UD scientists examine how plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birds

When plants are in distress or being fed on by insects, they have been known to send out sensory volatile cues that alert organisms in the area — such as birds — that they are in need of help. While research has shown that this occurs in ecosystems such as forests, until now, this phenomenon has never been demonstrated in an agricultural setting.

Researchers at the University of Delaware have recently found that agricultural plants also send out these signals when under duress from insects, opening new potential avenues for growers to defend their crops while at the same time providing a much-needed food source for birds.

Ivan Hiltpold and Greg Shriver led the research at UD and used an unorthodox method to create their ‘larvae’ for the study: a little bit of Play-Doh and orange colored pins.

UD scientists examine how plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birdsUsing a field plot of maize on UD’s Newark farm, the researchers attached dispensers using a synthetic odor blend that replicated the volatiles—odor cues given off by plants to indicate they are being attacked such as the smell of freshly cut grass—attached to corn stalks. They also used dispensers using only an organic solvent as a control measure.

The Play-Doh larvae with orange head pins were then distributed on plants around the volatile dispensers and the organic solvent dispensers with the researchers measuring the bird attacks or pecks on the larvae.

They found that the imitation larvae located closer to the volatile dispensers had significantly more attacks than those located closer to the organic solvent dispensers.

The results of their study were recently published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.

Hiltpold said the results support growing evidence that foraging birds exploit volatile cues and a more accurate understanding of their behavior will be critical when implementing pest management programs benefiting from ecological services provided by insectivorous birds.

UD scientists examine how plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birds“Improving our understanding of how birds prey on insects would open new avenues in sustainable pest control,” said Hiltpold.

While it has been proven for years that parasitoid insects or predatory insects respond to volatiles released by damaged plants and it has also been demonstrated that birds react to tree volatiles after insect herbivory on a tree in a forest setting, Hiltpold, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, said that this is the first time field research has been conducted on volatiles in an agricultural setting.

“It is a cry for help,” said Hiltpold. “The plant is damaged, the plant emits something that recruits help and we’re all thinking it’s help from other insects but it seems that birds are also using that as a cue to locate a plant or a group of plants. Then what we think is that they use their visual equity to locate the larvae when they’re in the vicinity of the plant emitting the volatiles.”

Hiltpold said that their research in the field confirmed this, as they had one larvae located on a volatile dispenser on a plant, and then four larvae distributed on all the plants around the plant with the dispenser.

UD scientists examine how plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birdsWhen they compared the number of pecks to the larvae on the plant with the dispenser to the number of pecks on the larvae on plants around the dispenser, there was no significant difference.

“This means that the bird is coming, smelling the volatiles and when it gets to the vicinity of the plant that is damaged, then it visually searches for the insect,” said Hiltpold.

It is also interesting because birds have long been believed to not be able to smell, but this research indicates that they are smelling the volatiles and then coming in closer to visual locate their prey.

“Whether or not birds can smell is a big question because they apparently lack some anatomical things to smell the way other vertebrates are smelling,” Hiltpold said. “Yet, they seem to have the capability of sensing volatiles but we don’t exactly know how they do it yet.”

The next step for the researchers will involve monitoring the diversity of birds responding to these cues in agricultural, forest and wetland environments over the course of the summer.

To evaluate bird predation of fake insects, caterpillars will be visually assessed once a week. To know which birds are responding to volatiles, two time-lapse cameras will be set up per environment to collect pictures over the course of the experiment.

They were able to get the project funded by using Experiment.com to give more information about the project and raise funds.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Kenya native and UD grad student earns avian research award

When Michael Babak arrived at the University of Delaware from Kenya in the fall of 2014 as the inaugural Arthur W. Perdue Foundation Graduate Fellow, one of the first things he noticed was the technology.

“Delaware has huge opportunities,” Babak said. “My country is still developing so when you talk about research, even at the University level, you realize that this is pretty advanced compared to Kenya. The resources are available; the infrastructure is there, and you can explore your strengths and potentials with regards to research. I’ve been lucky to come here and be exposed to all this.”

After getting his bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Babak went on to earn his master’s in veterinary anatomy in 2012. From there, he started looking for opportunities to further his studies and discovered UD.

Kenya native and UD grad student earns avian research award
Bruce Stewart-Brown (right), senior vice president of food safety and quality live operations, Perdue Farms, pictured with UD graduate student Michael Babak at the American Association of Avian Pathologists award presentation ceremony in Denver during the American Veterinary Medical Association Convention in July 2018.

As a part of Behnam Abasht’s lab, Babak came to UD to study diseases in poultry, specifically wooden breast syndrome, a novel disease in broiler chickens that makes their meat hard and chewy, rendering them unmarketable.

“The disease is presented by firmness of the breast muscle — basically compromising the quality, thereby downgrading them — and that’s the prime part of chickens,” Babak said. “If you look at it in totality, it’s causing lots of losses in the poultry industry at large and it’s not just the poultry in the U.S., Europe, or Latin America. It’s all over. Especially in those areas or countries that practice extensive poultry production.”

The cause of wooden breast syndrome is unknown.

“It is possible that management practices could be found if you understand how the disease develops and progresses,” said Babak.

Babak has thrived during his time at UD and was recently awarded with the American Association of Avian Pathologists’ Reed Rumsey Student Award for Advancement of Avian Medicine, an award given to two students annually who show promise as the future of the poultry industry.

Babak was given the award at the 2018 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) convention held in Denver, Colorado from July 13-17.

In addition, Babak gave an oral presentation at the 2018 AVMA convention titled, “Pathological and molecular characterization of Wooden Breast Disease in commercial broiler chickens during the normal growth period.”

With research being his passion, Babak said he is proud to work in poultry as it is one of the staple foods in his country, and that he has enjoyed working as a member of Abasht’s lab.

“He’s a down-to-earth person and understands his area of research very well,” Babak said of Abasht, an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. “Seeing his students succeed is his greatest motivation and driving factor. His door is always open. Whenever you want to reach him, he’s there. Even during weekends, you can contact him any time through e-mails and he’ll respond promptly. He’s a good guy.”

Of Babak, Abasht said “Michael has been a tremendous asset to my lab. His strong background in anatomy and physiology has been of great importance to our lab projects. He is very passionate about his research on studying a novel muscle disorder in chickens, and you can see it in every single conversation about his research. I think his genuine interest to gain new insights and discover new knowledge is one of the main things that makes Michael a great grad student. Michael is also personable and a great team player.”

Babak also said that Erin Brannick, an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and a member of his doctoral committee, has been of great help during his graduate studies at UD.

Babak also said that he is thrilled and humbled to be the first recipient of the Arthur W. Perdue Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

“I think the responsibility was given to Dr. Abasht to look for a student who would be able to fit the program. Then somehow, he found me,” said Babak. “I really appreciate the award that I got from the Arthur Perdue Foundation because if it were not for that, I don’t think I’d be able to make it this far.”

About Perdue Farms

Perdue Farms is the parent company of Perdue Foods and Perdue Agribusiness, and represents the Perdue family ownership. To learn more about Perdue, visit the website. The Arthur W. Perdue Foundation is funded through the estates of Arthur W. Perdue and Frank Perdue. The foundation provides grants on behalf of Perdue Farms in communities where large numbers of company associates live and work.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Michael Babak

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UD alumna Samantha Fino reflects on time at UD, hands on research opportunities

Working as an intern-secretary on Wall Street during her sophomore year in high school, Samantha Fino came to a conclusion early on in life: working a desk job just wasn’t for her.

So, when it came time to apply to universities, she looked for one that was financially appealing and had a strong program for studying outdoors. Which is funny because Fino said that she never really appreciated outdoor activities until she arrived at the University of Delaware.

“I never camped or hiked growing up. I never really left Weston, Connecticut, besides our family vacations which were on the Jersey Shore. I never did any outdoorsy things until I went to college,” said Fino, who graduated in 2015 with a major in wildlife ecology and conservation.

UD alumna Samantha Fino reflects on time at UD, hands on research opportunitiesWhile at UD, Fino said that she loved the wildlife conservation and ecology program, and singled out her study abroad experiences—once to Tanzania with Jake Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and once to Costa Rica with Kyle McCarthy, associate professor of wildlife ecology, and Greg Shriver, professor of wildlife ecology—as being particularly memorable.

“I think Delaware fosters a unique opportunity unlike any other university in regards to study abroad,” Fino said. “It exposes you to so much more than what goes on in North America and in the United States. Not even just with wildlife but with culture as well. Those two programs really opened my eyes to the field and others interested in the same things I am. The friends I made on those programs are still really good, close friends of mine.”

In addition to her experience with study abroad, Fino also singled out the research experiences she gained as an undergraduate as being beneficial.

“The graduate students and professors at Delaware are very welcoming to undergrads,” Fino said. “When you’re 20 or 21, you don’t know how to get into that world or that career. You know you need research experience but you don’t know how to get it. Delaware offers an opportunity for those experiences to undergrads so they can get that foundation.”

Fino worked as a summer scholar going into her junior year with Bowman on mesocarnivore — animals whose diet consists of 50-70 percent meat — occupancy and abundance estimates within fragmented forest patches in Newark, Delaware.

The following year, she worked with Chris Williams, professor of wildlife ecology, looking at the bioenergetics of soils to estimate carrying capacity — the number of living organisms a region can support without environmental degradation – of black ducks within Prime Hook and Forsythe Wildlife Refuges.

“I believe that research exposure is what helped me get into graduate school,” said Fino.

After completing her master’s degree at West Virginia University, Fino began her doctoral work at South Dakota State University last summer looking at predator community dynamics and its influence on duck nest survival.

“I’m trying to better understand the relationship between mesopredators and duck nest survival,” said Fino. “My field season runs March through July. We radio collar coyotes, raccoons and skunks at the start of the season so we can track their movements and habitat use during the nesting season. Currently, though, we’re primarily focused on the ducks – searching, marking and monitoring nests for survival, as well as determining the nest predator with nest cameras.”

Fino recently received the doctoral portion of the Dave Ankney and Sandi Johnson Waterfowl and Wetlands Graduate Research Scholarship, which are two scholarships — one to a master’s candidate and one to a doctoral candidate — that are awarded annually to graduate students working on waterfowl and wetland issues in North America.

Fino said receiving the award was “super surprising. I’m honored to win awards like that and to have someone else appreciate the research that I’m doing. I’m very excited and enthusiastic about my project, and it’s nice to know other agencies and individuals feel the same way.”

As for whether she ever envisioned herself living and working in South Dakota, researching predator-prey relationships, Fino said that she definitely did not.

“It’s funny, if you would’ve told me back at Delaware, ‘Oh, you’re going to end up in South Dakota,’ I would have not believed you,” Fino said. “It’s a very different world out here. I’ve never been exposed to this type of lifestyle or culture, and it’s cool to interact with land owners. I like working with them and getting a better understanding of how different people view wildlife research and management.”

Photo courtesy of Samantha Fino
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K. Eric Wommack named fellow of American Academy of Microbiology

The University of Delaware’s K. Eric Wommack has been named one of 96 fellows elected to the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM).

The American Academy of Microbiology is an honorific scientific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology. Fellows are elected annually from the international scientific community through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

There are more than 2,400 fellows representing all subspecialties of the microbial sciences and individuals involved in basic and applied research, teaching, public health, industry and government service. In addition, fellows hail from all around the globe. The Class of 2018 represents fellows from Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Switzerland, China, Israel, Austria, Sweden, Belgium and the U.K.

K. Eric Wommack (right), with Rita R. Colwell, his Ph.D. adviser; and Russell T. Hill, his co-adviser and Ph.D. committee member.
K. Eric Wommack (right), with Rita R. Colwell, his Ph.D. adviser; and Russell T. Hill, his co-adviser and Ph.D. committee member.

Wommack, deputy and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has a lab located at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and through his lab, he has led research on the direct examination of viruses within natural environments — from estuaries to the deep-sea and soils.

Jacques Ravel, professor and associate director for genomics at the Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that Wommack’s induction was “long overdue. He is among an elite group of early pioneers who have advanced our understanding of the role of viruses and viral infection within microbial communities. Through the application of cultivation-independent molecular approaches and tireless mentorship, his work helped establish fundamentals, such as the high abundance of viruses in natural systems; the rapid turnover and dynamic nature of viral communities; and the extraordinary levels of genetic diversity that exists within Earth’s virus. Dr. Wommack is well-deserving of this recognition and will be a major asset to the academy.”

Wommack has focused on revealing the emergent impacts of viral infection on cellular microbial communities and the ecosystems they inhabit. Using metagenomics, he has revealed the enormous diversity and unknown nature of Earth’s viruses. His recent work seeks to predict the phenomic features of unknown viruses via bioinformatic analysis of replication genes.

Emphasizing service to science Wommack served as editor of AEM and The ISME Journal and as co-editor-in-chief of Microbiome.

A proud father and husband, he is an Eagle Scout, a summa cum laude graduate of Emory University and a Bobby Jones Fellow at the University of St. Andrews, U.K.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of K. Eric Wommack

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Don Sparks, CANR professor and DENIN director, invests in named professorship, graduate fellowship and scholarship

Donald L. Sparks, Unidel S. Hallock du Pont Chair, and a College of Agriculture and Natural Resources professor and Director of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), has spent more than three decades building a career at the University of Delaware that has influenced the lives of countless students as well as the health of the planet.

Motivated by his passion for helping others and giving back to the University that has given him so much, Sparks recently committed a $1.5 million planned gift through Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware to support undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty.

“I owe so much to this university because it’s been my life, my career for almost 40 years now, and UD has been an absolutely fabulous place to be,” said Sparks. “As employees, we have an obligation to give back and support programs and people to make this place even better.”

UD PROFESSOR SUPPORTS FACULTY AND STUDENTS THROUGH PHILANTHROPYThrough his investment, Sparks will establish the Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Early Career Professorship in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. This professorship will create a position for a professor in the early stages of their career to teach and conduct research in soil sciences. In addition to recognizing individual talent, professorships help promote the University’s presence and expertise in particular areas of research. This line of thinking resonates with Sparks.

“Establishing professorships is very important in terms of attracting top talent and retaining top faculty, because we often hire great people,” said Sparks. “But the key is once we see how successful they are, we want to keep them. We don’t want to lose them, so I think incentives like these named professorships are essential.”

The remainder of the planned gift will be divided between two existing endowed funds – the Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Graduate Student Fellowship in Soil Sciences and the Joy Gooden Sparks Scholarship. The Joy Gooden Sparks Scholarship is awarded annually to students matriculated in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources who participate in 4-H.

Mark Rieger, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said this gift demonstrates Sparks’ sincere commitment to the college, UD and ultimately student success.

“Dr. Sparks is one of the most successful faculty members in the history of the college, and he has mentored dozens of students who have gone on to incredible careers in academia, agency and industry,” Rieger said. “His generosity and open-hearted willingness to give in so many ways are an inspiration. Not only will his gift help provide resources to recruit and retain faculty, but it also shows how deeply he cares for UD and this college. I am truly grateful to Don for his contributions as a faculty member, administrator, thought leader and supporter.”

In 2011, Sparks established the scholarship in memory of his wife, Joy G. Sparks. Since that time, numerous students and friends have rallied together to make gifts to the fund.

Sparks is driven to honor his late wife by supporting their shared passions. Joy was the state 4-H coordinator for the UD’s Cooperative Extension Program before her passing in 2009. A lifelong Delawarean, Joy received a bachelor’s degree in home economics from UD in 1973 and later pursued graduate studies. She began her 35-year career in UD’s Cooperative Extension Service by first serving as the New Castle County 4-H agent and then as state coordinator. Without her, Sparks says, none of this would have been possible. It was her fondest wish that everyone should have access to a quality education and a chance to build the life they want.

“She was very adamant that everybody had an opportunity to get a college education,” Sparks said. “She wanted there to be scholarship money to support students who desired to come to the University of Delaware, and not only graduate students, but at the undergraduate level, too, because she dealt with a lot of young people over the years. I established that scholarship in her honor to support undergraduate students who had leadership capabilities.”

Sparks and his wife established the Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Graduate Student Fellowship in Soil Sciences in 2000 to support graduate students in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences performing research associated with DENIN.  For Sparks, the most fulfilling part of his job has been mentoring students over the years.

“If there’s one thing in my career that I’ve enjoyed the most, it’s without any question, advising graduate students,” said Sparks. “It’s exciting to have such bright, young people around you where you see this growth period and they really progress and then they go out and become very successful. There’s a tremendous satisfaction that a faculty member gets out of that position.”

For Sparks, advising, teaching and philanthropy are all about making the world a better place.

“There are some tremendous challenges that we have in the world, but there are also tremendous opportunities,” said Sparks. “It’s very important that we provide funds to support excellent students that get trained and then go out to solve some of these major challenges that we’re facing. We all have great love for this institution and we want to make it better and in order to do that, we need to support it and help it get to the next level.”

About the Delaware First Campaign

Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware was publicly launched on Nov. 10, 2017. The comprehensive engagement and fundraising campaign will unite Blue Hens across the nation to accelerate UD’s mission of cultivating tomorrow’s leaders, creating solutions to grand challenges, inspiring innovations and transforming lives. The united effort will help create an extraordinary student experience at UD and extend its impact on the region and the world.

Article by Nicholas Michael and Nadine Sabater

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

American Society for Horticultural Science honors recent graduate Olivia Kirkpatrick

Recent University of Delaware graduate Olivia Kirkpatrick was named a 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Award Winner by the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS).

Kirkpatrick, who graduated in May with a major in landscape architecture and a minor in horticulture, joined a select group of students from across the country recognized as exceptional undergraduate horticultural students in baccalaureate programs.

Of receiving the award, Kirkpatrick said that it was an incredible honor.

“I had no idea, so I was really surprised and grateful when I found out,” said Kirkpatrick.

During her time at UD, Kirkpatrick had the opportunity to explore many different opportunities from designing UD’s 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit with Jules Bruck, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, to interning with Bruck’s Evolution Landscape Design business to participating in the University Innovation Fellows Program at Stanford University.

American Society for Horticultural Science honors recent graduate Olivia KirkpatrickShe was also nominated for a 2017 Woman of Promise award and was a teaching assistant for the Foundations of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Studio, assisted in planning and creating print media for the UD Landscape Architecture (LA) 2017 Symposium “Breaking Urban,” was involved in high school outreach and programming for the LA program, and served on the executive board for the DeLA Club at the University of Delaware.

“I have loved so much about being an undergrad at UD. The Landscape Architecture program has been such a joy to be a part of—I’ve had so many opportunities that I couldn’t have gotten elsewhere and I am full of gratitude for that every day,” said Kirkpatrick. “Beyond the schoolwork and extracurricular [activities], I’ve just loved being able to spend time on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus, and having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.”

Having studied visual art for seven years at Cab Calloway School of the Arts and knowing that she wanted to continue to explore her passion for art and design, Kirkpatrick said that when she decided to study landscape architecture, it was mainly because it combined the visual design aspect with plant science and horticulture.

“As I continued my studies, though, I realized that it’s much more than that− and that’s part of the reason why I love it. It requires the understanding of a multitude of subjects, and allows for specialization in a wide array of subject areas. Landscape architecture is challenging and engaging; it is collaborative and introspective. I love that it’s a career where your design solutions can have a real impact- creating a more equitable, ecologically sound and beautiful world,” said Kirkpatrick.

Having been taught by many great professors during her time at UD, Kirkpatrick singled out many of the female professors in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in particular for everything they’ve done for her in the past four years.

“As a woman preparing to enter the working world, it has been such an inspiration to see all of the hardworking and passionate women in the Plant and Soil Sciences Department. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from or see the work of Jules Bruck, Anna Wik, Sue Barton, Tara Trammell, Nicole Donofrio, Angelia Seyfferth and Janine Sherrier in some capacity in my four years here, and it’s hard to even express what an inspiration that has been for me,” said Kirkpatrick.

This summer she plans on interning at Viridian Landscape Studio doing post occupancy and case study research and outreach.

She is also looking for a job at a small to medium sized landscape architecture firm, and prefers one with a focus on public works and equitable design.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Monica Moriak

Jake Bowman named 2018 UD Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year

The University of Delaware’s Jake Bowman, a professor and chairperson of the Department of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology, led his first pioneering study abroad program to Tanzania in 2002. Sixteen years and nine programs later, hundreds of students have explored the field of conservation through the lens of the country’s indigenous people and the guidance of Bowman.

This year, Bowman’s efforts have earned him the title of Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year, an accolade bestowed on just one person annually for extraordinary efforts in ensuring students’ global success and learning.

“I try to allow my students to see a different perspective on conservation,” Bowman said. “In the U.S., we have a very sort of top-down approach. In Africa, conservation is looked at from the bottom-up.”

Jake Bowman named 2018 UD Study Abroad Faculty Director of the YearProgram participants strike out on safari, observing everything from elephants to beetles and later journey across tribal lands with the Masai, Iraqw and the Hadza people. There, they collect tubers, observe traditional hunting practices and spend time in settlements learning about livestock management, among other topics.

“Dr. Bowman held class either in the field or at the campsite in interactive, attention-grabbing ways,” wrote one student in their anonymous award nomination. “From having students themselves guide lectures to teaching while an animal was just in front of us, Dr. Bowman managed to make each lesson both incredibly in depth and unbelievably exciting.”

The program also included nightly reflections around the campfire.

“From a cultural perspective, we open students up to understanding that while we may spend years in school learning to do conservation correctly, you also have these people who practice traditional knowledge and it really works great,” said Bowman. “We try to get our students to adopt a different thought process and to focus on the value of respecting others’ views.”

For his students, Bowman served as both a role model and mentor.

“Dr. Bowman utilized native languages to communicate to individuals,” one student wrote in a nomination letter. “Additionally, he was sure to lend a helping hand wherever needed among any community, from setting up tents to providing meals and he encouraged his students to do the same. Dr. Bowman instilled an incredible respect and sense of community among us all. He was fundamental in uniting our very different cultures as one.”

While Bowman begins planning his programs nearly two years in advance, he and his partners at the Dorobo Safari Company are required to be nimble at all times.

“There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, even when we are in country,” he said. “We have to make changes on a daily basis to our schedule. For example, this year we had an extreme rain and an entire road washed away. We thought about how this might affect us and adapted. We always want our students to walk away having had a positive experience.”

Bowman’s study abroad experience is not limited to Tanzania.  He has also directed and co-directed programs in Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Cambodia, Peru and Vietnam.

For students on the Tanzania ENWC program, the learning process also begins long before take off and includes several orientation sessions, covering packing tips, health and safety sessions, teambuilding and more.

“I had the pleasure of serving as Jake’s program coordinator for many years and can attest to his organizational skills, proactive approach to problem solving and high degree of expertise and professionalism,” said Lisa Chieffo, associate director for study abroad. “His programs are designed to maximize students’ learning and wellbeing, and the comments of his participants unmistakably reflect this philosophy. We at IGS are so pleased that Jake is part of the UD study abroad family.”

UD faculty are encouraged to consider leading a Summer Session study abroad program and should consult with their department chair and Lisa Chieffo prior to submitting a proposal by July 1.

UD students interested in studying abroad during Winter or Spring 2019 are encouraged to visit the Institute for Global Studies website and apply by Sept. 20. Follow along @UDGlobal on Instagram, Twitter, the UDAbroad Blog and by using the hashtag #UDAbroad to see moments from UD’s 100+ travel study programs.

About the Institute for Global Studies

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

Best known for coordinating the University’s study abroad program, IGS also awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for several global opportunities, and administers internationally-recognized State Department-sponsored programs such as the UD Fulbright Initiative, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Institute, Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders, and most recently the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders on Women’s Leadership (SUSI-WL) program.

IGS is the home of the UD Alternative Breaks Program and sponsors such signature events as Global Month each fall and Fulbright Lecture Series each spring.

IGS collaborates with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies. In addition, IGS partners with Enrollment Management to coordinate the UD World Scholars Program

Article by Nikki Laws

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Felix Francis receives Interdisciplinary Research Prize at doctoral hooding ceremony

Five graduating doctoral students received prizes at the University of Delaware’s doctoral hooding ceremony, held Friday, May 25, for their dissertations. The culmination of long hours of research, meticulous documentation and analysis, these scholarly works present students’ original findings to a field of study, and to the world.

Honorees and their awards are Alexander Ames, Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in Humanities; Kamilah Williams, George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences; Axel Moore, Allan P. Colburn Prize in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences; Christopher Long, Theodore Wolf Prize in Physical and Life Sciences; and Felix Francis, Interdisciplinary Research Prize.

Francis was awarded the Interdisciplinary Research Prize for his dissertation, Characterization of Genomic Diversity at a Quantitative Disease Resistance Locus in Maize using Improved Bioinformatic Tools for Targeted Resequencing.

Felix Francis receives Interdisciplinary research prize at doctoral hooding ceremonyHis dissertation shines a light on the specific genes associated with disease resistance in corn (maize), a staple crop in agriculture, but it is the tools he developed to reproduce accurate DNA sequence data for specific segments of large and complex genomes that will have a long-lasting impact on his field. These tools include novel bioinformatics and statistical methods that advance plant genomic data analysis and will enable genomics researchers and practitioners to address important biological questions related to human health, agricultural breeding, infectious disease management, biodiversity conservation and more.

J. Antoni Rafalski, a biotechnology consultant and former senior research assistant at DuPont, called Francis’ work “an excellent example of interdisciplinary research” that will be “an example to follow for future students of biology, which is increasingly becoming intertwined with advanced computer science.”

Cathy H. Wu, Unidel Edward G. Jefferson Chair in Engineering and Computer Science and founding director of UD’s new Data Science Institute, agreed.

“The bioinformatics algorithms, software tools and benchmarking data sets he has developed will have broad impact to the genomic scientific community, allowing researchers to address many important biological questions,” Wu wrote.

According to his adviser and dissertation chair, Randall J. Wisser, the bioinformatics algorithms and software Francis developed to precisely isolate targeted DNA already are having an impact on researchers and practitioners across the country.

“This tool is useful for a range of applications in genetics and genomics, and a number of researchers outside of UD (across the U.S.) have already begun adopting it,” wrote Wisser, an associate professor in plant and soil sciences.

Article by Karen Roberts

Photo by David Barczak, Wenbo Fan and Jessica Eastburn

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

Tom Evans honored by American Phytopathological Society

The University of Delaware’s Thomas A. (Tom) Evans has been made a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS).  Since 1965, just 547 of the society’s 5,000 plus members have achieved Fellow status, no more than 0.2 percent in any year.

Evans will be recognized at a reception on July 30 during the 50th anniversary meeting of the International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP2018) hosted by APS in Boston, Massachusetts.

UD has the distinction of being the first academic institution in the U.S. (and perhaps the world) to establish a professorship in plant pathology.  Frederick D. Chester was appointed to the position in 1888, concurrent with the establishment of the Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station.

Tom Evans honored by American Phytopathological SocietyThe Department of Plant Pathology, which began in that year, continued until 1967 when the departments of plant pathology, agronomy and horticulture in the then College of Agriculture were merged into the Department of Plant Science, now the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

There have been 25 professors of plant pathology in the 130 years since the founding of department. John Huberger, who was department chair from 1947 to 1967, is the only other plant pathologist at UD to be honored by APS as a Fellow.

To be elected an APS Fellow, a nominee must make outstanding contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching and professional or public service.  APS Fellows are selected for exceptional accomplishments that have advanced the science of plant health through publications, teaching and public outreach and service.

Evans has been doing all of that for three decades at UD. As professor of plant pathology, he has established himself as a leader in the area of plant health and food security on local, national and international levels.

He has maintained robust research programs in support of Delaware’s vegetable processing industry and established international research projects in Ecuador, Morocco, Egypt, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.  In 2010, Evans received President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award from the Bureau for Food Security for his thousands of hours of service to the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Feed the Future Program.

Evans has published over 81 peer-reviewed papers, numerous extension publications and proceedings and has delivered numerous invited presentations and workshops both in the U.S. and abroad.

For the past 20 years, supported by a number of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) competitive grants, Evans’ research group has worked on the etiology and management of downy mildew of lima bean, the cornerstone of the Delaware vegetable processing industry.

Evans’ findings have led to a better understanding of the race structure of the causal agent, Phytophthora phaseoli, and the nature of resistance in lima bean to this important pathogen.  This work, along with the development of a new on-line Risk Management Tool for Lima Bean, has saved millions of dollars for the industry over that period.

Evans also played a pivotal role as a scientific advisor to the first National Summit on Rose Rosette Disease held in Newark, Delaware in 2013 leading to the funding of another multistate USDA-NIFA SCRI grant proposal in 2014.

Evans maintains the east coast screening facility for the development of resistance to the most important disease of cultivated rose.  Evans has secured research grants in excess of $6 million over his career and has advised 16 M.S. and Ph.D. students, served on 25 additional graduate committees and advised dozens of undergraduate students.

Over his 32 years at UD he has taught six courses to over 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students both on campus and on study abroad.  These courses include Introductory Botany (5x), People and Plants: Feast or Famine (25x), Vegetable Science (6x), Plants of Ecuador and the Galapagos (7x), Introductory Plant Pathology (15x), Diagnostic Plant Pathology (8x), Plant Virology (10x) and Current Concepts in Plant Health (25x).

He consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations with comments noting his passion and knowledge of the subject and his ability to explain concepts in simple terms.  Evans served APS’s teaching committee for 10 years, serving as chair in 2000.  In 1990, Evans was part of a team that developed the first multimedia platform for teaching plant pathology entitled A Plant Disease Video Disk Resource, which included 20,000 images of plant diseases and pathogens, a searchable database and an image glossary.  Evans was an early leader in plant pathology outreach to K-12 classrooms and for five years led a group of plant pathologists providing workshops to science teachers throughout Delaware.   Evans developed and led one of the first study abroad programs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and led 10 programs to Ecuador and the Galapagos serving more than 200 students.

Evans has been a member of APS since 1982 serving as the vice-president, president and councilor of the Potomac Division of APS and was awarded their Distinguished Service Award in 2006.  He served APS as a member of the Office of International Programs and chair of the Library Support program for seven years.  He served as an associate editor of the Journal of Plant Disease, senior editor of the APS Education Center and currently serves on the editorial boards of the Mediterranean Journal of Phytopathology and Italian Journal of Mycology.  In 2015, he was elected to membership of the Accademia dei Fisiocritici at the University of Siena, Italy, one of the oldest scientific societies in world with members that include Carl Linnaeus and Louis Pasteur. Evans served the International Society of Plant Pathology  as treasurer from 2008-2013 and is serving as vice-president from 2013-2018.  He is the organizing chair of the ICPP2018 in Boston this summer.

Photo by Kathy Atkinson

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UD doctoral student co-authors guide on Mexico’s Mangrove forests

Mangrove forests cover just 0.1 percent of the earth’s surface and yet they are seventy percent more productive than most terrestrial ecosystems.

In Mexico, specifically, mangroves cover 775,555 hectres. Their ability to offer ecosystem services such as sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide into “blue carbon”—carbon stored in coastal ecosystems—working as nurseries for many commercial species of fish and preventing flooding and erosion events in coastal areas make them an invaluable environmental resource.

However, when it comes to uniformly studying mangrove forests, they present multiple challenges to researchers looking to coordinate their efforts at local, regional, national and international scales.

Alma and Rodrigo Vargas discussing mangrove forestsMangroves have a high rate of structural variability—meaning that it is possible to find one mangrove growing taller than 30 meters in one location and find the same species of mangrove growing less than one meter in height in a different location, mainly as consequence of different environmental conditions.

Because of this, the University of Delaware’s Alma Vazquez-Lule, in collaboration with researchers from academic, governmental and non-profit institutions, put together a guide to standardize the methods to monitor mangroves in Mexico at different scales, with the idea to generate data available for regional, national and international mangrove synthesis studies.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) collaborated with four Mexican institutions including the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), Mexican Forest Service (CONAFOR), ProNatura and the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN).CONABIOin Mexico was the main institution that coordinated the effort for the guide.

“The guide includes different laboratory and fieldwork methods to characterize the forest structure of mangroves and to identify environmental variables that can help to explain and understand the high structural diversity of this ecosystem in Mexico,” said Vazquez-Lule, a doctoral student studying with Rodrigo Vargas, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The guide is geared towards everyone from mangroves experts, to students, technicians and stakeholders to identify the minimum requirements for mangrove monitoring projects.

“Because this guide is in Spanish, it also can be used for other Spanish speaking countries with mangroves in the rest of the Americas,” said Vazquez-Lule, which is important because Mangroves are distributed in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world, between the 30° N and 40° S latitudes that include many Spanish speaking countries.

Alma Vazquez-Lule and Rodrigo Vargas pose with book about Mangrove forests in MexicoThe guide is divided into 8 chapters with each chapter following an order considering the implementation of a mangroves characterization project or mangrove monitoring project.

In addition to writing the introduction, Vazquez-Lule also co-authored chapter 8 with Vargas which focuses on potential studies of synthesis in the mangroves of Mexico with the idea to explain the mangroves ecological processes at different spatial scales.

“The chapter was done to direct actions for a better understanding of mangroves ecosystem processes in Mexico through the synthesis and integration of mangrove data collected at different scales,” said Vazquez-Lule.

Vargas said that he was thrilled to have Vazquez-Lule co-author such a high-profile guide that could have international implications.

“I think that’s extremely important to recognize that she is a collaborator for the leadership of this guide and I think it’s important for the need for standardization because not every mangrove forest is the same and the techniques that can be applied in one country may not be relevant for the specific characteristics of the mangroves of a different country. That is why it’s important to have these efforts and document them, to improve the inventories for educational purposes, technical accuracy, replicability, reproducibility, standardization and harmonization,” said Vargas.

Blue carbon has been a priority for Vargas’ lab as he received a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award to study blue carbon at the St. Jones Reserve in Delaware.

Vargas is also involved in a NASA project that stresses the importance of sharing data across institutions, countries and agencies to map carbon dynamics throughout Mexico.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Monica Moriak

Laura K. Donohue named the Emalea Pusey Warner 2018 Award recipient

Graduating students, distinguished alumni honored

The University of Delaware Alumni Association (UDAA) recently announced some of its most prestigious awards to honor UD graduating seniors and alumni: the 2018 recipients of the Emalea Pusey Warner and Alexander J. Taylor Sr. Outstanding Senior Awards, the Outstanding Alumni Awards and the Alumni Wall of Fame Awards.

Warner and Taylor Awards for Outstanding Seniors

The Emalea Pusey Warner and Alexander J. Taylor Sr. Awards annually celebrate an outstanding woman and man, respectively, of the senior class. Recipients must demonstrate leadership, academic success and community service. Students must also have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better at the end of the first semester of his/her senior year.

Laura K. Donahue and Zachary A. Sexton have been named recipients of this year's UDAA Warner and Taylor Awards, recognizing the outstanding woman and man of the senior class.The Emalea Pusey Warner 2018 Award recipient Laura K. Donohue graduates in May with an honors bachelor’s degree with distinction in preveterinary and animal biosciences. She is a member of the varsity rowing team and the president and executive officer of the UD Outing Club.

While at UD, Donohue worked closely with faculty in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to study the avian respiratory microbiome. Over the last four years, she worked on farms in northern Iceland and Denmark, as well as with the Lasher Laboratory in Georgetown, Delaware, the Pennsauken Animal Hospital in New Jersey and a small animal clinic in Costa Rica. This fall she will attend Cornell Veterinary School.

Top read more about the Taylor Award winner and the outstanding Alumni Award winners, check out the full article on UDaily.

Article by Nicholas Michael

Photo by Kathy Atkinson

Isaacs, Murphy, Simmons recognized for service to people of Delaware

The Ratledge Family Award for Delaware Public Service has been presented to three members of the University of Delaware community – Mark Isaacs, Carrie Murphy, and Diana Simmons – for their contributions to the well-being of the people of the state of Delaware.

The recipients were honored during a ceremony April 26 at the Courtyard Newark at the University of Delaware.

Mark Isaacs

Mark Isaacs, director of the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, Delaware, was recognized for his work with Delaware farmers and on agricultural research and legislation.

Isaacs has spent his career of 32 years at the University, working primarily in Georgetown on agricultural projects. He has worked directly with farmers on developing management practices for nutrient management in crops; coordinated research and extension projects from the research station; and worked closely with local and state leaders, serving on legislative and governor-appointed task force groups and committees, including Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware Farm Bureau, commodity boards, two boards of education and numerous advisory councils.

Recipients of the 2018 Ratledge Family Awards for Delaware Public Service are (from left) Diana Simmons, Mark Isaacs and Carrie MurphyPrior recognition of his work has included the John Warren Excellence in Leadership and Service Award and both the Sussex County and State of Delaware Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Agriculture Awards.

Isaacs has served as a student adviser/mentor and coach of numerous sport teams over the last 30 years and works closely with students on internship opportunities to expand work-based learning experiences enhancing their professional development while preparing them for careers in agriculture. During “field season,” Isaacs continues doing what he loves best —working with farmers on addressing crop production issues related to pest, nutrient and irrigation management.

He was recognized at the Ratledge Family Award ceremony by Cory Whaley, extension agent at the Carvel Research and Education Center.

Carrie Murphy

Carrie Murphy, extension educator in horticulture, Master Gardener coordinator and program leader for the Lawn and Garden Program for the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, has been at the University since 2004. She works together with extension educators and specialists to coordinate the Delaware Master Gardener program and the Delaware Cooperative Extension’s home and commercial horticulture programming and services.

Murphy also serves as co-chair for the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition, whose mission is to support community-oriented urban agricultural projects that expand healthy food access in northern Delaware and bring together resources and technical assistance through a collaborative approach to urban farming.

She takes special interest in supporting sustainable landscapes, vegetable gardening, organic production, backyard composting, school and community gardens, and local foods.

At the ceremony, Murphy was recognized by Jennifer Volk, associate director of Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Diana Simmons

Diana Simmons, an administrative assistant IV in the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA), plays an important role in supporting the school’s faculty, staff and students. She has worked in SPPA for 15 years and previously worked in the Honors Program and the American Philosophical Association at the University of Delaware. In total, she has been at the University for nearly 31 years.

Simmons is an important point of contact and support for SPPA students, and she says that working with students over the years has been the highlight of her career.

Beyond UD, Simmons currently serves as vice president on the board of directors for the Newark Arts Alliance (NAA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing community through the arts. She is also the coordinator of the NAA Art-to-Go program, which works to bring artistic opportunities to children, seniors and persons with disabilities in Newark and the surrounding area — with special attention given to children in underserved populations.

Additionally, Simmons supports the Code Purple initiative in Newark by volunteering at several temporary shelter sites when temperatures drop to 20 degrees or below. Code Purple sites provide safe, warm, overnight housing and hot meals to individuals and families who are homeless. Her outreach efforts include coordinating a supply drive each winter to collect items of need for the homeless residents of Newark and the surrounding community.

Simmons was recognized by Maria Aristigueta, director of the School of Public Policy and Administration.

At the April 26 ceremony, David Wilson, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, presented welcoming remarks, and Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, closed the program. Dan Rich, director of the Community Engagement Initiative and University Professor of Public Policy, presented a talk on community engagement at the University.

About the Ratledge Family Award

The Ratledge family, Delawareans who can trace their roots back to the 1700s, established the award to encourage and recognize significant public service contributions with an award of $1,000 to recipients.

Recipients of the award must be members of the UD community. Faculty, staff and students are eligible.

Preference is given to members of the School of Public Policy and Administration and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The award is presented to those who exemplify excellence in public service to citizens in the state, and those contributions are defined to include both paid and volunteer work.

Article by Crystal Nielsen

Photo by Ryan Halbe

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Joshua Duke, Kyle McCarthy honored with Excellence in Teaching Awards

Eight members of the University of Delaware faculty have been recognized for outstanding work in teaching and advising, and four graduate teaching assistants have received awards for excellence in teaching. In addition, this year the new Mid-Career Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award was presented to two faculty members.

Excellence in Teaching award winners: Joshua Duke-CANR (seated), McKay Jenkins-CAS (black sweater), Lisa McBeth-CHS (only female) and Kyle McCarthy-CANR (purple shirt)The honors were announced at the May 7 Faculty Senate meeting. Selected by the Senate’s Committee on Student and Faculty Honors, the teaching and advising awards are based primarily on nominations from current and past students. Nominations for the Mid-Career Faculty Award are solicited from members of the faculty.

Excellence in Teaching awardees each receive $5,000, have their portraits hung in Morris Library for five years and have bricks inscribed with their names installed in Mentors’ Circle between Hullihen Hall and the Morris Library.

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

  • Joshua Duke, professor of applied economics and statistics, legal studies and marine science and policy;
  • McKay Jenkins, Cornelius A. Tilghman Professor of English;
  • Lisa McBeth, senior instructor in the School of Nursing; and
  • Kyle McCarthy, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology.

Of the Excellence in Teaching Award, Duke said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the excellent students at UD. I enjoy helping students learn course content and improve their problem-solving skills, while also learning from them during our class discussions.  I am fortunate to teach environmental classes at a time when technological innovation and environmental policy are rapidly evolving.  I try to help students understand that economic analysis offers a surprisingly simple and powerful way to process the world’s environmental problems, though it often speaks against the conventional wisdom that those problems are too complex and insurmountable to solve without unacceptable sacrifice.”

McCarthy said, “Our students are the lifeblood of this University, and we are fortunate that they are willing to trust us with their education. To fulfill that trust, and to be awarded for doing it well, is both humbling and elating. I will never cease to be passionate about conservation of the natural world, upon which we place both the dreams and demands of humanity. To be able to share that passion with the next generation of decision makers is something I will never take for granted.”

To read about the rest of the winners from across the University, check out the article on UDaily.

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Evan Krape

Doug Tallamy receives American Horticultural Society award

Douglas W. Tallamy, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology and of biological sciences, has been named the 2018 recipient of the American Horticultural Society’s B.Y. Morrison Award, which is given to an individual who advances public interest and participation in horticulture through effective and inspirational communication.

Doug Tallamy ReceivesAmerican Horticultural Society’s B.Y. Morrison AwardTallamy is the author of the 2009 book Bringing Nature Home, which has had widespread influence on the native plants movement in home gardening. The award will be presented June 21 during the Great American Gardeners Award Ceremony and Banquet at the society’s River Farm headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources gears up for annual Ag Day event

On Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the University of Delaware will host its annual Ag Day event at Townsend Hall on the UD’s south campus.

A student-run community event celebrating its 43-year anniversary, Ag Day will have community and collegiate organizations on hand to show off agriculture and natural resources, as well as educate the public through numerous demonstrations, events, food and attractions.

Several clubs such as UD’s Food Science Club, Animal Science Club and Entomology Club will be present.

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources gears up for annual eventAg Day—which has a 2018 theme of “Global Explorers”—will also have children’s games and activities, a livestock display with UD farm animals, musical entertainment, hayrides and much more.

This year, Ag Day will offer a new plant sale hosted by UD Fresh to You, a garden managed at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) that focuses on growing organic produce as a tool to help educate students interested in local and sustainable growth.

The UD Fresh to You program, which is managed by Mike Popovich, farm manager, is a fresh market vegetable program that offers internship opportunities to those studying plant science, soil science, agriculture and natural resources, food science and other related fields.

The program, which was started in 2013, gives interns the opportunity to grow vegetables year-round, thanks in part to two season extending high tunnels, and learn about production.

“It’s a learning environment. Interns can come and learn small scale vegetable production so that they can go off and do it on their own,” said Popovich.

This past January, the UD Fresh to You program was certified organic. After a three-year process to get certified, the organic farm now offers more teaching opportunities for students and allows them to learn more about organic production on a small scale.

In addition to learning the ins and outs of organic production, the work opportunities are greater now that they are certified organic.

“There is definitely more labor involved with the organic system. Not to take away from conventional farming in any way, but a lot of the tools that production method employs are not available to us,” said Popovich.

The increased labor helps Popovich reinforce the strong work ethic he feels is necessary to be successful whether farming two or 2,000 acres.

At the sale, visitors will be able to buy organic and heirloom plants as well as support the numerous students that benefit from the program.

The inaugural UD Fresh to You sale, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be in addition to the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) annual spring plant sale.

The UDBG sale will take place for the general public on Friday, April 27 from 3-7 p.m. and on Ag Day from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional shopping days will be Thursday, May 3 from 3-7 p.m. and Saturday, May 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friends of UDBG will enjoy an exclusive day to shop on Thursday, April 26 from 3-7 p.m

For more information on Ag Day, visit the event website.

Article by Julia Damiano

Photo by Wenbo Fan

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UDairy Creamery partners with Wilmington Blue Rocks to serve ice cream at games

When the Wilmington Blue Rocks kicked off their 2018 season on Thursday, April 12, those in attendance were able to treat themselves to delicious UDairy Creamery ice cream, as the creamery has partnered with the Blue Rocks to be the official ice cream of the baseball team for the next two years.

Melinda Shaw, director of creamery operations, said that the partnership will be a great learning opportunity for the students involved, specifically the Associate in Arts students, University of Delaware students who take UD courses taught by UD faculty in small classes on Delaware Technical and Community College campuses throughout the state.

The Associates in Arts students who staff the Creamery Market will get the opportunity to create the ice cream for the games in house at the market and also get a different business and management experience than they would otherwise be afforded.

UDairy Creamery partners with Wilmington Blue Rocks to serve ice cream at games“They are offered the opportunity to go into the stadium and manage the ice cream part of the stands. If they are into entrepreneurship or business management, they’ll see a different side of a huge operation,” said Shaw. “It’s very hands on and they’ll actually train other people to help scoop ice cream, maybe make milkshakes, so it’s some supervisory skills that they’ll learn too.”

Ronald Krischbaum, a freshman UD student in the Associate in Arts program who works at the Creamery Market, said that he has grown up going to Blue Rocks games and is excited to have the opportunity to work at one.

“It’s a new environment, the whole sports area and everything,” said Krischbaum. “I know snacks and ice cream are big things when I go to sporting events and so it’ll be nice to meet more people in that environment and be a part of the game.”

The job at the Creamery is Krischbaum’s first and he said that he has been learning great customer service skills which he hopes to bring to the Blue Rocks games.

He also said that working at the Creamery Market and being a part of the Associate in Arts program has helped him meet new people and feel more connected to the University.

“Before starting school, I knew maybe two kids at UD but working here got me connected to people in the program which helped me out with my classes and everything,” said Krischbaum.

Olivia O’Neal, a sophomore who will soon graduate from the Associate in Arts program and transition to the main UD campus in Newark, has worked at the Creamery Market since it opened in May, 2017 and said that it has been a great experience.

“Everyone is really nice,” said O’Neal. “We kind of created a little family so there’s always a good vibe and feeling when you come in because everyone is so together.”

Like Krischbaum, working at the Creamery Market is O’Neal’s first job and she said that she has learned beneficial customer service skills as well as the art of making ice cream and getting used to the world of work in general.

“Doing the production is really interesting,” O’Neal said. “Everyone was nervous when we started, like ‘Oh, gosh, how are we going to make ice cream?’ but it’s definitely a fun part of the job. A lot of us didn’t have a first job before this so it has been a good step into the working world.”

In addition to serving traditional UDairy Creamery flavors of ice cream at the stadium, a signature Blue Rocks flavor will also be developed, with the Associate in Arts students who work at the UDairy Creamery Market in Wilmington coming up with three flavor ideas for the general public to vote on and choose from.

Shaw said that she is excited for the new partnership to serve as a way for the University to reach out to the Wilmington community. The creamery is located at 815 N. Market Street.

“To be a part of something so fun in Wilmington is very special,” Shaw said. “I think that the more joy we can bring to Wilmington residents at those games with ice cream, the better. The fact that we get our students involved in the management process is a great opportunity for them to learn.”

LeeAnne Ahamad, UDairy Creamery Market Manager, said that she is excited for the students to do the bulk production, producing the creamery’s ice cream in a larger capacity, and also have the chance to work at the stadium.

“Going down to the Blue Rock stadium with the ice cream is a new experience for them and being able to bring light to the Associate in Arts program and be engaged with the community even more than they already are is an incredible opportunity,” said Ahamad.

In addition to the forthcoming Blue Rocks signature flavor that will be served in the stadium, there will also be crowd pleasing favorites such as vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, and cookies and cream. Strawberry pints will be available for sale as well.

The creamery will also continue its ‘K-Man’ contest where a row in the stadium is selected and anytime a certain player on the other team strikes out, that row gets a coupon to the Creamery Market.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

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UD’s Rodrigo Vargas works with NASA to map carbon dynamics across Mexico

The University of Delaware’s Rodrigo Vargas is partnering with NASA and an international team of collaborators to understand carbon dynamics in soils and diverse landscapes in Mexico. Using one of the agency’s high-performance computers, the group will study massive amounts of datasets to document carbon dynamics across the country.

Vargas, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is leading the three- year, $800,000 project. Vargas’ work is a continuation of a previous project that led to over 20 peer-reviewed publications and published datasets.

This new project aims to improve national carbon monitoring efforts and provide support for implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus improving forest management, carbon stock enhancement and conservation (REDD+).

UD’s Rodrigo Vargas works with NASA to map carbon dynamics across MexicoCo-Investigator Sangram Ganguly, senior research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, has developed a machine learning approach implemented in the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) high performance computing (HPC) framework to detect forest cover change across the United States.

Now, the researchers are interested to see if this approach using high resolution aerial imagery can be applied to Mexico, which has a more heterogeneous landscape.

“Mexico is a great test bed for NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) products because it provides a heterogeneous landscape for testing,” Vargas said. “That’s extremely important because in a short distance, you can have very sharp changes in climate and the land surface from deserts, tropical forests, all the way to tundra so this landscape heterogeneity makes a challenge for monitoring applications.”

Vargas said the motivation behind the project is to allow NASA to develop and improve capabilities to support stakeholders — such as the U.S. Forest Service, the National Forestry Commission of Mexico and the North American Carbon Program — to improve monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon stocks and fluxes across North America.

“This is about big data processing for training algorithms,” Vargas said. “This is about using the wealth of information to increase our capabilities for carbon monitoring systems. We want to generate a framework using different variables and then, through collaboration with stakeholders, improve national carbon monitoring.”

The researchers are collecting datasets from Mexico to create harmonized information that will allow them to study terrestrial carbon dynamics from local to regional levels. This will be important to test and improve the applicability of NASA CMS products elsewhere other than the United States.

“The data that is available in the United States is unique but Mexico is a country that has developed a lot of important and useful datasets that can now be used to test the U.S. derived technologies,” Vargas said. “Also because of the proximity of Mexico to the United States, some information of Mexico is covered by satellites of the United States because of the shared border. So many of the products that are designed for the U.S. can be independently tested in Mexico.”

By using remote sensing and ground information coupled with a HPC framework, the researchers are hoping to not only increase the knowledge in carbon cycle science but also reduce the costs associated with national-scale carbon monitoring.

“One step is to extract information and knowledge from remote sensing products, airborne platforms and intensive carbon monitoring sites to provide multi-scale benefits and knowledge on carbon cycle science,” Vargas said. “If you go and assign an inventory and say ‘I’m going to measure all the trees around the country,’ it could be very accurate but it’s super expensive. If you use a remote sensing approach, just by itself, it’s cheap but we need to test how accurate it could be.”

By extracting knowledge from intensive ground-based inventories of carbon stocks and fluxes to inform different approaches, the researchers are hoping to identify uncertainties to provide confidence in remote sensing products.

“What we’re trying to do in Mexico, is we have a lot of information for the inventories but also we have a lot of information from remote sensing. We want to put them together so we can maximize the efforts,” said Vargas.

The group will take advantage of available databases from Mexico and the United States on soil carbon and models of carbon fluxes across the countries which allows them to propose a methodology for forest classifications with regards to forest cover change assessments and an estimation of carbon related variables.

“We’re implementing techniques for land surface classification developed within the United States using HPC to test them to see how they perform in complex, heterogeneous landscapes in Mexico using new data sets,” Vargas said. “This is important to test but also to generate knowledge and inform stakeholders in Mexico to ultimately close the regional carbon balance across North America.”

Once the researchers provide a framework and their calculations, the outputs can be tested on the ground in collaborations with Mexican scientists for ground truth validation at intensive carbon monitoring sites.

“This builds on the goal of NASA CMS to build these prototypes to support monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon stocks and fluxes at different spatial and temporal scales,” said Vargas. “It brings the opportunity for UD to build international collaborations and build international reputation and it’s important for closing the regional carbon budget of North America.”

Vargas said that the project lines up nicely with UD’s new data science initiative and he has also been collaborating with researchers from multiple institutions to look at ecological data to help improve near-term ecological forecasting.

UD professor collaborates on publication focused on the importance of near-term ecological forecasting

We rely on accurate weather forecasting every day to help us determine what to wear or how to prepare for impending storms. Weather forecasting has become such a part of our lives and so common place that knowing the current weather conditions is only a click away for most of us on our phones.

Researchers from 23 institutions, including the University of Delaware, are teaming up to see if the same can be made true of near-term ecological forecasting—forecasts that will allow researchers to map out plans for future environmental management, conservation and sustainability.

Near-term ecological forecasting plans would cover everything from seasonal wildfires across the globe to weekly national influenza estimates to daily algal blooms for specific regions, according to the researchers. They recently published their call for a decade of ecological forecasting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

UD professor collaborates on publication focused on the importance of near-term ecological forecastingRodrigo Vargas, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is a co-author of the paper, which was led by Michael Dietze, associate professor at Boston University, and included colleagues from universities, private research institutes, and the U. S. Geological Survey.

“Forecasting science has been developed for weather forecasting, which is surprisingly accurate, but in other disciplines, we are behind,” Vargas said. “So why is it not possible to increase forecasting in other areas of science, especially, in this case, ecological forecasting?”

The two main questions that drive the study are how the ecosystems and the services they provide are going to change in the future and how human decisions affect those trajectories.

“The challenge with ecological systems is you not only have the weather and the climate, you have soils, plants and animals, along with people who ultimately need to make decisions,” Vargas said. “Our decisions as a society are going to be combined with the environment to influence the trajectory of these ecosystems.”

Another problem is that most of the ecological forecasts that exist today are concerned with long-term trends, what’s going to happen 100 years from now, rather than near-term trends, such as what will happen tomorrow, within weeks or months.

“Environmental decision making requires that information,” Vargas said. “For example, if you’re the Delaware Department of Transportation, and you know that there’s going to be a snow storm tomorrow, you’re going to make management decisions that are either going to save you a lot of money or cost you a lot of money. Imagine if we can also have near-term forecasting information for ecological purposes because the same thing could be done for environmental management.”

Interoperability

With the amount of ecological data that is now able to be stored and accessed by scientists and other agencies, Vargas said that researchers can start applying different computational informatics and statistical methods to improve forecast specific theories.

There is also a need to coordinate and share technology, data, protocols and experiences through increasing interoperability which can be seen as a coordinated effort to maximize collaboration to produce knowledge and apply the knowledge gained, but there are several barriers for the scientific community to overcome.

Not only do the scientists need to coordinate what they are measuring and if they are measuring the right thing, they also have to discuss how to design a monitoring network and evaluate if they are all storing the information in the same way using similar instruments.

There are also organizational barriers, such as what agency or organization is going to measure and gather particular pieces of data, as well as cultural differences between social scientists and data scientists.

“For interoperability, it is about how can we work together and closely as human beings with our strengths and weaknesses to increase knowledge,” Vargas said.

The researchers also point to the need for near real-time data that shows up quickly in databases or data portals after being collected, in order to properly improve near-term ecological forecasting.

“Data accessibility has been improved for weather forecasting and meteorological stations,” Vargas said. “In the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS) there is a minimum delay for data to be accessible in their website. But for the diverse array of ecological forecasting, that issue of data availability and accessibility is big because we’re not there yet.”

The data collected would be made as publicly available as possible and secured for long-term storage.

Next Steps

Moving forward, the researchers said that they would like to focus on three key topics: training, institutions and culture.

“It is important to train the next generation of ecological forecasters because this new generation will require skills that are currently not taught at most institutions,” Vargas said. “Forecasting can benefit towards researchers being trained in statistics, best practices of data, coding and informatics. I think the timing is interesting for UD where the Data Science initiative can catalyze new collaborations, visions and educational programs and open the opportunity for students to acquire skills that currently might not be there.”

Cross institutional fellowship programs where students can benefit from networking opportunities and interdisciplinary training programs will also play key roles in improving ecological forecasting.

“Ecological forecasters are not going to be just ecologists, are not just going to be data scientists, are not just going to be computer scientists or statisticians, it will require a combination of different skills,” Vargas said. “.The paper also calls for short courses maybe over one to two week periods to obtain specific skills.”

As for when the best time to start with this process of ecological forecasting, the researchers said that the time to start is now.

“We should start learning by doing,” Vargas said. “We will be making mistakes now but with that, we will be learning on the fly and that’s really how weather forecasting worked.”

Paper Roots

Though the paper was published this year, the process of thinking began back in 2015 when a diverse group of researchers gathered at the University of Delaware as part of the Building Global Ecological Understanding workshop to discuss ecological grand challenges including those associated with near-term ecological forecasting.

Those challenges were later the focus of the Operationalizing Ecological Forecasts workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado, which ultimately led to the publication of the paper.

The Building Global Ecological Understanding workshop held at UD was organized by Vargas and the Operationalizing Ecological Forecasts workshop was organized by Dietze.

The Building Global Ecological Understanding workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation.

The Operationalizing Ecological Forecasts workshop was hosted by the United States Geological Survey and funded by the National Ecological Observatory Network.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers investigate population of black ducks in coastal North Carolina

For one of the first times at a large scale, University of Delaware researchers are studying breeding black duck populations in coastal North Carolina to determine nesting site preference and hatching success. This will better inform conservation practices in the area.

The researchers are also looking at the implications of sea level rise that directly correlate with the salt marsh, which is where the black ducks mostly nest.

The research is being led at UD by Chris Williams, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Daniel Lawson, a master’s level student in Williams’ lab. Funding was provided by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC).

The population of black ducks has been declining since 1955 and is now just starting to stabilize. Williams attributed this stabilization in part to the formation of government funded joint ventures that brought people together across state boundaries to help with conservation goals.

UD researchers investigate population of black ducks in coastal North CarolinaOne of those joint ventures was the Black Duck Joint Venture, which was created in the 1980s when a nationwide management plan for all waterfowl species was established.

“We’ve been doing a great deal of research on mid-Atlantic wintering black ducks ecology for the last decade,” Williams said. “However, there is a new focus by the federal government to better research limitations to their breeding ecology. While the majority of black ducks nest up north in places like Quebec in forested wetlands, there is also a smaller population that breeds along the Mid-Atlantic coast.”

North Carolina is the southernmost extent of the black duck’s breeding area.

“In recent years, North Carolina started breeding season helicopter surveys to quantify how many black ducks stayed in the area to nest,” Williams said. “But they had no idea the microhabitat choices by these birds to nest and they didn’t know how successful they were.”

Nest searches

Lawson said that the researchers travelled to North Carolina from March through the end of June last year and conducted nest searches.

“Within the Carolina brackish marshes, there are areas of slightly higher ground close to the marsh perimeter,” Lawson said. “It is here where the marsh borders the back bays, that we’ve found a little over half the nests. The other half we found on dredge spoil islands within the Pamlico and Roanoke Sounds.”

In order to find the nests, they would drag a rope with cans attached to it across the top of the vegetation they were searching.

“We were literally dragging thousands of acres of marsh and when we got close enough, the hen would pop up off the nest,” said Lawson. “Once we found the nests, we would monitor them. Part of the monitoring included trail cameras, which we wanted to have on some of the nests to solidify what caused the nest successes or failures.”

Along with trail cameras, one of the other monitoring practices the researchers employed was to look at the incubation stage every week to see how the eggs were progressing, counting how many eggs were in a clutch and taking other metrics like egg length and width.

“We would follow the nests until they either hatched, were abandoned, or were destroyed whether it be from flooding or depredation from a predator,” said Lawson.

In addition, they also took vegetation metrics that will be used to build a habitat selection model.

Once a nest was terminated, they would take vegetation height and vegetation density to try and get an idea of where the black ducks were selecting to nest.

The main factors that led to unsuccessful nests were predators and flooding.

“One flooding event wiped out six of our seven nests that we had at the time. So that was obviously a factor and we caught it on camera,” said Lawson. “Another nest predator that we never would have suspected is the bald eagle. We caught it actually depredating a nest along with raccoons, which we kind of expected.”

They also employed a drone to try and help with the population estimates but Lawson said because the area was so large and the ducks were so hard to spot with the drone—which used heat signatures to look for the birds—that it was not as successful as they envisioned.

Next Steps

Lawson will return to North Carolina in 2018 with the ultimate hope of building a geographic information system (GIS) model to help inform conservation practices in the area to save the best habitat that the black ducks use to build their nests.

“We’re trying to find where they are building their nests and if there are characteristic patterns of vegetation. If we can see it through a GIS and if we can identify what habitat the ducks are using, and the distance to edge, then we can think about it from a sea level rise scenario,” said Williams. “We will hopefully be able to determine how much land will be lost from different sea level rise scenarios and determine the implication for future breeding black ducks. That’s the big conservation question for North Carolina. Is this a population that they need to conserve and can they conserve it?”

The researchers would also like to have a chronology of nest initiation and peak nesting dates with implications for marsh burning guidelines by the end of the research as well as see how nest success and failure in North Carolina differs from the rest of the black duck range. They are hopeful that this data can also be extrapolated to other Mid-Atlantic states.

“Most of the studies in the Mid-Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay area have found that a small percentage of black ducks choose to nest in brackish marsh habitats. The majority choose more upland sites,” said Lawson. “From our research so far in North Carolina, we are finding that a large percentage are choosing to nest in the brackish marsh. I believe these findings will help complete the breeding black duck picture and will answer future habitat conservation questions that specifically have these ducks in mind.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Daniel Lawson

Video by Jason Hinmon, Paul Puglisi, Daniel Lawson

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UD at the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show

Every spring, vernal pools formed by rain and runoff appear throughout the state of Delaware, providing essential habitats and breeding grounds for species such as frogs and insects—who can take advantage of the areas because of their lack of predators—and a variety of shrub and herbaceous plant communities.

While these areas provide ecosystem services for plants and wildlife, vernal pools are currently not a protected ecosystem in the state of Delaware.

To help bring awareness to these areas, University of Delaware students decided to highlight vernal pools as part of their “Delmarva Bays Spring to Life” exhibit which will be on display Saturday, March 3 through Sunday, March 11 as part of the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This year’s overall show theme is Wonders of Water.

UD at the 2018 Philadelphia Flower ShowThe idea of using vernal pools for the exhibit came from Olivia Kirkpatrick, a senior majoring in landscape architecture, who is a student in Jules Bruck’s Design Process Practicum class.

Members of that class help with the flower show build for the first part of the class and then spend the second half of the class developing ideas that eventually became the design for next year’s flower show.

“Olivia really liked the ephemeral nature of water, that rain showers come and go, ice melts, there’s mist and then it’s gone,” said Bruck, an associate professor and director of landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “She was playing with the words surrounding that ephemeral nature of water and it all pointed to this idea of the vernal pools. Our exhibit is about an ecosystem that’s like a small wetland and because of the size of it, it’s not a protected ecosystem but it should be because there’s these amazing creatures that use the vernal pools as their breeding ground and habitat that are worthy of protecting.”

Bruck said that the class had Jim White from the Delaware Nature Society come in and speak about the ecosystems which have wonderful sounding tree frogs such as spring peepers—an aspect which will be brought to life at the exhibit through the use of audio.

“What’s special about vernal pools is they don’t accommodate breeding fish,” Bruck said. “If they had fish in the ecosystem, the fish would be the top predator. Without the fish, all these other things can thrive and birds use it as a stop-over so it’s a really special little, typically woodland ecosystem. There could be a vernal pool near you and you don’t even know about it. What we are interested in doing is promoting the idea that these are special ecosystems and they should be protected and preserved.”

Maggie Heffernan, a senior majoring in landscape architecture and president of the Design and Articulture (DART) club who has been involved with the flower show builds for the past three years, said that this year’s exhibit is a bit more abstract than in previous years.

“The exhibit is not just showing you a vernal pool and what it would look like in nature, but bringing the feeling of it to life,” said Heffernan. “We’re having ephemeral sculptures, flowers that Zach Stark, [a blacksmith working with iron for the show] is making for us and then we’ll have these trees that are made out of iron too so more representations. We still have plants that are native to those areas and everything but these aspects will give it an extra feeling.”

Heffernan, the president of the student club involved in the exhibit build, said that she didn’t know too much about vernal pools before the build but has learned a lot over the course of the project’s construction.

“One of the things that we’re trying to push is the importance of keeping the vernal pools alive because they do provide so much habitat for species that would otherwise not be there,” said Heffernan.

Interpretive Dance

New this year, the UD exhibit will incorporate a more interactive feature as well. Every day of the flower show, students will perform a dance embodying the Delmarva Bays in movement, the result of a four-week course over winter session co-taught by Kimberly Schroeder, director of UD’s dance minor, and Delaware Sea Grant marine advisory service specialist Jame McCray, an interdisciplinary ecologist by training with a passion for dance and its use to reach people with environmental information.

In addition to working with the students on the dance and the scientific information it conveys, McCray is contributing to interpretive signs and will be evaluating the exhibit’s impact on the audience at the flower show by studying things like where people spend the most time, what messages they take away from the exhibit, and how it affects them. You can read more about McCray’s work on the exhibit and her approach to integrating arts and science education on Delaware Sea Grant’s website.

Article by Adam Thomas and Mark Jolly

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD holds sixth annual Microbial Systems Symposium

Much like the microbes they study in the world—which can be found anywhere from oceans to human skin cells—microbial researchers are spread out pretty much everywhere at the University of Delaware.

Because of this, the Microbial Systems Symposium plays an integral role in bringing together the microbial scientific community at UD to keep researchers up to date on the latest findings, techniques and tools available at the University.

This year’s symposium was held on Saturday, Feb. 10 in Townsend Hall.

Robin Morgan, interim provost, said that the event is a great way for faculty, graduate students and others to learn about the recent advances in microbiology at UD.

UD holds 6th annual Microbial Systems Symposium“The day-long event catalyzes collaborations and helps groups invested in microbiology appreciate the depth and breadth of efforts all across the UD campus. An added plus is that students gain valuable experience in presenting short talks and posters,” Morgan said.

Jennifer Biddle, associate professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), said the symposium is a great way to advance new research collaborations.

“Every year through this symposium we come together to see what other people are doing, share expertise and cultivate a community of microbiologists,” Biddle said. “Microbes are everywhere. Because there’s a very large clinical and applied aspect as well as an ecological aspect, you naturally fall into different places. We’re spread out across all these different disciplines and yet we’re asking very similar questions and using, more importantly, similar techniques.”

Biddle co-organized this year’s symposium with Amy Biddle, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

The symposium included a keynote speaker from the region, Elizabeth Grice, assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. Derrick Scott, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Delaware State University, also presented.

“We’re getting bigger and we’re trying to make this more regional with this idea that the methodologies are all shared and we’re all within a few hours of each other,” Jennifer Biddle said.

Poster presentations

Undergraduate and graduate students had a chance to present their research to those in attendance during a morning and afternoon poster session.

Cassandra Harris, a master’s level student in marine studies, is studying fish gut microbes. She’s looking at the differences between an herbivore (plant eater), a carnivore (meat eater) and an invertivore (eater of crabs, etc.) and how changes to their diets also change the gut microbiome.

The herbivores she is studying are Yellow Tangs, the invertivores are Lagoon Triggerfish and the carnivores are Dwarf Hawkfish.

Harris said that fish give off specific chemical cues with regards to their scent based on what they eat which aides in predator avoidance in prey fish.

“We are manipulating the diets of the herbivore and the invertivore to that of a carnivore and seeing how their chemical cue changes,” Harris said.

After running trials, Harris said that the researchers saw that the cues of the herbivore and invertivore changed to that of a carnivore because prey fish are avoiding them even though they aren’t predators.

“We think that the gut microbes may be causing this change. Gut microbes are highly dependent on the diet of the host and the microbiome shifts when the diet is changed. The end goal is to hopefully identify the metabolism within the gut microbes that is causing the change in chemical cues given off by the fish,” said Harris.

As an undergraduate, Harris worked with behaviors in the common bottlenose dolphin and wanted to try something different as a graduate student.

With Biddle as her advisor, Harris got interested in gut microbes.

“They’re not the most glamorous but I like the techniques I’m learning with bioinformatics and so that’s the real draw,” Harris said.

Lingyi Wu, a doctoral student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) who works in the lab of Eric Wommack, deputy dean of CANR, talked about her research that focuses on viruses of microbes, specifically looking at a hypothetical device that would allow for a more time efficient, low-cost way to study these viruses.

“We have tons of viruses in the ocean and most of the viruses use bacteria as their host but the viruses are very small. We can’t just grab them and study them,” Wu said. “Usually, we observe the viruses under a microscope but it is very small if you want to see how they behave and it is time consuming and expensive to get a fancy microscope. We propose to build a microfluidic device and to put all of your bacteria and viruses into it.”

Award winners included:

Best student talks: Nathan MacDonald, who works in the Fidelma Boyd lab, Delicious but Dangerous: Unique sugars biosynthesized by bacteria; Kaliopi Bousses, a master’s level student in CEOE who works in the Jennifer Biddle lab, Microbial succession in a sulfur-oxidizing mat; and Michael Pavia, a master’s level student in the College of Arts and Sciences who works in the lab of Clara Chan, associate professor in CEOE, Colonization and S(0) Mineralization of Sulfur Oxidizing Biofilms in the Frasassi Cave System.

Best poster presentations: Amelia Harrison, a master’s level student in CEOE working with Wommack, Ribonucleotide reductase provides insight into marine virioplankton communities; Rebecca Vandzura, a master’s level student in CEOE who is working with Chan, Bacteriophage roles in hydrothermal vent iron mats: a metagenomic analysis; and Cassandra Harris, who is working with Jennifer Biddle, Identifying Hindgut Microbes in Ctenochaetus striatus and Calotomus spinidens: Comparing Community Composition, Function, and Identifying Genomes Through Metagenomics.

Support for the symposium was provided by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and Animal and Food Sciences), the College of Arts and Sciences (Department of Biology), the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, the College of Engineering (Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering) and the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN). Betty Cowgill, academic support coordinator in the Department of Biological Sciences and Grace Wisser, CANR event coordinator, both assisted in putting together the event.

Article and photo by Adam Thomas

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Borel Global Fellows Learn Agriculture Science at UD

As Borel Global Fellows, Susan Gachara and Mariam Gharib have had the opportunity to gain valuable hands on experience studying agricultural problems afflicting their home country of Kenya which has equipped them with the tools needed to help solve those issues when they return to Africa.

The Borel Global Fellows program is a partnership between UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) in Africa to build a Master’s degree program to train African students in plant breeding, crop protection, soil science, agricultural economics, and other areas vital to food security in Africa.

Made possible by a generous gift from Jim and Marcia Borel, the program provides opportunities for one to two students per year to complete a Master’s degree at the UD while conducting research in their home country in an area of critical need.

Susan Gachara

Gachara works with Randy Wisser, associate professor of plant genetics, and conducts research based on developing a diagnostic tool for plants infected with maize lethal necrosis disease, a disease caused by a combination of two viruses that is prevalent in many parts of Kenya and neighboring countries.

Susan Gachara has studied maize lethal necrosis with Randy Wisser, associate professor of plant genetics, during her time as a Borel Fellow.Gachara has a background in environmental science but when she took a class on environmental biotechnology, she was amazed at how genes could be incorporated from different plants.

“It was a new whole world for me and so I was like, ‘Moving forward, I would like to be involved in agriculture instead of the environment.’ Plus, I grew up on a farm so it was natural. My dad taught me everything to do with farm,” said Gachara who added that plant diseases were a big problem in the farming communities’ activities.

“Every time there was a new disease, we could not get very high yields,” Gachara said. “It wasn’t only us but the whole community and the whole country so I just wanted to be more involved and understand what exactly happens and the underlying mechanisms of how plants can defend themselves and what can we do to help the situation.”

Having arrived at UD in August 2016, Gachara will stay on for one more year and said that she has enjoyed her time at the university.

“It’s impressive,” said Gachara. “It’s resourceful and that’s a very big plus for me as I’m trying to navigate the scientific field and the people are very nice, very friendly. That’s a major concern because I’m far from home and I need somewhere I can call a home and people I can take as my family so it has been my home and I have enjoyed the stay.”

She also said that it has been great working with Wisser.

“He’s well versed with genetics and in the plant science world and he’s also aware of the agriculture situation in Kenya because he has worked on research there,” said Gachara. “I’m glad he took a chance on me. I was just so passionate about agriculture and I didn’t do it in my undergraduate and I said, ‘I hope someone can take a chance on me and believe that my passion will not fail me.’ I would also just like to thank the Borels for funding the program and I will forever be in debt to them and hopefully I can do something similar to someone in the future.”

Mariam Gharib

Gharib has worked with Leah Palm-Forster, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, studying agricultural and resource economics, which is a continuation of what she had been studying as an undergraduate.

“I come from an area where we have good environmental conditions,” Gharib said, “but most of the people there don’t practice agriculture so I wanted to study something which would make a difference and I thought if I study agricultural economics, I’d be able to go back home and educate people, motivate them and show them they have a good environment and this is what they should do. I want to encourage them to practice more agriculture so they can improve their livelihood by earning money because they have those conducive conditions for farming.”

Mariam Gharib has worked with Leah Palm-Forster, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, studying agricultural and resource economics during her time as a Borel Fellow.Gharib said that when she gets back to Kenya, she will do a six-month internship while she works on her research.

“My plan is to go back home and look for a job, gain some more knowledge and then identify a few research ideas and go ahead and do a Ph.D.,” Gharib said. “Most of the time, you can only make a big difference if you’re on a higher level involved policy making. My main goal is to be involved in conducting research which will influence policies.”

As for her favorite part of being a Borel Fellow, Gharib said that she has enjoyed all the classes she’s taken.

“I didn’t expect that I would enjoy classes that much because most of the time what I get to do is an application of what I’m learning in real life situations. It’s not just reading books and theories,” said Gharib. “Here you get to actually practice it so you’re able to get skills at the same time so it’s something that I can use when I go back to Kenya—[especially] if I work in a research lab. Also, people here are very welcoming. You don’t feel like you’re far from home. It’s like you just fit in completely.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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With help from UD professor, Hannah Jo selected as state delegate for the 2017 Global Youth Institute

Growing up, Hannah Jo loved spending time outside and working in her parent’s garden, lined with all sorts of different fruit trees, and filled with various vegetables and flowers.

Now, as a senior at Tall Oaks Classical School in Bear, Delaware, and with an eye towards a potential future as a plant scientist, Jo decided to reach out to members of the University of Delaware’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences to see if any of them could help her get involved in plant research.

She found a perfect match in Randy Wisser, associate professor of plant genetics at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who supported a summer internship that culminated with Jo being selected as Delaware’s sole delegate for the 2017 World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa where Jo presented an essay on maize lethal necrosis disease afflicting farms in Kenya.

With help from UD professor, Hannah Jo selected as state delegate for the 2017 Global Youth InstituteWisser said that every summer, his research lab runs a plant breeding internship program that hosts several high school and undergraduate students in an outdoor laboratory at UD’s Newark farm. These students meet and talk with graduate students and senior members of Wisser’s research group as they learn how the management of breeding nurseries and field experiments link to basic research in plant genetics, which in turn translates to discoveries that boost agriculture.

“It’s a competitive process to be selected into our internship program, and as we were finalizing our selections, Hannah sent an e-mail saying, ‘I’m a student at Tall Oaks. I’m really interested in plant science and agriculture, and I’m curious if there are any opportunities to gain research experience,’ ” said Wisser. “Her e-mail was quite extensive about her interest and her passion. It’s rare for a high school student to have such a focused interest on plants and agriculture.”

Jo applied for the internship and after an interview with Wisser and Teclemariam Weldekidan, a scientist in the department, she got the internship and spent six weeks in the fields out on the UD farm working with maize which she said was a great experience. As part of the program, students also tour local institutes including Fraunhofer’s Center for Molecular Biotechnology and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, providing the group with a broad perspective about plant science research.

“The first couple of weeks were grueling,” Jo said. “It was very, very hot. There were basic things like weeding but also doing cross pollinations and learning how a breeding project worked. The projects included research on maize disease resistance and environmental adaptation to temperate climates.”

As a figure skater and a member of UD’s Figure Skating Club, Jo had become familiar with the neighboring College of Agriculture and Natural Resources where she volunteered a year earlier with the UD Botanic Gardens (UDBG).

Training all day inside as a figure skater, Jo was looking for something to do outside with plants and was put in touch with Valann Budishak, UDBG volunteer coordinator and a Cooperative Extension Agent, and spent time volunteering in the summer.

“It was great because I did all of that same work at home, but I was doing it on a larger scale with other people,” Jo said. “The other volunteers were there for the same reason: their love for plants and gardening. Some were Master Gardeners while others enjoyed gardening as a hobby. Learning from them and learning from Val was great.”

After working at the UDBG, Jo realized that if she wanted to pursue a degree in plant science, she should explore plant science research more in depth.

In addition to learning research techniques and getting hands-on experience in the field, Jo was also able to get experience writing a research paper with Wisser serving as her mentor. As part of her application requirement to the Global Youth Institute, the paper needed to be focused on a topic concerning food security in a developing country.

Wisser introduced Jo to Susan Gachara, a Borel Global Fellow master’s student from Kenya, and Jo chose to focus on maize lethal necrosis disease for her paper, a disease caused by a combination of two viruses that is prevalent in many parts of Kenya and neighboring countries.

“I focused on that disease and how plant breeding can be used to solve that epidemic,” Jo said. “I wrote the paper, submitted it and was selected to attend the conference as a delegate for Delaware.”

At the conference, Jo was able to interact with about 200 students from across the United States and other countries, participate in activities and interact with world leaders in agriculture, such as Gebisa Ejeta, the 2009 World Food Prize Laureate who happened to be on the panel that critiqued Jo’s presentation.

“She presented her work with great poise and overall did an exceptional job,” said Wisser, who accompanied Jo to the conference. “The Laurette said something of the effect to her, ‘One of my questions is whether you’d be willing to skip your undergraduate program and come work for me as a graduate assistant.’ ”

Jo said she had a positive experience at the conference and working with Wisser.

“He’s been so supportive of everything and really helped me through the process of getting to Iowa for the Global Youth Institute and all throughout my internship with him this summer,” Jo said. “Right now, I’m trying to apply for an international internship for this upcoming summer and he has been helping me through that entire process as well. It’s been great.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

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Entomology Trivia Team places third at the Entomological Society of America’s National Linnaean Games

At the 2017 National Linnaean Games held in Denver, Colorado and hosted by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) as part of their annual meeting, the Entomology Trivia Team at the University of Delaware showed strong finishing third overall—the highest finish in club history.

The team not only finished third overall but also ousted the perennial power house team from the University of California at Riverside which Ashley Kennedy, a doctoral level student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said helped put the club on the map.

“I think it really helped draw attention to how the University of Delaware has a strong entomology program,” Kennedy said.

Entomology Trivia Team places third at the Entomological Society of America’s National Linnaean Games
(Pictured left to right) Sean Boyle, Danielle Novick, Ashley Kennedy and Tyler Hagerty compete at the 2017 Linnaean Games

The team at UD this year was made up of all graduate students including Kennedy, Sean Boyle, who just finished his master’s degree at UD, Tyler Hagerty, a master’s level student in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and Danielle Novick, a doctoral level student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

Kennedy noted that the team from Texas A&M that won the competition had undergraduate students on their team and that the club at UD is open to undergraduates as well.

“I hope that will get more undergrads to take part in it. I’ve tried to recruit undergraduates to our team because our practices we have on campus are extremely informal. We meet over lunch and just read trivia questions to each other,” Kennedy said.

The questions include topics such as physiology, taxonomy, and anatomy among others and the team’s coach, Charles Bartlett, associate professor of entomology, reads the questions to team members and takes the time to explain the answers fully.

“I don’t think we would’ve advanced to nationals if we hadn’t been having those practice sessions. It’s a really fun environment,” Kennedy said.

During the tournament, each team has four players and each player has a buzzer, with the player who buzzes in having to answer without conferring with their teammates.

“One thing that people commented on about our team is that we all seemed to be really well rounded where all four players were all buzzing in and answering questions. We got a lot of compliments for having all four team members really engaged,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s area of expertise was medical and veterinary entomology and questions focused on the history of the ESA, Boyle’s was parasitoids, Hagerty focused on taxonomy and identification and Novick knew a lot about the plant and insect interaction questions.

Having spent most of his life as an athlete, Boyle enjoyed being able to use his academic learning in a competitive setting.

“It was a fun time. I loved it. In all honesty, my whole life I was always playing against other schools and teams in sports but never in an academic sense so that was a fun new thing for me,” Boyle said. “I know a lot about parasitoids and those types of insects so any time a question would pop up, I would try my best to answer it.”

In addition to participating in the games, Kennedy and Boyle got to present their research and everyone got to interact with colleagues in their fields.

Boyle added that it was a good way to make sure people aren’t overlapping research on similar topics.

“My research is based on how we can control the brown marmorated stink bug using a small little wasp that flies around and lays its own eggs in the stink bug eggs so I went to all the stink bug talks to make sure I wasn’t overlapping research,” said Boyle.

Kennedy added that she received a science policy fellowship through ESA and went to a training workshop where they taught her and others how to engage with legislators and decision makers to advocate for scientifically sound policy.

“That’s going to be something really exciting I get to do over the next two years. We’re going to do a few different trips to Washington D.C. to meet with decision makers on behalf of the ESA,” said Kennedy who works with Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology, looking at bird-insect food webs trying to figure out which insects are the most important in birds’ diets.

“It’s hard to get people interested in insect conservation but a lot of people like birds so if you can make that obvious connection that birds need insects to survive then you can get people interested in insect conservation,” Kennedy said.

Boyle also noted that Kennedy was the team captain and “pretty much ran everything. Scheduled all the stuff, got all the questions together. She was really the captain who brought everyone together so we were just following along and using some of our brain power.”

Kennedy said that she’s been told, “I take it too seriously. But there’s a practical side to it which for some of us it might be the easiest way for us to find funding to go to the meeting. The meeting provides so many great networking opportunities.”

For those interested in joining the Linnaean Games team, reach out to Kennedy at kennedya@udel.edu.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Glenn Cook/Entomological Society of America

UD study looks at how light pollution lures birds into urban areas during fall migration

On their fall migration south in the Northern Hemisphere, scores of birds are being lured by artificial light pollution into urban areas that may be an ecological trap, according to the University of Delaware’s Jeff Buler.

Buler, associate professor in UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and his research team used 16 weather surveillance radars from the northeastern United States over a seven-year period to map the distributions of migratory birds during their fall stopovers. The research is published in the scientific journal Ecology Letters.

Since most of the birds that migrate in the U.S. are nocturnal and leave their stopover sites at night, Buler and his research group took snapshots of the birds as they departed.

“Shortly after sunset, at around civil twilight, they all take off in these well-synchronized flights that show up as a sudden bloom of reflectivity on the radar,” Buler said. “We take a snapshot of that, which allows us to map out where they were on the ground and at what densities. It basically gives us a picture of their distributions on the ground.”

The researchers were interested in seeing what factors shape the birds’ distributions and why they occur in certain areas.

UD study looks at how light pollution lures birds into urban areas during fall migration“We think artificial light might be a mechanism of attraction because we know at a very small scale, birds are attracted to light,” Buler said. “Much like insects are drawn to a streetlight at night, birds are also drawn to places like lighthouses. Especially when visibility is poor, you can get these big fall-outs at lighthouses and sports complexes. Stadiums will have birds land in the stadium if it’s foggy at night and the lights are on.”

One hazard for birds attracted to city lights is death from flying into high buildings. Buler said that some cities such as Toronto have even gone so far as to institute ‘Lights Out’ programs, turning off the lights in tall buildings to deter birds from colliding with them.

Sky Glow

The research team analyzed the distributions of the birds in proximity to the brightest areas in the northeast such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“These are super-bright, large metropolitan areas,” Buler said. “We found an increasing density of birds the closer you get to these cities. The effect goes out about 200 kilometers [about 125 miles]. We estimate that these flying birds can see a city on the horizon up to several hundred kilometers away. Essentially, there is no place in the northeastern United States where they can’t see the sky glow of a city.”

Parks and Yards

The researchers also found that suburban areas, such as people’s backyards and city parks, such as Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, harbor some of the highest densities of birds in the northeast.

“Fairmount Park has higher densities of birds than at Cape May, New Jersey, which is where birders typically go to see birds concentrating during migration,” Buler said.

When they do get lured into cities, the birds seek out suitable habitat, which can cause concerns from a conservation standpoint as lots of birds pack into a small area with limited resources and higher mortality risks.

“One of the things we point out in this paper is that there might be negative consequences for birds being drawn to urban cities. We know there’s risk of collision with buildings, collision with vehicles, and getting eaten by cats, which are a major predator,” Buler said.

“Domestic cats could be the largest anthropogenic source of mortality for birds. If birds are being drawn into these heavily developed areas, it may be increasing their risk of mortality from anthropogenic sources and it may also be that the resources in those habitats are going to be depleted much faster because of competition with other birds.”

Another concern: light pollution created in these cities has been increasing in recent years with the advent of LED lights, which are much brighter than the incandescent lights they replaced.

“The transition of street lighting from incandescent to LED continues to increase the amount of light pollution,” Buler said. “If you think about it from an evolutionary sense, for all wildlife really, mammals and insects and birds, they’ve only been exposed to this light pollution for less than 200 years. They’re still adapting to the light.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Doug Tallamy

Video by Jeff Chase

This video can also be viewed on UDaily.

New BASF biofungicide uses UD patents

Velondis biofungicide contains beneficial microbe to help plants fight fungal disease

Janine Sherrier (left), professor of plant and soil sciences, and colleague Harsh Bais, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, were the lead inventors on the patent, which the University has licensed exclusively to BASF. The two professors, along with co-inventor Venkatachalam Lakshmanan, led collaborative research teams studying the microorganism.

The Environmental Protection Agency has registered BASF’s new Velondis brand biofungicide seed treatment formulations, which contain a patented University of Delaware beneficial microbe to help plants fight fungal disease. With potential applications in agriculture, horticulture and forestry, the products are designed to boost the protection of seedlings and plants from key soil-borne diseases.

The bacteria in Velondis produce a beneficial biofilm and antimicrobial components that promote systemic resistance within the plant, resulting in suppression of disease organisms that attach to root systems. Two of the Velondis biofungicides have additional components that help plants produce a more vigorous root system, resulting in improved plant growth and yield potential.

beneficial microbe Bacillus subtilis
BASF’s Velondis biofungicides contain a strain of the beneficial microbe Bacillus subtilis, which naturally lives in soil and on the surface of plant roots. Scientists at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources conducted research on the microbe with initial support from USDA HATCH funds, and additional funding from the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, the National Science Foundation and BASF. The microbe helps boost the protection of seedlings and plants from soil-borne diseases.

“Velondis biofungicides mark a major step for BASF in the use of natural biologicals to help plants fight disease,” said Justin Clark, a technical marketing manager with BASF. “We plan to use this new active ingredient in a number of different products and applications to help improve disease control and increase crop yield potential.”

A key microorganism incorporated in the new Velondis formulations is a unique strain of Bacillus subtilis, a natural, beneficial bacterium that lives on the surface of roots and the surrounding soil, or rhizosphere.

Scientists at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) conducted research on the beneficial bacterium with initial support from USDA HATCH funds, and additional funding from DBI, the National Science Foundation and BASF. The University’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships also provided funding and significant intellectual property management.

Janine Sherrier, professor of plant and soil sciences, and colleague Harsh Bais, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, were the lead inventors on the patent, which the University has licensed exclusively to BASF. The two professors, along with co-inventor Venkatachalam Lakshmanan, led collaborative research teams studying the microorganism.

“At the University of Delaware, we’re able to pursue early discovery work, with the ultimate aim of providing safe and effective tools for growers,” said Sherrier. “The translation of basic research into commercial products is an arduous path, so we are pleased that our work has resulted in the development of new products for agriculture such as Velondis biofungicides.”

Velondis biofungicides will be used in different facets of agriculture and will initially be labeled for use with soybeans in spring 2018. Growers can learn more about Velondis biofungicides by visiting BASF Ag Products or by contacting their local BASF representative.

About BASF’s Crop Protection division

With a rapidly growing population, the world is increasingly dependent on our ability to develop and maintain sustainable agriculture and healthy environments. BASF’s Crop Protection division works with farmers, agricultural professionals, pest management experts and others to help make this possible. With their cooperation, BASF is able to sustain an active R&D pipeline, an innovative portfolio of products and services, and teams of experts in the lab and in the field to support customers in making their businesses succeed. In 2016, BASF’s Crop Protection division generated sales of €5.6 billion. For more information, please visit us at www.agriculture.basf.com or on any of our social media channels.

About BASF

BASF Corporation, headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, is the North American affiliate of BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany. BASF has more than 17,500 employees in North America, and had sales of $16.2 billion in 2016. For more information about BASF’s North American operations, visit www.basf.us. BASF combines economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. The approximately 114,000 employees in the BASF Group work on contributing to the success of our customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world. Our portfolio is organized into five segments: Chemicals, Performance Products, Functional Materials & Solutions, Agricultural Solutions and Oil & Gas. BASF generated sales of about €58 billion in 2016. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt (BAS), London (BFA) and Zurich (BAS). Further information at www.basf.com.

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson, Shannon Modla and Venkatachalam Lakshmanan

UD’s Seyfferth co-organizes national networking event

Though the world of soil science is taking strides towards gender equality, it still tends to be a male dominated field.

Because of this, the University of Delaware’s Angelia Seyfferth and Samantha Ying, assistant professor at the University of California at Riverside, decided to host a “Food (and Drink!) for Thought” facilitated networking event for female soil scientists at the Tri-Societies annual conference—a gathering of the Soil Science Society of America, the Agronomy Society of America and the Crop Society of America—held recently in Tampa, Florida.

The two organizers had 21 people RSVP to the event but nearly 100 showed up.

“The fact that we got more than four times the number of people that RSVP-ed showed that there was a need for this,” said Seyfferth, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “We got a lot of feedback from people that said they want to have it every year.”

Ying said that the response to the event far exceeded her expectations.

“Seeing how engaged and happy everyone was chatting with each other, and some saying they want it to happen every year and maybe even every day of the conferences in the future, made me ecstatic,” said Ying. “One thing I learned from meeting people through this event was how extensive the network of amazing women is, who are pushing forward with advancing under-represented minorities and women in science and really finding ways to build a strong pipeline. There’s already so many effective tools in place, I felt honored to contribute this tiny piece to the giant effort started by many I got to meet face to face that night.”

One of the outcomes of the event was a contact list of all attendees that colleagues can pull from to nominate for awards or invite to give talks at their respective institutions.

“It will help to promote female faculty but also foster some collaboration and mentorship as well,” said Seyfferth.

Ying added that it was great to meet other women in the field and that she enjoyed the opportunity to meet the researchers in person and not just know them through reading their research papers.

UD’s Seyfferth co-organizes national networking event“People there spoke to each other with ease and honesty and heart​. Even if some people just ended up talking to women they already knew, I was happy this gave them a dedicated time and space to enjoy some downtime to get to relax and get to know each other,” said Ying. “To top it off, coincidentally, Dr. Karen Vaughan of University of Wyoming lead a study that showed how far we are from gender parity within soil science in multiple sectors. She brought her poster and her team of students and educated us on the current numbers. It was so exciting to see all of these powerful moments come together in one place.”

The event was in a progressive party style where participants rotated to four different tables every 15 minutes and participated in facilitated discussions about specific issues facing women in the field of soil sciences.

“We wanted to be different from the idea of sitting there and listening to someone speak to us. We wanted to have the actual expertise in the room talk with each other,” said Seyfferth.

Seyfferth herself was able to meet a senior faculty member face to face for the first time.

“I was able to meet a person who I had never met before who is a full professor in my field. As a female, there are few of them so just to be able to meet them face to face even if a collaboration isn’t happening now I think that it’s important to see people who are like me in that role,” said Seyfferth.

While there aren’t currently a high number of women in the field, Seyfferth said that as the number of women who receive doctorates in the field increases, the number of female faculty members who are soil scientists should increase as well.

“The percentage of females who are getting positions as assistant professors is increasing so as long as they’re successfully promoted, hopefully that will start to reconcile itself and lead to more diversity,” said Seyfferth. “Another issue that’s related but also separate is a general lack of diversity in soil science and so while this was targeted specifically for females, we’re hoping that it can be expanded to talk about how we can be more inclusive and embrace the diversity that we have.”

The organizers are hopeful that the networking event will occur at the next international meeting which will be held in January 2019 in San Diego and that it can extend its reach.

“I’m really excited for my colleagues who are men, including my partner Michael Schaefer​, another researcher in our field, to organized similar events for men who support women in science,” said Ying. “We need to do more in acknowledging everyone who puts effort, time, care, and money into advancing women and minorities, and these are both men and women around us. I’m excited to figure this next step out and how we can contribute to retaining women through making these networking events and support systems more ubiquitous.”

Seyfferth was sponsored by the University of Delaware ADVANCE program, which is aimed at increasing opportunities for UD’s women faculty, to attend and organize the event. The University of California at Riverside’s Department of Environmental Sciences and their College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, specifically Dean Kathryn Urich, also sponsored the event.

In addition, Ying credits Marco Keiluweit, an assistant professor at UMass-Amherst, for sparking the initial idea of having an event just for female soil scientists. Ying also said that Jan Roselle, assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at Pomona College, and Owen Duckworth, the chair of the Soil Chemistry committee, played key roles in making the event happen.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Matt Limmer

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD pre-veterinary students help Delaware Humane Association with One Health clinics for low-income residents

Eight undergraduate students studying pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences at the University of Delaware have teamed with the Delaware Humane Association (DHA) to offer One-Health Clinics to low income Delaware residents at the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington.

The clinics have been held the first Saturday of the month since October and participating residents receive free vaccinations and health screenings for their pets while at the same time allowing the undergraduate students to gain a valuable hands-on, real-world learning experience.

The One-Health concept is a term applied to a transdisciplinary approach to health research and outreach that involves human, animal and environmental factors.

UD pre-veterinary students help Delaware Humane Association with One Health clinics for low-income residentsThese clinics put the concept to use by not only screening and vaccinating the pets, but also providing education to the pet owners on healthy eating and living, provided by UD Cooperative Extension representatives, and also allowing the pet owners the opportunity to learn about services provided at the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center.

Kristin Jankowski, one of the head veterinarians for the clinics, said that the clinics have provided a great opportunity for the students to interact with pet owners face to face.

“Normally, for me in general practice, if we have an undergraduate student helping, they’re not interacting with the clients,” Jankowski said. “They might be drawing up vaccines or they might be helping hold the animals but they’re not part of the learning process or the didactic part between the veterinarian and the client. This is not just a vaccine clinic. It’s a whole exam. It’s talking to the owners about risk factors for diabetes, osteoarthritis, dealing with ear and skin disease. We’re also talking about disease transmission with parasites and their kids, all kinds of things like that.”

Leah Ferguson, a sophomore studying pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was one of the students involved in the program and said that her favorite part of the clinics has been the opportunity to help low-income pet owners.

“I’ve always said that once I become a vet, I want to give back and help people who can’t afford it because I know my mom struggled a lot with vet bills and getting my dogs to the vet,” said Ferguson. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and now I have the opportunity to do that while still being an undergrad. Since this is the first year of the program, hopefully it grows and I can give back into it once I graduate and get on my own feet.”

At the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center, the UD students and DHA staff are joined by students from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and they set up four stations that the clients rotate through.

The first station is where clients sign in and give their pets medical history. The second is an exam station. The third is where the pets get medication and a rabies certificate and then the final discharge station is where extra educational materials are provided, both on human and pet health, and where further appointments can be set up for both.

Jankowski said that the UD students have been getting progressively more involved with each clinic.

“At the end of their internship, they can administer the vaccines if we feel they’re up to speed for vaccines that can be administered by a non-veterinarian which is basically everything but rabies,” said Jankowski.

In the beginning, Jankowski said that drawing up a vaccine was very challenging for the students but they have been showing growth which each clinic.

“Now they draw up the de-wormers, they help record data and they help restrain,” Jankowski  said. “They have a certified veterinary technician working with them and so they’ve been helping them deal with interpreting body language of the animals and safe restraint and assisting with holding for blood draws. We taught them how to run the laboratory tests because we have some basic lab tests that we’re running such as heartworm tests and leukemia screenings.”

Lesa Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that the experience has been great for the students involved and that their involvement goes beyond the clinics.

“Essentially they’re taking a course,” Griffiths said. “They do bi-weekly reporting into me about their experience and what they’re learning as part of the clinic. So not only are they doing the clinics on Saturdays but they have also met during the week to organize supplies. Kristin sends them regular readings on what’s going on in veterinary medicine or things they need to be concerned about relative to the clinics. They have extra hours doing anything from writing thank you notes to all the donors of the veterinary medical supplies for these clinics or volunteering up at the shelter so they’re getting a broader experience.”

Jankowski said that it has been great partnering with the UD students and she is looking forward to continuing the clinics into the winter and spring of 2018.

“A lot of the students said in the beginning they were a little worried as to what they would see and experience but they all came away really feeling warmly towards the clients and their desire to help their animals, which we all did. It was amazing,” said Jankowski. “These are people that really want to help their pets, they just don’t have the resources.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

University of Delaware and University of Maryland Extension Team Receives Outstanding Education Program Award

The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) annually recognizes the incredible innovation, work and leadership of its diverse community of members – financial professionals working across all areas of financial education, research and practice. Award winners are peer nominated and go through a rigorous application peer-reviewed process.

University of Delaware and University of Maryland Extension Team Receives Outstanding Education Program AwardThe Outstanding Educational Program was presented to the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and University of Maryland Extension’s “Smart Choice and Smart Use Health Insurance.”

The Smart Choice Health Insurance and Smart Use Health Insurance program consists of five multidisciplinary modules that provide health insurance literacy education to assist adults in exploring the information they need to build their knowledge, skills and confidence to choose and use their health insurance wisely.

AFCPE award winners were honored in a November ceremony at the 2017 AFCPE Symposium in San Diego. Representing the Maryland and Delaware Health Insurance Literacy Initiative were Extension Educators Maria Pippidis, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Jesse Ketterman, University of Maryland Extension, and Mia Russell, formerly with the University of Maryland Extension.

About AFCPE®

AFCPE® ensures the highest integrity of the financial counseling profession by certifying, connecting and supporting diverse professionals. Our comprehensive certification programs represent the gold standard for financial counseling, coaching and education, including the AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor®) certification which is accredited by NCCA and nationally recognized by CFPB and DoD.

Photo by Robb McCormick

UD students learn about prescribed burning for wildlife management

Students in Jeff Buler’s Wildlife Habitat Management class got to see techniques they’re learning about in class in action when they travelled to the Cedar Swamp Wildlife Management Area near Smyrna to see a prescribed burn led by former University of Delaware students who now work for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Buler, associate professor of wildlife ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that this is the sixth year he’s conducted the trip for his class and that the 42 students who went got to learn how prescribed burning is used to manage grassland habitats where technicians intentionally burn grassland fields to set back succession—the process by which a grassland becomes a forest—and keep woody plants from encroaching.

UD students learn from UD alums, current DNREC employees about prescribed burning for wildlife management“It also helps to enhance the growth of those early successional plants,” said Buler. “One of the challenges they have is that the grasses are growing at too high a density so they are also using that burn to help reduce the density of the grass. If they get too dense they aren’t providing as good a habitat for wildlife.”

Prescribed burns are a lot more prevalent in other parts of the country, such as out in the Midwest where grasslands are the dominant habitat type, so it was a great opportunity for the students to see the management technique first hand.

“On the prescribed fire trip, they get to actually see one of these management techniques in action,” said Buler. “What’s nice is that the technicians show them all the equipment, they talk about the process of getting permits to be able to burn, to get the permission to burn, and all the planning that goes into it. Then of course we go out and see the burn. For many of them, it’s the first time that they’ve witnessed a prescribed burn.”

The annual field trip is one of the most popular in Buler’s class because the students not only get to see a wildlife habitat management technique but they also get to interact with wildlife biologists and industry professionals, and in this case, they get to speak with professionals who also have experience with UD.

UD students learn from UD alums, current DNREC employees about prescribed burning for wildlife management“What’s nice is that it’s kind of two-fold. It’s part professional development but it’s also educating them about wildlife first hand in the field,” said Buler. “What I like about this trip in particular is that not only are the students meeting other professionals but many of them were students that came through this department. It reinforces that you can get a job. It might be that they take advice from these former students to heart more if they’re hearing advice from professionals they connect with.”

Buler said that two alums in particular, Eric Ludwig, New Castle County Regional Manager for DNREC, and Craig Rhoads, Environmental Program Manager for DNREC, have hired past students that took the course when they were at UD.

In addition to visiting the Cedar Swamp Wildlife Management Area, Buler’s class has travelled to areas to view other wildlife habitats as well, such as the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Pennsylvania and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Kathy Atkinson and Evan Krape

UDairy Creamery seeks input from UD community on cheese preferences

As construction on a new cheese plant on the University of Delaware’s South Campus in Newark gets underway, the UDairy Creamery is soliciting input from the University community to determine the preferred types of cheeses in the area.

Throughout the month of December, the UDairy Creamery will conduct a short survey regarding consumer cheese preferences. The survey will provide valuable insight on preferences of the campus community regarding types and styles of cheeses.

UDairy Creamery seeks input from UD community on cheese preferencTen random drawings for $5 gift cards will be held for completed responses.

The UDairy Creamery expects to begin cheese production in mid-2018 after renovations are completed to 124 Worrilow Hall.

Completion of the cheese plant will make the UDairy Creamery the only aged cheese producer in Delaware leaving the market wide open.

With the University community as its main supporter, UDairy would like to produce cheeses according to community preferences. Cheese production will not only increase UDairy’s product line but also increase hands-on learning for the students involved in production as well as research and product development.

To fill out the survey, visit the following link: https://goo.gl/forms/k4dz6zj3Ou07ZkFr2

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Jacob L. Bowman Accepted for national Food Systems Leadership Institute

Jacob Bowman was accepted for the Fall 2017 Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Food Systems Leadership Institute (FSLI), an executive leadership development program for academia, industry, and government.

The FSLI enhances personal and professional development by emphasizing leadership competencies, skills for organizational change, and a broad, interdisciplinary perspective of food systems. The FSLI experience prepares scholars for upper-level leadership roles in food system programs, and to assume broader leadership responsibilities within their organizations.

Jacob L. Bowman Accepted for national Food Systems Leadership Institute“I am honored to have the opportunity to attend the institute and I’m looking forward to implementing what I learn here at UD,” said Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The thing I look forward to most is being able to network with other people in similar positions from around the country and hearing different perspectives on issues related to our food systems in North America.”

During the FSLI program, scholars work with expert instructors, leadership development coaches, and an upper level mentor to help increase their leadership abilities. They will meet with leaders of universities, political leaders, industry leaders and others who have advanced to the highest levels of leadership. Leadership theory is combined with practical experience, often in the context of food systems and higher education.

The FSLI is a two-year program. Year one includes intensive executive education-style residential learning sessions at three university locations. Scholars perform assessments to increase their self-awareness of their leadership style, and the results are used to develop and implement a personal development plan, prepared with the assistance of a professional coach.  Interactive distance learning is used between residential sessions. During year two, participants work, applying what they have learned, to develop and carry out an individual leadership project.

Additional information is available at www.fsli.org.

FSLI is dedicated to advancing and strengthening food systems by preparing a set of new leaders with the skills and knowledge necessary to invent and reinvent the food systems of the future.  It is a program of the APLU with the initial funding provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  North Carolina State University is the host site with The Ohio State University and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo being residential sites responsible for implementation of the program.

UD professors team with Brandywine Zoo to test cameras for wildlife population study

When conducting research in remote areas to get population estimates on elusive animals, it’s important to make sure that the camera traps which will capture images of those animals are set up properly. Once the camera traps are placed, they can’t be adjusted and the only time they’ll be looked at again is when they’re picked up at the end of the study.

Thanks to the Brandywine Zoo, University of Delaware researcher Jennifer McCarthy was able to test various camera heights, distances, settings and bait and scent stations to see how to best set up her cameras for an upcoming research project looking at the elusive jaguarundi cat in Panama’s Mamoni Valley.

The research is being done in partnership with the Mamoni Valley Preserve and Kaminando, a wildlife conservation organization.

McCarthy, an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), said that her group will use the pictures to try and identify a few individuals through specific markings—such as scars or ear notches.

Jennifer McCarthy attaches a camera to a tree. McCarthy and other researchers will return to Panama to collect 34 cameras they placed in June, hoping to catch images of the jaguarundi.Unlike jaguars, which can be identified using spot patterns, the jaguarundi are all one color and it is harder to identify individuals so having good photos is critical for the researchers.

“We’re trying to get good pictures of their faces and their bodies but we don’t get a lot of time to practice and play with different distances when we’re out in the field,” said McCarthy. “The Brandywine Zoo was incredible because I called and said ‘We’re trying to put these cameras out in Panama, is there any way we could practice on your cats?’ and they said, ‘Yes, that’d be great.’ They were wonderful.”

This study will be one of the first to measure the population density of jaguarundi which are found throughout Central and South America.

“They’re thought to be really common because people see them relatively often but there’s never been a study on them,” McCarthy said. “All the information we have comes from photos that have been obtained during other studies and people have kind of ignored them thinking that they’re pretty common. We have a hunch that we see them because they’re a diurnal species, which means they’re active during the day, so they might not be as numerous as we think.”

McCarthy, who is working on the project with Kyle McCarthy, assistant professor of wildlife ecology, and Jeffrey Conner Maxwell, a senior in CANR, said that they set up two cameras each in three different enclosures of three different animals — the bobcat enclosure, the serval enclosure and the capybara enclosure — and put baits at different distances.

“We measured different distances from the cameras and we were able to see, ‘Ok, if we set our camera this far from the trail, we’re getting really good pictures and if we set our camera at this height, we’re able to get good face photos,’” said McCarthy.

Over the three-day period, they were able to capture almost 4,000 photos which gave them an idea of how to set up their cameras when they ventured to Panama.

The researchers set up 34 cameras in Panama in June and are going to pick them up in October.

Because of the remoteness of their location, McCarthy stressed that it is of the utmost importance to make sure they’re set up properly the first time.

“We can’t go back and check them so we want to make sure we do everything right the first time and the Brandywine Zoo was great in helping us to hopefully do that,” said McCarthy.

The researchers were also able to try out different lures and scents—such as Calvin Klein’s Obsession perfume—that will hopefully get the cats in front of the cameras out in the wild.

“We have used Obsession before in the field but at the Brandywine Zoo, we tried some different scents,” said McCarthy who explained that there have been studies that looked at different perfumes at other zoos.

“Jaguars are really attracted to Obsession and Chanel No. 5,” said McCarthy. “I always think we’re out in the jungle for three or four days and it’s pretty rough but we always smell really, really good.”

McCarthy stressed that it was great to have the Brandywine Zoo as a partner on the project and that zoos often play an important, behind the scenes role in conservation projects.

“This is a way that we get to work with wild animals and we get a lot of data that would take us years to collect in the field,” said McCarthy. “This will really help us with animals in the wild. It’s a great partnership and they were great to work with.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Jennifer McCarthy

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Large Animal Emergency Rescue Workshops held on Webb Farm

Almost 80 people took part in a Large Animal Emergency Rescue Training held October 7 and 8 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at UD’s Webb Farm. Participants included University of Delaware students, members of the public, veterinary professionals, first responders, officials and volunteers from the Maryland Park Service.

The awareness workshops were led by Roger Lauze from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), Jo Ann Bashore, former Park Ranger at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area (NRMA), and Tom Coulter, paramedic and instructor from Coulter and Associates.

Amy Biddle, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, said that the course sprung up organically from students in the equine management capstone course after Bashore visited the class and talked about her experiences handling equine emergencies at Fair Hill NRMA.

Large Animal Emergency Rescue Workshops held on Webb FarmWorkshops were geared towards instructing participants on how to move large animals safely and quickly in cases of disaster or injury while preventing potential injuries to the humans involved.

“There were techniques for handling equine emergencies, transporting horses, getting horses out of tight spots, and so there were a variety of scenarios that groups worked in teams to solve,” said Biddle. “For instance, a horse that’s stuck in a trailer if there’s been a trailer accident or if a horse is stuck in a ditch. Horses tend to get stuck in weird places. If there’s a way to hurt themselves, they will find it, so it’s important to know how to move them safely.”

The course offered classroom instruction and hands-on scenarios using specialized equipment that may be readily available to first responder departments including a rescue trailer generously made available by Fair Hill NRMA.

Biddle said that she received positive feedback from participants and the hope was to generate awareness and interest for national certification programs such as the Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue class which was held by the Division of Public Health Office of Animal Welfare (OAW) in September and conducted by OAW’s Delaware Animal Response (DAR) team in conjunction with the Delaware State Fire School.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Amy Biddle

CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

Seven 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 three Distinguished Alumni Awards and three Distinguished Young Alumni Awards – during a ceremony held Friday, Oct. 20, 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

James L. Glancey 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.

James Glancey receives the Worrilow AwardIt is given annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a graduate of the college who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture.

Glancey is a professor with appointments in the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Glancey’s work includes the development of new or improved products and automated processes, the forensics of product failures, as well as a better understanding of the underlying physics of many natural and man-made phenomena.

His research utilizes a combination of analysis and simulations, prototyping, and testing. Cooperation with several centers on campus is typical including the Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research and the Center for Composite Materials. Glancey and his students have co-authored more than 120 manuscripts and papers since 1997 and several students have received national awards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Processing Engineering (SAMPE).

Distinguished Alumni

Robert Cohen receives distinguished alumni awardRobert Cohen has had a distinguishable career both as a practitioner and business entrepreneur in veterinary sciences. Cohen attended the University of Delaware and graduated with a Degree with Distinction in 1972. He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and has been a practicing veterinarian for over 40 years. During his tenure there, he was awarded the American Animal Hospital Association Student Achievement award for his outstanding scholastic and clinical performance. He continued his post-graduate veterinary medical and surgical training at the world’s largest animal hospital, the Animal Medical Center (AMC) of New York. He eventually became the head of the section of cardiology and director of clinics at the world-class facility.

While at the AMC, he founded, with another veterinary cardiologist, a high-tech innovative computer based cardiac and internal medicine consulting service for veterinarians. This venture evolved into the largest provider of veterinary consulting services in the world. The company, CardioPet went public in 1984. The AMC and Cohen sold their interests in that company in 1987. Currently, Cohen owns Bay Street Animal Hospital, a six-doctor veterinary practice on Staten Island in New York.

Ronald Ferriss receives distinguished alumni awardRonald Ferriss graduated from the University of Delaware in 1975 with a B.S. degree in Plant Science, and earned his M.S. (’79) and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics (’80), both at the University of Minnesota. He has led an exemplary career in plant breeding. In 1979, Ferriss initiated his career as a corn breeder in Minnesota with Northrup King Co., an international seed company. From 1983 to 1990, he served as area manager for corn breeding and managed Seed Production Research and Agronomic Research functions. From 1990-1996, Ferriss served as Director of Corn Breeding, North America managing corn breeding programs and off-season nurseries across 15 locations. In 1996-1997, as Sandoz merged with Ciba Geiger to form Novartis, he led the integration of the corn breeding research programs into a single functional unit and until 1999, was Global Head of Corn Breeding.

As the power and complexity of plant breeding increased, Ferriss focused his leadership efforts as Head of Global Inbred Line Development and Hybrid Identification. Ferriss continued in that role as Novartis and Astra-Zeneca agribusinesses merged to create Syngenta. In 2002, Ferriss became Director of Strategy Facilitation, Seeds Product Development. Ferriss joined Syngenta’s Legal Team as Head of Product Clearance and License Compliance from 2006 to 2012, followed by Head, Global Germplasm Contract Compliance from 2013 until retiring in December 2014.

David Morris receives distinguished alumni awardDavid Morris is currently the Business Integration Leader, leading integration activities for the agriculture division during the Dow DuPont merger. Morris holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Entomology and Plant Pathology from the University of Delaware and a Master of Science Degree in Entomology from Virginia Tech.

He joined the Dow Chemical Company in September 1982 and has held positions as field sales representative, market research analyst, product marketing manager, district sales manager, human resources manager, group marketing manager, global business leader, six sigma champion, global commercial processes leader, Urban Pest Management Commercial Leader, U.S. Government Affairs and Public Affairs Leader and most recently U.S. Seed Affiliates Leader. Morris currently represents Dow AgroSciences on the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Distinguished Young Alumni

Sara-Beth Bittinger receives distinguished young alumni awardSara-Beth Bittinger has served as the vice president of the Allegany County Board of Education since 2010, when then Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley appointed her to the position. She is currently the Director of Assessment and Institutional Research at Frostburg State University in Western Maryland and previously served as the Director of Institutional Research at Allegany College of Maryland. Bittinger’s area of expertise is in analytics and managing institutional data that reports to external and internal constituents, information essential for critical decision-making.

Bittinger received her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Frostburg State University (FSU) and her Master of Science degree in Applied Economics from the University of Delaware. In 2017, she earned her Doctorate in Education from FSU.

Phung Luu receives distinguished young alumni awardPhung Luu owns and operates Behavior and Training Solutions, an animal and staff training consultancy company; and Animal Behavior and Conservation Connections, a free-flight bird show production company.

As a graduate of the University of Delaware, Luu developed a foundation for animal care and wildlife education. Working on the University farm provided practical understanding for working with chickens and corn. Fostered by a passion for working with animals from an early age, he has been training animals for over twenty-five years. Luu’s life mission is to connect people to nature and wildlife and he does this through the production of free-flight bird programs presented at schools, state parks, and zoos throughout the country. These bird programs have been featured at the Philadelphia Zoo, the Brandywine Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and the North Carolina Zoo to name a few. Not only are the shows entertaining and educational, they raise awareness and money to support conservation projects for wild birds.

Joseph Rogerson receives distinguished young alumni awardJoseph Rogerson is a Certified Wildlife Biologist and has worked for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife for nearly 12 years. Currently, he is the program manager for Species Conservation and Research where he oversees the conservation and management of the state’s game and nongame wildlife and plant communities. Before being promoted to this position 2.5 years ago, Rogerson spent the previous nine years as Delaware’s Deer and Furbearer Biologist. Prior to working for the Division, he worked for nearly a year with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services as a Wildlife Specialist and before that he received his B.S. degree in wildlife and fisheries resources from West Virginia University in 2003 and a M.S. degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Delaware in 2005.

UD’s Desiree Narango looks at how residential yards impact food webs

University of Delaware doctoral student Desiree Narango is researching trees and shrubs planted in the lawns of homeowners throughout the Washington D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia areas to assess how those choices are impacting food webs.

Narango, a doctoral student working with Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, is also associated with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and works through a citizen-science program called “Neighborhood Nest Watch.” Narango is co-advised by Pete Marra, director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

Through her research, Narango looks at breeding birds and the food resources they need, such as insects and caterpillars.

Different trees vary in how much food they provide birds and Narango said she has a network of homeowners in the D.C. metropolitan area that allowed her to use their yards for her study. Over the course of the four-year study, Narango has looked at 203 yards.

One thing that has stood out to her is the sheer number of different trees that are planted in these yards.

UD’s Desiree Narango looks at how residential yards impact food webs“We focus on woody plants—so trees and shrubs—and we’ve documented over 375 different species in these 203 yards. Which is crazy,” said Narango who added that it became apparent quickly that some trees are better than others with regards to sustaining food webs.

“We just had a paper come out in the journal of Biological Conservation where we show that native trees are better at providing caterpillars for birds which is a really important food resource,” said Narango. “Native trees are better, hands down, but even among the native trees, there’s some that are better than others so things like oaks and cherries and elms are highly productive for caterpillars so they have lots of good food for the birds.”

Narango added that there are a lot of non-native plants—such as zelkova, ginkgo, and lilac—that don’t provide any resources for breeding birds.

“Those species are true non-natives so they’re not related to anything here and they provide almost nothing in terms of caterpillars for birds,” said Narango. “There’s also species like Japanese cherry and Japanese maple that are non-native but are related to our native maples and cherries. We found that those species have an average of 40 percent fewer caterpillars than the native versions of that tree. If you had a choice between a black cherry and a Japanese cherry and if you’re interested in food for birds, then you should choose the native version.”

Narango said that a problem home owners may face when trying to select native versions of plants is that a lot of the big box stores don’t carry them.

“There are a lot of really great small nurseries that have many native plants that are productive in terms of caterpillars and are also very beautiful,” said Narango. “You definitely don’t have to sacrifice beauty to get plants that are ecologically beneficial. There’s a lot to choose from so you can have beauty, you can have fruit and then also have food for birds too. It’s all interconnected.”

As for the most eye-opening aspect of her research, Narango said that it has to be the tremendous amount of diversity in bugs and birds in people’s back yards.

“A lot of people think you need to go to the woods to see beautiful butterflies or beautiful birds but they’re actually in people’s back yards too,” said Narango.

In the group’s bird surveys, they documented 98 different bird species.

Narango focuses on the Carolina Chickadee and said that she would follow individual birds around to see what trees they were choosing. One of the major findings in her paper is that the number of caterpillar species a plant supports predicts how strongly chickadees prefer it.

“When these birds would choose a tree, all the other birds in the neighborhood were choosing those trees too so we would see these amazing warblers that don’t breed in Delaware or in D.C. but are migrating through and they’re using all these suburban habitats on their way north. In a way, our chickadees were telling us what all of the birds want during that period,” said Narango.

As a landscaper herself, Narango added that it was surprising to see how much life happened in her own back yard when she started planting the right species.

“I planted this flower called ironweed and the first year it was there, I had the specialist bees that use that flower and then I have caterpillars in my shrubs and it’s really cool how quickly you can see life be attracted to your yard when you plant the right species,” said Narango.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Desiree Narango and Doug Tallamy

Research explores the positives and negatives of food labels

When customers walk down aisles of grocery stores, they are inundated with labels such as organic, fair-trade and cage free, just to name a few. Labels such as these may be eye-catching but are often free of any scientific basis and stigmatize many healthy foods, a new University of Delaware-led study found.

The paper published recently in the journal Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy examined the good, the bad and the ugly of food labeling to see how labels identifying the process in which food was produced positively and negatively influenced consumer behavior.

Research explores the positives and negatives of food labelsBy reviewing over 90 academic studies on consumer response to process labels, the researchers found that while these labels satisfy consumer demand for quality assurances and can create value for both consumers and producers, misinterpretation is common and can stigmatize food produced by conventional processes even when there is no scientific evidence those foods cause harm.

For the poor, in particular, there is danger in misunderstanding which food items are safe, said Kent Messer, the study’s lead author and the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Career Development Chair for the Environment.

“That has me worried about the poor and those who are food insecure,” said Messer, who is also director of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Because now you’re trying to make everything a high-end food choice and frankly, we just want to have healthy food choices, we don’t need to have extra labels that scare away people.”

Process labels, by definition, focus on the production of a food, but largely ignore important outcomes of the process such as taste or healthiness. According to Messer and his study co-authors, policy changes could help consumers better understand their choices. They argue governments should not impose bans on process labels but rather encourage labels that help document how the processes affect important quality traits, such as calorie count.

“Relying on process labels alone, on the other hand, is a laissez faire approach that inevitably surrenders the educational component of labeling to mass media, the colorful array of opinion providers, and even food retailers, who may not always be honest brokers of information,” the researchers wrote.

The Good

With regards to the positive impact process labels have on consumers, Messer said that consumers are able to more freely align their purchasing decisions with their values and preferences.

If, for example, a consumer wants to buy fair trade coffee, they are able to do so with greater ease.

“The good part is that process labels can help bridge the trust between the producer and the consumer because it gives the consumer more insight into the market,” said Messer. “New products can be introduced this way, niche markets can be created, and consumers, in many cases, are willing to pay more for these products. It’s good for industry, consumers are getting what they want, and new players get to find ways of getting a higher price.”

The Bad

The bad part is that consumers are already in the midst of a marketplace filled with information that can be overwhelming because of the sheer amount of product choices and information available.

In addition, when most consumers go to buy food, they are often crunched for time.

“Human choice tends to be worse when you put time constraints on it,” said Messer. “Maybe you’ve got a child in the aisle with you and now you’re adding this new label and there’s lots of misinterpretation of what it means. The natural label is a classic one which means very little, yet consumers assume it means more than it does. They think it means ‘No GMO’ but it doesn’t. They think it means it is ‘organic’ but it isn’t. This label is not helping them align their values to their food, and they’re paying a price premium but not getting what they wanted to buy.”

Messer said that another problem are “halo effects,” overly optimistic misinterpretation of what a label means.

“If you show consumers a chocolate bar that is labeled as ‘fair trade’, some will tell you that it has lower calories,” Messer said. “But the label is not about calories. Consumers do this frequently with the ‘organic’ label as they think it is healthy for the consumer. Organic practices may be healthier for the farm workers or the environment, but for the actual consumer, there’s very little evidence behind that. You’re getting lots of mixed, wrong messages out there.”

The Ugly

Like halo effects, the ugly side of food processing labels comes into play when labels sound like they have a positive impact but really have a negative one.

A label such as “low food miles” might sound nice but could actually be causing more harm than good.

“Sometimes, where food is grown doesn’t mean that it’s actually the best for climate change,” said Messer.

Hot house tomatoes grown in Canada, for example, might have low food miles for Canadian consumers but it’s probably far better environmentally — because of all the energy expended in creating tomatoes in an energy intensive hot house in Canada — to grow the tomatoes in Florida and then ship them to Canada.

“If you just count miles and not true energy use, you can get people paying more money for something that’s actually going the opposite of what they wanted, which is to get a lower carbon footprint,” said Messer.

He added that the ugly side of food labeling is that a lot of fear is being introduced into the marketplace that isn’t based on science.

“When you start labeling everything as ‘free of this’ such as ‘gluten free water,’ you can end up listing stuff that could never have been present in the food in the first place,” Messer said. “These ‘free of’ labels can cause unnecessary fear and cast the conventionally produced food in a harsh, negative light.”

Since the vast majority of the food market is still conventionally produced and is the lower cost product, there is a danger in taking that safe food and calling it unsafe because of a few new entrants into the food market.

Messer also said that there is evidence that food companies are getting worried about investing in science and technology because they don’t know how the consumer is going to respond or how marketers are going to attack their food product because it’s new and different and, therefore, can be labeled as bad or dangerous.

“We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed in our country and around the world,” Messer said. “We are currently able to feed so many because of advances in agricultural science and technology. If we’re afraid of that now, we have a long-term impact on the poor that could be quite negative in our country and around the world. That’s when I start thinking these process labels could really be ugly.”

Co-authors on the paper include Marco Costanigro, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University, and Harry M. Kaiser, the Gellert Family Professor of Applied Economics in the Department of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.

Article by Adam Thomas
Illustration by Jeff Chase
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Rodrigo Vargas receives National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award

The world’s coastal ecosystems — areas such as tidal marshes and mangrove forests — have the potential to store and sequester large amounts of carbon, collectively known as blue carbon.

Because of their importance to the global carbon cycle, former President Barack Obama in 2014 made research on understanding carbon dynamics in these coastal ecosystems a priority.

Despite their role as potential sinks – or storehouses – of carbon, it is still unclear how different biophysical processes influence carbon dynamics in these ecosystems.

Using funds from his recently awarded National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, the University of Delaware’s Rodrigo Vargas will establish an outdoor laboratory at the St. Jones Reserve, which is a component of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) and part of the National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR). His research efforts will contribute to a better understanding of vertical and lateral carbon fluxes — the amount of carbon exchanged between the land and the atmosphere, and the amount of carbon exchanged between the land and the coastal ocean — in tidal coastal wetlands.

Through the prestigious NSF Career Award, Vargas, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), also will work to empower minority students by integrating them into research, educational and outreach activities, and will enhance social capital by strengthening the network of students, science professionals and researchers in salt marshes across Delaware and beyond.

Vertical and lateral fluxes

UD’s Rodrigo Vargas receives National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development AwardVertical carbon fluxes involve the amount of carbon going up and into the atmosphere or from the atmosphere into the ecosystem and will be estimated by measuring fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4); two important greenhouse gases.

“The net exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere and the land-surface is called the net ecosystem exchange,” Vargas said. “If the net ecosystem exchange is negative, it means that CO2 is being absorbed by the ecosystem. If it’s positive, it means that CO2 is being released into the atmosphere, and the way we quantify that is with the eddy covariance technique that measures the exchange of mass and energy between the atmosphere and the land-surface.”

In this specific site, the researchers are measuring the exchange of CO2 and CH4 between the ecosystem and the atmosphere using the first eddy covariance tower established in the state of Delaware since 2015. The establishment of this tower was partially supported from grants Vargas received from Delaware’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NASA-EPSCOR), the Delaware Coastal Programs (DCP), and a CANR seed grant.

The tower is part of the AmeriFlux network, a consortium of scientists using a network to work with the eddy covariance technique, measuring fluxes of CO2 and CH4 at multiple sites across the Americas.

In addition to the vertical fluxes, Vargas explained that is also important to account for lateral fluxes in salt marshes, as well.

Because they’re located in the transition between land and ocean—the terrestrial-aquatic interface—the challenge for salt marshes is that their biogeochemistry is also influenced by tides, which bring matter and energy in as they rise. When tides retreat, they pull out matter and energy, which makes it very challenging to understand the carbon cycle on these ecosystems.

“Recent studies have shown that there’s substantial lateral carbon exports from these ecosystems toward the coastal ocean and that is something that we also would like to understand,” said Vargas. “It’s a very large challenge and we are starting studies with the overarching goal to understand how different biophysical factors regulate vertical and lateral carbon fluxes in tidal salt marshes.”

Remote cameras

The site is also equipped with digital cameras that are able to take automatic pictures of the ecosystem to study plant phenology. Plant phenology informs about the periodic life cycles of plants such as flowering or the timing of leaf-out. The images are taken in color and also in infrared, which allows the researchers to see the greening of the ecosystem. That information is used to understand the carbon dynamics of ecosystems based on repeated photography, referred to as near-surface remote sensing.

“You can see the greenness index to quantify how green the ecosystem is and it peaked by mid-August this year, and then you start losing that greening as part of the annual vegetation cycle. It is also a fantastic opportunity for citizen science and outreach,” said Vargas.

The digital camera not only tells the researchers about the greening of the site but also about events they might not have otherwise been able to research, such as when major flood events occurred in 2015 and 2016.

“One flood event was caused by the surge of Hurricane Joaquin. With the cameras, we were able to monitor how high and extensive the water level was. In 2016, we had another flood, but this flood was not because of ocean storms, it was because of an inland storm that brought water through the St. Jones River and flooded our site,” said Vargas.

All images are available online in real-time as part of the PhenoCam network to help improve transparency and data sharing among the broader scientific community.

Educational component

Vargas will also use the award to provide eighth grade students — who are usually learning about the carbon cycle through their class curriculum — a chance to get a hands-on learning experience related to carbon.

Vargas plans to work with professionals at DNREC and the St. Jones Reserve, as well as with Amy Trauth-Nare, senior associate director of UD’s Professional and Continuing Studies, to develop a module using phenomena driven instruction — or place-based instruction, such as learning at the St. Jones Reserve — to specifically address topics on carbon and energy exchange in ecosystems.

In addition, Vargas is looking to create opportunities for undergraduate minority students participating in UD’s Associate in Arts Program (AAP) to promote academic success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“One of the things that I have been working on since I started at UD is to empower underrepresented students. By providing scholastic opportunities and enhancing social capital, we strengthen the network of students, science professionals and researchers in Delaware and beyond,” said Vargas. “I am Hispanic and Hispanic professors are a minority at UD, and Hispanic students are also a minority at UD. Thus, I have a strong commitment to supporting underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields. That’s a big push on this proposal.”

Vargas will work with David Satran, director of the Associate in Arts Program, to customize opportunities for the AAP students, and will incorporate his current graduate students as mentors for the AAP students.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

UD’s Debbie Delaney helps West Virginia coal miners shift to beekeeping

Former coal miners or citizens whose lives have been shaped by the coal mining industry in southern West Virginia will soon learn how to establish and operate bee colonies thanks to help from the University of Delaware’s Debbie Delaney.

Delaney, associate professor of entomology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, spent her summer in Summers County working as a consultant through Appalachian Headwaters which is a non-profit organization that formed the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective. Delaney said that the goal was to help get the socioeconomic growth program up and running for displaced miners in 14 counties in southern West Virginia.

“We got about 500 nucleus colonies or nucs, which are small colonies of bees, and a queen and all summer we’ve been erecting bear fences and creating bee yards so we can grow the colonies over the season and get them through the winter,” said Delaney.

Beginning next year, local partners will come on board and get hives which will be a way for them to generate income.

UD’s Debbie Delaney helps West Virginia miners begin anewDelaney said that how much income will vary depending on what kind of forage is available during that time of year—and that since the initial installation began after foraging season, they have had to feed the bees a lot to get them up to weight to make it through winter.

“Typically, I’d say in that area of West Virginia, if they do things right, they should be able to get close to 200 pounds [of honey] off of each hive,” said Delaney.

The way the program operates, the local partners will get the colonies, pull their honey off and bring it to the experts at the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective to extract.

“I’ve been helping them design a big honey processing building that will be able to process 100,000 pounds of honey and then we will bottle it, we’ll market it and we’ll sell it to a higher end community,” said Delaney. “We’re not just selling the honey but also a story which is really cool.”

Kate Asquith, program director at Appalachian Headwaters, said that starting a beekeeping operation can be a risky and expensive endeavor and they wanted to help the first-time beekeepers get over those hurdles.

“This is a way to make sure that they’re getting as much profit from their beekeeping as they can,” said Asquith. “Our hope is that we can help people get a lot more money for the work that they’re doing and Debbie is a really big part of all of it. She’s been a wonderful piece of helping us plan out the program.”

Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is headquartered at an old camp that was once owned and operated by coal mining companies that saw thousands of kids of coal miners go through the camp from different mining states.

“These people are so tied to this place. When I was there over the summer, at least twice a week somebody would drive by and say, ‘I went to camp here 50 years ago. This place means so much to me’ so it’s a really special spot,” said Delaney. “There’s so much rich history there.”

Because the people are tied to the land and invested in the history of the area, Delaney said that it made sense to get them involved in beekeeping.

“They’re native and they’ve been there for generations and they know every mountain, every hill has a name even though it might not be on a map. Because they’re so tied to the land, this operation had to be something that was sustainable and that was also very connected to the environment and beekeeping is definitely both of those things,” said Delaney.

The area also has a rich history of beekeeping as Delaney said she would find antique beekeeping equipment at area flea markets.

“Everybody’s grandfather had bees. It’s because it’s all hardwood forests there, which all produce nectar and pollen and so it’s a really good area for beekeeping, really high quality forage. I think both of those things make it ideal,” said Delaney.

The plan is for those beekeepers to keep their own apiaries but get bees raised by the Appalachian Bee Keeping Collective.

“We’re trying to raise a strain of Appalachian honey bee that is mite resistant and that’s a big piece of what Debbie is doing,” said Asquith. “She’s really skilled with natural beekeeping methods and has been a really big help for us.”

Asquith said that the first class of beekeepers, who will be trained over fall and winter, will number around 35 but next year the program will ramp up to include 85 beekeepers.

For the first-time beekeepers, Delaney said that the biggest challenge is going to be overcoming the fear of being stung.

“They’re going to be working with an insect that stings and learning the social behavioral cues of a colony, to read them, to know when they need to apply smoke or how much protective clothing they should wear; just learning to feel comfortable around them so that they are safe and that the participants can work them safely,” said Delaney.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Sherrier receives $5.9 million NSF grant to conduct research on beneficial plant-microbe interactions

The University of Delaware’s Janine Sherrier is a co-leader of a multi-institutional team that recently received a four-year, $5,972,497 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on the functional genomics of beneficial legume microbe interactions.

These funds were awarded to the team after their recent completion of a highly-successful research program supported by a previous $6,733,426 award from the National Science Foundation.

Sherrier, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, professor of biological sciences and research team leader at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, is a co-principal Investigator on the project.  Other team leaders include lead scientist Michael Udvardi, Chief Scientific Officer at the Noble Research Institute; Maria Harrison, the William H. Crocker Professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University; Rebecca Dickstein, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of North Texas; and Catalina Pislariu, a new professor at Texas Woman’s University.

UD’s Sherrier receives $5.9 million NSF grant to conduct research on beneficial plant-microbe interactionsSherrier said that in this study, the researchers are “focusing on genetic components of the plant which regulate interactions between a legume forage crop and beneficial bacterial and fungal soil microbes. Just as humans require microbes to help us absorb nutrients from our food and maintain a robust immune system, plants also perform best when they interact with beneficial microbes. These microbes can provide plants with protection against pathogens and pests, increase plant reliance during stressful environmental conditions, and aide the absorption of essential nutrients from soil,” said Sherrier.

In recent decades, plant breeders have made advances in the production of crop plants with important traits such as increased yield or enhanced disease protection, but Sherrier said, “The practical application of beneficial microbes has not been well studied and this research area offers the promise of the development of new tools to increase crop yields and to lower economic and environmental costs associated with crop production.”

The research project focused on a legume crop because of its current use as a forage crop and its similarity to other important legume crops such as alfalfa, soybean, lima beans, and peanut. Legumes are also known to interact with a beneficial microbe which reduces the requirement to augment fields with nitrogen fertilizers, one area of Sherrier’s research expertise. In this unique interaction, when the bacteria and plant associate successfully, the bacteria are able to convert gaseous nitrogen from the Earth’s atmosphere into a form that is bioavailable for the plant.

“Nitrogen is often the most limiting macronutrient in crop production, and the industrial production of nitrogen fertilizer requires high pressures and high temperatures, conditions which consume large levels of fossil fuels. As demands for fossil fuels continue to increase, the cost of industrially-produced nitrogen fertilizer is passed on to crop producers and food consumers. If growers have an option to use the microbially-supplied nitrogen to support successful crop growth, they could save money and help reduce the carbon footprint of food production,” said Sherrier.

This beneficial interaction to acquire nitrogen is especially relevant to crop production on the coastal soils of Delaware, the rest of the Eastern shore of the U.S., and in California. Agricultural fields in coastal soils like those found in Delaware contain a high percentage of sand, relatively low levels organic content and are susceptible to droughts and floods. Unfortunately, these conditions are not optimal for the long-term survival of beneficial microbes in the soil, and these regional soils do not contain enough of the beneficial bacteria to help crops reach their full yield potentials.

“Growers are facing increasing pressures to increase crop yields, while reducing impacts of crop production on the environment. This research is important because it will provide additional tools to growers to support healthy crop growth. Individuals may not choose to use microbes in every application, but growers will have a greater selection of resources to respond to the challenging conditions they encounter during each growing season,” said Sherrier.

Therefore, in addition to the laboratory research in this project, Sherrier is working with UD’s Cooperative Extension specialists to demonstrate how growers can add beneficial microbes to the soil at the time of planting. In addition, the group researchers are enthusiastic about the training they will provide for students, post-docs and the general public about the importance of microbes and soil health for crop production.“Since our team has been entrusted with federal funds to support our research, we are committed to sharing the results of the research to benefit the public,” said Sherrier.

Importantly, Debra Coffey, an educational researcher with the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy, will lead assessments of the program’s entire outreach and training efforts to measure the impact of their work and help the team continue to improve the impact of their diverse outreach program.

At UD, specifically, Sherrier’s team will collaborate with UD’s 4-H program to lead an educational 4-H camp called Marvelous Microbes camp which teams microbiology and encourages students from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in sciences. The group will conduct training sessions for adults at farmer’s markets and farm stands, and they also developed programming for students of all ages in Alabama, Texas, and New York.

Postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students participating in the program from all of the research institutions will take part in a rigorous training program. The senior team leaders will also provide training for members of the global scientific research community during annual workshops to demonstrate how the U.S.-generated resources can be used to benefit additional scientific research programs.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

The UD Botanic Gardens receives David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis Fund Endowment

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) rely on the work of student interns year-round, and especially throughout the summer, to keep the garden’s plant collections looking pristine.

Now, thanks to a generous endowment established by the Parvis family in honor of David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis, the UDBG will be guaranteed to have a student intern working every summer.

Martha T. Parvis worked as a secretary for the Longwood Graduate Program for many years and the endowment is the first of its kind for the UDBG, and Robert Lyons, interim chair for the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said that it is uncommon for a garden to receive such an endowment.

“It is a holy grail for gardens to get an endowment for student programs and we’ve been very fortunate through their generosity to make it happen,” said Lyons.

The UD Botanic Gardens receives David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis Fund EndowmentJohn Frett, professor of landscape horticulture in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of the UDBG, echoed these sentiments saying that from the UDBG’s standpoint, the endowment is truly unique and will impact students for years to come.

“Endowments for this type of work are extraordinarily difficult to come by and it’s great to have that security, to know there will always be at least that one student that comes in and has that experience,” said Frett. “The impact of this endowment on the garden and on the student population is huge and it’s through their generosity that this is going to be possible.”

The UDBG had five student interns working in the gardens over the summer. Through the program, the students worked with UDBG staff members to learn garden maintenance skills and gain experience in public horticulture while earning an hourly wage.

The students work outside performing a wide variety of maintenance tasks, such as mowing, weed control, planting, and hardscape installation. Additionally, they develop specialized skills such as curatorial work, detailed pruning, propagation, and plant identification.

Interns also assist with the annual benefit plant sales, which may include plant propagation and maintenance, labeling, set-up and plant staging and sales. Other potential activities include educational programming, marketing, web site administration, plant curation, and special event planning.

Students work individually and in groups to accomplish goals set forth for the summer. They learn by example the importance of teamwork and collaboration required to manage UDBG’s collections.

Students familiar with horticulture can use the internships to expand their horizons, discover new aspects in the diverse industry, and help build their resumes. Financial support for student interns is provided by Patrons of the Spring Plant Sale and other generous benefactors.

This endowment will now help UDBG direct their budgeted resources to other programmatic areas that support students and their research.

“It gets the UDBG a person to work there in the summer in that capacity,” Lyons said, “but it also relieves the budget of the garden and allows funds to be directed to support additional programs, so that makes it even more significant.”

Frett added that the endowment “increases the depth in the internship program.”

The first intern from the David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis Fund will start in the summer of 2018.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lindsay Yeager

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Jaisi Receives NSF EPSCoR Research Fellowship

Deb Jaisi, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware, has received a research fellowship through a new National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative that focuses on developing the next generation of U.S. researchers.

The award from NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) allows awardees to make extended collaborative visits to laboratories and scientific centers, establish partnerships with researchers with complementary expertise, learn new techniques, have access to sophisticated equipment and shift their research focus in new directions.

The two-year, $261,000 award will enable Jaisi and his graduate student to spend six months each year working with scientists at the California Institute of Technology to use a suite of sophisticated instrumentation to determine the specific forms and concentrations of phosphorus in soil and water.

Delaware is one of 24 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam that are eligible to compete for EPSCoR funding.

Unlike other types of NSF EPSCoR grants, which focus on supporting research centers and partnerships among institutions, the Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-4 fellowships focus on giving early-career researchers the foundation for collaborations that span their entire careers. NSF announced the 30 RII Track-4 grant recipients on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

New NSF EPSCoR funding program helps early-career faculty develop expertise, collaborations“These awards provide early-career researchers with tremendous opportunities and result in EPSCoR institutions gaining faculty members and investigators with cutting-edge research experience, who can help build the vibrant science and engineering laboratories and programs of the future,” said NSF acting EPSCoR head Uma Venkateswaran.

The Delaware EPSCoR program helped recruit Jaisi to UD in 2012, providing start-up funding for his laboratory.

“Deb is one of the really outstanding hires we’ve made through the Delaware EPSCoR program,” said Don Sparks, the S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Soil and Environmental Chemistry and project director for Delaware’s current statewide EPSCoR project. “He’s set up a world-class laboratory and developed innovative techniques for tracing the movement of phosphorus through the environment, establishing quite a reputation for himself in a relatively short period of time.”

Phosphorus and the environment

In January this year Jaisi received an NSF CAREER Award for outstanding early-career scientists that will address the environmental fate of phytate, the most common yet elusive form of organic phosphorus.

Phosphorus, the focus of Jaisi’s research, is a key nutrient for all living organisms but also typically scarce in natural environments. As a component of fertilizers, phosphorus may promote crop growth, but excess phosphorus may build up in soil and be washed into waterways where it stimulates overgrowth of algae and degrades water quality.

“The problem of phosphorus pollution has been very persistent in waterways such as the Chesapeake Bay, despite all of our efforts so far to limit the sources and clean it up,” Jaisi said. “My research team is devoted to gaining a deeper understanding of phosphorus sources and biogeochemical processes to make more progress in improving water quality in the Chesapeake and elsewhere.”

The movement of phosphorus through soil, water and sediment is not straightforward, however, and Jaisi has dedicated his research to understanding the various sources and forms phosphorus may take and their interactions with living and nonliving components of the environment. He has developed new techniques for tracing the sources, transport and transformation of phosphorus using phosphate oxygen isotopes. (Phosphate is a molecule made up of one atom of phosphorus and four atoms of oxygen.)

Isotopes — forms of the same chemical element with different atomic masses — occur in different proportions depending on their source. Phosphate derived from synthetic or manure-based fertilizers, for example, will carry different oxygen isotopic signatures than phosphate derived from decaying autumn leaves that have fallen into a stream.

Determining the source, timing, and relative quantities of various phosphorus inputs into waterways, particularly regarding whether they pose immediate risks to water quality, will potentially have a major impact on watershed management decisions.

Jaisi says that working with the expert colleagues and sophisticated tools available at Caltech will enable him to advance his research to a new level. His host at Caltech will be John Eiler, a leading expert on the isotope geochemistry of light elements. The fellowship offered the perfect opportunity to work together for an extended period of time.

Jaisi is looking forward to using the advanced analytical tools at Caltech, especially the nano secondary ion mass spectrometer (nanoSIMS) and laser ablation isotope mass spectrometer (LA-IRMS), one of only a handful of such facilities in the U.S., to develop new methods of analyzing stable isotopes of phosphate in complex soil matrices. Developing methods and expertise on this equipment will be a key step toward future funding proposals to bring SIMS and LA-IRMS capability to Delaware.

“This fellowship has really been an exciting development and will support my dream of developing advanced and innovative analytical methods in my research,” he said. “In fact, methodological limitations are essentially the roadblocks of phosphorus research. This high-risk, high-return type of research aims to develop two independent isotope systematics that together will significantly improve the resolution of sources and processes involving phosphorus in the environment, and thus may provoke the need for reinterpreting published literature.”

Article by Beth Chajes

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Arsenault uses lab to improve gut health of livestock animals

Casey Johnson, Dr. Ryan Arsenault, Bridget Aylward skating on Lake Louise, in Alberta, Canada during a break at the Keystone Symposium "Pattern Recognition Signaling: From Innate Immunity to Inflammatory Disease" in Banff, Canada in March.
Casey Johnson, Ryan Arsenault, and Bridget Aylward skating on Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada during a break at the Keystone Symposium “Pattern Recognition Signaling: From Innate Immunity to Inflammatory Disease” in Banff, Canada in March.

Researchers at the University of Delaware are looking into what causes that gut feeling in livestock animals such as cows and chickens.

Ryan Arsenault, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), arrived at UD in 2015 and since that time, he has worked to set up a lab looking specifically at the gut health of production livestock animals.

Members of Arsenault’s lab—specifically Bridget Aylward, a doctoral level student in CANR, and Casey Johnson, a Master’s level student in CANR—have presented their findings at international conferences such as the European Symposium on Poultry Nutrition in Spain as well as Keystone conferences in Banff, Canada and Dublin, Ireland.

Nexus of Everything

Arsenault said that gut health is a big topic in agriculture as many researchers are looking for alternatives to antibiotics which are almost all focused on the gut.

“We can’t use antibiotics like we used to in food animals. Antibiotics have been used in animal agriculture to keep animals disease free and grow larger. In Europe it’s totally gone, has been for years and years, and it’s getting pulled more and more from the American market so things like probiotics, pre-biotics, post-biotics, feed additives and feed enzymes, everyone’s looking at those as this silver bullet to solve the antibiotic alternative issue,” said Arsenault.

Many of his research projects are funded by industry and look at mode of action and mechanisms for antibiotic alternatives such as yeast cell wall extracts, feed enzymes and feed modifiers.

The trend towards no-antibiotics basically boils down to two main points: the concerns regarding antibiotic resistance that bacteria develop and the negative perception consumers have with regards to the use of antibiotics in animals.

Arsenault said that the gut is important to understand because it’s the center of animal production.

“You need an efficient gut because that’s where all the nutrients are absorbed. You’re not going to have a growing animal without a functioning healthy gut and it’s also the site of entry for a lot of disease causing pathogens,” said Arsenault. “It’s linked to pretty much every other system. For example, the second most innervated organ in the body besides the brain is the gut.”

There is also a huge immune component as more than 50 percent of the immune system is found in the gut.

“The gut is sort of this nexus of everything,” said Arsenault. “It’s basically your gut microbiota—the resident commensal bacteria in your gut—are a big part of being healthy. If you have the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut, you’re more likely to be resistant to infections, your gut’s functioning more efficiently, you can maintain a healthier weight. Diseases like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative colitis are, people think, predominantly microbiota related.”

The acquisition of a microbiome as a young chick, baby calf or a baby human has consequences for an entire life span because of how it helps develop an appropriate immune system and an appropriate immune response.

For instance, a lot of allergies and auto immune diseases are linked to how one acquires a microbiome in infancy.

Arsenault said that his lab is interested in looking into how chickens or cows acquire a healthy or unhealthy microbiome and what signals this is providing to the host animal, which feeds into the probiotics question of what the animals should be fed in order to give them a healthy microbiota so their immune system is optimum and they’re absorbing the optimum nutrients.

Focusing on the gut is a trend in human health as well, as probiotics have taken off in popularity and the work being done in Arsenault’s lab ties into the One Health concept, the idea that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. The most common type of zoonotic disease—diseases that can be passed from animals to humans—are classified as zoonotic gastrointestinal diseases, this includes Salmonella, E.coli and Campylobacter.

International presentations

For their presentations, Johnson and Aylward both focused on issues related to the gut.

Johnson looked at feed additives as alternatives to antibiotics and how they respond with necrotic enteritis, or inflammatory dead gut disease, in chickens which is a huge problem facing the Delmarva poultry industry due to antibiotic feed restrictions.

“We were looking at their products which is crude yeast cell wall extracts which trigger immune receptors and we were looking at the purified forms of these yeasts cell wall extracts and at the differences and the efficacies of these as antibiotic alternatives. The more purified products seemed to have a better response,” said Johnson.

Because yeast is a fungus and not a bacteria, they initiate and bind to different receptors in the gut and do different things to the immune system than bacteria.

Arsenault explained that there’s been a lot of work in poultry on yeast feed additives as immune modulators because “They’re not really stimulating the immune system, they’re not dampening the immune system, they’re kind of priming or modulating it.”

Aylward’s poster presentation in Banff looked at pattern recognition receptors, which are receptors in the immune system that recognize a specific universal microbe motif such as a set of nucleic acids in a form only found in bacteria, with regards to chicken macrophage cell lines.

A macrophage is a large cell found in stationary form in the tissues or as a mobile white blood cell, especially at sites of infection.

The macrophages were treated with butyrate—considered a post-biotic—and forskolin—a plant extract that people use as a weight loss supplement.

Aylward worked on the kinome array analysis of how signaling in the cells changed after administration of these different feed additives.

Her presentation in Dublin looked at eight random dairy cows that were free of pathogens to establish the baseline normal immune cell signaling in the gut of those cows.

Departmental focus

In addition to his research on gut health, Arsenault is also on the organizing board of the annual Symposium on Gut Health in Production of Food Animals, an international conference on all aspects of gut health for all food animal species. He has been invited to speak on the topic of gut health in Brazil, Spain, Canada and the U.S. and co-edited an e-book on gut health research.

The Department of Animal and Food Sciences also has Amy Biddle, assistant professor of animal and food sciences, who co-teaches a gut microbiome microbial and host perspectives class with Arsenault.

Biddle’s work includes the Equine Gut Microbiome project in which her lab is tackling many of the fundamental questions behind the role of bacteria in the horse gut in health and disease.

Robert Dyer, associate professor in ANFS, and Tanya Gressley, associate professor and dairy nutritionist in ANFS, are also looking carefully at the gut health of animals.

Article by Adam Thomas

UD to feature live Blue Hens at home football games this fall

UD to feature live Blue Hens at home football games this fallUniversity of Delaware football fans who have never seen an actual Blue Hen in person will get their chance this fall as the University will have Blue Hens on display during home games as part of their pre-game tailgate festivities.

The birds will be on site in the Anchor Buick GM Blue Hen Fan Zone two hours before the games begin. The football season kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. when UD hosts Delaware State University.

Having the Blue Hens at the games is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between UD Athletics and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). Chrissi Rawak, director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Services, and CANR Dean Mark Rieger initially talked about the possibility of having a live mascot in December 2016, and the two teams have been working together ever since to bring the concept to fruition. Athletics and CANR have worked together on everything from game day logistics to coop design to blue hen color selection.

A trailer, designed by Dan Hougentogler, research associate in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), has been constructed to house the Hens for the pre-game activities and is equipped with a mock up football field and goal posts, as well as fans to keep the birds cool.

The Blue Hen flock at UD features descendants of birds that were originally donated by S. Hallock du Pont in the 1960s for teaching and research, as well as three newer birds that were donated in 2016 by Wesley Towers, a 1964 UD graduate who majored in animal and poultry health during his time at UD and went on to serve as the Delaware state veterinarian for over 37 years. He is also a former member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

Bob Alphin, senior instructor in ANFS and manager of the Allen Laboratory, explained that this is a great opportunity to provide educational outreach to the Delaware community on the importance of the poultry industry to the state, as well as educate them on the history and biology of the Blue Hens.

Alphin stressed that the safety and health of the birds is of the upmost importance.

“The trailer has a nice design with good air flow, with fans, we’ll provide water and feed, along with plenty of space for the birds. I don’t expect that we’ll have any issues but we are prepared just in case,” said Alphin.

Blue Hen Interns

Three student interns—Anna Desmond, Melanie Lopez and Meaghan Young—from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources have been working with the birds since June and will be on site at the games to help educate the public and to keep an eye on the birds.

Desmond, a junior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, said that she is thinking about a career in the poultry industry after she graduates and has enjoyed working with the birds this summer and learning new things about them such as how they ‘pant’ when they get hot.

“I didn’t realize that chickens pant. That’s something that I never would have even thought that they did. They don’t have sweat glands, like dogs don’t have sweat glands, and so they pant and chickens do the same thing,” said Desmond.

Young, a senior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences and agriculture and natural resources who is also doing research on campus in the Allen laboratory, said that she is looking forward to people’s reactions to the Blue Hens.

“I’m excited to see how they react when they see an actual Blue Hen because a lot of people just think of UD when they think of a Blue Hen but it is an actual bird,” said Young.

Lopez, a senior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major who is also minoring in wildlife conservation, said that the primary goal of the internship is animal care and taking care of the birds.

“We go in there every day and make sure they have feed and water, that the coup isn’t wet and the fans are working, that there are no signs of distress and then we collect the eggs and we count them and put them in the egg room cooler,” said Lopez.

Lopez also said that the interns work on their communication skills with the general public to relay information in a way that children can understand.

“We have a couple of trainings with children that are coming up and that’s kind of our test run to see how the Blue Hens are going to react, how we’re going to handle a whole bunch of children and that should be a good indicator of what it’s going to be like in the fall,” said Lopez.

Naming Contest

Those who attend the first two home games will have the opportunity to suggest names for the Blue Hens, as the interns on hand will collect naming submissions before the game.

While there will most likely be five birds total at the games, there have been two male birds that have been chosen to represent the Blue Hens as they are the biggest birds in the flock and look the most like iconic Blue Hens.

Lopez said that it is easy to distinguish the two Blue Hens from one another and that they both have their own unique personalities.

“One is more energetic and vocal and then the other is quieter but has his bursts where he moves quick all around,” said Lopez.

Young added that “One is a little bit more curious. As soon as you walk in, he’ll kind of go up and check you out and then the other one just chills in the back a little bit.”

For more history on the Blue Hens at the University of Delaware, check out a previous UDaily story.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD study looks to clean up subsurface phosphorus risk assessment

UD study looks to clean up subsurface phosphorus risk assessment
Soil cores collected from Queen Anne’s County, Maryland.

When it comes to advancing nutrient management planning for croplands across the United States, it is important to evaluate phosphorus indices to ensure accurate phosphorus loss risk assessment.

Until recently, however, most of these phosphorus index assessments have focused on the risks of phosphorus losses in surface runoff while inadequately taking into account the critical role of subsurface phosphorus losses.

This is particularly important in areas such as the Atlantic Coastal Plain, where subsurface flow is the predominant pathway of phosphorus transport from artificially drained agroecosystems — cropland that uses artificial drainage to lower water tables.

A new paper published in the Journal of Environmental Quality by researchers from the University of Delaware and other contributing institutions explores methods to evaluate the subsurface phosphorus risk routines of five phosphorus indices from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina using available water quality and soil datasets.

The research was funded in part by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant.

Amy Shober, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a Cooperative Extension specialist, is the lead author on the paper, which represents some of the work done by Kathryn Turner, who worked in Shober’s lab and graduated from UD in 2016.

Co-authors include Scott Andres, hydrogeologist and senior scientist with the Delaware Geological Survey, Anthony Buda, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Thomas Sims, a retired UD faculty member and former deputy dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nicole Fiorellino, Chesapeake College, and Joshua McGrath, University of Kentucky.

Atlantic Coastal Plain

Shober said that some cropland on the Atlantic Coastal Plain must be artificially drained to lower the water table in order to avoid having water within the root zone of plants or standing water in their fields, which would disrupt farmers’ ability to use equipment and plant successful crops.

Shober said that today’s farmers are dealing with what is known as “legacy phosphorus,” phosphorus that is left over from past manure applications and that continues to contribute to water quality issues.

Using phosphorus indices, farmers and land managers can identify areas in the landscape where phosphorus sources overlap with the ways in which water moves phosphorus through the soils.

There have been a lot of studies evaluating the risk of phosphorus transport, such as erosion and surface runoff, because these losses are easily seen. Fewer studies have been conducted on the contributions of subsurface phosphorus to drainage waters, which are harder to track because they occur below ground and there are fewer tools to study these losses.

“You can collect runoff at the end of the field and know what came over that land surface,” said Shober. “It’s harder to identify where water moving through the ditch network originated. Water draining from the fields occurs underground, and the discharges from multiple fields mix as water moves through the ditch network. Not to mention that rainfall that is directly deposited to the ditch — and even overland flow — can also contribute to ditch flow.”

Soil data

To better study the subsurface phosphorus sources and transport, the researchers started looking at soil data to determine if the previously existing phosphorus index models were able to accurately predict subsurface phosphorus sources and transport. They found that the pre-existing hydrologic models to evaluate subsurface phosphorus were inadequate when it came to evaluating flat, artificially drained areas like those found in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain.

For flat landscapes, the hydrologic models didn’t work because they need slope and are based on topography. Because the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain doesn’t have a lot of surface runoff but instead has a lot of subsurface runoff, the models were calculating for problems for which the model was not designed.

“There aren’t a lot of studies, especially in our region where it’s flat and there is a lot of ditch drainage, so we can’t calibrate and verify our phosphorus indices for subsurface phosphorus losses,” said Shober. “We started looking to see if we could use soil data to determine if we were going in the right direction. If we were really seeing high phosphorus risk in places where this index is identifying high subsurface losses.”

Shober said that the researchers were able to conduct this study using previously collected soils, which can be stored for long periods of time and still contain measurable phosphorus.

Subsurface phosphorus index

Using a library of soil cores that the authors had collected at different depths from all over the Delmarva Peninsula and using data collected by Sims and Andres, the researchers calculated the risk for subsurface phosphorus loss using five phosphorus indices. They looked at the phosphorus index scores without taking into account any manure application, only concerning themselves with contributions of the legacy phosphorus.

“For our index, we eliminated the things that we weren’t interested in looking at so we ultimately got a score that we consider was just for this subsurface risk,” said Shober. “We wanted to say, ‘OK, what is the inherent risk of subsurface losses of phosphorus that was in the soil?’”

Once they got those numbers, they looked at the water-extractable phosphorus at the depth of the seasonal high water table and correlated the data to see the relationship.

To find the water-extractable phosphorus, the researchers took a small amount soil and a little bit of de-ionized water and shook them for an hour and measured how much phosphorus came out of the soil.

“If the phosphorus index subsurface score was low and the water-extractable phosphorus in the soil at the depth of the water table was low, we would expect a low risk of subsurface phosphorus losses. So, ultimately, we wanted to see scores increasing either linearly or exponentially as soil water extractable phosphorus increased – the higher the risk score, the higher the water-extractable phosphorus level should be,” said Shober.

The calculation using water extractable phosphorus concentrations at depths corresponding with the seasonal high water table could serve as a realistic proxy for subsurface losses in ditch drainage and as a valuable metric that offers interim insight into the directionality of subsurface phosphorus risk scores when water quality data are inaccessible.

This will all help to improve monitoring and modeling of subsurface phosphorus losses and enhance the rigor of phosphorus index appraisals, Shober said, adding, “We’re hoping that this is something that people can do to move forward with our understanding of subsurface phosphorus loss. In the end, we ended up making some small tweaks to both the Maryland phosphorus management tool (PMT) and the North Carolina phosphorus loss assessment tool (PLAT) that made them score more appropriately against our soils dataset.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Amy Shober

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD garden offers local, student-picked produce to the community on Fridays

UD garden offers local, student-picked produce to the community on FridaysMembers of the University of Delaware community searching for local, sustainable, student-grown and handpicked produce need look no further than UD Fresh to You, a garden managed using organic practices and located on UD’s South Campus in Newark.

Located off Route 896 near the University’s Townsend Hall — next to the former Girl Scouts building and across from the historic farmhouse, UD Fresh to You is open every Friday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. with an assortment of locally grown seasonal produce.

UD Fresh to You supports various food security projects within the local community and sells produce to local restaurants, such as House of William and Merry, the student-run Vita Nova restaurant on campus, Grain on Main, Platinum Dining Group (with restaurants such as Taverna and Red Fire Grill steakhouse), Goat Kitchen and Bar, Ulysses gastropub and Newark Natural Foods.

Student interns work at the garden every summer and play a vital role in every aspect of managing and maintaining the garden.

Produce available this week from UD Fresh to You includes:

• Slicers, Saladette and cherry tomatoes (limited quantities of cherry tomatoes)

• Poblano peppers

• Tomatillos

• Jalapeño peppers

• Cayenne peppers

• Hungarian hot wax peppers

• Okra

• Sweet peppers

• Sweet corn

• Green string beans

• Cantaloupe

• Black Beauty and Ping Tung eggplant

For more information on UD Fresh to You, check out their Facebook page.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Hiltpold looks at adding silicon to soil to strengthen plant defenses

UD’s Hiltpold looks at adding silicon to soil to strengthen plant defensesTo help plants better fend off insect pests, researchers are considering arming them with stones.

The University of Delaware’s Ivan Hiltpold and researchers from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University in Australia are examining the addition of silicon to the soil in which plants are grown to help strengthen plants against potential predators.

The research was published recently in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry and was funded by Sugar Research Australia. Adam Frew, currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Charles Sturt University in Australia, is the lead author on the paper.

Hiltpold, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the basis of the project was to assess the impact of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on a plant’s nutritional quality and also on root pests, using sugar cane and root-feeding insects, primarily cane grubs—the voracious larvae of the cane beetle.

“This research demonstrated a cascading effect,” said Hiltpold. “We have silicon and other plant nutrients in the soil, we have the fungi that is interacting with the plant and metabolites, and all that plant chemistry has an impact on insect development.”

Silicon is the world’s second most abundant element after oxygen in the Earth’s crust, but because it is in a stone or mineral form, it is not readily available for use by plants.

By amending the soil with silica, a form of silicon that plants can easily take up, the researchers helped the plants build up tiny particles called phytoliths, or “plant stones,” to defend against herbivorous insects and possibly rodents.

“The plant builds up these sorts of stones in its tissues, which will reduce the digestibility of the plant material because digesting stones is not very easy,” said Hiltpold. “Also, these stones wear the mouth parts of insects and possibly rodents. If your teeth are not really cutting any more, then you cannot eat as much as you could. All of that added together will reduce the impact of herbivory on the plant.”

In experiments with two sugarcane varieties grown in a greenhouse, root-feeding insects, primarily the cane grub, fed on the plants. The immune function of the insects was assessed by measuring their immune response to entomopathogenic nematodes—small organisms that kill insects in the soil—while insect growth and root consumption were assessed in a feeding trial.

The researchers found that high levels of silicon concentrations decreased insect growth and root consumption, the latter by 71 percent.

Because the silicon doesn’t affect grazing livestock, Hiltpold said that it also will not affect humans when, for example, a person consumes boiled carrots or sweet corn.

Hiltpold said they chose the cane grub for their study because it is a major pest in Australia.

“Sugar cane is a big industry in Australia, and these larvae are really causing a lot of damage to it. These grubs can be pretty big—their diameter can be as big as my thumb,” Hiltpold said. “As soil pests, they are really hard to control because they are hard to reach with insecticides and they are hard to monitor. We don’t really know where they are before we see the damage on the plant, and then usually it’s too late. Having options to control them is always good.”

The option of using silicon to naturally strengthen the plant’s defenses against the cane grub would be both environmentally friendly and economically attractive to growers, as they would not have to spray as much to protect their crops.

“The idea of amending crops with silicon in general is that, OK, we have this element that is naturally present. The only thing is that it’s not bio-available so it cannot be taken up by the plant as is, but if we add a little bit of bioavailable silicon to the field, then it boosts the plant’s biomass,” said Hiltpold. “The plant productivity is increased and also the plant defenses are increased because the silicon accumulates in the tissue above and below ground and helps the plants to cope with insect as well as mammal herbivory.”

Hiltpold said this research could be applicable to other types of plants besides sugarcane.

He also said that in addition to the plants’ interaction with the silicon, the fungi had a surprising impact on the insects.

“We don’t exactly know if it’s via the plant or directly from the exposure to the fungi, but the insect immune system was triggered when the plants were treated with the fungi,” said Hiltpold. “That could be useful in an integrated management view because triggering an immune system if there is no invader, no pathogen exposure, might have a cost on the growth or performance of the insect, so that will eventually have a beneficial impact on the plant because the insect is doing less well and doing less damage. I think that was an interesting finding that was never demonstrated before.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Illustration by Jeff Chase

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K. Eric Wommack’s group gets $6 million to study viruses

K. Eric Wommack’s group gets $6 million to study virusesThe University of Delaware’s K. Eric Wommack, deputy dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will lead a research team from four universities that has received a $6 million grant to probe how viruses impact microbes critical to our lives, from producing oxygen to growing food.

Also, UD’s Kelvin Lee, Gore Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is a co-investigator on a $6.1 million research project, led by Clemson University, aimed at lowering drug manufacturing costs.

The two four-year projects were announced by the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) on Wednesday, Aug. 2. They are among eight projects across the United State, totaling $41.7 million, that aim to build U.S. research capacity in understanding the relationship in organisms between their genes and their physical characteristics. Uncovering this genotype-to-phenotype relationship holds potential for improved crop yields, better prediction of human disease risk and new drug therapies.

“Over the past several decades, scientists and engineers have made massive strides in decoding, amassing and storing genomic data,” said Denise Barnes, NSF EPSCoR head. “But understanding how genomics influence phenotype remains one of the more profound challenges in science. These awards lay the groundwork for closing some of the biggest gaps in biological knowledge and developing interdisciplinary teams needed to address the challenges.”

“The University of Delaware’s deep involvement in two EPSCoR grants underscores the world-class leadership and bold ideas of our faculty, as well as the powerful role of interdisciplinary collaboration for society’s behalf,” said Charlie Riordan, vice president of research, scholarship and innovation. “We congratulate Eric and Kelvin and look forward to the new technologies their teams will advance.”

A nano-lab for observing viruses and cells

In water and soil to the human gut, you’ll find single-celled microbes — and viruses right alongside them. A virus will infect a microbe, hijack its machinery and begin replicating, eventually killing the host. But how these processes work within complex microbial communities is still largely a mystery.

The multi-university collaboration that UD’s Wommack is leading will develop new technology to enable scientists to examine — in a droplet of water smaller than mist — how a single virus and a single microbial cell interact.

“Imagine doing a classic microbiology experiment with test tubes and culture plates. Our research would take all of those test tubes and cultures and reduce them down to a tiny droplet 100 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair,” says Wommack, who is an expert in environmental microbiology.

Operating under the principle that oil and water don’t mix, the interdisciplinary team will create devices the size of a microscope slide, equipped with tiny incubation chambers filled with oil, to isolate individual droplets of water injected with a syringe. Molds for these microfluidic devices will be fabricated in UD’s state-of-the-art Nanofabrication Facility for collaborators David Dunigan and Jim Van Etten at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Grieg Steward and Kyle Edwards at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and Marcia Marston and Koty Sharp at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.

“A big aim of our project is to democratize the microfluidics technology we develop so that the average lab can run these experiments,” Jason Gleghorn, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UD, says. “It’s about making new tools and resources available to the broader scientific community.”

The research team also will create the Viral Informatics Resource for Genome Organization (VIRGO).

“We have troves of genomic data on viruses,” Wommack says. “What’s limiting our work is that we don’t know the connections between the genes and what the viruses do biologically. How quickly do viruses infect a host? How long do they take to reproduce? What happens to the infected cell? Once we have that information in VIRGO, we can look at a viral community and make inferences about how unknown viral populations will behave.”

A focus on environmental microbes

Collaborators in Nebraska, Hawaii and Rhode Island will focus on viruses that infect phytoplankton — microscopic organisms that live in the salty ocean to freshwater lakes and conduct photosynthesis.

Phytoplankton serve as big links in food chains and produce more than half the oxygen on Earth. They, along with other microbes, process as much as 70 percent of the carbon going through ecosystems, according to Wommack.

Meanwhile, researchers at UD will focus on viruses that attack microbes important to the nitrogen cycle.

They have a collection of symbiotic bacteria, called Bradyrhizobia, that provide nitrogen to soybean — fueling plant growth without extra fertilizers. Soybean feeds some 2 billion people globally, and more of it will be needed to feed a world population expected to hit 9 billion by 2050.

“We can’t simply fertilize our way to greater agricultural productivity,” Wommack says. “But if we can find a way to improve the plant’s innate nutrition system through research we’re doing now, we may be able to get a plant to do what it already does, a lot better.”

Wommack also has teamed up with Rob Ferrell, science teacher in the Appoquinimink School District, to translate the research into life science and earth science curriculum activities for middle school students.

Other UD members of the project include Barbra Ferrell, research associate; Jeffry Fuhrmann, professor of plant and soil sciences; Jason Gleghorn, assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Shawn Polson, associate professor of computer and information sciences; and Jaysheel Bhavsar, bioinformatics programmer.

Clemson collaboration to boost biopharmaceutical manufacturing

The EPSCoR project at Clemson University seeks better ways to engineer Chinese hamster ovary cells, which are used to manufacture more than half of biopharmaceuticals. Joining co-investigator Kelvin Lee on the project will be Cathy Wu, Edward G. Jefferson Chair of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at UD.

Products from these cells are used in drugs to treat Crohn’s disease, severe anemia, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, and represent more than $70 billion in sales each year, according to a Clemson news release.

Lee, who directs the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), said the EPSCoR project would help address challenges in making these medicines more widely available.

NIIMBL, announced in December 2016 at UD and launched in March 2017, was established with a $70 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce and with support from more than 150 collaborators.

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photos by Kathy Atkinson and Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD students, professors spruce up Leipsic Town Hall

UD students, professors spruce up Leipsic Town HallContinuing on ideas that began in her Ecological Planting Design class, University of Delaware faculty member Jules Bruck, along with Ed Lewandowski and four UD students, headed to Leipsic on a Saturday in June to plant 900 native and beneficial plants around the town hall.

The project marked the first phase of the implementation of ideas gathered by the class and organized by Bruck, associate professor and director of landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Austin Virdin, a UD alumnus who graduated in 2017, and Olivia Kirkpatrick, a junior majoring in landscape horticulture and design.

The class presented three of their ideas to the town and incorporated community feedback along the way.

“This is the phase one implementation of the overall planting,” Bruck said, explaining that the team “basically completed the foundation planting for the front of the building.”

The plants that were installed were predominantly native but there were some non-invasive ornamentals that are low maintenance to provide ground cover.

“The majority of the landscape is ground cover,” Bruck said, noting that when the sod is stripped and the dirt exposed, the planting of small shrubs can open the site to massive weed infestation. “The quicker you can establish a solid ground cover, the better it will be in terms of maintenance. That’s probably one of our best low-maintenance strategies.”

The Leipsic landscaping project grew out of the Working Waterfronts Initiative in the community for which Lewandowski, acting Marine Advisory Service director for Delaware Sea Grant and coordinator for the University’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative (SCCI), which is housed in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), was the principal investigator.

SCCI launched the Working Waterfronts Initiative in 2012 to develop sustainability strategies for preserving and maintaining the state’s traditional maritime communities. When members of Leipsic’s museum committee approached Lewandowski about assisting with development of their maritime and agricultural museum, which will reside in the same facility as the town hall, he connected them with Bruck. He also provided project funding from SCCI to pay for the development of the landscaping plans as well as the plants and necessary supplies.

The town is going to take ownership of the next phases, which include building a community plaza, fixing the flagpole and the town sign and installing benches.

Bruck said that if there was going to be a third phase of the project, it would be to paint a mural on the back of the building – one of the student recommendations that came from her class – and then to install several trees in the back lot.

The three Summer Service Learning Scholars who helped on the project included Rob Kuntz, Tali Gasko and Haley Stanko. Leipsic’s Deputy Mayor, Martha Wilkinson, and council member Debbie McKeever, also assisted with the landscaping installation.

Elaine Elston, the MOT Charter High School principal, also helped with the project, along with one of her high school students. Elston was also joined by her husband, her son and daughter and one other community member.

As far as what the actual planting looked like compared to the plan that the class had drawn up on paper, Bruck said that she has been doing this for a long time and is used to how the paper ideas come to life in the real world.

“The translation of a plan from paper is easy for experienced landscape professionals,” she said. “It’s a skill set that develops over a long time so it takes a while for students to start to understand how circles on a piece of paper actually translate to a physical landscape including what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to feel. But they will get there in time. It’s a matter of designing a plan, installing it, and seeing how it looks in real space. Once you do that over and over you develop an ability to go back and forth between the two.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Emergency Poultry Disease Response workshop emphasizes biosecurity, rapid response

Emergency Poultry Disease Response workshop emphasizes biosecurity, rapid responseKeeping the international poultry community up to date and informed on the latest research and technological advances in dealing with avian diseases such as avian influenza, as well as learning from the international community about how they handle poultry in their corner of the world, is of the utmost importance to the University of Delaware.

To help with that mission, UD welcomed 18 poultry professionals representing 18 countries as it hosted its ninth annual Emergency Poultry Disease Response (EPDR) certificate program June 12-16.

The workshop was held on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus in Newark, aimed at teaching both local and international participants about preparedness planning, biosecurity and assessment, and rapid response techniques and technology with regard to avian disease outbreaks.

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 (PCS). It was led by Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences(ANFS); Robert Alphin, instructor in ANFS and manager of the University’s Allen Laboratory; Shaun Sutherell, assistant director of UD’s PCS; Pat Allen, program manager for PCS; and Dan Hougentogler, senior research associate in ANFS.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware welcomed participants to the workshop, stressing the importance of using the program to learn from one another.

“You’re going to see what we call the Delaware model, which pulls together all the different sectors that produce poultry – growers, integrators, University researchers, agricultural extension – and we hope that this is a good and instructive opportunity for you. We also have important things to learn from you,” said Coons.

“Poultry is grown in different ways in different parts of the world,” he said. “There’s different technology and approaches that are appropriate in different settings, and my hope is that this week is an opportunity for you not just to get a great certificate, not just to meet people from other parts of the world, not just to learn from us, but for us to also learn from you. Because frankly, whether positive or negative, whether it’s the threat of avian influenza or it’s the very real promise that poultry brings to feeding a hungry world, there’s a lot of reasons for us to participate together.”

Coons, who leads the Senate Chicken Caucus along with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, spoke about the importance of early detection of poultry diseases in feeding a hungry world.

“When I meet with ministers of agriculture or trade or development, I emphasize that we are committed to global food safety and public health and that we want to invest collaboratively in building these systems with early warnings, with best-in-practice trainings and with mutual sharing of information. That’s why we do this. At the end of the day, the potential for poultry production globally is huge,” said Coons.

Glenn Reyes, who participated in the program and works with the Bureau of Animal Industry in the Philippines, said that he works with poultry producers in his country doing surveillance and monitoring birds prior to those producers transporting their birds to other locations.

“We test for avian influenza, Newcastle disease and salmonella. Once the flock is proven to be negative from those tests, that’s the time that they get to have the certificate and will be allowed then to travel. The certification itself is valid for six months only and then they have to get retested,” he said.

The most beneficial aspect of the program, Reyes said, was learning the different methods to deal with disease outbreaks in poultry flocks, as well as the threats posed by live bird markets.

“We have live bird markets in the Philippines and it’s interesting to know that it poses a big threat in the industry. I will probably be collaborating with the USDA on how to manage, especially when it comes to those live bird markets and when it comes to biosecurity and surveillance testing,” said Reyes. “Learning these things has been amazing, and I can apply this to my daily routine at work. I can disseminate this information to my colleagues and I believe this is very beneficial, timely and relevant.”

Charmaine Wenya Chng, a participant from Singapore who works for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, said that her home is a huge importer when it comes to poultry.

Because it is a small city-state and poultry is found in close proximity to residential areas, thus increasing the risk for potential human contact with poultry diseases, it is important to keep avian influenza out of Singapore.

She said she found the discussions on how to deal with disease outbreaks as well as incident command structures (ICS) to be beneficial.

“I think many countries in the world follow the ICS system, where you clearly separate your different roles and responsibilities and it’s very neatly organized so you don’t overly tax the bandwidth of people on top,” said Chng. “That’s very important and I’m hoping to implement something like that. It depends on your organization and the setup in your country, but that’s something I’m hoping to bring back.”

As for her experience at UD and the EPDR program in general, Chng said, “I think the people are very friendly and very focused. The first day I came here, I was impressed by how scientifically driven the University is and how people are committed to science – really doing very logical risk based assessments of situations, trying to figure out how to improve especially in the wake of the 2014, 2015 outbreaks. I think that was one thing that struck me, and the speakers who were invited from UD to speak, they’re all very knowledgeable about the subject and it’s good that they’re willing to share their research and their experiences in the field.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Kathy Atkinson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

National Agri-Marketing Association team unveils ‘Earth Based Superfood Spreads’ at national competition

National Agri-Marketing Association team unveils ‘Earth Based Superfood Spreads’ at national competitionStudents on the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Marketing team at the University of Delaware presented their “Earth Based Superfood Spreads” idea at the 2017 NAMA Student Competition held recently in Dallas, Texas, with a total of 30 universities competing.

The NAMA Marketing Team is sponsored by the NAMA Marketing Club, which was established by Ulrich Toensmeyer, professor of agricultural marketing in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, in the fall of 1993. The team went to their first competition in April 1994 and 2017 was the team’s 24th competition.

Toensmeyer was unable to travel this year and he recruited Patrick Correale, a UD alumnus who graduated in 2016, to take the team to Dallas and also to participate to get the team ready for the competition. Correale, who majored in food and agribusiness marketing and management (FABM), participated on the team for three years and was team leader in 2015-16. This year’s team was led by Aubrey Aranowicz, who recently graduated from UD with a major in FABM and minors in resource economics and statistical data analytics and the three of them prepared the team for the competition.

The team’s expenses have been fully funded by generous donors since the creation of the team and this year was no exception.

Correale said that from the moment the team got back from last year’s competition, they began brainstorming product ideas for this year’s competition.

“Usually by September, the idea starts to come to fruition and you start to build a plan around it and then the trip is in April every year so toward the second semester, you start working on the speeches and you start working on the actual presentation,” said Correale.

The team developed an executive plan for their product and presented that plan to a team of professional judges at the Dallas competition, where they not only got to present their product but also to network with industry professionals.

Aranowicz said that being able to participate in the NAMA competition was a huge bonus in her college experience.

“Not many students have the opportunity to create and determine the logistics of a product, and pitch the idea to a panel of respected judges,” said Aranowicz.

According to the executive plan, Earth Based is a fresh superfood spread that would be found in the refrigerated section of supermarkets, near the produce section.

Earth Based would target consumers who enjoy hummus spreads, like those produced by Sabra, and other popular shelf spreads such as mayonnaise and pesto.

Flavors would include:

• Zesta, aimed to add flavors of lime zest, chili powder and cilantro;

• Cocoa turmeric, a savory spread with spices that have a long history in improving a person’s health and well-being;

• Beet, a slightly sweet yet earthly and crunchy flavor that is full of antioxidants and fiber; and

• Herba, a hearty and peppery spread that provides Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.

“Each of our unique, flavorful spreads, was created with a common goal in mind – utilize nature’s goodness by providing consumers with a delicious food that will enable them to feel better, perform better, and live better,” said Aranowicz.

The team brainstormed numerous ideas and finally decided on the spreads after teammate Erin Mullen, who recently graduated as an FABM major, prepared a taste test of six different varieties.

The product would be marketed at $3.50, putting the spreads into the high quality, low price category that consumers desire.

While the team didn’t make it out of the preliminary round this year — no easy feat with roughly 30 university teams represented at the competition — Correale said that overall it was a great experience.

“We never let stuff like that get us down. Just being there in general and being surrounded by all these industry professionals, it’s a great experience to jump start a career because it’s a lot of real world stuff,” said Correale. “The judges that you present your product to with your team are all industry professionals and they’re supposed to be your company’s board of directors. We’ve had professionals come in the past and talk to us before the competition and basically, they were all saying that this is what you would do for a sales presentation if you’re on a team like this. So, it’s all really good experience.”

Toensmeyer added, “There was a lot of final preparation work to be done once the team reached Dallas in order to be ready for the competition. Patrick and Aubrey did an excellent job in guiding the team in Dallas.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD landscape architecture students, Master Gardeners conduct planting at Delaware’s newest state park

UD landscape architecture students, Master Gardeners conduct planting at Delaware’s newest state parkThe Delaware Landscape Architecture (DELA) student club at the University of Delaware and members of Cooperative Extension’s Delaware Master Gardeners in New Castle County spent time on Friday, May 12, conducting a planting at Auburn Heights Preserve in order to enhance the curb appeal of Delaware’s newest state park and also give the students a hands-on learning opportunity.

Maggie Heffernan, a junior landscape architecture major who started DELA in the fall of 2016, said that members of the club worked with the Master Gardeners a few weeks prior to the event to map out where they wanted to plant and to get a sense of what officials at Auburn Heights wanted out of the planting.

“We just did a big spread of annual plantings in the front area for this coming season,” said Heffernan. “We’re not doing any perennial plantings because they don’t want anything that’s going to stay in the ground because we’re hoping to work with Auburn Heights next year in our senior design class to actually make a master plan for them.”

Heffernan said that it was a great experience to work at Auburn Heights as well as with the Master Gardeners.

“It was really beneficial for both our students and the Master Gardeners because we got to see different perspectives. A lot of them know a lot more about horticulture than most of our students do so it was nice to see that balance because we know more of the design part. It was nice to work with them that way,” said Heffernan.

Carrie Murphy, extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader, said that it’s a good fit for the students to work with the Master Gardeners.

“The Master Gardeners have been delighted to partner and work with the bachelor of landscape architecture (BLA) faculty, students, and our community partners. We look forward to continuing to work together at Auburn Heights, and to additional opportunities to provide community assistance together in the future,” said Murphy.

Laura Lee, park superintendent for the Auburn Heights Preserve, said that the planting was designed to help “immediately beautify the front of the mansion and give it some curb appeal because it is becoming increasingly more popular as a rental venue. We want to book weddings out here and we really wanted people to pull in the drive way and have that wow effect as they came in.”

Lee said that the annuals the students planted look great and that they give an immediate boost to the appeal of the property.

“The annuals will look brighter more quickly so it looks great. It really makes a difference,” said Lee, who added that these types of partnerships make a world of difference to a park like Auburn Heights.

“As a state agency, we’re always under a budget crunch. A project like this might fall by the wayside in favor of just keeping the doors open, so we rely on partnerships to make all of our parks affordable, safe and beautiful for all of Delaware residents,” said Lee. “This partnership enabled us to do something that we might not normally have been able to do on our own and I think it gives the students a real-world experience. It really helped them understand how a real landscape architect might operate in the context of an actual living site.”

Sue Barton, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), said that in addition to the senior capstone course, BLA program is hoping to collaborate more with Auburn Heights in the future.

“It’s a really neat facility and there’s a lot of opportunity to do something nice there. It’s a beautiful old home, there are a lot of grounds, and there were some really interesting gardens,” said Barton.

Anna Wik, assistant professor of landscape architecture, said that this is the exact type of community partnership that the professors had in mind when the BLA program began.

“It has been great working with Laura Lee over the past few years to inventory existing plant material along with David Nemeth, an agriculture and natural resources major, and I look forward to working with landscape architecture students and Linda Walczak of Tend Landscape Architecture, this fall to create a master plan for the site,” said Wik.

Wik added that “As plans to adapt buildings associated with industry in the Yorklyn area develop, sites like Auburn Heights have the opportunity to educate people about these industries and a fascinating time period in Delaware’s history. In addition, the master gardeners are a great resource for the students and a joy to work with. We are in discussions about piloting a student/master gardener partnership that expands on the existing ‘Expert Eye’ program to provide non-profit and municipal partners planting, hardscape and design advice.”

About Auburn Heights

Auburn Heights is a partnership between Delaware State Parks and the Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve. On the property is the Marshall Steam Museum, which has the largest operating collection of Stanley Steamer cars in the world, a growing trails system and a miniature railroad that runs around the property.

For more information on Auburn Heights, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics offers students hands-on learning opportunities

UD’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics offers students hands-on learning opportunitiesThis semester, 11 undergraduate students in the University of Delaware’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC) have worked as teaching assistants (TAs) for various professors in the department, getting hands-on learning experiences working with their peers while at the same time allowing the professors to expand their curriculum or focus on research projects by alleviating a bit of the teaching work load.

Tom Ilvento, professor and chair of APEC, said that while having undergraduate TAs isn’t new for the department, it is something that he is trying to push as another way to give undergraduates an experiential learning opportunity and a chance to get involved.

“We’re viewing it as an experience for the student as much as help for the faculty so we’ve developed a new policy that the department would support this,” said Ilvento. “We think this is a good investment for the faculty and the student. We’ve got to find a way to teach more but still hold the line that we’re a research department. We’re looking at teaching smarter, teaching larger and being more effective and offering support to faculty, and this is a way to do that. We think the best way to learn a subject is to be involved in teaching it.”

Leah Palm-Forster, assistant professor in APEC, had three student teaching assistants this past semester and said that they allowed her the opportunity to incorporate frequent assessments, such as in-class polls, problem sets, quizzes and discussion boards into her classes that “provide opportunities for students to apply and test their understanding of course concepts – hopefully these activities increase knowledge retention.”

Palm-Forster said that working with undergraduate TAs has “improved how I teach. TAs provide feedback about how course content is presented, and they let me know what knowledge gaps they notice when grading or answering student questions.”

Keith Medwid, a senior majoring in food and agribusiness marketing and management, was a TA for Palm-Forster and said that his role included everything from grading tests and assignments to assisting with in-class activities, answering student questions and updating course material with more accurate figures and information.

Being able to help the students was Medwid’s favorite part of the experience.

“If they have a question or do not understand the material, working with them to understand the material is rewarding,” said Medwid. “Many of the situations when a student needs help, it creates a challenge for us to understand the material better and figure out a new way to explain it to the student. This allows me to reassure and strengthen my knowledge on the topic as well as create new ways to explain things.”

Candace Casey, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation and agriculture and natural resources and minoring in resource economics, and Erica Rossetti, a senior majoring in natural resource management and agriculture and natural resources, also worked with Palm-Forster as TAs and said that the process gave them an appreciation for everything that professors do behind the scenes.

“I don’t go to the class that I TA for because I have another class at that time so most of what I do is online but it’s a lot of grading,” said Rossetti. “I don’t grade everything but there will be some weeks where I spend 15 hours just working on grading, and I can’t imagine doing that and going to class and doing research.”

In addition to helping grade, they also helped Palm-Forster develop questions for exams and create some course content.

Casey said she thinks it is a big benefit to have TAs readily available to help answer any questions that students might have.

“I feel like it’s a good resource if they’re too intimidated to go to the professors. It’s nice to have a peer because a lot of the people that are in these classes are people that are also in our major and we know them and are friends with them so we can be more approachable if they have questions or need help on assignments,” said Casey.

Grace Hassler, a senior natural resource management major, has been a TA this semester for Olena Smith, the lead geospatial information consultant at UD, for APEC 480, a class focused on geographic information systems (GIS) and natural resource management.

Hassler, who took the class previously, said that the class meets for one three-hour session each week, which she attends and then also helps out in the lab.

“Most of the time, students are pretty good on their own but sometimes, especially with GIS, problems can arise and so I’m there to help them through that or if they have just general questions, I’m there,” said Hassler.

Outside of class, Hassler grades assignments and assists students on an as-needed basis. She said that it is an interesting and fun experience meeting new students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and grading her peers.

Hassler said that for as much as she learned from taking the class, she has learned even more being a TA.

“Olena has also taught me so much and taught me how to instruct well on top of that, and she’s always been so patient. If I don’t know the answer, she’s always willing to show me and explain to me what the answer is so that in the future I can be the one to tell them what to do,” said Hassler.

Jessica Simmons, a senior majoring in statistics, has spent the semester as a TA for Melissa Ziegler, a senior biostatistician in the College of Health Sciences, for Stat 674, a graduate-level class that teaches Statistical Analysis System (SAS) programming.

Simmons took the class last semester and said that her favorite part and the most beneficial aspect about being a TA is grading.

“I learn a lot through grading and I’m really bad at explaining things to people so I’ve gotten better at that,” said Simmons. “I really like the program so I’m learning every time I’m working. I guess that’s why it benefits me personally.”

Simmons said that her responsibilities in addition to grading include helping students outside of class and helping students prepare for exams.

 Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Wenbo Fan
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UDairy Creamery opens new storefront in Wilmington

Grand opening ceremony, block party, and ceremonial “first scoop” in recognition of the opening of the first off-campus location for the UDairy Creamery.  (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

The University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery officially launched its first off-campus location on Tuesday, May 23, with a block party on the 800 block of Market Street in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, outside the new Creamery Market Storefront.

The two-hour block party had everything from free ice cream, tributes from dignitaries, an elementary school drumline medley, UD cheerleaders, YoUDee and a poetry reading about ice cream from one of UD’s Associate in Arts students.

Over the two-hour time period, the Creamery handed out 1,500 scoops of free ice cream to those in attendance.

UD President Dennis Assanis kicked off the festivities by welcoming everyone to the storefront and stressing how the new Creamery Market will give the Associate in Arts students a hands-on learning experience while also bringing a sweet treat to the city.

“We are proud to share with you not only our ice cream but also our students,” Assanis said. “At the University of Delaware, we say that students are our product and ice cream is just the byproduct. We are really thrilled that our students from our Wilmington Associate in Arts Program around the corner are going to be the people who will be the part-time employees involved in the production and serving of the ice cream.

“We also don’t just scoop the ice cream here, we actually make it,” he continued. “Experiential learning is a very big part of what we teach our students at the University of Delaware, and it’s all about hands-on learning, literally, and you will be the beneficiaries of the application of the learning today.”

Delaware Gov. John Carney said the revitalization of the city of Wilmington was of the utmost importance to his administration and getting attractions like the University of Delaware on the Market Street Mall will help the city to be successful.

“We need some ice cream downtown number one, and we need business here on the Market Street Mall,” said Carney. “We’ve been working since I was sworn in as your governor three and a half months ago on doing everything that we can to strengthen the neighborhoods in our city, to strengthen our central business district and to make Wilmington strong and vibrant again. You are the folks that are going to make it happen by coming down here on the Market Street Mall, so thank you for coming today.”

Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki, a 1967 UD graduate, said it is truly exciting to have the Creamery in Wilmington, both because ice cream is an admitted guilty pleasure and it is a unique attraction for the city.

“Everybody wants the city to grow in big leaps and bounds, but the city grows in small increments of quality,” Purzycki said. “It’s the small things that make a city great. It’s the little individual things, the things that are special that nobody else has that make your city great, and we welcome you with open arms.”

Michael Hare, senior vice president of the Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG), said his firm couldn’t be prouder to have UD as a partner. BPG has been the driving force behind the revitalization of downtown Wilmington and its historic Market Street corridor. The firm partnered with UD to bring the Creamery to Wilmington and owns the site where the Creamery Market Storefront is located.

UDairy Creamery opens new storefront in Wilmington“The key to getting people to want to work in Wilmington, to want to live here, is to add amenities for our residents who are already here and to make this a compelling city is to bring exciting attractions to our city, and this is an exciting attraction,” said Hare. “We in the city have been working for years to expand the University’s footprint, and I can’t think of a more delicious way to do that. On behalf of the lactose-intolerant in our community, myself included, this is a risk worth taking.”

Hare noted that his uncle majored in agriculture at UD and milked the cows on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus. He said it was a privilege to watch the “full trajectory of cow to cone now that this ice cream is in Wilmington.”

CANR Dean Mark Rieger highlighted the UD students who helped put together the business plan for the Creamery Market Storefront, specifically Keith Medwid, a senior majoring in food and agribusiness marketing and management and the assistant manager intern at the creamery.

“Keith Medwid worked at the Creamery on campus for two years, and he is going to go on to a wonderful career in agribusiness or food science because of his experience in the Creamery,” said Rieger. “The reason that we’re here, and the product of that place across the street is a better educated student.”

Rieger also thanked Melinda Shaw, director of Creamery operations, LeeAnne Ahamad, manager for the Creamery’s Wilmington location, Jen Rodammer, manager of UDairy’s Newark location, and Grace Wisser, CANR event coordinator, for all their work with the Creamery and with putting the opening event together.

Associate in Arts student workers

The new location provides a great job opportunity for many students in the University’s Associate in Arts program.

“It’s my first real day and I already love it,” said Ameerah Taylor, a rising freshman planning to major in early childhood education.

She and her fellow co-workers agreed that UDairy’s willingness to work with their schedules made their lives a lot easier.

Other perks of the job include free ice cream, getting to suggest new flavors and camaraderie.

Derek Simpson, a rising freshman planning to major in biology, said that he had taken classes with some of his co-workers, but working with them in this setting was already bringing them closer together. “When you’re producing ice cream, you get to know people,” Simpson said.

Blaise Cristello, a sophomore planning to major in criminal justice, said that he was most excited to see what new flavors come out of the new location. While he could not disclose the new ones, he was happy to serve the new flavor that had been created for the grand opening: 8th and Market, which was inspired by the new UDairy location and consisted of chocolate ice cream, chocolate cookie swirls and mini-marshmallows.

Medwid said that he is excited to see the impact that the new UDairy Creamery will have.

“I think it’ll be good to get fresh food in here because we’re going to be selling UD produce,” Medwid said. “And I think it’s just a more welcoming face,” he added.

More than UD produce, the creamery will be selling locally sourced foods with a menu that will include grilled cheese using bread from local bakeries and eventually cheese that will also come from UD, cheeseburgers, and salads that feature UD’s produce.

UDairy Creamery opens new storefront in Wilmington
Elbert-Palmer Elementary School drumline also was on hand for the event, playing an impressive set

Poetry contest and drumline

The UD Associate in Arts Program held an ice-cream themed poetry contest in conjunction with the event.

The winners were Christian Wills, first place, and runners-up Nolan O’Neill and Daniel L.L. III.

Wills read his winning poem, “Creamery Sensation,” to the crowd ending with the line: “Every cup, every cone, we make it with pleasure, In hopes that you love our ice cream we treasure.”

The Elbert-Palmer Elementary School drumline also was on hand for the event, playing an impressive set that included everything from classical music to a royal-themed contemporary line-up of hits from Prince, Queen and Michael Jackson.

Article by Adam Thomas and Anne Grae Martin

Photos by Evan Krape and Wenbo Fan

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UD students show off innovative culinary creations

UD students show off innovative culinary creationsStudents in the University of Delaware’s Food Science Capstone course got to show off their semester-long work as part of the Ag Day 2017 festivities with a display featuring edible cookie dough, fiber pop and even a portion of chips that provides consumers with all of their calories, carbs, protein, fats and fiber.

The tasty treats were available inside Townsend Hall as the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) welcomed the Delaware community to its campus on Saturday, April 29.

Rolf Joerger, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences who teaches the class, said that he was proud of the students’ accomplishments.

“Even though most of the students are in their last semester, they enthusiastically engaged in their projects. Not only did they have to come up with an idea for a product that was not already available on the market, but they had to figure out which ingredients would be most suitable and in what quantities,” said Joerger.

In addition, Joerger explained that the students had to come up with a feasible production process, develop appropriate packaging for their product, create a package design, generate a nutrition label, develop and document quality controls, calculate pricing and familiarize themselves with the applicable government regulations.

“These tasks are made a little easier because the students work in teams, but then coordinating schedules and working together productively is not always so simple. All in all, working on these projects is excellent preparation for a job in the food industry,” he said.

Gonut Bites

Brendan Scott, Kyra Fivek, Patrick Cozza and Suzanne Sungenis formed the Gonut Bites team, which came up with the idea to have miniature donuts filled with home-made ice cream in flavors such as Boston crème, jelly, chocolate and vanilla frosted.

The team said that the product is similar to “doughnut holes” on the market, such as Dunkin’ Donuts’ Munchkins or Entenmann’s POP’ems.

Once the cooked doughnts cooled, they used a frosting tip to fill them with their own soft-serve ice cream, which they made at Vita Nova, the fine dining, student-operated restaurant on campus.

Cookie Chews

The Cookie Chews: Edible Cookie Dough group was made up of Matt Bogdan, Amanda Chasten, Allison Ni and June Teichmann.

Ni said that the target audience for the product would be teens, young adults and “people who like trendy food because cookie dough is very trendy nowadays. This could even be a kind of on the go snack.”

Besides the cookie dough ball base, the group also did trials on coating it with chocolate or vanilla frosting as well as injecting it with Nutella and peanut butter.

The flavors the group decided on included cookies and cream, Nutella and peanut butter, coffee and chocolate chip and funfetti.

Ni said that the group ended up using whole oat flour in their product instead of all-purpose flour because “whole oat flour is gluten-free, which would appeal to those who believe that being gluten-free is a healthier lifestyle.”

Nourich

The Nourich team included Louis Colaruotolo, Yara Abdelaal and Spencer Hoernes, and theirs is a chip product containing all of the macro-nutrients for a fully balanced diet when eaten in the required portion. The group said that the product would be marketable to military personnel looking for less bulky alternatives to meals, weight loss seekers and those hoping to eat healthier in general.

Because of the ability to eat the chips throughout the day to get the portion required for a fully balanced diet, the group was experimenting with different flavors to appeal to customers at different times of the day.

“I think at some point, if you’re going to decide that your entire life is going to be eating chips for all of your nutrition, you’re going to [need some variety]. We made a coffee flavor for the morning and then we’re also going to try a chocolate and then a chocolate raspberry flavor and see how all of those work out,” said Colaruotolo.

Fiber Pop

The Fiber Pop group consisted of Rizalina Gadaingan, Warren Skopowski and Nicholas Sloman.

Fiber Pop is an apple ginger juice with berry spheres which contain apple fibers by use of an alginate bath. The drink utilized left over apple fibers to reduce waste that other juices typically wouldn’t use.

Skopowski said that it is similar to bubble tea.

“It’s like the bubble tea with chai bubbles. Instead of the bubble tea that you see in a lot of Korean tea shops where there’s tapioca bubbles at the bottom, ours is floating at the top, which makes it good for when we’re packaging it and when we distribute it in the plastic bottles, they’ll be floating at the top so when you open it and drink it, every sip you get some of the bubbles and the juice mixed together,” said Skopowski.

Algae Oil Chip Dippers

The Algae Oil Chip Dippers team was made up of Brienna Anderson, Kimberly Markham and Rachel Smith.

The group said that the sweet-and-spicy chip-and-dip snack is a flavorful, convenient, gluten-free product made with algae oil. Both the chips and mayonnaise-style dip were created using algae oil, which is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats and has 75 percent less saturated fat than olive oil.

The corn tortilla chips are baked and sweetened to provide a flavor that complements the spice of the dip. The dip and chips are packaged in a single serving portion with environmentally friendly plastics and do not require refrigeration until after opening.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan

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UD researchers look at population history of sika deer in Delmarva

UD researchers look at population history of sika deer in DelmarvaOn first glance, Yakushima Island in Japan and Dorchester County, Maryland, wouldn’t appear to have a lot in common, but a closer ecological look reveals one stark similarity: both are home to populations of sika deer.

A new paper by the University of Delaware’s Jake Bowman and David Kalb of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries looks at the history behind the rise of sika deer populations in Dorchester County over the past 100 years.

The paper was published in the journal Biological Invasions and also examines impacts sika deer have had on the native white-tailed deer populations in an attempt to provide information that could lead to better management of the species.

Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that the paper was part of a bigger project looking at whether there was a competitive exclusion between white-tailed deer and sika deer.

“There’s large sections of Dorchester County that have almost no white-tails but very high sika deer numbers, and it seems like the sika deer are spreading, so the question becomes, are they going to outcompete white-tails, which is our native deer,” said Bowman.

Sika history

Sika deer first came to the United States in 1916 and the initial population of four or five individuals has grown to an estimated 12,000 today.

Bowman said that there has been some genetic work that suggests the sika deer originated on Yakushima Island in Japan though the deer that eventually made their way to the United States did so after a brief stopover in the United Kingdom. The deer were brought to the UK by the eleventh Duke of Bedford.

The sika deer were introduced to Maryland in the early 1900s when Clement Henry released five or six deer on James Island.

While the deer originated in Japan, they are now more populous in Maryland.

“There’s more sika deer here than on Yakushima Island and they’re a protected species in Japan so they can’t be harvested at all,” said Bowman.

The sika deer eventually escaped James Island and the population grew over time.

“They were expanding their population at a time when there were very little white-tails in that area. It was during the time when there was over-exploitation of white-tails and their numbers were really low. One theory is that the sika deer established themselves before the white-tail populations rebounded and prevented them from re-occupying some areas,” said Bowman.

In addition to possibly competing with other herbivores and pushing white-tailed deer out of their natural habitats, sika deer can also cause crop damage.

“There are complaints in Dorchester County about crop damage from them but the bigger concern from my perspective is ecologically. They’re not supposed to be here and if they are competing with white-tails, that’s a problem,” said Bowman. “What I saw when we did some population estimation work several years back before this project, the white-tail numbers were high in some areas and so were the sika deer numbers. So you compounded crop damage. You almost doubled the amount of deer on the landscape.”

The differences between white-tailed deer and sika deer are mostly digestive, as sika are more grazers — able to eat a wider array of food than the white-tailed deer, who have a narrower range of things they can eat, which Bowman said makes them ripe for competition.

This ability to eat a wider array of foods is apparent in the sika deer’s range of habitats. In Maryland, they are primarily found in wetland areas, while on Yakushima Island, they are found in the mountains.

“I think it could be because they can exploit some of those salt water plants that the white-tails can’t eat. That might be why they’re using those habitats more, whereas white-tails only use those habitats for bedding areas, they don’t use them for foraging. The sika may have expanded into some of those and that might be why they have such a stronghold in the area,” said Bowman.

The population in Maryland is the only free range population of sika deer in the United States that people are allowed to hunt and because of this, Bowman said that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources wants to maintain the populations of the deer but limit their spread.

“This is a perfect example of a biological invasion where we’re not going to get rid of the species because of people — there’s an industry out there that protects them and doesn’t want them to go away, and you see it in a lot of species. Catfish in the [Chesapeake] bay, for instance. They’re not supposed to be there but there’s a fishing industry for them now so we’re not going to try to get rid of them. We’re just going to try to reduce their numbers,” said Bowman.

In addition to the help from Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Bowman said that they would not be able to do their research without the help and support from the private land owners.

Article by Adam Thomas

Video by Jeff Chase

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Early women faculty members reflect on time at CANR

Early women faculty members reflect on time at CANRIn the early 1980s, as at many institutions of higher education across the United States, change was taking shape in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

That change came in the form of Judy Hough-Goldstein, Lesa Griffiths, Sherry Kitto and Robin Morgan – four of the first female faculty members hired by the college – who would go on to prestigious careers at UD, some ending up as CANR department chairs and in the case of Morgan, as dean of the college.

Judy Hough-Goldstein

Hough-Goldstein, professor of entomology who will retire this summer, was the first of the four to come to UD when she was hired by the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in 1981, and she said that she was preceded by Sue Sullivan, a plant breeder who worked in the college in the 1970s.

Hough-Goldstein said that it really hit home that she was the only female faculty member during her first college-wide faculty meeting.

“It was definitely intimidating and some of the older faculty members and extension personnel were not used to female faculty members, but I must say that in my department, everybody was extremely supportive,” said Hough-Goldstein, who pointed out that the newer faculty members in her department had been working with women peers in graduate school and had no problems working with her at all.

Hough-Goldstein, who would eventually become chair of the department from 1994-2001, and make significant strides in researching a biological control agent — a stem-boring weevil — to help fight the invasive mile-a-minute weed, said that when the other departments started hiring women faculty members, it was a big relief.

“Sherry Kitto, Lesa Griffiths and Robin Morgan, once we had them coming in, after that it seemed like it was fairly rapid,” said Hough-Goldstein.

In Cooperative Extension as well, Hough-Goldstein said that having Joanne Whalen, a retired integrated pest management extension specialist, already established helped her to be accepted by the farmers she had to work with.

“She was a real pioneer too. Working with farmers back in the day, it was tough and I think she helped me in the farming community because they had gotten used to her, they loved her. She’s very gregarious and very easy to talk to and so that helped me a lot,” said Hough-Goldstein.

Hough-Goldstein said that she is proud of receiving an Outstanding Advising and Mentoring Award from the Office of Graduate Studies for mentoring graduate students.

She is also proud of helping to establish a doctorate in entomology and wildlife ecology while serving as chair of the department.

Sherry Kitto

Kitto, now retired from the department, was hired in 1984 as a horticulturist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC) to perform plant tissue culture and work with ornamentals and native plants.

When she arrived in the department, Kitto, who grew up with three brothers and worked jobs previously where she was the only woman, said that she knew how to take care of herself. She found the environment was collegial and she got along with her colleagues in the department.

Kitto was especially appreciative of being mentored by Al Morehart, who was serving as the department chair at the time.

When the department welcomed Yan Jin, professor in PLSC, to the faculty, Kitto decided to have lunches at her house to welcome new women faculty members.

“I lived right in Newark and so on a regular basis, two times a year I had a lunch so [Jin] could meet all the women on campus that I knew that I considered power people that would help her,” said Kitto.

Kitto notes that the PLSC faculty is now almost a 50-50 split between men and women.

In addition to the lunches, Kitto also helped to found Minorities in Agriculture and Natural Resources Related Sciences (MANRRS) on a national scale while at UD, and said she is proud of the undergraduate and graduate students that she taught.

In 2007, Kitto received the E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women’s Equity.

“My dream for working here is that the students I worked with would do better than I did – that they would have an easier path, that they would come out with more knowledge of life skills and come out with knowledge in the field but also how to negotiate, how to succeed, how to have a good life,” said Kitto.

Robin Morgan

Morgan was hired in 1985 and, as she came from a biological background, she had to adjust to a college focused on agriculture.

“I made a transition when I came here to agriculture but also I had not done virology. I had to learn the virology and luckily I was around people who knew it really well,” said Morgan, crediting Jack Gelb, director of the Avian Biosciences Center and professor of avian virology, for helping her along the way.

Morgan noted that ten years after she arrived, she and Gelb were at a conference where Gelb was giving a talk on molecular biology and she was giving a talk on testing a vaccine in chickens and she remembers feeling like the department had turned a corner.

I was giving the pathology talk and Jack was giving the molecular biology talk,” said Morgan. “At that point, I felt like the department really had been able to merge those worlds [biology and agriculture] together and they were able to do it way before other groups got on board, so it was a really exciting time.”

Morgan grew very interested in agriculture and eventually became associate dean in 2000, acting dean in 2001 and dean in 2002.

Of her time as dean, Morgan, who was also director of Cooperative Extension for the first year of her tenure, said that she wasn’t afraid to make mistakes and that everyone was very patient and tolerant with her as she learned the ropes.

She is proud of many things during her tenure as dean, notably the creation of the UDairy Creamery, for which she credits Tom Sims, who served as associate dean under Morgan and helped get the popular creamery off the ground.

“Tom figured out all the details so that is something I think will endure long after either one of us are here,” said Morgan. “What I like most about it, is that it has such a life of its own. There are so many things that we build in academia that depend on us, so they don’t endure when we leave, but that won’t be the case with the creamery. It’s going to last and last. You build something that has its own legs and becomes way bigger than you ever imagined.”

With regard to the hiring of more women by the college, Morgan said she knew the college had turned a corner when she could no longer immediately recollect the number of women faculty members.

“There was a time when I always knew how many women were in the college. Now I can’t instantly recollect that number, and I would have to actually count them. I think as dean I remember someone asking me how many women are in the college and I said, ‘I’ll have to count them.’ That was sort of an ‘oh man, we turned a corner’ moment, when I wasn’t saying, ‘Oh, three. Here they are.’ It was a number that I couldn’t immediately remember and I’m really proud of hiring a lot them,” said Morgan.

Lesa Griffiths

In addition to Morgan, the Department of Animal and Food Sciences added Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in 1986.

Morgan called Griffiths a great colleague and one of the most gifted teachers she’s ever worked with. “A lot of the students looked to Lesa and she has taught thousands of them,” Morgan said. “She influenced so many young women. She is incredibly gifted with thinking about how to reach someone; she is a really talented teacher.”

Griffiths developed the first UD study abroad program to New Zealand in 1999 and with her 2018 program, she will have taken over 250 students abroad. She went on to serve as associate provost for international programs and director of the UD Institute for Global Studies (IGS) for 10 years.

“Like the others, I received a lot support from my colleagues in both the department and the Provost’s Office when I was in IGS. Judy is a wonderful role model and while Robin and I shared many experiences in our department, it is reflecting on some of our shared personal experiences during our early careers that we roll in laughter about,” said Griffiths. “Sherry remains my most influential mentor, helping me develop my network of strong women and building the confidence to use my voice on behalf of students.”

Griffiths also served as associate dean for academic programs in the college for five years.

As of the fall 2016, CANR has 26 female faculty members, roughly 32 percent of the faculty in the college.

In addition to increases in the amount of female faculty members, CANR has 615 females enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students, out of 939 total students in 2017.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

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Crowds gather to view agriculture, natural resources exhibits at superhero-themed Ag Day

Crowds gather to view agriculture, natural resources exhibits at superhero-themed Ag DayOne of the warmest Ag Day celebrations on record was also one of its most well attended as an estimated 7,000 visitors flocked to the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus to take in bird shows, bee demonstrations, livestock exhibits, 4-H arts and crafts, farm tours, plant sales, and much more.

Mark Rieger, CANR dean, welcomed the crowd to Ag Day and said that the event is all about celebrating “food, fun and agriculture and natural resources. We really appreciate the community coming out, and we do this for you.”

Rieger recognized Keith Medwid, a CANR senior who chaired the Ag Day student planning committee, and also Grace Wisser, CANR event coordinator, for the key roles they played in organizing Ag Day.

Talking about the history of the event, Rieger spoke about Dave Frey, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and how he and Paul Sammelwitz, a department colleague and emeritus faculty member, started Ag Day 42 years ago.

Rieger also plugged the UDairy Creamery’s new location on 815 North Market Street in downtown Wilmington, which will have a block party with free ice cream from noon-2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, to celebrate its opening.

“The reason we’re doing that is we’ve had so much success with this creamery – 250 to 300 students have worked here, we’ve probably sold over a million scoops of ice cream, and we’re going to extend the same opportunity to the students in the Associate in Arts Program in the city of Wilmington. They are University of Delaware students and we’re taking a branch of the UDairy Creamery to them,” said Rieger.

This year’s Ag Day had a superhero theme, highlighting how the research and teaching efforts of the faculty and staff members at CANR are of extraordinary importance as they try to figure out ways to feed the world and protect the planet.

As part of the superhero theme, the first 300 kids who attended the event were given free capes and superhero cutouts adorned the lawn in front of Townsend Hall.

The entertainment stage was a big draw this year as, in addition to the band’s Frisco and Eclectic Acoustic, crowds gathered to watch a UD Swing Dance Showcase, the Agricultural College Council’s Pie in the Face fundraiser in which Rieger and other professors and staff members participated, CANR trivia, and an improv showcase courtesy of Riot Act.

Another popular aspect of Ag Day was the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) asking attendees to participate in four separate research studies. Those who took part were paid in cash for their participation or given a coupon to the UDairy Creamery for a free ice cream cone and by the end of the day CEAE had 1,529 research observations, an all-time high and up from around 750 last year.

Continuing at Ag Day this year was the popular Recipe Contest, which was started in 2015 by Christy Mannering, communications specialist at CANR.

The winners of the recipe contest included:

  • Stephanie Anderson – First place with Tomato Peach Bruschetta. The first place prize is a 50-pound voucher for canning tomatoes, 20-pound box of mixed vegetables, a jar of honey, an Ag Day T-shirt and UDairy Creamery items.
  • Nathan Thayer – Second place with Can’t Beet Local Burger. The second place prize is a 20-pound box of mixed vegetables, a jar of honey and an Ag Day T-shirt.
  • Karin Pleasanton – Third place with Zucchini and Lettuce Boat California Rolls. The third place prize is an Ag Day T-shirt and UDairy Creamery items.

In addition to Medwid, the 2017 Ag Day student planning committee was made of up of Kelly Holland, Julie Leznar, Andrew Mason, Michelle McEnroe, Melody Walkiewicz, Amanda Obosneko, Alexis Omar, Natalie Zelenky and Natalia Ziemecki.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

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UD’s Trammell looks at similarities, differences among American lawns

UD’s Trammell looks at similarities, differences among American lawnsAs cities and suburbs have sprawled across the United States, they have not only provided new housing and developments but also given rise to what researchers are calling the American residential macrosystem, a new biome encompassing urban, suburban and extra-urban lands with biological, geophysical and social components that interact with one another.

Using six cities from across the United States, the University of Delaware’s Tara Trammell is part of a team of researchers from multiple universities looking at factors that contribute to stability and change in the American residential macrosystem as well as the future ecological implications at the ecosystem, city, regional and continental scales.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Macrosystems Biology Program and builds off prior work that was funded by NSF in 2012. The research includes study sites in Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Trammell, the John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, conducted her part of the project in Los Angeles in 2012 and will once again return to the city.

She said the original project looked at the ecological homogenization of America by researching residential lawns across those six cities, which are in different ecological biomes and climates, to see how similar the residential ecosystems were becoming based on people’s preferences and behaviors.

The research hypothesis was that the residential ecosystems and landscapes across the continent are more similar than the native ecosystems that they replaced, which can lead to altered ecosystem structure and function.

“The original project was a collaboration between social scientists looking at the social drivers of the American residential macrosystem and ecologists studying the ecological impacts of yard management. We found evidence for ecological homogenization in plant communities, soils, and nutrient pools, yet at the same time yard management may or may not be the same,” said Trammell.

This project will examine what factors, such as social drivers, are contributing to the stabilization or to changes of the residential ecosystems.

“There is an interaction between biophysical drivers and social drivers together effecting the homogenization. We’re trying to understand what factors are contributing to changes in residential systems and what factors contribute to stabilizing them,” said Trammell.

Some of these stabilizing factors include commercial drivers and perceived social norms or values, while agents for change include planting more wildlife supporting plants, using less fertilizer or utilizing xeriscaping — low water landscaping that is nearly devoid of plants.

Social factors that contribute to the changes or stabilization in the system include how much time people put into their lawns which can be dictated by life stage and socioeconomics.

“It’s not just the amount of resources you can put into the yard but your time. When I was in LA conducting homeowner interviews, several people who recently retired had plans for their yard. They were finally going to have time for landscaping versus the people who may have been working full-time with families,” said Trammell.

In addition to life stage and economic considerations, there are top down regulations that need to be taken into account as well. In Los Angeles, for example, with water use and water availability issues, regulations come into play that change people’s behavior.

The research will look at the ecological implications for these potential changes and stabilizations, focusing on how management influences hydrology, nutrient cycling and biodiversity.

“People are instituting hydrologic efficient aspects in their lawns, such as rain gardens or xeriscaping in the arid climates. How are these changes in yard management effecting ecological function? We’re looking to see if nutrient use efficiency, water use efficiency and wildlife supporting management behaviors in your yard effect biodiversity at different trophic levels and nutrient retention or runoff,” said Trammell.

The first project measured plant communities, soils and microclimate, while this time around the researchers are going to include higher trophic levels and water and energy balance.

“We’re adding insect and bird biodiversity to the study to see if yards with greater plant biodiversity support higher trophic levels,” said Trammell.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources opens second high tunnel greenhouse

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources opens second high tunnel greenhouseRepresentatives from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Cooperative Extension and Rimol Greenhouse Systems held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, April 13, to officially open a new high tunnel greenhouse donated to the University by the company.

The high tunnel, a state-of-the-art growing space greenhouse designed with practicality, sustainability and year-round opportunities for education in mind, is the second one on UD’s CANR campus provided by Rimol and will double the amount of indoor growing space available to offer hands-on learning opportunities and fresh produce to both students and the Delaware community.

CANR Dean Mark Rieger began the ceremony by thanking Rimol and highlighting how Mike Popovich, farm manager at CANR, uses the high tunnel to offer a farm-to-chef model with some of the produce grown on the farm going to local Delaware restaurants.

Rieger also spoke about how he teaches a class in the high tunnel, which is a big benefit as the growing season doesn’t always coincide with the school semesters.

“The only way that we could do that is by having some kind of protected cultivation because our students are here in the fall and the spring; they’re really not here in the summer when we could do it outside. Last fall for example we were in the high tunnel growing broccoli, cauliflower and kale all the way through to Thanksgiving and it wouldn’t have been possible without that,” said Rieger. “I’m personally benefiting from this, the college is benefiting from this, and the state of Delaware will benefit as well from the engagement and the kinds of demonstrations that we’re going to be doing out of these tunnels.”

Rieger also thanked the donors who help fund student interns who get hands-on experience growing food in the high tunnels and on the farm.

Bob Rimol, owner of Rimol Greenhouse Systems, said that he has fond memories of Delaware and highlighted the importance of partnerships between private and public sector institutions.

“When Mark and I started talking about this opportunity, I saw the enthusiasm with Mark and with Mike and we know what Delaware is capable of doing, and I’ve always been a big believer in supporting educational institutions,” Rimol said. “We’re all focused on these two high tunnels today but it just doesn’t stop here. We want to support you all the time in educational workshops. This is a great opportunity for you as educators to help growers, help students, help the whole industry that we’re trying to make better.”

Rimol added, “Eating right starts with fresh produce. This is an example of locally grown, healthy fresh produce, and when you can teach more and more people on how to do it — whether it’s urban agriculture or the family farm — we’re all going to benefit.”

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of Cooperative Extension, thanked Rimol for the donation and highlighted how the high tunnel will enable extension agents to offer more courses that will benefit the community.

“This is a Cooperative Extension dream to have an opportunity for real life, hands-on experience. Extension is really into experiential learning and putting research we’re generating into the hands of the people who are going to use it,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers highlighted how Carrie Murphy, agriculture program leader, had already used the high tunnels for a beginning farmer class. The class brought together a diverse group of growers with varying levels of experience and allowed for networking opportunities among the participants, who shared their experiences and learned from one another inside the high tunnel.

“We have a lot of interest, particularly in this county, around urban agriculture and what we can do to expand and work in the area of food security and local food needs, and being able to help people to know different ways that they can do that,” said Rodgers, adding it will be beneficial “having them come here, whether it’s kids learning about where their food comes from or adults learning to use local resources to produce food for people in the communities.”

Rodgers also talked about how the high tunnel will allow extension to teach about urban gardening and urban food production, as well as to expand on already existing workshops for industry members and farmers.

“We can do some more things concerning production in terms of soil health and also the latest research around high tunnels that we can share and bring to Delaware for agricultural production. We are very enthusiastic about what we think we can do and how this really enriches our opportunity to partner with other organizations and reach out,” said Rodgers.

The event featured UDairy Creamery ice cream and was catered by Grain Craft Bar and Kitchen.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Wenbo Fan and Christy Mannering

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

Elena Delle Donne designs shelving for UD’s tuk tuk mobile lab

Elena Delle Donne designs shelving for UD’s tuk tuk mobile labIn its first year of operation, the University of Delaware Center for Experimental and Applied Economics’ tuk tuk mobile laboratory had been doing a great job of drawing people in to participate in the center’s research. There was just one problem – it lacked the appropriate amount of display space to show off the materials, such as fresh produce or oysters, associated with the various studies being run out of the vehicle.

Because of this, Kent Messer, the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment, director of the CEAE in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), reached out to Blue Hen alumna and current WNBA star Elena Delle Donne to help design shelving for the experimental laboratory.

Delle Donne started her woodworking company DelleDonneDesigns with Amanda Clifton and Megan Gainey after getting positive feedback from one of the coffee tables that they designed and posted on Instagram.

“When I saw tables made by Elena, Amanda, and Megan, I thought they were creative and beautiful.  We needed some shelves that would make for an attractive display. I’m also a big fan of women’s basketball and have been following Elena for years when she played in high school in Wilmington, and then went on to star at UD, in the WBNA, and with the US gold medal winning team,” said Messer.

Delle Donne said the shelves in UD tuk tuk are made out of pine and were wood-glued together to make them sturdy. They also mitered the edges and put a border on the shelves.

“It was pretty simple. Once you get the wood all you have to do is really sand it, stain it and then miter the border – that’s what probably takes the longest,” said Delle Donne.

As for her impressions of the tuk tuk, Delle Donne said that she had never seen one before and had to Google it before arriving on campus to meet Messer, members of the CEAE lab and the tuk tuk itself.

“This is my first time seeing it. I love it. It’s really cool. I like the UD colors, and the shelves look nice in there. It’s always great when I can do anything to help out the University. It was exciting for us to put together and it’s exciting whenever UD reaches out,” said Delle Donne.

Prior to the shelves

Before the installation of the shelves, the tuk tuk used makeshift items such as an old television stand or baskets stacked on top of one another to display items. To support the new shelves, designer Nick Valinski created an aluminum structure that can be shifted around, change angles or transform to match the current needs and goals of the researchers.

Maddi Valinski, lab manager for CEAE and program administrator for CBEAR, said the shelves will be a huge help in setting up the tuk tuk for experiments.

“This will make it so setting up a display in the tuk tuk is just plug in and play essentially. The shelves are flexible — they can be tilted on different angles if we need them to. They can fold completely down or we can take them out entirely if need be for a particular experiment set up. There’s a lot of different flexibility with it, which will provide a benefit to us in that it saves time and it looks more professional and approachable,” said Valinski.

Year in review

It’s been a busy year for the tuk tuk, which was unveiled last year at Ag Day.

It has traveled everywhere around Delaware from Newark to the First State National Historic Park to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

It also has traveled outside the state including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Ag Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.

Not only has Olympic gold medal winner and WNBA MVP Delle Donne gotten behind the wheel but so have dignitaries such as Gov. John Carney, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and even the University’s mascot, YoUDee.

“The response to the tuk tuk has exceeded even my wildest hopes. It has not only helped us recruit a more representative sample of the public for our research but has also been a fun way of showcasing the innovative and important work we are doing at UD. Who knows where it will go in its second year,” said Messer.

Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Evan Krape
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Hannah Clipp receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Hannah Clipp receives NSF FellowshipThe University of Delaware’s Hannah Clipp was one of a dozen UD students (undergraduate and graduate) and alumni to have won National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships as the prestigious competition marks its 65th year. Fourteen others received honorable mention designations.

The awards — for which more than 13,000 applicants competed this year — include three years of funding at $34,000 per year, plus $12,000 in cost-of-education allowances to the school for study leading to a master’s or doctoral degree in science and engineering. The total of these awards is almost $1.4 million — a significant boost for the students and their research.

Clipp, a Master’s level student studying bird migration, stopover ecology, and bird conservation in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, said that she had been an honorable mention the previous year and that it was an amazing feeling to receive the fellowship this year.

Working with Jeff Buler, associate professor of wildlife ecology, in Buler’s Aeroecology Lab, Clipp said that she is specifically using weather surveillance radar to look at stopover sites along the Gulf Coast, where birds rest and feed during migration.

“Without available stopover sites, birds’ migration could be disrupted and they could die. We’re looking at habitat right along the Gulf Coast, which is critical for birds that have just undergone the 18 to 24-hour nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico during spring migration, but there’s substantial coastal development and urbanization, so it’s particularly important to protect stopover sites in this region. Part of my research is identifying and mapping where stopover habitat is located and looking to see how wind and weather affect where migrants are ending up so that we can predict where most birds are passing through and protect those areas. My research provides information that will help to prioritize conservation efforts,” said Clipp.

Having first been exposed to bird research during an NSF-funded research experience for undergraduates program at Kansas State University where she investigated the effects of different management strategies on grassland songbird territory sizes, Clipp continued her research pursuits by studying waterbirds at created wetlands in West Virginia while an undergraduate at West Virginia University.

As for how she ended up at UD, Clipp said she was looking for wildlife graduate programs, saw the project she is currently working on being advertised, and reached out to meet with Buler.

“This was one of the projects that drew my attention, so I reached out to Jeff and got to visit UD. I met with him, learned about his research, and then decided that it was a good fit,” said Clipp.

Buler said that Clipp has been a “great addition to the Aeroecology Program. Her motivation, dedication, and unwavering enthusiasm for her work are impressive. She will make important scientific contributions to our knowledge of bird migration around the Gulf of Mexico that will lead to more effective conservation efforts for populations of migratory birds.”

With regards to her love of birds, Clipp said that she likes the fact that birds are everywhere.

“With mammals, unless it’s a really common species like white-tailed deer, you often have to go looking for them and they’re hard to find, but birds are everywhere. People love them. I love them,” said Clipp. “I am reminded every day that the research I’m doing has real world applications and can be used to help conserve bird populations.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

UD researchers discover tree trunks act as methane source in upland forests

canr plant soil sciences post doc Dan Warner field work study at watershedA new study from the University of Delaware is one of the first in the world to show that tree trunks in upland forests actually emit methane rather than store it, representing a new, previously unaccounted source of this powerful greenhouse gas.

Methane is about 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide, with some estimates as high as 33 times stronger due to its effects when it is in the atmosphere.

Because of methane’s global warming potential, identifying the sources and “sinks” or storehouses of this greenhouse gas is critical for measuring and understanding its implications across ecosystems.

Upland forest soils usually take up and store methane, but this effect can be counteracted by methane emissions from tree trunks, the research team from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources found. Their work is published in the scientific journal Ecosystems.

“We believe our work can help fill in some gaps in methane budgets and environmental processes in global ecosystem models,” said the study’s leader, Rodrigo Vargas, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Shreeram Inamdar, professor of watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry, is co-investigator on the project with Vargas, and doctoral student Daniel Warner is the lead author of the paper. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from Delaware’s Federal Research and Development Matching Grant Program.

Maryland study site

In a 30-acre area of upland forest at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in nearby Cecil County, Maryland, the researchers tested a cluster of trees, soil and coarse woody debris (CWD)—dead wood lying on the forest floor in various stages of decomposition—to measure fluxes of methane and carbon dioxide.

The researchers used a state-of-the-art greenhouse gas analyzer based on laser absorption technology, called Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy (OA-ICOS), which looks similar to a proton pack from the movie “Ghostbusters.”

Warner visited the site over the course of one growing season, April to December, and measured the carbon dioxide and methane fluxes of the soil, tree trunks and CWD to determine whether those three components were sources or sinks of these greenhouse gases.

Soils and CWD fluxes

In terms of carbon dioxide, research on the fluxes of tree trunks, known as stem respiration, and soil, known as soil respiration, has been done for decades, but research to determine the importance of carbon fluxes with regard to CWD still lags behind.

For methane, however, it’s a different story. While studies have been done on methane fluxes in connection to soils, which usually consume the methane and are considered methane sinks, there are very few that deal with CWD and tree trunks in upland soils.

“What research has been done is generally lab incubations of wood where they measure how much methane is released over time. What we’ve found in this study is that some coarse woody debris acts kind of like the soil and consumes methane while other pieces of coarse woody debris emit small amounts of methane, which is also what we saw with living tree trunks,” said Warner.

To understand the differences between the actions of the CWD, Warner and colleagues found that fresher CWD has a positive methane flux, which is similar to how a living tree behaves.

“When a tree falls over, it’s still functionally the same in terms of methane emissions. Over time, as it decays, my theory is that it gets colonized by soil bacteria that consume methane and it shifts to behave more like the soil, resulting in a methane sink,” said Warner.

The researchers also found that CWD had a high rate of variability when it came to methane emissions.

“As it decays it becomes a lot more variable. Some of the super-decayed wood was still releasing methane but a lot of it was consuming methane,” said Warner. “If you have a CWD pool with less diversity regarding the degree of decomposition, you can expect it to play a more uniform role in terms of methane emissions or sinks.”

Tree trunks and methane fluxes

While tree trunks have been known to release carbon dioxide, this research showed that they were also releasing methane.

“The tree trunks constantly have low but detectable emissions of methane. Soils are providing an environmental service of sequestering this potent greenhouse gas, but the trunks are releasing methane equivalent to 4 percent of what could be captured by CWD and soils at the ecosystem scale,” said Vargas.

Overall, the tree trunks acted as a source of carbon dioxide and as a small source of methane, but the magnitude of gases emitted varied with the species.

Tulip poplar was one species that released a lot of methane and carbon dioxide, whereas beech trees released the most methane within the forest but emitted very little carbon dioxide.

“It might be some species-specific trait that’s controlling the flux,” said Warner.

Temperature threshold

Temperature also played a key role in regulating the magnitude of the fluxes.

“Methane in soils seem to follow a temperature gradient where higher temperatures are related to higher uptake of methane but that’s not necessarily the case for CWD or for tree trunks,” said Vargas.

Warner said it’s hard to develop a temperature relationship with methane because there are two processes that oppose each other.

“You have things in the soil producing methane—known as methanogenesis—things consuming it—known as methanotrophy—and so as you warm up, it’s more kind of like a shot gun where the magnitudes of methane scatter out more as it gets warmer; suggesting that other factors beyond temperature regulate methane emissions,” said Warner.

They found that beyond a threshold of 17 degrees Celsius for soil temperature, the variability of methane consumption expands dramatically.

“Under 17 degrees, temperature is a key driver of methane flux but above 17 degrees, there are other drivers that will influence methane production,” said Vargas.

Soil hot spots

As for where the methane originated, Warner said it’s still a science frontier, but this study provides enough clues to give the researchers some theories.

The first one is that methane is produced in hot spots in the soil.

“By hot spot, we mean a place where conditions are conducive to methane production and then that methane is sucked up by the tree roots, transported through its vascular system and released out of its trunk,” said Warner. “We know that happens in wetlands but in uplands, maybe it happens in one specific spot and nowhere else.”

The other mechanism that could be causing methane fluxes from trunks is internal rotting or infection inside the tree, which produces an environment where methanogenic bacteria can survive and then methane diffuses out of the tree.

“At this moment, the mechanisms of methane production in upland forests are not clear. Methane can be either transported from the soils upward inside the stem and diffused to the atmosphere or produced inside the stem by fungi or archaea—single-celled microorganisms,” said Vargas.

Next steps

Both Warner and Vargas agreed that the next steps should be to test the generality of these observations across different forests, and identify the mechanisms of methane production and transport in tree trunks. Finally, they suggest that global and ecosystem models should take into account methane produced from tree trunks as a new source of methane to the atmosphere.

“When people develop ecosystem to global scale methane budgets, there’s always a chunk in which it is uncertain from where that methane is coming. Methane emissions by vegetation and tree trunks are seen as a newly-considered source that might bring that budget closer in to our estimates. It’s good to keep chipping away at that,” said Warner.

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

Video by Jeff Chase

Ag Ambassadors serve as face of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Ag Ambassadors serve as face of College of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesFor over 25 years, student volunteers known as the Ag Ambassadors in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) have served as the face of the college, leading tours and answering questions from prospective students and their families and representing the college at special events.

The group is now 65 strong and has grown from its beginnings in the early 1990s when Karen Aniunas, now assistant vice president of communications and constituent relations in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at UD, started the program with around 10 or 12 volunteers.

Aniunas began work at CANR as a recruiter — eventually becoming an assistant dean — and was looking for something that would set the college apart from other agricultural institutions when prospective students and their families visited.

One of the strategies she used was to have visiting families meet with faculty members, and then she would lead tours of the college’s farm, greenhouses and gardens.

Working closely with undergraduates for a number of years, Aniunas knew one of the best ways to deliver information was through peer to peer interaction, and she began asking students if they would like to tag along on some of the tours.

“Students are looking for somebody who is mirroring themselves in some way. If I’m a high school junior or senior, I don’t know the first thing about what college is going to be like and so to see somebody sitting across the table from me or taking me around the farm who gets me and is thriving in this place I’m considering, it really helps them to see, ‘I could do this. I could be this,’” said Aniunas.

With the support of John Nye, dean of the college at the time, Aniunas formalized the group of volunteers and decided to call them Ag Ambassadors.

“My philosophy was always that I wanted volunteers. I didn’t want people to do this because it was a way to make money. I wanted them to do it because they were really committed to the college and they wanted to engage with prospective students,” said Aniunas.

Aniunas said she is thrilled to see the program thriving and said it is as much a benefit for the college as it is for the students.

“The students got such a great opportunity for building their communication skills and their leadership skills. They had a lot of exposure to skills that you need as a professional in the real world. It was a symbiotic benefit with regards to them helping us build our numbers and giving the prospective students somebody to connect with but also at the same time building professional skills within the Ag Ambassadors themselves,” said Aniunas.

Current Ag Ambassadors

Now under the guidance of Kim Yackoski, senior assistant dean in CANR, and Katie Daly, academic program manager at CANR, the program is still being run in the way it was originally envisioned, and both said that one of the favorite parts of their job is working with some of the most fun and engaged students in the college.

“We are the undergraduate student services office who supports current students with advisement, but we’re also charged with recruiting students. We welcome prospective families to visit us, to take a tour of our facilities and to meet with faculty members,” said Yackoski.

The undergraduate student services office has over 150 tour requests each year, which are organized by Theresa Cometa, administrative assistant in CANR, and led by the Ag Ambassadors.

Students can apply to be Ag Ambassadors as early as their freshman year, and they are drawn from each of the college’s four departments and agriculture and natural resources majors. Having a diverse group of Ag Ambassadors allows prospective students to get customized tours based on their area of interest, such as touring the farm to see animals or the greenhouse to focus on plants.

In addition to giving tours, the Ag Ambassadors mentor new CANR students and also represent the college at the Presidential Tailgate during Homecoming, college-wide events and award ceremonies.

The current Ag Ambassadors have monthly meetings with Yackoski and Daly where there are training sessions on a broad array of professional development topics as well as updates on the college’s course offerings.

“There is always something new to learn about the programs we offer and these trainings provide us an opportunity to engage with our ambassadors so that they are the best they can be in the role that they play,” said Yackoski.

Daly said that there is a mentoring process built into the program where seasoned Ag Ambassadors will go on tours with newer ambassadors and give them feedback.

“After the tour, in a nice peer mentor kind of way, the seasoned Ag Ambassador can give some feedback to them about what they thought they did really well or what they could improve upon in the future,” said Daly.

Many current Ag Ambassadors are students who met or interacted with members of the program before they came to UD.

Joseph Rea, a senior honors student majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences with minors in exercise science and medical diagnostics, said that he originally decided to come to UD after he was given a tour by an Ag Ambassador.

“I loved how students represented the college so well and were able to tell so many personal stories about how the college and faculty positively shaped their college career. Now it’s come full circle, and I am the Ag Ambassador, hoping to inspire the next round of high school students to choose CANR at UD. This college has done so much for me and I am proud to represent it as an Ag Ambassador. It’s my way of giving back a small token to a program that has given so much to me,” said Rea.

Jessica Beatty, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation, is currently an Ag Ambassador and said the enthusiasm she saw from the Ag Ambassadors when she visited UD as a prospective high school student is what drew her to the program.

“How much they loved the program was one thing that influenced me when I visited. I try to give high school students that same enthusiasm and an honest love for what I’m doing. I’m proud to be here so I love sharing that with people and I love talking about the school,” said Beatty.

Beatty said she can still remember when she first heard Ag Ambassadors speak about their experiences at CANR during Decision Days and decided at that moment that she wanted to be one.

“After I was in the room with all the Ag Ambassadors, I told my parents, ‘I want to be one of those people,’ and here I am. I still talk to Katie and Kim about it to this day. It’s just one of those things that has stuck with me,” said Beatty.

For more information on the program, visit the Ag Ambassadors website.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers present findings on how to best market oysters

UD researchers present findings on how to best market oysters
Delaware Sea Grant partnered with University of Delaware’s Center for Experimental & Applied Economics to engage industry and policy stakeholders in Delaware to discuss recent research on consumer preferences for oysters.

Researchers from the University of Delaware recently hosted members of Delaware’s oyster industry to share results of studies about how to best market their products.

Those studies showed that demand for their product is strong and consumers should be ready to pay good prices once the supply arrives.

The results were reported at a Consumer Preferences for Delaware Oysters: An Economic Evaluation of Marketing Messages workshop held on Feb. 9 at the Cannon Laboratory on the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes.

The workshop was hosted by the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) and sponsored by Delaware Sea Grant, housed in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE).

The results presented at the workshop were gathered over the past three years, when members from CEAE collected data at various locations throughout Delaware — such as the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal, at Ag Day in Newark, at 16-Mile Brewery in Georgetown, at Famous Joe’s Tavern in Wilmington, and at Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles — to gauge consumer preferences for local oysters.

Kent Messer, the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment and director of CEAE, which is housed in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), said the researchers — specifically Tongzhe Li, post-doctoral researcher in CEAE, and Maik Kecinski, assistant professor at the University of Alberta — gained a number of good insights during the study and wanted to make sure the results were getting out to industry professionals.

Potential aquaculture

As the state does not currently have an aquaculture industry, Ed Lewandowski, the acting director for DESG’s Marine Advisory Service, said that the researchers were interested in looking at the potential for getting an oyster product into the marketplace so that when Delaware aquaculture is operational, producers can hit the ground running as well.

“It’s a competitive industry. You’ve got raw bars popping up all over the place and each of them have oysters that they favor as well as clients who favor particular brands,” Lewandowski said. “A lot of the times, those brands have catchy names or they’re marketed creatively. We wanted to ensure that when we do have an inland bays oyster product ready, we can compete in that market place by positioning it with the brand, the logo, and the catchy name.”

Francesca Piccone, a graduate of CEOE and current CEAE outreach coordinator, said the researchers tested the consumer response to a logo bearing the words “Inland Bays Oysters: A Southern Delaware Delicacy” underneath a picture of an oyster to see if people were willing to spend more money on oysters branded that way.

They also focused on demographics to see who would pay more for oysters and what kind of information would make them more inclined to do so.

“We found that local is an effective word that increased consumer demand for oysters. The consumers’ willingness to pay for oysters also changes depending on which body of water they were grown in,” said Piccone.

‘Local, local, local’

The study showed that 28 percent of locals would pay a higher price for oysters branded with the logo compared to 13 percent of tourists who would pay a higher premium. Additionally, the researchers found that consumers are willing to pay 16 percent more for oysters that are harvested locally.

“Local, local, local. Couldn’t stress that enough. People put a premium on locally produced or sourced products. Consumers appreciate local shellfish, and we also found that the word ‘southern’ seemed to be important to people,” said Lewandowski.

Consumers also value the smell of the oysters the most, followed by saltiness, meat size and meat color. Frequent oyster consumers prefer aquaculture oysters whereas infrequent and first-time consumers prefer wild-caught oysters.

In addition, female consumers were willing to pay 33 percent less per oyster compared to male consumers and consumers overall were willing to pay higher prices for oysters that improve local water quality.

Commodities and brands

Messer said many foods, such as oysters, are moving away from being a generic commodity to a specific brand.

“Recall the history of coffee in the U.S. It used to be a commodity – a couple of big companies put coffee into a big blue or red can that contained coffee from all over the world that was mixed together and sold at a low price. Now you have many coffee companies and they will sell you coffee from a specific location. It could be Sumatra, Costa Rica, or even specific farms in Mexico. These coffees are sold at a higher price,” said Messer.

The same is true for oysters, as consumers are looking for oysters from specific locations.

“More often than not, oysters are branded according to geographic location where they came from,” said Lewandowski. “There are Cape-May oysters, Chincoteague oysters, Bluepoint oysters out of Long Island, so using ‘Inland Bays Oysters’ definitely identifies it as a local product specific to Delaware’s inland bays.”

Importance of naming conventions

Messer said naming conventions will be important for oyster growers in Delaware to understand when they introduce their product into the market.

“What kind of names could resonate to both Delaware residents to tourists? One would anticipate that tourists would be very interested in buying a local oyster. Just like you have your local beer, you have your local oyster to go along with it. It could be a good chance to not only sell Delaware oysters but get a higher price for this product because now it’s a branded name and it’s something that you can’t get elsewhere,” said Messer.

Messer stressed that getting information that can benefit the Delaware oyster aquaculture is of the utmost importance for an institution like the University of Delaware.

“It’s fundamental to what we do. Public money paid for our research and this has public benefits for getting the oyster industry going, and it could improve water quality in our own state plus create jobs,” said Messer. “You can’t get that in many other contexts. I feel it’s imperative upon researchers to take the extra step to engage with their constituencies to share those results and I was happy to do it.”

Additional funding and support for the research and the workshop was provided by the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), Ed Kee and the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware NSF EPSCoR, the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research (CBEAR), the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), the Cape-May Lewes Ferry and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Videos of various workshop presentations are available.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Lisa Tossey

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Interdisciplinary UD team gears up for 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show

Interdisciplinary UD team gears up for 2017 Philadelphia Flower ShowBefore the University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players wrapped their God of Carnage and Waiting for Godot shows in fall 2016, Stefanie Hansen, associate professor in the theatre department, provided students involved with the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show design project an opportunity to tour the sets and see what could be re-purposed.

Aspects of those sets have now been transformed into an urban Amsterdam exhibit — the overall theme of this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show is “Holland Blooms” — that focuses on green infrastructure and storm water management and is outfitted with a green roof, a sidewalk rain garden, a green wall full of plants and permeable paving which helps cities cut down on storm water runoff.

One end of the exhibit is a landscape architect studio and the other is a flower shop, with urban outdoor architecture features like planters, a bike lane and street lights making up the surrounding space.

The end product — the seventh consecutive year a team from UD has had an exhibit featured in the show — will be on display for the duration of the flower show, March 11-19, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Re-purposed sets

Hansen, who worked on the project last year as well, said that being able to re-purpose the theatre sets was a big benefit.

“It was fun not only being able to keep some things out of the dumpster but also to know the scope of this could be useful with what we already had,” said Hansen. “I think this year we’re saving quite a bit of time and money on what we’re able to do so it can be bigger and more fleshed out than it might have been if we started from scratch.”

Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) who has been involved with the UD exhibit at the flower show since the beginning, said that having Hansen’s expertise in building lightweight theatre sets has been a huge help this year.

“In previous years, all of our structures were meant to last in the outdoor landscape after the show, but they were heavy and difficult to move. The great thing about working with Stefanie is we were able to upcycle the lightweight props from the theatre productions. It makes more sense for us to use the theater sets for the show because we can move them easily and we don’t have to see the chiropractor for the rest of our life,” said Bruck.

Interdisciplinary team

The exhibit has been put together by an interdisciplinary group of UD students and faculty members. Some are working on the exhibit as part of a Design Process Practicum class taught by Bruck, others as members of the Design and Articulture (DART) student organization, and still others through the new landscape architecture major.

Bruck said that one of the messages of this year’s exhibit is that all plants are welcome.

“We’ve cultivated some common ‘weeds’ to put up on the roof to show the variety of plants that are part of the urban environment. We call them weeds – it’s a human construct. Many plants we consider weeds are a beneficial part of the environment. If it can grow in a crack in the sidewalk in the city, it’s a pretty tough nugget, and we need to rethink how we label it,” said Bruck.

Anna Wik, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said that the roof will be planted with “things that are typically thought of as weeds mixed in with bulbs to give it this wild look. They’re mostly weedy grasses and we will be using some strawberries. Weeds are part of the urban environment and something that we have to know about.”

Students in the Design Process Practicum class last year spent the first part of the class helping build the exhibit for 2016 and then spent the second portion of the class developing ideas that eventually became the design for this year’s flower show.

Interdisciplinary UD team gears up for 2017 Philadelphia Flower ShowAustin Virdin, a senior in CANR, was part of the group whose design was chosen to represent UD this year and he said that it has been a rewarding experience watching the design come to life.

He also said that having the assistance of Hansen has been a huge help.

“We’ve been able to use pieces from past shows the theatre department has put on that have become the walls of the exhibit and a lot of the materials have been re-used from those shows, she’s been a great help. I know we would not have been able to have this year’s exhibit be as large of a structure if she wasn’t helping with the build,” said Virdin.

Virdin said that the interdisciplinary aspect of the class is beneficial and helped to inform the design.

“In my group that proposed this design concept, I worked with a psychology major and a computer science major, coming from different backgrounds and perspectives really makes the class more engaging in my opinion. I get a lot more out of the design process when there’s people who think and work differently than I do,” said Virdin.

Tess Strayer, senior in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and president of DART, said she is hoping that visitors to the exhibit take its green infrastructure messaging home with them.

“I think it’s something we can incorporate into our lives on a daily basis. Green roofs aren’t hard and we just installed pervious paving at my home for my driveway. It’s little things that you can do around your house to make your home more sustainable, your life more ecofriendly,” said Strayer.

Bulb forcing

Wik has been working on the flower show for the first time in different capacities and has been involved in the bulb forcing — along with students Carin Prechtl and Serena Wingel, both juniors in CANR – and members of the Fischer Greenhouse staff, including Bill Bartz, greenhouse manager, and Rodney Dempsey, horticulture greenhouse supervisor.

Wik said that they are using commonly forced bulbs in the exhibit, such as hyacinths, tulips and daffodils, as well as some less often used bulbs like allium and camassia, and that they decided to select plants that are ornamental but also provide ecosystem services, specifically those that would do well in a rain garden environments.

Landscape architecture studio

The landscape architecture studio is loosely modeled off of renowned landscape designer Piet Oudolf’s studio interior. Oudolf recently finalized a meadow design for the Delaware Botanic Gardens (DBG) at Pepper Creek near Dagsboro, Delaware.

“We wanted a Dutch aesthetic, and then we realized we might be able to showcase some of his recent local work, as well,” said Bruck.

Bruck reached out to Rodney Robinson, a UD alumnus and DBG board member who is with Robinson Anderson Summers Inc. (RAS), to ask if it would be possible to highlight the new project by including it as a prop in the architect studio.

Sheryl Swed, the executive director of the DBG, responded to the request and said, “The opportunity to partner with Jules and talented students to highlight the exceptional master plan that RAS has just completed, to introduce the Delaware Botanic Gardens to the Philadelphia Flower Show audience and to feature Piet Oudolf’s DBG meadow design, is just the kind of synergy and mutual support that is the hallmark of the horticulture community.”

For more about the Philadelphia Flower Show, including hours and ticket information, see the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UDairy Creamery to open location on Wilmington’s Market Street

UDairy Creamery to open location on Wilmington’s Market Street
Photos of the UD Creamery’s future location (and surrounding area) in the City of Wilmington at 815 North Market. – (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)

The University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery will open its first off-campus location this April. The storefront at 815 North Market Street, directly across the street from Wilmington’s Grand Opera House, will bring UDairy’s premium, handmade ice cream to downtown Wilmington with a twist.

Students from UD’s Associate in Arts Program will operate the new UDairy Creamery Market, making the ice cream on site from locally sourced milk, serving customers, supervising the storefront and developing the marketplace into a sustainable business.

In addition to UDairy’s ice cream products, honey, wool blankets and other items produced by UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will be available for purchase. The farm-to-table menu will include burgers, gourmet grilled cheese, salads and other items straight from the University’s organic garden.

“This is a chance to bring agricultural education to the community,” said Melinda Shaw, UDairy Creamery operations manager. “It will provide a larger agricultural presence as well as awareness to what is happening just a few miles south of Wilmington.”

The University partnered with Wilmington-based developer Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) to develop the project. BPG owns the site and supported a student-run feasibility study to assess the viability of a creamery marketplace.

Together BPG and the students found an unmet demand for ice cream amongst local families, employees with downtown businesses, patrons of nearby entertainment venues, such as the Grand, and other members of the community.

“We are grateful to be part of the revitalization of the area,” she said. “This is an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

The Buccini/Pollin Group has been the driving force behind the revitalization of downtown Wilmington and its historic Market Street corridor, adding restaurants, entertainment and multi-family housing to the neighborhood.

“BPG’s vision for Wilmington is to have a diverse and vibrant downtown where people choose to live and stay after work to play,” said BPG co-founder Robert Buccini. “We are excited when we can bring more amenities to support the neighborhood and are proud to partner with University of Delaware to bring such a unique establishment to Market Street.”

The location is adjacent to BPG’s proposed Chelsea Plaza project that would demolish the neighboring building to create an outdoor plaza on Market Street. The plaza would open up to Shipley Street and to the Residences at Midtown Park that upon completion will deliver more than 500 parking spaces, 200 luxury apartments and additional retail.

Just like its sister location in Newark, UD students will staff the UDairy Creamery Market, gaining exposure to food science and business management practices.

Students will have a very short commute from their UD Associate in Arts program courses, held both at UD’s Downtown Center, just around the corner, and on Delaware Technical Community College’s campus a few blocks away. More than 400 AAP students combined attend classes at the two campuses in downtown Wilmington.

“We’re a real force,” said David Satran, director of the Associate in Arts program. “We want the students to see that there are opportunities in Wilmington to engage with the community and their curriculum.

“Our students are Delawareans, many of whom are going to stay in the state after graduation. This is part of a larger effort to reconfigure Wilmington as somewhere you want to be because there are opportunities there for internships and for work.”

UDairy Creamery Market is expected to open in the spring with a full staff of student workers and interns. Coursework in food science, business management and entrepreneurship could begin on site as early as the fall 2017 semester.

About UDairy Creamery

The UDairy Creamery was established in 2008 as part of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Its premium ice cream is made on-site using milk produced by dairy cows from UD’s farm. The creamery provides students with hands-on experiences with technology, dairy production, food science and safety, environmentally sound agriculture, business management and finance and sustainable farming.

About the Associate in Arts Program

The University of Delaware’s Associate in Arts Program allows Delaware students the chance to complete their first two years of college at locations in Georgetown, Dover and Wilmington.

The AAP, a unit of UD’s College of Arts and Sciences, is housed on Delaware Tech campuses and in UD’s Downtown Center in Wilmington. The program offers only UD courses – the same courses taught on the Newark campus – taught exclusively by University faculty.

The Associate in Arts degree is awarded by the University upon completion of the required 60 credits of coursework, with a minimum grade point average of 2.0. Designed to be completed in two years, the non-residential program courses simultaneously fulfill the core requirements for majors leading to the bachelor’s degree.

Associate in Arts students enjoy an uninterrupted transition from the associate degree program to a bachelor degree program.  Most students relocate to Newark for their junior year to complete their four-year degree.

About the Buccini/Pollin Group

The Buccini/Pollin Group Inc. (Buccini/Pollin) is a privately held, integrated real estate acquisition, development and management company with offices in Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Delaware, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Buccini/Pollin has developed and acquired hotel, office, residential, retail, and parking properties throughout the United States.

Buccini/Pollin has acquired, developed and owns real estate assets having a value in excess of $4.0 billion, including over 40 hotels, 6 million square feet of office and retail space, 10 major residential communities, and multiple entertainment venues, including Talen Energy Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Union Major League Soccer team.

The principals of Buccini/Pollin, along with PM Hotel Group (hotel operating company), BPG Real Estate Services, LLC (office property management and leasing), ResideBPG (residential property management and leasing), and BPGS Construction, LLC (construction management), oversee all aspects of project acquisition, finance, development, construction, leasing, operations, and disposition for its portfolio properties.

The Buccini/Pollin Group has over 3,500 employees in 12 states. For more information, see the website.

Article by Andrea Boyle Tippett

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD students explore poultry career opportunities at program in Atlanta

UD students explore poultry career opportunities at program in AtlantaStudents from the University of Delaware interested in the poultry industry had an opportunity to network and interview with leading companies at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association’s College Student Career Program, which is a three-day event held during the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta.

UD sent nine students to the event, as well as Bob Alphin, senior instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and manager of the Allen Laboratory.

This year, the IPPE had over 30,000 visitors and over 1,200 exhibitors. The expo is the world’s largest annual poultry, meat and feed industry event of its kind and one of the 50 largest trade shows in the United States.

The College Student Career Program gives employers the opportunity to interview qualified college students for employment or internship openings and is one-of-a-kind in the poultry industry.

The students had most of their travel expenses covered through a grant from the US POULTRY Foundation, which is part of funding that Alphin receives for poultry programming at UD.

This grant also provides funds that are allocated to cover program costs for a poultry exploration day, in which junior and senior high school students visit and are exposed to the poultry sciences for career opportunities and exposure to science and research that is conducted in UD’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

Alphin also organizes a Poultry Career Seminar Series in which students learn about the many opportunities afforded to them by the poultry industry from leading industry professionals. Representatives from poultry production companies like Perdue Farms, Tyson Foods and Mountaire Farms, and from allied industries such as Zoetis, Novus International and Bayer Animal Health among others, speak with the participants.

Through funds from the grant, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources students are also able to tour a company like Perdue, to visit a hatchery, go to a commercial broiler farm, and go to a processing plant. The study trips provide students background to develop their interest in poultry science and careers.

“The poultry industry is such a dynamic industry,” said Alphin. “There’s a tremendous number of careers, and it isn’t just growing chickens and it isn’t just working in the processing plant. It is a huge business so you’ve got human resources, you’ve got marketing, you’ve got sales, you’ve got accounting, you’ve got logistics, they need engineers, so all of those kinds of things. That’s part of what I’m trying to get across to them. Luckily, I am able to work pretty closely with several of the companies on Delmarva as well as other national companies to provide these opportunities.”

Career program

With regard to the career program in Atlanta, Alphin said that students have the opportunity to go to the program twice during their time at UD. The students who go are typically sophomores and juniors looking for internships or seniors and graduate students looking for full-time positions.

Brittney Andersen, a master’s degree student who attended the program for the second time, said that she was able to interview with seven different companies.

“A company like Tyson definitely wants to find people to fill the positions so they contact you before you even head down to Atlanta. You have a phone interview with the company and then they let you know if they want to interview you at the conference. With other companies, you sign up to interview on the sheet outside their booth for a time over the three days that you’re there,” said Andersen.

In addition to getting to interview with companies, Andersen said that the networking aspect of the program was beneficial.

“The company Cobb-Vantress had a hospitality suite, so we went there and talked to a lot of people. I talked to a company that was based out of Minnesota, someone that worked for Cobb, and a professor from UConn,” said Andersen.

Andersen said she would recommend that students interested in a career in the poultry industry attend the conference and also that they take part in Alphin’s Poultry Career Seminar series and the poultry production class to give them more information on the industry.

“I would definitely advise undergrads to take advantage of this opportunity, especially if they’re interested in the poultry industry. It’s a great experience to learn about the companies. I think if they take the poultry production class first and learn about the opportunities and potential career paths, it would be a good lead-in to it,” said Andersen.

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources announces Ag Day date

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources announces Ag Day dateAg Day, an annual tradition of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware, will be held on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Members of the campus and neighboring communities are encouraged to join the college for a day filled with music, exhibitors, great food and fun for all ages on UD’s South Campus.

Celebrating all that the college has to offer, visitors can experience everything from bird shows to bee demonstrations, livestock exhibits, 4-H arts and crafts, farm tours, and much more.

This year’s Ag Day also marks the 25th anniversary of the UD Botanic Gardens annual plant sale.

The event will be held at CANR’s Townsend Hall, located at 531 South College Ave., in Newark. Both admission and parking are free and the event is open to the public, rain or shine.

Ag Day is for everyone; however, for the safety of the live animal demonstrations, organizers ask that all pets be left at home.

Registration for exhibitors and vendors is now open and runs until March 27.

Registration is available on the Ag Day website.

The website also features additional information, announcements, and schedules, and will be updated as the event approaches.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Inamdar receives funding to investigate water quality impacts of legacy sediments

UD’s Inamdar receives funding to investigate water quality impacts of legacy sediments
Incised and exposed stream bank highlighting the light-colored legacy sediments above the dark, pre-colonial horizon. The stream is a tributary of the Big Elk Creek in Maryland.

A University of Delaware researcher has been awarded a $499,500 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine if stream-bank legacy sediments are significant sources of nutrients to surface waters and investigate how they may influence microbial processes and nutrient cycling in aquatic ecosystems.

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, will be joined on the project by Jinjun Kan, a microbial ecologist from the Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC) in Avondale, Pennsylvania.

Legacy sediments

The significance of legacy sediments was highlighted in a study published in 2008 in the prestigious journal Science by Robert Walter and Dorothy Merritts from the Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania.

They brought attention to large stores of legacy sediments in the valley bottoms of the Mid-Atlantic and eastern U.S. which are visible along stream banks as a light-brown colored soil horizon — usually 1-3 meters in depth — underlain by a pre-colonial, dark, organic layer.

Walter and Merritts attributed the legacy sediments to a combination of widespread colonial era activities such as large-scale erosion from agriculture, forest removal and the construction of numerous mill dams on streams and rivers in the region.

Low head mill dams obstructed the flow of water, reduced flow velocities and resulted in substantial sediment accumulation behind the dams.

Most of the dams have since breached and eroded, resulting in contemporary streams that are highly incised with exposed vertical stream banks that are vulnerable to erosion and collapse. Indeed, anomalously elevated sediment exports from Mid-Atlantic watersheds have already been reported by numerous researchers.

Storm runoff

Work by Inamdar’s research group in predominantly forested watersheds in Maryland has found very high concentrations and exports of fine sediments in stream runoff following intense winter storms and tropical storms such as Irene and Lee in 2011.

However, how much of this runoff sediment load originated from streambank legacy sediments is unknown and is a crucial question that needs to be addressed, as recent studies also suggest that the stream-bank legacy sediments could be rich in nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

Taken together, these observations are fueling increasing concern that legacy sediments could be an important contributor of nonpoint source pollution to our surface waters and could pose a significant threat to the health of vulnerable downstream aquatic ecosystems such as the Chesapeake and Delaware bays.

This new USDA grant focuses specifically on addressing these critical knowledge gaps:

• What is the contribution of stream bank legacy sediments to suspended sediment and nutrient exports from watersheds?

• What types of hydrologic and storm-event conditions are responsible for legacy sediment erosion and nutrient contributions to runoff?

• What is the fate of legacy sediments after they are deposited on the floodplains and/or in the fluvial network?

• What is the microbial community composition of stream-bank legacy sediments and how does it influence nutrient transformation and cycling in stream ecosystems?, and

• What is the bioavailability of legacy sediment/nutrients and what implications do these inputs have for aquatic ecosystems?

The study will be conducted in the Big Elk Creek watersheds in Maryland, where Inamdar has conducted research on various aspects of water pollution, watershed processes, and climate variability for the past 11 years.

Research techniques

The watershed has substantial deposits of legacy sediments along stream tributaries. Stream water sampling for sediment and nutrients will be performed continuously and all year round using automated runoff samplers and in-situ, high frequency electronic sensors that monitor water quality every 15 to 30 minutes.

Various forms of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff sediments and water will also be analyzed. Much of the monitoring infrastructure is already in place in the watersheds.

Suspended legacy sediments in runoff will be identified using a combination of methods including chemical and isotopic tracers, novel biomarkers, and microbial fingerprinting and source tracking.

Chemical and biological fate of legacy sediments post erosion will be simulated using laboratory and field studies. Legacy sediment mesocosms will be subjected to a range of moisture and temperature conditions observed typically in the field and the release and sequestration of nutrients in runoff waters will be quantified.

Molecular, DNA-based approaches will be applied to characterize and quantify the microbial population structures for sediments. Genomic DNA will be extracted from sediment samples and small subunits of the ribosomal RNA gene will be applied to monitor general microbial population dynamics using a fingerprinting technique which provides a quick snapshot of the major populations of the environmental microbial communities.

In order to characterize and quantify the potential of nutrient transformation processes — such as nitrification and denitrification — the researchers will quantify certain functional genes that are involved in nutrient cycling in sediments.

Results from this study will be valuable for university researchers as well as watershed managers and natural resource agencies tasked to protect water quality.

Stream bank erosion is an increasing challenge in the northeast and mid-Atlantic and many stream restoration projects are currently being implemented at considerable cost to address legacy sediments.

Inamdar and Kan will connect with federal, state, and local agencies during and after the project to convey key results and lessons from this study.  Joining Inamdar and Kan on the project this summer and fall will be two new Water Science and Policy graduate students who will conduct this research as a part of their master of science or doctoral research.

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