UDairy Creamery, Blossoms at the University of Delaware offer holiday treats

UDairy Creamery, Blossoms at the University of Delaware offer holiday treatsThe University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery and Blossoms at the University of Delaware both have seasonal offerings lined up for the holidays.

The UDairy Creamery will once again have a visit from Santa Claus, who will stop by from 1-4 p.m., Monday, Dec. 21, in the Townsend Hall Commons. Those who attend 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 bark, peppermint hot chocolate, cannoli, banana bread, and oatmeal raisin cookie.

There will also be peppermint mocha coffee drinks and peppermint hot chocolate available during the holiday season.

For those looking for 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; Dare to Bee honey from UD’s apiary, available in limited quantities while supplies last only at the UDairy Creamery store location; 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.

The creamery also will offer ice cream pies, with the varieties apple schmapple pie pie, mud pie pie, and pumpkin gingerbread pie available for $9.99 in a graham cracker or Oreo crust.

Starting in December and through the winter months, the creamery will offer punch cards for pints and half gallons. Pints gets customers one punch and half gallons gets customers two punches. Once a customer gets to eight, they will receive a $5 gift card.

The creamery also offers thermal bags and dry ice.

Most of the merchandise, with the exception of the honey, can be purchased in store or on-line.

The creamery will be open until 8 p.m. every day in December. The store will be closed Dec. 24-Jan. 3 and will re-open Jan. 4.

UDairy Creamery, Blossoms at the University of Delaware offer holiday treatsBlossoms at the University of Delaware, an initiative launched earlier this year that provides experiential learning opportunities for UD students to plan and provide flower arrangements for special events on campus, will also have offerings for holiday events.

Blossoms works with Aramark when it comes to events, and clients who would like to use Aramark and also use Blossoms should specifically state so in event requests.

In addition to providing any type of floral event work, such as centerpieces and a “big wow” piece that gives a first impression to set the atmosphere for the event, Blossoms at the University of Delaware also will offer holiday wreaths.

For those interested in using Blossoms at the University of Delaware, visit the website or contact Theresa Clower at tclower@theresafloral.com.

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD graduate student Sara Jastrebski travels to Africa for poultry summit

UD graduate student Sara Jastrebski travels to Africa for poultry summitWhen University of Delaware graduate student Sara Jastrebski showed in interest in traveling abroad, her adviser Carl Schmidt asked if she’d be interested in going to Africa to participate in a three-day poultry conference.

Jastrebski jumped at the opportunity and was able to attend a summit meeting in Tanzania focused on a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Innovation Lab grant.

“Going to Africa is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Jastrebski, who had Schmidt, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), as an adviser while an undergraduate at UD studying pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences.

Jastrebski said she definitely did not envision herself being so heavily involved in research when she entered UD as a freshman in the pre-vet program. She also didn’t realize that her research on how heat stress effects the gene expression of the liver in chickens would eventually allow her to travel to Africa.

“I had no idea that I would be jumping into research, and didn’t know that I’d love research as much as I did,” Jastrebski said. “That’s partially why I decided to do a master’s. I definitely want to apply to vet school after I get my master’s, but I love research so much I didn’t want to have to give it up.” She said having research on her resume should be a plus in vet school applications.

Jastrebski said she got into research after telling Schmidt of her specific interest in genetics. “He said, ‘Talk to me at the end of the summer.’ So I started working for him and I fell in love with it and never looked back.”

The USAID grant was awarded to a collaboration of researchers from UD, the University of California, Davis, and Iowa State University, working in conjunction with the University of Ghana and the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, where the meeting was held.

Jastrebski said the grant focuses mainly on studying New Castle Disease in chickens in Africa, where the disease devastates back yard flocks, and empowering women in Africa, who do most of the farming.

Jastrebski said the ultimate goal would be to develop a New Castle Disease resistant chicken through classical breeding for farmers in Africa.

“Every year, farmers spend a ton of money on having to buy new chickens because their birds just get wiped out. It’s kind of a commonplace thing and so right now they’re looking at how New Castle Disease effects these birds, and whether they can identify certain genes that are involved in the resistance to it,” said Jastrebski.

Chicken distribution

The hope would be to distribute birds with resistance to local farmers in Africa.

At the conference, three poultry experts from Ghana, Kenya and Cameroon came in to talk to the group about poultry distribution, which is difficult in Africa because each area is different and different areas have certain expectations about their chickens.

“The experts discussed how they distribute poultry in each of their countries and how they keep it sustainable, and the problems that they have and the different things that they’ve done. That was really interesting, to gain those perspectives and to see how difficult it can be to get things distributed in Africa,” said Jastrebski.

The participants then discussed and developed models regarding how they could potentially distribute their chicken product throughout the continent.

They also talked about year two of the grant, which was just completed, and all the work that they’ve done so far. UC Davis and Iowa State University completed two different experiments looking at New Castle Disease and started to look at gene expression and how those patterns reflect the resistance. Experiments are now starting at the two African universities involved with the grant.

As for her favorite part of the trip, Jastrebski said that it was great to be able to see a different culture firsthand.

“It was just such a different experience, I had never been over there. I think the most interesting part was seeing how different it was and how they have chickens running around everywhere – you can see how easily diseases can be spread throughout the populations,” said Jastrebski, who added that the landscape was incredible.

“We’d go to the university and they’d have a huge mountain as the backdrop. I would love to go to school and see that every day. It was beautiful,” said Jastrebski.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

New issue of University of Delaware Research magazine now available

New issue of University of Delaware Research magazine now availableThe latest issue of the University of Delaware Research magazine profiles seven women researchers who offer insight into their work — from coral reefs to corporations — the hurdles they have cleared and what keeps them moving forward. Each researcher also talks about what inspires her work in a short video in the online edition.

Cathy Wu says her father, and especially one of his many letters, inspired her to pursue her master’s and doctoral degrees. That combination of computer science and biology unknowingly positioned her to be a pioneer in a field that uses computer science tools to make sense of massive amounts of biological data.

Angelia Seyfferth, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is featured from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and talks about how she first got involved with research and her current research focus on arsenic in rice.

Seyfferth says she enjoys knowing the research she is conducting has the potential to impact society. She also loves passing that knowledge on to new students.

“Both of those things really drive me on a daily basis,” says Seyfferth. “I get to work with students and get them excited about research. I enjoy getting young people involved in research at an early age because it was so critical for me to get to where I am today.”

Other highlights of the issue include:

  • Spin In, a program developed by UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, which is giving students the opportunity to work alongside entrepreneurs on cool inventions like mTrigger, PocketFarmer and FanDeck;
  • Groundbreaking humanities research that is bringing the forgotten slaves of the Roman Empire into new focus;
  • MADE CLEAR, a model program developed by UD and the University of Maryland with National Science Foundation support, to help teachers integrate climate change education into multiple areas of instruction;
  • The Institute of Energy Conversion’s quest to capture more sun power through pioneering work in solar technology; and
  • Fearsome Fridays — the Test Your Knowledge quiz.

UD Research is published three times a year through a collaboration of the Research Office and Communications and Public Affairs.

Click here to view the latest issue of the magazine.

To subscribe, visit this webpage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equine graduates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan and Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

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

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

George M. Worrilow Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distinguished Alumni

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

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

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

Devan Mehrotra

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

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

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

Kenneth Raffa

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

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

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

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

H. Don Tilmon

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

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

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

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

Distinguished Young Alumni

Jared Ali

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Extension, CHS encourage Delawareans to ‘Eat Better, Move More, Live Well’

UD Extension, CHS encourage Delawareans to 'Eat Better, Move More, Live Well'University of Delaware Cooperative Extension has teamed up with the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition in the College of Health Sciences to help Delawareans improve their fitness and eating habits as part of the inaugural “Yes We Can Healthy Living Challenge.”

The challenge, which has as its motto “Eat Better, Move More, Live Well,” is funded by a Delaware Division of Public Health grant to the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition and is part of the Healthy Lifestyles Interventions: A Community Cooperative Agreement grant.

The seven-month challenge encourages individual and community wellness through a friendly competition among teams, which identify strategies for individuals and teams to improve physical activity and eating habits. Teams can enroll at any time during the challenge period.

Points are assigned to a variety of activities and each person earns points for completing an activity. Each month, individuals and teams will log their efforts and receive points.

“The idea behind the challenge is to get people to make some healthier choices about what they eat, how much they exercise, and how they engage their families or their communities in order to help support them in making those decisions,” said Maria Pippidis, New Castle County Extension director. “It’s really not just about what can I do but about how can we do this together. That’s why we’re calling it ‘Yes We Can,’ because it’s about togetherness and working toward whatever the healthy living goals might be for an individual.”

Kathleen Splane, Extension agent and state program leader for family and consumer sciences, said that in addition to improving healthy habits among individuals and teams, the hope is to also make participants aware of available Extension programs.

“The team members are able to get points based on things such as eating well, being more physically active and getting a good night’s sleep, but one of the main ways that they can get points is by coming to Cooperative Extension programs,” said Splane. “Then they get kind of bonus points for attending Cooperative Extension programs. So we have it as an incentive based team approach where we’re averaging the team scores and then we have different incentives for different levels.”

Elizabeth Orsega-Smith, associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, said the challenge has been a three-year project, with the researchers spending the first year conducting interviews and focus groups to get information from potential program participants about their perceptions of active living and healthy eating.

After the initial interviews and after identifying key stakeholders to help promote the project within the communities, Orsega-Smith said that the team-based approach will allow them to “allot points for various physical activities that people may be doing, such as walking, and also things such as trying a healthy recipe or eating a meal with your family.” 

Orsega-Smith said that through pre- and post-questionnaires, they are hoping to see some change in fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity from the participants.

The challenge officially kicked off with two events held recently in New Castle and Kent counties.

Both events had interactive, educational displays — such as making better fast food choices and stretching the food dollar — as well as healthy living activities. Healthy recipes with food samples also were available for participants to try.

At the event in Kent County, participants took part in a shopping challenge where they went through a mock grocery store and used a certain amount of money to create a meal that included every part of MyPlate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition program.

“They were evaluated on cost effectiveness, nutrition, and how well they did with what they picked. That was, I think, the highlight of the event,” said Splane.

At the New Castle County event, in addition to the interactive exhibits, student groups such as the University’s Zumba Club, the Nutrition and Dietetics Club, Health Behavior Science Club, Public Health Club, and Health and Physical Education Majors Club, were on hand to staff displays and engage children in attendance with fun games such as one involving a parachute and a bean bag toss.

Orsega-Smith said that they wanted to get the student groups involved in the project so they can “have a real experience in looking at how they can make an impact in the community.”

There was also a soccer game at the New Castle County event featuring players from the Delupes Soccer League, with the winner taking home a Healthy Living Challenge Cup.

While the New Castle County program is primarily geared toward the Hispanic population and the Kent County program toward the African-American population, Splane and Pippidis stressed that the challenge is open to anyone who wants to participate.

Pippidis said that key partners in the challenge include churches in both counties.

Orsega-Smith said that it has been great to partner with Extension on the project because they already have key connections within the communities.

“They are the individuals who actually have a buy in with the community because people are familiar with Cooperative Extension and familiar with the programs,” said Orsega-Smith.

Those interested in getting involved in the challenge should contact Lucy Williams at 302-730-4000 in Kent County and Carlos Dipres at 302-831-1239 in New Castle County.

For more information on the Healthy Living Challenge, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

New UD study looks at adding rice residue to lower arsenic, improve crop yields

New UD study looks at adding rice residue to lower arsenic, improve crop yieldsA new study by University of Delaware researchers considers how adding silica-rich rice residue — such as husks, straw and the ash of those materials — to improve crop yields and decrease arsenic uptake may affect the soils in which rice plants are grown.

The results of the study were recently published in Plant and Soil, an international journal on plant-soil relationships.

The study was carried out by Evanise Penido, a visiting student from the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) in Brazil.

Penido worked on the project, led by Angelia Seyfferth, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, in collaboration with Tom Hanson, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy and associate director of the marine biosciences program, and Alexa Bennett, a graduate student in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Seyfferth said the current practice of removing silica-rich rice residues and not incorporating them into soil is a leading cause of yield declines and the susceptibility of rice to abiotic and biotic stress.

“Rice is a very efficient silicon accumulator. It’s able to pull silicon out of soil, and the rice straw and the rice husk have a lot of silicon stored in the tissues,” Seyfferth said. “If we incorporate those residues back into soil and get more into a holistic farming approach – kind of like with organic residues – we could improve the health of the soil and provide a source of nutrients for plant-uptake.”

Because farmers in developing countries need a low cost solution to lower arsenic uptake in rice, the leftover material could prove to be a viable option, something that became apparent to Seyfferth when she conducted work in Cambodia.

“These residues are removed from the field and just piled up, but if we were able to take these materials and put them back into soil, they might provide a source of silicon for the plants that would be something that farmers in developing countries would easily have access to and could utilize,” said Seyfferth.

Penido added that most farmers in South and Southeast Asia have small-scale operations and cannot afford regular applications of silicon fertilizers because of the high costs and limited availability.

“A low cost solution, such as applying rice residues into rice paddies, is important to both the environment and human health. We are recycling wastes which can be used by small-holder farmers in developing countries, providing enough silicon to decrease arsenic uptake by rice,” said Penido.

Importance of silicon

Seyfferth said that silicon helps rice plants grow stronger, expend less energy and work more efficiently.

“It’s almost like the plant has glass within it and when the plant has glass within its tissue, it makes things like fungal pathogens less able to chew through it. In that way it helps to increase resistance to diseases because of the rigidity it provides to the rice plant,” she said.

In addition to that rigidity, the silicon also directly competes with the predominant form of arsenic — the reduced form of arsenic called arsenite — that is present in flooded rice paddy soils.

“Arsenite looks very similar chemically to dissolved silicon and the two get taken up through rice roots along the same transport pathway. So just by increasing the amount of dissolved silicon, we can effectively decrease the amount of arsenic that gets taken up and stored in the grains,” said Seyfferth.

In addition to decreasing arsenic uptake in the rice, silicon also helps improve crop yields by making the plant more rigid, stronger and healthier. When the rice plants have more silicon, they use less water and employ water and nutrients more efficiently.

Impact on soils

The researchers were also interested in what happens when the residue is added back to the soil to see how they impacted the pH, the silicon and arsenic availability, and also the dissolved methane in the soils.

“What we don’t want to do is add something that would increase methane emissions,” said Seyfferth.

Penido explained that to conduct the research, they collected soil from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) farm and had three kilograms of soil added in each pot.

“Different particle sizes of fresh straw, fresh husk and the ash of straw or husk were incorporated into soil. Pots were then flooded to five centimeters above the soil surface and kept flooded during the entire eight-week experiment. Pore water samples were obtained every week, for a total of eight weeks and analyzed,” Penido said.

The study showed that incorporating the straw has drawbacks because, while it has a lot of silicon, it also leads to more methane production and more arsenic release.

Husk addition, on the other hand, is very beneficial because it provides the most silicon of all the residues studied, doesn’t release much arsenic and has a low impact on methane emissions.

“There were a lot of benefits from incorporating the husk,” said Seyfferth.

Time at UD

rice0130-2As for her time at UD, Penido, who is currently working toward a master’s degree in chemistry at UFLA, said, “As an international student I just loved being a Blue Hen. UD for me was home away from home. I made really good friends, studied a lot, made the fall dean’s list, and had a lot of support. Dr. Tom Sims, Maria Pautler and Ashley Fry were of extreme importance to make my dream of studying at UD true. Ashley was the best adviser I could have asked for. I am thankful for everyone from CANR who welcomed me. I loved living in the dorms, the social events and clubs, the UDairy Creamery, Ag Day and the good UD atmosphere – everyone is so happy.”

Of working with Seyfferth, Penido said, “She was always willing to teach and help me, not just with the project but also with the courses I was taking. She always showed me kindness and respect. She was my adviser for my senior thesis and was very willing to help me prepare for research presentations. I want to continue our studies in the near future.”

Seyfferth remains in touch with Penido, who she said was great to work with on the project.

“She was so engaged and outgoing and I think it was a testament to the quality of students that UFLA has and brings here,” said Seyfferth, who added that she now has another UFLA student in her lab who is in a doctoral program.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to get high quality students and also to have this exchange. I think it’s opened the doors for a lot of collaboration,” said Seyfferth.

The research was funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development Award that Seyfferth received, as well as an NSF research starter grant and the UD Research Foundation.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back stateside

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

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

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

Miller started the program in 2004 and finished in 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

Evolution continues

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

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

Veterinary advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veterinary school success

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD graduate Jenna Byers finds career with Kellogg’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UD experience

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Friends of Extension, collaboration focus of Cooperative Extension’s annual conference

2015 Delaware cooperative extension annual conference oct 22 at modern maturity center Dover DelawareAs Delaware farmer R.C. Willin approached the lectern to deliver remarks after being named one of four National Friends of Extension, Willin quickly turned the tables on the Delaware Cooperative Extension professionals seated before him at their annual conference, held at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover on Oct. 22.

Willin, a grain and poultry producer in Seaford and last year’s recipient of the Delaware Friend of Extension Award, was surprised to learn his name had been forwarded and accepted at the national level. Humbled and surprised by the honor, Willin credited much of his success to Cooperative Extension.

“I am really the one who should be offering you my humble and heartfelt appreciation for the quality of character, the heart of service, and the passion with which you give yourselves to the work of Cooperative Extension,” Willin said.

“Each one of you, in your respective disciplines, work to advance American agriculture, promote stewardship of the abundant natural resources with which we are blessed and make a significant investment in the lives of youth, families, homes and communities throughout this great nation,” Willin said.

“Unfortunately, few in our nation are aware of the magnitude of the impact on our society and ultimately the world that you, as individuals serving in Cooperative Extension, have had in the past and are having today,” Willin said. “Thank you again for this award and the great honor of being a part of your efforts.”

Willin, along with his brother J.C. Willin and their sons, currently grow corn, soybeans, wheat and barley, and have three poultry houses on their 1,200 acres. Willin’s priority in environmental stewardship and his collaboration with the UD as a cooperator in areas of nutrient management, weeds, insects and irrigation, establish Willin and his family’s farm as valuable stakeholders in agriculture.

Willin also serves on the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Dean’s Advisory Board, Sussex County Field Crops Program, Sussex County Poultry Extension Program and UD Extension Nutrient Management/Environmental Quality Advisory Committee, as well as many other groups dedicated to improving Delaware.

Conference highlights

As in past conferences, the 2015 extension conference offered professional development workshops and a backdrop for a day of learning, sharing ideas and innovative collaboration.

Donna Pinkett Brown, interim dean and director of extension at Delaware State University (DSU), began the conference by noting DSU’s observations of the 125th anniversary of the second Morrill Act, establishing the 1890 land grant universities nationwide. Together as land grant institutions in Delaware, UD and DSU extension staff frequently collaborate on statewide outreach.

2015 Delaware cooperative extension annual conference oct 22 at modern maturity center Dover DelawareBrian Snyder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, served as the conference keynote speaker. His stated goal was to change the audience’s perspective about local food, and to challenge the audience to redefine the term “small farm,” a descriptor he believes is inadequate and which limits the larger potential he sees for smaller acreage to sustain food production for many.

Snyder mapped out the centennial U.S. in territories of water and food sheds. He suggested that Delaware is poised to play a significant role by thinking of the region in such terms.

Snyder presented examples, such as urban gardens, which are yielding crops on small plots of land. He pointed to modern and ancient cultures that adapted their agricultural practices to limited geography or resources and yet produced beyond expectation. Snyder advocates thinking local in terms of a 150-mile radius, and feeding local markets first, before exporting.

“The challenge for extension is thinking beyond its own state, and look at the region you are in,” Snyder said. “The impact of Delaware far outweighs its size. Because of where we are located, the potential is enormous and the impact is huge.”

Extension Recognition

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of CANR and director of Cooperative Extension, and Donna Brown, DSU, presented the Friend of Extension Awards in several program areas.

“The Friend of Extension Award is the highest recognition presented to a non-extension person, business or organization and is designed to recognize truly outstanding support and personal involvement in extension efforts,” Rodgers said.

University of Delaware
George Lynam – Agriculture

2015 Delaware cooperative extension annual conference oct 22 at modern maturity center Dover DelawareGeorge Lynam of Baker Farms was a model cooperator for Delaware Extension. An early innovator, Lynam embraced technology and was one of the first Delaware farmers to use GPS. He freely shared his research findings with extension experts. Fully engaged with extension programming for 25 years, Lynam served on several boards and was an invested stakeholder in Delaware agriculture. He helped to shape the vision of farming in the First State. Lynam was a willing mentor and natural-born educator to anyone who wanted to learn more. The honor was awarded posthumously and accepted by his wife Sherry Kitto.

Janice Melson – Family and Consumer Science

Well known in Delaware’s 4-H arena, Melson, a retired family and consumer science teacher in the Red Clay School District, continues to share her expertise by enrolling as a Master Food Educator (MFE) volunteer, where she develops and delivers many programs across the state. In her role as MFE, Melson trains new volunteers, and conducts programs such as “Cooking from the Spring Garden” and “Cooking for One or Two.” She stepped up to take additional training to the 4-H Food Smart Families program, where the 4-H and family and consumer science programs are seamlessly blended. Melson has refused all stipends the program offers and travels at her own expense across the state.

Walter and Burli Hopkins – 4-H

Each year in May, the Hopkins family opens the barn doors of their Green Acres Farm and Hopkins Farm Creamery in Lewes to thousands of schoolchildren who gleefully tour Delaware’s largest dairy farm. Known as the 4-H Hopkins Spring Tour, the outreach has welcomed 25,000 students to date. Each year, the family brainstorms on new and innovative ways they, together with 4-H, can deliver agriculture outside the classroom. The Hopkins family’s generosity was recognized in their support of scholarships to agriculture students, providing logistical support by offering their Henlopen Holsteins for youth to lease and exhibit.

The Cordrey Family – Ornamental Horticulture

Owners and operators of the East Coast Perennial Garden Center, the Cordrey family was honored for its commitment to charity and the development of an enrichment center, as well as a successful retail home and garden center. Growing to employ 100 people, the Cordrey family and their center serve as hosts to UD summer horticulture expos, and provides their venue for many extension programs of all disciplines. Noted for their active participation in the Livable Delaware supporting native plants, the family serves as a valuable collaborator in the Mid Atlantic Women of Agriculture outreach where last year Valerie Cordrey delivered the keynote address.

Delaware State University

Nina Graves – Family and Consumer Science

A newcomer to Delaware and a committed advocate for healthy living, Graves was commended for her willingness to take her certification as a Zumba instructor to any location, churches, schools, and alongside DSU’s established programs such as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and family and consumer science outreach efforts

The Aquatic Resource Education Center – 4H

A section of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Aquatic Center served as the supportive venue for two week-long summer retreats – Juneteenth and the Boys Retreat. More than 250 youth have benefited to date. Attending Mallard Lodge, 4-H youth experience the great outdoors and wetland education. Activities such as a Boardwalk Loop, canoeing, birdwatching and fishing have left a lasting impact on Delaware youth.

Andrea Aligo-Keen – Small Farms

Andrea Keen, employed by the Delaware Division of Public Health as a clinic manager, was lauded for her tireless energy and devotion as a volunteer in organizing other volunteers for DSU’s community gardens across the state. It was noted Keen motivated young volunteers to do the required weeding. Paying no mind to the obstacles of rain, mud, wind, dust, Keen leads by example and conveys the importance of community gardening.

Delaware Cooperative Extension Director’s Leadership Award – UD and DSU

The Delaware Cooperative Extension Director’s Leadership Awards were presented to Michele Walfred (UD) and John Clendaniel (DSU) for their leadership role during the Delaware State Fair, coordinating extension’s joint presence before and during the 10-day event.

Rodgers also acknowledged former UD director of Cooperative Extension, Jan Seitz, for her vision in establishing a second endowment, the Janice Seitz Seed Fund, to financially encourage extension professionals to pilot new initiatives and ideas. Seitz’s first endowment for the Extension Scholars Program has supported 69 students with a summer, service-learning internship.

Photos of the 2015 Delaware Cooperative Extension Annual Conference can be viewed on the Flickr photo gallery.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photos by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD undergraduate Felix Ackon studies statistics, Markov Chains

UD undergraduate Felix Ackon studies statistics, Markov ChainsWhen University of Delaware student Felix Ackon received his acceptance letter to UD, the future statistics student was surprised to see that it mentioned the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

“I even showed my mom and she said, ‘College of what?’ We were all surprised,” said Ackon.

Now a junior majoring in statistics in CANR’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics(APEC), Ackon said that he likes being part of the college and studying at Townsend Hall.

“I like it down here. It’s quiet and calm, a small, more intimate environment,” said Ackon who is also looking to minor in computer science.

Over the summer, Ackon had a chance to participate in the Summer Scholars Program where he was able to conduct research on Biased Shuffling Markov Chains with Nayantara Bhatnagar, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Katie Harper, a graduate student.

Markov Chains are models that describe a sequence of possible events in which the probability of each event depends only on the state attained in the previous event. Ackon said that Markov Chains are used for a number of different applications, such as to simulate the stock market or explain certain physical and biological phenomena.

Ackon said that he enjoyed working with his mentors on the project.

“I gained a lot of knowledge from the mentorship I had with Dr. Bhatnagar and Katie Harper. They have been in my situation before so they gave me advice on what classes to take and what I should do in the future, such as graduate school or going into the industry, so I really appreciate them. I got in contact with a lot of other faculty members, too, and they were very friendly people,” said Ackon.

As for his favorite part of statistics, Ackon said that he likes that it is a mathematical field with tangible results.

“I knew I liked math and it was something I wanted to do but when I was researching it, a lot of it seemed too abstract, too conceptual and I wanted to do something that I could apply to my day-to-day life. If I go into the business industry, I could apply it to financial activities or even the economy so that’s why I chose statistics,” said Ackon.

Ackon also said that he likes working with data and enjoys how statistics works with trends that have an impact on everyday life.

“If you think about it, we’ve always had data, even dating back to early civilizations like Egypt. They probably tracked the hours that went by to determine when it would be day and night. Then they did even more advanced calculations to find out what month it was and that progressed into seasons. Using this data, they were able to determine when the Nile flows rapidly or slowly and they needed to do this because agriculture was a big part of their survival. These days, we have a lot of data and we want to use it for our own personal gain. So I think that’s the biggest part, it influences a lot of people,” said Ackon.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Research provides insights into genetic basis of obesity

Research provides insights into genetic basis of obesityJust as poultry is steadily gaining in popularity on dinner plates, the chicken is growing in attractiveness as a biomedical model for studying health issues ranging from headaches and ovarian cancer to cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.

It turns out that the chicken may also help researchers better understand diabetes and obesity.

A team including the University of Delaware’s Larry Cogburn and Cathy Wu recently published a paper in PLOS One demonstrating that adipose tissue may be more than just a place for the body to store fat — it may actually be an important organ that contributes to novel endocrine signaling, which involves the blood clotting mechanism, and the synthesis or export of fatty acids.

The paper was published in collaboration with Jean Simon and his colleagues at INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research.

Cogburn, professor of animal and food sciences at UD, explains that 30 years ago, INRA geneticist Bernard Leclercq created two experimental lines of meat-type chickens as genetic models to identify the mechanisms controlling abdominal fatness, a complex trait that is likely governed by interactions among multiple genes controlling different endocrine and metabolic pathways.

The two genotypes, known as the FL (fat line) and LL (lean line), have provided a rich foundation for research over the past three decades — a foundation that has been made even more robust in recent years by the development of powerful genomic tools and bioinformatics capabilities at UD.

“The field of bioinformatics has provided us with new tools for accessing previously inaccessible clues to biological mysteries,” says Cathy Wu, the Unidel Edward G. Jefferson Chair of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at UD and director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

In fact, the first author of the PLOS One paper, Chris Resnyk — a graduate student in Cogburn’s lab — received a certificate in bioinformatics from the Center’s graduate program in bioinformatics and computational biology.

The research team examined differential gene expression in the abdominal fat of juvenile FL and LL chickens using next-generation RNA sequencing, which provides a genome-wide snapshot of the presence and quantity of RNA at a given point in time. The differentially expressed adipose genes were then used for extensive mapping to metabolic pathways and gene interaction networks.

The researchers were very surprised at what they found.

“The accepted belief has been that in both birds and humans, fat is primarily made in the liver and transported to adipose tissue for storage,” Cogburn says. “But we found that a large quantity of lipids was actually being synthesized in the abdominal fat of FL chickens. This suggests that in situ lipogenesis in chickens could contribute more substantially to the expansion of visceral fat mass than was previously thought.”

In other words, it is easier for the genetically fat chickens to become even fatter.

The researchers also found differential expression of numerous genes involved in hemostasis, or blood clotting, in the fat and lean chickens, with the majority of hemostasis genes up-regulated in visceral fat 0f the LL. The results suggest that these coagulation factors could play a novel role in limiting the expansion of fat mass in the lean chickens.

The detailed findings shared in the 41-page research article indicate that the genetic deck is stacked against the fat chickens, while the lean chickens are blessed with genes that favor reduced synthesis and enhanced breakdown of lipids, accompanied by greater accumulation of protein in breast muscle.

Cogburn urges caution in making too many assumptions about human obesity based on chicken genetics, since chickens have evolved different mechanisms that control food intake, lipogenesis and adiposity.

“Chickens lack five of the adipokines — cell-signaling proteins secreted by fat tissue — that are known to play a role in appetite, energy metabolism and adipogenesis in humans,” he says.

“However, this work has provided us with a unique avian model of juvenile-onset obesity and glucose-insulin imbalance that could provide new insights into these issues in humans and lead to better ways to prevent and treat one of the 21st century’s most significant public health problems — the world-wide obesity epidemic.”

Article by Diane Kukich

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Crowdfunding project looks to answer horse health questions

UD Crowdfunding project looks to answer horse health questionsResearchers at the University of Delaware are looking to horse owners across the country for help as they try to tackle the fundamental questions behind the role of bacteria in the horse gut with regard to health and disease.

The Equine Microbiome Project is led by the Biddle Laboratory in UD’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources(CANR), and the project is highlighted as part of the Development and Alumni Relations Crowdfunding site.

Amy Biddle, assistant professor of animal and food sciences, said that gut health is of the upmost importance to horses. For horses, a belly ache can be a life-threatening event. Colic is the leading cause of death after old age and laminitis causes irreversible lameness. Both conditions are associated with changes in the bacteria in the hindgut due to factors such as dietary disruption, seasonal changes, stress or age. Both can be chronic, creating management challenges for horse owners and veterinarians.

“Horses’ digestive systems are very sensitive to changes, stress or diet. And as we’re learning in the human microbiome, there is a constant conversation between the gut microbes and the host but there hasn’t been a large scale effort to understand those conversations and those relationships in horses,” said Biddle. “There have been several smaller studies but in terms of a large scale effort, there really isn’t any large study. What we’re hoping to do is to get as many samples as possible, from all over the country. So far people have been very generous.”

In just two weeks since starting the project, the lab group has sent out 36 of kits to states ranging from Massachusetts and Virginia to Oregon and California, and there is a waiting list of people who are interested in submitting samples.

They have asked owners who provide samples to also provide them with metadata on the horses, information such as the horse’s history, any medication it has taken, exercise habits, and what the horse eats.

They are hoping to get samples from hundreds of horses across the country and as samples come in, they will extract DNA and do sequencing to correlate those sequences with the data that they obtain from the owners.

The horses will then be grouped by age, gender, breed, geographic location, diet, exercise and stress level.

Among the questions they are trying to answer is what the “normal” gut microbiome is for healthy horses and if the gut microbiome changes as horses age.

As the website explains, identifying the microbiome differences associated with health and disease is a necessary first step to designing therapies and/or interventions to restore balance and function to the digestive system of colicky or chronically laminitic horses.

The lab group is made up of six undergraduate students and a volunteer.

UD Crowdfunding project looks to answer horse health questionsThe students include Maryn Jordan, Brian Chambers and Hailey Siegel, all juniors in CANR, and Jessica Spleen, Barbara Hahn and Justin Berg, CANR seniors, and Candy Curro, who volunteers with the project.

Of the lab group, Biddle said, “We have a really nice team. My students have been an integral part of each part, from making the video to designing the kits. This project is very accessible for students, which is one of the really beautiful things about it.”

Biddle added that she hopes the project will lead to summer scholarship opportunities and undergraduate research projects as students have a look at the data and come up with their own hypotheses to test.

For more information or to donate or participate in the project, visit the group’s UD Crowdfunding site.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan and courtesy of Amy Biddle

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H program hosts students from Russia

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H program recently hosted 19 youths from Russia as part of a leadership program focused on volunteerism and citizenship.

The program was funded by the United States Department of State through its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

The participants spent three weeks in the United States and did everything from exploring Washington, D.C., going to the Urban Tree Connection in Philadelphia and visiting New York City.

They also had a weekend retreat at Cape Henlopen State Park where they interacted with Delaware 4-H members, went to the Food Bank of Delaware in Milford and made fleece blankets for the non-profit organization “Fleece for Keeps,” which donates the blankets to children in the state’s foster care system.

The students took part in workshops that included personality development, managing conflict and effective communication.

While participating in the program, the youths were asked to develop service-learning projects designed to solve problems facing their communities, important information that they can take with them as they return home.

Mallory Vogl, an extension agent for UD Cooperative Extension, said the students chose topics such as bully prevention, teen pregnancy and drug and alcohol addiction.

The 19 participants came from five cities across Russia, including Moscow and Vladivostok, and Vogl said that they went through a rigorous application process to take part in the program.

“This group of kids were so empowering not just to the teenagers from Delaware that they got to work with but even for the staff. We were just blown away and impressed by not only their knowledge of government within their country but also their knowledge of our country as well and their ability in only three weeks to really have such an impact,” said Vogl.

When the program ended, it was hard for the young people and the staff members to say goodbye.

“It was so impactful to these kids, and we have kids that are interested in coming back to UD. We have kids that are interested in coming back to the U.S. in general and they all agreed that this was an absolute life-changing experience. For all of us staff, too – I’ve worked with a lot of groups but this group was just incredible,” said Vogl.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD graduate Lemond Adams goes from kitchen to classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

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UD establishes partnership with La Molina University in Peru

UD establishes partnership with La Molina University in PeruThree officials from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) recently visited La Molina National Agrarian University in Peru to strengthen the academic bonds between the two universities through the National Program of Scholarships and Education Loans (PRONABEC), an international scholarship program offered by the Peruvian government designed to increase the number of higher degree holders in the country.

The contingent included CANR Dean Mark Rieger, Eric Wommack, deputy dean and associate dean for research and graduate education and professor of environmental microbiology, and Debbie Delaney, assistant professor of entomology.

Rieger explained that the PRONABEC program is designed for eligible participants who want to earn master’s or doctoral degrees. Those who meet the requirements are able to study in America and return to Peru when they have completed their degree program so that they can contribute to the Peruvian economy.

“Peru wants to train people but they want them to come back and contribute,” Rieger said. “It’s very generous, with a stipend, tuition, air fare, book allowance, even an allowance for an English language training program if you need it. UD signed an agreement with the Peruvian government to reduce tuition by 50 percent for all students that qualify in the PRONABEC program and our college decided to participate.”

While at La Molina, the three spoke to around 80 students and faculty members.

With Peru being one of the most bio and agriculturally diverse areas in the world –mountains, deserts and rain forests afford the ability to grow a number of different plants and support a wide range of wildlife – Rieger said the partnership with Peru, and specifically La Molina University, which is the main agricultural university in that nation, was a natural fit for CANR.

In addition to the agriculture and biodiversity benefits, Rieger also said the economy is booming and downtown Lima, near where La Molina University is located, is expanding greatly, with exports of high quality agricultural products like coffee, quinoa and avocados projected to double by 2020.

“The interesting thing about Peru is that the coast is a desert and it’s very much like a California climate, which is unusual because the entire country lies in the tropics. You would expect sort of a jungle but because of the Andes you have the rain shadow and it’s bone dry with only a couple of inches of rain a year. So you have what amounts to a strip of central California on the coast where they can grow grapes, avocados, citrus – they can grow just about anything there with the irrigation,” said Rieger.

In the mountains of Peru, Rieger said that growers are able to grow potatoes, tomatoes and a lot of crops that were domesticated by the Incas, as well as coffee.

“Then, 60 percent of the country is the Amazon rainforest,” he said. “So you have cacao and banana and oil palm and all kinds of different biodiversity going on there, let alone the ecotourism and the wildlife itself that connects to our college.”

Government, grower interaction

In addition to talking with the faculty and students, Delaney also met with Peruvian government officials to talk about honeybees and pollination, specifically pest management, and to give her opinion on pollinators for growing greenhouse peppers that could be exported to the United States.

Those meetings were also attended by beekeepers from different parts of Peru, such as the Amazon and the Andes.

“A lot of people came to express their needs but also to hear what was going on in the U.S. They’re somewhat isolated in Peru, just that giant desert to the north and the Andes to the east, and so they are trying to ramp up production and they’re looking to other places that already have high production for certain crops for advice,” said Delaney.

Delaney said that Peru is in a unique spot because the country is filled with high-end food items that could potentially have strong markets.

“They’re interested in cataloging their diversity and understanding pollination issues in some of their larger crops, and also pest management. Those are probably the three biggest things that they’re interested in pursuing collaboratively via students coming here, students going there – it’s really getting people on the ground to do the work,” said Delaney.

One of the best parts of the trip for Delaney was seeing the beekeeping in the country courtesy of the Confederation of Peruvian Beekeepers.

“I visited all sorts of different beekeepers, mostly in the desert region, got maybe two hours from the Andes, but I saw a lot of different beekeeping operations,” said Delaney, who said that because they are in the desert with a very limited rainfall, honey is a high-end commodity.

“A jar of honey is very valuable and it’s different honey. It’s more medicinal when you taste it and it’s more medicinal in terms of how they market their products. It was really interesting to work with the beekeepers there. They were a really nice group and it was interesting to see the bees working in this really dry environment,” said Delaney.

Future partnerships

Rieger said that in addition to having faculty and students from La Molina come to UD to get their graduate degrees, he is hoping that the connections they made with faculty members at the institution, as well as the scholarship program, will lead to future partnerships between the two universities.

“La Molina would be a great location to place one of our students because the university is in the coastal desert but they have farms in the highlands and in the Amazon. If a student went there, they’d actually be able to study agriculture in a Mediterranean coastal desert climate, in an Andean mountain climate and in a rainforest climate,” said Rieger.

“It would be a great place for our students to go and spend a summer and be able to see the whole diversity of agriculture that can occur when you have that kind of topographic and ecosystem diversity. And even our wildlife students or our natural resource and water resource students, anybody from our college could benefit from it.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD’s equestrian team hits stride at fall competitions

UD Equestrain team hits stride at fall competitionsThe University of Delaware’s equestrian team is in the midst of another busy season with competitions and practices spread out across the fall.

The team competes as part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and faces off against schools such as Temple University, Salisbury University, the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University and Valley Forge Military Academy, where most of the shows are held.

Students involved with the equestrian team come from all across UD and anyone is welcome to join no matter their level of horse riding experience.

Jenny Schmidt, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the equestrian team club president, said that the team members all have different levels of riding experience.

“We’re from all over. We have people who’ve competed nationally and done really well and made money and have been really successful. Then we also have beginners.  One of my best friends, she started riding last year, never rode before and she fits right in. Anyone can ride if they just have an interest in horses but never actually rode; it’s a great way to get into it. It’s a big group of people who just love horses and we all get along because we all have that common thing,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt also said that riding with the equestrian team is a lot cheaper than riding and showing a horse on one’s own.

“It is still kind of expensive paying for lessons every week but if you were just to compete on your own horse, you’re shelling out at least $200 a day on the competition and then for us, it’s $30 to compete so it makes competing affordable for college students,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt said the fall is the busiest time of year because of the number of competitions, each of which is hosted by a different school. That school is responsible for setting up the show, receiving entries from all the schools that are competing and getting the horses ready — though sometimes teams are requested to bring their own horses.

At the shows, individuals are placed in different levels based on their riding experience and skill level. Participants then pick a name out of a hat and that’s the horse that they ride.

“You don’t get to warm up or practice or anything. The host school gets the horses all ready, then you pick your horse randomly and you get on and go compete. So you’re getting on something that most likely you’ve never ridden unless you’re a senior and you see a lot of the same horses,” said Schmidt. “You’re riding something you’re not used to, you’re thrown into a situation where you have to act quick on your feet and it really tests you as a rider to see how adaptable you are to what you’re given. It’s really interesting.”

Schmidt said that this year is going great and at the team’s first competition, UD came in third and had a lot of individual riders get first place ribbons.

English and Western

The equestrian team is comprised of about 80 members that are split up into two different teams: an English team and a Western team.

Schmidt said that the English team is the larger of the two, with about 80 percent of the members participating on the English team.

The English team members wear hunt seat attire — tan pants, a blazer, white collared shirt, with their hair up and a helmet — and are judged based on their equitation.

“Basically equitation is how well you ride the horse and how good you look doing it,” said Schmidt.

The Western team is pretty much the same, but their attire is different and what they make the horses do is a little bit different as well.

“They wear black pants, black shirts, and hats. The Western team competes in horsemanship and reining, while the English team competes in hunter seat equitation and jumping,” said Schmidt.

The two teams also practice in different locations with the English team practicing in in Townsend, Delaware, and the Western team practicing in Westhampton, New Jersey.

The English team is coached by Whitney Carmouche and the Western team is coached by Amy Freeman.

The team is co-advised by Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), and Amy Biddle, assistant professor in ANFS.

For more information on the equestrian team or for those interested in joining, visit the team’s Facebook page.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Jenny Schmidt

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Amy Biddle New Professor Profile

Amy Biddle new professor profileCould you provide a little background information about yourself?

I received my Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts in Microbiology with Jeffrey Blanchard, and was fortunate to do a post-Doc at the University of Illinois with Dr. Roderick Mackie who is one of the pre-eminent gut microbiologists.

What is the focus of your research?

My focus is on the gut microbiome of horses and horse gut health. The reason that gut health is so important to horses is because they are very sensitive to changes in their diet and their environment, as well as stress in traveling and competition. After old age, colic is the leading cause of death in horses.

How did you get interested in horses?

I do not remember a time when I didn’t want to be around horses, so I was your classic horse crazy girl growing up.

When I was about 10, I was very fortunate to find a barn with wonderful adult mentorship where there were opportunities to work in exchange for riding. There were probably fifteen kids and twenty or more horses. We competed in all sorts of events, went on trail rides, gave lessons, and trained young horses. Our instructors would go to a sale and bring home a trailer load of horses for us to work with. It was a fantastic way to grow up.

What did you study as an undergraduate?

I studied biological sciences at the University of New Hampshire and then taught high school science.

What was teaching high school like?

Besides the job I have now—there are few jobs that are that much fun. Students are so full of life and curiosity at every level, but particularly in high school. I love teaching and had developed a successful program, but found myself wanting to learn more and do research that would make a difference, specifically to help horses with gut health. After losing horses to colic and having friends lose horses to colic, I was really motivated to go back to graduate school to study the microbiology of the equine gut.

What will be your role at UD?

My focus will be to grow the Equine Science program here at UD through research and teaching. While my research will focus on the gut microbiome, Dr. Renzetti and I are planning new and expanded course offerings to take advantage of the resources we have nearby to give students wider and deeper experiences in equine science, and attract students from across the University to the equine science minor.

In terms of research, my lab is gearing up to launch a crowd-funding project called the Equine Microbiome Project. The general public can join this project and send a sample of their horse’s fecal material along with health history data. We will return a survey of the bacteria that are in each sample that can be shared with a veterinarian and compared with the rest of the database or subsequent samples. Hopefully we will get hundreds of samples to build a comprehensive database of bacteria and metadata for analysis.

I am excited about this project because it requires a minimum of equipment, so we can hit the ground running right away. I am fortunate to have a team of bright, enthusiastic undergraduates that want to be involved in this research, and they have been key to getting the project rolling, from designing the kits, extracting DNA and producing the promotional video. This project is a wonderful way to introduce students to working in the lab, get them excited about equine gut microbiology, and learn techniques that they can carry into a wide range of health or environmental applications.

Other upcoming projects will focus on testing specific strains of bacteria for potential probiotic use in horses, and identifying differences in the distribution of small strongyle species and their relative resistance to dewormers.

Could you give your overall impressions of the College and UD?

Everyone at UD has been welcoming and patient with all of my questions as I get started. There is a family-like atmosphere, especially in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. I’ve been developing a network of colleagues in biology and engineering and people seem eager to collaborate and share resources across colleges. At UD I am finding that the academic culture is very student-centered, with many opportunities for students to participate in research and gain experience in the “real world”. While the research is an important focus, the primary objective seems to be the quality of students’ experiences, and how we can better meet their needs as they move forward into the work place, graduate school, or veterinary training.

Article by Adam Thomas

Farmers, growers talk about challenges facing the agriculture industry

Farmers, growers talk about challenges facing the agriculture industryMembers of the University of Delaware community, as well as regional farmers and growers, gathered Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Trabant University Center Theatre to view the documentary Farmland and listen to a panel discussion from industry experts about challenges facing the agriculture industry.

The panel discussion and the documentary screening were hosted by the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity with the panel discussion moderated by Weber Stibolt, a senior majoring in food science in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Panelists included:

  • Ed Kee, Delaware secretary of agriculture;
  • Mike Popovich, natural resource manager at CANR;
  • Chris Magee, a fifth generation Sussex County farmer from Magee Farms;
  • Nancy Bentley, owner of Fair Weather Farm, an organic operation in Fair Hill, Maryland;
  • Becca Manning, manager of Historic Penn Farm in New Castle; and
  • Sam Knauss, a student from Kansas State University who is interning with Monsanto Co.

The panelists all agreed that the movie showed an accurate depiction of what it’s like to be a farmer in America and touched on the different aspects associated with farming.

Family farms

One such aspect was how many of the farms featured in the film were owned and operated by families.

Kee said family farms are especially prevalent in Delaware.

“People hear about corporate farms; well, families incorporate for legal reasons, liability reasons, but they are a family unit no question about it. Even our large poultry companies — Perdue, Mountaire — they’re owned by families and that’s part of the success story of American agriculture and Delaware agriculture. Farmers are independent, they’re resilient, they know how to cope with stress, and I think the family structure fosters that ability to be resilient and independent,” Kee said.

With so many farms being inherited and run by families, Popovich said that it can be hard to break into the farming industry for a first generation farmer.

Kee pointed out that the Delaware Department of Agriculture has a young farmers program designed to help young farmers acquire farmland through a long-term, no-interest loan.

Knauss added that his family farm has benefited from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs as well.

“I did go through the USDA to make some capital improvements on a lot of the machinery we have. We wouldn’t be able to do it without those programs. They’re definitely there; you just have to find them and know about it,” Knauss said.

Organic vs. GMO

Another topic that was discussed was organic farming versus conventional farming.

Bentley said that when she started learning about the number of chemicals that can be put upon plants and the ground, she found it mindboggling.

“My thought process is for every chemical you’re going to put on something, it’s going to have some adverse effect on something else, whether it’s another plant or people or nature,” Bentley  said, adding that her belief is nature will figure out how to problem solve.

“I believe strongly that I’m doing the right thing by not interfering with what nature is trying to do,” she said.

Popovich said that he is making the transition to organic mainly because of the education component for interns and student workers.

Magee said he believes that there is a place for both organic and conventional farming, especially with the world population increasing.

“If the world population keeps going up, you’re not going to do it with conventional seed — not with the acreage, the houses and the housing developments that we’re building. We have to do more with less,” Magee said.

Kee said that he sees agriculture as a big tent with room for everybody.

“There is certainly room for organic and non-organic. There is a need for each; there is a demand for each, and I think the markets kind of figure all that out. The organic growers find a market, and the conventional growers find a market,” he said.

Women in ag

The panel also talked about the importance of women in agriculture, with Bentley saying that she thinks more women are getting into agriculture because “we need to feed people real food from the ground, and I think there are more women getting into it because they see illness, disease, and health is basically through nutrition and getting good food.”

Manning said that after graduating from UD with a degree in wildlife conservation and ecology, she got into agriculture in order to be a good steward to the land.

“Now it’s really nice because I get to work closely with high school students so I work closely with the land. I’m growing food but I also get to be an educator and try to reach out to a younger generation to instill in them the importance of why eating healthy is important, what agriculture is, and where your food comes from. I’m not trying to make them a farmer per se but to try to open their eyes to all the different kinds of careers that can come out of agriculture in general,” said Manning.

Feeding the world

The need to feed an increasing world population was also a key theme with Knauss stressing the need to get simple technologies — such as tractors and fertilizers — as well as advanced technologies —such as apps to help with how much fertilizer to apply — to growers in developing countries.

Kee said that he wanted to leave the audience with the fact that, in 1960, there were three tillable acres available for every citizen in the world for food and by 2040 or 2050, that’s going to be down to one acre for every citizen of the world.

“I think that illustrates the need to grow more with less and technology’s going to be a part of that,” he said, adding that he wonders if his five grandchildren will have the food options that were available to him during his lifetime.

“Will it be abundant? Will they have all the choices? I hope so, and the reason I bring that up is that it’s wonderful to come on campus and see so many agricultural students engaged in this, but the other piece is every farmer is precious and every acre is critical here in Delaware and Delmarva and the world,” Kee said.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Jackie Arpie

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Cooperative Extension welcomes statewide Master Gardener class

UD Extension welcomes statewide Master Gardener classIndividuals training to become Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer educators met at the University of Delaware campus in Newark on Monday, Sept. 21, for their first, in-person, statewide meeting as part of Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener training program, an intensive 16-week course designed to prepare candidates for the volunteer phase of the program.

Training is provided by Cooperative Extension specialists and agents from UD and Delaware State University (DSU), green industry experts and experienced Master Gardeners.

While the courses previously had been taught separately in all three Delaware counties, this  statewide approach is designed to promote collaboration and camaraderie among staff and trainees throughout the state.

Classes will take place throughout Delaware, with Zoom distance learning technology allowing for video conferencing. “Ideally, it would all be face to face but that can’t happen if we’re all doing it at the same time. However, no more than one-third of the training is done via distance learning,” said Tracy Wootten, extension agent in horticulture.

Valann Budischak, extension agent and statewide Master Gardener training coordinator, said, “We decided to incorporate distance learning with Zoom, where the instructor is present in one location and teaches not only to that group of Master Gardeners but a distance group of Master Gardeners as well. The instructor rotates counties.”

The training program includes formal lectures, discussion sessions, tours, workshops and problem-solving sessions. Topics covered include plant identification, soils and plant nutrition, integrated pest management, and home landscaping and maintenance, among others.

Participants meet twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m. until Nov. 23, when they graduate.

Upon completion of the training program, Master Gardeners are expected to donate a minimum of 40 hours of their time to Cooperative Extension. Volunteer time is spent solving problems, educating and advising the gardening public of Delaware.

Master Gardeners’ outreach efforts include home gardener workshops and presentations, youth education, answering calls put into the garden help line, plant diagnostic services and demonstration gardens.

The program is run cooperatively with DSU, with Megan Pleasanton, extension educator at DSU, working with the UD extension agents.

“Master Gardener training and the volunteer participation that follows is absolutely essential to the success of our Extension horticulture program in Delaware,” said Carrie Murphy, program leader and extension agent.  “We couldn’t have the impact and reach that we do without our incredible Master Gardener volunteers.”

Budischak said that while the class is a statewide initiative, the educators are aware that the different counties have different needs.

“We still want to preserve each county’s individuality. Sussex County will cover more information on herbs and propagation, whereas New Castle County will delve deeper into urban agriculture, which wouldn’t be as predominant in Kent and Sussex. So while we want to make sure that we’re all learning the same things in the same way, we need to preserve their individuality,” said Budischak.

Wootten said that approach stems mostly from wanting the participants to be trained on the particular questions they are most likely to get when they staff their county garden hotlines, a table at an outreach event, or interact with community members in the county office.

The statewide initiative has benefited the Cooperative Extension educators, as well.

“It’s been a great learning experience for us; it’s forced us to look at the curriculum and other aspects of the program to provide consistency. We hope that each of our programs will be enhanced because of it,” said Budischak.

Wootten said a feature of the Master Gardener classes is that each one is unique and that the classmates all form bonds with one another.

“My first class was 2003 and the members of that class, the Kent and Sussex class, they still get together once a month for lunch. And each class is different. They have their own little flavor and then they get integrated into the whole program,” said Wootten.

For more information on Master Gardener services visit the Master Gardener website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan

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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.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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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

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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

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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