Environmental concerns, awareness grow in South Wilmington community

Environmental concerns, awareness grow in South Wilmington communityAn interdisciplinary research team from the University of Delaware, which is working with Wilmington’s Southbridge community on environmental issues, has released results of a survey showing that more than half the residents have serious concerns about pollution and sea level rise.

The survey, which was administered at various community events in the South Wilmington neighborhood, found that 50.6 percent of residents who responded were greatly concerned about pollution and that about 59 percent described sea level rise as a very serious or extremely serious issue.

The low-income, largely African-American community of about 2,000 residents is the type of neighborhood that often is left out of discussions about topics such as sea level rise, said Victor Perez, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, who has been working with the team and local residents for about 18 months.

“Coastal communities with higher-priced homes are more often at the center of sea level rise concerns,” Perez said. “But it’s well documented that Southbridge is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise.”

Not only would much of the area be flooded if water levels rose significantly, he said, but Southbridge already has a large amount of pollution in its soil from industries such as tanneries and chemical companies once located there. The community, which is the oldest historically African-American neighborhood in the city, is south of the Christina River.

The UD research team is exploring the complex, interrelated issues involving sea level rise, environmental pollution and human health in Southbridge. The potential for sea level rise in the area is a pressing issue, Perez said, which is gaining more attention and awareness with the work of state agencies, as well as local organizations, community members and the researchers from the University’s Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN).

The research team — made up of experts in soil chemistry, hydrology, engineering, economics and sociology — is attempting a novel interdisciplinary approach to study the potential for pollution in the soil to become mobile by way of projected sea level rise in the area. The approach seeks to integrate each respective discipline into the research design, complementing and informing each other, and has a strong community focus, Perez said.

Members of the team, led by Donald Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences and DENIN director, also includes Kent Messer, associate professor of applied economics and statistics, and Holly Michael, associate professor of geological sciences, in addition to Perez.

Perez’s focus in working with residents is to determine their level of concern and awareness of sea level rise, flooding and pollution in the area, as well as the community’s perceptions of the health effects of their local environmental burdens.

The community’s battles with pollution are well known to many in the area, and residents have completed surveys and participated in focus groups. The research efforts are intended to also inform the community and will be reported back to residents on an ongoing basis, Perez said, noting that about 63 percent of those sampled reported knowing nothing to only a little about the specifics of sea level rise.

UD researchers also are creating a baseline of knowledge of the environmental burdens in the community by way of state reports, soil sampling and local community knowledge and experiences of these issues; this knowledge will continue to inform research approaches and policy recommendations for sea level rise and pollution mitigation and remediation.

The goal is to allow the community’s perspective to help inform the research approach, which considers the local knowledge of these issues vital to the success of the research, Perez said.

The research is funded by NSF-EPSCoR, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, grant No. IIA-1301765, and the state of Delaware. EPSCoR is a federal grant program led by the National Science Foundation to help states develop their research capabilities and institutions.

More about the community

Though Southbridge struggles with environmental and health issues, unemployment and a level of poverty nearly four times that of the state’s, in recent years it has made significant gains in addressing these issues, Perez said. He gave these statistics:

  • From 2000 to 2010, South Wilmington saw a significant decline in unemployment, from 15.7 percent to 7.5 percent, though unemployment did return to 14 percent in 2012.
  • While South Wilmington’s high school graduate rate of 60 percent (of those 25 and older) was considerably less than that of the entire city of Wilmington in 2000, it has increased to 78 percent in 2012, nearly even with the city as a whole.
  • The percentage of households with a female head and no husband present has declined precipitously, from 50 percent in 2000 to 29 percent today.
  • Southbridge is now one of the safest communities in Wilmington, with low crime rates attributed to the efforts of generations of families living there and community police officers.
  • Southbridge is a well-organized community with a rich history and deep ties between citizens, and for the past six years, the community and service agencies have held a free, well-attended community event, “Southbridge Weekend,” every summer.

For more information on the community and its recent accomplishments, check out the links available on Perez’s website.

Community liaisons Stan Salaam and Rysheema Dixon, a 2009 College of Arts and Sciences graduate, contributed information to this article.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers study Arctic nesting sites of Atlantic brant geese

arctic fox makes off with brant eggLast summer, University of Delaware graduate student Clark Nissley and a team of three researchers studied the Atlantic brant goose in an area of the Arctic so remote that the only way to reach their camp was to fly in on a De Havilland Canada Twin Otter bush plane that had skis affixed to the bottom so that it could land on a sea ice runway.

Nissley and his team braved the Arctic’s freezing temperatures on Southampton Island in Canada’s north Hudson Bay to gain a better understanding of several factors that could have an impact on the declining population of the Atlantic brant, including where they nest for the summer and whether other geese species, whose populations are increasing, could be negatively impacting the brants’ nesting success.

The Atlantic brant population has been fluctuating and on a moderate decline for many years now and Nissley, a master’s degree student in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and Chris Williams, associate professor of wildlife ecology and Nissley’s adviser, are interested to learn if limitations during the summer breeding season have accelerated that trend.

Over the last several years, biologists have seen that in winter surveys of Atlantic brant in the Mid-Atlantic, there are few young in the population, indicating that something could be going drastically wrong for nesting brant on their Arctic breeding grounds.

The Atlantic brant have a lot of factors working against them. They are, Williams said, at an “evolutionary disadvantage compared to the other geese,” and that begins with their size.

While nesting in areas surrounding the upper Hudson Bay, the Atlantic brant have to compete with much larger geese — snow geese and cackling geese — for habitat and food.

And due to its size disadvantage, the brant arrives at its breeding grounds later than the other geese. While snow and cackling geese can build up fat reserves prior to making the trip north, enabling them to make fewer stops on the trip to the Arctic nesting site, the smaller brant have to stop along the way in order to feed and rebuild their fat stores.

The brant arrive at their nesting sites a week and a half later than the other geese and instead of being able to immediately start nesting, they have to feed again in order to rebuild their fat stores for egg production and as a result miss out on the prime nesting real estate.

“By arriving late, there is a possibility that prime nesting sites could have been taken and food resources could be degraded from all the other geese that have arrived. All of a sudden, there is a potential that the brant go into nesting at a disadvantage,” said Williams.

Spending several months at the East Bay Bird Sanctuary located on Southampton Island, Nissley said that he and the team tracked 44 Atlantic brant nests over an eight-mile area of land from the beginning of May to July.

The crew would begin their day at 4 a.m., waking up in the 24-hour daylight, and head out to conduct their research at 5. “Everything involved hiking so we’d hike a couple hours to get to whatever we needed to do, whether it was sit in a blind for a few hours to conduct goose behavioral surveys, do a vegetation survey or do nest searching,” said Nissley.

The researchers used blinds to research the behavior of the birds and did vegetative surveys at nest sites. In addition to the 44 brant nests, the crew located, marked and collected data on 530 cackling goose nests, 240 lesser snow goose nests and 50 Ross’s goose nests. They collected 100 measurements of vegetation at all 44 brant nests, 30 snow goose nests and 30 cackling goose nests to see how much of the habitat the geese share and look for trends to understand what sites are preferential to the brant and to the cackling geese.

The crew also placed time-lapse and motion-sensing cameras on the brant nests to identify the exact cause of failure for the majority of the nests.

Study ongoing since 1979

The research is being conducted in collaboration with Ken Abraham, an adjunct professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, and a longtime waterfowl biologist who first set up a camp at the location in 1979.

Nisei's research team in the arcticWith 35 years of data, it is clear how brant populations have changed. The first year, 455 brant nests were observed by Abraham but this past summer Nissley and his group observed only 44. And of those 44, only two were successful.

The 35-year data also shows how the habitat of the area has been degraded over time due to many factors, including the large number of snow and cackling geese in the area.

“When the brant show up to nest, they’re already looking at areas that 35 years ago were excellent nesting areas and now they’re maybe a few millimeter-high grass or bare dirt,” said Nissley. “We’re looking at areas where in 1979 there were 30 brant nesting in a 400 yard long stretch and now it’s just a dead zone as far as nesting habitat.”

Competitors

When it comes time for the brant to nest, Williams said that there is competition with the other birds and predators that could keep the population from nesting to its fullest capability.

Williams said that the other geese could pre-emptively eat available food resources or potentially be aggressive in interactions with the brant when it comes to food, which means there is the potential for brant to lose nutrition fitness for successful nest initiation, egg laying or personal health.

Brant build their nests and their energy reserves in order to lay eggs. During this period, the snow and cackling geese could act aggressively, pushing the brant off of the best nesting spots, which in turn could lead to a reduction in nest initiation.

Nissley said cackling geese seem to play more of a role than snow geese in pre-emptively excluding the brant from their preferred nest sites.

When the brant are forced to nest in lower quality sites due to competition, they are vulnerable to predators — Arctic foxes, herring gulls and parasitic jaegers — that prey on their nests during incubation or incubation breaks when the brant leave their nests to feed.

The predators are potentially drawn to the nesting areas because of the influx of snow and cackling geese. “These predators might normally only affect the brant in low levels, but if high densities of cackling geese or snow geese draw these predators in, then the brant may be suffering secondarily as a result of it,” said Nissley.

During observations last year, Nissley said that foxes were the largest threat to the brant, taking a number of eggs from their nests. Using time-lapse and motion-sensing cameras, the crew found that, “Out of the 42 failed brant nests, we were able to pinpoint what caused the failure for 28 of the nests, and 23 of those nests failed due to fox depredation.”

The research team is hoping to discover this summer if the high rate of fox disruption has anything to do with the cackling geese arriving first on the scene and taking the ideal nesting areas near deeper waters — where foxes have a harder time gaining access – and thus leaving the more accessible and low quality nesting areas to the brant.

Williams will spend a week in the Arctic this summer with Nissley as part of the study.

The research is funded by the Arctic Goose Joint Venture and the Polar Continental Shelf Program, which is a division of Natural Resources Canada.

Nissley has also received scholarships funds to help with the project from California Waterfowl through the Dennis Raveling Scholarship for Waterfowl Research and from Long Point Waterfowl through the Dave Ankney and the Sandi Johnson Waterfowl and Wetlands Graduate Research Scholarship.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Vargas part of United Nations publication on benefits of soil carbon

UD's Vargas part of United Nations publication on benefits of soil carbonThe University of Delaware’s Rodrigo Vargas is part of an international team of researchers who have identified advances on the benefits of soil carbon in an effort to address serious environmental challenges affecting millions of people around the globe.

Their findings were released on World Soil Day last month in Volume 71 of the United Nations’ Scientific Committee for Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) series titled “Soil Carbon: Science, Management and Policy for Multiple Benefits,” which was published by the intergovernmental scientific research organization CABI.

Dec. 5, 2014, was the first official World Soils Day designated by the U.N. General Assembly. The day was established to connect people with soils and demonstrate the critical importance of soils to everyday life.

It also served to announce 2015 as the International Year of Soils.

Vargas, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, worked with a group of researchers coordinated by Steven Banwart of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, Elke Noellemeyer of the National University of La Pampa Argentina and Eleanor Milne of Colorado State University and the University of Leicester, all of whom served as editors on the publication.

Vargas said the group met at the Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, to discuss the benefits of soil carbon. The main goal of the volume was to summarize the importance of soils and the importance of the benefits of soil carbon, ranging from social and economic to biogeochemical benefits.

Vargas said he hopes the publication and the International Year of Soils will bring more awareness to the importance of soils and the problems that arise from soil degradation.

“Soils are a resource that we take for granted and that resource is being degraded and, unfortunately, is not being treated with the respect or the seriousness it deserves,” said Vargas. “Soil degradation is a serious problem. Soils are not only alive because of the biodiversity they hold or the biogeochemical reactions they have, but also they are beautiful entities.”

Vargas said the problem with soil degradation is that it is not as easily observed as an issue such as deforestation, where it is easy to see where trees have been wiped away. But while not as obvious to the naked eye, soil degradation is just as serious of a problem, he said.

“The degradation is less evident unless the problem gets so big that you have massive soil erosion. Then it becomes an evident problem that everyone can see,” he said. “The contamination of soils — for example, heavy metals in soils, excess nutrients in soils, over fertilization of soils — is linked to degradation and that is something that we wanted to highlight during World Soils Day and through 2015 as the International Year of Soils.”

The publication is divided into seven parts, with Vargas contributing to the second chapter of the first part titled “Soil Carbon: A Critical Natural Resource — Wide-Scale Goals, Urgent Actions.”

Vargas said the primary goal of the section is to show how soil carbon is a critical resource and an important soil conservation issue by highlighting how organic carbon intersects with five important topics: food security, energy security, climate security, water security and biodiversity security.

“These topics are directly linked with soil carbon but also they are linked among each other, so this chapter tries to highlight the interactions and the importance of the soil with current environmental security issues,” said Vargas.

The chapter also considers food production and long-term goals and short-term actions, highlighting how a key issue is that it takes a long time to increase soil carbon.

“Soil carbon is not going to increase in a matter of weeks or only within a year. It’s a process that will take time,” Vargas said. “Long-term goals for managing soil carbon are vital, but we also have to take short-term actions so that we have the ability to achieve the long-term goals. If we just delay everything, it’s hard to do that.”

Vargas noted that there are challenges on both the research and the implementation sides of the problem, especially with regard to how people interact with soils. “We need to create social consciousness about the value of soils so people will start taking more interest and responsibility in preserving and managing that resource,” said Vargas.

Vargas co-wrote the chapter along with Generose Nziguheba of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi, Kenya; Andre Bationo of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA); Helaina Black of the James Hutton Institute in the United Kingdom; Daniel E. Buschiazzo of the National Institute for Agronomic Research of Argentina (INTA) and National University of La Pampa, Argentina; Delphine de Brogniez of the European Commission Directorate General Joint Research Centre, Italy; Hans Joosten of the Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, Germany; Jerry Melillo of the Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts; Dan Richter, also of the Ecosystems Center; and Mette Termansen of the Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University, Denmark.

This research builds on ongoing efforts by Vargas to improve the understanding of ecosystem carbon dynamics across North America sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Click here for more information on the International Rapid Assessment Project “Benefits of Soil Carbon” and SCOPE. 

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

10th annual Delaware Agriculture Week to be held at fairgrounds in Harrington

10th annual Delaware Agriculture Week setOver 1,900 agricultural producers will learn best practices and new technologies, expand existing networks and make connections with leading vendors during the 10th annual Delaware Agriculture Week to be held Monday to Friday, Jan. 12-16, at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington.

New sessions for 2015 include: “Agriculture Best Management Practices – Financing,” “Weathering These Changing Times,” “Soil Health” and “Growing Delaware’s Agriculture in Urban Communities.” All sessions are free, however some require preregistration.

Delaware Agriculture Week provides numerous sessions that cover a wide array of topics including small fruits, fresh market and processing vegetables, small flock and commercial poultry, grain marketing, grain crops, hay and pasture, beef cattle, irrigation, direct marketing, and much more. Nutrient management, pesticide, and certified crop adviser continuing education credits will be offered.

This year, Delaware Agriculture Week will begin on Monday evening with the fruit and beef sessions. The main meeting area will be located in the Exhibit Hall, and the trade show — with more than 80 exhibitors — will be housed in the Dover Building.

“Ag Week provides a great opportunity for the ag community to come together to learn new ways of doing things, catch up with friends, and talk with local experts,” said Cory Whaley, University of Delaware agriculture extension agent and Delaware Agriculture Week chair. “Our programs get better each year and we are very happy to be celebrating our 10th anniversary with the Delaware community.”

Agriculture is an $8 billion industry in Delaware, according to a 2010 University of Delaware report, which factored in the agriculture jobs and related production, goods and services that support the largest industry in the First State.

Delaware Agriculture Week is sponsored by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

For more information, including an electronic version of the program booklet, visit the 2015 Delaware Agriculture Week website or call Karen Adams at 302-856-2585, ext. 540.

Center for Experimental and Applied Economics opens at Townsend Hall

Center for Experimental and Applied Economics opens at Townsend HallWhen Dean Mark Rieger arrived on the University of Delaware campus in 2012, one of his first priorities at the helm of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was to establish a state-of-the-art research center for applied economics.

Roughly two years later, UD President Patrick Harker, Charles G. Riordan, deputy provost for research and scholarship, Kent Messer, Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, and CANR faculty and staff were on hand to see the realization of Rieger’s vision at the opening of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) held recently in Townsend Hall.

“Two years ago I knew we had the talent on campus that warranted a place of its own to house exciting research in applied economics,” said Rieger. “We just needed to find the space; it really pleases me that we’re here today to see that search come to fruition. We’re poised for future success through this great center.”

Dressed in personally embroidered white lab coats, 14 University officials, faculty members and undergraduate and graduate students, all with scissors in hand, cut the ceremonial ribbon, officially opening the center.

“I’m very happy to be here today because this event marks the culmination of a lot of hard work,” said Harker in his opening remarks to an audience of about 75 University members and special guests. “It’s centers like this that allow students to further their education while making the theory-to-practice connection.”

Some of the collaborative research efforts on display during the center’s opening included studies on improving water quality in the Northeast, research on oyster aquaculture in Delaware, and a study on cost-effective provision of ecosystem services through land conservation.

Located on the ground floor of Townsend Hall, the CEAE was formerly known as the Experimental Econ Lab and inhabited a very small area behind the CANR library.  The $300,000 remodel, funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation, helped to expand the modest lab that had been established in 2007.

“Our old lab was windowless, small and basic. It could have easily been mistaken as a fallout shelter,” said Messer. “Dean Rieger made the commitment in 2012 to take our lab to the next level. What we have now will allow us to expand and enhance our activities and research.”

In addition to hosting research, the center will also serve as headquarters for the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research (CBEAR), a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) consortium that partners UD with faculty at Georgia State University, Cornell University, the University of Chicago, Williams College, Albany State University, Ohio State University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Tennessee and Tufts University.

A $750,000, three-year USDA grant was awarded to Messer and his collaborators at the aforementioned institutions, and will help fund the work of CEAE.

Dan Hellerstein, agricultural economist with USDA, was on hand direct from Washington, D.C., and stressed the importance of the opening of the center.

“This consortium of universities won the competition that we held for the $750,000 grant, because they had the best application that laid out their ideas to engage in evidence-based research,” said Hellerstein. “The purpose is to use their findings to create better agri-environmental policy for all those involved. Before, during and after each experiment and field study, these researchers will talk to USDA policy types to make the most out of this three-year partnership.”

Mike McGrath, assistant secretary of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, and CBEAR authority, said the center will help to improve USDA programs, both environmental and economical, and improve communication between the USDA and the farmers themselves.

“No matter what their product – livestock, grain, dairy, fruit and vegetables – farmers would be better served by more economical and environmentally conscious programs and methods,” McGrath said. “The goal of CBEAR is to research and develop those programs through the USDA and educate the farmers.”

Messer stated that CBEAR is essentially a “center within a center” as it pertains to CEAE, but further expanded on how the two will work together, saying, “Government programs related to agriculture and the environment need to be based on strong science and economics. Evidence-based policy, insights from the behavioral sciences, and randomized controlled trials are the norm in medicine, education, and other policy fields. CBEAR will bring this approach to U.S. agri-environmental policy.”

Article by Robert Kalesse

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

Santa Claus to make festive holiday stop at UDairy Creamery

Breakfast with Santa at Clayton Hall for alumni and kidsDuring this busy holiday season, Santa Claus will make a stop at the University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery from 1-4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 22.

Those who stop by on Monday will be able to meet and get their picture taken with Santa as well as try some of the creamery’s seasonal treats. Children under 12 years of age will also get a free scoop of ice cream.

New ice cream flavors available for the holidays at the UDairy Creamery include peppermint hot chocolate, eggnog, cherry macaroon, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin cookie and peppermint bark. The creamery is also offering special holiday kits featuring everything needed for an ice cream party.

In addition to their ice cream, the creamery has ice cream sandwich cookie packs with different flavors included in each for $10 and seasonal ice cream pies available for $12.99. The flavors of pies include eggnog and sweet potato pie in graham crusts and peppermint hot chocolate and peppermint bark in Oreo crusts.

For those looking for last minute holiday presents, the UDairy Creamery is still offering Blue Hen Blankets, made from the wool shorn from UD’s flock of Dorset sheep at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as Dare to Bee honey from UD’s apiary and UDairy Creamery hats, shirts, toy cows and gift certificates that can be used at the creamery or the GoBabyGo! Café in the Health Sciences Complex at the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.

Photo by Doug Baker

New UD research center — ag policy meets economics

UD-CBEARA new research center opened up at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Monday. At the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics, scientists and economists will conduct studies on how consumers value ecosystem services.

Funded by a $750,000 federal grant, the center will serve as USDA’s headquarters for a research consortium called C-BEAR, which stands for the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Policy Research.

They’re focused on using behavioral economics to better understand and execute agri-environmental policy. The new center’s director Kent Messer says that means asking consumers what the dollar value they’d place on ecosystem services provided by, for example, natural flood barriers, pristine beaches or locally harvested oysters. The data is then used to communicate directly with farmers to improve facilitation of agricultural programs.

By Eli Chen

– See more at: http://www.wdde.org/70196-ud-opens-research-center#sthash.KLVM3yW3.dpuf

Shriver selected 2014 Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year

Greg Shriver of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has been named UD's Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year.
Greg Shriver of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has been named UD’s Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year.

The University of Delaware’s Institute for Global Studies (IGS) has honored Greg Shriver as the Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year for, among other positive attributes, his ability to lead in a challenging environment.

The story began in the frigid Delaware winter of 2014 as students accepted to the Costa Rica environment and wildlife conservation program were eager to escape the wind and snow and immerse themselves in a warm, sunny new biome.

The group boarded their plane at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey with Shriver, assistant chair and professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Disembarking hours later, they discovered that only four of their 13 suitcases had made it to Costa Rica.

Although this setback could have ruined both the group’s morale and the 11-mile hike planned for the following day, Shriver maintained his poise and kept the group on task.

“It was clear that we were not likely going to see our bags for at least a day or two so we took inventory of what we had and decided to stay on schedule,” said Shriver. “This experience really seemed to pull the group together as the hike and experience at Nancite is an exciting accomplishment, even when you have your own clothes.”

Students who participated in Shriver’s study abroad program were exposed to the biological diversity of the neotropics and identified over 300 different species of birds. This experience helped one student secure a job. Another wrote, “He challenged us to find new ways to solve old problems and adapt what we learned in Costa Rica to solve problems at home.”

Of the 22 nominated program directors, Shriver was unanimously chosen by a faculty panel and study abroad coordinators to be the 2014 Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year.

“The choice was obvious not only due to the number and quality of student nominations, but also because of Dr. Shriver’s expert handling of a very challenging lost luggage situation upon his group’s arrival in Costa Rica,” said Lisa Chieffo, associate director of study abroad.

Shriver was praised by the students for his leadership, and his ability to synthesize learning with their overall experience in Costa Rica. Many wrote that he became a mentor and “inspirer of confidence, problem solving, adaptability, and many other traits.”

He was also described by students as a great “global ambassador for UD and America,” and helped the group learn the importance of respecting and understanding other cultures.

“I truly believe that Costa Rica changed my life and was the highlight of my entire career at UD. I also know that none of it would have been possible without the constant help, support, and leadership of Greg Shriver. He made the trip fun, educational, and most importantly he helped to expand our worldviews to better understand other cultures,” one student concluded.

Prior to 2014, Shriver led study abroad programs to Ecuador and Galapagos in 2007, and to Costa Rica in 2013. He said his favorite part of directing a study abroad program is that traveling to a location where the students have never been before is infectious and makes him feel like he is experiencing and visiting the area for the first time, too.

“I hope they gain confidence in their abilities, exposure to the wonders and importance of biodiversity, and the issues associated with maintaining it,” said Shriver.

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at the University of Delaware. IGS provides leadership and support for programs and experiences that contribute to the education of informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world.

Best known for coordinating the University’s study abroad program, IGS also awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for myriad global opportunities, administers internationally-recognized programs such as the MEPI (Middle East Partnership Initiative) Student Leaders Institute, and sponsors such signature events as International Education Week each fall and country-specific celebrations each spring.

IGS collaborates with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies.

Article by Elizabeth Adams

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

UD to jointly headquarter new USDA research center for agri-environmental policy

canr_APEClab_kentMesser-48Professors Kent Messer of the University of Delaware and Paul Ferraro of Georgia State University will head the newly created Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-environmental Policy Research (CBEAR), which was created with an award from the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

CBEAR will be housed in the new Center for Experimental and Applied Economics at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) in Newark.

UD President Patrick Harker will cut the ribbon to the new center during a ceremony to be held from 10-11:30 a.m., Monday, Nov. 24, at Townsend Hall. The ceremony will feature five interactive projects currently being studied.

CBEAR-affiliated faculty will use behavioral and experimental economics research to improve the design and implementation of USDA programs that support farmers in their efforts to feed the world and provide valuable environmental stewardship of the nation’s agricultural lands. A $750,000, three-year USDA seed grant will fund the new center.

“Government programs related to agriculture and the environment need to be based on strong science and economics. Evidence based policy, insights from the behavioral sciences, and randomized controlled trials are the norm in medicine, education, and other policy fields. CBEAR will bring this approach to U.S. agri-environmental policy,” said Messer, the Unidel H. Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics and a globally recognized expert in evidence-based environmental policy and the applications of behavioral economics to policy design.

In 2013, the USDA spent over $5 billion on conservation programs to minimize soil erosion, enhance water quality, and create wildlife habitat.

“Better understanding how we invest our limited federal resources so they accomplish the desired goal should be a top priority,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons. “It’s imperative we have a positive and communicative relationship with farmers and land owners to ensure the programs in place are working as planned. This center will strengthen science-based decisions that go into agriculture and environmental policy, and I look forward to the work that will be done by the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-environmental Policy Research.”

Along with UD and Georgia State University, the CBEAR consortium includes Cornell University. The new center will:

  • Lead and coordinate innovative behavioral research programs related to the design and implementation of policies and programs that provide ecosystem services and lead to greater satisfaction for participating farmers and landowners;
  • Broaden the network of social scientists who participate in policy-relevant research on agricultural ecosystem services, policies and programs; and
  • Disseminate information obtained via its research program to a diverse stakeholder audience, including USDA and other federal program agencies, farmers and the general public.

“We are quite pleased to be able to house CBEAR in our new Center for Experimental and Applied Economics and contribute in a significant way to helping USDA improve the performance of agricultural and environmental programs,” said CANR Dean Mark Rieger. “It is our intent to facilitate innovative research that will have positive effects nationwide.”

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