Cooperative Extension celebrates 100 years of extending knowledge, changing lives

Mark Rieger speaks at the Cooperative Extension Centennial EventA lot can change in 100 years. That is especially true when it comes to Cooperative Extension.

It was with that in mind, and with an eye toward the future, that members of the Delaware community gathered on Thursday, July 24, at the Grove Picnic Area at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Cooperative Extension. 

Cooperative Extension was established across the country in 1914 with passage of the Smith-Lever Act, which enabled Extension agents to disseminate critical knowledge developed at land grant colleges, including the University of Delaware, to farmers and to the public. Addressing how far Cooperative Extension has come in its 100 years, Gov. Jack Markell said, “I think the founders of Cooperative Extension would be amazed at what it is today.” Markell noted how Cooperative Extension now has an office at every land grant institution, in every county of every state and territory, with a total of more than 3,000 locations. “Its mission in the 21st century is inclusive. Extending knowledge, changing lives. It’s been a really important part of the Delaware community now for 100 years, increasing the quality of life for citizens throughout our state,” said Markell. Reflecting on how Cooperative Extension influenced his life personally, Markell noted how he lived in Newark’s Windy Hills neighborhood as a neighbor to Extension agent Dean Belt and his wife Peggy Belt and that he “grew up thinking that Cooperative Extension was Dean Belt and Dean Belt was Cooperative Extension, and I didn’t know that it actually applied in other states and others schools.” Saying that Belt knew more about agriculture than everyone else he knew combined, Markell said, “The Belts were really positive influences on my life and I always look forward to seeing them. These are just extraordinary, extraordinary people who set the standard for what Cooperative Extension is and ought to be across the country.” Mark Rieger, dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), spoke next and reflected on how much Extension has changed over 100 years. “I was driving down here today and I was reflecting on if I were a county agent coming from the University of Delaware in Newark 100 years ago, I wouldn’t be in a Nissan Altima, I’d probably be in a horse and buggy or coming on horseback. It would probably take me the better part of a week to come from that University to this area to see farmers and to make my way around and make my way back home  — and that’s what those people did 100 years ago. They got out, they extended that knowledge from the University to the people that could use it under some really difficult conditions,” said Rieger. Rieger talked about how farmers now use smartphone apps and are able to diagnose problems in the field in real time and how, in the future, there may be flying drones used over fields and farmers may be equipped with the ability to get a snapshot of photosynthesis as it’s happening. “The means have changed but the mission has stayed the same over those 100 years. So I’m really excited about the future of Extension and all the new things that we’re going to get to do,” said Rieger, who also touched on how the people of the world are going to need to use that technology in order to find ways to feed the estimated nine billion people who will be on the planet in the next 30 years or so. “We cannot continue to cut down more forests to open up land for agriculture, we’ve got to increase the yields on the land that we have and the way we’re going to do that is with good science, good technology and extending that science through Extension out to the growers. So I’m confident that UD and Delaware State University Extension will rise to the occasion and deliver on that grand challenge of feeding the world and protecting the planet,” said Rieger. Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in CANR, spoke next, joined on the podium by Albert Essel, associate dean for Cooperative Extension at Delaware State University. Rodgers spoke about how in Delaware, there are two universities — UD and DSU — that form Cooperative Extension and “it’s our pleasure to work together to bring Cooperative Extension to you for 100 years worth of Cooperative Extension.” Rodgers, who has familial Cooperative Extension roots dating back 100 years and whose parents met through 4-H, thanked all the legislators in attendance and explained how their support is critical to the continuation of Cooperative Extension services. “We’re very much like a family in Cooperative Extension — our retirees, those who we partner with, it is a cooperative and it’s in the name for a purpose and it’s because we do cooperate so well with each other. It’s a very meaningful part,” said Rodgers. Rodgers then recognized all the staff members, both past and present, and the volunteers who make Cooperative Extension a success. “Cooperative Extension individuals are very giving, very caring, very compassionate people who really care about communities and the people in them,” she said. “It is our pleasure as directors to work with this group of people who give so much of themselves to the community and to celebrate this centennial event with you. I just thank you for our past, I thank you for our present and I am very excited about our future and the next 100 years and what we’re going to do.” The event concluded with the unveiling of a Cooperative Extension Centennial flavored ice cream from the University’s UDairy Creamery as part of a flavor contest. The winning flavor, Centennial Cherry Chunk, was submitted by Joyce Witte, who was presented with a gift certificate for coming up with the winning flavor. Rodgers joked that Witte can now “eat as much Centennial ice cream as you like.” For more information about the Cooperative Extension Centennial, visit the website. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Evan Krape This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

In memoriam: Conrad R. Pope

Conrad R. Pope, former professor of animal and food sciences at the University of Delaware, died July 25 at his home in Bel Air, Md. He was 76.

Dr. Pope joined the UD faculty in 1986 and retired in 2011.

Jack Gelb, chairperson of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, said, “At UD, Dr. Pope was a key member of the poultry infectious disease team who prided himself on service to the poultry industry, as well as his many research contributions. He loved to teach students and co-taught classes with faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences, as well as many one-on-one research and independent studies with graduate and undergraduate students in the department.  He was highly respected and sought after for his pathology case evaluations and opinions.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York, he was a veteran of the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of colonel as veterinary pathologist in assignments in various parts of the world, including the U.S., Belgium and South Vietnam.

A member of the Delmarva Poultry Association and the Elks Lodge, Dr. Pope was a wine enthusiast and active member of the Chesapeake Wine Society. He enjoyed chess, racquetball, handball, traveling and dining out. He loved spending time with his miniature schnauzers.

He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Karla L. Slade-Pope; daughters, Suzanne Pope and Lauren E. Pope, both of North Laurel, Maryland; daughter Krupanalini Manoj Kumar and son Manoj Kumar Manmohan, both of Andover, Massachusetts; brother, Carl D. Pope of Douglasville, Georgia; and grandsons Elijah Kane of North Laurel, Maryland, and Maxim Manoj Kumar of Andover, Massachusetts.

Memorial contributions may be made to braincancerresearchfoundation.com.

The 2014 State Fair Storify Board

The University of Delaware was well represented at the 2014 Delaware State Fair!

Take some time to check out all the awesome comments and photos that went out over the course of the 2014 Delaware State Fair on the UD Storify page and thanks to everyone who participated using the #statefairUD hashtag!

See you in 2015!

4-H agent Doug Crouse serves 25th year as Delaware State Fair treasurer

Doug Crouse has served at the State Fair for 25 yearsAsk Doug Crouse if Christmas in July is a real event and he’ll answer “yes.” It’s called the Delaware State Fair, an annual event at which he has worked for 25 years. 

Crouse wears many hats inside the 271 acres of the Harrington-based state fairground. As Kent County’s 4-H agent and 4-H building superintendent — and also serving year-round as the fairground’s treasurer and on the board — the days and weeks surrounding the 10-day “fair week” are full of planning and excitement equaled only by the winter holiday.

If any event can get a human being frazzled, it would be the first day of fair week as questions are put to Crouse left and right.

The Delaware 4-H building, located at the Centre Ice Rink, averages 10,000 4-H exhibits alone. Crouse is the go-to authority for where they are placed and how each is arranged for display.

But Crouse, who hears his name called numerous times, answers each question and solves each mini-crisis with calm aplomb. “If I can survive the first day, the rest of the fair I am home free,” he said.

Paula Woods, a Kent County 4-H volunteer, said of Crouse, “I go to Doug for everything. He can multi-task like no one I ever known. He is more than kind and he never loses his temper.”

Crouse’s unflappability and calm manner come from years of experience and doing what he loves. He was nearly born into it.

Born and raised in Felton, Delaware, Crouse grew up with 4-H. At the age of 10, he joined the Harrington Sunshine 4-H Club and was exposed to all that 4-H had to offer. “I did everything in 4-H, except state 4-H camp,” Crouse said.

His 4-H leader was Jane Everline, whose high expectations Crouse recalls fondly. “It was never put to us, ‘Will you do a public speech or demonstration?’ Rather I was asked, ‘What is your public speaking topic going to be?’ Participation in those events was expected,” said Crouse.

After Crouse graduated from high school and the 4-H program, he earned an accounting degree from Delaware State University and began a 20-year career in banking. Crouse worked at several local banks as a teller, a branch manager, in loans and credit and eventually as president of his hometown Felton Bank.

In 1982, Crouse married Karen Poore, and the first of their two daughters, Heather, arrived two years later. Heather joined 4-H at the age of 9, and her sister Jennifer followed. All became members of the same club to which their father had belonged.

A 4-H career beckons

Eventually, when the organizational leader of 4-H stepped down, Crouse was asked to assume the role, which he did along with his wife Karen. For Crouse, returning to 4-H felt right.

Under their joint leadership, the club’s roster grew from eight members to well over 100.

As a full time banker, Crouse never saw the additional responsibilities of running a 4-H club as a burden, rather he saw it as a respite. “4-H was my way of relieving stress,” Crouse said. “I love working with children.”

In 2001, Crouse became a Kent County 4-H agent.

Although he was president of the Felton Bank, Crouse was looking for something different in his life and talked about it with his family. The decision was a difficult one to make with salary an important factor. “Having money does not always lead to happiness and it is a decision I have never regretted,” said Crouse.

In 2006, Crouse became Kent County Extension director, housed at the Paradee Center in Dover.

Fair treasurer 

Crouse’s financial experience and reputation made him a natural to be tapped to help the fair’s treasurer. In 1982, while still working as a banker, Crouse was asked if he was interested in helping the fairground’s part-time treasurer. He agreed and served seven years as an assistant to the treasurer, helping with gate sales and admissions.

In 1989, the treasurer retired and Crouse found himself voted in as a fair board member and treasurer.

Serving on the 80-member fair board is a year-round task, and while fair board members tour other fairs to get new ideas to bring back to Delaware, Crouse said, “Nothing can compare to what we have here.”

In his years as treasurer, Crouse has many interesting stories to tell, as he’s personally met almost every entertainer who has played at the Harrington venue. Crouse reviews the contracts that come in, working closely with the agents to see it all runs smoothly and learns of the usual show business requests, such as the type of stool an entertainer wants to sit on, or a particular brand of food or beverage an act may want.

The most puzzling line item came when a country act stipulated in their contract that they did not want any farm animals visible during their stay at the fairgrounds. “I was surprised at that kind of request,” said Crouse.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photo by Jacquelyn Arpie

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension holds flash mob to raise healthy eating awareness

4-H Delaware State Fair Flash MobSurprising then entertaining visitors at the Delaware State Fair, a University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H flash mob burst onto the scene Tuesday, July 22, to raise awareness about the Food Smart Families healthy eating program.

The flash mob, featuring people of all ages, performed its dance routine to the song Veggie Believer by Carl Winter, a parody based on the Monkees’ 1966 hit I’m a Believer

The dance routine was created by Laura Sahd, a senior in UD’s College of Health Sciences who majors in dietetics and nutrition, minors in dance and is an Extension Scholar. She said that being able to combine her undergraduate interests while working with children was a great experience.

“It’s been really exciting because I teach dance, as well. It’s really fun to apply that knowledge and apply my nutrition knowledge and work with kids,” said Sahd.

While working as a dance instructor, Sahd has choreographed ballet and tap dance routines for 3-7 year olds but said she had never planned a routine this big before.

She said it took about two weeks to plan the routine and that two practice sessions were held in Kent and New Castle counties, with the routine video recorded and emailed to those who were unable to attend the rehearsals.

In addition to planning the dance routine, Sahd has also been spending the summer teaching the Food Smart Families curriculum to youth attending summer camps throughout the state. She said she enjoys the educational aspects that the Food Smart Families program provides to participants.

“It’s great to get them started learning about healthy eating and how to make healthy choices, whether they’re choosing fast food or what they should drink,” said Sahd. “Food Smart Families is a way to start to get people thinking about what they’re choosing to eat, and to start good habits early in life.”

Food Smart Families

The Food Smart Families grant was awarded to the National 4-H Council by ConAgra Foods, and Delaware 4-H was one of five state programs selected to receive funds to undertake nutrition education.

The nutrition education is delivered to children ages 8-12 in five two-hour lessons taught by one teenager and one adult. The goal is to reach 2,500 children in the state with 10 hours of nutrition, physical activity and “shopping savvy” education by Oct. 31.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, explained, “One of the objectives of the Food Smart Families grant is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, along with increasing physical activity and a number of other goals.”

Rodgers said the flash mob “was really just a fun way for the youth to be involved in the program, to get engaged with the concept, to showcase what they’re learning and to help them think about it in a different way. We’re pretty excited about the flash mob and about what we’ll able to do with this grant in terms of outreach.”

Kathleen Splane, extension agent and state program leader for family and consumer sciences, said that in addition to offering the curriculum at summer camps, “We’re doing a lot of community events at different community centers where we’ve done the education. That is designed to bring the parents and the families in to learn more about the program.”

Sue Snider, nutrition and food safety specialist with Cooperative Extension, adapted curriculum from Cornell Cooperative Extension to create Delaware’s 10-hour program.

The five sessions taught are focused on getting participants to drink low fat milk and water instead of sweetened drinks, to eat more fruits and vegetables, to eat more whole grains, and to eat fewer high fat and high sugar foods. Sessions also teach the importance of eating a healthy breakfast.

Every week, the Food Smart Families curriculum is taught at about a dozen sites throughout the state and judging by the pre- and post-tests given by the program leaders, the message has really resonated with the Delaware youth.

“We’ve had some really positive feedback from the kids. Kids are saying, ‘I’ll never drink soda again.’ We’ve had kids that have been in camps and they’re reading the labels of what’s in their lunch,” said Splane. “And parents are responding like ‘How are you getting my kid to eat zucchini? They never ate zucchini before.’ It’s due in part to the fact that every lesson has food preparation as a component, so the kids get to sample a healthy recipe that’s associated with the lesson that day.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Doug Baker

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD to co-host 2014 Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference

Gerald "Jerry" Kauffman from the Institute for Public Administration, works with how climate change effects the water supplyThe Delaware Water Resources Center (DWRC) at the University of Delaware will be one of several National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) that will co-host the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference.

The conference will take place Sept. 24-25 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Tom Sims, director of DWRC and deputy dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said of the center and the conference, “The Delaware Water Resources Center has been committed for more than 40 years to the core missions of the Water Resources Research Act: training future water resource scientists and professionals, contemporary research on water resource issues of high importance to Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic region, and outreach and education programs on water resources science, management, and policy. The DWRC is pleased to support this regional conference.”

The theme of the conference is “The Future of Mid-Atlantic Water Infrastructure: Challenges and Solutions,” and it will combine exceptional educational programs with opportunities for researchers, policy makers, regulators, agencies and the public to share in the latest information, technologies and research relating to the region’s water resources.

Gerald J. Kauffman, director of UD’s Water Resources Agency, which is a unit of the Institute for Public Administration within the School of Public Policy and Administration, will give the keynote address at the conference focused on the value of water resources in the Mid-Atlantic, specifically the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River Basin.

Kauffman explained that because of those two major basins, the water resources in the region provide incredible ecological value. “The combined basins provide drinking water to over 10 percent of the entire United States and occupy about 1 percent of the entire landmass of the continental United States, so these watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic are really valuable to the nation and the region and the nearby cities,” he said.

The cities in question — New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. — rely on the watersheds for their drinking water.

Furthermore, Kauffman explained that the watersheds provide additional ecological resources in the form of blue crab and reviving oyster populations. The Chesapeake “is the center of a trillion dollar recreation, tourism and agricultural based economy, but the Delaware River has really nice ecosystems, as well,” said Kauffman, who has completed economic studies of both basins.

Kauffman said UD is particularly well positioned to study and talk about the issues surrounding the watersheds because the University is in the middle of the Delaware river and bay and the Chesapeake.

“Where we are here in Newark, we’re about a dozen miles to the Delaware River and if we go west, we can get to the Chesapeake Bay. So if you’re studying this issue of water science and policy, there’s going to be a lot to talk about,” said Kauffman.

“We’re uniquely poised to talk about and conduct research in the value of these water systems, so UD is a special place where students and the faculty and the staff can get involved in doing this kind of work,” he said. “I’ll be excited to talk about that at the Mid-Atlantic conference in September.”

For more information about the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference, visit the website. The registration deadline is Aug. 30.

About the Delaware Water Resources Center

As a member of the National Institutes for Water Resources, the Delaware Water Resources Center has two key missions related to Delaware’s water resources, such as the state’s ground water aquifers and its streams, ponds, lakes and coastal waters.

The first is to support research, education, and public outreach programs that focus on water supply, water management, and water quality — issues of considerable importance to Delaware citizens who are concerned about the future of our water resources. DWRC is specifically charged with the exploration of new ideas that address water problems or expand understanding of water-related phenomena.

The second mission is to foster and support training and education programs for the future water scientists, engineers, managers and policy-makers who will lead the water resources research, planning and management efforts in the state in the future.

About the Water Resources Agency

The mission of the Water Resources Agency is to provide water science and policy assistance to governments in Delaware, the Delaware Valley, and along the Atlantic seaboard through the land grant public service, education and research role of the University of Delaware.

The WRA is a unit of the Institute for Public Administration within the School of Public Policy and Administration in UD’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

Article by Adam Thomas

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension heads to Delaware State Fair

UD Cooperative Extension heads to the Delaware State FairUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension will once again have a strong presence at this year’s Delaware State Fair, which runs Thursday, July 17, through Saturday, July 26, at the fairgrounds in Harrington, Delaware.

4-H youth, in particular, have a strong stake in the Delaware State Fair as it serves as the culmination of planning that begins at the start of the 4-H year the previous September.

As they move through the year, 4-H youth reserve the best of their work to display at the fair, with exhibits that span several diverse project areas including canning, entomology, beekeeping, clothing and textiles, horticulture, crops, food products, woodworking, computer graphics and photography, to name just a few.

Extension staff, Master Food Educators, Master Gardeners and 4-H alumni serve as exhibit judges. In 2013, 4-H checked-in 10,362 exhibits.

The 4-H general demonstrations, also known as illustrated talks, will take place from 10 a.m.-noon, Monday, July 21.

In addition, there will be 4-H floats on display during fair’s nightly parades.

The Delaware State Fair is the capstone event for 4-H contest winners at the county level, who will vie for overall state honors in Harrington. There will be competition in livestock, poultry, horticulture, vegetable, clothing and textiles, and photography. Other featured contests include tractor driving, photography, archery, Avian Bowl, Consumer Bowl, the 4-H Horse Show and a talent show.

The awards celebration for these contests will be held on Saturday, July 26, from 5-7 p.m.

In addition to the 4-H presence, Cooperative Extension will be represented by members of the Master Gardeners, who will answer gardening questions at their gazebo across from the plaza.

At the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) Commodities Building, the Cooperative Extension exhibit will feature an online Ask an Expert station, which debuted at the state fair last year. At the station, members of the public are invited to query on topics that include lawn and garden, food safety, consumer sciences and questions about 4-H. Live Extension experts will also be on hand to answer questions.

Directly across from the Extension exhibit, DDA’s demonstration kitchen will serve as a stage for a variety of interesting and delicious “how to” presentations, many taught by UD Extension staff members.

In celebration of Cooperative Extension’s 100th anniversary, there will be chances to win one of four gift baskets from each of Extension’s program areas — 4-H, lawn and garden, agriculture and natural resources, and family consumer sciences — with the drawing taking place on Saturday, July 26, at noon.

The Cooperative Extension centennial celebration ceremony will take place from 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m., Thursday, July 24, in the Grove Picnic Area. The public is invited to hear brief remarks by Gov. Jack Markell and others, and enjoy cake and the unveiling of the Centennial ice cream flavor created by the University’s UDairy Creamery especially for the occasion.

Article by Adam Thomas and Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD doctoral student conducts research on tick-borne diseases

Solny Adalsteinsson conducts study on Lyme DiseaseDelaware has one of the nation’s highest rates of Lyme disease per capita and the University of Delaware’s Solny Adalsteinsson is conducting a study that seeks to identify important ecological factors that contribute to the large number of infections.

Adalsteinsson, a doctoral student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, is conducting her research as part of the Forest Fragments in Managed Ecosystems (FRAME) study. 

Looking at a group of forest fragments around New Castle County, Adalsteinsson is sampling ticks, mice and birds to determine factors in the forest fragments that influence tick-borne disease transmission and human disease risk.

Adalsteinsson said that ticks have three life stages beyond the egg: larvae, nymphs and adults. They only feed once during each life stage so the ecological processes that influence which host they feed upon ultimately impact how many ticks are infected.

“If a larval tick hatches out and feeds on a mouse — and mice are really good reservoirs for several tick-borne diseases — and if the larval tick acquires an infection during that blood meal, then it goes back into the leaf litter and molts and becomes a nymph and emerges the following year. When it feeds on its next host, that’s when it can transmit the disease or pick up a new one,” said Adalsteinsson.

Invasive plants and mice

When it comes to mice and the rate at which they transmit tick-borne diseases, Adalsteinsson said that a culprit might be an invasive plant, multiflora rose.

“Multiflora rose may be facilitating that interaction and thus amplifying the number of infected ticks on the landscape. So I’m trying to get at that by first seeing if we find more ticks under multiflora rose than in areas without it, and I think that might be possible,” said Adalsteinsson.

Multiflora rose is a highly invasive plant that takes over an area and covers it in a dense thicket. Ticks are sensitive to drying out and the dense thicket provides them a high humidity environment and stable temperatures, which explains why there may be more ticks living under the multiflora rose.

It is an attractive environment for mice, as well.

“I think mice also probably really like living in multiflora rose and that’s because it provides good cover from predators, and maybe even provides food in the fall when there are rose hips on it,” said Adalsteinsson. “I think mice in general would prefer any kind of thicker understory structure.”

As a result, Adalsteinsson has set up nest boxes around local forest fragments as a way to look at “mouse occupancy.”

“We measure the vegetation around each nest box and then we can see if those vegetation characteristics are influencing whether there’s a mouse occupying that immediate area or not,” she said.

Air tick travel

Birds have been identified as helping to expand the range of certain species of ticks and associated pathogens and because of this Adalsteinsson is also looking at how breeding season, when there is an influx in migratory birds in the area, impacts the disease transmission cycle.

To do this, she is netting birds across the forest fragments and seeing if certain sections contain birds that have higher tick loads than others. She will also pull the ticks off and test them for pathogens.

“We’re also tracking fledglings that spend a lot of time on the ground, catbirds and wood thrush in particular, and seeing if we can identify movement patterns that might explain how ticks are being moved across this type of landscape,” said Adalsteinsson.

Tick species

Adalsteinsson said that for the area in which she studies, which stretches from Mt. Cuba Center in the north to Glasgow Park in the south, there are two main species of ticks: blacklegged ticks, which also are known as deer ticks, and Lone Star ticks.

The deer ticks are the ones that spread Lyme disease and are found in all of the study sites, though they are mostly found in the piedmont sites, which include UD’s Ecology Woods and the areas to the north, while the Lone Star ticks are only found in the southern forest fragments.

“In our southern sites, we’ve found a lot of Lone Star ticks with really high population densities and we’re trying to continue that monitoring to see if they’re expanding their range or if they’re limited by some environmental factor,” said Adalsteinsson.

In addition to UD associate professor Greg Shriver and assistant professor Jeff Buler, who serve as her co-advisers, and professor Jacob Bowman and supplemental faculty member Vince D’Amico, who serve on her dissertation committee, Adalsteinsson is assisted on the study by a large team of undergraduates, recent UD graduates and students from Pennsylvania State University, Denison University and the University of Vermont.

Dustin Brisson, associate professor of biology at the University of Pennsylvania, serves on Adalsteinsson’s committee, as well, and she said that he has provided her with much guidance during the course of the project.

As to how she became interested in the study, Adalsteinsson explained, “I just think it’s a really fascinating area because it’s such a complex system that in order to understand it, you have to know the whole ecosystem and all these moving parts. That really drew me to it. And, like a lot of other people around here, I’ve had Lyme disease a few times myself.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Solny Adalsteinsson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware 4-H hosts Sicilian students as part of Youth Ambassadors Program

4-H hosts students from SicilyThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H Program recently hosted 14 students from Sicily, the largest of the Italian islands, as part of the 2014 Youth Ambassadors Program.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

The participants spent time in the United States from May 17 through June 7 and did everything from exploring Washington, D.C., to spending a night in New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

They also learned how to solve problems facing their communities, important information that they can take with them as they return home.

“They’ve had a pretty broad experience with the idea that they go back to Sicily and maybe do some projects in their community that engage people,” said Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader. “We’ve been trying to teach them how to identify who the stakeholders are in their community and then how to proceed with a project, looking at what steps they need to take so that it’s successful. I think learning those skills will really help them in the end because you could have a great idea for a project but if you don’t know how to implement it, it won’t get off the ground.”

Many of the students identified pollution as a major problem in their community and so they spent time at the Peninsula Composting Group facility learning about commercial composting. They also took an ecological kayak tour at Sedge Island in New Jersey and helped plant beach grass to replenish the dunes.

In addition, the students learned about working in groups, doing team-building exercises to learn about each other’s personalities and how they meshed when trying to solve a problem.

“They’ve gone through what we call the True Colors personality IQ so they all understand their particular styles,” said Manno. “We always do that with kids and it’s really an exercise in diversity. They learn ‘why is this person this way and why am I that way,’ and it helps them understand that some people are very organized and some are just completely different. So they’ve done a lot of skill building and team building exercises.”

Chiara Maggiore, one of the students participating in the program, said that the program “is really teaching us something about ourselves in particular; about our capacities and how we can do something better for our community. I like the fact that we are having so much fun. We are enjoying the trip and we are experiencing things for the first time. At the same time, we came from different parts of the same region and we have such different personalities but we’ve come together and created a great group.”

Gaetano Pardo, another student on the trip, said that he had visited Australia before and was expecting America to be similar to that country. “I was expecting it to be like Australia but it’s not,” said Pardo. “There are a lot of trees and the houses are very different.”

Extending across states

The students spent a large portion of their time in the United States in New Jersey, staying with 4-H host families in the state and being led by Rutgers University Cooperative Extension. Manno pointed out that Alayne Torretta, a New Jersey 4-H agent, was great to work with and that this program — as well as the last program that had students from Colombia and Ecuador — shows the possibilities of Extension partnerships among different states.

“Last fall Delaware 4-H teamed with Maryland’s Cecil County 4-H. This is a great example of cross-state partnerships in Extension. When I first got this grant, I knew we couldn’t do two cycles a year, so I put out a call to my colleagues in the northeast region and I got a lot of interest from that. And I’ve known Alayne Toretta a long time and it’s worked out very well so far,” said Manno.

Manno added that Delaware 4-H is waiting to hear from the State Department about round two of the program. “Teens from almost anywhere in the world may be coming to Delaware and Maryland soon,” he said. “Wherever they come from, they’re guaranteed a great experience in learning about democracy and problem solving.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Three UD scientists among Thomson Reuters’ 2014 Highly Cited Researchers

highlycitedThree University of Delaware professors — Pamela Green, Blake Meyers and Cathy Wu — are among the world’s top scientists, according to the recently launched Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers list.

According to Thomson Reuters, Highly Cited Researchers is a compilation of influential names in science that spotlights some of the “standout researchers of the last decade.”

Deriving from InCites Essential Science Indicators, a subset of the Web of Science, Highly Cited Researchers presents more than 3,000 authors in 21 main fields of science and the social sciences.

The researchers on the list earned the distinction by writing the greatest numbers of reports officially designated by Essential Science Indicators as Highly Cited Papers — those ranking among the top 1 percent most cited for their subject field and year of publication — between 2002 and 2012.

Thus, the listings of Highly Cited Researchers feature authors whose published work in their specialty areas has consistently been judged by peers to be of particular significance and utility, according to Thomson Reuters.

This new compilation of Highly Cited Researchers updates a previous site, originally known as ISIHighlyCited, first launched in 2001. The older collection identified researchers according to total citations to their work.

This time, Thomson Reuters analysts decided on a different approach, relying on the Highly Cited Papers compiled by Essential Science Indicators.

Pamela Green

Green is a professor and holds the Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. She is also a professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment with joint appointments in the departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry and Biochemistry.

She leads a laboratory at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) where her research is focused on post-transcriptional mechanisms that regulate the expression of genes, primarily in plants, but also in marine organisms and human cells. She is particularly interested in the fate of mRNA molecules because of their pivotal role as intermediates in the gene expression process.

Her work investigates the regulatory roles of microRNAs, RNA degradation, ribonucleases, and environmental stress responses.

Blake Meyers

Meyers is the chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and he is the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences. He also leads a laboratory at DBI.

The research of the Meyers lab is focused on plant genomics, studying and characterizing small RNAs and their regulatory roles. The lab’s research utilizes novel approaches and applications of bioinformatics and next-generation sequencing, with an emphasis on understanding the biological functions, evolution, and genomic impact of small RNAs, plus their interconnected functions in DNA methylation and as modulators of gene expression. These studies take place in rice, Arabidopsis, maize, Medicago, soybean and other species.

Cathy Wu

Wu is the Edward G. Jefferson Chair of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, the director for the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB), the director of the Protein Information Resource (PIR) and a professor of computer and information sciences and also of biological sciences.

Her research interests include bioinformatics and computational biology, biological text mining, biological ontology, systems biology, and bioinformatics cyberinfrastructure. She is the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on a number of consortium projects, including the UniProt Consortium that provides an international protein sequences and functional resource with over 4 million page views per month from over 400,000 unique sites worldwide.

Collaborations

The three researchers have had a number of collaborations with one another over the years.

Meyers and Green just completed their 34th co-authored paper together, in addition to having had numerous grants funded together. Their collaborative work is facilitated by the intermingling of lab members in shared office space.

The two also serve as advisers on the graduate committees of each other’s students and are currently wrapping up a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) project with joint funding.

Together with Wu, all three researchers are involved in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program at UD.

Wu and Meyers are involved in a $2.2 million grant provided to UD from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to look at the production of biofuels in which they focus on aspects of analysis of gene expression and systems biology. Wu and Meyers also work together on the bioinformatics graduate program, which Wu leads, and Wu is on the thesis committee for several of Meyers’ bioinformatics graduate students. Green is on the admissions committee for the bioinformatics graduate program.

Meyers explained that a common theme for all of them is large-scale biology. “While we each have our own areas of specialization and this ‘theme’ of large-scale biology plays a role of varying importance to our labs, we have many approaches in common. These are mainly related to bioinformatics and computational analyses, but are also connected to data generation, and laboratory methods and biological systems in the case of Pam and me,” he said.

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