Upcoming seminars provide insight into poultry career opportunities

The University of Delaware will host a Poultry Careers Seminar Series throughout October geared towards students interested in a career in the poultry industry.

The seminars will all take place at 6 p.m. in room 101 of the Allen Laboratory and will provide students an opportunity to speak directly to employers offering internships, management trainee programs and full time positions. A free dinner will be offered before each seminar and there will be drawings for two $50 Barnes and Noble gift cards for students who attend more than 2 seminars.

The next seminar will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 7 and will focus on learning about management training programs and what companies are currently hiring.

Speakers include Ronnie Phillips, who works in human resources for Mountaire Farms, a diverse and fast growing poultry and agricultural business which partners with local farming communities to raise chickens and grains to feed them, and Leah Snyder Santiago, a UD alumnus and assistant manager at the International Standard of Excellence (ISE) America’s table egg complex in New Jersey. ISE America is a totally integrated egg laying and production operation and sets the International Standard of Excellence in egg production.

Additional seminars will be on Tuesday, October 13, and Thursday, October 22.

Presenters at these seminars will include representatives from Perdue Farms, Cobb-Vantress, the Phibro Animal Health Corporation and more.

There will also be information about a travel opportunity to Atlanta, Georgia in January 2016 to attend the largest international poultry and agribusiness trade show at the United States Poultry Foundation’s College Student Career Program, which is held in conjunction with the International Production and Processing Expo.

The program will allow students opportunities to interview with 25 regional, national and international poultry and agribusiness companies and organizations while having the opportunity to network with over 1,200 companies.

The Expo is expecting more than 25,000 attendees from all over the globe and most student travel expenses including transportation, hotel room and some meals are covered with it only costing students $75 to participate in the career program and trade show.

To apply, students must submit a 1-2 page essay of why they would like to participate in this program. Students need to have a minimum GPA of 2.0 and include their major and their expected month and year of graduation. The essay should be in Arial 12-point font, double-spaced and students should also include a copy of their resume.

Applications must be submitted by Wednesday, October 15 at 5 p.m.

Students interested in attending any of these seminars are requested to log into their Blue Hen Career account to RSVP for the Seminar Series or RSVP to Diane Venninger at dvenning@udel.edu for each individual seminar so that food can be planned accordingly.

Please submit essays and resumes as a Word or PDF file to Venninger at dvenning@udel.edu.

CANR to host lecture on pathogen research by NIH’s Kindrachuk

The University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will host Jason Kindrachuk, a staff scientist with National Institutes of Health (NIH) Critical Care Medicine Department, as he gives a talk titled “Science Under (Negative) Pressure: The Trials and Tribulations of Emerging/Re-Emerging Pathogen Research from the Lab to the Hot Zone,” at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 19, in the Townsend Hall Commons.

Kindrachuk will discuss the limitations of working within a high-containment research laboratory and his work studying emerging and re-emerging high-containment viruses with an emphasis on incorporating novel methodologies for dissecting the pathogenic mechanisms of these viruses and identifying novel therapeutic strategies.

He will also discuss the events that facilitated the rapid spread of Ebola virus disease (EVD) throughout West Africa, response efforts within the region during the outbreak, his personal experiences working within the heart of the EVD outbreak in Liberia in September 2014 and perspectives for limiting future outbreaks of this magnitude in impoverished regions.

Kindrachuk earned his doctorate at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. His current research integrates the use of kinome analysis and systems biology to carry out investigations of host-pathogen interactions with emerging and re-emerging viral pathogens such as Ebola virus, variola virus (the etiologic agent of smallpox), monkeypox virus and influenza A viruses, among others. He is also investigating the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis in viral and bacterial co-infections.

Kindrachuk recently served as a scientific lead for diagnostic support of the Centers for Disease Control/Department of Defense joint operations in Monrovia, Liberia, in support of the international response efforts for EVD outbreak.

The lecture is being organized and hosted by Ryan Arsenault, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

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Second annual UD water symposium focuses on science, policy

2015 water symposium, water science and police graduate program at Townsend Hall University of DelawareUniversity of Delaware students and faculty, as well as professionals from industry, government and non-profit organizations, gathered in the Townsend Hall Commons on Friday, Sept. 25, as part of the second annual Water Science and Policy Symposium.

Donald Boesch, professor of marine science and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, served as the plenary speaker for the event and addressed his experiences with a talk titled “Science and Policy in the Chesapeake Bay: The Long-Haul and the Tight Crunch.”

Boesch discussed the physical characteristics of the bay and how those characteristics that define its vulnerability — such as shallow waters, unique shoreline dimensions and a drainage catchment that includes six states — are also what make it such a productive ecosystem.

Boesch said that when studying the Chesapeake, it is important to understand the bay beyond its geological history. “Humans have always had some impact on the Chesapeake Bay, even the small populations of Native Americans in terms of local resources, but it really started to grow substantially with the advent of the migration of the large number of Europeans into North America,” he said.

This impact was mainly through deforestation.

“When they used the landscape to grow tobacco and other crops, they were making it change from being a clear water, nutrient limited system that is still highly productive to one that is now turbid and eutrophic, which has more nutrients, one that is highly productive but doesn’t necessarily lead to the same kinds of outcomes in terms of higher trophic levels,” said Boesch.

Boesch pointed out some of the scientific pioneers who have studied the Chesapeake Bay, including L. Eugene Cronin, who conducted research on the blue crab beginning in the 1950s; Bill Hargis, who was the director of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science from its founding in 1959 until 1981; and Don Pritchard, who studied the bay for 50 years and discovered that it contains two layers of water — lighter fresh water on top and salty water along the bottom.

He also pointed out statistics, such as how the oyster population of the bay is less than one percent of historic levels due to loss of habitat and filtration capacity.

Boesch said that industrial agriculture as part of the Green Revolution had an impact on the Chesapeake, as did Hurricane Agnes in 1972, which he said was like a “big flush” that brought drought-like conditions to the area.

He also said that in recent years, models have been used to estimate how much phosphorous and nitrogen is entering the bay but that the models must confront reality and that it is essential to bring together models and observations to make an adaptive management cycle to help the body of water.

Boesch stressed that when working on science with regard to the Chesapeake Bay, it is important to remember that people’s economic livelihoods are tied to it, which may make them hesitate to adopt environmental friendly practices such as restricting the number of oysters they are able to harvest. It also is important to be able to communicate complicated research to policy makers who may not be familiar with the research.

Boesch ended his talk by giving examples of how science and policies — specifically those aimed at reducing nitrogen and phosphorous inputs — has helped to improve portions of the Chesapeake.

“There are some pretty good success stories about science in the bay that were made through a sustainable use of resources. Striped bass were really in a bad situation and now a lot of those populations have recovered,” he said. “They are doing the same thing in managing blue crab in parts — if you see that it’s a female, you don’t want to catch one because they have a lot of eggs ready to go — and we have massive oyster restoration, trying to rebuild sea populations rather than just put oysters back in.”

Boesch ended by talking about how climate change and sea-level rise will play a role in all environmental science fields now and into the future, and pointed to the Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education Assessment and Research (MADE-CLEAR) as an example of a program working to engage climate scientists, science educators and the broader community of interest in implementing a comprehensive climate change education plan in the region.

2015 water symposium, water science and police graduate program at Townsend Hall University of DelawareThe conference was opened by Shreeram Inamdar, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and director of the water science and policy graduate program who organized the symposium, who welcomed the participants and talked about the interdisciplinary nature of the event.

“Since the water graduate program is spread across the University, there are students here from many colleges and departments. I think the symposium is important because it provides the opportunity for these students to connect with each other, see what others are working on, and also connect with water science faculty,” said Inamdar. “Most importantly, however, I want these students to connect with working professionals, and we have some great guests on hand to speak with the students about their professions.”

CANR Dean Mark Rieger spoke about how the symposium is growing and how it was significant to see students sitting along professionals from industry and government.

“It is important to have science-based research to determine what we do with regard to water quality, and it’s great to see the program develop and grow and see the students interact with faculty and industry professionals,” Rieger said.

Rieger added that it is difficult to administer an interdisciplinary effort and praised Inamdar, who he said “has done a great job incorporating four colleges into the program.”

Rieger acknowledged the many UD alumni who were in attendance and taking part in the expert panel discussion. He said this speaks to the importance of building connections and networks at such events.

Research presentations

Following the plenary talk, 15 UD water science and policy students gave five-minute presentations on their research, including topics such as “The Effect of In-Season Fertilization Strategy on the Yield and Nutrient Use Efficiency of Irrigated Corn” and “From Ridge Top to Valley Bottom: Soil Greenhouse Gas Fluxes Across Complex Terrain.”

The presentations were moderated by Alex Soroka, a master’s degree student in CANR, and Matthew Miller, a doctoral student in the college, and student awards were handed out after the presentations.

First place went to Miller for his talk “Extreme Weather and Drinking Water Utilities: Impacts, Risks and Tough Decisions,” second place went to Chelsea Krieg for “After the Storm: Nitrogen Cycling in Flood Sediments and Impacts on Water Quality,” and third place went to Joe Brown for “A Field Study of Biochar Amended Soils.”

A panel discussion followed with panel members including:

  • Jennifer Adkins, executive director, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary;
  • Christina Casole, water resources engineer, Skelly and Loy Inc.;
  • Ed Hallock, program administrator, Office of Drinking Water;
  • Alison Kiliszek, engineer, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC);
  • Christopher Nealen, hydrologist, U.S. Geological Survey;
  • Mark Strickland, water resource engineer, Century Engineering Inc.; and
  • Larry Trout, senior manager, water resources, RK&K.

The panel was moderated by Sandra Petrakis, a master’s degree student in CANR, and Matthew Miller.

The symposium wrapped up with informal networking and hors d’oeuvres in the Townsend Hall Commons.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan

UD researchers help Laurel residents reimagine town

UD researchers help Laurel residents reimagine townNeighbors ambled along the walking trail near Broad Creek, watching wildlife, kayakers and paddle boarders glide across the water. Children hopped over logs and hunted bugs in a nature playground, while music and the smell of food wafted from Laurel’s downtown commercial district.

These activities, and more, were part of the Fall Ramble along Broad Creek held on Saturday, Sept. 26. Based on a national Better Block model, the one-day Fall Ramble event was designed to help residents and visitors envision what “could be” for Laurel on a permanent basis with The Ramble redevelopment plan.

The Ramble project is a collaborative effort between the Laurel Redevelopment Corporation, the town of Laurel, and the University of Delaware’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative, led by Jules Bruck and Ed Lewandowski.

“By taking advantage of the amenities in their own backyard, like the Broad Creek, the townspeople of Laurel can create a destination spot, a reason for visitors to want to stop downtown in the future,” explained Lewandowski, acting marine advisory services director for Delaware Sea Grant and coordinator for the University’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative, which is housed in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Attractions like the The Shoppes at Village Greenemerged as a community hot spot with café dining, entertainment, local artists and farm fresh produce, among other things, while pop-up shops including Next Level Bike and Boards, created by UD alumnus Paul Moser, and the temporary façade of a proposed residential Cottages at Laurel Mills showcased the potential businesses and residential areas that could thrive in the town.

“And of course the Ramble Tap House. It felt like a meeting spot, a place where everyone went to check in, relax, hear some music and socialize,” said Jules Bruck, assistant professor of landscape design in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Bruck presented the town leaders with a conceptual “nature based playground” where planted landscapes, logs and trees create a semi-wild environment for children to bug-watch, dig, play in the tall grass and otherwise explore nature.

Research supports the idea that children who spend time in nature are more active, get sick less often and develop better stress management techniques. At the same time, natural playgrounds are sustainable and offer a lower carbon footprint than their plastic counterparts.

During a special ceremony, members of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe blessed the Broad Creek at “The Wading Place,” a site shown in historical records to once have been part of the Nanticoke reservation. Neighbors and visitors stood shoulder to shoulder alongside the tidal waters as the tribe’s assistant chief, Larry Jackson, offered prayer and tribal leader Herman Jackson cleansed the area with a traditional “smudging ritual.”

Assistant chief Jackson presented the event organizers with a commemorative tribal coin and a turkey feather adorned with four colored beads representing the “Four Peoples — north, south, east and west” in symbolic recognition of their keen vision and efforts to bring the community together.

“It was a tremendous way to emphasize community unity and the concept of restoring balance and harmony to the Broad Creek through Laurel,” said Bruck.

The Ramble redevelopment plan grew out of an earlier water quality improvement project by UD, the town of Laurel and the Laurel Redevelopment Corp. Posted signs at the event described plans for a future “floating wetlands” project to help continue water quality improvements in the Broad Creek.

Article by Karen B. Roberts

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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.

UD’s Kristen Rauch serves as mobile market manager for Bright Spot Urban Farm

UD's Kristen Rauch serves as mobile market manager for Bright Spot Urban FarmUniversity of Delaware student Kristen Rauch spent her summer interning with Bright Spot Urban Farm in Wilmington as its mobile market manager, providing fresh food for truck delivery at stops around the city.

Rauch, a senior majoring in natural resource management and agriculture and natural resources in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, arranged for the internship through the University’s Service Learning Scholars program, which is administered by the Office of Service Learning.

She said Bright Spot Urban Farm, which is a part of Bright Spot Ventures – a program designed to give former foster care youth real-world employment experience – is located off Route 13 in the city and includes a half-acre of arable land and a greenhouse.

“We grow and harvest everything that’s in season and because we have about eight markets a week. Whatever we can’t grow, we’ll supplement with things from the Amish auction in Oxford, Pennsylvania, and also from plots up at the community garden at Rodney Reservoir in Wilmington,” said Rauch.

As the mobile market manager, Rauch harvested crops on the farm, washed and banded the items, and then put the harvested products in a refrigeration unit on a truck that was driven around to mobile market stops.

“The mobile market is basically a food truck from which you sell produce. We set up tables, bring the produce out of the truck and set it up on the tables. Then people can come and buy the produce straight from us,” said Rauch. “We have a farmer’s market on Thursday nights and we bring the truck to that.”

Rauch worked along with Alexandra Keith, a CANR junior who worked this summer as the farm manager at Bright Spot, and her internship had a research component to it, as well.

Rauch said she is writing her senior thesis and, while it is still evolving, it started as a study focused on consumer accessibility to fresh food.

“As a mobile market, we were able to go into areas that might not have access to fresh food and we were able to sell and provide cheap produce. It was all about accessibility and comparing the demographics of who comes to the market and what they’re looking for, or whether they’re comfortable preparing the foods,” said Rauch.

Her thesis has now added a food literacy component to it. “There is this huge disconnect with people buying produce and knowing how to grow it or where it comes from, and basically why all those things are important. It’s crazy that we put these things in our bodies and we don’t know where they come from,” said Rauch.

Rauch, who had previous experience working at Valley Road Produce and Flowers in Elkton, Maryland, said she enjoyed the interactions she had with people, both the customers and especially her co-workers at Bright Spot.

“The social service mission of Bright Spot is that it empowers youth transitioning out of foster care and it provides them with basic job skills and employment so that they can find future employment in either agricultural or non-agricultural fields,” said Rauch. “As far as the mobile market goes, we teach them customer service skills and financial skills, maybe counting change at the end of the day and maintaining the books for that. On the farm you learn that you have to be there at a certain time and even when it’s hot you have to work hard, so you gain a valuable work ethic.”

As a natural resource management and agriculture and natural resources double major, Rauch said she is eventually hoping to have a career involved with social equity and sustainability.

“What’s cool about natural resource management is that there’s the economics side to it, and so I think the only way you can convince enough big business and people in the world to actually care about the environment is by appealing to their economic side. You have to consider the human aspect, too, and the benefits across the board,” said Rauch. “I believe in making local natural resource use more sustainable and equitable, and that communities and the world need to be considered when implementing policy or sustainability efforts.”

To learn more about Bright Spot Ventures visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan and courtesy of Kristen Rauch

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Study finds conservation mascots effective in more ways than one

Study finds conservation mascots effective in more ways than oneSmokey Bear has spent decades reminding picnickers “only you can prevent forest fires” and has even been known to cry over the devastation they leave in their wake. University of Delaware researchers say the cartoon bear illustrates how mascots can most effectively protect the environment – by threatening disappointment.

New findings show adults are less likely to pollute when conservation information is presented to them by a mascot. And, they are most likely to make the right choice when it prevents the fuzzy creatures from being sad.

Some conservation groups, such as the non-profit organization Rare, have been using mascots for years as part of their “pride” campaigns throughout the world, helping protect endangered species, develop sustainable fisheries, and improve water quality by tapping into residents’ pride in their communities.

Brett Jenks, Rare’s president and CEO, said that “while mascots, parades, festivals and other common elements of pride campaigns may be great for attracting media coverage, some skeptics question their effectiveness at getting landowners or fishermen to truly exchange some of their short-term profit for environmental preservation.”

Rare turned to researchers at the University of Delaware to test in a controlled laboratory setting the core question of whether mascots really can inspire new behaviors that benefit the environment, something it has seen play out in hundreds of pride campaigns around the globe.

So Kent Messer, co-director of the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resoruces, and his economics colleagues, Julie Butler, assistant professor, and Jacob Fooks, a recent graduate, set up a test involving 168 UD students.

“Frankly, as an economist, I was skeptical that a smiley-faced, goofy-looking mascot could do anything to help the environment,” Messer said. “My children might want me to pay to have their pictures next to one in Times Square, but when it comes to adults giving up money for the sake of a mascot, that seemed unlikely.”

Participating students were placed into groups and given the roles of factory owners in a common area. They made production decisions that earned them profits but resulted in byproducts that polluted a neighboring stream.

When participants chose to produce more, they earned more profit and created more pollution. The game featured the opportunity to earn real money. The more profit they earned in the game, the more they took home – on average $30 for the 90-minute experiment.

In the baseline group, participants saw only the water quality in their area that resulted from their decisions. In other groups, participants saw both the results of their decisions and whether the water met or failed to meet a clean water goal.

Study finds conservation mascots effective in more ways than one

Those groups also interacted with a mascot: either the Rare mascot Meloy Junior, a panther grouper fish from the Philippines, or the University of Delaware’s mascot, YoUDee.

The mascots silently interacted with the participants by either providing high fives and excitement or expressing disappointment and disapproval.  When exposed to pride campaigns, participants significantly lowered their pollution. The groups were eight times more likely to achieve the clean water goal compared to the baseline treatment.

The results suggest participants reduced pollution the most when the mascots expressed disappointment, similar to how Americans responded to Smokey crying.

The findings indicate that while mascots may be great at inspiring action through their cheers and high fives, the biggest impacts of mascots may come through displays of disappointment with a negative outcome. In other words, while making Smokey Bear cheer may be nice, what motivates changes in behavior to protect the environment the most is preventing him from being sad.

What interested Jenks most was that participants were nearly 75 percent more likely to reach the clean water goal when the mascot was the University of Delaware’s mascot rather than Rare’s Meloy Junior. This suggests having a social connection to the mascot matters – UD students were more likely to voluntarily reduce their pollution in response to their school’s mascot than to one they did not know.

“This is why at Rare we work in partnership with the local communities and use local animals as mascots in the pride campaigns,” Jenks said. Meloy Junior, who is now an ambassador for Rare worldwide, was inspired by his predecessor, Meloy, a pride campaign mascot in the small municipality of Inabanga in central Philippines.

Meloy, an anthropomorphized panther grouper, became a familiar and popular celebrity in Inabanga, helping Rare campaign fellow Tian Cempron, himself the son of a local fisher, to promote respect for and community enforcement of a small but ecologically important marine protected area in the municipal waters.

According to Jenks, “it is just really exciting to see this kind of high-quality research applied to questions that are so relevant to our work in the field. We are eager to take lessons from the laboratory and apply them directly to improving how we help communities to take pride in and manage their precious resources.”

About Rare 

Rare inspires change so people and nature thrive. Rare looks for proven conservation solutions and trains local leaders to inspire communities to adopt them and make them their own through its signature pride campaigns. Pride campaigns use proven marketing techniques to move the hearts and minds of local communities, accelerating the adoption and increasing the sustainability of the solutions.

Rare has conducted over 250 pride campaigns in more than 50 countries, empowering local communities across geographies and cultures to shift from resource users to become natural asset managers. Visit Rare on the web at www.rare.org.

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UD’s Yan Jin receives national society’s soil physics award

The University of Delaware’s Yan Jin has been presented the 2015 Don and Betty Kirkham Soil Physics Award by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The University of Delaware’s Yan Jin has been presented the 2015 Don and Betty Kirkham Soil Physics Award by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).

The award is designed to recognize a mid-career soil scientist who has made outstanding contributions in the areas of soil physics and is supported by the Don and Betty Kirkham Fund established through the Agronomic Science Foundation and administered by the society.

The award was established in 1998 as a permanent tribute to Don Kirkham, regarded as the founder of modern soil physics, and his wife Betty, who inspired and supported him in an unparalleled and unselfish way.

Jin, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences with a joint appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is the 18th award recipient and the first woman to receive the award.

Jin will be presented with the award at the society’s international annual meeting to be held in Nov. 15-18 in Minneapolis.

“I feel very honored and also humbled,” said Jin of the honor. “When I look at the list of past recipients, I see the people who have been instrumental in developing the soil physics field; some of them have been my personal inspiration and helped me tremendously during my career. I’m really grateful to them, and it feels a little unreal to be on that list.”

Jin’s primary research at UD is in the general area of measurements, modeling and interpretation of contaminant fate and transport in porous media.

In particular, she is internationally recognized for her work on colloid and microorganism transport in soils and groundwater. She was praised for her unusually comprehensive and intense focus on all of the underlying physical and geochemical processes controlling colloid and virus transport, and subsequent application of the research to practical soil and groundwater pollution problems.

Her research includes theoretical and experimental ranging from the pore scale to laboratory column scale and beyond.

One of the major contributions of her research was being the first to quantify and examine the retention mechanisms of viruses in unsaturated systems.

Subsequent studies have examined all the major factors and processes that control virus retention and transport in porous media, which led to the invention of a novel non-chlorine-based treatment technology for removing viruses and other pathogens from water using elemental iron.

The technology has been patented in the United States and Canada and has the potential to be adopted in various settings and for different purposes, such as in developing countries to provide safe drinking water and protect public health and in developed countries as an inexpensive alternative to more effectively remove viruses in a variety of treatment settings for drinking water.

After receiving her undergraduate degree in soil science from the Hebei Agricultural University, China, Jin went on to get her master’s degree in soil chemistry from New Mexico State University and then received her doctorate from the interdisciplinary environmental toxicology program at the University of California, Riverside.

She joined the UD faculty in 1995 and has been actively engaged in research, teaching and service/outreach in her 20-year tenure at the University.

She has provided leadership and services to SSSA and other scientific communities, including serving as associate editor for the Vodose Zone Journal and Journal of Environmental Quality. She was elected an SSSA fellow in 2008.

With the United Nations declaring 2015 to be the International Year of Soils, Jin said she is glad to see the importance of soil being highlighted on a global scale.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

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University Botanic Gardens’ fall plant sale announced

udbgsaleAn assortment of plants with color, texture and form to add to a garden’s allure will be available for purchase at the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens’ fall plant sale this weekend.

The sale will be held from 4-7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 18, and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 19, in the production area across from Fischer Greenhouse on UD’s South Campus. Admission is free.

Those who become UDBG Friends are eligible to come to the sale for Member’s Day, Thursday, Sept. 17, from 4-7 pm. Those with interest can join online or at the sale.

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


Originally posted on UDaily

UD Cooperative Extension to co-sponsor ‘A Day on the Farm’ event in Hockessin

UD Cooperative Extension to co-sponsor 'A Day on the Farm' event in HockessinUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension invites Delaware residents and visitors to see and experience agriculture first-hand at the “A Day on the Farm” event on Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin.

UD Cooperative Extension has teamed up with the Mitchell family, the Delaware Farm Bureau, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the New Castle Conservation District and other sponsors to put on this event.

The event is free and parking is free.

“We’re excited to share our farm and promote the importance of local agriculture to our special visitors,” says Jim Mitchell, owner of Woodside Farm Creamery.

The event will feature a “Who’s Your Farmer” tent showcasing local farm producers, educational exhibits, demonstrations, hay rides, a straw bale maze, outdoor woodlands classroom, a scavenger hunt for kids, simulated cow milking, and many more activities.

Food will be on sale by several vendors including New Castle County 4-H Links/Leaders, Haass Butcher Shop, the Delaware State Grange and the Woodside Farm Creamery.

For more information, call New Castle County Cooperative Extension at 302-831-8965 or visit the Facebook page.

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR freshmen begin inaugural ‘Do More than Learn…Grow’ challenge

CANR Freshmen receive plants during inaugural Do More Than Learn...Grow challengeThe 171 new students enrolled in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented spider plants to care for throughout their academic careers as part of the college’s academic orientation held Aug. 31 in the Townsend Hall Commons.

The plant presentations were part of CANR’s inaugural “Do More than Learn…Grow” challenge, and the individual whose plant flourishes the most will be awarded a $250 gift card at the college’s convocation in May 2019.

“Recently, The Wall Street Journal cited agriculture and natural resources as a top 10 major regarding college enrollment growth nationwide,” said Mark Rieger, dean of the college. “Students come to CANR seeking a rewarding college experience that will enable them to grow in a variety of ways. Our new ‘Do More Than Learn…Grow’ challenge captures this very spirit. I am looking forward to seeing a number of new CANR students, as well as their plants, flourish and thrive over the next four years.”

Kim Yackoski, senior assistant dean of student services at CANR, said that in addition to supplying the students a decorative plant for their residence hall rooms or homes, the gift and accompanying challenge also provided a way to help students feel connected to the college.

“The name ties into the tagline on our college website and it’s a unique new tradition to welcome our undergraduates and help them feel connected to our college,” said Yackoski. “College is a time not only to learn but to grow, so I thought we could tie the whole plant idea into that theme.”

The spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) were donated by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) through cuttings of other plants already established by Bill Bartz, greenhouse manager, and his staff during the summer in the Fischer Greenhouse.

The plants are expected to grow up to two feet tall, and this increase in size may require them to be re-potted.

“Once they get bigger, re-potting them will help them flourish even more,” said Yackoski.

She added, “Word has definitely gotten out about the plants. I’ve already heard from an upper class plant science student who wants to help coordinate a re-potting get-together in a year or so for anyone who would want to re-pot their plants.”

Yackoski said that Valann Budischak, volunteer and education coordinator at the UDBG, stopped her in the hall one day with the idea and it grew from there.

“I want to especially thank Valann for stopping me with the initial idea of giving students plants and to Bill Bartz and his team in our UD Greenhouse for generously donating the plants. UDBG volunteers planted 175 plants for us and also assisted every step of the way,” said Yackoski.

As for how the students reacted to the plants, Yackoski said that it was very positive.

“They loved them and were excited. At first I was worried because when they left Townsend Hall, they were heading to other planned events on campus for new students before heading back to their rooms and I thought it might be a pain to carry the plant around. But they said, ‘No, we love this. This is no problem. We’re going to head back to our residence hall first and drop it off.’ They loved it,” said Yackoski.

Yackoski said the challenge was a great example of the new ideas that blossom at CANR.

“I love working in a college where our faculty, staff and students are down to earth — no pun intended — and are always thinking up new ideas and interesting challenges or are up for a challenge,” said Yackoski.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Christy Mannering

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Tara Trammell, John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry, new professor profile

Tara Trammell New professor profile
Tara Trammell, John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry

Could you provide a little background about yourself?

My mathematics undergraduate degree is from Berea College, and my biology graduate degrees are from the University of Louisville. I began my research career as an ecosystem ecologist studying the effects of restoration management techniques on native glade openings in eastern deciduous forests, specifically focusing on the ecosystem nutrient losses following prescribed burns. After earning my master’s degree, I worked for a few years in a lab that focused on urban forest ecology. We studied how the context around urban forests affected aspects of forest function such as nutrient cycling. For my dissertation work, I wanted to focus on urban ecosystems, so I stayed in Louisville to conduct my doctoral research.

What were you specifically looking at with your dissertation work?

I was interested in studying indirect human influences in forests along urban interstates that experience natural ecosystem processes, like forest regeneration, yet also experience a lot of heavy influence from the highway. Encouragingly, we found that the tree community was very diverse and mostly native. We also found some rare native species in a few forest sites, which was exciting. However, there was an exotic invasive shrub species, Amur honeysuckle, that had a strong influence on the forest structure and how it functioned. I’ll be continuing to conduct research on how non-native invasive species change urban forest structure and function.

What did you do after your dissertation work?

As a post-doctoral scientist at the University of Utah, I worked on a large, collaborative National Science Foundation Macrosystems project. About half of the principal investigators on the grant were ecologists, and the other half were social scientists. Urban ecosystems are socially, ecologically, and technologically complex systems, so it is important to try to understand the impact of human behavior, preferences, activities, and decision-making while conducting ecological research. In this project, we were trying to understand how urban ecosystems are becoming more similar based on such factors. I conducted ecological field work and homeowner interviews in residential yards in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles for the project.

What is your favorite part about studying urban forestry?

The majority of the U.S. population and over half of the global population now live in cities and associated built areas, so understanding how to make cities more livable is really important for humanity. Cities also have a large impact on our environment, and in-turn can act as a natural experiment for many global change factors such as non-native invasive species and altered climate regimes. My passion for studying urban forest ecology stems not only from the fact that many core ecological questions still remain unanswered, but also the applicability and importance of urban research for people.

What made you decide to want to come to UD?

I was impressed by the warmth and passion of the people I met during the interview process. I had several positive interactions with the faculty and others in the college. I felt like it was a collegial place and since I have been here, that’s the way it’s been.

I’m also excited to be on the east coast where there are two large cities (Philadelphia and New York) to the north and two large cities to the south (Washington D. C. and Baltimore) that may be ideal study sites.

Will you be teaching any classes?

I’m teaching an urban ecology class this fall, and I will teach an urban forestry class next spring.

How was your first semester at UD?

Exciting and challenging. I’m in the process of getting the lab set up, and this past summer, we started collecting tree and understory vegetation data in some forest fragments close to Newark and in Philadelphia. I’ve meet so many wonderful people since my arrival, and the collegial and collaborative feel in the department and across the departments is really inspiring.

Article by Adam Thomas

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 researchers identify behaviors of nanoparticle that shows promise as nanofertilizer

Drs. Deb Jaisi, Yan Jin and Dengjun Wang are doing research involving how nanoparticles can help with the phosphorous release in soil.Researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered unique behaviors of hydroxyapatite nanoparticles (HANPs) that show promise as a phosphorus nanofertilizer and could be used to help slow the release of phosphorous in soils.

This would both increase phosphorous uptake efficiencies in the growing of plants and also in protecting environmentally sensitive sites, including bodies of water, by reducing nutrient loading, which is important because phosphorous is a nonrenewable resource and an essential nutrient for agricultural production.

Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the research was conducted by Dengjun Wang, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Yan Jin, professor of plant and soil sciences with a joint appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Deb Jaisi, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences with a joint appointment in the Department of Geological Sciences.

The HANPs are known as a strong sorbent for contaminants such as heavy metals and radionuclides and are already being used to remediate soils, sediments and ground waters. However, its potential as a better phosphorous fertilizer in agriculture has just started to be fully explored, the researchers said.

The nanoparticle-based fertilizer has three major advantages over conventional phosphorous fertilizers in that it does not release phosphorous as quickly as the conventional fertilizers, it does not change soil pH upon phosphorous release and the loss of phosphorous from soil is low. The slow and steady release of phosphorous allows plants to continuously take up the nutrient as they grow.

Jaisi said that the way phosphorous is currently applied to soils in fertilizer is like someone taking a glucose tablet as opposed to receiving it through an IV drip. While a commercial phosphorous fertilizer hits the soil all at once and does not allow sufficient time for plant uptake, resulting in phosphorous loss in runoff or by leaching, the HANPs provide a slow release of phosphorous for an extended period of time.

“When phosphorous is released from HANPs, it does not increase soil acidity,” said Jaisi. “There was an issue of global soil acidification after the Green (agriculture) Revolution, a direct consequence from the application of chemical fertilizers. The cost of reversing soil pH to optimal for crop production is extremely high.”

As the demand to provide food for a growing population has increased, so has the application of phosphorous fertilizers, which has led to phosphorous loss from agricultural soils to open waters and has caused eutrophication in environmentally sensitive areas like the Chesapeake Bay. With the ability of HANPs to release phosphorous slowly, the nanoparticles could prove to be environmentally beneficial by reducing phosphorous loss to open waters.

“You can minimize that risk and at the same time, increase the availability of phosphorous for a longer period of time during plant growth,” said Jin.

“I think the goal would be to explore whether this is a feasible form of phosphorous fertilizer to be used at large scales,” she added. “We’ve been applying a lot of phosphorous to soil for many years, and the available source is diminishing. We need to find new products and new ways of supplying the nutrient, while at the same time minimizing environmental impacts.”

“A major objective of this work,” Jaisi said, “was to look at the fate of these nanoparticles — if the nanoparticles themselves move away from the soil to open waters or if they remain in the soil, and how they interact with other nanoparticles in the soil. This is important because for the best utilization of phosphorous, HANPs have to remain in soil for an extended time and not be lost via runoff or by leaching.”

Wang said the HANPs have low mobility, and the presence of other nanoparticles in the soil, such as positively charged iron oxides that are ubiquitous in soil and other subsurface environments, would fix themselves to the negatively charged HANP particles and slow down their movement.

Jin explained that in order for plants to take up the phosphorous from HANPs, it needs to be released from the nanoparticles. “When plants grow, they continuously release different types of low molecular weight organic acids such as oxalic acid and citric acid. The acids that get into the soil will interact with those particles so that phosphorous can be released and be taken up by plants,” said Jin.

Wang said the process is very dynamic. “The plant continuously releases organic acids and these organic acids will dissolve the HANPs making phosphorous available for the plant. The release rate in the presence of these organic acids and the possibility of HANPs being a phosphorous fertilizer are currently being investigated by the research team.”

In reaching their conclusions, the team examined how HANPs interact with a naturally occurring goethite nanoparticles (GNPs), a common iron oxide in soils, to investigate the co-transport and retention of HANPs and GNPs in water-saturated sand columns under environmentally relevant transport conditions.

Wang said that the nanoparticle with which the group works is very small, ranging from one nanometer to 100 nanometers, with one nanometer being about 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

“These very tiny particles have large specific surface areas and high reactivity; they are quite fantastic to a variety of applications in various fields, including agriculture,” he said.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD grad student Bridget Aylward recognized for work on bovine immune cells

UD grad student Bridget Aylward recognized for work on bovine immune cellsThe University of Delaware’s Bridget Aylward was recently awarded first place for a presentation concerning her research on immunology in bovines in a regional graduate student competition sponsored by the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) and the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS).

Aylward, a master’s degree student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), received the award at the ADSA/ASAS Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) in Orlando, Florida.

Working with Robert Dyer, associate professor of animal and food sciences, and Amanda Barnard, a doctoral student in the college, Aylward said that their research is focused on immune cells from fat tissues and lymph nodes in dairy cows.

“We extract the cells and stain them with fluorescent antibodies to look for certain surface markers that are only expressed on immune cells,” said Aylward.

The idea for the project came from studies of humans in which researchers have been able to identify significant populations of immune cells in the fat. In cases of nutrient overburdening and increased diet-related obesity, scientists have been able to show that those immune cells assume a more inflammatory phenotype.

“They start to release inflammatory cytokines and these have a direct impact on the development and progression of metabolic diseases in humans, such as fatty liver disease and insulin resistance – all the health problems that we associate with obesity in humans,” said Aylward.

There is limited literature on the phenomenon in the bovine model, and the researchers wanted to see if those same cells might be present.

“Ultimately, we want to see what they’re doing in there, but the scope of this project was just to see if they are present,” said Aylward. “It was pretty exciting to find that they are and we have been able to identify several types of immune cells, specifically the cells that make up the two components of an immune response. What that tells us is that there is the potential to mount an immune response in the tissue. Now, what triggers this immune response, and what it looks like when it’s activated, we have to find that out, and that’s what we’re working on now.”

Joining Aylward at the conference were Dyer, Barnard, Tanya Gressley, associate professor of animal and food sciences, and Jenna Wilson and Nicole Collins, both seniors in CANR.

Aylward said her favorite part of the conference was hearing about the wide range of research being conducted.

“What’s great about these conferences is that you get to hear something different than what you’ve been working on,” she said. “You listen to other people present their work, and they’re working on different aspects of dairy cow health, so you can learn about a subject that maybe you’re not as familiar with,” said Aylward.

As for how it felt to win the award, Aylward said that she was just happy that her presentation was well received.

“It was surprising but winning the award was really vindicating for us and our work,” Aylward said. “Immediately after my talk, a number of judges came up to me and said how this work is really important and we really need to start addressing this, and so for our project it was definitely a nice surprise.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers look at sweet corn damage caused by stink bugs

Researchers at UD look at stink bugs on sweet cornCooperative Extension agents and researchers at the University of Delaware are taking a closer look at how brown marmorated stink bugs are causing damage to developing ears of sweet corn, the results of which could lead to better pest management strategies for growers throughout the state.

The research was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) Coordinated Agricultural Project, and the findings were recently published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Bill Cissel, an integrated pest management extension agent, is a member of the research group and said that in 2011 and 2012 the researchers infested sweet corn ears with different densities of brown marmorated stink bugs — zero, one, three and five adults per ear — at three different corn growth stages: silking, blister and milk.

“The objective of our research was to determine how many brown marmorated stink bugs it takes to cause damage, both quality and yield reductions, in sweet corn,” said Cissel, adding, “We also wanted to look at what influence the plant growth stage may or may not have on the amount of damage that we see and also the severity.”

The researchers used replicated research plots on UD’s Newark Farm, as well as the University of Maryland’s Wye Research and Education Center, and conducted their research by placing mesh bags over developing ears of corn and then artificially infesting those bags with different densities of brown marmorated stink bugs at different plant growth stages for a period of seven days.

Cissel said the results showed that brown marmorated stink bugs cause a significant amount of damage in sweet corn by piercing through the husk leaves and feeding on developing ears and kernels.

The researchers determined that the greatest potential for yield loss happened when infestations occurred during earlier stages of ear development, whereas the greatest reductions in quality — damaged kernels — occurred during later stages of ear development.

“We looked at feeding that occurs prior to and during pollination, before the kernels even begin to develop, and we found that brown marmorated stink bug feeding injury can result in aborted kernels. The reason we think that’s the case is because they’re actually interrupting pollination by damaging some of the silk channels,” said Cissel.

The research team also found that while the bags filled with the higher densities of brown marmorated stink bugs saw the most damage to the corn, the stink bugs are capable of causing substantial economic losses due to quality reductions at densities as low as one bug per ear of corn.

Cissel said that the milk stage was determined to be the most sensitive stage of corn development, with the highest number of damaged kernels observed when compared to the two earlier stages, but stressed that they did see high levels of kernel damage at all the stages.

“I think of it this way: prior to pollination, they’re feeding on developing ear tissue and causing damage to the ear where kernels could ultimately be and the kernels never develop. After pollination has occurred they’re feeding on individual kernels,” said Cissel. “The milk stage seems to be the most important, but having said that, we did see some pretty high levels of kernel injury at all the growth stages that would likely result in quality reductions for sweet corn growers.”

Now that the study is complete, Cissel said that the researchers are hoping to take their findings from the study and figure out the best times to apply pesticides to manage brown marmorated stink bugs in processing and fresh market sweet corn for growers in Delaware.

“We plan to take the findings from that study in which we identified these different plant growth stages that are important for managing brown marmorated stink bugs in sweet corn to prevent economic losses from occurring and target those timings with insecticide applications to see how or if we can achieve control by focusing on these key timings,” said Cissel.

Researchers on the project include Cissel; Charles Mason, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC); Joanne Whalen, extension specialist and state program leader for agriculture and natural resources; Judith Hough-Goldstein, professor in ENWC; and Cerruti Hooks, associate professor and extension specialist at the University of Maryland.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Christy Mannering and courtesy of Bill Cissel

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR’s Linda Thompson has garden featured on Newark’s Backyard Habitat Tour

Linda Thompson's backyard featured on City of Newark's Backyard Habitat TourWhen Linda Thompson first moved into her house, her backyard was pretty typical: it was on a long slope and comprised of nothing but a lawn. 14 years later, Thompson’s yard has been transformed into a livable landscape full of plants and wildlife and was recently featured on the City of Newark’s Backyard Habitat Tour.

Thompson, who works in the administrative offices at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), said that she first got interested in gardening after being a member of the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG).

“After that, I got what you call the plant disease and I just had to have this plant and that plant and thankfully I have a big yard and I made my own flower beds because when I moved in, it was nothing but grass,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s garden is now full of many native plants such as Echinacea, Red Buckeye, Sweetbay Magnolia, Black-eyed Susans, Cardinal Flower and three River Birch trees that support wildlife.

Donna Bailey, who also works in the CANR administrative offices and is a friend of Thompson’s who helped with the Backyard Habitat Tour, said that the garden is always alive with activity.

“The thing that’s so wonderful about the garden is as you sit there and observe quietly, the garden is alive with birds and butterflies and bees and so it’s like a ballet that goes on before your eyes,” said Bailey. “The Goldfinch come in and sit on top of the Echinacea, the hummingbirds come into the Cardinal Flowers. Linda has a birdbath and her neighbor up the street has beehives and the bees have found her birdbaths. The whole yard hums with activity and then the butterflies are everywhere dancing.”

On the day of the tour, Thompson said that 71 people came and looked at her garden from 9:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., which she described as a nice steady flow of people and never overwhelming.

As for the importance of livable landscapes, Thompson said that they provide many benefits, such as cutting down on erosion and on the need to apply chemicals, but the main thing is that it helps to support wildlife.

“It feeds and protects a variety of critters, that’s my main thing. And also the more plants you have, the less weeding you have to do because the plants fill in and the weeds don’t have a chance to grow,” said Thompson.

As for her favorite part about gardening, Thompson said that the most pleasure she gets is from “seeing the fruits of my labor pay off and watching the critters come around. If you be still, life will come to you and it’s so true. If I sit on my swing, the next thing I know, I’ll see a rabbit or I’ve got a bird or a bee nearby.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Donna Bailey

UD scientists receive funding to study tropical storm impacts on water quality

UD scientists receive funding to study tropical storm impacts on water qualityUniversity of Delaware researchers have been awarded a $475,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study how large tropical storms impact stream water quality and aquatic ecosystems, specifically the amount and fate of sediment-associated carbon and nitrogen that is eroded and deposited in streams following such intense weather events.

Shreeram Inamdar, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC) in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of the water science and policy graduate program, and Rodrigo Vargas, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, will lead the project for UD. They will be joined on the project by Jinjun Kan, a microbial ecologist from the Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC) in Avondale, Pennsylvania.

Previous work and publications by Inamdar’s research group have shown that large tropical storms like Irene and Lee in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 have substantial energy to erode large amounts of sediment and particulate material and transport them into and through waterways.

Working in a small, forested headwater watershed in Maryland, UD alumnus Gurbir Dhillon – who worked with Inamdar and received a master’s degree in plant and soil sciences in 2012 – found that in just 59 hours, stream runoff from tropical storm Irene produced nearly half the annual export of organic carbon from the watershed in 2011.

The enormity of this organic carbon input to the stream is similar to a human being consuming all of the day’s meals in just 18 minutes, Inamdar said.

Such large sediment and nutrient pulses, which are also occasionally referred to as “hot moments,” can have significant water quality implications for downstream water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay, he said.

Inamdar said understanding how these large storms impact water quality and aquatic ecosystems is important because research suggests that there already has been an increase in the intensity of large – top one percent storms – over the past 50 years and future climate change projections indicate further intensification of the largest storms, especially for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Inamdar said that capturing data during these large and intense storms can be very challenging, especially when flooding is involved, but the scientific insights that are generated can be very rewarding. “I guess that studying and monitoring tropical storms and hurricanes is similar to the thrill and excitement that tornado chasers experience when they chase tornadoes out in the Midwest,” he said.

While the scientific focus has typically been on dissolved forms of nitrogen and phosphorus, particulate forms of nitrogen and phosphorus that are eroded during these storms can also stimulate algae growth and thus degrade water quality, Inamdar said.

Even at the large scale of the Chesapeake Bay, he said, sediment exports from tropical storm Lee in September 2011 were so large that they were clearly visible in satellite photosreleased by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

These sediment/particulate inputs not only pose an immediate water quality threat but could also have long-term consequences for the Chesapeake and similar coastal water bodies, Inamdar said. As an example, he noted that sediment and nutrient inputs associated with the highest-ever recorded flows on the Susquehanna River following tropical storm Agnes in 1972 impacted Chesapeake Bay habitat and fisheries for decades.

Inamdar, Vargas, Kan and their students will study how and where sediment and particulate organic carbon and nitrogen is deposited in the stream drainage network, identify the “hot spots” and sources of erosion and deposition, what proportion of the particulate carbon and nitrogen is leached/released into the overlying stream waters and is bioavailable, and what type of microbes participate in degrading the particulate material.

The researchers also will study the release of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from decomposing carbon in the sediments and its significance for regional and global carbon cycles.

Working alongside the professors will be water science and policy graduate students Richard Rowland, Erin Johnson and Chelsea Kreig.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

4-H to hold Science Saturdays for youths 8-12 starting in September

4-H science saturdaysThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension New Castle County 4-H program has announced a series of science-focused Saturdays to be held September through December in various locations.

Locations include the New Castle County Cooperative Extension office and White Clay Creek State Park, both in Newark, and the Mallard Lodge in Smyrna.

The workshops are co-sponsored by Dow Chemical Co. and 4-H, and are designed to give participants hands-on experiences in entomology, habitat conservation, geocaching, mathematics, wetlands ecology and waterfowl biology, food science and chemistry.

The workshops are open to all Delaware youths ages 8-12.

Cost of attendance is $10 per workshop. Space is limited. For more information, contact the 4-H office at 302-831-8965.

Applicants need to complete the 2015 4-H Science Saturday workshop series registration form as well as a 4-H health, photo and conduct form.

The 4-H Science Saturday topics include:

Sept. 5, 9 a.m. to noon: New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, 461 Wyoming Road, Newark, “Project Butterfly WINGS.” Entomology and habitat conservation.

Oct. 3, 9 a.m. to noon: White Clay Creek State Park, Del. 896, Newark, “Treasure Hunt!” Geocaching.

Nov. 7, 9 a.m. to noon: Mallard Lodge, 5128 Hay Point Landing Road, Smyrna, “Migrate with Us!” Wetlands and waterfowl biology.

Dec. 5, 9 a.m. to noon: New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, “Be a Food Scientist.” Food science and chemistry.

For more information and to download registration forms, visit the 4-H Science Saturdays website.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Students to learn floral business through Blossoms at the University of Delaware pilot program

Blossoms at the University of Delaware partnership between CANR and Theresa Floral DesignThe University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has partnered with THERESA Floral Design, a boutique event floral design company in Newark that specializes in event work throughout Philadelphia, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland, to launch Blossoms at the University of Delaware, a six-month initiative that will provide an experiential learning opportunity for UD students to plan and provide flower arrangements for special events on campus.

UD Blossoms is modeled after the UDairy Creamery in terms of student support and learning experience. The pilot program will start Aug. 15 and run through Feb. 15, 2016, and will focus on events of all sizes within the University.

CANR Dean Mark Rieger said of the partnership, “I am delighted that this pilot initiative will give our students additional opportunities to have practical training in floral design for events. Collaborative and creative partnerships such as this provide valuable co-curricular opportunities that help train students for today’s professions in agriculture and natural resources. We are optimistic about the project’s potential.”

Students will be provided with hands-on work and management opportunities through the interdisciplinary program, which will cover all aspects of the business, including purchasing, distributing, marketing, designing and selling floral products.

Emma Brown and Sarah Morales, both seniors in CANR, have been chosen as the first two student interns for Blossoms at the University of Delaware and both will be trained in design work.

Brown will be the shop and studio manager and will work with the plant material, processing the flowers that come in weekly for orders, keeping the coolers clean and making sure the inventory is correct and organized.

Morales will be the assistant manager and will be in charge of communications and marketing. She will oversee the installation teams that put the floral work in place and will be responsible for publicizing Blossoms at the University of Delaware.

Theresa Clower, manager of Blossoms at the University of Delaware and owner and principal designer of THERESA Floral Design, will oversee the project. Clower is quite familiar with the University, having done many of its floral design projects for a number of years. She developed the project’s concept of taking the investment the University is currently making in flowers for special events and turning it into a professional learning experience for students.

Blossoms at the University of Delaware will run out of THERESA Floral Design’s studio for the first six months with the hope to eventually establish a location on campus to house the program. Clower’s intent is for Blossoms at the University of Delaware to become a stand-alone business separate from THERESA Floral Design. The pilot project will be assessed officially after its six-month duration.

“The plan is to use local product as much as we can but when you’re dealing with event work, it can be impractical for some things,” said Clower. “This year, we do have some basics started and we will use those to the extent that we can. But most of our material will come from wholesalers.”

Clower said that with the time frame for the pilot project, which runs through football season — where they provide flowers for tailgate gatherings — and the holiday season, Blossoms at the University of Delaware will have a good snapshot about what they will be able to manage.

They currently are scheduled to provide flowers for several fall events on campus.

“We haven’t even publicized yet and the requests are starting to come in. I’m optimistic that this program will succeed by providing quality and creative floral designs for events throughout the University at the same time providing students with a real-life learning experience,” said Clower.

For more information on Blossoms at the University of Delaware, visit the website or contact Theresa Clower at tclower@theresafloral.com.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension class strives to educate new and beginning farmers

UD Extension training new and beginning farmersUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension is helping educate state residents who are interested in farming but lack experience through its new and beginning farmer training program.

The program, which started in February, is running one session in New Castle County and one in Sussex County and is geared toward new and beginning farmers working in small-scale vegetable and/or fruit production.

The beginning farmers tend farms, community gardens or plots of land of different sizes and have varied reasons for taking the class, with some wanting to develop market gardens or small scale commercial farms, others seeking to add to existing small farms, and still others planning to provide locally grown food for their communities.

The class covers all aspects of growing, from crop specific production practices to food safety to pest control to plant diseases to developing a sound business plan.

“I think that, more than anything, this class is an example of how Extension is helping the small, non-traditional farmer,” said Carrie Murphy, a Cooperative Extension agent and lawn and garden program leader.

Tracy Wootten, a fellow agent, said the beauty of the class is that the Cooperative Extension educators are able to tailor it to meet the needs of the individuals instead of just having a general overview for the participants.

“A lot of people in the class had already started thinking about becoming growers and this helps them get moving on to the next steps, or evaluating what they already had considered,” said Wootten.

The program involves classroom sessions as well as field trips to participants’ farms or commercial farms – such as Filasky’s Produce in Middletown and Ma and Pa’s Produce in Bridgetown – so participants can learn from growers in the field.

Gordon Johnson, a Cooperative Extension fruit and vegetables specialist and an assistant professor in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC) who is the lead instructor in the program, said he tries to vary the classroom sessions to meet the needs of his audience.

“For example, upstate, there’s more interest in organic growing systems so I cover more on that topic. But it is challenging because there are some people who might be interested in mixed vegetable production, others in specific fruits such as blueberries, others who are interested in flowers, and still others who are interested in community gardens,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said that the New Castle County class tends to have more participants interested in community gardens and urban agriculture, while the Sussex County class has a more traditional interest with people looking to start a business or add a side business.

Class participants

Susan Kemer is one of the participants in the class and has been managing a garden on about one-third of an acre at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown since fall 2012. She said the hands-on learning has been the most beneficial part of the class, adding that other valuable aspects have been connections she has been able to make with other farmers and the resources for growers in the area that she discovered through the course.

“I took the class because I wanted to learn more about farming, and I have been learning more,” Kemer said. “There is obviously a huge learning curve because I don’t have an agriculture background and I’ve been learning the science and methods involved with agriculture. The class has been very helpful in melding it all together and it’s been nice because I’ve made a lot of really good connections with other beginning farmers.”

The class was able to tour the organic garden that Kemer tends at St. Andrew’s as one of its on-site visits and she found it beneficial. “Having them come and visit was good – just to have those boots on the ground learning and observations and recommendations from our teachers and facilitators.”

Kemer said that one of her goals for the garden at St. Andrew’s is to “try to find ways to engage students, not just in harvesting and planting and labor but also in the science behind it, and to try and help them see that part of it.” She said the class has been very helpful in that regard.

Ron Walker Jr. is a class participant who owns a farm that is about one-third to one-half an acre – and that he plans to expand to nearly one full acre next season – off of Route 40 near Porter Road, growing lima beans, tomatoes, peppers, watermelons and pumpkins. He said the networking is a great feature of the class.

“I enjoy the knowledge that the other people have. It prevents a lot of trial and error,” said Walker, who added that another benefit of the class is being able to “pick Gordon Johnson’s brain.”


Wootten said that when it comes to adult education, “You learn as much from the teacher as you do the other students. There’s camaraderie there, and you get to know each other and you can talk about things – it’s something they have in common. Through the networking with current growers, they can learn from them about things they tried that maybe did or didn’t work. It’s important for them to see what’s been successful, too.” 

In addition to the farm visits, participants are invited to Cooperative Extension field days, which take place at the 344-acre research farm in Georgetown at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center.

During sessions they also were able to tour UD’s Fischer Greenhouse and the new high tunnel installed on the University’s Newark Farm.

Helping hands

With such a sprawling program topic, the program has been helped by many Cooperative Extension agents and specialists, including Johnson, Murphy, Wootten, Emmalea Ernest, Joanne Whalen, Nancy Gregory, Mark VanGessel, Maria Pippidis and Dan Severson.

Mike Wasylkowski, a small farms educator with Delaware State University, also helped with the class.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Carrie Murphy and Tracy Wootten

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Teens test science, technology curriculum during student summer academy

Students participating in the Summer STEM program learned about plant diversity on UD's CANR campusThis summer, the Student STEM Summer Academy brought together three dozen teachers and nearly 80 students from nine Delaware high schools to promote a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – curriculum. Hands-on interdisciplinary lessons were aimed at increasing the number of students considering an education or career in a STEM field.

“During the academy, students learn about things that would not necessarily interest them when presented in a traditional way,” said Brandi Anderson, a science teacher at Appoquinimink High School. “But when they collaborate with each other, and see how math and science work in the real world, they get energized.”

One activity took place at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus where the students learned about biodiversity by taking samples from two different habitats, one of the CANR wetlands and also a grassy area.

Using Hula Hoops as circular plot frames, the students recorded random samples and noted the biodiversity found in their frames. They then went back to the Harker Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory and learned about chi-square analysis and how to use a biodiversity calculator to determine biodiversity indices.

Penny Rodrick-Williams, a biology teacher from the Tatnall School who taught in UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology from 2004-08, was one of the teachers who led the project.

Rodrick-Williams said that Tatnall values its environmental studies curriculum and exposing the students to the outdoor program was a natural decision.

“When we were asked to come up with an activity to do for the STEM lab, it was just natural for us to want to bring the students outside,” said Rodrick-Williams. “We’re really excited about our environmental programs and to keep that going made us really happy. We were glad to be able to do it and we were really appreciative of being able to use the space.”

Article by Adam Thomas

To view the rest of the article on the Student STEM Summer Academy, check out the article on UDaily.

CANR, Food Bank of Delaware will hold annual ‘Evening in the Garden’ event

Evening in the Garden with Dean Mark Rieger and the Food Bank of Delaware.The University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the Food Bank of Delaware will hold the seventh annual “Evening in the Garden” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 10, at UD’s Garden for the Community, which is located off South College Avenue near the Girl Scouts building.

To celebrate the bounty of the Garden for the Community, those who attend will enjoy wine and beer tastings, live entertainment from the Ellen Lebowitz Quartet, a four-piece jazz group featuring piano, drums, bass and voice, and tours of the garden.

The evening’s menu includes garden-fresh foods straight from the Garden for the Community. Students and chefs from the Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware will serve braised lamb black and tan, a stout braised local lamb, with black garlic mashed potatoes, and crispy shaved shallots; “Suffering Succotash,” a sweet corn and edamame succotash; pigtail shrimp, finished with an optional drizzle of hot chili oil; and squash blossom goat cheese taco, a jalapeño toasted almond pesto with pickled red onion.

The UDairy Creamery will also be on hand to scoop ice cream.

Attendees will also be able to enjoy beverages from breweries including 3rd Wave Brewing Co., Twin Lakes Brewing Co., Two Stones Pub, Mispillion River Brewing, Dogfish Head Brewery, 16 Mile Brewery and Painted Stave Distilling.

“Our annual Evening in the Garden event is a great opportunity for us to showcase the skills of our talented students from the Culinary School,” said Patricia Beebe, Food Bank of Delaware president and CEO. “Workforce development is important to us at the food bank, and this annual event gives students real-world experience working a catered fundraising event.”

The Garden for the Community project is a partnership between the Food Bank of Delaware and CANR faculty and staff members, undergraduate students and graduate students.

CANR Dean Mark Rieger said, “UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is very proud of its longstanding partnership with the Food Bank. This is the seventh year that the greater Delaware community has been welcomed to campus to feast on the bounty grown by its students in UD’s Garden for the Community. I can’t think of a more rewarding event than one that helps raise money to provide food for those who need it most and, at the same time, provides our students with an experiential learning project that is connected directly to the everyday lives of people living in our own community.”

Registration is $40 per person. A student discount is available for $20 per person, but student IDs must be shown to get the discount. The price includes dinner, wine, beer and entertainment. Attendees must RSVP by Aug. 31. If tickets are still available after the RSVP deadline, the price will increase by $10.

To purchase tickets, contact Kim Turner at 302-444-8074 or kturner@fbd.org. Online registration also is available at this website.

Those who attend are encouraged to bring a bag of non-perishable goods for the Food Bank of Delaware.

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

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UD professor, students educate public about roots and soil at US Botanic Garden

UD professor, students educate public about roots and soil at US Botanic GardenRepresentatives from the University of Delaware spent a recent Saturday at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., educating visitors about the important roles that healthy soils and soil microbes play in ensuring robust plants during a “Roots Festival” held in conjunction with the garden’s exhibit “Exposed: The Secret Life of Roots.”

Janine Sherrier, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), led the team that included Cherish Warner, a doctoral student in biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences who works in Sherrier’s laboratory, and Simone Jimenez, a visiting undergraduate student in the laboratory from Florida International University (FIU) who is taking part in the CANR Summer Institute.

The display and the related research were sponsored by the National Science Foundation, in a research grant awarded to Sherrier and her collaborator, Blake C. Meyers, chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Because the United Nations has dubbed 2015 the International Year of Soils, Sherrier said the timing was perfect to educate the public about the important role soils play in keeping plants healthy and crops productive.

“Since roots are underground, we often forget about what’s happening down there in the dark,” Sherrier said. “When we look at our crops today, we achieve a high level of productivity based on the skills of growers, the genetics of the plants, the equipment and the availability of fertilizer and water, but one component that we haven’t developed fully is the health of the soil. We need to keep our soils healthy if we are going to maintain this level of crop productivity for years to come.”

Sherrier said she was honored that her team was invited to contribute to the “Roots Festival” and that she was impressed by the creative displays and varied plant collections at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

“It’s an amazing, gorgeous garden, and their set up is such that visitors can learn as they explore. It is a lovely walk through their space, and their activities and the level of staff engagement at the festival demonstrated a true commitment to public education,” she said.

At their display, Sherrier, Warner and Jimenez talked to garden visitors about the roles of roots and soil microbes and how they contribute to food production and ecosystem health.

“The whole root system provides so much, not only for the plant but for us agriculturally. The way roots grow determines how they can uptake water, how nutrients are distributed, how other plants will grow around it – it’s really this whole network of interactions,” said Warner.

The visitors were a mix of ages and nationalities, as people from all over the world toured the garden. Sherrier said that participating in the festival was a great way for Warner and Jimenez to gain experience communicating complicated scientific ideas in a way that the general public can understand. They specifically focused on beneficial soil microbes that help plants extract essential nutrients from the environment.

“We had tremendous interactions with the public explaining that healthy soils have a normal complement of microbes, why it is important for plants to interact with soil bacteria, and how these particular microbes could help reduce the environmental impact and carbon footprint of agricultural production,” said Sherrier.

As for the students, Sherrier said that they did a terrific job.

“Cherish was instrumental in designing some of the displays, thinking about how we would present our information. Simone had only been in our laboratory a week at that point, and she’s a natural when it comes to communicating with the public. It was a great opportunity for both of them to be able to communicate our science at a level that the public can understand,” said Sherrier.

Jimenez said that it was “refreshing and enlightening to be visited by people of all ages with such a real interest in soil health and gardening. With Delaware being so agriculture dominant, it was exciting to interact with children and adults and educate them with our root nodules.”

Warner, who also organized the 4-H Marvelous Microbes summer camp with Sherrier and gained experience speaking with youths about science, said, “As a scientist, communicating our research and the reasons it’s important are crucial and vital for us to progress.”

Concerning the highlight of the day, Sherrier said she enjoyed the fact that there were “so many people who were really curious about roots and the environment, and that they genuinely wanted to learn. Having the opportunity to provide that information, to me that was the best part.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Cherish Warner

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Buler recognized for work with radar ornithology

Jeff Buler receives the 2015 H.R. Painton Award from the Cooper Ornithological SocietyThe University of Delaware’s Jeff Buler has been presented the 2015 H.R. Painton Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society for his paper “Radar Analysis of Fall Bird Migration Stopover Sites in the Northeastern U.S.,” which was published in the society’s journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications.

The award is named for Harry R. Painton, one of the four founders of the Cooper Ornithological Club in 1893, who bequeathed funds to establish an award that recognized original and significant ornithological research.

Buler, assistant professor of wildlife ecology in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, received the award at a recent joint meeting of the international Cooper Ornithological Society and American Ornithologists’ Union in Oklahoma.

“It was an honor and a surprise,” Buler said of the award. “It basically came out of the blue. It is a real honor because it is among the most prestigious awards that this society presents and it is only presented every other year. It is reassuring to know that you are doing good science when your peers recognize that and give you an honor like this.”

Buler said the paper was the culmination of many years developing a new approach to using weather radar to map distributions of birds on the ground during migration.

“The first paper to publish on a similar approach was in 2009, and so it is very fresh,” Buler said. “I think part of the recognition of this paper is that the approach is being embraced by the community and that people appreciate and see the potential of using weather radar to inform us about the ecology of birds in powerful and in broad scale ways.”

With co-author Deanna Dawson, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Buler mapped stopover distributions of birds during autumn migration in the northeastern U.S. using 16 weather radar installations across the region.

“We’re pretty much the only group in the country that’s doing this right now,” Buler said of the pioneering study developed at UD.

A major focus of Buler’s research is developing an application to use radar analysis to study birds and bird migration. He said students in his laboratory are working on a follow up to the study incorporating more years of data and doing ground validation surveys at sites in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. That project will continue until spring 2016.

“We’ve continued to work on this system, and we have made some improvements on the methods since we’ve published that paper and expanded the number of years we’re looking at so that we can start to say something about longer term trends and changes in distribution,” Buler said. “We’re building a larger knowledge base from this system and continuing to explore questions related to bird migration throughout the whole northeastern United States.”

Meeting representation

At the Oklahoma meeting, Buler said UD was well represented as he organized a workshop in “Weather Radar Ornithology 101” and a symposium on “Recent Scientific Applications of Weather Radar for Advancing Ornithology.” Five out of the 15 presentations at the symposium were by current UD affiliates. Buler, along with an undergraduate, two graduate students and a post-doctoral researcher, gave presentations.

Additionally, a former UD graduate student of Buler and Sid Gauthreaux, Buler’s “academic grandfather” who he called the “pioneer of radar ornithology in America,” also presented at the symposium.

Buler also became an elected fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union during the meeting in recognition for his contributions to ornithology.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Ryan Arsenault New Professor Profile

New Professor Profile Ryan ArsenaultCould you give a little background about yourself?

I did both my undergrad and my graduate studies at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and my actual research was done at an institute called the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) so it’s focused on disease research and vaccine development in humans and animals.

My work was on prion diseases and Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis, and while I was there I developed a tool to study cellular signaling. Basically, the phosphorylation dependent signaling that happens inside cells. The tool already existed for humans and mice, but part of my work was adapting it to cattle and other agricultural species.

From there, I went to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in College Station, Texas. I was part of a food safety unit, but our perspective was modulating the immune system in animals in some way so the animal could fight off disease to make the food products safer for people.

Predominantly, we were looking at Salmonella contamination from infected chickens. We tried to limit that by understanding and modulating the immune responses in the gut.

How did you hear about this position and UD?

My position at USDA was a postdoctoral position so I knew that it was always going to be temporary. I had been on the hunt across North America for positions and for the next thing and this one at UD came up. It was perfect because the description was food animal biologist and it involved both the biology of animals and the food safety aspect, linking the two components of this department, animal science and food science.

I had done the food safety aspect from the animal biology side so it seemed like a perfect fit and luckily I got the job.

How did you get interested in animals and animal disease?

I actually grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan so I have been around animals since the day I was born. It is interesting because even though the University of Saskatchewan is a major agricultural university in Canada, the department where I did both my undergrad and my graduate degree, biochemistry, was actually part of the college of medicine. But the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, where I did my research, had historically been an animal research unit that had transitioned more into human medicine. My transition was sort of gradual in moving from purely a biochemistry perspective in the college of medicine to researching zoonotic animal disease at VIDO and then jumping into USDA where it was strictly animals. So it was a sort of subtle transition but by design I guess.

What are your impressions of UD and CANR?

All positive. The University is great and everyone I’ve met has been great. The campus is very nice and having the farm right here is a big advantage, especially being on the east coast. I really like how the college and department are set up: I find it an advantage that there is no veterinary school at UD because the Department of Animal and Food Sciences gets to do all the animal infectious disease research. In a lot of universities with a veterinary school, it’s very segregated and the animal science departments don’t get to touch disease work because that’s the veterinary realm. But this is great because you have a lot more freedom to do that kind of work. It is also a big advantage for the undergraduates in the department, because they get that research exposure.

 What are you most looking forward to about the job?

A lot of things. I’m working on getting the lab set up in Worrilow Hall so I’m excited to get back in the lab and start to bring some graduate students in. To get them in my lab and doing some science, that will be fun. It’s nice to be back in academia. After working for the government for the past few years, I missed the university environment and the interaction with students.

What will you be studying in your lab?

It will be centered around cell signaling but it will include a few different components.

I will continue with the infectious disease work, I want to continue with the host/pathogen research with chickens as well as cattle, initially. A lot of this research is centered on gut health and the microbiome which will continue.

I transitioned at the USDA into looking at a more integrated approach between metabolism and immunity and the connections between the two. Metabolism and immunity are both often regulated by cell signaling and there’s a lot of interactions which a lot of people don’t think about. How certain immune responses are dependent on changes in metabolism or how metabolism can be affected by the mounting of an immune response, or an inflammatory response, it totally changes the metabolism of the cells in the tissue. So I’m looking at integrating those and hopefully that will help develop both novel targets for disease, where you can target metabolic machinery rather than immune machinery, and also help with the balance between growth and immunity in animals. We’ve focused a lot on growing a bigger chicken or growing it faster and sometimes that comes at the expense of how well it’s able to fight off disease. To try and get that balance back in animal agriculture is sort of a broad overview of what I’m looking at.

Do you have any interesting hobbies outside of work?

One thing that I am interested in doing again is getting back into curling. I did that a lot when I was in Canada and then I moved to Texas, where it obviously doesn’t exist, and so I’ve seen there’s a few curling clubs in the region so I’m thinking about getting back into that.

Article by Adam Thomas

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension expands literacy for children in state

Cooperative Extension partners with the Molina Foundation to hand out free booksUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension has partnered with the Molina Foundation, a national nonprofit organization focused on reducing gaps in health and education – specifically by improving literacy among children of low-income and high-risk families – to distribute around 30,000 children’s books donated by the foundation for use by young people throughout the state of Delaware.

Books were given away last week at the Delaware State Fair, with over 6,000 distributed to youths in attendance.

“The parents and the children just love them. They had great smiles on their faces when they got the books,” said Kathleen Splane, Extension agent and state program leader for Cooperative Extension’s family and consumer sciences program.

At the fair, teenage volunteers took fully stocked wagons and golf carts loaded with boxes of books and distributed them to children around the fairgrounds, and encouraged them to stop by the 4-H building to get more. They also took armloads of books out to distribute to fairgoers.

In addition to teen volunteers passing the books out at the fair, the Extension Scholars were called on to aid in the organization and distribution process, which was overseen by Oriole O’Neill, an Extension employee.

Some of the books will go to children in the 4-H Food Smart Families summer camps and others will be handed out at a number of distribution sites, including the food pantry at the Church of the Holy Cross in Dover and the Hilltop Community Center in Wilmington.

Splane said that those books geared toward an older, 8-12-year-old audience are being distributed through the 4-H Food Smart Families program.

“We are giving the kids bags of groceries to take home through the program and we’re putting the books in as an extra thing with that,” Splane said.

In addition to these distributions, child care providers will be invited to each of the county Cooperative Extension offices to pick up books that they can use at their sites.

A few of the titles being offered are:

  • Sophia the First and the Floating Palace by Catherine Hapka
  • The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
  • Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Mama Hook Knows Best by Sharon Osbourne
  • Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  • Minnie’s Busy Bow-tique by the Disney Book Group
  • The Avengers: A Mighty Sticker Book by the Disney Book Group

These titles, among many others, are geared toward all different age groups for children, with about 20,000 of the 30,000 books targeted for the 3-5 child age range. Older youths are encouraged to read these preschool level books to a younger sibling, cousin or neighbor.

The books have been sorted by age range, stamped with Cooperative Extension and Molina Foundation stickers, and grouped based on their intended location: New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County.

Many volunteers were integral in helping with this process and on one day, eight volunteers sorted and placed stickers on roughly 3,000 books over the course of three hours.

Making a difference

Many parents know that reading with their children at home is important, as it enables them to improve communication and speech skills, excel in school, make progress in logical thinking skills and enhance concentration, Splane said.

“It also helps them to learn that reading is fun,” she added. “Through this project, the Molina Foundation and UD Cooperative Extension will help expand the value that reading offers to kids.”

Splane said she believes “the generous book donation from Molina Foundation allows children throughout the state of Delaware to receive quality books that will instill a love of reading. Some older children received books for younger siblings and have enjoyed reading out loud to them.”

Article by Katie Russel

Photos by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Gelb Testifies on Avian Flu in Nation’s Capitol

Jack Gelb testifies in front of congress on avian influenzaOn Wednesday, July 8, Jack Gelb, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and director of the Avian Bioscience Center (ABC) at the University of Delaware, testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. as part of an expert panel addressing the current H5N2 avian influenza (AI) outbreak that has occurred this winter and spring in some Western and Midwestern states.

Other panel members included John Clifford, chief veterinary officer for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Anne Schuchat, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Christopher Currie, director of the Emergency Management and National Preparedness Issues for the Government Accountability Office, and Scott Schneider, president of the Wisconsin Poultry and Egg Industries Association.

Below is an interview with Gelb.

Why was it important to testify about AI?

We have in depth experience in Delaware dealing with avian flu both in our research and through actual experience in a real world outbreak. It is important to do these things for the greater good and it was an honor to have the opportunity to testify.

How was your testimony made possible?

I testified at the invitation of U.S. Senator Tom Carper, the ranking member of the Committee. The Senator wanted me to share the perspective and experience that we in Delaware have on controlling avian influenza in poultry, based on the very successful outcome to controlling the disease we had here in 2004. Members of the Senator’s staff had been in contact with me for about a month or so before the D.C. hearing.

I have known Senator Carper for quite a number of years. He has long been a champion of Delaware agriculture and supportive of the University’s role. Last spring, Senator Carper and I were among the speakers at the open house following the $4 million renovation of UD’s Lasher Lab at the Georgetown campus. He heard my perspective on avian flu and I think that’s how he got the idea to invite me.

Senator Carper introduced me at the hearing. He made very thoughtful remarks about the economic and dietary importance of poultry in Delaware, the United States and in the many countries that receive our poultry exports.

How is UD prepared if an AI outbreak happens in the Delmarva region?

We at UD have close working partnerships with others in the state including Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee and State Veterinarian Heather Hirst and their team at the Delaware Department of Agriculture. UD outreach faculty and Extension staff regularly meet with poultry farmers and health experts of the poultry production companies. All are committed to keeping Delaware poultry free from avian flu.

We are exceedingly fortunate to have facilities at UD that are among the very best in the world. The Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory in Newark is one of a handful of facilities across the globe where faculty can perform research on high path avian flu, to understand how the virus causes the disease and ultimately, how to prevent or better control it. The newly renovated Lasher Lab is on the front lines of the avian flu battle in the heart of Sussex County. Lasher Lab now contains a new, secure biocontainment suite specifically for detection of AI virus in specimens from suspect poultry flocks.

Our two UD poultry labs in Newark and Georgetown are part of a much larger network called the USDA’s National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). We just achieved an elevated ranking in the NAHLN earlier this year, which is a testament to our facilities and our outstanding lab staff.

But the farmers have the most important role of all in the AI fight. They have to recognize that there’s a problem right away. Maybe their flock’s mortality rate is higher than normal and perhaps drinking water or feed consumption is off. Farmers know their poultry, their behavior and they can tell, when their flocks are not “acting right.” So a farmer needs to report a problem immediately and then that triggers samples coming to the lab for testing. That’s when we at UD really come into the picture for the first time. UD faculty and staff also provide important advisory and training support in order to contain AI on a farm so it does not spread to other farms.

How long does it take to process a test sample?

It only takes about three hours to have an answer on a test sample. Farmers and poultry company personnel are trained to take what amounts to throat swabs. The swabs will then be sent immediately to the Lasher Lab where they will be tested using a procedure called real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). UD was one of the first labs in the world to use PCR in an outbreak and the very rapid turnaround time proved to be a key in controlling the AI outbreak here in 2004. An AI positive test finding by the lab would trigger in Delaware a carefully scripted response plan designed to minimize transmission of the disease to other farms.

Article by Adam Thomas

Emergency Poultry Disease Response workshop considers biosecurity, rapid response

U.S. Senator Chris Coons was a part of the Emergency Poultry Disease Response training discussion at the Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory today.Educating the national and international poultry community about how to best respond to disease outbreaks is of the upmost importance to the University of Delaware, and in a year when avian influenza has spread throughout the world, that mission takes on an extra level of importance.

It was with that in mind that 19 participants from 18 countries took part in UD’s Emergency Poultry Disease Response (EPDR) certificate program, held at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in June.

The program was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) in conjunction with UD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies and is part of a combination of science-based training programs provided by UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the Avian Biosciences Center (ABC) to help Delaware’s national and international emergency disease response capability.

The program was led by Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS); Jack Gelb, professor in ANFS and director of the ABC; Robert Alphin, instructor in ANFS and manager of the University’s Allen Laboratory; George Irvine, assistant director of organizational learning solutions in Professional and Continuing Studies; and Dan Hougentogler, senior research associate in ANFS.

The participants spent five days learning about the avian influenza virus, disease surveillance and outbreak response and control, among other topics.

The training program also presented and utilized the “Delaware model,” which emphasizes close cooperation among government, industry and educational institutions to manage avian influenza outbreaks with best management practices and technologies related to controlling outbreaks of avian influenza and other diseases.

The participants were able to listen to experts from across the country lecture on specific topics — such as the current status of avian influenza in wild birds and how to effectively manage live bird markets — and got to meet and pose questions to U.S. Sen. Chris Coons.

Coons thanked the participants for attending and noted that the EPDR program has trained over 100 poultry professionals from around the world since it began in 2009.

Coons said that during travels around the world in his five years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has been “struck by the power of poultry to deliver protein to a hungry world and its capacity as the way that we move protein that is environmentally sustainable, that is economically producible and that can generate meaningful jobs from farm to plate in countries all over the world.”

Coons said that with the number of jobs that can be created and the ease with which the poultry industry can be scaled up, “If we can get the whole system supporting poultry right, if we can fend off avian influenza and develop better technology transfer and training, we can make an impressive and lasting difference for all the hungry people of the world whom we are together hoping to feed.”

CANR Dean Mark Rieger was on hand to welcome Coons and called the senator “a true friend of agriculture in Delaware and across the globe” and noted how in 2014 Coons was awarded the Friend of Cooperative Extension Award, the highest honor bestowed on non-extension personnel to recognize their efforts to support agriculture and extension in Delaware.

Alphin said that the program participants were mostly veterinarians or government professionals in agriculture, adding that the program was heavily focused on avian influenza this year because of the “unprecedented number of outbreaks of avian influenza not only in our country but all over the world. All continents are being impacted by this.”

Gelb, who testified before a U.S. Senate committee on the avian flu threat on July 8, added, “The world is experiencing more frequent avian influenza outbreaks and the threat to poultry and egg production has never been greater. The EPDR training program continues to serve critical role in helping countries successfully prevent and control this devastating poultry disease.”

The course offerings were concentrated on trying to understand how this outbreak was different than those of the past and to talk about lessons that have been learned from the current outbreak.

“We not only want to teach principles but we want to really give hands-on experience to participants, and also to help them benefit from the lessons learned in the field from actual responses – that was kind of the key concept we were trying to capture for this particular program,” said Alphin.

Benson said that this year’s EPDR program was particularly interesting and applicable because “it was taught in the context of the current and worst highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in United States history.”

Benson also said that one of the great things about running the program for several years is beginning to see the impact of the EPDR.

“A great example of this is one of the participants from last year came from Ghana and this summer successfully adapted and implemented our U.S.-centric model to respond to avian influenza outbreak in his home country. This is the type of impact the program is having now, several years into the program, and those impacts are becoming increasingly visible,” said Benson.

Because the participants were visitors to the state and the University, there were several side trips including a tour of Newark, a trip to the Christiana Mall, a tour of a poultry farm, as well as a visit to Rehoboth Beach. The program also hosted a group dinner at Klondike Kate’s.

“Because of the small number of participants, we really get to know them all. We learn from them, as well, because the participants have to deal with disease challenges in their own country, and so we try to make it a shared experience,” said Alphin.

UD students work closely with Benson, Alphin, Gelb and their project team to implement the program. “The EPDR program provides a two-way education, with our UD interns learning and helping to teach the participants,” said Benson, adding that this year’s class of interns was particularly outstanding.

Participants came from countries including Mozambique, Tunisia, Benin, South Africa, India, Japan, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Mauritius, Honduras, Kenya, Belize, Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Barbados and South Korea.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Serviam Girls Academy students learn about soils at inaugural camp at UD

Serviam Girls Academy students learn about soils at inaugural camp at UDThe inaugural Soil Is Life summer camp was held July 10 as 45 students from Serviam Girls Academy spent time on the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus learning from Angelia Seyfferth about the importance of soils.

The camp was funded by a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award that Seyfferth received in 2014.

Because the United Nations has designated 2015 the International Year of Soils, Seyfferth, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), said that it was a perfect time to launch the inaugural camp.

The campers were able to get hands-on experience with soils and plants as they toured the 12 rice paddies that were recently installed on UD’s Newark Farm as part of the Rice Investigation, Communication and Education (RICE) Facility.

They also toured a cornfield, investigated a soil pit and toured the organic vegetable farm created earlier in the year by Mike Popovich, a research associate in PLSC, and CANR Dean Mark Rieger. The students got to see vegetables growing in the garden and to learn about compost.

“For many of the students, because they are from the inner city of Wilmington, they’ve had very little experience even walking off the sidewalk let alone walking onto a farm,” said Seyfferth. “So for many of them, it was very new and different than what they’re used to.”

Rachael Romond, enrichment program director, graduate support director and summer program director at Serviam, said that getting the students away from their typical environment and out of their comfort zone was one of the most beneficial aspects of the camp.

“I think taking them out of their environment really was beneficial,” said Romond. “Bugs were everywhere and they were kind of freaking out, screaming about bugs and the dirt and the soil, but at the end of the day, they loved it. You could see the joy on their faces.”

Because of the size of the group, Seyfferth had help from members of her lab group as well as Nicole Donofrio, associate professor in PLSC, who gave the students an introduction to plant pathology and had a plant disease game with prizes for the students who participated.

“Because there was such a large group, doing it by myself would have been impossible,” Seyfferth said, adding, “Nicole was a great help, as were the members of my lab group, as almost everybody participated in some aspect of the camp.”

During lunch, the students took part in a trivia game in which Seyfferth asked questions about what they talked about earlier in the field and those with correct answers were awarded prizes.

The students also were able to complete an activity in which they painted using soil.

“One of the things I tried to relate to them is that, in addition to plants using soil for food, we also get pigments from soil minerals. The BareMinerals makeup has iron oxides, titanium dioxides, mica — all components of soil that are used to create this mineral makeup. We even used some of the mineral makeup to make soil paint,” said Seyfferth.

The students also planted rice seedlings in pots and were able to take them home with them at the end of the day.

Early soil exposure

Seyfferth said the Soil Is Life camp is geared toward middle school students because exposing them to the importance of soils at an early age is of the utmost importance.

“When we see UD students coming in as freshman, they’ve had very little exposure to soils and what they are and what they mean for our future,” said Seyfferth. “I think that introducing them at a young age teaches them to appreciate soil, to understand that there is a science around soil and that it is a resource that’s very precious.”

Seyfferth added, “It takes a long time for a soil to develop but it takes a relatively shorter amount of time to degrade, and we can’t just make more soil. Teaching them to preserve it and to appreciate it is important and hopefully we can inspire them to consider going into environmental sciences or soil sciences as a career choice.”

Romond said that providing young females from underrepresented populations exposure to science and scientific careers is an important part of Serviam’s mission.

“We do a lot of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) work at Serviam. We really try to expose the students to different career paths that they might be interested in,” Romond said. “There’s an extreme lack of minority females in the science field, and we are primarily an African-American and Hispanic population, so it’s really important that we expose them to things that they never knew they had access to before, things that they never even knew existed. Some of them might not even have known what environmental science was, or what a rice paddy was, or what a soil pit was.”

Soil, not dirt

One big takeaway Seyfferth wanted the students to get from the camp is that soil is not dirt.

“Once the soil is removed from its environment, it’s no longer a functioning soil. It can’t support plant life, it’s no longer soil. That’s dirt, and soil is very different than dirt,” she said. “Soil is something that is the Earth’s natural sponge. It’s important for cleaning water, for providing nutrients for plant growth, and for providing an ecosystem in which things like gophers and earthworms and other soil organisms can survive.”

The message resonated with one student in particular who, when asked in a post-camp survey if they had learned anything new, answered, “Yes – that soil is not dirt. Because I always thought it was.”

The camp ended with a trip to the UDairy Creamery where the campers were treated to ice cream courtesy of Rieger.

“At the end of the day, they got to enjoy the ice cream and understand the connection between the soil that provides the grass for the cows to eat to make the milk that makes the ice cream they can enjoy,” said Seyfferth.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager and Rachael Romond

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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’s Griffiths dives into underwater research in the Caribbean

UD's Brian Griffiths spends summer studying marine life at the Central Caribbean Marine InstituteUniversity of Delaware undergraduate student Brian Griffiths is spending his time this summer with sharks, eagle rays, massive corals, turtles and schools of endangered fish as he conducts underwater research on seagrass in the Caribbean at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) in the Cayman Islands.

Griffiths’ research is part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program funded through a grant CCMI received from the National Science Foundation to study coral reef biodiversity and resilience at the Little Cayman Research Centre.

Griffiths, a senior Honors Program student who is majoring in environmental engineering and plant science with a minor in Spanish, is specifically focused on the discovery of an ecomorph of a species of seagrass, Thalassia testudinum.

“This species of seagrass is known to be able to change its morphology based on its environment, and I think this new form may be due to differing sediment characteristics,” said Griffiths, who takes 8-inch cores of seagrass out of different lagoons on the island and dissects them to count meristems – the tissue of a plant containing undifferentiated cells – and the number of shoots.

Griffiths also takes and analyzes sediment cores from the locations to determine what they are made up of and their thickness. He is hoping to find a correlation between the occurrence of the strange seagrass and the properties of the sediment in which it is found.

Seagrass meadows, along with algae, are important to reefs as they are often the first steps in forming the ecosystems and are the main food source for organisms such as sea turtles.

“Without seagrass, none of these ecosystems could exist, although it is often overlooked,” said Griffiths.

In addition to his seagrass research, which is usually conducted in the afternoon, Griffiths also does two morning dives where he takes photographs, runs transects to identify coral and fish populations, and also finds critically endangered coral species.

“We also do specialty dives, like lionfish culls,” said Griffiths. “A typical dive may last 45 minutes at 60 or 70 feet, then we come back to the boat and have a 45 minute surface interval before swapping our gear and going down again at a different site to do the same.”

Lionfish culls can also occur during the evenings, as Griffiths said that the species is incredibly invasive and venomous and that in addition to stinging tourists, they wreak havoc on the reefs, killing herbivorous fish that in turn results in the overgrowth of algae and death of corals.

Griffiths said he jumped into research scuba diving when he was coming up with a list of things that he thought were exciting but had never done.

“I had always wanted to be a diver. Doing research underwater, however, is a different story – it isn’t all swimming with turtles and sharks because we have a job to do. We are often dropped in places with huge amounts of surge and massive currents that sweep you onto your back when you come over the reef wall,” said Griffiths, who added that he enjoys doing field work and that CCMI and its staff are on the cutting edge of reef research in one of the last pristine, untouched marine reef ecosystems in the world.

“I was attracted by the prospect of doing work that had a visible impact in a highly vulnerable environment like the reef systems. It was also somewhat of an exploration for me in that I had never before conducted work underwater or done any research related to marine biology. I thought that by jumping in and getting my hands dirty I would be able to decide what I ultimately want to spend my life studying,” said Griffiths.

Griffiths is being mentored by CCMI’s Greg Foster, and he said that Foster is a great role model.

As for his favorite part about the program, Griffiths said that it had to be the diving.

“It takes my breath away every time. There is nothing like the first few seconds of dropping below the water level and seeing the world thriving beneath you. I often have to remind myself that I have a job to do so I don’t waste all of my air staring at everything,” said Griffiths.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD scientists develop new water quality collaboration with researchers in France

Shreeram Inamdar has developed a new collaboration with researchers in France concerning water quality.Shreeram Inamdar, professor in the University of Delaware’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and director of the water science and policy graduate program, has developed a new collaboration with researchers in France concerning water quality.

Inamdar is working with Anne Jaffrezic and Laurent Jeanneau, scientists at the University of Rennes and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

The partnership was initiated in January when Guillaume Humbert, a doctoral student of Jaffrezic, traveled to UD on a French scholarship for a three-month study visit. He worked with Inamdar and Thomas Parr, a postdoctoral scientist, to develop a mathematical model to characterize dissolved organic matter in soils and streams for his study catchment in France. A publication on this work is in preparation.

On March 5-7, Jaffrezic and Jeanneau visited UD and presented a research seminar titled “Dissolved Organic Matter Biogeochemistry at the Critical Zone Observatory AgrHys (France): A French ‘Promenade’ Through Temporal and Spatial Scales.”

They met with various UD faculty members and visited the Fair Hill experimental watershed in nearby Maryland, where Inamdar and colleagues are studying the impacts of extreme weather events on water quality and aquatic ecosystem processes. Their visit occurred at a time when Newark and the surrounding region were pummeled with a large snow event, which is atypical for the region.

To further strengthen the partnership, Inamdar made a return visit to France on June 23-27 and presented an invited talk at the University of Rennes and CNRS. He also visited the French watershed study site, the Kervidy-Naizin catchment in Brittany that is part of the Critical Zone Observatories (CZO) network in Europe.

Researchers at the site are investigating how fertilizer use and other practices in agricultural watersheds are impacting the concentrations of nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – in streams draining these landscapes.

Similar to the Fair Hill experimental watershed, streams in this watershed have been instrumented with state-of-the-art, in situ electronic sensors that measure and record water quality every 15 to 30 minutes.

This high-frequency water chemistry data is especially valuable to study sudden changes in water quality, also referred to as “hot moments.” Such changes could occur during large storm events, ecological events such as autumn leaf fall and/or anthropogenic pulse inputs of pollutants or contaminants.

Understanding these sudden changes in water quality and the value and reliability of the sensors is an important research priority and one of the focus areas of this collaboration.

Future plans involve additional study visits by French doctoral students and faculty members to UD in 2016 and data and results comparisons between the two experimental watersheds.

The partnership and Inamdar’s visit to France were supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Track 1 and 2 awards to UD.

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.

Awokuse named chair-elect for agricultural economics administrators group

Awakes named Chair Elect for National Association of Agricultural Economics Administrators The University of Delaware’s Titus Awokuse has been named chair-elect for the National Association of Agricultural Economics Administrators (NAAEA), a section of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA).

Awokuse, chair of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC) in UD’s College of Agricultural and Natural Resources (CANR), will assume his role on July 26 during a meeting to be held in San Francisco.

Of being named chair-elect, Awokuse said, “I feel honored to be elected because it’s always special when your peers choose you to lead them.”

Awokuse has been involved with the organization for the last four years and explained that being named chair-elect means he will begin a three-year term that will see him serve as chair-elect the first year, chair of the organization for the second year and then past chair in the third year.

According to Awokuse, it is structured this way to ensure continuity in terms of leadership.

As chair-elect, Awokuse will plan the meetings for next year in addition to other responsibilities.

The NAAEA is comprised of department chairs in agricultural and applied economics across the nation and as part of the association’s function they organize workshops and symposia on important agricultural policy issues that affect the agricultural and resource economics profession.

“The group advocates for professional issues with regard to educational programing and students’ training, academic leadership development, research promotion, and strategic responses to the societal challenges of our day,” said Awokuse.

The association provides advice and recommendations to government agencies and policy makers on important issues. It also serves as a source of information dissemination on best practices in terms of administrative leadership of academic departments in the agricultural and applied economics profession.

“We have a bi-annual meeting in addition to the annual meetings focused on special policy issues of relevance to the profession. It is usually held in Washington, D.C., and we invite legislators and policymakers from Capitol Hill as participants in the meetings,” said Awokuse.

At the meeting, there is a forum with presentations about legislations in Congress concerning the food industry or national agricultural and farm policy.

“This bi-annual meetings organized by this association plays an important role as it also serves as a forum for responding to crucial questions being asked by policymakers,” said Awokuse.

Awokuse also said that the group plays an advocacy role for the profession.

“As a leader, a department chair has the ability to influence the implementation of an institution’s mission and strategic agenda and can also promote scholarship in an academic discipline by supporting and facilitating the research work of colleagues in the department,” said Awokuse. “I see the role of a department chair as primarily being one that enables others to do their work better. We serve as facilitators, working to create an environment where people can do their jobs effectively and efficiently.”

As for how Awokuse handles the workload of being department chair and serving on various national and international agricultural committees — he also was named to the Nigerian National Agricultural Policy Committee in 2014 — he said it’s important to be organized and to prioritize which projects and service opportunities to take on.

“I don’t do everything. Time is a very scarce resource. I respond to requests and invitations that are relevant to my research and professional interests, and also commit to activities that are consistent with my passion and appointment,” said Awokuse.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD students travel to California to learn about technology within produce industry

Four UD students attended the 2015 Produce Marketing Association Foundation Tech Knowledge ConferenceThe University of Delaware Career Services Center and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) collaborated with the Produce Marketing Association Foundation to offer an interdisciplinary group of UD students an all-expenses-paid trip to explore career opportunities in the produce industry at the PMA Tech Knowledge conference in Monterey, California.

There, the students learned about new technology and innovations in the industry.

The students who attended PMA Tech Knowledge were Danielle DaGrosa and Taylor Jaffe, who recently graduated from CANR with bachelor’s degrees in food science; Grant Wing, a senior in the College of Engineering; and Julia Winkeler, a senior plant science major in CANR. The four students were selected from a competitive pool of 24 applicants.

Joyce Henderson, Career Services Center assistant director for employer partnerships, said the PMA has been an employer partner with the center for three years. The Tech Knowledge conference is the third career conference that has been offered to UD students.

“The all-expenses-paid conferences are attractive to students because they are an awesome way for students to learn about the industry and to expand their networks. To be eligible to participate in the PMA conferences, students must complete an application and go through an interview process,” Henderson said.

The students were accompanied on the trip by Kali Kniel, professor of animal and food sciences in CANR.

“The whole point of the trip was to inform students about the produce industry,” Kniel said. “I think people are interested in learning about food products that are healthy and that we all consume. Also, there’s so much technology in the business, which is a constantly changing industry.”

On the trip, students met with industry leaders to learn about the potential for incorporating higher level technologies into production of fruits and vegetables, such as sensory applications to enhance the aroma and the consumer experience.

Other new technologies in the industry include the use of drones for monitoring fields, nanotechnology for use in packaging and growing, 3-D printing for use in manufacturing, harvesting and growing, the use of big data, and entrepreneurship.

Networking opportunities were among the most beneficial aspects of the trip, as the students were paired with career ambassadors who helped explain the responsibilities associated with their various jobs and who introduced the students to colleagues.

DaGrosa was paired with a career ambassador who worked in food safety for Chipotle.

“I got to talk to him about all the recent changes they’ve been making in their company policies, and I got to ask him all about what he does. It was really cool to see what kinds of things that company is doing from a food safety standpoint,” said DaGrosa.

The students were also able to meet representatives from companies such as DuPont, Monsanto and Taylor Farms, among others.

“During pretty much every meal we ate, we were networking, so I got to meet a lot of really great people and pick their brains for any advice they might have for me as I go forward into my career,” said DaGrosa. “Also, I made some contacts that I know I can reach out to if I would like to try and find work in that industry.”

Kniel said opportunities to meet professionals in the industry are great for the students as “people in the produce industry are like no others. They are the nicest people. They are so passionate about what they do, and even though some of them may be millionaires, they are very down-to-earth and they want to talk to you. They’re very interested in the future and they recognize that these students are their future.”

A highlight of the trip was when the students got to visit the Salinas Valley headquarters for Tanimura and Antle, an industry leader that farms over 30,000 acres and ships a full line of fresh produce throughout North America, Europe and Asia. During the session, the company showcased some of its new technologies.

DaGrosa said that was her favorite part of the trip because the students “really got to see what a big California farm looks like. I had never seen anything like that before. I’m from New Jersey and I’m used to cornfields, so it was really interesting to see that. It was beautiful.”

About PMA

The Produce Marketing Association is a trade organization representing companies from every segment of the global fresh produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing connections that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption.

PMA is the largest association for produce worldwide, representing the interests of nearly 3,000 companies.

UD was one of three universities chosen to participate in the PMA-New England Produce Council conference being held in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in September.

The PMA Foundation has as its mission to attract, develop and retain talent for the global produce and floral industry.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Markland, Savin named Benton Graduate Student Award recipients

The University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has announced that the winners of the 2015 William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards are Sarah Markland and Melissa Savin.

The awards were established in honor of William J. Benton, former CANR associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).

Sarah Markland receives the 2015 Benton AwardSarah Markland

Markland recently received her doctorate in animal and food sciences, wrapping up a 10-year career at UD, where she also received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science.

Markland has been working with Kali Kniel, professor of animal and food sciences, to consider ways to keep the world’s food supply safe and sustainable as the world’s population continues to increase.

“By the year 2050, the world’s population is expected to double and we’re going to be expected to produce the same amount of food on the same amount of land but we’re going to be feeding twice the amount of people,” said Markland.

Markland’s primary project involved looking at ways that plants interact with human pathogens with the hope that through the study researchers will able to develop ways plants can fight off human and plant pathogens.

In another study, Markland looked at the use of bacteria that grows naturally in soil that can be used as a biocontrol agent to protect plants and boost immune response.

“They’re also known as plant probiotics,” she said.

Markland said that unlike when a plant is infected with a plant pathogen — during which it will show signs of stress, such as developing chlorosis lesions — a plant infected with a human pathogen does not show signs of stress because it isn’t really a host.

“There are some studies coming out that say if you inoculate salmonella on the plants, they will start to show signs of stress. As a result, there are questions as to whether human pathogens are also plant pathogens and whether organisms like salmonella and E. coli are using plants as a vector to get to us,” said Markland. “These are all different types of questions that we’re trying to answer.”

Markland said she wanted to thank Kniel and Dallas Hoover, professor of animal and food sciences, for all their help during her time at UD.

Now that she has her doctorate, Markland will start a job as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida.

Markland said she chose to complete her degrees at UD, and in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, because “doors kind of opened at the right time and I took opportunities. I think I was really fortunate and I’ve done really well here. We have one of the best programs in the country, which I think is also why I’ve done so well. We have great professors who are internationally known for the research that they do.”

Melissa Savin receives the 2015 Benton AwardMelissa Savin 

Savin is working on her master’s degree through the graduate program in water science and policy at UD. Her research in the interdisciplinary program has an emphasis on soil and plant science.

As a Kent Conservation District employee, Savin works as an environmental planner stationed in the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Watershed Stewardship: Drainage Program.

“I go out and look at different sites that need improved drainage or restoration. I help in the planning and permitting process to design viable solutions to meet the drainage concerns while protecting the environment. In my position I serve as a liaison between the drainage program and regulatory agencies to gain approval for the project plans.”

Her current job has direct ties to her studies at UD, as Savin said that her research required her to study tax ditches throughout Delaware to improve ditch management.

“I characterized ditch bottom sediments before and after ditch maintenance and simulated current management following maintenance in the lab to determine nutrient loss potential from these networks,” said Savin. “Minimizing nutrient losses from tax ditch networks is important for protecting water quality especially since many of our ditches ultimately drain to the Chesapeake or Delaware Inland Bays.”

Savin said that she was in ditch systems throughout her entire research project and “that’s how I became interested in the Drainage Program. Now I’m working with these guys to address drainage concerns and I hope to apply my knowledge to make the solutions even better.”

Savin said that she wanted to thank Amy Shober, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, who she credits with guiding her and conducting interesting research that helped her land in her current career.

Savin said that receiving the award was “pretty awesome. I feel like my hard work really paid off. As a graduate student, you’re working so hard and sometimes you don’t feel like it amounts to anything besides your thesis but to actually be awarded is an honor. I feel like I’m really making a difference.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researcher finds potential cause of hollow heart disorder in watermelons

An examble of hollow heart disorder in watermelons.
An examble of hollow heart disorder in watermelons.

Hollow heart disorder in watermelons affects growers throughout the United States and threatens the marketability of the fruit, which can lead to monetary losses.

Trying to find a cause and possible solution for the disorder, the University of Delaware’s Gordon Johnson performed a 2014 progressive pollinizer spacing study that showed that increasing the distance from a pollen source increased the incidence of hollow heart and reduced flesh density.

Johnson, a Cooperative Extension fruit and vegetables specialist and an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), was assisted in the research by Donald Seifrit, a graduate student in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

A problem with hollow heart disorder is that it is difficult to predict when it will occur, which is frustrating for growers. “It’s not like a disease where you have a fungus or a bacteria or a nematode in the area,” Johnson explained. “It is something that occurs when it occurs, and doesn’t occur when it doesn’t occur.”

Because growers are unable to treat hollow heart through a pesticide or fertilizer application, they lack a defense to protect their crop.

Pollination study

Graduate student Donald Seifrit and Gordon Johnson.
Graduate student Donald Seifrit and Gordon Johnson.

Looking for a solution, Johnson turned to discussions by watermelon researchers that the disorder could be linked to pollination.

In 2010, he conducted a study in which he created situations to limit the pollen available to watermelons to quantify if that would have an effect.

“Basically, I designed a study where watermelons would be a longer or shorter distance from a pollen source,” said Johnson.

Johnson conducted the study on seedless watermelons – although hollow heart also occurs in seeded watermelons – because the bulk of the watermelon industry grows seedless varieties.

The production of seedless watermelons is a bit of a complicated system because the watermelon produces a seedless fruit but requires a pollinizer plant, which is the seeded type. Generally growers plant in a one-to-three ratio, with one seeded watermelon that produces viable pollen for every three seedless watermelons that do not produce viable pollen.

“You have to get the pollen transferred from the pollinizer to the seedless watermelon for fruit set,” Johnson said. “I set up some experiments to put seeded types at varying distances from the seedless, and I found that when you got further from a pollen source (wider ratio of pollinizer to seedless), you got more hollow heart.”

After the initial study, Johnson started repeating the experiments, continuing to put the pollen sources at varying distances or ratios. “Each time I would find that when I got further away (wider ratio), I would have a higher incidence of hollow heart,” he said.

Johnson also found that the flesh density of a watermelon variety plays a role in how it is affected by hollow heart. “When we looked at the more dense varieties versus the less dense varieties, the less dense varieties had more hollow heart, particularly when you moved away from a pollen source,” said Johnson.

To learn more about how density plays a role in watermelons affected by hollow heart, Johnson is looking at the initial number of cells that are being produced in the plant.

A slice of watermelon that has hollow heart disorder.
A slice of watermelon that has hollow heart disorder.

Johnson said that timing and weather conditions also have an impact on watermelons affected by hollow heart.

“It occurs in poor weather conditions, and oftentimes in the early watermelons,” he said. “That’s because we’re more likely to have cold nights or stormy conditions, particularly cold nights, where those early flowers are the most affected.”

Although it is rare to find hollow heart later in the year because growers generally have enough pollen being produced, Johnson said that if growers lose some pollinizers, or if the pollen producing watermelons don’t get planted, problems could still occur.

Industry buy-in

The relationship between hollow heart disorder and the amount of pollen that’s available has been accepted by the industry and Johnson is now able to make recommendations to growers about what factors might favor the disorder.

He points to three factors that could impact the frequency of hollow heart.

• The first is that the grower may not be getting enough pollen produced in the male flowers on the pollinizer plants.

• The second is the transfer of the pollen, which has to be moved from the ,  plants to the seedless plants by bees, may not be occurring at a high enough level.

• The third concerns whether the pollen being produced is actually viable.

“When I talk to growers, I address each one of those areas – the pollen production, the pollen viability and the pollen transfer – and tell them what they can do as far as management in each of those areas,” said Johnson, who has spoken in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Delmarva, the nation’s major Eastern watermelon growing regions.

“I’ve spoken at conferences and to growers and I even had a colleague who was able to repeat some of what I was doing last year. That’s always the telltale sign, when someone is repeating the study and getting similar results,” he said.

The presentations have reached more than 400 watermelon growers representing over 20,000 acres, and the recommendations have been well-received with over 91 percent of growers surveyed in seven states indicating that they would change one or more growing practices due to the research and recommendations presented.

Johnson said that one of the most interesting aspects of the study is that this isn’t his main research focus but more of a side project.

“It just goes to show that in all of the things that you do, you have got to be very observant and cannot be afraid to do side projects because oftentimes those projects are the things that become very important,” said Johnson. “I’ve talked to colleagues in the college and they always have a lot of different things going on, even if they’re not funded by grants. They’re trying different things because you never know where discovery is going to come from.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Gordon Johnson and by Jackie Arpie

Eight UD students selected to participate in Extension Scholars program

2015 UD Extension Scholars announcedEight University of Delaware students began their first day as 2015 Extension Scholars on June 8, marking the start of a 10-week summer experience working with Cooperative Extension research and program outreach in communities throughout the state.

Now in its 11th year, the Extension Scholars program offers UD students a unique, hands-on experiential learning environment under the guidance of Extension agents or specialists.

During this summer internship, students will follow Cooperative Extension’s service learning model, implemented through one of Extension’s four program areas: 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, lawn and garden, and agriculture and natural resources.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension, welcomed the scholars at their first-day orientation and explained how their new role in the Cooperative Extension Service — a 101-year-old system — remains connected today in every state through land grant universities, such as UD, Delaware State University, Cornell University, Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University.

“I started my career doing something just like this,” Rodgers said, noting that most Cooperative Extension locations throughout the country offer a similar type of summer intern program.

The 2015 University of Delaware Extension Scholars are:

Jackie Arpie: A rising junior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Arpie will work with her mentor, Michele Walfred, communications specialist based at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. Arpie will concentrate on Extension communications and create video and social media content, and integrate Delaware efforts with the national affiliate eXtension.org. Arpie will focus on Extension efforts statewide, including coverage of her fellow scholars.

Jacqueline Bavaro: A rising senior in the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Bavaro will work with New Castle County’s Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and with 4-H as it implements its summer nutrition programs. She will mentor teen health ambassadors and provide overall nutrition education to young people. Bavaro will work with Sue Snider, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), and Kathleen Splane, family and consumer science agent in Kent County. Bavaro’s internship is funded by the ConAgra Food Smart Families grant.

Rebecca Carroll: A rising senior in CANR with a double major in ecology and biology, Carroll will with work with Gordon Johnson, extension specialist, on climate hub research projects involving Delaware crops and climate change. Carroll plans to compile climate resources for farmers and will organize a climate change field day this summer.

Andrea Davis: A rising junior in CHS, Davis is a health behavior science major with a minor in biology. Davis will partner with Mallory Vogl, New Castle County 4-H agent, and will work with 4-H summer day camps, oversee 4-H teen member volunteer counselors, and conduct county outreach programs at the Delaware State Fair.

Megan O’Day: O’Day is a dietetics major and rising junior in CHS. This summer O’Day will work with both Kent and Sussex EFNEP and 4-H summer nutrition programs, as well as mentor teen health and conduct overall nutrition education for young people. O’Day will work jointly with Snider and Splane under the Food Smart Families grant.

Hunter Murray: A rising senior in CANR, Murray is majoring in food and agribusiness. Murray will be based in Kent County and will work with Susan Garey, Extension livestock agent, on a variety of initiatives including 4-H youth development and agriculture program areas and events at the Delaware State Fair.

Madeleine Rouviere: A rising senior majoring in nutrition and dietetics with a minor in psychology in CHS, Rouviere is slated to work with New Castle County’s EFNEP and 4-H staff with summer nutrition programs, mentor teen health ambassadors, and oversee nutrition education of young people. Rouviere will work with mentors Snider and Splane. Her internship is made possible through the Food Smart Families ConAgra grant.

Kathryn Russel: A rising junior in CHS, Russel is majoring in dietetics with minors in Spanish and journalism. Russel will be working with Snider and Splane on nutrition communications in both traditional and social media venues. One of the projects Russel will be working on is developing short nutrition, food safety and food buying text messages for a special project aimed at EFNEP clientele.

The Extension Scholars program began in 2004 under the leadership of Rodgers’ predecessor, Jan Seitz. The program is funded through endowments, private gifts and Extension program cost-share contributions. Increasingly, scholars are funded through grants, such as ConAgra’s Food Smart Families grant.

The program initially began with an opportunity for three scholars. Rodgers noted that without the gracious gifts of private donors and endowments, the Extension Scholars program would not have expanded to its present capacity. “People who have observed us and what we do have said, ‘This really matters,’” Rodgers said.

In addition to the generous gifts, Rodgers said that this year at least three positions have been funded by ConAgra.

Each Extension Scholar will work a 40-hour week and earn a stipend of $3,770. In addition, scholars may elect to earn three course credits from CANR, supervised by Rodgers as faculty adviser.

As a capstone to the end of their internship in mid-August, the Extension Scholars will participate in the University’s Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium.

The symposium provides scholars an opportunity to meet other summer interns and network across UD’s broad student and faculty community. Extension Scholars present their research or creative work through their choice of a 20-minute presentation or through the Scholars Poster Session. View the 2014 symposium photos.

“It’s wonderful to see the Extension Scholar program expand and be supported on so many levels,” Rodgers said. “These young scholars are enthusiastic and ready to do the good work of Extension.”

For updates on the Extension Scholars throughout the summer, follow UD Extension on Twitter @UDExtension and on Facebook.

Article and photo by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Microbe mobilizes ‘iron shield’ to block arsenic uptake in rice

Harsh Bais (second in from right) (Associate Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences), is the Senior Author for research on rice plants. He is working with co-authors Janine Sherrier (left) (Professor of Plant & Soil Sciences) and Angelia Seyfferth (right) (Assistant Professor of Plant & Soil Sciences), and first author Venkatachalam Lakshmanan (second in from left)(Post-Doctoral Researcher)University of Delaware researchers have discovered a soil microbe that mobilizes an “iron shield” to block the uptake of toxic arsenic in rice.

Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soils, air and water, plants and animals. It’s used in a variety of industrial products and practices, from wood preservatives, pesticides and fertilizers, to copper smelting. Chronic exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The UD finding gives hope that a natural, low-cost solution — a probiotic for rice plants — may be in sight to protect this global food source from accumulating harmful levels of one of the deadliest poisons on the planet. Rice currently is a staple in the diet of more than half the world’s population.

Harsh Bais, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, led the UD team that conducted the study, which is reported in the international journal Planta. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation. His co-authors include professors Angelia Seyfferth and Janine Sherrier and postdoctoral researchers Venkatachalam Lakshmanan, Gang Li and Deepak Shantharaj, all in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

The soil microbe the team identified is named “EA106” for UD alumna Emily Alff, who isolated the strain when she was a graduate student in Bais’ lab. The microbe was found among the roots of a North American variety of rice grown commercially in California. It belongs to a group of gram-negative, rod-shaped bacteria called the Pantoea, which form yellowish mucus-like colonies. 

Because rice is grown underwater — often in water contaminated with arsenic in such hot spots as Bangladesh, India and China — it takes in 10 times more arsenic than do other cereal grains, such as wheat and oats.

As rice plants absorb phosphate, a nutrient needed for growth, they also take up arsenic, which has a similar chemical structure.

“This particular microbe, EA106, is good at mobilizing iron, which competes with the arsenic, effectively blocking arsenic’s pathway,” Bais explains. “An iron plaque forms on the surface of the roots that does not allow arsenic to go up into the rice plant.”

The researchers conducted the study with hundreds of rice plants — some grown in soil, others grown hydroponically — in UD’s Fischer Greenhouse. Inoculations with EA106 improved the uptake of iron at the plant roots, while reducing the accumulation of toxic arsenic in the plant shoots.

While the results are promising, Bais says the next steps in the research will determine if a natural solution to this serious issue is at hand.

“We’re not all the way to the grain level yet. We are working on that now, to see if EA106 prevents arsenic accumulation in the grain. That is the ultimate test,” Bais says.

If the next phase of the research shows success, Bais says inexpensive technologies (think even a cement mixer) exist for coating rice seeds with beneficial bacteria.

He also sees an added plus — fortifying rice plants with iron would not only reduce arsenic, but also increase the grain’s iron content as a nutritional benefit.

“I grew up very near to a rice field in India, so I have a different interest in this problem,” Bais says. “Basically, these small farmers don’t have much to feed their families. They grow rice on small plots of land with soil and water contaminated with arsenic, a poison. The work we are doing is important for them, and to the global security of rice.”

In related research, Bais wants to assess the performance of plants inoculated with EA106 when they face multiple stresses, from both arsenic and from rice blast, a fungus that kills an estimated 30 percent of the world’s rice crop each year.

Bais’ group previously isolated a natural bacterium from rice paddy soil that blunts the rice blast fungus. His group is evaluating how a natural alliance between benign microbes and rice can strengthen the plant’s disease resistance.

Both plant threats face rice farmers near his parents’ home in India. Bais plans to start field tests there when he visits with family this summer.

“The whole world is waking up to biologicals,” Bais says. “It’s an exciting time for researchers in this area.”

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photo of researchers by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Fooks receives the 2015 George Herbert Ryden Dissertation Prize

Jacob Fooks receives the George Ryden Award for outstanding dissertationAlfred Lerner College of Business and Economics doctoral graduate Jacob Fooks has been awarded the 2015 George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences, presented annually by the University of Delaware’s Office of Graduate and Professional Education for the outstanding dissertation in the field.

Fooks, who received his doctorate in economics at Commencement on Saturday, May 30, is a postdoctoral researcher for UD’s Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC).

Fooks, who also holds a master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was presented the Ryden Prize during the doctoral hooding ceremony on Friday, May 29.

His dissertation, titled “Essays on Computational Methods in Land and Resource Economics,” included several essays on the theme of applying computational models from the natural sciences methods to several problems in economic valuation and regulation.

One of the essays looked specifically at sea level rise in coastal protective infrastructure and used complex surging wave dynamics and simulations and data on competitive behavior from research participants to see how better policies and subsidy mechanisms can be developed to minimize damage.

Fooks said the study was set up to be fairly generic so that it could be applied to different areas threatened by sea level rise.

“It looked specifically at how regulators can subsidize investment decisions that decreases damage, sea walls or dune nourishment, given that individuals may have different, private values for these things,” said Fooks.

Of receiving the award, Fooks said, “It was unexpected and I’m very honored. It’s a little surreal but very exciting.”

Fooks said that he had many people to thank and that the award was “as much a reflection of the lab and the team here and all the support that I’ve gotten from them. My advisers, Kent Messer and Michael Arnold, especially have been incredibly supportive, as well as both the APEC department and the economics department which I have worked with. And most importantly my family who’ve shared the struggles of graduate school with me for the last five or six years.”

Messer, Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, said of Fooks receiving the award, “Jacob’s work on a wide array of agricultural, natural resource and environmental economics topics is truly groundbreaking, as exemplified by his impressive publication record and his National Science Foundation dissertation award.”

Now that he has received his doctorate, Fooks will begin working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service’s Conservation and Environment branch.

Fooks said he is excited to start work and that he will hold a research position with a heavy policy connection, focusing on “both academic publishing, as well as producing policy oriented briefs on what the implications are for federal environmental and resource policy.”

In the role, he will also be able to continue to work closely with the CEAE.

“I’m sure I’ll continue to work closely with this center, which is really great because it’s been such a supportive environment and place to work,” Fooks said. “We have worked very closely with the group that I’ll been working with in the past – actually I’ve been working with several of my future coworkers more or less since I started my master’s program in the APEC department.”

Article by Adam Thomas and Sunny Rosen

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD students help New Bolton Center with research on sows

Amy Cherico and Brittney Anderson complete swine internship at New Bolton CenterIt’s not every day students get to work with 600-pound pigs but that’s exactly what University of Delaware undergraduates Brittney Andersen and Amy Cherico found themselves doing during internships at the Penn Vet Swine Teaching and Research Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Andersen, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, and Cherico, a junior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, started the internship in January and worked with Kristina Horback, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Clinical Studies-New Bolton Center, helping her with a study on sows — adult female pigs — to see if the pigs could be trained to do simple tasks.

The primary project on which they worked involved pigs and colors.

“A white screen would come on and if the pigs touched it, they would receive food. They would eat it and if the white screen came on again and they touched it again, they would get more food,” said Cherico. “But then, if a different color came on and they hit it, they wouldn’t get any food.”

Cherico said the work was to see if the pigs could be trained “to know the difference between the two colors.”

The students helped Horback get the pigs into a room, distributed feed and staffed a computer that captured the research data on the sows.

On a related project, Cherico and Andersen analyzed the behavior of piglets. “We coded five-minute videos of piglets of varying ages and there are codes to use to note whether they walk around, sit down or make noises,” Cherico said. The research is designed to determine how pigs of different ages and breeds react to a new environment, and the students entered the information then sent Horback the results.

The UD students carpooled to the center and Andersen explained that after changing into their work clothes and putting on boots, they would “just get right into it and try to find which sow was where and get them into the room and then start the whole process.”

They said that finding the pigs was the hardest part, as it wasn’t easy to distinguish among the massive individual animals in a group of 50 or 60.

There were certain pigs that would see the girls and understand what was about to happen, Cherico said. “The ones that got used to the training knew whenever they saw us, they were going to get food, so they would kind of run down and get excited. They got to recognize us, which was cool.”

Andersen added that these pigs would be “right at the gate.”

There were others, however, who didn’t want to move and, as the students explained, if a 600-pound pig doesn’t want to move, it’s not going to move.

Cherico said she enjoyed all aspects of the internship. “It was fun. The best part for me was just the hands on aspect of it,” she said. “It was really cool to actually be able to handle the pigs and be a part of the research and see what was going on firsthand. That was pretty cool.”

Andersen added that the internship helped expand the knowledge they gained from taking the swine production class offered at UD and taught by Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

“We took the swine production class here in the fall and I had never worked with pigs before that so I was like, ‘I really like this.’ I found out about the internship opportunity and I just liked being able to continue to work with the sows and learn more about the facility,” said Andersen.

Both said the swine production class at UD was great and that they would recommend it to anyone.

“That’s why Delaware is awesome, all the animals are here,” said Cherico.

As for the next steps in their veterinary pursuits, Andersen said she has applied to graduate school for animal science and also has applied for government fellowships, one focused on infectious disease. Cherico said she will spend the summer completing her veterinary school applications.

Any UD students interested in an internship at the Penn Vet Swine Teaching and Research Center should contact Kristina Horback.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Kali Kniel receives awards for teaching, research and advising

Kali Kniel, Sarah Markland at convocationThe University of Delaware’s Kali Kniel has been awarded the 2015 International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Elmer Marth Educator Award, which recognizes an outstanding educator who consistently serves their university in a teaching and research capacity for dedicated and exceptional contributions to the profession.

Kniel, professor of animal and food sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), is one of the youngest professors ever to win the award, which is the highest honor IAFP can bestow on a faculty member.

Kniel was nominated for the award by Manan Sharma, a colleague at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service and also an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

Kniel’s doctoral adviser, Susan Sumner of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, received the award in 2000 and Kniel wrote a letter of support for her package then.

“It is truly an honor to receive this prestigious award,” Kniel said.

Kniel also was the 2015 recipient of the CANR Outstanding Teaching and Advising Award.

“I am truly humbled by the two awards I have received for teaching, which is a huge passion of mine,” said Kniel. “It’s overwhelming and such an honor because we have such an amazing group of educators and professors in the college, people that I have learned a great deal from.”

Sarah Markland, who recently received her doctorate from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, was the 2015 recipient of the William J. Benton Graduate Student Award and had Kniel as an adviser and a teacher said she is not surprised by the honors presented, saying, “Dr. Kniel is the type of professor whose enthusiasm is so contagious that it enables her students to feel inspired and empowered. She genuinely wants all of her students to excel and tries to help guide each of her advisees down the career path for which they are most passionate about.”

Markland said Kniel has been her mentor at UD since 2007 and “it is because of her I found something I am extremely passionate about as a food safety researcher. I would have never expected in a million years that I would have developed into the scientist I am today without her constant support and encouragement. I admire her as an educator, a mentor, a researcher and as a person, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to study under her mentorship. I hope that I am someday able to become as successful she has become in her career as a food safety educator.”

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Sharon Webb receives UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources honor

Jack Webb, Barbara Stephens, Sarah Webb, Sharon Webb, Mark Isaacs. Photo by Pete StephensSharon Webb, an administrative assistant at the Elbert N & Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, was honored with the inaugural 2015 Superior Support Accomplishment Award presented by the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the college’s Convocation ceremony held in Newark on Friday, May 29.

The award, which will be presented by the college every other year, recognizes professional excellence and superior dedication by a university staff member serving in an administrative role. Webb received a $2,000 monetary award with the honor.

“I have worked for our college for over 28 years and I must say Sharon Webb stands out as one of the most organized, dedicated, productive and professional employees I have had the privilege of working with,” wrote Mark Isaacs, director of the Carvel Center.

With 14 years of service to UD, Isaacs shared in his nomination letter that Webb is known as “Wonder Woman” for her exceptional work ethic, leadership, and everyday passion for her job, her colleagues and the university.

As a senior administrative assistant, Webb’s responsibilities include overseeing the Carvel Center’s financial records, reports, budgets, payroll, audits, mileage requests, grant management and the supervision of the Center’s administrative support staff.

In pages of supporting documentation, colleagues were effusive in their praise for Webb as an innovator, adaptable to change, and always cheerful. Often facing a hard deadline, her meticulous attention to detail was noted, along with a cheerful countenance that never waivers.

“Her car is always one of the first in the parking lot every day and it is also one of the last to leave,” wrote one co-worker.

Prior to her career with the university, Webb worked for the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. which shared office space at the Center’s prior location. Webb joined UD in April, 2001.

In her tenure with the college, Webb developed a database to organize Carvel’s broad clientele. She organizes employee development, assists at all levels of the Center’s working research farm, and is often the first staff member to test drive new protocols, policies and procedures that are implemented from main campus. Noting her ability to multi-task, one colleague wrote, “With Sharon, it all seems to just flow.”

“Sharon is a role model for her colleagues as she demonstrates her eagerness to develop professionally—and she supports them in their educational endeavors,” said co-worker Barbara Stephens. “Sharon is one of those rare individuals that leads by example.”

Webb and her husband Jack reside in Delmar. They have three grown children Damien, Jack and Sarah and two grandchildren, Autumn and Finn.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photo by Pete Stephens

Longwood Graduate Fellows present findings on threatened plants to tree care

Longed Graduate Fellows present findings on threatened plants to tree careMillions of people visit public gardens each year. As they linger in the luscious landscapes, stress levels power down and new information may take root — on chemical-free pest control, perhaps, or the ID of that perfect perennial to jazz up a faded flower bed, or the role public gardens are playing in saving plants headed for extinction.

Botanic gardens and the people who love them have a major ally in the master’s degree program in public horticulture offered by the University of Delaware in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

The program, the oldest of only three offered in the U.S., produces leaders of botanic gardens around the world. As part of their academic training, which is fully funded by the program, each Longwood Fellow explores a research topic important to keeping these green spaces growing.

“Their research has to be applicable to our industry — we need it,” says Brian Trader, interim director of the graduate program. Trader is based at Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Its four-acre conservatory and over 1,000 acres of outdoor gardens attract more than a million visitors annually.

The cohort of six Longwood Fellows graduating this spring presented their research to the public on May 29 in the Longwood auditorium.

Sarah Helm Wallace used Todsen’s pennyroyal, a rare mint plant that grows on the mountain slopes of New Mexico, as a springboard into her discussion of “exceptional, threatened species” — plants that are dwindling in number and produce only a few seeds or no seeds at all.

Although not much is known about the role of Todsen’s pennyroyal in the ecosystem, researchers do know the ecosystem in which it lives is complex, supporting bighorn sheep to hummingbirds, Wallace pointed out.

“It isn’t ideal to lose a species,” she said. “Shouldn’t we try our hardest to keep it around?”

Protecting endangered plants increasingly requires strategies for growing them in plant conservatories and using tissue culture and cryopreservation techniques to be able to store and propagate them later on, Wallace said. As part of a world plant diversity safety net, the United Nations Global Strategy for Plant Conservation has set the goal of ensuring that 75 percent of the world’s threatened plants are maintained in such collections by 2020.

Wallace surveyed more than 3,000 conservation experts to begin developing a catalog of exceptional, threatened plants that are native to the U.S. and Canada, along with the experts working to preserve each species. Some 289 plants have been identified so far for a future database, which she hopes to expand to a global list.

Building on Wallace’s presentation, Gary Shanks captured the audience’s attention with a grim statistic from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “Over 10,000 plant species are threatened with extinction, which is quite scary,” he said.

According to Shanks, more than 100 plant species are believed to have gone extinct since the turn of this century, and several species now rely entirely on human cultivation for their survival.

In a survey of more than 1,300 horticultural institutions around the globe, he found that over half the respondents are working to re-introduce plants with low genetic diversity.

Some successes have been achieved. Although Erica verticillata, a hardy shrub with pink tube-shaped flowers, was believed to be gone forever from Shanks’ native South Africa during the first half of the 20th century, a few specimens were discovered in the 1980s in parks in South Africa and botanic gardens in Europe. The plant has since been re-introduced back into the wild at a nature reserve in Cape Town.

The American chestnut tree, which has been the focus of research and restoration in the U.S., could serve as a flagship for the preservation of other species, Shanks said. Several disease resistance genes — from wheat and from the Chinese chestnut — currently are being studied to enhance the American chestnut’s ability to defend itself from blight.

Shanks traveled more than 7,500 miles from Cape Town to participate in the Longwood Graduate Program, which was highly recommended by Martin Smit, a program alumnus. Smit is curator of Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden in South Africa.

A closer look at public garden operations

Other Longwood Fellows focused on public garden operations ranging from visitor education to plant sales.

Felicia Chua, from Singapore, surveyed visitors to Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh to find out what interpretive approaches — from brochures, displays and self-guided tours to social media and QR codes — are most effective in motivating the public to learn more about sustainability.

Her survey, which she says other gardens may adapt, is in the appendix to her thesis, which will be available from the University of Delaware Library in the future. Chua will return to Singapore to channel her new knowledge into the Gardens by the Bay, which she helped to create.

Bryan Thompson-Nowak explored how three representative sites – including a college campus, native woodland garden and research collection – handle tree care, a typically expensive task. Through case studies at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the New England Wildflower Society Garden in Framingham, Massachusetts, and Montgomery Botanical Center in Coral Gables, Florida, he illustrated how mutually beneficial partnerships between public gardens and arborists/commercial tree care companies can be developed. He is now the assistant director of education and outreach at Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.

A self-professed “late bloomer,” Sarah Leach Smith, from Durham, North Carolina, worked in publishing before pursuing her passion for horticulture. She found that commercial growers are slowly phasing out trial gardens. She recommended that public gardens form partnerships with local nurseries and independent garden centers to develop trial gardens and to boost consumer awareness of what these gardens show: what will grow well in consumers’ own backyards.

Kevin Philip Williams, a native of upstate New York, took a closer look at special event plant sales and found that although they may not always be major fundraisers for public gardens, these events can support other important goals such as increasing memberships. Giving staff greater ownership of event planning, expanding volunteer support, and pursuing sponsorships for food to shopping carts can make plant sales more manageable, and they can be “weatherproofed” by holding them indoors, he said.

Video of the fellows’ presentations is available here. The next cohort of Longwood Fellows will begin their studies in July. For more information about the program, visit the website.

Article by Tracey Bryant

Image courtesy of Longwood Graduate Program

UD graduate student uses leeches to measure mammal biodiversity

Sarah Weiskopf studied leeches to look at mammal biodiversity in SumatraIn order to get a better grasp on the biodiversity of mammals in Sumatra, University of Delaware graduate student Sarah Weiskopf spent two weeks collecting leeches in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and conducting genetic analyses of their blood meals.

Weiskopf, a master’s degree student in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the study came about when Kyle McCarthy, assistant professor of wildlife ecology and her adviser, came across a recent paper that used leeches to extract mammal DNA in a study in Vietnam.

For this project, Weiskopf collected 200 samples from two field sites and said that leeches could be an effective new method to gauge the total biodiversity of an area.

“Right now, tropical mammal surveys are typically done with camera traps and they don’t get all the species, especially arboreal species — ones that live in the trees — or ones that might be too small to trigger them,” said Weiskopf, who worked with Roswitha Muntiyarso, a graduate student from Universitas Indonesia, on the project.

Both of the study sites Weiskopf used had camera trap data gathered in a previous study, which will allow her to compare the results of the leech data with the camera data.

“The camera trap data has been analyzed already so we do have an idea of what’s there and we want to see if the leeches show the same results, or if they collect even more or different species than we saw on the cameras,” said Weiskopf.

Weiskopf explained that at one site the researchers collected leeches from the same locations that the cameras were placed and at the other site they used random sampling to decide where to collect the leeches.

When it came to gathering the leeches, Weiskopf said that they were pretty easy to find as they were “pretty much all over. We collected most of them from the ground, so we would look down and just see them crawling.”

As for any reservations about working with leeches, Weiskopf said she got used to them. “I did get a few leech bites, and they’re not the most pleasant, but I think it will be really cool if it works. Since leeches are so easy to collect, it will be a more convenient method for sampling biodiversity.”

Weiskopf said she will use an extraction kit to get the DNA from the leeches to sequence and analyze.

She also said that she had a great time in Indonesia.

“It was really beautiful and different from anywhere I’ve been before. The families I stayed with were very welcoming. It was great way to experience Indonesian culture and I’m glad I had the chance to go,” said Weiskopf.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Sarah Weiskopf

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaney receives Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising Award

Group photo of the spring 2015 recipients of the excellence in undergraduate academic advising award recipients Laura Eisenman, Thomas Kaminski, Deborah Delaney, and Cynthia Diefenbeck. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

Eight members of the University of Delaware faculty have been recognized for noteworthy performance in teaching and advising, and three graduate students have received awards for excellence in teaching.

The Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Academic Undergraduate Advising awards were presented at the May 4 meeting of the Faculty Senate.

Based primarily on nominations from current and past students, faculty excellence awards recognize those professors whose courses are viewed as being thought-provoking, intellectually demanding, related to other fields and touching on contemporary issues and student experiences.

Awardees receive $5,000, have their portraits hung in the Morris Library for five years and have bricks inscribed with their names installed in Mentors’ Circle.

This year’s Excellence in Teaching Awards were presented to:

  • Ralph Begleiter, Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Communication at UD and the founding director of the Center for Political Communication, in the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Guido Geerts, professor of accounting and management information systems and Ernst and Young Faculty Scholar, in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics;
  • Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the Organizational and Community Leadership Program in the School of Public Policy and Administration, in the College of Arts and Sciences; and
  • Margaret Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and professor of humanities, in the College of Arts and Sciences.

UD’s Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising Award is based on student nominations. Awardees receive $2,500 and also are honored with bricks inscribed in Mentors’ Circle.

This year’s honorees are:

  • Laura Eisenman, associate professor in the School of Education and adviser for the interdisciplinary disabilities studies minor, in the College of Education and Human Development;
  • Thomas Kaminski, professor of kinesiology and applied physiology, and director of undergraduate athletic training, in the College of Health Sciences;
  • Deborah Delaney, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; and
  • Cynthia Diefenbeck, assistant professor in the School of Nursing in the College of Health Sciences.

Of her role as an adviser, Delaney said, “Being an adviser is the most challenging part of my job at UD, and it requires me to get to know each of my students and understand how I can mentor them. Each student is so different and blessed with different gifts. Being a mentor also is the most rewarding part of my job, and watching a student grow and become more confident is the best. Being able to be a supportive and encouraging voice to the future generations in the field of entomology is an honor. Insects are just so cool!”

To read about the other award winners, check out the full article on UDaily.

UD students learn art of fermenting in class, on Iron Hill Brewery tour

UD fermentations class tours Iron Hill  Brewery and RestaurantAn interdisciplinary class at the University of Delaware took a trip to Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant in Newark on April 30 to learn about the restaurant’s brewing process and to come up with recipes for three distinct offerings as part of the “Fermentations: Brewing and Beyond” class.

The class is taught by Nicole Donofrio, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Dallas Hoover, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

While at Iron Hill, the students were led by Justin Sproul, head brewer, as they toured the facilities and learned about the brewing process.

Prior to the event, Donofrio said, “The students will have already learned a little bit about the brewing process from me, as we had three lectures in class, but then they will get to see it in action, which will be great.”

The students were divided into groups so that while one group toured the brewery, the other groups worked in the back room on an activity in which they learned about beer ingredients and raw materials — such as malts, grains and bittering versus flavoring hops — and then had to come up with a recipe for one of three varieties of beer.

The groups then rotated so that everyone who participated got to tour the brewery.

Sproul said that they were brewing a batch of their Ore House India Pale Ale (IPA), the house IPA at Iron Hill, so the students got to actually see a real batch of beer being created. “We brought them up and showed them some stuff moving around and some things going on in there so they could see some portion of the production of a batch of beer,” said Sproul.

Sproul, who has been brewing for about 17 years, said that an average batch of beer produced at Iron Hill is about 310 gallons.

He also said that he thinks that UD offering a class on the fermenting process and brewing is “really cool. More and more schools are getting involved. Years ago, there weren’t many places that you could get that type of education on brewing but slowly but surely, we’re starting to see more and more universities pick up some classes that are brewery related,” said Sproul.

Fermentations class

During the early part of the semester, students in the class learn all about fermented products such as cheese and dairy products, vinegar, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, olives, soda crackers and soy sauce.

In addition to the brewery tour, the class also held a cheese tasting, funded by Blake Meyers, chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences. They also participated in a soy sauce tasting and sampled malts and hops.

Chris Kidder, a senior majoring in plant science, said he signed up for the class because he is getting back into home brewing and also wanted to learn about fermented products.

Kidder said it was hard to pick his favorite part of the class. “That’s hard to say because you learn so much about everything that’s fermented, from vinegar to soy to meats to teas to coffee, you name it. It’s more of a broadening type of class.”

Alaina Johnson, a senior food science major who recently got into home brewing, said she signed up for the class to broaden her knowledge about the brewing and fermenting process.

Johnson said that while learning about the beer brewing aspect was her favorite part, she also enjoyed studying the science behind the fermentation process.

“There’s a lot of science behind the beer and wine you drink. The first day of class, people were asking, ‘What is fermentation? What is yeast?’ I thought, ‘You’re going to be in over your head,’ because the class is not just about drinking beer. There is a lot of the science behind it,” Johnson said. “We learned all about the biological pathways and how yeast metabolize sugars, leaving behind ethanol and carbon dioxide as waste products. Yeast are complex organisms and it is important to understand this science before you start trying to brew your own beer.”

Samantha Gartley, a senior food science major, said she enjoyed the class because “our entire major is about the process of taking raw ingredients and turning them into foods, so it is nice to have a class that expands that to the rest of the UD community.”

Fermenting future

Donofrio said that brewing and fermentation, just like a process such as making ice cream, is based in science. “Regardless of how you feel about beer, it is a biological and scientific process. It’s also a little bit of an art form getting it right. There’s a lot that goes into it and a lot of thought behind it. It’s not for the purpose of swilling beer. That is not at all where we’re going with this,” said Donofrio.

Donofrio said that because there is the capability for UD to make products like ice cream, there is no reason not to produce fermented products such as cheese and beer, as well.

Hoover echoed these sentiments, saying that while it’s easy enough to brew beer and make cheese as a hobby, they are hoping to expand the class to have a laboratory element in which they can teach how to produce fermented products so they have commercial relevance. Hoover also pointed out that there are universities such as Oregon State that offer a fermentation science program.

“Brewing is a job – it’s not just consumption, it is a profession,” said Hoover. “Beer is a product and food science majors produce it, so we want to be able to handle that if it’s worthwhile, and it definitely seems worthwhile.”

One thing that is for sure is that the creation of beer and fermented products — whether on the commercial scale or at home — isn’t going away in Delaware or any other place anytime soon.

“Home and craft brewing is a trend. In 2012, something like over 300 craft breweries popped up in this country, and there is still room to grow, believe it or not. There are a bunch of craft breweries in our state alone — Twin Lakes Brewing Co, 16 Mile Brewery, Iron Hill, Dogfish Head, Fordham and Dominion, just to name a very few,” said Donofrio.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

Tim Calotta/THE REVIEW

More on his plate: student starts and runs “Joost Wafel Co.”

Smells can soothe us and evoke memories. In Joost Elling’s case, a smell inspired him to start a business.

Freshman Elling was on a trip to the Netherlands to visit relatives and found himself drawn to the smell of stroopwafels in an open-air market. For the uninformed, a stroopwafel is a cookie made of two thin waffle-cookies joined together by caramel.

When Elling returned from the Netherlands, he decided to begin making stroopwafels of his own, as he could not find them for sale in the United States. Elling says he ordered a special stroopwafel iron from Europe and started working on a stroopwafel recipe at home, altering the recipe to suit the American palate.


Read full article on The Review >>

CANR employees craft pillowcases for Romanian orphanage

Michelle Rodgers (left), Donna Bailey (middle), and Alice Moore (right), made pillow cases to donate to an orphanage in RomaniaWhen Michelle Rodgers mentioned to Donna Bailey that her niece was going on a mission trip with the Children to Love organization and needed 500 pillowcases for an orphanage in Romania, she never imagined the robust support she would receive.

Individual quilters and quilt groups from throughout Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania quickly volunteered to chip in and create numerous pillowcases for the cause.

“It was neat for me to see one mention of one act of kindness get multiplied in multiple ways,” said Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). “People picked that up and really went with that so I don’t know how many pillow cases we’ll end up with.”

More pillowcases will be created this weekend as Rodgers has an event planned at her church in Lancaster County on Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m.-noon.

Those who attend the session will put together pillowcases in an assembly line fashion that Rodgers learned from Bailey’s Penn Ridge Quilters group.

“Because Donna’s group had done this assembly line style, they provided directions on the best way to do it, so I’m planning to use their best practices,” said Rodgers. “They were really willing to share how to set it up and what to have everyone doing so I don’t have to figure that all out.”

Bailey, who works in the administrative offices at CANR, said the Penn Ridge solicited fabric from local quilt shops and organized a sew night, making 35 pillowcases. Also, Bailey’s granddaughter, Abigail, raised money at her school and made four pillowcases.

CANR administrative office staff members — who have their own quilt group that includes Rodgers, Bailey, Alice Moore, Susan Davis and Katie Hutton, recently retired — also held a quilt night at which they had the Penn Ridge group over for dinner at Bailey’s home and sewed 11 additional pillowcases.

Moore said the assembly line set-up worked well because “it’s a way of incorporating people who don’t sew or have knowledge of sewing but have a variety of skill sets. There are some who are good at ironing and pressing and folding, and making sure that everything gets organized right. It was nice that they had opportunities for us and it was great to meet some of Donna’s friends and neighbors.”

In addition to the pillowcase-making events, Rodgers said that she never knows when she might find bags of pillowcases placed in her office. “There have been many a day when I’ve walked in and there’s been a bag from somewhere,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers said she has been asked the question, “Why don’t you just buy pillowcases for the children?” and her answer is that the point of the exercise is for the children to have something crafted especially for them.

“We could buy them and it would be cheaper but they’re not personalized and they’re not made out of special fabrics. The idea behind this is that each one is individually made in love for a child – it has been crafted for that child,” said Rodgers.

Bailey added that she once made a pillowcase for a child that was having surgery and as he recovered and healed “his head was on the pillow, he said to his mom, ‘I know somebody who loved me made this’ and I think that answers very well to those asking ‘Why do you do this?’ Because somebody who loves me made this, you know, there’s a healing balm in that.”

Moore echoed those sentiments, saying that the pillowcases were “made of love because you know that they are going to someone who really needs a hug and really needs care. It’s something that you can do to help in some small way but know that you’re going to make a lasting impression on that child.”

Rodgers said that in the event that the group gets more pillowcases donated than the desired 500, they would donate the rest to an orphanage in India.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

UD students create app to help area’s Christmas tree farmers

UD students create app to help area Christmas Tree Farmers

An interdisciplinary team of students at the University of Delaware has developed a new app called PocketFarmer designed to help Christmas tree farmers in the region diagnose, identify and mark potentially diseased plants.

The PocketFarmer was developed through the Spin In program in UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP).

Through Spin In, OEIP matches entrepreneurs who are developing innovative early stage technology with a team of UD undergraduate students to further develop both the technology and the marketing strategy.

The student team is mentored by UD faculty members and works side-by-side with entrepreneurs to provide solutions to the challenges that need to be overcome on the path to commercialization.

The idea for the app came about when Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, asked agents to come up with app ideas that could benefit Extension clientele as part of an “App Challenge” contest that involved all 13 northeast states in the Extension system. As part of that challenge, the participants would also have to create a YouTube video to go along with their app.

Nancy Gregory, an Extension agent, had been working closely with Christmas tree farmers in Delaware in conjunction with Brian Kunkel, an Extension specialist. They had conducted workshops for the growers and collaborated with them through a three-year grant from the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) to evaluate disease resistant cultivars of Christmas trees.

Christmas tree diseases

The main type of Christmas tree that is grown in the area is the Douglas fir, and Gregory said it can be afflicted by two main diseases – Rhabdocline needlecast and Swiss needlecast.

Both diseases cause premature needle loss, leading to thin foliage, which is especially problematic for Christmas tree growers who need fuller trees to appeal to customers.

Gregory said that to combat the Rhabdocline needlecast, growers have been interested in cultivars from the western United States that have sources of resistance to the fungal pathogen. Unfortunately, local growers have not found trees with growth habits and characteristics that they like.

“In the meantime, Swiss needlecast has come in and become even more problematic and it turns out that all those lines they were looking at that might be resistant to the Rhabdocline needlecast are susceptible to the Swiss needlecast. So that’s become an even bigger problem,” said Gregory.

The two needlecast diseases are especially prevalent on Douglas fir trees in the area because of the coastal climate and humid summers.

Gregory said that both diseases are easily controlled with the use of fungicide sprays but that timing is crucial, and that is where the PocketFarmer could be of a benefit to the growers.

“The control of these diseases usually requires three fungicide sprays, sometimes four in a season, and it’s very dependent on timing. You have to know when the spores are being produced, which is usually in May,” she said. “When those spores are released, they infect the new expanding needles so it’s very crucial when you get that first spray and then traditionally the growers will spray every two weeks after that.”

PocketFarmer features

The PocketFarmer app would help growers know when to spray and also help them keep track of the number of applications.

Michelle Lifavi, a junior majoring in communication and the communications specialist for the team, explained that the app is equipped with a seasonal calendar that will tell the growers how their trees should be progressing and what diseases to look for during particular times of the year.

“We have a GPS pinpointing feature so the trees can be pinpointed on the farm. If one tree has a certain feature on it, the farmer can write notes, can have a picture and can input coordinates so he can come back to it and know the exact location,” she said.

Another way in which the app could help the growers is in identifying and verifying the needlecast diseases early on.

“The growers need to recognize whether or not they have the fungal needlecast disease or whether they might have something else causing spots on the needles,” said Gregory. “There are look-alikes that it might be confused with, whether it’s a scale insect or small specks. There is a small speck called flyspeck, which is not a pathogen, it’s just kind of an opportunist that might grow there. There are a number of things that the growers could confuse.”

With the app, the growers would be able to take a picture of what is afflicting their trees and compare it against images of known pathogens.

“We have the ‘take a photo and diagnose page,’ which is quick and easy,” said Lifavi. “The growers implement all the symptoms that they have – such as where it is on the tree, what’s going on with it – and then the app filters through and picks the disease that they most likely have.”

Gregory explained that these features “could save them time and money because they’d know when that crucial first spray needs to go on and they would know for sure what pathogen they have, or if they have an insect instead of a pathogen – they would know what’s causing the problem.”

The PocketFarmer would also work hand in hand with Extension agents because while it would allow the growers to be more self-reliant, the group still stresses the need for Extension agents to confirm diseases.

“The idea is to give them picture clues and information, but always back it up with the recommendation to either contact your local county Extension office or send a sample in for an accurate diagnosis,” said Gregory.

Lifavi said the app would provide farmers the ability to take photographs of their potentially diseased trees and to share them directly with an Extension agent.

While the app is currently focused on just conifer trees in the area, the group named it the PocketFarmer with the hopes that they could expand it to other crops.

Nathan Smith, a plant science major who worked on the project, said, “The idea behind this app is to create a useful tool for farmers to be able to carry around with them in the field and help them diagnose problems that are occurring with their crop. In this case, it’s Christmas trees. PocketFarmer will give them recommendations on what to do. It’s like carrying a thesaurus with you but it’s faster and caters to the specific needs of the farmer.”

Learning experience

Andrew Seski, a sophomore finance major and the business analyst for the PocketFarmer team, said of the experience, “Throughout my time working in the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP), I have not only gained a new appreciation for diversity in the workplace, but I have personally grown through experiencing other disciplines focused on accomplishing a common goal. OEIP has offered me both the autonomy to be innovative in my work, as well as offering me lifelong connections.”

Akuma Akuma-Ukpo, a computer engineering student, said he enjoyed the project management aspect of the app development. “The privilege to get exposure to real world project creation while collaborating with an interdisciplinary team with limited resources was a great way to usher us into our respective real world careers,” said Akuma-Ukpo.

Team members include Akuma-Ukpo; Lifavi; Smith; Seski; Jack Sherry, design/graphics; and Rebecca LaPlaca, arts and sciences.

The team is mentored by Reetaja Majumdar, a master’s student in business and economics, and works with Sarah Minnich and Cyndi McLaughlin, both from OEIP.

Anyone interested in learning more about the app can contact Lifavi or Seski for more information.

Click here to check out the video put together by the students and Lindsay Yeager, photographer for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which will be entered into the App challenge contest.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

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.

Crowds gather to view agriculture, natural resources exhibits at 40th Ag Day

Ag Day 2015The relative cold weather in the morning gave way to warmth and sunshine in the afternoon as an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 visitors flocked to the 40th Ag Day at the University of Delaware to see an array of agricultural and natural resource exhibits, enjoy great entertainment and find out the winner of the recipe contest.

Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), welcomed the crowd to Ag Day and explained how the event was started 40 years ago by David Frey, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, who Rieger said is “still on the faculty, still teaching great courses, and still a big part of Ag Day.”

The theme of this year’s Ag Day was “Farm to Table” and Rieger said that concept is “kind of a revolution today in agriculture — it’s really changing the food system.”

Rieger noted that CANR is part of that revolution, with students who work on the campus farm “growing kale and broccoli and lettuce, and things like that,” with most of the food going to the Food Bank of Delaware or restaurants in downtown Newark.

As a result, Rieger said, “We in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are part of the local food movement, as are millions of people across the country, and that’s what we’re going to celebrate today with our theme Farm to Table.”

As part of that Farm to Table mission, the Ag Day planning committee arranged to have a special recipe contest.

The first place winner of the contest was Pamela Braun, whose recipe for a Luscious Spring Green Salad earned her gifts from the UDairy Creamery, honey from the campus apiary, a certificate for mixed vegetable baskets from UD Fresh to You and an additional barrel of fresh tomatoes.

Braun decided to donate all of her prize winnings to the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware, which had a booth in the Ag Day Community Tent.

The other winners were Karen Burkett’s Goulash, which came in second place, and Valerie Smirlock’s Crustless Quiche, which came in third place. Both received UDairy Creamery gifts and honey from the campus apiary, and Burkett also received a certificate for a mixed vegetable basket from UD Fresh to You.

Another popular aspect of Ag Day this year was the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) asking attendees to participate in three separate research studies. Those who took part were paid in cash for their participation and by the end of the day CEAE paid out around $6,000 to more than 500 participants.

Two projects investigated consumer preference for oysters with varied information regarding water pollution and nutrient levels in the water. The research team has also collected data from consumers at the 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown, Delaware, Joe’s Famous Tavern in Wilmington and the Speakeasy at the Wright House in Newark. As a part of the oyster studies, research participants had the opportunity to purchase various oysters and have them prepared on the half shell, fried, or in a bag of ice to be brought home.

A third study was conducted on charitable giving as it related to issues of water infrastructure. Participants first earned money by completing a task on the computer, and then were asked if they would like to donate some of this money to either the American Water Works Association or the Conservation Fund. The study helped the researchers better understand how important water infrastructure is to individuals and how they would most like to protect it for future generations.

The Food Bank of Delaware truck was also on hand to collect donations from the community.

In addition, those gathered at the 40th Ag Day were able to take in over 90 exhibits and witness a variety of demonstrations, including a beehive, free-flight bird show and a tree-climbing exhibition. There also were live bands featuring UD faculty and professionals.

Always popular at Ag Day is the plant sale organized by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) and ice cream from the UDairy Creamery. This year the creamery sold treats to around 3,000 patrons.

Those in attendance also had the option of taking a tour of the CANR farm. “I call it a farm tour but it’s much, much more than a farm,” Rieger said. “The name of the college is Agriculture and Natural Resources, and a lot of what we do has to do with keeping the soil from eroding, keeping the water pure and the air clean.”

Rieger noted that the 350-acre farm has croplands, pastures, wetlands, woodlands and streams, almost all of which fall within the city limits of Newark.

“The farm is much more than just a place where we raise animals and grow plants, it’s a place where we have environmental services going on,” said Rieger. “That’s what we do in CANR, a little bit of both — feed the world, protect the planet.

“That’s what our students go out into the world to do, and what’s great is that as they approach graduation, there are two jobs for every graduate that we can produce in the United States. Agriculture and natural resources careers are in some of the highest demand of anything in the country and all of those folks will have wonderful careers.

“They’ll probably have multiple job offers before they even leave here so if you’ve got a nephew, niece, son or daughter or grandson thinking about what they want to do when they go off to college, think about agriculture and natural resources.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

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Lasher Lab makeover helps with poultry disease diagnostics and research, response

Sen. Tom Carper tours the Lasher LabThe newly renovated Lasher Laboratory avian diagnostic, disease and research facility was the focus as community members attended an open house held Friday, April 17, at the University of Delaware’s Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, Delaware.

The renovations to the lab were completed courtesy of $4 million in funding from the Delaware General Assembly and will serve to help with avian research diagnosis and early detection surveillance of avian diseases that have the potential to devastate the state’s poultry industry.

“The Lasher Lab represents the front line of defense for diagnosing and controlling avian diseases and it services the state’s $3.2 billion poultry industry,” said Mark Rieger, dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). “Lasher will be the go to place if there is an outbreak of avian influenza. Thanks to the strong support supplied by the state of Delaware, the lab has been completely renovated and now provides state of the art diagnostics and surveillance services for the agricultural industry in Delaware.”

Rieger added that Lasher is the newest addition to CANR’s facilities and is part of a network that comes together across the three counties to meet agriculture and natural resources needs in the state.

“In addition to the diagnostic and surveillance services, Lasher provides our scientists in Newark with information on what is happening in the industry in real time,” Rieger said. “Without it we wouldn’t have a continuum between the basic ideas that are being researched in Newark and the practical, on the ground, real time problems that are occurring out in the industry, so it is incredibly important.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper called the facility renovations “a great investment” and noted that as the nation exports more chickens, keeping those chickens healthy is of the utmost importance.

“It used to be for every 100 chickens we raised in Delmarva, we exported zero to other countries. Today it’s 20 and it’s growing,” said Carper.

The senator added that it is important to invest in facilities like Lasher to ensure that chickens raised in the U.S. can continue to be exported.

Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee — a CANR alumnus who noted that he worked in the Carvel facility for 26 years as a vegetable crop specialist and four years before that as a county agriculture agent — said the facility that houses the newly renovated Lasher Laboratory has served agriculture since the University acquired it in 1941.

“It has a wonderful history of serving agriculture not only in Sussex County but for the whole state,” said Kee.

Kee said that he and Gov. Jack Markell were thrilled that the state, through the legislature, made the $4 million commitment to ensure that Lasher is outfitted with the latest facilities and equipment to protect the Delaware poultry industry.

“In Delaware, we sell about 225 million chickens a year, and on the Delmarva Peninsula it’s well over 500 million,” Kee said. “Each one of those chickens has to be healthy and the surveillance and the research that’s going on here and at the Allen Lab (on the Newark campus) is ensuring that. The industry is important because, at the bottom line, it is about the farmers out there on the land making a living.”

Charles Riordan, deputy provost for research and scholarship, thanked the Lasher family, Kee and the state legislators for making the laboratory renovations possible. He said it was a team effort that allowed the University to move forward with the improvements to the facility.

Riordan said the facility is focused on learner-centered research and said that UD is committed — through the work of its students, faculty and staff — to having an impact in the region and the state.

“The focus really is on that,” he said. “Whether it be our scholarship in the lab next door, on the main campus, on the Lewes campus, whether it be through our education activities or our outreach activities, it’s all about taking the work at UD and having it out in the community.”

Riordan added that there is a two-way street in that the University is “not only informing the community with our work, but that the community is bringing their work, through partnerships, to UD.”

Jack Gelb, director of the avian biosciences center and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, said that as a land grant university, UD has a rich tradition of serving agriculture and poultry and he said that service has never been stronger.

“Through the renovation of Lasher Lab, we are positioned to be sustainable for the next 35 years. Our goal is clear, to continue and even strengthen the productive partnerships we’ve enjoyed,” said Gelb.

Gelb noted that what makes UD particularly unique is that “our laboratory system in Delaware is directly linked to the University whereas in many states, those diagnostic activities are often performed through the departments of agriculture.”

The unique structure provides strength in that “our scientists and our veterinarians can observe what’s going on in the field with any particular type of disease condition and reflect that very efficiently to researchers and others who can help develop mitigating ways of controlling disease through outreach and extension,” Gelb said, adding, “That is very powerful and has kept us directly connected to the industry.”

Mark Isaacs, director of the Carvel Center, closed the ceremony by thanking the Lasher family for their commitment to UD — a commitment that made the laboratory possible.

He also thanked Kee and legislators who attended, and singled out Tom Hudson, UD construction manager, and Brenda Sample, Lasher Lab coordinator, who made the renovations a reality.

Of Kee, Isaacs said, “His efforts were phenomenal in navigating and helping us do this. Ed, we can’t say enough about your continued support for the facility and for our campus and the college as well and our legislative body, members of the General Assembly and the county. I’ve been with UD for 29 years and you talk about a partnership — what a phenomenal partnership we have with our local legislative body. They truly care, they’re sincere in their mission in serving their constituents, and they really care about agriculture.”

Before leaving for the tour, Isaacs said that the participants were going to see “a lab that was designed by the troops that work in it. What you’re going to see is a dynamite, hands-on, lab staff driven facility that has taken us into the next millennium.”

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Rice paddies installed on CANR campus to aid arsenic research

Angelia Seyfferth is conducting arsenic in rice studies using rice paddies installed on UD's campusTwelve paddies have been created at the University of Delaware’s new Rice Investigation, Communication and Education (RICE) Facility, an outdoor research education laboratory on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus, to assist scientist Angelia Seyfferth as she studies arsenic in rice.

The paddies were installed through a prestigious five-year $465,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award received by Seyfferth, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. It was the first such award given to a CANR professor.

The new laboratory will allow for research that more closely resembles field conditions, allowing researchers to look at plants outdoors rather than solely in an indoor laboratory setting.

“Typically when we do experiments for plant growth, we are growing a few plants per pot and we can have multiple pots for multiple replicates to answer some scientific questions,” said Seyfferth. “But often what we do in the laboratory doesn’t translate to what is happening in the field because there are other factors that the plants are experiencing.”

Seyfferth said that while the rice paddies will still be controlled experiments, they will more closely approach field conditions.

“Rather than having three plants in a pot that are all growing together, we can have 50 plants in a plot of land, which is going to more closely resemble a rice paddy field. So this is what I like to call a rice mesocosm. The pot is almost like a microcosm and this is the mesocosm,” said Seyfferth.

Paddy construction

The rice paddies were installed by Jeta Excavation and Seyfferth also had design assistance from Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design, and Carmine Balascio, associate professor of plant and soil sciences.

Seyfferth said that Bruck and Balascio helped in terms of thinking about the logistical pieces of the project, such as what type of lining material to use in the paddies, how best to protect that liner and how to secure it.

“It went from this idea to a reality after talking with all these people who have a lot of experience with building and designing,” said Seyfferth.

The liners were used in the paddies to help prevent the water from infiltrating through the soil.

“We will be able to use less water and when we flood the paddies, arsenic naturally present in the soil will be mobilized and we don’t want it to go anywhere,” said Seyfferth. “Typically, rice is grown in very high clay content soils where you can pack the clay down or there’s some sort of a hard pan that will trap the water. Here we don’t really have that so we’re artificially creating it. The whole goal is to do these replicated field experiments without potentially impacting other areas.”

Seyfferth also acknowledged her lab group as a whole for helping in the construction, noting that Andrew Morris, a research assistant, and Matt Limmer, a postdoctoral fellow, provided much help in the process.

Growing rice

Seyfferth said that the end of May is when the soil temperatures are warm enough to support the types of rice her group wants to grow. The rice will be germinated indoors and then transplanted to the paddies by the beginning of June, and harvested in September.

Because the rice grows in flooded conditions, Seyfferth said it helps to minimize unwanted plant growth because weeds do not do well in the flooded soils where rice thrives. That is a benefit because the researchers will not have to use large quantities of herbicides to control weeds.

“Flooding the soil also makes phosphorous more available, so we don’t expect to need to use phosphorous fertilizer at least for the first year,” said Seyfferth. “In most upland soils, places where corn, soy and everything else is grown, the phosphorous is typically very tightly held onto the soil and you have to add more phosphorous for increased productivity. For the rice, the same processes that will release arsenic will also release phosphorous, so there’s minimal fertilizer inputs that we need to worry about.”

International Year of Soils

The RICE Facility will host the inaugural Soil is Life one-day summer camp for middle school students this year, and Seyfferth said that because 2015 is the International Year of Soils, it is perfect timing.

“It’s really exciting to have the inaugural camp of Soil is Life happen to coincide with this International Year of Soils,” said Seyfferth.

Campers will study the rice and also some adjacent soil pits where they will be shown the soil profile and talk about the importance of soil and where their food comes from.

Seyfferth said that in addition to studying rice, campers will have opportunities to study other crops growing nearby, including a cornfield, a vegetable garden and an organic high tunnel put in place by CANR Dean Mark Rieger.

“There will be a lot of opportunities for the students to learn about many different types of food production in a small space,” said Seyfferth.

Now that the paddies have been installed, Seyfferth said she is eager to get started on the experiments.

“I think we’re just very excited that this idea was not only able to get funded but is now a reality. I think it provides potential new collaborations for the future with other faculty who are working on rice,” said Seyfferth. “I’m very excited about the project and can’t wait to see what comes of it.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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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

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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

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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.

UD statistics student works on analytics for hockey, basketball teams

Marc Rothman, Junior in APEC (Applied Economics and Statistics), does statistics work for the UD hockey and basketball teams.University of Delaware student Marc Rothman has always been interested in sports and statistics so when he saw an email from Tom Ilvento, professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, looking for students interested in doing statistics and analytics for the women’s ice hockey team, he jumped at the opportunity.

Rothman, a junior majoring in statistics and actuarial science, spent the last few months working as the director of analytics for the women’s ice hockey club team. He looked at statistics and trends that would help give the team an edge on its opponents.

Rothman compiled all of the basic statistics — goals, assists and face-off win percentage — into an Excel spread sheet and said the biggest impact he had on the team was when it came to face-offs, as he helped them learn more about their face-off win percentage.

The team was 7-14 last year and this year, with Jesse McNulty taking over as head coach, they finished the season 12-4-1. Rothman said McNulty told him that the team’s adjustments based on his data analysis is the major reason that the team improved their record.

Rothman said he is very appreciative of the opportunity and all the support McNulty has given him, as it has led to other opportunities beyond hockey. One such opportunity involved an analysis of ticket sales for the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball team, considering how promotional games and weather affect sales. He also looked at monthly and day-to-day statistics for the past three years.

“I looked at that data with a statistical program called JMP and I was able to graph the results and send it to the coach. He and his high school sports analytics club are presenting it to the general manager of the Blue Rocks in a few weeks,” said Rothman. “That is one great thing about McNulty, he opened up a lot of opportunities.”

Basketball scouting reports

In addition to the women’s ice hockey team, Rothman also worked with the UD varsity men’s basketball team. He compiled scouting reports on UD opponents prior to games, using statistics collected from websites such as Sports-Reference.com, as well as watching the other teams play.

Rothman said that college basketball has a wealth of statistical information available online, which helped him spot trends for certain players.

“There are websites that have all of these players’ game logs, so what I mostly do in my scouting reports for the team is look at the opponents and look at their trends. I look at stats but the really interesting analytics are trends — like when someone gets the ball, whether they’re going to shoot without dribbling, or drive to the basket, or drive left or right. All of that data is available,” said Rothman.

Rothman said that even though he loves statistics, he does not believe they can tell a person everything they need to know about what a player does on the court. He likes to look at the numbers first and then watch the games — or vice versa — to help him get a sense of how particular players play the game. He also stresses the importance of trends.

“In sports like basketball and hockey, I think trends are very valuable, especially to add to stats like points per game and field goal percentage,” said Rothman. “What’s really great about the trends is that you can see it in the games but you can also put numbers to it to see what percentage of the time someone drives right or drives left, among other tendencies, and this helps make valuable conclusions.

“You can understand basic trends from watching the game but putting numbers behind it to back it up is something you can go to the players and give them the information. I really like when numbers back up what I’m trying to argue.”

Rothman, who grew up loving baseball statistics, said that he originally applied to colleges with the idea of majoring in business. When he took an Advanced Placement statistics class as a senior in high school and had to do a project analyzing NFL running backs and their statistics, however, he set his mind on a career in statistics. That idea was reaffirmed during a visit to the UD campus.

“When I visited Delaware, I sat with Dr. Ilvento and talked to him for about an hour about statistics and what you can do with them and how it’s going to be the next big thing and about how all of these jobs are becoming available. That conversation really helped me decide to come to Delaware. I talk to Ilvento all the time about this stuff,” said Rothman.

If there is one thing that he wants people to know about sports statistics and analytics, it’s that sports statisticians can be athletes themselves.

“A lot of people think sports statistics are analyzed by people who never played sports or never knew anything about sports and they’re just trying to get into the sports world. That’s what Charles Barkley said a few weeks ago, and I completely disagree with that,” said Rothman. “I’m not saying statistics have to be the end all decision maker of sports but I think analytics really offer an additional tool and a really important additional tool at that. And I think you’re crazy if you don’t use analytics to some extent, whether it be statistics or trends.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD professors honored for work on sustainable landscape project

Jules Bruck and Sue Barton received a Land Ethics Award for their demonstration garden at ApplecrossUniversity of Delaware professors Jules Bruck and Sue Barton have received the Land Ethics Award in the residential category from Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve for their work on a sustainable demonstration project in the northern New Castle County community of Applecross.

They were presented the award at the 15th annual Land Ethics Symposium on Thursday, March 12, at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

According to the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve website, the purpose of the Land Ethics Award is to honor and recognize individuals, organizations, government agencies, community groups and business professionals who have made significant contributions to the promotion of native plants and have exhibited a strong land ethic while promoting sustainable designs that protect the environment.

For their particular project, the awards jury noted that the project “clearly demonstrated what can happen when several partners collaborate to change a sterile home landscape into one of environmental value. One can only think that the neighbors will be queuing up themselves to upgrade their own properties with similar projects.”

Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), said the award carries great meaning. “I’m happy that it’s a Land Ethics Award and I think that’s just such a nice way to honor how designers can make a difference in land stewardship versus our traditional role, which has just been more aesthetic based,” she said.

The Applecross demonstration project was designed and installed by researchers and students at UD and displays sustainable practices that reduced the lawn area of a residential yard by 50 percent while maintaining enough lawn for circulation, play and entertaining.

The project began in April 2012 and, since then, those involved with the project have increased plant diversity by 500 percent, improved water quality and quantity on the property and planted the area with 95-97 percent native plants.

The landscape also includes a 6,000-square-foot meadow and a 3,000-square-foot reforestation area. Turf paths wind through the meadow and landscape beds and connect large areas of lawn.

“The idea was to show people that you can incorporate a meadow and a forest into a residential landscape,” said Barton, associate professor of plant and soil sciences.

In addition to being functional, the landscape is also visually appealing, something that Barton stressed because she believes that sometimes when people hear about native landscapes, they think only of the functionality and not of the aesthetic appeal.

“Almost all the plants are native and they’re quite showy. Sometimes native plants have a connotation of being less formal, less colorful, a compromise, and they’re not a compromise at all. It’s a very dramatic landscape. There’s almost always something blooming,” said Barton.

Bruck added that while the landscape is quite different from the yards of the surrounding houses from a functional and ecological perspective, it doesn’t look that much different from the front, as most of the showy aspects are more toward the back of the property.

“I thought it was really interesting that the sustainable landscape that we put around the entire house just didn’t look that much different than everybody else’s landscape,” said Bruck. “It wasn’t like a wild look. It wasn’t a messy look. It was well cared for, well maintained.”

Bruck said that even though they used a large quantity of native plants in order to cover the ground and make it dense, the landscape is still orderly.

“I think orderly is one of the things that doesn’t always translate when people think about native landscapes or ecological landscapes. We still use design principles to guide our placement of plants. They’re not supposed to be wild, messy landscapes just because they have native plants in them, and they are highly functioning landscapes,” said Bruck.

In addition to being visually appealing and ecologically functional, the landscape also provides a great teaching tool for students and for members of the community at large, as there have been at least five public tours of the site.

One of the tours was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, and it attracted several hundred people. The last tour in October 2014 drew around 80 people.

“Master Gardeners have gone and we’ve brought professionals there as part of the turf and landscape expo that we hold in Hockessin every November,” Barton said.

When the project wraps up in August, Barton said the space can still serve as a learning tool for the future because of a large number of photographs of the project that are available.

“We have hundreds of images of Applecross so that even though we can’t bring tours back to that site anymore, we have it documented in photos so that we can use that as an educational resource forever,” said Barton.

Now that the demonstration site will be closing, Barton said that they are hopeful they can find space at the University to demonstrate how homeowners can incorporate a meadow or forest using native plants in a home landscape.

The demonstration garden was funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) that was awarded to Barton, Bruck, Joshua Duke, professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC), Shreeram Inamdar, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Doug Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC).

In addition to many volunteers, contributors to the project include North Creek Nurseries, Octoraro Nursery and Steve Gantz of All Seasons Landscaping.

Article by Adam Thomas

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College of Agriculture and Natural Resources announces date for annual Ag Day

Ag Day 2015 will be held April 25Ag Day, an annual tradition of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware, will be held on Saturday, April 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The theme of Ag Day 2015 is “Farm to Table.”

The Food Bank of Delaware will be on hand to accept donations of non-perishable food items. There will also be a “Farm to Table” recipe contest.

Members of the campus community, and the surrounding community, are encouraged to join the college for a day filled with music, exhibitors, great food and fun on UD’s South Campus.

Celebrating all that the college has to offer, visitors can experience everything from bird shows to bee demonstrations, livestock exhibits, 4-H arts and crafts, farm tours, plant sales, and much more.

The event will be held at CANR’s Townsend Hall, located at 531 South College Avenue in Newark. Both admission and parking are free and the event is open to the public.

Ag Day is family friendly, however, for the safety of the live animal demonstrations, organizers ask that all pets be left at home.

Registration for exhibitors and vendors is now open and runs until Friday, March 20. Registration is available on the Ag Day website. 

The website also features additional information, announcements and schedules, and will be updated as the event approaches.

Photo by Danielle Quigley

UDairy Creamery helps university creameries share ice cream, cheeses in DC

UDairy Creamery at CARET Conference in D.C.The University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery offered a helping hand to fellow university-based creameries from around the United States, serving its own ice cream as well as treats from 12 other institutions during a special event March 2 in Washington, D.C.

The selections were served during the 2015 meeting of the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET), which is part of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).

The national event draws deans from universities with agricultural colleges and schools to Capitol Hill. Several members of Congress and 200 congressional staff members also attended.

Fourteen workers from the UDairy Creamery were stationed alongside federal relations officers from each institution at booths throughout the room to serve ice cream to visitors.

Melinda Litvinas, UDairy Creamery manager, said UD offered to serve ice cream from the other universities as UD is the closest creamery to Washington.

Because all the food had to be inspected before it could be brought into federal facilities, it made sense for the UDairy Creamery to take the items as its proximity meant fewer time constraints.

Of the creameries in attendance, 12 had ice cream, seven offered ice cream and cheese, and one had cheese only.

“I think it was good opportunity for all the schools demonstrate their value because the congressional staff members who work with these universities aren’t at the creameries all the time,” Litvinas said. “It was nice for the schools to be able to show off in D.C. and there’s a lot of talk about making it an annual event.”

In addition to helping the creameries show their wares, the UDairy Creamery will host the University Creamery Managers Association annual meeting from June 17-18 in Townsend Hall. At the event, all 21 university creamery managers from across the country will be invited to visit UD.

Some of the creameries that sent ice cream or cheese to the event were Pennsylvania State University, Clemson University, the University of Missouri, the University of Wisconsin and South Dakota State University.

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

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