildlife conservation and resource economics with the goal of one day becoming an attorney who could influence change happening in the environment.

Now, by working with the Massachusetts Land Court, Simmons gets the opportunity to work on cases that deal directly with land in the state.

Simmons, an Honors Program student who graduated from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2011, said that Massachusetts is the only state that has a land court, which is based on the Australian Torrens system.

“Our jurisdiction is pretty unique in terms of it being so specifically related to property and land use issues. But it makes it really cool because at Delaware, my whole undergraduate career was in natural resource management and wildlife conservation so I was really focused on the fact that development is going to happen but how can we do it in a sustainable way where we’re revitalizing areas and communities that need it instead of destroying new green spaces for extra development?” said Simmons.

Simmons works for two different judges at the land court and goes into the courtroom with them whenever they have a hearing, motion or trial while also discussing the cases with them and assisting them in writing decisions.

“Sometimes the judges will make rulings from the bench, like on the TV shows, but most of the time, they take things under advisement and go back and prepare written decisions that become published law,” said Simmons. “Being able to actually draft decisions myself and have discussions with the judges regarding the application of the law or assist in shaping the law is really why I believed the legal system was a good avenue to pursue my goals of sustainable development.”

Environmental law

As an undergraduate at UD, Simmons said that an environmental law class sparked her interest in pursuing a career in the field.

“That was the first law class that I took and it really got me interested in thinking of different ways that we can influence changes happening to the environment,” Simmons said. “I actually thought that being an attorney working for the court or the legal system was probably the most effective avenue to go about changing the law or to be an advocate for natural resources that don’t have their own voice, and to protect natural areas and endangered species.”

Simmons, who received her law degree from Boston University in 2015, also worked as an intern at an Alaskan non-profit law firm for a summer and worked at American Tower Corp., where she spent time going over real estate documents and leasing documents after the company purchased towers from Verizon.

During that process, Simmons said that some of the projects had to submit environmental reports that included wetlands impact studies or native species impact studies, and she was able to see her degree from UD pay off.

“Not only were we reviewing the leases but we actually were looking at these environmental reports and documents. It was interesting because as an undergrad, I saw all those documents and I saw how a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) report was set up – then to actually be put on a project where I’m not only dealing with the legal side but I have this environmental scientific background, it made it a lot easier to understand the science behind things,” said Simmons.

Because many lawyers have undergraduate degrees in political science or law, Simmons said that having a degree in natural resource management and wildlife conservation helped her to be well-rounded and to have hands-on research opportunities

“When I was in Alaska, the people who didn’t have environmental backgrounds often had a really difficult time reading reports from state departments and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because they didn’t know all these different chemicals or economic analysis of affected property values,” Simmons said. “I think my background at Delaware was really well-rounded in that sense. It allowed me to apply the law in this field in a really useful way that not a lot of law students have, and being in this field in particular really helped.”

Time at UD

Simmons singled out Steve Hastings, professor and associate chair of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, Josh Duke, professor of food and resource economics, economics and legal studies, and Jacob Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, as being particularly helpful to her during her time at UD.

Of Hastings, Simmons said that he was “always great and easy to talk to” and that he helped her out with recommendations throughout law school.

“He taught me to not just be so one-sided when you look at something and not be an environmentalist who contends ‘development is always bad.’ Everything is shades of gray so you can’t really be too far on one side or the other. You have to find compromises, which I think is a lot of what natural resource management is all about,” said Simmons.

Simmons said that by looking at different points of view throughout her time at UD, her undergraduate experience allowed her to figure out ways to compromise.

“That’s a lot of what being an attorney is. The last straw is for people to take things to trial. We want to get things done well before that or before something is even filed in court. I think all those perspectives were really helpful,” said Simmons.

She also said that she enjoyed studying in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and being on south campus.

“The labs were one of the best features. I took soil science and mammalogy and apiology. Just being able to go out and get your hands dirty and learn how to harvest honey, it’s something that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do. I think having that hands-on part of the undergraduate degree really helped make me a more well-rounded person in the way I approach things,” Simmons said.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD, USDA researchers study natural enemies of tree-killing emerald ash borer

UD, USDA researchers study natural enemies of tree-killing emerald ash borerWith the emerald ash borer beetle devastating ash tree populations throughout the United States — from locations as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as Louisiana — solutions to help fight the insect are critical.

Thanks in part to research from the University of Delaware and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), a host-specific parasitic wasp so new and obscure that it doesn’t even have a common name — known only by its scientific name Spathius galinae — has been approved for release to help control the invasive beetle.

Some of those research findings were recently released in the May edition of the journal Biological Controland looked at the environmental parameters, specifically the temperatures, under which this parasitoid worked best.

Timothy Watt, who received his master’s degree from UD in 2014 and who also worked at the USDA Beneficial Insects Lab on campus starting in 2011, was the lead author on the paper and worked with Jian Duan, a research entomologist and lead scientist with the USDA ARS Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit, and Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, both of whom co-advised Watt during his time as a graduate student at UD from 2012-14.

Watt said that this latest paper was the third chapter of his thesis, with one paper outlining research they conducted looking at the factors of emerald ash borer host size to determine the best quality larval size and age for rearing Spathius galinae and the other looking at factors encountered when rearing any insect natural enemy — predator or parasitoid — such as host density and parasitoid density.

This latest paper looked at the effects of temperature on the parasitoid’s development in reproductive biology.

“You’ve got to know the biology but then you also have to know the environmental factors and for this one, we just focused on temperature because you can start to get into all sorts of other studies and data analysis when you add other variables,” said Watt.

Optimal temperature

Watt said that temperature is an integral piece of the puzzle for understanding insects in general.

“Insects in general are ectothermic — they’re basically controlled by temperature. Their physiology and metabolism are strongly influenced by ambient temperature, almost like they’re programmed in a way,” said Watt.

Duan said that knowing which temperature works best for Spathius galinae is critical to developing a rearing program as well as a strategy with regard to where to release the parasitoids.

The researchers tested five different temperatures – 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 degrees Celsius – and from those temperatures, they found that 25 degrees was the most optimal temperature as it would minimize the wasp’s immature development time and maximize female reproductive output.

Host specific parasitoid

The researchers also spent a great deal of time making sure that the parasitic wasp was host specific to emerald ash borer and wouldn’t impact any other similar species.

UD, USDA researchers study natural enemies of tree-killing emerald ash borer“There’s a lot of behavior and ecological mechanisms to prevent this wasp from attacking other insects,” said Duan. “Prior to the regulatory approval, we conducted extensive host specificity testing against 14 different non-target beetle species in the quarantine laboratory. Only one of the 14 non-target beetles was impacted, and that was the gold spotted oak borer, which itself is a serious invasive pest of oak trees in California. But that’s under laboratory conditions. In general, this is one of the most host specific wasp species of emerald ash borer natural enemies.”

They are also aware that the name “wasp” might conjure images of stinging insects being released upon an unsuspecting population and made it clear that these wasps are different than a typical wasp.

“These wasps do not sting human beings. They don’t even sting ‘naked’ emerald ash borer larvae dissected out of the bark,” said Duan. “They simply lay eggs on it.”

Tallamy added, “People worry because it’s a wasp; they wonder ‘will it sting my kids?’ They’re picturing bigger wasps. These are tiny. Nobody would look at them and recognize them as a wasp. They’d think it’s a little gnat or something. They will never sting you. They couldn’t sting you.”

Watt said that it can take up to four or five years of research conducting non-target testing before a biological control measure is even considered for release.

“A lot of our work focuses on non-target testing, looking to see if the parasitoid might seek out other insects that live in the same habitats or are taxonomically related to the target pest. There is a very rigorous testing model in place to make sure that these organisms aren’t all of a sudden going to go attack another insect that’s out there once we release them into the wild,” said Watt.

Bark vibrations

As for how the parasitic wasps find and prey upon the emerald ash borer, Duan explained that the wasp is a larval parasitoid, attacking primarily medium to large emerald ash borer larvae.

When emerald ash borer feeds under the bark of an ash tree, the parasitoid locates the larvae first by smelling the ash tree — which gives off a different scent when infested— and then by walking on the tree’s trunk and using sensors in their legs to detect the vibrations of the emerald ash borer larvae feeding.

Once a wasp feels larval vibrations it uses its ovipositor which is normally 3-5 millimeters long to drill through the bark and lay eggs — normally a clutch with 9-15 eggs — on the surface of the emerald ash borer larvae. Once the parasitic wasp larvae hatch, they begin to feed on and suck the juices out of the emerald ash borer larvae.

Now that the studies have been complete, the Spathius galinae has been approved for release and is currently being reared in the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) lab in Michigan.

“Because we have done all these studies, we have developed an effective rearing program and USDA APHIS approved it for release in the United States as of May 2015. The parasitoid colony has been transferred to USDA-APHIS lab in Brighton, Michigan, where APHIS has a mass rearing facility for all emerald ash borer parasitoids including this one. The plan is, they’re going to produce tens of thousands of these parasitoids and send them to northeastern states to release,” said Duan.

As for the collaboration between the USDA and UD, Duan said that it is a really beneficial partnership for everyone involved.

“I currently have four UD students working on my projects and they get hands-on experiences that they won’t get in the classroom,” said Duan.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Juan Castellanos and Jian Duan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Blue Hen flock welcomes new faces thanks to alumnus Wesley Towers

The new blue hens that were recently donated to the UD flock.The University of Delaware’s flock of Blue Hens grew by three this year with the addition two males and one female — or two roosters and a hen.

The birds were generously donated by Wesley Towers, a 1964 UD graduate who majored in animal and poultry health during his time at UD and went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and then serve as the Delaware state veterinarian for over 37 years. He is also a former member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

The new Blue Hens join a flock that features descendants of birds that were originally donated by S. Hallock du Pont in the 1960s for teaching and research.

Towers, who has raised Blue Hens since receiving birds that belonged to the late R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. after the death of the late UD benefactor, said that he has decreased the size of his flock over the years.

When Bob Alphin, instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and manager of the University’s Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory, called Towers and asked if he had any Blue Hens that could be donated to the University, the timing was perfect.

“I had sold all of the young ones except these two roosters and a hen, and I was getting ready to pare things down for the winter when Bob called and asked me if I had any. I said, ‘Yeah, you’re just in time. If you’d have called this time next week, they’d have been gone,’” said Towers.

UD Blue Hens

The Blue Hen flock at UD consists of about 60 birds that live on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus. The number varies, especially when new chicks hatch.

“The first hatch this year I think we had about 60 or 70 chicks and then we’ll have a second hatch and then they’ll be grown out to a certain age, usually say in the range between 12 and 16 weeks. At that point then Karen Gouge [poultry farm manager] will select the best males and females that will become next year’s flock. Basically, we do our own breeding and produce our own breeders,” said Alphin.

The flock had been genetically closed over the years and Alphin said that was one of the reasons he got in touch with Towers to see if he could introduce any new birds to the flock.

“We’re limited to the genetics that we have within the birds on our farm. Even though we keep a large number of males as well as females to try to get as much diversity as we can, every once in a while, we like to try to find some Blue Hens that have not been part of our flock and we were very fortunate that Dr. Towers was willing to donate these birds,” said Alphin.

Alphin said that the three new birds will be placed in a house with some of the best females from the UD flock so that the eggs that come from the group will all be different from the UD flock and will be hatched out separately.

Paul Sammelwitz, an emeritus faculty member in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences who worked with the flock for 40 years until his retirement in 1999 — and who also happened to teach Towers and Alphin as undergraduates — said that the blue coloration in poultry is heterozygous, meaning that if a Blue Hen female is bred with a Blue Hen male, the results will be 50 percent blue and then 25 percent with a white splash and 25 percent black.

Alphin said that most people are probably familiar with what’s called the “blue phase,” which is a steel blue color.

“The males can have more color in what are called their hackle and cape, which are the more prominent neck feathers and in their saddle feathers — those are long feathers that are present on the sides of the males that are not present in the females,” said Alphin. “The males also have what are called sickle feathers, which makes up the bigger tail that’s on a rooster. If you cross a light pattern with a dark pattern, you end up with 100 percent blue color, or that steel — it’s really a steel blue rather than a robin’s egg blue. I think they’re very beautiful looking birds in this color.”

Blue Hen outreach

In addition to being used for research and teaching, the birds along with other types of chickens raised on the UD Poultry Farm, are also used for outreach. They are featured at events such as Ag Day and are provided to non-profit groups like Ashland Nature Center.

The eggs that the hens produce are given to local schools as part of the Cooperative Extension embryology program.

“The eggs get used throughout the tri-state area. Some of them go to Pennsylvania, some go to Maryland, most go in Delaware,” said Alphin. “The students love to see the different chicks and they love to see Blue Hens. Because some schools were studying the Blue Hen, we’ve supplied them with nothing but Blue Hen eggs.”

Blue Hen origins

While Blue Hens come from English gamecock stock, it is not an officially recognized breed of chicken. It also has multiple origin stories linking it to the First State, one of the most notable being about a group of Revolutionary War soldiers from Kent County under the command of Capt. John Caldwell whose troops amused themselves by staging cockfights with a breed known as the Kent County Blue Hen, recognizable for its blue plumage.

Capt. Caldwell’s company likewise acquired a considerable reputation for fighting prowess in engagements with the British at Long Island, White Plains, Trenton and Princeton, and earned the nickname “Caldwell’s Gamecocks.”

The name “Fightin’ Blue Hens” has been used by University of Delaware athletic teams since 1911. The Blue Hen Chicken was named the official state bird by the Delaware General Assembly in 1939.

Article by Adam Thomas

Video by Ashley Barnas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

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UD graduate fulfills lifelong dream to work with dolphins

UD graduate fulfills lifelong dream to work with dolphinsUniversity of Delaware graduate Jenna Billings is putting her psychology and animal science education to good use, helping to get inside the minds of marine mammals at Florida’s Dolphins Plus. There she is learning to train dolphins and inform the public about conservation issues, while also fulfilling her lifelong dream to work with dolphins.

Dolphins Plus is committed to the conservation and protection of marine mammals worldwide and is actively involved in research — constantly trying to learn and discover new things about the species — with extensive education and outreach programs. The organization is located in Key Largo, and has facilities on the Atlantic and on the Gulf of Mexico.

Billings is at the Bayside facility on the Gulf of Mexico, a job she started in February, where she works with 11 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins — two of which are eight months old — and two California sea lions, which have their own trainers.

The interactive facility is open to the public and offers programs such as a structured swim during which guests can get into the water with the dolphins to do various behaviors with them, and a shallow water encounter for guests who are younger or not comfortable in the water. Guests who still want to meet and interact with a dolphin without getting into the water can do so by signing up for a kiss with a dolphin or paint with a dolphin, several of which happen to be quite the artists.

“We hope to inspire conservation and protection of marine mammals through our guest interactions. By our guests observing or being in the water, we hope that they will form a connection with these animals and be inspired to make a difference and help protect the dolphins and all of the other animals out in the wild,” said Billings.

Billings said that one of her favorite parts of the job is seeing a guest interact with a dolphin for the first time.

“Some of the guests who’ve never seen a dolphin before, or never been up close and personal with a dolphin, just think it’s the coolest thing ever. It’s really great to see that we can instill that passion in others,” said Billings.

Teaching dolphins

Billings also said she enjoys asking the dolphins for various behaviors.

“Just like humans, dolphins learn differently. Seeing what they find reinforcing and seeing what works better for each individual dolphin is really neat. When you end up training a behavior, you can relate it to a school teacher explaining a new concept to her students. It’s a really rewarding job,” said Billings.

Billings is still in her three-month training period and because she is a new face to the dolphins, she is getting to know them and allowing them to get to know her in order to build relationships.

“I’ve been working with some of the dolphins more so than others and I can already see a relationship forming with some of them. They seem more comfortable around me and they get really excited around me. Just seeing that is rewarding. And knowing that you are helping provide amazing care to these animals, I absolutely love that aspect of the job,” said Billings.

As a dolphin trainer, Billings will eventually get to do things like train new behaviors with the dolphins and swim and work with the dolphins more as her time with Dolphins Plus goes on.

Dolphin communication

Billings said the primary way trainers communicate is through what’s known as a bridge.

“If you’ve seen trainers with a whistle, that’s an auditory bridge so we can use that to communicate with the dolphin when they do what we are looking for. That tells them, ‘Yes, that was perfect. Great job.’ Once we blow the whistle, we start to pair that with what we call primary reinforcement,” said Billings, adding that an example of primary reinforcement is fish.

“The more the dolphins associate hearing the whistle and the whistle being paired with something they find reinforcing, soon enough the whistle will become reinforcement on its own, and won’t always have to be backed up. The dolphins come to learn that the whistle communicates to them yes, good job and to come back to the trainer,” said Billings.

Billings said another way trainers communicate with the dolphins is through hand signals, almost like a sign language, in order to train behaviors.

“It usually starts with what’s called a hand target. That’s when you present your hand and the dolphin’s mouth — also known as their rostrum — will come into contact with that hand and soon they’ll learn to follow that wherever it goes,” said Billings.

That hand will get extended to what’s called a target pole, which the dolphins learn to follow. Once they get the motion of the behavior, the trainers incorporate a hand signal so the dolphins will eventually be able to associate the behavior with the hand signal.

History with dolphins

With regard to her prior experience working with dolphins, Billings said that she interned at Dolphins Plus last summer for three months before interning at Dolphin Quest in Bermuda.

I learned a lot from those internships. Both were pretty hands-on and within my last month at Dolphin Quest, I got hired back here,” said Billings.

Her love of dolphins began when she was young and would visit Sea World when taking trips to see her grandparents in Florida.

“I was really young — about five years old — the first time I saw a dolphin. My grandparents live an hour away from Orlando so growing up, it was really nice. Over the summer, my family would come down and visit them, and we would do a lot of fun things. One of my favorites was visiting Sea World,” said Billings.

She thought it was “mind-blowing” that the trainers could get in the water and interact with the dolphins.

“I was intrigued and blown away and ever since that moment, I wanted to be a trainer,” said Billings.

Billings said that her time at UD helped prepare her for her current job as some of the classes in her psychology major go hand-in-hand with what she is doing with the dolphins and her animal science minor allowed her hands-on experience with animals — especially in her senior year swine production capstone course.

“Never in my life did I think that I’d fall in love with pigs but I did, and it was really cool how hands-on that class was. The University of Delaware has an amazing animal science and agricultural program. For any students who are looking at places to go and looking for where they can get the experience that they need, I would definitely put UD out there. It was a great school for me. I absolutely loved it. The program is unbelievable and it helped me achieve my dream job, so that’s really awesome,” said Billings.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD graduate studies soil moisture levels as a geologist in Texas

UD graduate studies soil moisture levels as a geologist in TexasEven as a little kid, Chelsea Halley knew that she wanted to be a geologist. Now, as the 2012 University of Delaware graduate gets set to receive her master’s degree in geology from the University of Texas, the goal she set when she was younger is becoming a reality as she embarks on a career as a geologist for an environmental consulting company in Austin.

“This sounds so nerdy but really, since I was young I wanted to be a geologist. I was always very into science,” said Halley.

Halley will start her new job in June, and her path began at UD where she majored in natural resource management (NRM) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and was exposed to a wide range of environmental topics.

“I loved the NRM major. I think it’s a great balance. It’s interdisciplinary so I really got to take a lot of classes from multiple disciplines,” said Halley. “In the major, you had to take a wildlife class and you had to take a biology class but you had choices under those headings. So I got to choose, did I want to take a wildlife conservation class? Did I want to take a bird class? An entomology class? I felt like you had enough leeway to where you really got to cater the degree to your interests, which was great.”

After graduating from UD, Halley landed a job with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), where she worked for the Site Investigation and Restoration Section as an environmental scientist doing remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater.

“I was basically taking soil samples, groundwater samples, seeing if it’s contaminated, and then making the plan of if it needs to be cleaned up, why it needs to be cleaned up. These were inactive sites, like an old gas station that had closed down or a site that previously had a dry cleaner,” said Halley. “We would clean up those inactive sites and turn them into useful land. So we would clean up a contaminated gas station to acceptable safe levels and then maybe someone would buy it and turn it into something else, like a restaurant or a shopping mall.”

Halley said she loved her time at DNREC and after working there from 2012-14, she decided to go back to school to get her master’s degree.

At the University of Texas, Halley is focused on the environmental side of geology, specifically on the soil moisture deficit in the state.

“Texas is a drought state, which is so different from when I was working in Delaware where we wanted to focus on the quality of water in Delaware — and water quality is an issue everywhere — but there was never a quantity issue, like, ‘Oh where is the water coming from? Will we have enough water?’ And that’s all anyone ever talks about in Texas,” said Halley.

Researching at a field site in Fredericksburg, Texas, which is about two hours from Austin, Halley uses soil moisture probes that have been installed in the ground that constantly measure the soil moisture.

“My research is helping to calibrate those probes so that it’s a more soil-specific calibration that’s more specific to each type of soil throughout the site instead of a factory-supplied calibration which is not very accurate. So it’s a small piece of a large project that is measuring soil moisture throughout a specific network,” said Halley.

Halley said that soil moisture is important to know for many different factors such as irrigation scheduling and how to best manage water resources in general.

“It’s a small piece of the water budget as a whole but it’s really crucial and it’s the most difficult to quantify, so there’s a lot of work now, especially to quantify that soil moisture so you know how much water you have for other aspects,” said Halley.

As for her time at UD, Halley said that she really wanted to stress how much she enjoyed her time studying NRM and the benefits of taking such an interdisciplinary major.

“You take a couple of economics classes and a couple of policy classes in addition to the science classes. Science and policy are very closely connected, and I saw that when I worked at DNREC. I was a scientist but for a government agency and not only did I have to understand how to interpret the regulations but I was part of helping to write guidelines for the people using those regulations,” Halley said. “So the major allowed me to see all aspects of natural resource management meaning the business portion which would be economics, the science which were my basic chemistry and biology classes and then the policy which were the natural resource policy classes, wildlife conservation policy classes, just branching all of those disciplines made me very well rounded when I went to look for a job.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD graduate Susan Mitchell prepares the next generation of agricultural leaders

UD graduate Susan Mitchell prepares the next generation of agricultural leadersGrowing up, University of Delaware graduate Susan Mitchell always swore that she would never be a teacher. Luckily for her and her students — the future generation of agricultural leaders that she teaches every day at Millsboro Middle School — she had a change of heart when she was in high school and got exposed to agriculture through her involvement with FFA.

“My entire family are teachers so I would always say, ‘I’m not doing this.’ I just wasn’t going to do it because my mom did it, but I ate my words pretty quickly,” said Mitchell, who now works in the same school district as most of her family members and was recently recognized as one of a select group of agriculture teachers nationwide who received the 2015 Teachers Turn the Key professional development scholarship.

As a scholarship recipient, Mitchell attended the National Association of Agricultural Educators annual convention in New Orleans last November, an experience that she called “one of the coolest things that I’ve done in my professional career. I learned a lot and I brought back a lot. I picked up awesome skills and techniques that really helped me, specifically in class. I appreciate them for sending me.”

Time at UD 

After initially heading to UD with the goal of becoming a veterinarian, Mitchell majored in animal and food sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, but soon realized that she was drawn to the educational aspects of agriculture and added agricultural education in her junior year.

“I liked the fun, hands-on stuff because that’s what got me into it. I didn’t think I wanted to be in a school. Originally, I wanted to work at a zoo but after student teaching, I knew I wanted to be in the classroom and I knew I wanted to be in Delaware, which has a tight-knit agriculture community,” said Mitchell.

At Millsboro Middle, Mitchell got to start her own agriculture education program, which she has run for the past three years, establishing an FFA chapter in the process.

Mitchell, who is also a member of the Delaware Association for Agriscience Educators (DAAE) – the organization that nominated her for the Teachers Turn the Key scholarship – teaches two classes a day of each sixth, seventh and eighth graders. She gets 42 minutes with each group to try to provide them insight into agricultural issues and prepare them for studies at Sussex Central High School, which is Millsboro Middle’s feeder school.

“They start out with an introduction to agriculture and FFA as a sixth graders. It’s a lot of history and early agricultural practices and what agriculture is, and a lot of FFA leadership information,” said Mitchell.

The seventh grade class does an embryology project where they work in groups to hatch their own poultry eggs, a project that is set up like an agricultural science fair project.

“They weigh them every day, candle for a peek inside the shell to determine development and record the change in weight of the egg throughout the incubation period,” said Mitchell. “Is it going to increase, decrease or stay the same? That’s one part of the poultry unit, then they move onto plants, learning propagation techniques, flower anatomy, plant anatomy, and then we do some really cool food labs with them.”

The eighth graders learn about animal science, with goats and pigs brought in for live demonstrations and to teach the students about showmanship if they want to show an animal at the Delaware State Fair. They study cows during their dairy unit to learn about milk and ice cream, and they also evaluate the dairy cattle to determine the strongest and weakest in the group.

“The students can strut their stuff when they actually know the anatomy, and they can explain and choose the best dairy cow in the group,” said Mitchell.

Educating non-agricultural students

Some of the students have an agricultural background but not all, and Mitchell said there are fewer than she anticipated.

“A lot of them have goats but they’ve never participated at the fair, so that’s a whole new thing for them. I really try to get them into it because summer activities are part of what makes FFA so cool. It’s not just any September to June club. It’s way more. It’s definitely a lifestyle,” said Mitchell.

The importance of having agricultural education teachers for the next generation cannot be understated, Mitchell said, explaining that she gets to disseminate information from growers to those who are not as familiar with agriculture.

“I think it’s probably one of the most important careers right now because people don’t know where their food comes from in a time where there’s a lot of controversy over a lot of agriculture issues,” Mitchell said. “Agriculture educators are the middlemen. We bridge that gap where we can educate people without being super technical.”

She added it is important to do an outstanding job as an agricultural educator because “the generation that I teach are the ones who are going to come up with the new food laws and with the better technology and the better practices for agriculture.”

Offering advice to current undergraduates considering careers in teaching, Mitchell said it is important that they find a support system, which for her is DAAE and fellow agricultural educators.

“Don’t get discouraged. It can be stressful. Kids can be different every day and your attitude can be different every day, so you just need to remember the good days and plug through the bad ones,” she said. “It’s just like anything else you do. Sometimes it’s awesome and sometimes it’s not, but you just need to remember on those bad days why you love it.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD alumna reflects on time at UD, experiences at veterinary school

UD alumna reflects on time at UD, experiences at veterinary schoolUniversity of Delaware alumna Rebecca Radisic had been an East Coaster all her life but when it was time to apply to veterinary schools, her gaze gradually shifted toward the West.

Now in veterinary school at the University of California, Davis, Radisic, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), said she has no regrets about applying for a school that she thought was a long shot.

“When I applied, it was definitely one of my reach schools. I knew I had the numbers and statistics to get an interview, but I was still very unsure whether that would happen,” Radisic said. “My thought process was ‘if I get an interview, I get to see the West Coast for the first time.’ I think in the back of my mind I knew that I was really intrigued by the UC Davis curriculum, though, and the interview really solidified how much I enjoyed the school. I kept Davis in the back of my mind just because I knew how hard it was for someone out of state to get in.”

Radisic, who was recently awarded a second place outstanding senior award from National Block and Bridle, an honor for which she applied while a senior at UD, said it was a tough choice between UC Davis and an Eastern veterinary school. Ultimately what drew her to UD Davis was the curriculum and the feeling she got during her interview.

“I felt comfortable on campus. The vibes that the students gave off were very approachable. Also, the curriculum really drew me in. Starting right away your first year you have a required class in which one Thursday a month you have your schedule completely free to go in and shadow a certain area of the teaching hospital. I loved that Davis really wanted to try to get us hands-on with animals as soon as possible,” said Radisic.

Another big plus was the adventure aspect, with Radisic relishing the opportunity to try out the West Coast.

“My whole family lives in Philadelphia. I grew up about 30 minutes from there. Why not try something completely new that I may never have the chance to do again? If it turns out that I am very much an East Coaster, I could always come back after vet school. So far, I have zero regrets about choosing this school,” said Radisic.

As for her time at UD, Radisic said that certain classes, such as anatomy and comparative physiology, as well as biochemistry and molecular biology of the cell, helped her prepare for veterinary school.

She also singled out the classes she took with Erin Brannick, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and the director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory.

“I cannot say enough kind things about both of Dr. Brannick’s classes – histology and biomedical communications. Both of them were very helpful during my first case research exercises and histology, especially in any of the microscope labs we’ve had. It’s so helpful to have had a background in looking at those tissues before,” said Radisic.

“Furthermore, just being at an ag school and being exposed to the large animal side of things was really beneficial, even if that’s not necessarily what I want to go into. Ultimately, I also think all of the opportunities UD had to get involved really helped me with time management and balance. Once I got to vet school, I felt very secure in taking on clubs and extracurriculars to help me unwind.”

Radisic said it was helpful for her to maintain an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of her veterinary and animal hours, tallying the hours after any experience. That exercise helped her quantify experiences on her veterinary school applications.

Radisic also said that for any current undergraduates who are planning to go to veterinary school, in addition to working hard and getting good grades, it is very important to do what feels right for them as individuals.

“If you absolutely know from previous experience that you’re not a horse person and you would get nothing from an internship revolving around them, don’t do it. Apply for experiences and internships that actually get you interested and excited because those are the things that will stand out in an application and beyond that will inform you of where you want your future veterinary career to go,” said Radisic, who added that at the same time, students shouldn’t be afraid to try things out of their comfort zone.

“If you’ve only every worked with cows before, don’t be afraid to try out a small animal internship or volunteer experience over the summer. Keep an open mind and just go with the flow. If you really are passionate about what you’re doing it will work out in the end,” she said.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD graduate works with youths, grows crops at Historic Penn Farm

Becca Manning, a graduate of UD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has taken interests developed in Chile to become farm manager at the Historic Penn Farm in New Castle.As she worked on a dairy farm in Chile to learn how to make cheese after graduating from the University of Delaware, Becca Manning never would have imagined that her cheese making curiosity would one day lead her to an interest in small, sustainable agriculture and ultimately the role of farm manager at Delaware Greenways’ Historic Penn Farm in New Castle.

In fact, as an undergraduate majoring in wildlife conservation in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and minoring in biological sciences, working on a farm seemed like an unlikely career destination.

Yet that is exactly where Manning finds herself and, as she puts it, it’s a perfect fit.

Manning started working in Chile as part of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) project where she became interested in small family, organic and sustainable farming. The farm on which she worked also grew vegetables for personal consumption and for the neighborhood in which they lived.

When she returned to the United States, Manning took a job making cheese in the West, where she got involved with farmers markets.

“That’s when I learned about the connection between agriculture, food and communities, and growing a healthy community and starting to really see how much that plays a role in people’s lives. I got really interested in re-connecting people with their food, and what better place to start than with young, impressionable minds,” said Manning.

At Historic Penn Farm, Manning is able to interact with students from William Penn High School who farm a four-acre plot of land, some of which is being incorporated into the school’s cafeteria system thanks to a recent Farms to Schools grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“It’s a great program. They’ve been growing on the farm for about four years now so this grant really allows them to take it to the next level and bring it into the cafeteria system,” said Manning.

The farm hires about 15 students over the summer who work Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. until noon, and those students are able to get a sense of what it’s like to be a farmer, completing all the day-to-day tasks from planting the seeds to harvesting. During the school year, around 150 students help out with their garden plot.

Manning said she thinks it’s “great to see these students really find a connection with the land where their food comes from and understand the importance of hard work and dedication. I really think that will carry with them hopefully forever, and there are just so many aspects of it that are really beneficial to them.”

Manning, who oversees all operations on the 112-acre farm, said that they also have other tenants who lease out acreage on the property, growing everything from broccoli, cauliflower and kale to pumpkins in the fall. They also grow okra, which Manning said was a big hit with the cafeterias this year.

Manning carries the education and experience she gained at UD with her on the job.

“I get to bring all that knowledge and really pay attention to the sustainability and the ecological health surrounding the farm, which plays a huge role in the success of whatever you do. Whether it’s growing crops or having animals who are foraging for grasses, it really is important to understand the ecological soundness of it, so it was kind of a perfect fit,” said Manning.

As for advice for any current undergraduates, Manning said it is important to be creative when trying to figure out a path or a career choice.

“I think it’s exciting to be a young person in this day and age. There are so many opportunities out there and with technology and the world changing the way it is, it really gives you a great opportunity to, if you’re creative enough, create your own path and create a whole new career of some sort. There are endless opportunities out there. I never thought I’d be a farmer but I’m still able to live and function as a member of society and I enjoy what I’m doing,” said Manning.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD’s equine science minor offers research, hands-on experiences

UD's equine science minor offers research, hands-on experiencesThe first students to receive minors in equine science graduated from the University of Delaware this spring, and with dedicated faculty members and state of the art facilities for both laboratory and field work, the minor is off and running in its second year.

The equine science minor, housed in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), was created through a generous gift from Stuart M. and Suzanne B. Grant of Greenville, Delaware. The couple have operated a horse breeding and racing enterprise since 2001, and in 2009, Stuart began taking animal sciences courses at UD.

“We want students to be proud of where they are 10, 20 years from now,” says Grant, who is also a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. “And when you look at the education and opportunities these kids are getting here at UD, you know they will be.”

Part of those opportunities are ones Grant has helped create. In addition to providing the funds to establish the minor, the Grants’ C-Dog Farm, a foaling facility that also has thoroughbreds and mares, in Chesapeake City, Maryland, will welcome students this spring to be involved in caring for mares and foals.

Amy Biddle, assistant professor of animal and food sciences, said the students will be doing their senior capstone course at the farm and that Grant has been “very generous in making that farm not only accessible for students, but retrofitting it with video cameras and viewing rooms to make it a place for students to come and learn.”

Biddle serves as the instructor for the minor along with Annie Renzetti, a supplemental professional in the department. The two instructors complement each other nicely, with Biddle serving in a research role and Renzetti bringing a wealth of clinical experience.

“Amy and I get along awesomely and she’s very much in the gut microbe research bent, which is fascinating to me. I’m a little bit more real world veterinary, in there slogging it in the trenches with the horses,” Renzetti said. “The two-prong approach is neat because you’ve got the laboratory for people who want to pursue a lab internship path, and I’m there for more of veterinary information, the whole horse picture.”

“Dr. Renzetti brings a wealth of clinical experience and a real enthusiasm for teaching,” Biddle said. “She has an incredible amount of information but also connects well with students, so she’s just a fantastic teacher.”

The minor, as well as individual courses, are open to students from across the University.

“From everybody who’s never seen or touched a horse to people who have a passing interest, all students are welcome – and it’s not just welcome to the minor but the different classes, as well. I really see it as a way to get some science classes in if you’re a music major or an economics major. It’s a friendly science program,” said Renzetti.

Biddle added that one of Grant’s missions was to make the program accessible to anyone at UD.

“It’s really important to his mission to involve students as much as possible and that the minor be attracting students from a wide range of the University, because there’s strength in that,” said Biddle.

The two instructors added that Delaware’s location is ideal for an equine science program.

“Delaware is uniquely situated for horse research and education because we have so many different equestrian activities close by. Besides thoroughbred and standardbred racing at Delaware Park and Dover Downs, we have Fair Hill Training Center, with amazing facilities for race training, veterinary care and therapy, as well as Fair Hill International which hosts a wide range of competitive events, from eventing to endurance. UD’s backyard is rich with horse activity in every direction,” said Biddle.

Renzetti added, “Delaware is centrally located for many equine pursuits, not to mention the ones we have in and of ourselves at UD, and being so close to University of Pennsylvania with their New Bolton Center and being able to tap into that wealth of knowledge is just awesome.”

Equine graduates

Elizabeth Vacchiano is one of the students who graduated in May with a minor in equine science and is hoping to one day have a career in the equine field.

She said that the minor did a great job of combining in-class course work with hands-on experiences in the field, culminating with a capstone course where she and her group had to create an equine business.

“My group created a therapeutic riding center and we had to go through every single step of creating a business. We had to think about everything from the pastures, the diseases our horses could have, the vaccinations, the zoning laws concerning how to keep horses, nutrient management, every single little step, and I really enjoyed it,” said Vacchiano.

She also had the opportunity to do a foaling internship at C-Dog Farm and her pasture management class was able to take samples and evaluate the pastures at the farm.

“I loved learning all about it in class, theoretically putting it together and then being able to actually go out and do it. I feel so prepared to go out and know what I’m talking about because I did it,” said Vacchiano.

Vacchiano said she is grateful to the farm manager and assistant farm manager at C-Dog Farm for taking the time out to answer any questions that she had, and she hopes to one day be in charge of a facility that allows her to teach University students much like she was taught.

Vacchiano said the minor covers all aspects of horse health, and that she enjoyed the plant science classes and the behavior classes, and that the minor is science based which is incredibly important for a young person going into the equine industry.

You’re taking other science classes that aren’t just about horses. That is something that I think a lot of people forget about. The animal is obviously very important but what’s going into that animal? What’s in your pastures, and your water, and your hay quality? There’s a lot of important things that this minor is going to show you,” said Vacchiano.

Vacchiano said anyone interested in research should look into getting involved with the industry.

“The equine industry is an untapped area for research. There are so many more things that we can learn and we can discover, so many questions that we don’t have answered, and it would make the industry so much better if we had those answers,” said Vacchiano.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan and Lindsay Yeager

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CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

Six graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors – the George M. Worrilow Award as well as four Distinguished Alumni Awards and a Distinguished Young Alumni Award – during a ceremony held Friday, Nov. 6, as part of Homecoming festivitiesSix graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors – the George M. Worrilow Award as well as four Distinguished Alumni Awards and a Distinguished Young Alumni Award – during a ceremony held Friday, Nov. 6, as part of Homecoming festivities.

The awards are given based on a clear record of outstanding career accomplishments, service and leadership to the profession, and community service, including service to UD.

George M. Worrilow Award

Charles C. Allen III was presented with CANR’s George M. Worrilow Award, named for the dean of the college from 1954-65 whose career was dedicated to better agriculture and better agricultural education.

It is given annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a graduate of the college who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture.

Of receiving the award, Allen said he was pleasantly surprised.

Allen served as president of Allen Family Foods Inc., which was founded by his grandfather in 1919, from 1998 until 2008. Until 2011, the company was based in Seaford, Delaware, and was an industry leader and a global exporter of premium poultry products.

At its height, Allen Family Foods packed approximately 12 million pounds of finished products per week and employed more than 3,000 people.

The Allen family, including three generations of alumni, has long supported UD in such areas as scholarship programs and research facilities, including the Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory for poultry disease research.

On the importance of giving back, Allen said, “I’ve been fortunate and I think it’s incumbent upon those who have had good fortune and good starts in life, a good basic foundation, to give back. Some generation ahead of me gave back, I think I should do the same. I think all of us should do the same.”

Allen said that he has seen firsthand the great impact that scholarships can have on students.

“I think it gives them encouragement. It gives them an outward vote of confidence. Somebody else believes that I can do what I’m seeking out to do. And I’ve seen it help students overcome some hurdles of self confidence,” Allen said. “That’s the reward that you get. Giving the money is easy; seeing the result of it is what you really look for. And I’ll tell you this, my exposure to students gives me faith in the future.”

Allen served on the University of Delaware Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1993 and has been a member of the Delaware Diamonds Society since 1996. He has made several significant contributions to CANR, including gifts to the Agriculture Biotechnology Center, the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, Allen Lab, CANR Undergraduate Research, and the Cooperative Extension Program.

Allen was honored with a place on the University’s Alumni Wall of Fame in 2006.

From 1992-93, he was chairman of the National Chicken Council in Washington, D.C. In October of 2012, he was elected National Honorary Life Member of the Chicken Council.

In August of 1992, Allen had the honor to meet with President George H.W. Bush in the Oval Office of the White House.

Allen received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from UD in 1971, and his son, Chad Allen, also received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from UD in 1998.

Distinguished Alumni

Mary Denigan-Macauley is an assistant director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, D.C., where she leads the agency’s work related to food safety and agriculture production and defense. In this role, Denigan-Macauley has led reviews of numerous federal programs to improve the safety of the nation’s food supply and to prevent, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and terrorist attacks on livestock and poultry.

Her work helped to shape legislation and public policy in several key areas, most notably on agroterrorism. Through the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Denigan-Macualey also worked to improve government auditing of agricultural programs worldwide and enhance professional capacities. Prior to joining GAO, she taught program evaluation and comparative public policy for Troy University in Japan.

Denigan-Macauley earned a doctorate in public policy from Arizona State University in 1997. She earned a master of dairy science degree from the University of Arizona in 1991, and a bachelor of science degree in animal science from UD in 1988.

Devan Mehrotra

Devan Mehrotra is associate vice president of biostatistics and research decision sciences at Merck Research Laboratories (MRL). He is also an adjunct associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Over the past 25 years, Mehrotra has made significant contributions toward the research, development and regulatory approval of medical drugs and vaccines across a broad spectrum of therapeutic areas. In addition, he has served as a subject matter expert for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences and the International Conference on Harmonization. His recent focus has been on developing innovative approaches that leverage human genetics to enable personalized medicine.

Mehrotra was elected an American Statistical Association Fellow in 2008 and an MRL Presidential Fellow in 2012. He earned his doctorate in statistics from UD in 1991. Mehrotra earned a master of science degree in statistics from the University of Bombay in India in 1986 and a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and statistics from St. Xavier’s College in Bombay in 1984.

Kenneth Raffa

Kenneth Raffa, Vilas Distinguished Professor, has served as forest entomologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, since 1985. Raffa studies population dynamics of forest insects, especially the chemical signaling involved in plant defense, predator-prey interactions and microbial symbiosis. He teaches forest entomology, plant-insect interactions and scientific presentations. Thirty-six graduate degrees have been awarded under his mentorship, and his students now hold prominent positions in universities, industry and government.

Raffa once worked as a section research biologist at the DuPont Experimental Station, has published over 300 papers, and has won honors from the Entomological Society of America, the International Society of Chemical Ecology, the Spitze Land Grant Foundation and the University of Wisconsin.

He has served on advisory panels addressing various natural resource issues such as invasive species, pesticides, and biotechnology for the National Research Council, U.S. Forest Service, state agencies and corporations. He has also served on grant panels for the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture, and was a subject editor for three scientific journals.

Raffa earned a doctorate from Washington State University in 1980. He obtained a master of science degree from UD in 1974, studying biological control of gypsy moths under Roland Roth and Dale Bray. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia; he was a first generation college graduate.

H. Don Tilmon

H. Don Tilmon began his academic career at Lynchburg College in Virginia, where he was associate professor of business administration, department chair and director of the MBA program. In 1978, Tilmon accepted the position of Cooperative Extension farm management specialist at UD’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC).

Tilmon, who was promoted to full professor, conducted research for the development of crop insurance for six new vegetable crop policies in Delaware, as well as provided educational programs on the topic to growers. Tilmon also worked with Delaware farmers, privately and individually, to assist them in making financial and production decisions to help manage financial stress due to the 1980s Farm Crisis.

Tilmon served most recently as director for the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education at UD. In addition, Tilmon was the national program leader for farm management at the National Extension Service/U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. During three separate one-year “shared faculty” assignments at USDA, he also served as the national program leader for risk management education.

Tilmon earned a doctorate at Purdue University in 1971. He earned a master of science degree from UD in 1967, a bachelor of science degree from the University of Missouri in 1965, and an associate of science degree in 1963 at the School of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri.

Distinguished Young Alumni

Jared Ali

Jared Ali is an assistant professor of entomology at Michigan State University. Ali’s lab focuses on the natural defenses of plants and how plants, herbivores, and beneficial natural enemies communicate.

Ali has authored over 20 peer reviewed journal articles, review papers, and book chapters. He has been invited to give lectures, seminars and presentations on his research at universities and professional meetings both nationally and internationally. He is a major inventor on two patents for chemical attractants for both insects and nematodes. He looks forward to establishing his career as a mentor for students from diverse backgrounds and assisting them in achieving success as future scientists.

Ali developed a longing to explore an alternative path of knowledge while studying at private Quaker grade schools in Pennsylvania. He left high school during his junior year to travel throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. Thomas Lewis’ The Lives of a Cell ultimately inspired him to study biological interactions and evolution.

Upon earning a doctorate at the University of Florida in 2011 and receiving the Pauline O. Lawrence Award in Physiology/Biochemistry, Ali accepted an opportunity to study plant defense and multitrophic interactions in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, where he was awarded a USDA-NIFA-AFRI postdoctoral fellowship.

Ali earned his master of science degree in entomology and applied ecology at UD in 2008 and received a bachelor of arts degree in biological sciences from the University in 2005.

Photos by Wenbo Fan

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UD graduate Natalie Miller finds success working with animals large and small

UD graduate Natalie Miller finds success working with animals large and smallAs University of Delaware graduate Natalie Miller puts it, her career path in the field of animal science and veterinary medicine is “constantly evolving.”

That evolution finds her currently working at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Division of Cardiovascular Devices as a veterinary medical officer, primarily reviewing animal studies for firms that are developing new cardiovascular devices for humans and are attempting to initiate clinical trials in the United States.

Prior to her work with the FDA, Miller worked with both small animals at Graylyn Crest Animal Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, and large animals as the export manager for LI Animal Health.

Miller’s non-traditional road to her veterinary degree and her doctorate began soon after she graduated from UD in 2002 with a degree in animal science.

Instead of going straight to veterinary school, she decided to take some time to figure things out and ended up traveling and working abroad, spending three months in Switzerland and six months in Croatia working on a livestock loan program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“That gave me a little bit of a sense of the international community as far as working at that point in war-affected areas of Croatia,” said Miller, who explained that the program was designed to help farmers in the area who did not have a lot of capital.

Back stateside

After returning from overseas, Miller started a post baccalaureate program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she worked in a lab studying HIV.

Having gained experience at UD working in a lab with Carl Schmidt, professor of animal and food sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Miller said that she enjoyed the NIH program. “That program is fantastic for students that are out of undergrad and preparing to go to graduate school or medical school,” said Miller.

Following her time at NIH, Miller determined that she was ready for veterinary school and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s combined VMD/Ph.D. degree program.

Miller started the program in 2004 and finished in 2013.

With her husband completing his graduate degree, Miller had to find work in the Philadelphia area and wanted to work with large animals but realized that would be tough in the city. “There aren’t a whole lot of cows around so I was trying to figure out how to balance all of these things, and I ended up getting two different part-time jobs,” said Miller.

The first was a traditional small animal veterinary medicine job working 12 to 15 hours a week the Graylyn Crest facility. She also worked as the export manager for LI Animal Health, a company that exports livestock overseas. It was a job that she found through one of her mentors at veterinary school.

“She put me in touch with a company representative to see if it would be a good match so I worked with him for about two years and learned a ton about the export business and, honestly, I had no idea that it was even a thing that happened. That was really exciting,” said Miller.

Miller also said that it was great to be able to work with both large and small animals in the two jobs.

“It was a nice foundation for me in both ways and they were very contrasting and very different jobs and it was a lot of fun to be able to do both things,” said Miller.

Evolution continues

Two years into the jobs, however, Miller found herself on the move again as her husband found a job in the Washington, D.C., area.

That’s when Miller started her work at the FDA. Of her current position, she said “It’s completely different but a lot of fun. It’s definitely something that I never would have known anything about as an animal science student or even as a veterinary student, but it’s a great fit.”

Veterinary advice

As for any advice to current undergraduates looking to get into veterinary school, Miller said it is important to understand the financial implications, as vet school can be expensive. She also said that it is important for anyone considering a career as a veterinarian to enjoy talking and interacting with people.

“When I’m working in small animal medicine, 99 percent of my day is interacting with clients. Very little of it is actually interacting with the animals at all and if I can’t interact and talk to the clients and explain why I want to do the things that I want to do with their animals, I don’t get anywhere,” said Miller.

Miller also said there is no shame in waiting a few years to figure out if veterinary school is truly the right option.

“Take a year off, work in a clinic, work somewhere else and make sure that the decision really is the right one for you. An extra year or two is not going to make a difference in the long run and if it means that you’re more sure of your decision then it’s definitely worthwhile,” said Miller.

As for her time at UD, Miller said that she absolutely loved it.

“I had a fantastic experience at UD. I love the program, I love the animal and food science department, I love the fact that the college was a smaller, more cozy home in the south of campus but that you were still a part of this big university where you had so much diversity and so many different activities that you could be a part of,” said Miller. “I was really active in the Animal Science Club while I was in school and just got to do so many amazing things through that club and through being an animal science student. I spent a lot of time out on the farm and it was just a great experience all the way around.”

Veterinary school success

Miller is just one of many successful students that studied pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences while at CANR and went on to a career in veterinary medicine. As of 2011, the department has over 170 alumni veterinarians and the department will have 45 more in the coming years.

There are currently alumni studying at 12 different veterinary schools and from 2012-14, graduates of the pre-vet program at UD have been offered admission at 18 of the 28 veterinary schools across the United States and six schools internationally.

The program is also a major feeder school for the University of Pennsylvania with 12 UD alumni entering the Penn Veterinary School in the past two years and 10 others that graduated from Penn in 2013.

In 2014, 9 out of 12 student applicants were accepted to veterinary schools and those students were accepted to half –14 of the 28 – United States vet schools and three international schools.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD graduate Jenna Byers finds career with Kellogg’s

UD graduate Jenna Byers finds career with Kellogg'sAs an undergraduate at the University of Delaware studying food and agribusiness marketing and management (FABM) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Jenna Byers was able to learn about food retailing, customer behavior and how to analyze the best sales strategies for particular markets.

Byers also worked as the marketing manager for the UDairy Creamery, which gave her hands-on experience in business and marketing.

It was with these tools in hand that Byers was able to get a job with Kellogg’s as a senior customer analyst directly after graduating from UD.

Now in her second year with the company, Byers has recently been promoted to account executive, a job that allows her to travel up and down the East Coast as she supports the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia area wholesale accounts — such as Redner’s Markets and Farm Fresh Supermarkets — for the company.

Byers works with snacks for Kellogg’s and manages the company’s portfolio of products such as Cheez-It and Keebler cookies for those wholesale accounts. She said her job is made up of responsibilities that she learned about while an undergraduate at UD.

“In the FABM program, we took a lot of classes about food retailing and consumer behavior, and that’s pretty much exactly what I’m doing at Kellogg’s – looking at the customers and the markets and figuring out what the best sales are and what the best ways to reach those consumers are,” said Byers. “It’s great because a lot of it lines up with exactly what I was learning from Dr. Ulrich Toensmeyer, Dr. John Bernard (both professors of applied economics and statistics) and the classes there.”

Toensmeyer said of Byers, “If you’re looking for a role model, someone to represent the FABM program, she would be it. Her enthusiasm, her passion and her work ethic, you put them all together and that’s Jenna.”

In her previous role at Kellogg’s as a senior customer analyst, Byers said she would perform shipment tracking and return on investment analysis, where she would look at the most effective price points for certain products. “It’s looking at what people buy and what the best prices are,” said Byers.

In her new role as an account executive, Byers said that because most of the stores are already carrying well-known products like Cheez-It, she is mostly involved with selling new items, such as a new flavor of Cheez-It or a new cookie or flavor of Nutrigrain or Special K bar.

Of her favorite part of the job, Byers said it would be the opportunity to work with such a well-known company. “The brands that we have are definitely family brands, they are brands that people know, so it’s fun to sell,” said Byers. “It definitely makes the day interesting and when you walk in and you’re selling Cheez-Its and cookies and things like that. It makes the job more fun.”

UD experience

In addition to her time in the FABM program, Byers said that working at the UDairy Creamery as an undergraduate was an excellent learning experience.

“Since it is student run and faculty supported, we really got to have a lot of say in what was going on. We could try out different ideas, so a lot of the things that I learned about how to sell and how to market products and reach consumers are things that I’ve been able to replicate here, and really kind of hit the ground running,” said Byers.

Byers was also helped along the way at UD by receiving the Charles and Patricia Genuardi Scholarship.

Byers said that receiving the scholarship from someone like Charles Genuardi – who graduated from UD in 1970, was inducted into the UD Alumni Wall of Fame in 2005 and served as chairman, president and CEO of Genuardi’s Family Markets from 1990 until the family sold the business to Safeway Inc. in 2001 – and Patricia Genuardi was a double bonus as it helped her not only financially but also gave her great mentors as she started her career.

“Having that relationship with Mr. Genuardi and Mrs. Genuardi, they were mentors for me through my time at UD and they continue to be now that I’ve been out in the real world,” said Byers. “He has been and still is very successful in the grocery industry and that’s where I made my home career-wise. I’ve been able to, both when I was in school and now, reach out to him and get his feedback. It has been great for me to have him as a mentor, somebody that I can bounce ideas off.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

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UD graduate Lemond Adams goes from kitchen to classroom

Lemond Adams goes from chef to studentWhen University of Delaware graduate Lemond Adams decided that at age 30 he wanted to leave his job as a sous chef in Philadelphia — one who had worked with some of the best chefs in the city and helped open three restaurants — he was certain of just one thing, that he wanted to go back to school.

Adams was not sure what he wanted to study but as has often been the case in his life, his wife had the answer. When she suggested food science, Adams knew he found the perfect match.

“My wife said, ‘You love food and I know you like science’ so she started researching and found food science programs. I looked into the subject and thought it was awesome. I had never heard of it before but I was like, ‘Yeah, this is perfect,’” said Adams, who graduated in May with his bachelor’s degree in food science from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

After checking out Rutgers and Drexel universities, Adams’ wife suggested that he apply to UD. Adams traveled to Newark to visit UD and set up a meeting at Townsend Hall. The only problem was that when he got off the train, he started walking north toward main campus instead of south toward the CANR campus.

“I walked all the way up to Smith Hall and I’m like, ‘Where’s Townsend?’ and everyone I asked said, ‘It’s all the way back down there.’ So I walked all the way back down and I was a little late for my meeting, but I just loved everything about the University and the college,” said Adams. “I met with Dr. Rolf Joerger [associate professor of animal and food sciences] and he was a great person to talk to and answered a lot of my questions, and then I applied.”

Adams, who had experience with higher education after studying culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, started at UD in the fall of 2012 and after the initial shock of walking into one of the larger lecture halls with students half his age, settled in to life as an undergraduate and found that his experience and age helped him in his studies.

“I would talk to the professors more and I wasn’t as shy as the younger students,” said Adams. “If I didn’t get something, I wasn’t afraid to ask. At the same time, sometimes in some of those lecture halls, you can raise your hand to ask something and everyone turns around like, ‘Who is the old guy back there with the questions?’”

Adams also could draw on his experience working as a sous chef for Jose Garces, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic best chef award and the coveted title of Food Network’s Iron Chef, at Amada in Philadelphia.

“I started working at Amada and then I opened up one restaurant for Jose and that’s where I met my wife. Then I opened two more restaurants, another one for Jose and one for [restaurateur] Stephen Starr,” said Adams. “I was one of Jose’s sous chefs so essentially I was second in command and at times first in command. There was a period of time when I was in charge of Amada, which was fun and stressful at the same time.”

That stress and the desire to spend more time with his family led Adams to UD, where he found that being an undergraduate with a family can have its own challenges, most notably time management, which got a lot tougher in 2013 when Adams and his wife welcomed a son.

“He was born in September and I was actually in a lecture when my wife started going into labor,” said Adams. “I texted her, ‘You OK?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be fine.’ And I said I wouldn’t be there until 3 and it was 10 a.m. About five minutes went by and she said, ‘Yeah, come now.’ Of course, I was up at north campus and my car was parked in south campus so I didn’t know if I should walk down or if I should wait for the bus. I didn’t know what would be faster.”

Now that he has graduated, Adams works at David Michael and Co., an ingredients supplier in northeast Philadelphia, and he said that he wouldn’t be where he is today if it hadn’t been for his wife and his family.

“She’s really been my support and my backbone through this whole process, encouraging me, pushing me on and listening to me complain — essentially being that support for me,” said Adams, who noted that his wife started this entire process. “It’s funny because she started doing research and suggested food science, she came to me and said, ‘well, what about the University of Delaware?’ and every move that we’ve made thus far has been great.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD professor, graduate look at effects of non-native plants on herbivores

UD professor, graduate look at effects of non-native plants on herbivoresNot only do native plants do a better job of hosting and supporting local insect communities than their non-native counterparts, but a University of Delaware study shows that non-native plants are compounding the problem of declining species diversity by supporting fewer herbivores across landscapes.

The research was conducted by UD alumna Karin Burghardt and Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and published in a recent issue of Ecology Letters.

To conduct the study, the researchers planted imitation yards with different common gardens of both native and non-native tree species and collected data over a three-year period, measuring the herbivore communities and species found on those plants.

They compared native trees to non-native trees that had no close native relative and to non-natives that are closely related to the native community.

Within the distantly related group, they found that herbivores were less diverse when they looked at individual non-native tree species, and as they moved from one non-native tree species to another, they found similar species of herbivores using those trees.

“You get this compounding effect where you have a lower diversity of herbivores per tree but then you also are getting more similar species as you move between trees species and among sites, so you end up with even less diverse communities than you would expect,” said Burghardt.

They found this to be especially true of non-native plants that had no close native relative.

“There is this group of species of non-natives that do not have any close native relatives at all. These non-natives support more generalized and redundant herbivore communities than the native plants that they’re potentially replacing on landscapes,” said Burghardt, who added that this is especially true for young herbivores that use the plants for food.

Tallamy said that finding young herbivores on a plant is a good indication of how that plant is supporting the local ecosystem, as opposed to finding adults, which could be on a plant for a number of reasons, such as resting or looking for a mate.

“The relationship between the adult and food is far weaker than the relationship between immatures and food, so when you find adults on the non-natives, it doesn’t mean that much. When you find immatures, that’s what you should be measuring,” Tallamy said. “Those are the plants that are creating those immatures and so we do get significant differences between the immatures that are using native plants versus the immatures using non-natives.”

When it comes to non-native plants that are congeners — non-native plants with a close native relative, such as Norway maple and red maple — the researchers found that those seem to support herbivore populations across sites more similar to those on natives than the non-native plants that have no native relatives at all.

Tallamy said that few unique species were found on these non-native congeners, as most species found were also living on their native relative.

He also stressed that that native plants always do the best job per tree of supporting herbivore communities when compared to their non-native counterparts. This study expands the understanding of that fact by looking at whether that lower per tree diversity is magnified further by non-natives hosting more similar communities across trees species and locations.

Burghardt said the goal of the research was to understand how the composition of the plants that homeowners plant in their yards affects herbivore communities.

“If you think about it, you’re driving around the suburban environment, and every time a new development goes in, you have a lot of decision making happening as to what plant species are going to be planted around those properties,” Burghardt said. “If we do all that landscaping with non-native plants, are we limiting the wildlife and conservation support system that could be available within that given plot of land? What the gardens we constructed for the study are trying to replicate are landscaping decisions that people might make if they wanted to support native insect communities that in turn support much of the diversity around us.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Tallamy, Darke to present in-depth discussion of book ‘The Living Landscape’

Doug Tallamy (Professor of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology and PI) is working with Emily Baisden (graduate student in entomology) to compare the ability of insects to use the cultivars vs straight species of plants
Doug Tallamy (Professor of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology and PI) is working with Emily Baisden (graduate student in entomology) to compare the ability of insects to use the cultivars vs straight species of plants

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) will host Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke for an in-depth discussion of their new book The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden on Monday, Sept. 28, from 6:30-9 p.m. in the Townsend Hall Commons on UD’s South Campus.

Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Darke is a UD alumnus, author, photographer and landscape ethicist.

The cost is $20 for UDBG Friends and $25 for non-members. Space is limited and pre-payment is required to guarantee entry. Send payment to UDBG, 152 Townsend Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, or call 302-831-2531.

Tallamy has authored 80 research articles and has taught for 33 years. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities.

His book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens was published by Timber Press in 2007 and was awarded the 2008 Silver Medal by the Garden Writers’ Association.

At the Sept. 28 event, he will speak on the topic “Creating Living Landscapes.” An important component of a living landscapes is a diverse and abundant community of pollinators and while much has been written about native bees, the thousands of species of moth and butterfly pollinators have been ignored.

Tallamy will discuss the important ecological roles of these species and discuss the plants required to support their populations in landscapes.

Darke’s work is grounded in an observational ethic that blends art, ecology and cultural geography in the design of living landscapes. His many books include The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest.

During the presentation, Darke will discuss the essential layers of living landscapes. The richness of life in any landscape is linked to the diversity in its layers, and this is true for both people and wildlife.

Darke will look at layers from ground cover to canopy and will describe and illustrate how to conserve, create and manage them in home landscapes that are beautiful, maintainable, and joyfully alive.

An audience question and answer session will follow the presentation, and copies of the book will be available for sale and signing by the co-authors.

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

UD graduate Radhika Samant finds career with Thomson Reuters

UD graduate Radhika Samant finds career with Thomson ReutersRecent University of Delaware graduate Radhika Samant always envisioned herself beginning her career in the environmental field but when she was offered a job to work at Thomson Reuters in New York City following Commencement, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Samant, who graduated in May with a bachelor of science degree in environmental and resource economics from the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC) in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and a bachelor of arts degree in economics from the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, will begin work in the Thomson Reuters client specialist associates program.

She will shadow current specialists and meet with clients and guide them through the process of using the company’s products and services, all the while getting feedback from those clients and reporting it back to the firm.

“I will be the face of Thomson Reuters for our clients,” said Samant who added that although the job isn’t directly in the environmental field, she is thrilled to work for a company that takes initiatives to be environmentally friendly.

“They truly embody those green principles, so I’m excited to be working for a company that’s more green in its vision than others,” said Samant.

Another thing that has Samant excited is the fact that she will be living in New York City with an office in Times Square.

“It will be overwhelming coming from a small town in Delaware – and Delaware will always be my home – but I’m excited to explore the city and have a new beginning,” said Samant.

Rigorous job application 

As for the application process, Samant explained that she was chosen out of a field of over 800 applicants nationwide, although she didn’t know the job was that competitive when she initially applied.

“I had no idea there were 800 applicants for the New York office – they’re also launching the client specialist associates program in Chicago and Toronto – and they narrowed it down to a couple hundred for a video interview,” said Samant, adding, “I’m glad I didn’t know how competitive it was because I kind of just put my best foot forward.”

After the video interview, Thomson Reuters narrowed the field to 36 finalists and Samant traveled to New York City for an all-day interview process that involved group and individual activities.

“I had to prepare two pitches beforehand and had individual interviews, and they observed us doing group scenario work, so it was definitely the most difficult interview I’ve done. But I really liked it because it gave you a lot of opportunity to explain why you’d be good for the job,” said Samant.

Samant said that there were around 19 client specialist associates hired in all of North America, with 10 of the new hires in the New York office. She expects that the new associates will be working as a team until they start getting their own individual clients.

Career advice

For UD students who will be graduating and entering the world of work, Samant said her best advice is to use the University Career Services Center’s Blue Hen Careers system, to take advantage of the opportunities given to them by the UD faculty, and to keep an open mind.

“Blue Hen Careers is where I found most of the jobs that I applied to. I found this one on Blue Hen Careers and I would say that you should just apply for anything,” Samant said. “If you think you’re under qualified or even overqualified or if you think it’s a job that you hadn’t considered before, just apply everywhere and keep your ears and eyes open.  Just be persistent and don’t get discouraged at all.”

She praised the assistance offered by UD faculty members, citing Steven Hastings, professor and associate chair of APEC. She said professors are “always helping you out, and sending you different job postings – it will be fine.”

Samant said she interviewed and applied for different jobs throughout her senior year, and was surprised at how difficult it was to find a job.

“Thomson Reuters was the first job that I interviewed for right after I graduated and it was the one I ended up getting. I feel very lucky and I’m really excited,” said Samant.

Being active with internships was also key for Samant, who did an internship each summer as an undergrad at UD – one in entrepreneurial studies, one with APEC professor Tom Ilvento and one with the Delaware Water Resources Center.

Samant also said that having the double major allowed her to get exposure to the world of economics and the environment.

“I think with an economics degree, it’s not as specific so it leaves a lot of room to study what you want to study,” she said. “Not only did I study economics in depth but I also got to take those concepts and apply them to natural resource management and environmental issues. That’s something that I could take either way – I could go down the environmental route or go down the business route, it’s an intersection of both so I think that it was really cool to have that.”

She also said she enjoyed studying in APEC.

“I feel like faculty in this department actually know their students by first name, which is hard to find in a lot of bigger universities. But Dr. Hastings has helped me with everything from classes to internships to jobs. He really had a huge impact on my college career, and the entire faculty was great.”

In addition to Hastings and Ilvento, she cited Joshua Duke, professor of food and resource economics, economics and legal studies, who she said was a favorite.

“Everyone in the department is really great,” said Samant.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Steve Hastings

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD graduate Jessica Palmer offers advice to future vet school applicants

Jessica Palmer offers advice for applying to veterinary schoolWhen Jessica Palmer enrolled in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, she knew that she wanted to go to veterinary school upon graduation and, as with most pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences students, she knew that an arduous application process and difficult workload awaited.

Palmer spent a month and a half of one summer filling out applications and when it was all over, she had been accepted into not one but eight veterinary schools, providing a range of choices.

Ultimately Palmer chose to study in the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. After finishing her first year there, she is participating in the college’s summer scholars research program and working in a laboratory, and will begin her second year of studies in mid-August.

Palmer, who graduated from UD in 2014 with a dual degree in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences and Latin, said she loves the college, the professors and the location in Raleigh.

Palmer isn’t studying one specific type of veterinary practice, as she doesn’t have to pick a track until her third year. While she is keeping an open mind, she said she will probably pursue a career that features work with small animals, such as cats and dogs – part of the reason she wanted to become a veterinarian.

“It’s that typical story. I just loved animals, and I looked more into it. I enjoyed the medicine aspect, too, so I went into UD and did the pre-vet program,” Palmer said. “I ended up saying, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go for it,’ and applied everywhere.”

As for the application process, Palmer admitted that it was tough. To get through it, she set goals for herself during the day and did a little bit at a time.

“I worked at Empowered Yoga in the Newark Shopping Center on Main Street and during the classes, when I had down time, I would log in and do a little bit of the application process at a time and try to get that done. So it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t fun either,” said Palmer.

When the process was over, Palmer found that she was accepted into eight different veterinary schools and ended up at North Carolina State, which was her first choice.

UD education valuable

As to how the pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences program at UD helped prepare her for vet school, Palmer said that a big plus was that the University allows students to get all of the course prerequisites required for vet school. She also said that the anatomy and physiology classes were very helpful, and that being able to get hands-on experience during her freshman year was a big plus.

“Freshman year, we got to go to the farm and raise some calves and chart their growth. That was a really good opportunity,” Palmer said. “I hadn’t worked with farm animals before so it was great that we have this farm and we were able to go have those labs, see the beef cattle, the horses, the poultry.”

Hands-on work with the animals “was helpful, even when it was rainy out or really early and you didn’t want to go,” Palmer said. “It was a really good thing to do. The farm is one of the program’s biggest assets.”

Palmer singled out Robert Dyer, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, as being especially helpful.

“He is so enthusiastic. You can tell he loves what he’s doing and he loves being a vet. He is funny and encouraging,” said Palmer.

Advice for students

Palmer said students applying or thinking about applying to veterinary school shouldn’t be afraid to pursue their other passions at the undergraduate level.

“Don’t worry too much about timing – your advisers will work with you,” she said. “Take the weird, fun classes that you want to take. I was actually a dual degree. I got a degree in Latin, as well, and I did that because I enjoyed it and I figured, ‘I’m about to go to vet school and I want to have experiences with a variety of other subject areas and classes before I devote my life to veterinary medicine.’”

Palmer said that while getting good grades is important, being well-rounded might be even more important and that it is crucial to log veterinary and animal experience hours as an undergrad — one thing that she learned the hard way.

“That was one thing that I had to play catch-up on and it was a little bit stressful. North Carolina State doesn’t even consider your application if you have less than 400 hours at a veterinary clinic, so if you have 200 hours and you feel like you’ve been doing it for a while, it still doesn’t cut it. Get the vet hours early,” said Palmer who did her work at Nonantum Veterinary Clinic in Pennsylvania.

The biggest piece of advice she offered, though, is that while the process is tough and can seem insurmountable at times, students shouldn’t be afraid to apply.

“You look at it and it’s pretty daunting at first, but you can do it,” said Palmer. “Just take it day by day and the professors at UD and the different clinics around Newark can be really helpful if you just reach out and ask and see what sort of opportunities there are. If you want to do it, there are always ways to pursue it.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Jessica Palmer

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

New forested wetland planted on UD’s Newark Farm

6th Wetland installed on the CANR campusThe University of Delaware chapter of Ducks Unlimited assisted the Landmark Science and Engineering firm in putting trees back in place and adding an array of native plants in a new wetland mitigation area on UD’s Newark Farm on April 10.

The wetland mitigation area was created last fall and Amy Nazdrowicz, who received her master’s degree from UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and now works for Landmark as an environmental scientist, said that with late fall plantings it is not uncommon for the new trees to pop out of the ground as water freezes and thaws through the course of the winter.

That is especially true with the new wetland, the sixth on the UD Farm, which has a clay base.

“This wetland is holding a great deal of water. It’s not really infiltrating at all because the wetland has a clay layer,” Nazdrowicz said. “Sometimes we have to truck clay in to construct a wetland but for this one, the on-site soils were good.”

Mike Popovich, a research associate in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said the problem with the clay base is that while it holds the water, it also expands and contracts as temperatures fluctuate.

“Over winter, we had some days where it was 40 degrees and then some days where it got down to 5 degrees, and it’s popping the trees right out of the ground,” he said.

Nazdrowicz said that the 275 trees and 175 shrubs planted in the wetland are all native species found in this region of Delaware, and that moving forward only native plants will be planted there.

“The native plants all have their own natural predators — things that eat them and things that use them for cover,” said Nazdrowicz.

While most of the wetland will be forested with native trees, Nazdrowicz explained that the site’s central basin will be emergent — an open canopied space dominated by herbaceous plants. In addition to re-planting the trees, the group will also plant 2,350 herbaceous plugs such as flowers, grasses and sedges.

“It’s really only the central basin that doesn’t have that many trees and shrubs. It has some shrubs in the deeper section but that’s where we’re going to plant a lot of these plugs,” said Nazdrowicz.

The actual planting of the exposed areas of soil with the plugs was done on April 12 with the help of UD students, as the group had to wait for the water in the wetland to recede before planting.

Ducks Unlimited helped install the 6th wetland on the CANR campusChris Williams, associate professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, director of the Waterfowl and Upland Gamebird Program and adviser of the Ducks Unlimited student chapter, said he was “excited about the new wetland restoration and happy the students could gain hands-on experience toward its restoration.”

Williams added that because the area will become a forested wetland habitat, “it increases the chances that we can install wood duck boxes in the future to promote these very colorful ducks.”

The trees that were planted in the wetland will eventually grow to be very large and it will become a forested wetland that will sit next to and complement UD’s Ecology Woods.

“This is in the conservation easement and it will stay like this forever. These trees will eventually reach maturity years from now and they’ll eventually be just as big as the adjacent trees in the Ecology Woods,” said Nazdrowicz. “Right now, this is only year one and we’ve found better success rates when we use smaller plant materials, so these are only very young trees and shrubs.”

The team that designed and constructed the wetland mitigation area — the plans for which began in February 2014 — included:

  • Nazdrowicz, whose responsibilities included wetland design, producing the wetland mitigation plan report, planting specifications, agency coordination, and plant installation and oversight. She also will oversee wetland monitoring.
  • Colm DeAscanis, president of CDA Engineering Inc. who graduated from UD with a bachelor of science degree in civil and environmental engineering in 1996, and who designed the wetland and the swale and did the construction stake-out.
  • Vince Dills, vice president of Merit Construction Engineers Inc. who graduated from UD with a bachelor of science degree in civil and environmental engineering, and who constructed the wetland and swale.
  • Will Twupack, environmental scientist at Landmark Science and Engineering who was at the wetland April 10 and whose responsibilities include siting of the wetland construction area, the soil investigation, coordination with UD staff, wetland design, construction oversight and plant installation.

The group members thanked CANR Dean Mark Rieger, Tom Sims, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Popovich and Scott Hopkins, UD Farm superintendent, for their help with the project.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alum dives into world of sea animal stranding, health, rehabilitation

UD alumna Wendy Marks, shown during her time working at Dolphin Quest Hawaii.
UD alumna Wendy Marks, shown during her time working at Dolphin Quest Hawaii.

When a dolphin calf became entangled in monofilament fishing line recently in the Indian River Lagoon near the east coast of Florida, University of Delaware alumna Wendy Marks was on hand to help with the rescue efforts.

Marks, who works for Florida Atlantic University at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute as part of the Stranding, Health and Rehabilitation Project team, said that with the help of multiple agencies and institutions, the group was able to track and locate the dolphin — which turned out to be a calf traveling with its mother — and eventually get the fishing line off its rostrum, or beak.

Working with dolphins has been a part of Marks’ life ever since she graduated from UD in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the College of Agriculture of Natural Resources (CANR) and decided that she wanted to pursue a career in large marine animal rehabilitation and conservation.

“I’ve always been kind of drawn to big animals. I grew up riding and then I rode on the UD equestrian team through college and I definitely saw my career going in a direction that works specifically with animals — preferably hands-on and probably with some type of big animal,” said Marks, who minored in biological sciences.

Dolphin Quest

Her career path started with an unpaid internship with Dolphin Quest Hawaii on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she spent three months learning the basics of dolphin training. This led to a position as a dolphin trainer at the Dolphin Quest site in Bermuda before eventually moving back to Dolphin Quest Hawaii.

Through these positions, Marks trained dolphins and led “swim with the dolphins” programs, where she took people into the water to meet the animals and learn more about them. She was also able to instill in the visitors a basic conservation message about recycling and making sure that trash gets placed in the proper receptacles so it does not end up in the ocean.

“It was a great way to give the general public a connection between the marine environment and a charismatic marine animal. This connection created meaning and allowed us to the get across important conservation messages about pollution. We discussed how no matter where on the earth you are located, you are effecting the environment and the critters that call it home,” said Marks. “It was quite an opportunity to not only train dolphins, but to also get a strong background in cetacean (dolphin and whale) husbandry and health care.”

Miami Seaquarium

Marks said she had an interest in learning more about marine life and getting involved in wild populations and decided to take a senior keeper position at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida.

Through this role, she helped supervise the manatee and sea turtle rehabilitation programs and oversaw a variety of animals including tropical birds, crocodiles, alligators and deer. The facility also had a resident sea turtle and manatee population that stayed on site because the animals were deemed non-releasable and would not have survived in the wild.

“This position incorporated some of my training skills with the birds and the resident animals that lived in the aquarium, and then also gave me experience doing manatee and sea turtle rehabilitation and stranding response. That was a cool combination for me,” said Marks.

Back to Hawaii

After a year at the aquarium, Marks decided to move back to Hawaii and got a job working in a small animal veterinary hospital for a short period of time before moving to Honolulu and working for the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC).

Marks said it was a great career move because she was working in the sea turtle stranding response program that also incorporated a great deal of research.

“I was there for three years and I was mostly in charge of doing sea turtle stranding response. If a sea turtle came up on shore sick, injured, or dead, we were the ones that were called and we would go and pick up the animal,” said Marks.

Marks said that the center in Honolulu also had jurisdiction over the other islands where their stranding partners were located, and that she worked with those partners to coordinate the arrival of live or dead sea turtles to their center in order to do rehabilitation or to determine cause of death.

“NOAA PIFSC brought in live animals for rehabilitation when necessary, but also did about 120 necropsies per year on four different sea turtles species to figure out cause of death,” said Marks.

According to Marks, determining cause of death is a vital conservation component.

“Studying the dead animals and doing necropsies is very rewarding to me because you can learn more about why those animals died and better help the population that’s still alive out in the wild,” said Marks.

Marks is involved with this aspect of conservation work once again at her current position at Florida Atlantic University, adding that her current job is quite diverse.

“I do a little bit of everything. I’m a first responder for cetacean stranding calls, veterinary technician, laboratory technician and researcher,” said Marks. “I also assist with all of the necropsies. It’s very interesting to me to see some of the trends in strandings and to specifically look for reasons as to why they would strand and what is causing damage or changes to the different cetacean populations. It’s like a mystery that we keep collecting clues to.”

Time at UD

Concerning her academic career at UD, Marks said she enjoyed studying at CANR and getting hands-on experience with the animals out on the farm, which allowed her to work directly with animals and not simply learn about them in the classroom.

As for advice for any current students looking to get into her line of work, or any type of conservation work with animals, Marks said to “take your opportunities as they come, whether it’s an unpaid internship or an opportunity to volunteer. All of those experiences can really help you make connections and teach you a variety of different skills within the field that can only help you further on in your career.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Originally published on UDaiy

UD alumnus finds potentially dangerous fleas on New York City rats

Matt Frye conducts research on fleas in NYCWhen University of Delaware alumnus Matt Frye signed on to work with researchers from Columbia University studying pathogens of Norway rats in New York City, he knew that as the team’s entomologist he would be combing the rats for critters such as fleas, lice and mites.

What he didn’t know was that he would find such a high rate of the oriental rat flea — an insect that hasn’t been documented in New York since the 1920s and is a known vector for several important human diseases such as murine typhus and the plague.

The results of these findings were reported recently in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Despite their name, Frye explained that Norway rats actually come from Asia and through the years have traveled the world with humans on wagons and trade ships, carrying a familiar set of ectoparasites as they make their way across the globe.

“Studies that are specifically interested in rat ectoparasites tend to find the same cast of characters,” said Frye. For example, researchers in Hawaii — Pingjun Yang, Sandra Oshiro and Wesley Warashina from the Hawaii Department of Health —published a paper in 2009 that found all the same ectoparasites on their rats that Frye and the Columbia research team found in New York.

“We were not necessarily surprised to find any of these critters, but we were surprised at the numbers that we found,” said Frye, an extension educator with the New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program at Cornell University

The group collected the data over a one-year period from five different sites in the city, specifically areas where rats and humans are most likely to have direct contact with one another.

All told, Frye took samples from 133 rats and collected a total of 545 fleas. Of those 133 rats, he said that about 30 percent were infested with fleas.

“The interesting thing is that the fleas were unevenly distributed by site. At the outdoor site, a single flea was collected from 26 rats. Meanwhile, all 20 rats from another site had fleas, and that site accounted for 94.1 percent of the total 545 fleas we collected,” said Frye. “The implication is that a more thorough survey of rats is needed to understand the distribution of ectoparasites in New York City.”

At the site where all 20 rats had fleas, Frye collected 83 fleas from just one rat, which could be cause for alarm according to plague surveillance literature. Frye said that a flea index — the total number of fleas divided by the total number of rodents captured — below 1.0 represents a remote possibility of a disease outbreak.

“In 1925 in New York, the flea index was 0.22. In our study, the index was 4.1 for all 133 rats, and 5.1 for rats caught indoors. That was surprising,” he said.

However remote, the potential exists for diseases like murine typhus and the plague to surface, Frye said, noting, “We have the rats, we have the vector that can transfer pathogens from the rats to humans, so it’s sort of a recipe for disaster if plague or typhus were introduced.”

Frye is hoping that the revelation of the high numbers of oriental rat fleas discovered in New York City’s rat population will lead to more research on the subject.

“The purpose of this study was to take a first look at what pathogens and ectoparasites are present on Norway rats New York City,” said Frye. “However, our study was limited in scope, and has led to more questions than answers. For instance, we do not know the distribution of these organisms, nor do we know if the conditions are right to sustain something like plague. What we do know is that more work is needed to better understand the risk of exposure to rodent-borne disease for New Yorkers.”

The researchers also discovered several new species of viruses and some pathogens that haven’t been recorded before in New York City. The results of those findings were released in a paper published last year by the American Society for Microbiology.

The viruses are listed as two novel hepaciviruses, one novel pegivirus and one novel pestivirius. Frye explained because the viruses are new and were detected using novel screening methods, the researchers “don’t know much about the viruses and if or how they might impact human health.”

Time at UD

While at UD, Frye worked with Judy Hough-Goldstein, professor of entomology, for six years studying biological control of invasive plants, specifically kudzu, as both a master’s and doctoral student.

As a master’s student, Frye conducted research on a specific insect and its potential to control the plant — which ultimately didn’t work out due to the insect’s appetite for soybeans — and as a doctoral level student, he looked at different types of damage with kudzu to see if any reduced the plant’s growth and reproduction.

Frye said that his time at UD working with Hough-Goldstein and the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology was beneficial to his career.

“Our department at the time was relatively small, so there was a lot of interaction between graduate students and faculty that I found to be exceptionally valuable. I felt very fortunate to have Dr. Hough-Goldstein as an adviser, because she was very organized and helped her students develop as scientists,” said Frye.

In his role with the New York State IPM Program, Frye said that he provides training, demonstrations, workshops and creates educational materials about pest management and specifically structural or urban pest management, which deals with the insects that infest buildings, schools and homes.

He said that his favorite part of his job is “working with people. I get to interact with homeowners, with universities, and pest professionals. Helping people find a solution to their pest problem is a very rewarding experience.”

Article by Adam Thomas

UD graduate goes to work as a herdsperson at Herr Angus Farm

UD alumna Katie Williams is a herdsperson at Herr Angus Farm in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.
UD alumna Katie Williams is a herdsperson at Herr Angus Farm in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.

When Katie Williams was an undergraduate student in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, she turned an internship with Herr Angus Farm into a part-time job during the fall and spring semesters of her senior year. Now, after graduating in May, Williams has turned that part-time job into a full-time position working as a herdsperson at the farm in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.

Williams explained that as a herdsperson, she is very involved in the animal husbandry side of the farm, responsible for checking the cattle on a daily basis to ensure that they are healthy and behaving normally, following their usual eating and drinking routines and moving soundly.

“I also assist with administering vaccinations and medications according to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) standards, breeding, embryo transfer, cattle handling, record keeping, feeding and nutrition programs, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) quarantine cattle for export,” said Williams.

Even though her official title is herdsperson, her responsibilities also include assisting in any of the tasks necessary for upkeep of the farm. “This can range anywhere from basic fence line, equipment and pasture maintenance to harvesting hay and haylage — a fermented, nutritious grass feed that is stored in our silos — for the winter,” said Williams.

Williams said that while this full-time position did not come about simply because of the internship, her experience did provide her hands-on experience that had an impact on the eventual job offer.

“As an intern, I was exposed to the cattle handling, cattle management and overall farm management that gave me the ability to complete tasks independently and be relied upon for numerous responsibilities on a daily basis,” said Williams. “I did not realize that I was training for my eventual full-time position when I was an intern but all of the experiences I gained during that time qualified me to become a herdsperson, even if I had not been offered a job at Herr Angus Farms.”

Williams said that most of her mornings begin in the feed room, where she has a brief meeting and goes over the day’s tasks and then feeds the cattle.

“Most mornings I am out riding through the pastures either on the Gator or on horseback, checking to make sure that all of the cows are healthy,” said Williams. “Oftentimes we have to bring in a group of cattle for vaccinations, tagging, breeding, pregnancy checks, or for sorting. If this is the case, we usually try to do this before lunch and before the heat of the day really picks up.”

The after-lunch activities are devoted to things like mowing, fence line maintenance and harvesting the aforementioned hay and haylage.

“Harvest days are always quite busy since it is very dependent on the weather and we have to make the most of dry weather when we can,” said Williams.

Williams said the job is a perfect fit as it combines two of her favorite things: animals and being outdoors.

“Riding through the pastures in the early morning just after the crack of dawn is my favorite part of the day. I call it my ‘morning Zen’ when I’m out doing this because it is so peaceful and relaxing to see the cattle happily grazing,” said Williams.

Williams also said that having a full-time job lined up after graduation relieved a lot of the stress that usually comes with job searching and that she is very thankful for being offered the opportunity with such advanced notice.

She does admit, though, that transitioning from student life to a career has its challenges and she is still learning to balance everything.

As for how the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources helped prepare her for her future career, Williams said, “One of the things I enjoy the most is being able to understand how things function and why they work the way they do. The education and experiences I received at CANR enable me to understand little things, such as why certain feeds are used and how they are digested in the rumen, or the science behind pasture rotation and plant biology. I find it very fulfilling being able to use my classroom education to continue learning out in the field on a daily basis and I owe many thanks to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”

Article by Adam Thomas

UD alumna plants community garden on abandoned tennis court

UD alumna Elisa King led the effort to create a community garden in Elsmere.
UD alumna Elisa King led the effort to create a community garden in Elsmere.

When Elisa King was an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware, she gained an appreciation for community gardens through her work volunteering at that maintained by the English Language Institute and also as a member of the University’s Food and Gardening Policy Committee.

Now that she has graduated, King is applying that love of gardening to the real world as she has spearheaded an effort to launch a community garden on an abandoned tennis court in the town of Elsmere, Delaware.

King said that her idea to start the Garden at Linden — located in Walling Park on Linden Avenue in Elsmere — came out of her desire to improve the community. Given her passion for food and green spaces, a community garden seemed like a great place to start. The only problem was, King didn’t really know where to begin.

A community garden has been created on an abandoned tennis court in Elsmere.
A community garden has been created on an abandoned tennis court in Elsmere.

“I started finding people around the neighborhood who were equally interested in the project but we didn’t know where to begin, so we started making some connections with people like Carrie Murphy and Tara Tracey,” said King.

Murphy, a Cooperative Extension agent at UD, and Tracey, urban agriculture manager for the Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH), are co-chairs of the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition. They explained to King how she could get things moving, offering information on issues from how to approach the town with the idea to what kinds of materials they would need to start the garden.

King said the group decided that the garden would be totally communal, meaning volunteers would get to take home some of the harvest. “There’s no fee involved and one of the reasons we wanted to do that was that we wanted to make it as inclusive as possible, so if people wanted to volunteer at any given time, they could,” said King. “Another reason for doing that is to gain interest in the community and have people spread the word.”

Tennis court garden

The town of Elsmere granted the group permission to use the tennis court, which needed to be repaved and could no longer be used for tennis. King said it was a win-win for her group and the town.

“They saved money from not having to re-pave and we got to do something different in the community — getting residents engaged in how food grows and doing some healthy outdoor activity,” said King.

Once they had the space, the group held fundraisers and received grants from the Delaware Department of Agriculture, New Castle County and the New Castle Conservation District to help fund the project.

A crew of 30 people built the garden, which has 15 raised beds, at the end of March, and King said that a core group of around 15-20 people rotate to maintain the garden. They have been getting more and more positive community response.

“People just show up. They want to be a part of it but it might not fit in their schedule, but they come and give us positive feedback or ask questions to find out what we’re doing. It’s been really good,” said King.

Learning to grow

As for the growing process, King admitted that it was a learning experience for everyone involved.

“I probably had the most horticultural or agriculture experience out of everybody and I would say that my experience is not that vast,” said King. “It’s been interesting and definitely an awesome learning process for everybody. Everybody’s been able to contribute in some way. We help each other out and we’ve been reaping the benefits from it.”

Even with the learning process, King said the group had a nice harvest through their first season and they are in the midst of fall gardening work.

As for what they grow in the garden, King said that they are experimenting with a bit of everything, taking the approach of companion planting — planting different crops in close proximity for pest control, pollination and to maximize space and crop productivity — as they do not use any type of chemical treatment.

The garden has everything from kale, tomatoes, corn, beans and all different kinds of squashes. They also have blueberry bushes that were donated — a big draw for the local children who wanted to come and see the blueberries — and started strawberries, asparagus, sweet and hot peppers, and lots of different herbs.

The garden also has an herb spiral — a vertical garden design that allows gardeners to stack plants to maximize space — that King called a focal point.

“That herb spiral always looks beautiful because we have lots of different herbs and flowers growing in there,” said King. “We’ve integrated different flowers so we could attract pollinators and beneficial insects. We have flowers like marigolds and sunflowers and it’s been interesting seeing the life form in that space because there was nothing before. It was just pavement and now there’s birds and all these different insects.”

Elsmere Garden Society

Learning about the importance of community gardens and urban farms has led to an informal organization known as the Elsmere Garden Society, and King said she is hopeful that the idea will catch on and that people will want to put gardens in other spaces that are being underutilized in Elsmere.

“The garden is generating awareness that I think is really needed as far as where our food comes from, how to eat healthy, how growing food effects the environment and who has access to fresh food,” said King. “And when we have community gardens and urban farms, we can make more of an impact on the neighborhood scale, and I think that’s really important.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

canr_worrilowAwards2014_101714-5
Pictured are College of Agriculture and Natural Resources award winners (from left) James H. Baxter IV, Erica Spackman, Mary Ellen Setting, Craig Clifford, CANR Dean Mark Rieger, and Tom Fretz.

Five graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors — the George M. Worrilow Award as well as three Distinguished Alumni Awards and a Distinguished Young Alumni Award — during a ceremony held Friday, Oct. 17, as part of Homecoming festivities.

The awards are given based on a clear record of outstanding career accomplishments, service and leadership to the profession, and community service, including service to UD.

George M. Worrilow Award

Erica Spackman was presented with CANR’s George M. Worrilow Award, named for the dean of the college from 1954-65 whose career was dedicated to better agriculture and better agricultural education.

It is given annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a graduate of the college who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture.

Spackman attended Haverford College and graduated in 1995 with a major in sociology then entered the CANR master’s program in animal science. Jack Rosenberger, chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences from 1981 to 2004, was her adviser and she continued work in his laboratory to complete a doctorate in 2001.

Spackman then went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory for a post-doctoral research program, became a staff research microbiologist in 2002 and continues to work at the facility.

Her career has focused on improving the prevention, detection and control of viral poultry diseases to maintain healthy and productive animals. Throughout her career she has worked closely with the poultry industry, government agencies and veterinary diagnostic labs to achieve these goals.

Although much of her career has focused on avian influenza virus, she has worked with numerous important diseases affecting chickens and turkeys in the areas of vaccine development, pathobiology and disease ecology.

Diagnostic tests and sample collection strategies have been among the most widely adopted elements of Spackman’s work nationally and internationally, and continue to be a major focus of her current research.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Craig Clifford is a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and received his master’s degree in animal sciences/virology from UD. After completing an internship and a medical oncology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, he became a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Oncology) in 2003.

Clifford is Hope Veterinary Specialists’ first medical oncologist and director of clinical studies. Prior to this role, Clifford was a medical oncologist and director of clinical research at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. There, he was responsible for the creation of a comprehensive clinical studies program.

Clifford has authored or co-authored more than 50 papers and book chapters and created the Veterinary Cancer Society’s resident review session and the Northeast Veterinary Co-operative Oncology Group.

Thomas Fretz

Thomas A. Fretz received an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland in 1964, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in horticulture and plant science from UD in 1966 and 1970, respectively.

Fretz retired from the University of Maryland and the position of executive director of the Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (NERA) in March 2007, after having served from 1994 to 2003 as dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of both the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and Maryland Cooperative Extension at the University of Maryland.

He previously served as associate dean and director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station at Iowa State University from 1989-94.

Among his many awards and recognitions, Fretz was co-recipient of the Kenneth Post Award from the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) in 1979 and was elected a fellow of the ASHS in 1986. He received UD’s George M. Worrilow Award in 1999, the B.Y. Morrison Award from the USDA-ARS in 2001, and the “Irving” for distinguished service to the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC) in 2002.

Mary Ellen Setting

Mary Ellen Setting is the deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).  She has served Maryland agriculture for 37 years while working in various capacities at MDA.  She graduated cum laude from the University of Delaware in 1975 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture, majoring in entomology and applied ecology.

As deputy secretary, Setting is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the agency, providing leadership to MDA staff, establishing policy and procedures for regulatory, service and educational programs, and implementing MDA’s mission.

Setting was first employed by MDA in 1977 as an entomologist for the Pesticide Regulation Section. She developed and managed Maryland’s private and commercial applicator recertification and training program. She became chief of the Pesticide Regulation Section in 1988 and was responsible for oversight of all pesticide management, educational and regulatory programs in Maryland, including enforcement of state and federal laws, and applicator certification and training.

Setting was named assistant secretary of the Office of Plant Industries and Pest Management in March 2004. As assistant secretary, she was responsible for oversight of enforcement of state and federal laws, regulations and quarantines related to management of pests that affect the health of crops, nursery stock and forests.

Distinguished Young Alumni

James H. Baxter IV

James H. Baxter IV graduated from UD with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture in 2002 before returning to Baxter Farms Inc., the family farm where he is a fourth generation farmer.

As president and manager of Baxter Farms, he oversees and farms the 2,800-acre tract in Sussex County with the knowledge and support of his grandparents, Jim and Ruth Baxter, who have been dedicated to growing the farm since 1948. Today, a majority of the acreage on the farm is corn and soybeans. The farming operation also includes overseeing the production of 200,000 broilers that are raised for Mountaire Farms Inc.

Baxter has been active in the community as director of the Delaware Farm Bureau, chairman of the Delaware Soybean Board, founding member of Delmarva Tractor Pullers Association, founding member of Southern Delaware’s Local on the Menu, as well as a number of other affiliations. He is also an active member of Young Farmers and Ranchers and the Delmarva Poultry Industry.

Also during Homecoming Weekend, Baxter was presented with a Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievement.

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

MANRRS alumni return to talk about careers, time as students

MANRRS alums gather at Townsend Hall to talk about their careersAlumni members of the inaugural Minorities in Agriculture and Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) student organization at the University of Delaware returned to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) on May 2 to talk about their experiences at UD and their career paths, as well as to give advice to current students. 

The event was held in conjunction with the end of the year celebration for AGcelerate, a new college-wide student enrichment program geared toward student success that began this academic year. 

Both programs support diversity and inclusion within CANR. The AGcelerate Enrichment Program and the MANRRS reunion event were funded through a President’s Diversity Initiative grant.

The mission of MANRRS is to promote and implement initiatives which foster inclusion and advancement of members of ethnic/cultural groups underrepresented in agricultural and natural resource sciences and related fields in all phases of career preparation and participation in these areas.

The other main goals of MANRRS are to help students develop leadership skills and career-building assets, as well as to build networking skills needed for future careers.

The group of panelists assembled were all founding members of MANRRS within CANR and included:

  • Natalie (Durrett) Crawford, who graduated from CANR in 2000 with a bachelor of science degree in animal science and pre-veterinary medicine and now works as a veterinary pathologist for W.L. Gore and Associates and serves on the advisory board for CANR.
  • Sherri (Freeman) Fentress, who graduated in 2001 with a degree in animal science and concentrations in agriculture biotechnology and pre-veterinary medicine and now works as a forensic DNA analyst.
  • Marcus Lynch, who graduated in 2002 and now works as a senior health care technology analyst at the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI).
  • Shanika Whitehurst, who graduated in 2000 with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science and minors in biology and chemistry, and now works as an environmental scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The panel was moderated by Erin Brannick, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and co-leader with Tanya Gressley for AGcelerate. Gressley also serves as the faculty adviser for the current MANRRS student organization.

Many of the panelists highlighted how undergraduate research and their close relationships with CANR professors helped them on their career paths.

“Our experience here prepared us so much for what we would encounter after college,” Fentress said. “Especially in MANRRS, we had a lot of guidance on professionalism and networking and that was a big, big thing. There’s a lot of things that probably seem very minor — I know they seemed very minor at the time as a college student — that really ended up being big things. It was a very good experience.”

When asked what aspects of MANRRS and UD shaped who they are today, Crawford said the organization was important when it came to networking and learning to keep up with people, and that it gave her a perspective on diversity — not just the way people look but diversity of thought.

Fentress pointed out that for proof about diversity of thought, one only has to look at where the people who went through the MANRRS program ended up in their professional careers. She said there are alumni with diverse careers that include a small animal veterinarian, a molecular biologist and a representative with a non-profit health organization. And Fentress herself works as a forensic DNA analyst.

Speaking on the benefits of the AGcelerate Program, Brannick said, “We want our students to not only feel involved and at home within our college but also gain the skills and the personal attributes that will help them survive not only here at UD but once they have entered the real world.”

Brannick went on to talk about the great level of engagement displayed by the AGcelerate students. “In the very first year of AGcelerate, we have over 50 students enrolled in the program and they’re truly engaged every step of the way. We have truly engaged and active students within this group and some of the feedback from our students related to what they enjoyed about the program is that sense of community and that sense of family.”

Monique Robinson, junior in CANR who served as co-president of MANRRS this year and will be president of the group next year, was recognized at the ceremony for being the first AGcelerate certified peer mentor.

For more information on MANRRS or AGcelerate at UD, contact Gressley or Brannick.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Class of 1964 returns to CANR campus to celebrate their 50th reunion

50th Reunion 1964Members from the class of 1964 returned to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) on Tuesday, April 29, to celebrate their 50th reunion.

Wesley Towers, who majored in animal and poultry health during his time at UD, said that Mark Rieger, CANR dean, took him by surprise when he first brought up the idea of a 50th reunion at the annual CANR holiday party.

“Mark Rieger stunned me at the Ag holiday party when he said, ‘Hey, I’d like you to stop in sometime when you’re up here for the trustees meeting and I want to talk with you about your 50th anniversary’ and I said, ‘What? 50?’ He said, ‘I’m doing the math, right? 1964 and 2014?’ And I thought, Jiminy Christmas. I can’t believe it.”

Rieger said that he wanted to make this an annual event for every graduating class and that it made perfect sense to start with the class of 1964.

“We thought because there are so many incredible people in the class of ‘64, that we would start an annual tradition of a 50th anniversary. Next year it’s going to be the class of ‘65, the following year will be the class of ‘66,” said Rieger. He told the class, “We’re very proud of you and what you’ve been able to accomplish and we’re very glad that you’re back. This is a day about you and hopefully you’ll see some things on campus that you haven’t seen in a number of years.”

Those in attendance were greeted by CANR Ag Ambassadors and had breakfast with Rieger and members of the CANR community.

After breakfast, the participants took a tour of the CANR facilities, looking at the farm, the dairy, the farmhouse and the UDairy Creamery.

The class then enjoyed lunch in Townsend Hall, as Rieger talked to them about the strategic direction of the college.

They finished up the day by touring the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) campus.

As for what’s changed around CANR since they were students, Towers, who went on to serve as the Delaware State Veterinarian for 37 and a half years and serves on the UD Board of Trustees, said that there was no Worrilow Hall when they attended and that the farmhouse on UD’s farm was used as a dormitory.

He also noted that all of his classmates revered George M. Worrilow, dean of the College from 1954-1965.

“My favorite memories will always be the Dean of Agriculture, Dr. Worrilow. He just took a personal interest in each and every one of the students. He wanted to see you succeed and stay. Of course, he was dean, but he really oversaw everything and made everything personal. That’s why it means so much to those of us who have received the Worrilow Award,” said Towers, who received the Worrilow award in 1990 and was also named a UD outstanding alumnus.

The members of the class of 1964 in attendance included:

Dr. Frederick W Kutz

H. Terry Johnson

Kenneth D. Stattel

Dr. William H. Mark

Dr. and Mrs. Wes Towers (Sara)

Dr. John K. Rosenberger and Dr. Sandra S. Rosenberger

Mr. and Mrs. Keith H. Carlisle (Carol)

Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Wheatley (Billie)

Mr. and Mrs. T. Harold Palmer, Jr. (Carol)

Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Michener (Helen)

Article by Adam Thomas

UD alumnus Michael Balick returns to give talk on ethnobotany

Michael Balick will gives a talk on Ethnobotany at UD's Townsend HallIn 1970, Michael Balick gave his first public lecture in the Townsend Hall Commons at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. As a freshman studying ornamental horticulture and plant agriculture, that lecture focused on the harvest, processing and utilization of garden herbs.

Now, after 37 years traversing the globe and studying herbs with medicinal properties within indigenous cultures, co-founding the New York Botanical Garden’s Institute of Economic Botany with Sir Ghillean Prance, and receiving his doctorate in biology from Harvard University, Balick will return to the spot where he gave his first talk. And, again, he will be presenting a lecture.

Balick will discuss “Ancient Wisdom and Modern Medicine: Plants, People and Cultures in the Tropical Rainforest” in a presentation at 7 p.m., Monday, May 5.

It will focus on Balick’s work as an ethnobotanist at the New York Botanical Garden, highlight some of the places that he has worked over the past several decades, and focus on what herbals are and why they are important for contemporary times when people are searching for healthier, more natural lifestyles and more time spent outdoors in the gardens and fields.

Following the lecture, there will be a launch event for Balick’s new book 21st Century Herbal: a Practical Guide for Healthy Living Using Nature’s Most Powerful Plants.

Balick said it meant a lot to have the “launch of the book in the same place that was so important to the earliest parts of my career.”

Ethnobotany 

Balick described ethnobotany as the study of the relationship between plants, people and culture and said that he got involved with ethnobotany from the beginning of his time at UD.

Ethnobotany has always fascinated him and it has allowed him to travel to many parts of the globe.

“During part of my career, I worked with indigenous people in the Amazon, I’ve worked with indigenous cultures in Belize, Central America, and I currently work with indigenous cultures in tropical Pacific islands,” said Balick.

Explaining that he has been able to learn from traditional healers about all sorts of herbs, Balick stressed that there are many herbs of which people in the United States are not aware. “There are around four billion people who use plant medicines for some part of their primary health care around the world and they use many tens of thousands of the 420,000 species of flowering plants that are known to exists on earth,” said Balick. “Scientists have identified at least 30,000 species of plants used by traditional cultures for some part of primary health care. So there are a lot we don’t know about in the United States; they don’t appear in our markets or in our books.”

Balick’s book draws upon the work he has been doing since the 1970s and he said that through his work with integrative medicine — combining state of the art Western medical practices with evidence-based, traditional herbal medicines — he discovered there was a need for a book that could articulate some of the wonders of herbs to the general public.

“At the same time, the book allows me to tell stories about some of the things that have happened in my travels and studies,” said Balick. “And I can try to explain to the broader public the importance of botany in their lives, how herbs work, the mechanisms of plant chemistry and how to make all sorts of different formulas.”

As for his time at UD, Balick said he enjoyed spending time at Longwood Gardens with the Longwood Graduate Program and that he was given the freedom to explore the things in which he was interested, satisfying his curiosity about the different aspects of the plant world.

“Education for me at the University of Delaware was about identifying my passion and sailing in that direction with the encouragement of so many fine professors and a wonderful student body, to whom I am really grateful,” said Balick. “I’d encourage everyone to find something in life that they’re fascinated with and go full speed ahead in that direction because in the end it’s not a job you’re searching for, it’s a career and it’s just so satisfying to work on something that brings excitement to you on a daily basis. I would say horticulture and agriculture and plant science allow you the freedom to do just that.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UDairy Creamery to hold annual Alumni Weekend ice cream flavor contest

icecreamaIn honor of Alumni Weekend at the University of Delaware, the UDairy Creamery is featuring its annual ice cream flavor contest.

The contest will determine the 2014 limited edition “Dela-bration” flavor that members of the campus community can create.

UD alumni, employees and students have the opportunity to submit flavor ideas they think should make up “Dela-bration,” the official ice cream of Alumni Weekend.

The winning flavor will be available to taste and purchase during Alumni Weekend.

The new flavor will also be announced at the Alumni Weekend Lunch with the YoUDee mascots on June 7 on The Green.

In addition to free access to Alumni Weekend activities, the creator of the winning flavor will also receive an UDairy Creamery prize pack.

Last year’s winning flavor was submitted by Gretchen Wolfe, of the Class of 2001, and featured vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips, almonds, chocolate covered pretzels and dark chocolate fudge.

Her description read, “This flavor symbolizes the cycle of a UD student becoming an alumnus. Students start as a blank slate (vanilla), go ‘nuts’ (almonds), get wrapped up in studies (pretzels), find out how sweet life can be (fudge), and then leave a little bit of themselves behind on campus (the chocolate chips).”

Entrants are encouraged to consider varieties of flavor combinations for their “Dela-bration” flavor submission — Neapolitan or chocolate swirl, brownies or ginger snaps, or fruit or fudge? They can let their imaginations run free and enter for a chance to win free access for them and a guest to all Alumni Weekend activities from June 6-8.

Submit ideas online at this site or pick up an entry form at UDairy Creamery, located off of South College Avenue at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources on the north side of the Fred Rust Ice Arena.

UD Alumni Weekend

Held the first weekend after Commencement each year, Alumni Weekend is a tradition that is growing in popularity and in size.

The weekend encourages alumni, friends, and families to return to campus and celebrate the qualities that make UD unique. It also provides an opportunity to reconnect with friends and professors and to witness the remarkable changes at the University over the past few years.

More than 5,300 Blue Hens and friends attended in 2013, participating in activities such as Mug Night, the Blue Hen 5K, reunions, President Patrick Harker’s State of the University address, the R&B Lounge and the Alumni Wall of Fame Ceremony. More information is available at the Alumni Weekend website.

UDairy Creamery

The UDairy Creamery, established in 2008, produces premium ice cream made with the milk from the cows on the farm at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Founded on science, sustainability and entrepreneurship, the UDairy Creamery encourages discovery learning, with UD students involved in every aspect of making and selling ice cream “from the cow to the cone.” Get more information at the UDairy Creamery website.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alumna studies leatherback sea turtles in Costa Rica

Leatherneck TurtleIt’s not every day that you get to see a creature that has been around for 110 million years emerge from the ocean and lay its eggs on the beach. Unless, of course, you’re like University of Delaware graduate Lauren Cruz, who spends her days in Costa Rica with the Leatherback Trust studying leatherback sea turtle nesting ecology.

Cruz, a 2013 graduate who studied wildlife conservation in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is tracking the demographics of the turtles that nest at Playa Grande and Parque Nacional de las baulas — which translates to the park of leatherback sea turtles — and spends her nights with a team patrolling the beach looking for nesting turtles.

When they find a turtle, they will scan it to see if it is a returning turtle. If not, they will outfit the turtle with a tag in order to track it.

“We also count the eggs, and sometimes we have to relocate the eggs, depending on whether they’re close to the water, close to the vegetation, and then after they lay the eggs, we monitor their nests and see them through until the hatchlings grow out of the nest,” said Cruz.

Cruz has worked with the organization since October and said her favorite part of the work is the turtles, but that she also enjoys learning about the Costa Rican culture.

“What’s great is that out here they have a good ecotourism program where the locals — a lot of them who used to be poachers — found that it’s more sustainable to take tourists out to see the turtles rather than take their eggs,” said Cruz, who explained that the organization will work with groups of locals to help locate nests.

“When we find a turtle, we tell them so they can grab their tourist and it’s just a great experience working with the local Costa Ricans,” Cruz said. “And my Spanish has gotten much better since I’ve been here. So it’s a cultural experience and I really like working with the community and the education aspect of it.”

Cruz said that so far this winter, they have had 24 individual leatherback sea turtles nest on the beach. She said that this figure is in line with the amount they had last year, but they are hoping to see an increase any time soon. The nesting season lasts until March so there is still some time and Cruz is optimistic that they will have more turtles nest on the beach.

Still, when compared to numbers from the past, it becomes obvious why leatherback sea turtle conservation is of the upmost importance. “When they first started doing this project, 20 years ago, they’d have 1,000 individuals or so on the beach so it’s sad that it went from 1,000 to 20,” said Cruz.

Cruz said that while the leatherback turtles who nest on the Caribbean coast have seen a population rebound in recent years, ones that nest on the Pacific coast are still critically endangered. “A major facet to their endangerment is the development because so many people want this beach,” said Cruz. “They want to develop on it and they want to build hotels, and when they build hotels they emit a lot of light and also change the topography of the beach so it makes it unusable for turtles to nest on it anymore.”

Cruz also said that climate change is a threat to leatherback sea turtles, as the species is temperature dependent on determining if a turtle will be male or female. “The pivotal point for the sex ratio of leatherback sea turtles is 29.4 degrees Celsius, so any nests that incubate above that temperature will be mostly female and any nests that incubate below that temperature will yield mostly males,” said Cruz.

Because the sand heats up sooner and there is a shorter wet season, the turtle clutches are hypothesized to yield more females than males, which will ultimately lead to a population decline. Cruz also said she has observed the eggs in the nest have been heating above their critical temperature which has cut down on nest success.

The other big threat is long line fisheries that catch leatherback sea turtles in their hooks.

As for how she got interested in turtles, Cruz said that it happened during her time at UD. “It’s definitely something that came about at UD. While at UD, I was able to participate in a lot of different research projects to figure out what I was really interested in because I knew I loved wildlife but I wasn’t sure what kind of animal or what kind of area I wanted to work with,” said Cruz.

Cruz said that it was while at UD on a study abroad trip with Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at UD, that she fell in love with sea turtles and with Costa Rica. “I think that’s a big factor as to why I’m here and was selected for the position, because I had known of Costa Rica and had traveled here before. And also, the first time I came to Costa Rica with study abroad, I wasn’t really into birds until the end of the trip and then I really got into birding and really just fell in love with the place.”

Cruz said that it was on that trip that she gained hands on experience with sea turtles, as the group spent couple of nights on a research station and released olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings.

She added that while she loves working with sea turtles, she is “trying to keep my options open and get experience working with other species. I know that I’m interested in coastal environments and studying sea turtles is just kind of what happens naturally,” said Cruz. “But I’m also interested in shore birds and I think a lot of that interest was sparked at UD with ornithology classes.”

Cruz recently accepted a position for the summer as a “Teen Team Facilitator” with the Earthwatch Institute, where she will supervise high school students as they travel on environmental research based expeditions abroad in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

“I’m excited for this opportunity because it is similar to the UD study abroad program that sparked my interest in this type of research,” said Cruz. “Additionally, I believe education is a major driver of conservation and am pleased to be able to pass on this similar experience with other students.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lauren Cruz

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR alumna reflects on introduction to agriculture, Maryland post

WatermelonfestWhen Mary Ellen Setting attended the University of Delaware, she never envisioned herself as one day serving as the deputy secretary of agriculture for the state of Maryland.

In fact, before coming to UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Setting — who grew up in the city in downtown Wilmington — had very little interaction with agriculture at all.

Now, after a little over 36 years working at the state of Maryland’s Department of Agriculture, Setting has learned a thing or two about the subject.

Setting said her initial introduction to agriculture came as a youth, when she and her mother would travel to the King Street Farmers Market and interact with the farmers there. A farmer would deliver fresh eggs and fruit and vegetables to her house, and that same farmer would take his customers out to his farm as a sort of customer appreciation day.

But other than that, Setting had very little background in the field when she chose to study entomology at UD.

“Coming to the University of Delaware in the entomology department, that’s really where I got my main introduction to agriculture,” said Setting, who majored in entomology and applied ecology, learning things like wildlife management and ornithology along the way.

After working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., doing pesticide registration, Setting was hired as an entomologist trainee at the Maryland Department of Agriculture in 1977.

She went on to be promoted to section chief for the pesticide regulation section in 1988, and served as the first woman president of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials in 1994 before becoming the assistant secretary of plant industries and pest management for the agency in 2004.

Setting was appointed deputy secretary in 2009.

The job entails being directly accountable for the day-to-day operations of the department and providing leadership to upper level managers as well as all of the department’s 400 employees.

Setting said she is also “responsible for setting policy, determining procedures and more or less guiding the direction of our programs and the activities here at the department.”

Setting said her job does not have a set day-to-day routine, and that while one day she could be testifying before the Maryland General Assembly on legislation that affects either the department’s programs or agriculture, she could also be participating in a commodity conference, going to a trade show for the nursery industry, or heading out on the ice cream trail to promote the state’s dairies.

Of all her job requirements, however, Setting said that her favorite is meeting and working with farmers. “We’ve got very knowledgeable and innovative farmers here in Maryland,” she said, adding, “They’re always looking for new angles, new ways to add value to their production.”

Setting added that getting to know the farmers and learning from them, as well as learning about their operations, has been an important experience in her work for the state. “I’ve had several farmers that have taken me under their wing over the years and showed me how to treat the farming industry, how to regulate them, and how to get cooperation from them. So I’ve had a lot of folks over the years help me along the way.”

Setting, who joined the Maryland Department of Agriculture at the age of 24, said she has grown up in the department and enjoys that the people she works with “share the enthusiasm that I have for agriculture. They work very hard at it. They work hard for farmers and I’ve been fortunate to have the relationships I’ve had, not only with my co-workers but with the folks outside of this department, the whole industry. I feel very blessed that I’ve had these opportunities.”

As for advice for current CANR students, Setting said that agriculture is a wonderful field to get into, one that is important not only for the individual but for the country as a whole. “Having the opportunity to be in that field is pretty exciting and students should take advantage of that and focus on what interests them but not be afraid to go outside of their comfort zones and look into new areas because you just never know where that will take you,” Setting said.

She also encouraged students to build on the relationships they gain from being in the field.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR alum hikes “Long Trail” for a cause

GrassoLongTrailMatthew Grasso, a 2013 wildlife conservation graduate from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), embarked on an 80-mile “Trek for Cancer” this fall in order to raise awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer research and the Lustgarten Foundation. Accompanying him on the excursion was Erin Cordiner, a fellow University of Delaware graduate and organizational and community leadership major.

“For me it originated as just a mental and physical challenge I wanted to experience. Then I become more passionate about raising money afterwards,” said Grasso. “For Erin it was more geared towards raising money. Her grandmother died of pancreatic cancer and so it was originally her idea to start collecting donations.”

The nine-day hike, which ran from September 29-October 7, began at Pine Cobble trail in Williamstown, Massachusetts and took Grasso and Cordiner up through Vermont, bypassing many towns along the way including Stamford, Bennington, Stratton, and Manchester Center.

Grasso described his journey with Cordiner as being truly incredible and the result of a shared love for the outdoors and a passion for helping others in need.

“Not only were the sites and fall foliage breathtaking, but we learned a ton about ourselves, each other and the mental and physical challenges of backpacking,” said Grasso. “We also had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of unforgettable fun and quirky people.”

Grasso said that a typical day on the hike began by waking at first light, quickly making breakfast consisting of oatmeal and tea, and then setting off with 34-38 pound packs through sunshine or rain. “Even though we had rainproof gear, the rain still finds a way into your backpack, jacket and shoes,” he said.

The hike had the pair traversing over and through boulders, beaver dams, bogs, streams, and rugged peaks, although they always took time to stop and enjoy lookout points over the mountains. Dinner involved macaroni and cheese, ramen, or stuffing. “We were lucky enough to have fun people hiking the same way as us with whom we could talk and joke around with during dinner,” said Grasso.

Grasso said he and Cordiner had planned to complete the entire trail, which encompasses 273 miles, but after Cordiner received a marketing and public relations position in Manhattan, they had to cut the trip short.

“I considered finishing the trail by myself, but realized this was something we started together and thus had to end together. It simply wouldn’t have felt right going on without her,” said Grasso. The pair plans to complete the full trail in the near future. For more information, contact Grasso at matthewPgrasso@gmail.com or Cordiner at cordinererin@gmail.com.

For now, Grasso is working with an arborist as well as aiding William Macaluso, a master’s level student in CANR, to reintroduce Northern Bobwhite quail to Long Island until he and Cordiner decide to re-embark and finish their journey.

Article by Angela Carcione

CANR recognizes the George M. Worrilow Award winner and Distinguished Alumni Award recipients

2013alumni-awardThree graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with the college’s Distinguished Alumni Awards, while Robin L. Talley was presented with the George M. Worrilow award at a ceremony held on Friday, Oct. 11, as part of Homecoming festivities.

The awards are given based on a clear record of outstanding career accomplishments, service and leadership to the profession, and community service, including service to UD.

George M. Worrilow Award

Robin L. Talley received her bachelor of science degree, with distinction and Cum Laude, in Agricultural Economics from the University of Delaware in 1984. She went on to receive her master’s of Business Administration from the University of Delaware in 1996.

Talley currently serves as the District Director for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency. As the District Director, Talley is responsible for administration of federal farm programs delivered by three field offices in Delaware. She provides leadership to field office managers in planning, managing and carrying out program responsibilities and provides training for all field personnel. She also evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of program operations, advises management on the need to adapt or revise national policies and procedures to meet needs within the state and trouble-shoots program and management issues and institutes change management.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

John Cantello received his undergraduate degree (B.S.) and graduate degrees (M.S., Ph.D.) from CANR. His graduate work focused on molecular virology. Cantello pursued post-doctoral training in gene therapy at the California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, CA. Cantello currently serves as Vice President, at Worldwide Business Development in GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) R&D organization. In this role, he leads the business development activities for the Metabolic Pathways & Cardiovascular Therapy Area and the newly created Bioelectronics R&D Unit.

Bernie Murphy received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware in 1975 in animal science.  He subsequently attended the University of Arkansas and Iowa State University where he obtained his master’s and doctorate degrees in poultry science and meat and poultry products technology respectively.

Murphy currently serves as President of the Jones-Hamilton Co.  Murphy worked internationally for 7 years supporting the development and marketing of animal health products.  Murphy’s career has been closely aligned with the poultry industry having managed business related to nutrition, primary genetics, processing, food safety and air quality.  Murphy was instrumental in the development and ongoing support of the University of Delaware Environmental Research facility in Georgetown, DE.

Distinguished Young Alumnus

Zaiqi Pan, who received his Masters degree in 2008 from the CANR statistics program, currently works as a research scientist at DuPont Pioneer. He joined DuPont in December 2007, working in the Insect Resistance Management Science group.  His major role is to develop insect population genetics models with biologists and simulate insect resistance development on Bt crops by using statistical tools and computer modeling techniques.

Pan is one of the key members in the Optimum® AcreMax® execution team.  The team developed and implemented an innovative method to deploy refuge for Bt corn. Their creative approach allowed DuPont Pioneer to claim the first position in insect control trait product offerings in the company’s history.

UD graduate Acciacca serves as military veterinarian at Camp Lejeune

Vet-DogBefore enrolling at the University of Delaware, Rachel Acciacca knew that she wanted to accomplish two things in her professional life — serve the nation in the military and become a veterinarian. Once she heard about the Army Veterinary Corps, she knew her path was set.

Acciacca, a Veterinary Corps officer in the U.S. Army, was a UD Honors Program student who studied animal science as a pre-veterinary major in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). She also minored in biology and completed four years in Army ROTC.

At CANR, Capt. Acciacca served as an Ag Ambassador, was a member of Sigma Alpha and assisted with Ag Day. She was also a member of the women’s ice hockey club team and rode and trained horses and competed in eventing, an equestrian sport that involves dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

After being commissioned as a second lieutenant out of ROTC and receiving an educational delay to postpone her active duty service obligation until after veterinary school, Acciacca earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from North Carolina State University in 2011.

Following graduation, she was assigned to the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, and after completing her internship she was assigned to her current position as branch chief of Veterinary Services at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

As a military veterinarian, she provides around the clock emergency, medical, and surgical support to the military working dogs (MWDs) throughout coastal North Carolina. “I am responsible for ensuring that these MWDs are medically fit for short-notice deployment, and managing their routine preventive care,” said Acciacca. “I am also responsible for managing our veterinary treatment facility, which provides routine veterinary care for service members’ privately owned animals.”

Acciacca said that she also provides veterinary support to the base horse stables and works closely with the installation’s public health and preventive medicine teams on issues such as “disease control, rabies prevention and control, animal control, and epidemiological studies.”

Being an Army veterinarian is not simply limited to taking care of animals, as Acciacca explained there are many facets to the job.

“Military veterinarians need to be prepared to manage and respond to an extremely wide variety of mission requirements, environments and unpredictable situations,” she said. “You may get tasked with developing an agricultural support mission in a developing country, respond to a food-borne disease outbreak in your area of operations, develop casualty evacuation procedures, or respond to a foreign animal disease risk.”

In her role as branch chief at Camp Lejeune, her overall mission is to lead and supervise military and civilian staff.

“I oversee our unit’s training and mission readiness to ensure that all soldiers are competent in the basic soldier skills and their job-specific tasks. Our veterinary services mission here at Camp Lejeune has two main categories — veterinary medical services and public health and veterinary food inspection and quality assurance for the surrounding installations.”

Their food inspection and quality assurance mission involves inspecting all sustenance that is delivered and sold on base to ensure that it is wholesome and safe for the consumers.

While Acciacca has no set day-to-day routine, as each day presents its own unique challenges, she does try to dedicate one day a week to privately owned animal surgeries, two days a week to military working dog medicine and surgery, and a day to handle managerial and branch leadership issues.

The soldiers of Camp Lejeune veterinary services also dedicate one day a week to training to ensure they stay up-to-date on general military skills such as marksmanship, land navigation, leadership skills, and resiliency training.

Experience at UD

Acciacca said she enjoyed her time at UD, and said that CANR helped set her on the road to success. “The close-knit community at CANR was very supportive and encouraging,” she said. “I still remember individual professors who went out of their way to support me and prepare me for veterinary school. Everyone there was always so approachable, and I truly felt that they were dedicated to seeing me succeed.”

For any UD students currently interested in applying to veterinary school after graduation, Acciacca said, “Don’t ever doubt your ability to become a veterinarian — if you want it badly enough, you will make it happen. Work hard, seek out many different types of animal or veterinary-related experience you can, and keep your mind open. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a blast and I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alumna Windle sets off on professional journey with feed company

windleAfter a decade at the University of Delaware, Michelle Windle is beginning her professional career with Vita Plus, a premier agricultural feed company located in Madison, Wis. And to think that it all began with her knocking on the doors of professors in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences during her junior year as an undergraduate looking for a job.

As fate would have it, Windle ended up knocking on the door of Limin Kung Jr., the S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal and Food Sciences, and he offered her some hours in his laboratory. “To tell you the truth, at the time I had bright red dreadlocks. I don’t know what he saw in me, but I’m glad that he did,” said Windle.

Ten years later, after completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and recently receiving her doctorate from the University of Delaware — and being named a Benton Award winner as the outstanding doctoral student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources – Windle is heading off to the professional world.

Windle’s duties at Vita Plus will include a variety of activities, which suits her just fine, as she admitted to being a person who enjoys multi-tasking.

A large part of the job will entail conducting research into the development of new forage products for the company but she will also be looking into current vendors and staying up to date on new products, as well as training people on the products they are already using.

She will also be coordinating field research trials, troubleshooting nutritional problems on farms and educating farmers about how to make good silage – fermented feeds that are a major portion of rations fed to dairy cows – and keep healthy cows.

“The bottom line is healthy cows make good milk. So it is to everyone’s benefit to keep healthy cows and to practice good farming methods and management practices,” said Windle. “Technological advances to help with producing milk more efficiently have been coming at such a rapid pace that dairy producers are desperate for education in these areas.”

Windle said that this is the part of her job that she is most looking forward to, “bridging that gap between scientific findings and the every day reality that is farming.”

With regard to the silage aspect of her job, Windle is well-versed in the topic as she was advised by Kung, one of the country’s leading silage experts, and conducted her doctoral research on the subject, specifically looking at how to make starch more digestible earlier in the ensiling process.

“Cows need energy to produce milk and they get a lot of this from starch that is found in the corn fed to cows. So the more digestible the starch is, the more energy they get, the more milk they produce,” said Windle.

Her research looked at how to dissolve the protein matrix in the corn kernel to make the starch more available for digestion by bacteria in the cows’ stomachs. The research conducted by Windle and Kaylin Young, a former undergraduate in Kung’s lab, is continuing into the product development stage with several companies in the feed industry.

In addition to her doctoral research, Windle was also a teaching assistant, instructing classes as diverse as animal nutrition, which she taught for five years, animal production and genetics.

When asked why she decided to stay so long at UD, Windle smiled and said, “I am the poster UD child. I love it here.”

She said she loves the passion that all the professors have for their research, adding all they want to do is “tell you about what they’re working on and invite you to work on it with them. They have such excitement about what they do.”

As for the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in particular, Windle said that they are a very tightknit group, and that everyone in the department was asking her how it went after she had to defend her doctoral dissertation. “What I like the most about this department is the people, the passion and the caring that you get.”

Windle also singled out Kung, who she will forever be grateful to for answering the door that day and giving her an opportunity. “I can’t talk about Dr. Kung enough. I’m not just saying this. The guy is awesome. He’s got drive, excitement, he thinks silage is cool, he’s got the ability to inspire that in other students, I don’t know why he gave me a chance but I’m glad he did. It gave me a setting.”

Asked whether she ever thought about what her life would be like had Kung not answered the door that day, Windle smiled and said, “Honestly, I don’t know what would’ve happened. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I’m really glad that it worked out the way that it did — really, really glad.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alums graduate from Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine

UD alumni are graduating from Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine.
UD alumni are graduating from Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

In 2009, 14 students from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were accepted into veterinary schools.

The group included an impressive array of highly decorated students whose accolades included being named Science and Engineering Scholars and members of UD’s Panel of Distinguished Scholars, receiving dean’s awards, earning honors degrees with distinction, completing impressive internships, and demonstrating dedicated participation in college and University activities and organizations.

Of those 14, 10 went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. As those students are now finishing their programs and getting ready to move on, several discussed post-graduation plans and offered advice for current undergraduates interested in entering the veterinary field.

Daniel Lantz

Daniel Lantz, president of the Penn graduating Class of 2013, will be completing a one-year internship at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey, after which he plans on entering a career that is half clinical veterinary medicine and half teaching, hoping that he can teach either veterinary or pre-veterinary students.

Lantz said that his education provided by CANR was “an amazing preparatory tool for veterinary school. My best advice [for current CANR students] would be to take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn more and be a part of extra labs and club opportunities that allow you to work with animals.”

Thomas Hart

Thomas Hart will also be doing an internship at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, where he will perform cardiological, surgical and emergency duties.

Hart said of his time at CANR, “It goes without saying that the animal science and agricultural foundation education that we received from CANR was instrumental to my success. Not only was there a focus on the sciences, but CANR brought to the forefront the important real world applications that allowed transition from the class to life.”

Hart said that current CANR undergraduates interested in attending veterinary school should “work hard but don’t forget to enjoy yourself. There can be a lot of pressure to preform well academically and, especially in the sciences, to be competitive for veterinary school acceptance, but don’t lose sight of your own interests that make you unique.”

Sarah Mainardi

Sarah Mainardi said she is currently seeking a career in large animal ambulatory medicine. For undergraduates considering veterinary school, she encouraged them to “take the time to make sure they really want to go to veterinary school. With current prices of veterinary school, starting salaries, and job availability, it is a huge decision to take on the loans associated with veterinary school.”

Mainardi said that she had her “first experiences with farm animals and with the medicine associated with production medicine” while at CANR and that those experiences helped contribute to her wanting to become a large animal veterinarian.

Vincent Baldanza

Vincent Baldanza will be heading to the University of Minnesota to complete a small animal rotating internship, after which he plans to apply for a residency in medical oncology or internal medicine.

Baldanza said he feels he was “much more prepared than many people thanks to my experiences at UD, particularly in terms of experience working hands-on with large animals and a strong knowledge base thanks to the biology, chemistry and biochemistry courses I took as an undergraduate.”

Baldanza said that anyone interested in going on to veterinary school should make sure that they are 100 percent committed to the career path. “Veterinary school is not easy and I can’t imagine making it through these past four years if I didn’t love the material and what I do everyday.”

Lorna Dougherty

Lorna Dougherty will be starting an internship at the Veterinary Specialty Center of Delaware, and she echoed Baldanza’s thoughts about how the classes she took at UD helped prepare her for veterinary school. “The anatomy and physiology provided a great base for learning more intricate details. I really enjoyed the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for anatomy and Animal Science 101. It is true that you don’t really know something until you have to teach it, and it gave me a greater understanding of the material, and improved my communication skills.”

Adam Seth Yoskowitz

After graduation, Adam Seth Yoskowitz will start an internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, a year-long program that will help him further develop his veterinary skills and give him the opportunity to rotate through several veterinary disciplines.

Yoskowitz said that being in veterinary school is “very rewarding, but it is not easy. You have to work long hours, routinely confront difficult situations, and you may not get the recognition that you deserve. However, if veterinary medicine is your passion, then it is all worth it.”

Yoskowitz also reflected fondly upon his time at UD, specifically in CANR. “The deep sense of community, and the faculty and staff’s constant mentorship and inspiration is what most profoundly affected me and enhanced my personal and professional growth. The relationships that I developed and the lessons that I learned as a student at CANR will continue follow me and positively influence me for the remainder of my career and the rest of my life.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alums return to campus to share insights into environmental careers

University of Delaware students interested in pursuing environmental careers had the opportunity to learn from UD alumni who are now professionals in various environmental fields at the second annual Environmental Career Morning held on Saturday, March 9, in Townsend Hall.

The seven panelists at the Environmental Career Morning included:

  • Maia Tatinclaux, a graduate student studying environmental engineering at the University of Maryland;
  • Samantha Loprinzo, associate at ICF International;
  • Matthew Loaicono, market analyst at Monitoring Analytics;
  • Kristen Atwood, research assistant at ICF International;
  • Chelsea Halley, environmental scientist at the Site Investigation and Restoration Section of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control;
  • Kristen DeWire, assistant attorney general in the Office of the Attorney General, Maryland Department of the Environment; and
  • Alex DeWire, environmental scientist, Tetra Tech Inc.

The panel was moderated by Steve Hastings, professor and associate chair of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, who organized the event and taught all of the former students on the panel.

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Dean Mark Rieger was in attendance and he addressed the panelists, saying he was pleased to see all the alumni come back to help educate the current students. “Our graduates go out and do wonderful things and they change the world. So I’m so glad that you took the time to come back here and tell about your journey and how best to get from here to do that,” Rieger said.

The panelists talked about their personal experiences, ranging from trips to Cameroon with the Peace Corps to spending months working places part-time before finally landing a job in their desired field and, of course, the differences between college and the working world.

“Working and having a job and having bosses and deadlines, there are definitely higher stakes,” explained Atwood. “If you miss a paper, or if it’s a day late in college, you can apologize to the professor and maybe get a little markdown, but if you miss a deadline in the working world, it’s definitely a bigger deal. I had to learn how to keep better track of what I was working on and what I needed to get done.”

Loprinzo echoed those thoughts, saying, “You really have to be on top of your work and it’s important to set your own deadlines. You have to motivate yourself to get everything done and be organized enough to keep on top of everything.”

While the panelists did offer individual nuggets of wisdom, there were some pieces of advice that were universal. For instance, all the panelists agreed that taking some sort of communication or public speaking course while still at UD would be incredibly beneficial to the students.

“No matter what job you do, you have to be able to communicate well,” explained DeWire.

Tatinclaux agreed, saying, “Communicating and public speaking and being confident, that’s really important. Just in the interview process, it’s so important to be friendly, open and have a level of confidence when you’re talking to your potential employer because that goes so far.”

Loprinzo even talked about taking advantage of places on campus like the Career Services Center, as she explained that she went there as a student and took part in mock interviews to prepare for the real world interviews she would face.

Other important skills mentioned by the panelists were an understanding of statistics, the ability to manipulate large data sets and proficiency in software like statistical software and geographic information systems.

PanelAll of the panelists also stressed patience in applying for jobs and perseverance because with so many people applying for a finite number of jobs, it might take students awhile before they are hired. Loaicono explained that he applied for about 200 jobs before finally landing the one that he wanted.

Loaicono also said that when going in for an interview, it is important to learn about the company and to come up with 5-10 questions to ask about the firm during the interview. “The more you know about the company, the more that you’re interested in what they’re actually trying to do,” is beneficial, he said, adding, “Even if you know this is going to be a steppingstone, you definitely want to ask good questions.”

Other pieces of advice included looking at job descriptions posted on-line for “buzzwords” to be included in resumes, tailoring resumes every time to fit a particular company’s needs, attending career fairs and making connections, remembering names and faces and the importance of a master’s degree, while at the same time understanding the risks of incurring mountains of debt in student loans.

Halley, who graduated just one year ago, stressed that it is important for the students to take a wide range of courses while they are undergraduates, as it will help to inform them — like it did her — on what they like and what they don’t like.

“When I was choosing classes, part of me just wanted to take all science classes but I did branch out and take some economics classes. It is important to have that wide background and also to see what you like and what you don’t like. I took a wildlife course about birds and I hated it and it made me realize that I don’t want to work in fish and wildlife. But I didn’t know that until I took that course so I think you learn something from every course, whether it’s negative or positive.”

In the end Hastings summed it up for all those in attendance, saying that finding a career is “not a straight road. It’s a crooked road to get where you want to be and you just need to keep that in mind.” And though the road is crooked, he added that the crooked road can also be “kind of exciting, as well.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR alum Kaitlin Ricketts interns at Meadowset Farm and Apiary

Katie RickettsUntil last April, University of Delaware alum Kaitlin Ricketts didn’t know much about sheep cheese. Now, her job revolves around it.

Ricketts, who graduated from UD in the spring of 2012 from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences with a concentration in pre-veterinary and animal biosciences, is the farm intern at Meadowset Farm and Apiary in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. Meadowset, a farm that focuses on practicing sustainable farming to produce all of their products, is a sheep micro dairy owned by Tom Schaer and Barbara Dallap Schaer—both of whom are large animal veterinarians.

Meadowset sells sheep cheese, eggs, lamb, honey and other various farm products available at the farm’s store. The cheese can also be found Va La Vineyards in Avondale, Pennsylvania, and at the restaurants Talula’s Table in Kennett Square and Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia.

Ricketts explained that the micro dairy, which milked 28 sheep last season, has two different styles of sheep cheese: pecorino and tomme. “The pecorino, which is an Italian style cheese, is very comparable to a parmesan, and the other one is a tomme, which is a washed curd cheese which reduces the acidity making it a milder cheese,” said Ricketts.

Ricketts said that while her official title is ‘Farm Intern,’ she has various responsibilities on the farm. “My duties range everything from just your every day feeding to watching to see what the animals’ health levels are, and I’m also running the farm store on the premises so I’m dealing with people directly, selling products and trying to market our cheese a little bit.”

This last part has been the most eye opening for Ricketts, as she explained that she did not take a lot of food-agriculture classes while at UD. “I’ve been going around to local natural food markets and dropping off samples of lamb and trying to make sales there which is pretty new to me,” said Ricketts. “I’m kind of learning that all on my own.”

What she did have while at UD was a lot of hands on experience working at a dairy, which she said was one of the main reasons she came to study at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore so there was no farming background,” said Ricketts. “I came to Delaware because of the Ag school and because of the farm being right there. That was a big draw to me and I started working on the UD Dairy farm my sophomore year so that’s where my interest really started.”

Ricketts, who also raised seeing eye dogs for the Puppy Raisers of the University of Delaware (PROUD) organization on campus, fed the calves and milked the cows while at the UD farm, all the while trying to pick up as much knowledge as she could from Richard Morris, dairy manager, and the rest of the UD farm staff.

Explaining that her original plan was to go to veterinary school, Ricketts said she eventually realized that vet school just wasn’t in the cards at this point and time in her life. “Working on the farm and being in classes like professor Tanya Gressley’s ‘Dairy Production’ sort of opened up my eyes to the fact that there are probably other things out there that can make me just as happy as being a veterinarian,” said Ricketts. “Vet school isn’t for everyone and I just kind of hit a wall one day and had that realization that there are others things that I think I need to look into before I say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go to vet school.’”

Still, sometimes working on the farm comes as a shock to her. “If you would’ve told me my freshman year that I was going to be working at a dairy farm making cheese I would’ve said you’re crazy,” said Ricketts.

She said that her favorite part about working on the farm is getting to work outdoors. She also said that she enjoys getting to have her old sorority, Sigma Alpha, come out to the farm to do service projects and that those in the sorority who are interested in pursuing veterinary careers get to learn first hand from the farm owners. Ricketts said that Tom and Barbara Schaer are “great people and they’re very enthusiastic about what they do so it’s kind of hard to not love your job when you’re working for people like that.”

“A lot of the girls in Sigma Alpha are still very much in the mindset of going to vet school so them talking to Tom and Barb I think is helping them figure things out too,” said Ricketts. “So that’s been really exciting for me, the past couple of weeks being able to connect everything that I’ve had in my life the past couple of years.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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