Longwood Fellow works to catalog ‘exceptional’ plants for future

Longwood Fellow works to catalog 'exceptional' plants for futureIn the event of a catastrophic occurrence that would threaten a plant species with extinction, special facilities have been developed in countries around the world to store seeds in very cold, very dry conditions – and with thorough documentation – so that the plant might be reproduced.

There are some “exceptional” plants that cannot be included in such seed banks, however, and for those plants, the data and the record keeping are less clear.

To fill the gap, University of Delaware graduate student Sara Helm Wallace has stepped in to create a resource that catalogs all of those plants found in the United States and Canada that cannot be seed banked.

Helm Wallace, who is a master’s degree student in the Longwood Graduate Program, said she is carrying on work that was started by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) organization.

The plants she is interested in are those known as “exceptional” because they produce seeds that cannot be preserved in seed banks for a variety of reasons – they produce few or no seeds, they cannot be easily propagated by seed, or they produce seeds infrequently.

“There are a lot of plants that do produce seeds but for whatever reason, their seeds are not viable and they don’t germinate into new plants,” she said. “And there are a lot of plants that produce seeds but they’re in a location in the seed production season such that humans can’t get to them.”

Although these exceptional plants cannot have their seeds stored in a bank, that does not mean that they cannot be preserved, Helm Wallace said.

“A lot of brilliant work is being done on exceptional plants – finding ways to store them and then to propagate them later on – but we don’t have a single source where we can go to find information on these plants,” Helm Wallace said. “That’s where I’m coming in – I’m developing that single source.”

Seed bank storage techniques

Some of the seed bank storage techniques include taking a tissue culture, a horticultural practice in which an embryo or a piece of leaf, stem, root or bud of a growing plant is taken and given nutrients. Those pieces are then bombarded with different kinds of plant hormones and grow into new plants.

“You can take a small leaf of a plant, depending on the plant, and get hundreds and thousands of new plants out of that leaf over time,” said Helm Wallace. “You might grow a new plant with these hormones and then you can cut that piece up and grow 100 plants from those cuttings, and it just goes on from there.”

Another way of storing these exceptional plants is known as cryopreservation, a popular example of which Helm Wallace said can be found in Star Wars.

“I was just looking at the clip where Han Solo is put in the carbonite and then he’s brought to life again and this is just like that. That’s what cryopreservation is. The plant part – perhaps a leaf bud – is put into liquid nitrogen and stored there for a number of years and then they are pulled out of liquid nitrogen. The cells are basically frozen in time and then pulled out of the liquid nitrogen and, given the proper nurturing, maybe a kiss from Princess Leia, can actually grow,” Helm Wallace said.

Creating the catalog

For her work creating the catalog, Helm Wallace said she is currently working on U.S. and Canadian plants but hopes to expand that to a global list and carry on her research once her master’s degree work is completed.

So far, she has compiled a list of 290 exceptional plants that are threatened and whose conservation needs are crucial.

Helm Wallace said there are 290 threatened exceptional species identified in the U.S. and Canada, but that she has asked 114 conservation professionals in North America to help advise her on a list of almost 6,000 other species because their exceptional status is unknown.

“In other words, we don’t know if they can be seed banked or not and we don’t know who is working on them and where,” said Helm Wallace.

Some examples of exceptional plants that Helm Wallace has cataloged include Lobelia boykinii, which Helm Wallace said is “a globally as well as locally imperiled species that is native to the coastal plain from New Jersey and scattered all the way down to Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Lobelia boykinii used to be here in Delaware, specifically Sussex County, but is no longer found here.”

Helm Wallace said there are people working on preserving the plant through cryopreservation or tissue culture. “The implications are that, if there was a need to reintroduce the plant to Delaware, the data I am compiling would be housed in a well-curated database that would be an easy resource for anyone to go to so that they could find out who is working on the preservation of this species.”

Helm Wallace also said that there are at least 25 species of oak on the list that are not currently seed bankable.

“Can you imagine if our forests lost oaks to some sort of pest or disease? It should be easy to go to a database to find out who the experts are in oak tree preservation and propagation, so that we could repopulate our forests – assuming the pest or disease was controlled,” said Helm Wallace.

Now that Helm Wallace has worked on a list of exceptional plants for the U.S. and Canada, she is vetting databases and comparing them to find out what would be a suitable, well-curated, constantly updated online site for people to go to find the list of exceptional plants.

Helm Wallace plans to finish her thesis by July but she is hoping to write grants to get more funding to carry this project to the global level. “Wherever I end up in life, I am hoping to continue this project,” she said.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Bailey creates quilt out of Ag Day shirts from years past

Donna Bailey, employee of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources administration office, created a quilt called the Funky Blue Hen out of old Ag Day t-shirts.Of all the traditions of the University of Delaware’s Ag Day, perhaps none is more colorful and unique than the T-shirts that are created every year with a fresh design.

To honor and display the designs of years past, and also to raise awareness about the 2015 shirt, UD’s Donna Bailey has pieced together an Ag Day quilt.

Dubbed the “Funky Blue Hen” by her children and grandchildren — it features a design Bailey picked out called the “Funky Chicken” and has blue stitching — the quilt features Ag Day shirts from 2010, 2013 and 2014, as well as a shirt whose year is unlisted.

Bailey, who works in the administrative offices at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, got the idea for the quilt when Katie Hickey, Ag Day coordinator for 2015, brought up old T-shirts from a storage closet.

“She handed me three of them and that was it. The idea was born so I took them home and cut them up,” said Bailey.

The T-shirts didn’t fill out the entire quilt so Bailey had to come up with an idea to fill in the blank sections. Because of the “Farm to Table” theme for Ag Day 2015 and a recipe contest that will be featured, she immediately thought of putting watermelons in canning jars.

She also wanted to do designs that represented the mission and the four departments of the college – Animal and Food Science, Applied Economics and Statistics, Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and Plant and Soil Sciences.

“I looked through my stash and I found fabric with brightly colored bugs and butterflies and worms. I thought, ‘Well, the butterflies and the bugs go with our entomology department and the worms go with our sustainable earth, and if I cut the fabric so the insects look like they are in canning jars, that kind of stayed with the theme of our Farm to Table concept.’ That was how the quilt got made,” said Bailey.

“I also saw this really cool fabric that became the border,” she added. “It reminded me of our wetlands, again our sustainable earth, and I just love the colors in it. We’re trying to preserve the earth and to keep it in its natural state and all the colors just pulled together like nature in all of its beauty.”

In addition to the Ag Day quilt, Bailey, who estimates that she has made around 400 quilts over the years, will have the other quilts available for purchase at Ag Day, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 25.

One will be a bargello quilt done in blues and greens titled “Longwood,” as Bailey said she got her inspiration from the garden’s water lilies. Another will be a flannel quilt and the third is titled “Friendships Braid” and will feature sunflowers.

Of her favorite part about Ag Day, Bailey said she enjoys “seeing friends and family gathered and there’s an educational component, too. There are those ‘ah-ha’ moments where people learn about plants and animals — and the ice cream’s not bad either.”

As for the quilt, Bailey said that putting it together was a lot of fun. “It all just worked. Some quilts just flow and this one just kind of flowed out. I think it was meant to be.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD part of effort to bring bobwhite quail back to New Jersey Pine Barrens

UD part of study to bring bobwhite quail back to New Jersey Pine BarrensAfter virtually disappearing from New Jersey, northern bobwhite quail were reintroduced into that state’s Pine Barrens on April 1 as the result of a three-year collaboration that includes the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

CANR representatives are working with Bill Haines, one of the nation’s largest cranberry growers and New Jersey’s largest landholder, the New Jersey Audubon Society, the Tall Timbers Research and Land Conservancy, and Bob Williams, owner of Pine Creek Forestry.

Eighty wild bobwhite quail were translocated from southern Georgia by Tall Timbers to Haines’ property in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

This process will be repeated for the next three years, with 80 bobwhite quail being brought north and released every spring shortly before the breeding season.

Bobwhite decline

Chris Williams, associate professor in CANR’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and director of the Waterfowl and Upland Gamebird Program, explained that the bobwhite quail have been declining in New Jersey primarily due to the loss of suitable habitat with conversion of agricultural areas to suburbia in the southwestern portion of the state and lack of forest management in the Pine Barrens.

“Over the last 40 years, the Pine Barrens have been devoid of forest management, such as thinning and burning, which naturally occurred in this region. As a result, the forests have become thick and unhealthy. This has promoted increased forest disease and low biodiversity – including the extinction of quail in the area,” said Williams.

Quail are known as an edge species, preferring habitats with a mixture of grassland, which they need for nesting and for night roosting, forest edges for cover, and, in some cases, agricultural areas for extra food.

“At night they go out in the grass and are fairly well protected from evening predators,” said Williams. “They also need escape cover and where you get a lot of that is right at the edge of woods or farmland corridors. They use that for feeding and escape cover during the daylight hours and during the winter months, depending on how far north you are, provide invaluable protection against bad winter weather.”

While Williams initially researched bobwhite in the southwestern agricultural areas of southwestern New Jersey 11 years ago, he recently discovered renewed forest management practices in the Pine Barrens were providing an excellent mix of early successional plants within a thinned forest. The pitch and short leaf pine system has begun to mimic prime bobwhite areas in southeastern United States.

Quail friends

The quail for the study were collected in southern Georgia and transported in eight boxes with 10 quail in each box and were released over eight different sites located in about two and half square miles of managed forest landscape.

“All the birds made the journey to New Jersey and they all flew out of the boxes very strong and healthy, which was great,” said Williams.

Williams said the birds were collected in groups of 10 so that when they were released, they would be surrounded by familiar birds who were part of their covey — a small flock of birds.

“In the winter the birds form up in these coveys and it can be a mixture of related birds, or it could be unrelated, but they spent the winter together as a group,” said Williams.

The birds form groups for a variety of reasons, such as better detection of predators, better ability to find food resources and huddling up on the night roost to stay warm.

By collecting wild birds and releasing them in familiar coveys, Williams said they stand a better chance for surviving in their new home. He also explained that because quail on average only have about an eight-month lifespan, they were released during the spring with the hope that they can breed and produce a sizable number of offspring before the winter.

“They’ll start to break out of these coveys and start to pair up for breeding around May. The best success for restoring bobwhite is right at this moment so you have the maximum number of individuals who can try to breed on the landscape,” said Williams. “They’re such a boom or bust species. Each summer, you have a mom and a dad and if they can get a brood of approximately 12 birds, you just need two of them to survive to the next spring and that’s usually what happens.”

Williams said it is even better if bobwhite can get off two broods in one summer to better their chances of population growth over the next year, and he is excited to see how the quail will respond to the habitat in the Pinelands.

Now that the initial group of quail have been released, Williams said that UD will oversee the project with two graduate level students conducting year-long studies on the birds.

Kaili Stevens, who Williams just accepted as a master’s degree student, will focus on the winter ecology and habitat use of the quail while a doctoral student who has yet to be selected will oversee the breeding season, survival, nest success and habitat use of the birds, as well as continue former songbird work Williams and his students have conducted in previous years.

“Ultimately, we’ll have a much better story about what this forest management means for avian biodiversity and conservation. It’s a much larger biodiversity question than just quail,” said Williams. “Those two graduate students are going to share responsibility and we’re going to follow these birds 365 days for the next three years. No one has ever looked at quail in the Pinelands and over all the projects I’ve done in my lifetime, this is perhaps one of the most rewarding.

“To go into an area where a species has been extinct for likely 50 years, conduct serious habitat management, and reintroduce the species is just amazing. This is truly a grand challenge and I am happy the University of Delaware’s Waterfowl and Upland Gamebird Program can be a part of this effort.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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

Wommack named Deputy Dean for CANR

Eric Womack named Deputy Dean of CANREric Wommack has been named to the position of associate dean for research and graduate programs and deputy dean for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware. Wommack assumed his new responsibilities on Wednesday, April 1.

Wommack, a professor of environmental microbiology in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, has worked at UD since January 2001. He also holds faculty appointments in the marine biology and biochemistry program in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.

CANR Dean Mark Rieger said that he is “pleased that Eric has accepted the position and is coming on board immediately. He has had a stellar career at UD and is well respected for his research and graduate student mentoring. Importantly, Eric has strong collaborations with the Department of Biological Sciences and the School of Marine Science and Policy, and has some great ideas for enhancing interdisciplinary collaboration between our college and others at UD. The tough problems in agriculture and natural resources only get solved via strong, interdisciplinary efforts.”

Of the appointment, Wommack said that he is “incredibly flattered and honored with the opportunity to hopefully make a difference in what we do.”

One of the aspects of the job that he is really looking forward to is helping grow an already strong graduate research program at CANR. “Graduate education and research has been my focus the entire time here. I’ve trained over a dozen graduate students who have gone on to do great things and I’ve always valued working with graduate students and with undergrads in the lab,” said Wommack.

Wommack said he is looking forward to working more closely with his faculty colleagues and that he enjoys the university setting “because I’m around really bright and creative people every day.”

Wommack received a bachelor of science degree in biology and a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Emory University, a master’s degree in physiology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a doctorate in marine estuarine environmental sciences from the University of Maryland.

Student skates on wheels and blades for Team USA, UD

Student skates on wheels and blades for Team USA, UDWhen University of Delaware student Natalie Motley went to her friend’s birthday party at a roller rink as a child, she never would have guessed that it would eventually lead her to skate in competitions all around the world for Team USA.

But Motley said that as she went around the rink and stared at a wall of pictures that had skaters in their competition outfits, she knew what she wanted to do with her life.

Motley is now studying to earn her associate degree in agriculture and natural resources at UD while at the same time majoring in environmental geology to receive a bachelor’s degree at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

She is also the reigning world champion in women’s inline free skating and has competed in eight world championships, earning one gold, one bronze and four silver medals along the way.

In addition to the medals, Motley has had an opportunity to see the world, traveling to competitions in Taiwan, New Zealand, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Motley also competes in events outside of the world championships and in 2014 she won the International Trophy of Artistic Roller Skating in the senior ladies inline event in Italy. She also won gold in the world class ladies inline free skating event at the 2014 World Artistic Roller Skating Championships in Spain.

Motley is part of the UD Intercollegiate Figure Skating Team, where she is coached by Joel McKeever, and she also takes ice skating lessons from Suzanne Semanick.

The UD team won nationals last year, won a recent competition on home ice, and has qualified for nationals once again this year, which will be held April 10-12 in Berkeley, California.

Motley recently took home the gold medal in the junior ladies short program in an intercollegiate competition held at UD and she said that she enjoys doing both roller and ice skating because “they complement each other nicely.”

With roller skating, ice skating and a full college workload, Motley said that the hardest part of her day is just staying awake, as school work and her training schedule can sometimes keep her up until 4 in the morning.

“One day I got about an hour of sleep and then I went to practice and I had an awesome practice and I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s surprising.’ Then the rest of the day I was pretty good but by the time I got home, I was really tired,” said Motley.

As for her day-to-day routine, Motley said that she does ice skating in the morning, roller skating in the afternoon — except for Tuesdays when she has a class from 3:30-6 — and classes and studying in between.

Like her affinity for skating, it was also as a child that Motley first developed an appreciation for agriculture, as she traveled every summer to her grandparents’ farm in Illinois where they grew corn and soybeans.

At UD, Motley is conducting research with Bruce Vasilas, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, at Blackbird Forest in Smyrna, measuring about 23 wells to examine the hydrology of the site. Motley said the researchers are using IRIS tubes — PVC piping coated with a specifically formulated iron oxide paint — to determine how anaerobic the soils are in the forest which is a key indicator of a hydric soil.

Motley also checks herpetology boards for signs of a certain species of lizard whose population has been dwindling. “If I see one of those, I take a picture so we can send that in. But I haven’t seen any yet. I think it has been too cold,” said Motley.

As for her future career plans, Motley said that she hopes to pursue a career in agriculture with either the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Environmental Protection Agency. She also is considering going on to get her master’s degree or heading to Illinois to be closer to her grandparents’ farm.

As to skating, Motley said she will definitely keep roller skating for at least another year.

“This is basically starting a new season for roller and I decided that I’m going to keep doing it since I have another year of school — I may as well keep busy. It keeps me healthy and gets me on a schedule, which I like.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

University of Delaware Botanic Gardens plan plant sale preview, walk

UDBG plant sale set for Friday, April 24The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) will host a pair of preview events in advance of the annual benefit plant sale scheduled April 24-25 on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus in Newark.

John Frett, UDBG director, and Robert Lyons, UDBG board president and former director of the University’s Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture, will present images and specimens of the plants that will be available at the sale in a discussion to be held from 7-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 7, in the Townsend Hall Commons.

The following week, Frett will lead a guided walk through the UDBG grounds to see landscape-sized specimens of plants that will be offered at the sale. The walk will be held from 4-5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 15, and participants will meet at the Fischer Greenhouse Entrance on Roger Martin Lane.

The cost for each event is $5 for UDBG Friends and $10 for nonmembers. Space is limited for the guided walk and those who plan to attend must pre-register. To reserve a spot for either or both of these events, call 302-831-2531 or email BotanicGardens@udel.edu.

Those with interest in the sale are invited to view the UDBG plant sale catalog on the website.

About the sale

UDBG Friends enjoy an exclusive day to shop at the sale on Thursday, April 23, from 3-7 p.m.

Plant sale general admission is Friday, April 24, from 3-7 p.m. and Saturday, April 25, which is Ag Day, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

To enjoy other exclusive member benefits, join the Friends online or contact Melinda Zoehrer at 302-831-0153 or BotanicGardens@udel.edu.

The gardens are open year round to provide ideas and inspiration, or for a quiet stroll. UDBG contributes to an understanding of the relationships between plants and people through education, research, cooperative extension, and community support.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD student gets hands-on experience in South African veterinary clinic

Sydney Bruck worked in South African rehabilitation center and veterinary clinicThe first time University of Delaware student Sydney Bruck went to South Africa she was 17 and about to go off to the college, and while she knew she wanted to have a job working with animals, she had little experience and no idea what particular area she wanted to specialize in.

When she returned to South Africa this winter, after one and a half years studying pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences (PVAB) in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at UD, she was not only certain about her career path but she was able to gain additional hands-on experience, applying the knowledge gained at UD to good use in the field.

Bruck, who majors in PVAB and minors in wildlife conservation and biology, first traveled to South Africa through the African Conservation Experience (ACE) program. ACE placed her with two organizations, Khulula Care for Wild and the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience, which set her up with a position at the Blouberg Animal Clinic.

With the Khulula program, Bruck was in the town of Nelspruit for a month taking care of wildlife in a rehabilitation center. She said it was a full-time responsibility that saw her doing tasks like waking up to feed kittens at 3 a.m. or warming baby rhinos who couldn’t regulate their body temperatures during the night.

“It was a completely selfless experience and it really helped me grow as a person,” said Bruck.

The experience was also one that took her completely away from the comforts of home, as the town was an hour away from civilization.

“We lived in the bush. There was barely any electricity, not much running water and you had to build a fire for a hot shower. I was 17 doing this and I flew over there by myself, didn’t know anyone there — it was really to get myself out of my comfort zone and grow up, learn what I wanted to do,” Bruck said.

The program also allowed her to see parts of South Africa, including the Kruger National Park, and taught her a lot about leadership, as every week she had to pass on information to new recruits who came into the program. She was also exposed to exotic animals.

Perhaps most importantly, the service trip taught Bruck that she didn’t want to take care of animals around the clock for a living. “It didn’t really inspire me to become a veterinarian because it’s a lot of work taking care of animals every single day, and it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

She discovered what she wanted to do during the second program, which was in a bigger town and dealt with companion animals as well as calls to farms.

“It was such a different experience,” said Bruck. “I actually had a proper bed, a real shower, so it was definitely different. We shadowed a wildlife vet and that’s what I really loved doing.”

Bruck said that she was given a lot of trust by the veterinarians at the clinic who gave her important tasks to complete, such as helping to administer blood, tuberculosis and pregnancy tests to 40 water buffalo and then giving them anti-parasite medicine during her first day on the job.

“It was completely out of my comfort zone but it was such a rush getting out into the field and dealing with antelopes, wildebeests and buffalo,” said Bruck.

At this program, Bruck also got to work with companion animals in the veterinary clinic and she established connections that allowed her to travel back to South Africa this past winter.

“The first time around, I wasn’t qualified to take any of those experiences and really learn and possibly apply those in the future if I become a vet because I had no background,” said Bruck. “So studying at UD and going through all the classes and being here for one and a half years and then going back was amazing because I actually had some background. During class, I could actually go back and realize, ‘Oh, this is what we were doing then.’”

This time around, Bruck spent two months in South Africa, working more with companion animals in a clinic, helping with surgeries and replacing and giving IV lines to puppies afflicted with parvovirus, which is a big issue in South Africa.

With regard to the surgeries, Bruck said that one of the veterinarians there commended her on her ability to jump in and help out but to also stay away when she wasn’t needed, which she said can be equally important in that setting.

Bruck would also go around on vaccination consultations, learning what to look for during routine checks and picking up some of the South African Afrikaans language.

All this work in the clinic helped Bruck realize exactly how she wants to help out animals in her future career.

“Once I got to the veterinary side, I realized that I don’t like taking care of animals. I like treating them. And I think that’s a huge distinction that I don’t think many people can see,” said Bruck. “I don’t want to walk the dog, or feed the dog, but if you come to me with a problem, I will give it my heart and try my best to fix it.”

Bruck also said that it is important for those who are thinking about a veterinary career to realize there are a lot of areas to the field and to find one that works best for them, which to her means treating companion animals. “You know it’s always a struggle between money and happiness but I think that in this case, happiness would probably have to stay with the companion animals.”

As for her continued visits to South Africa, Bruck said that she can “definitely picture when people are begging me to retire, I could see myself moving to South Africa to open a clinic there just to see if I can bring anything to the table. It definitely brought a lasting mark to my life. They gave me so much that I’ll bring with me forever so if I could give that back in any way, that would be fantastic.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Sydney Bruck

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Two UD seniors selected as Peace Corps volunteers in Africa, South America

Abby Kramer and Kerry Snyder have been selected to go to the Peace CorpsTwo University of Delaware seniors, Abby Kramer and Kerry Snyder, have been selected as Peace Corps volunteers for 2015.

According to the Peace Corps organization, its volunteers “reflect the very best of humanity, innovation and aspiration for a better tomorrow.”

Kramer, an Honors Program student majoring in environmental science, will volunteer in Senegal as an agroforestry extension agent.

“I will be working within a local community to fight agricultural issues such as deforestation and food insecurity,” she said, “while developing more sustainable agricultural practices.”

The current Peace Corps student ambassador on campus, Kramer has been interested in joining the Peace Corps since high school because of her interest in travel and the opportunity to look into broader issues that affect the lives of people around the world.

An Honors Program student majoring in wildlife conservation, Snyder will serve in Paraguay, where she will work with children, farmers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to promote conservation.

While Snyder has not yet received her permanent location placement in Paraguay, she looks forward to employing knowledge from her major and environmental humanities minor to potentially train teachers, participate in educational work and work on ecotourism projects wherever she is placed in the country.

Snyder’s interest in becoming a more globally engaged citizen is what led her to pursue Peace Corps service.

After studying abroad in Cambodia during her sophomore year, she wanted to do more. “With study abroad there is a lot of observing and seeing what things are like in another country,” Snyder said. “I want to become a part of a community.”

Kramer and Snyder join an elite group of 308 UD alumni who have served as Peace Corps volunteers. Currently 20 UD alumni are still serving in the field.

Applying to be a Peace Corps volunteer

Students interested in applying to the Peace Corps should visit the website for more information. Applicants must be U.S. citizens who are 18 years of age, and should submit their application nine months to one year in advance of their desired departure date. Volunteer opportunities include two-year assignments in more than 60 countries, 3-12 month “high impact” assignments, and one-year physician and nurse volunteer options.

In addition, Kramer will host a Peace Corps screening and panel presentation on Wednesday, March 11, from 7-9 p.m. at the Career Services Center on Academy Street. The event will highlight winners from last year’s video competition, which had as its theme, “What I Wish Americans Knew About My Host Country.”

About the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is an international volunteer program in which Americans are able to completely immerse themselves in a culture unlike their own. Today, volunteers have the opportunity to serve in one of six sectors — education, health, youth in development, agriculture, environment, or community economic development — in over 64 countries across the world.

Since its inception in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, nearly 220,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in 140 countries worldwide.

March 1 marked the Peace Corps’ 54th anniversary. To commemorate its founding over half a century ago, “Peace Corps Week” celebrations occurred across the United States.

Article by Jessica Franzetti

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR to host annual community push lawn mower tune-up service

Alpha Gamma Rho will host their annual lawn mower tune-up starting April 10The University of Delaware’s Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity for agriculture and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Club are once again offering a push lawn mower tune-up service on Friday, April 10, and Saturday, April 11, rain or shine.

The event will be held at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus, with pick up on Saturday, April 11, and Sunday, April 12.

Over 7,000 mowers have been serviced at the event since 2000.

The tune-up is provided by trained students and alumni members of the clubs and includes washing the mower, an oil change, spark plug replacement, air filter cleaning and blade sharpening.

Service performed is tune-up only; no repairs will be performed and no riding mowers will be accepted.

Richard Morris, UD farm manager and adviser for AGR, said it is a good idea to have a lawn mower tuned up every year in order to make it last longer. He also noted that the event has a lot of repeat customers.

Jason Morris, a junior in CANR, said that there will be about 30-40 volunteers this year, including current members of AGR, each of whom will volunteer for a minimum of 15 hours, and SAE, and also some AGR alumni.

The cost of the tune-up is $38. Payment in the form of cash or check may be made at drop off. Checks should be made out to Alpha Gamma Rho.

Drop off times are from 2-8 p.m. on Friday, April 10, and from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, April 11.

Customers can pick up their mowers on Saturday from 1-6 p.m. for the first 300 mowers taken on Friday, or on Sunday, April 12, from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. for the remaining mowers.

All mowers must be picked up by 2 p.m. on Sunday. The owners of any mowers not picked up by Sunday will be charged a storage fee.

Richard Morris said he wanted to “thank the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for letting us take over their parking lot and for having the full support from the dean and the college.”

Lawn mowers may be dropped off and picked up in the parking lot behind Worrilow and Townsend halls on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus at 531 S. College Ave., just north of the Fred Rust Ice Arena. Look for signs for the tune-up.

For more information, contact Jason Morris of AGR at jcmorris@udel.edu or 302-388-7475.

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